Weekly photo challenge: Tour Guide

Queensland’s Gold Coast, the choice of holiday destination for many Australian families. Theme parks, beaches and the shopping mall that is Surfers Paradise are usually what they come for however there is another side to the Gold Coast. Away from the roller coasters, the surf shops and beaches overshadowed by high rise buildings visitors will discover a beautiful natural environment set in the Gold Coast hinterland. The hinterland is my favourite place to explore and it is where I often taken family and friends when they visit. As your tour guide for this week’s photo challenge the hinterland is the destination that I want you to experience.

Springbrook National Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest and home to spectacular waterfalls, subtropical and warm temperate rainforest, Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest and a variety of wildlife. The Purlingbrook Falls walk is 4km in length, relatively easy on the legs and if you’re keen or wanting to go for a swim you can walk an extra 2km to Warringa Pools. My friend and I did the walk in September, it was a perfect Spring day and we took our time, stopping to admire the beauty of tiny blossoms and to watch a goanna dawdle through the undergrowth. Others use the track for physical training, running up and down the stairs, slipping past us in their fluorescent athletic wear but most appear to do the walk in a more leisurely manner.

Tamborine Mountain is popular with day trippers especially on the weekend, but most tend to stick to the shops and cafes on Gallery Walk. My preference is take one of the many rainforest walks on the mountain, they vary in length and tend to be less than 3km. The Curtis Falls track is not far from Gallery Walk in the Joalah Section of the Tamborine National Park, and is heavily visited by tourists and photographers. Curtis Falls looks its best after heavy rain although the track might get a little slippery so wear appropriate footwear. There is a viewing platform overlooking a large rock pool at the base of the Curtis Falls, swimming in the pool is prohibited and there is a restricted access area below the Falls in order to protect a colony of glow-worms. There is an extension to this walk which takes about an hour to do and if you look beyond the track you will see huge strangler fig trees as well as elk horns, stag horns and birds nest ferns.

Which ever walk you do, remember that you’re in the Australian bush so the chances of seeing a snake are pretty good. Always wear covered footwear.

For birdwatchers, animal lovers and people wanting to spend a long weekend in a cabin in the rainforest, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat set in the Lamington National Park is ideal. Early morning guided bird walks through a small section of the rainforest are a wonderful way to start the day. See, hear and learn about the Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robins and Bowerbirds before enjoying a hearty breakfast in the restaurant. At the end of the day I recommend taking the tour out to the Moonlight Crag Lookout where you can enjoy a glass of champagne, beer or wine whilst watching the sun set over the ranges.

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Weekly photo challenge: Beloved

Reflecting upon the meaning of beloved as part of this week’s photo challenge I find that there is no one thing or person that is beloved to me, there are many and they contribute to many of the special moments and experiences during my life. For this particular challenge the focus ison cherished childhood memories, just thinking about the fun we had makes me smile and start reminiscing about ‘the good old days’.

Living on acreage in the country meant that we could have pets beyond your typical cats, dogs and budgies. With Mum’s help we hand reared calves from a local dairy farm and as children it was our job to mix their formula and feed them morning and night. I can remember the formula we used, especially when Mum changed over to a more nutritious formula which smelled revolting. The calves would love it and once they finished slurping up the milk they would suck on our fingers and follow us around the yard. Our first pet cow was Caramel, she loved to wander all over the countryside and we would have to go and pick her up and lead her home, on foot which usually entailed carrying a bucket of food in front of her to entice her to follow. Sweetie was our second calf and she was soon followed by Horrie, all of whom you can see in the following picture. I would often head out into the paddock to pat them and talk to them, it was so easy talking to cows, they just munched on grass and tolerated my company.

Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie
Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie

Our school trips often involved camping. Our school principle had a large property up in the hills and each year he and his wife or a couple of keen parents would take a class of students camping for a week. Camping involved bushwalking, swimming in creeks, learning about dingoes and other native animals and sitting around the camp fire telling ghost stories or singing songs. They were magical times and although I’m not much of a camper these days I still love bushwalks and our natural environment.

Kids in front of a tent
My Christmas tent

My Mum is a horse person, she brought us up to love them as well. A good friend owned several horses on a property not far from ours and it was always a joy to visit them and help with feeding. On one particular occasion we were present during the birth of a foal, keeping our distance of course and it was so exciting. When the foal was old enough we were allowed to interact with it, that is me in the brown riding helmet in the picture below. I saved and saved to buy that helmet so that I could go horse riding with my Mum.

A foal and children
A new foal

Our first dog was a beautiful black Irish Setter mix called Lady who used to run all over the hills with us, there weren’t fences in those days and being on a main road in the country meant that nobody drove slowly. Lady had no road sense and was sadly hit by a car, she was not with us long but I can still remember her. Scooter was our first puppy, a playful boy who would follow us everywhere. Scooter had a dog house at the bottom of the yard, dogs did not belong indoors and at night he was secured by chain to his house. As much as I loved Scooter I don’t recall the bond being anything like what I have with my boy Bundy, perhaps it was because we were so young and the dog really was Mum’s dog. Taking Scooter for walks was how I earned some pocket money, sometimes I rode my bike while he ran alongside, on leash of course.

Scooter the puppy
Scooter the puppy

Holidays in New Zealand were not frequent growing up however we were lucky enough to travel there a few times and they were some of the best holidays I’ve ever had. They were fun times spent on the farm, horse riding and tripping around in the back of the ute with cousins and my Grandfather’s dogs. My Nanna and my Aunty would cook up a storm and we must have consumed litres of Raro (cordial) and flavoured soft drink from the Soda Stream machine. We even helped in the shearing sheds one year, sweeping dags off the floor and camping overnight with all of our other cousins and family. There was no accommodation on the farm so we slept in the shearing shed. The smell of sheep and pine trees always brings back memories of those holidays. Beloved.

Tripping around the farm in the back of a ute with cousins
Tripping around the farm with cousins

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered

My brother and his wife purchased a property in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales only to discover that once valuable farm machinery had been left behind. The property is 80 percent bushland but it is obvious that work had been done in the past, wire fences barely standing and among the trees equipment such as this old plough have been left to weather the elements.

rusting plough in the bush
Rusting farm equipment slowly becoming one with nature

My contribution to this week’s photo challenge: Weathered

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

After several extreme weather events a local wildlife reserve was in danger of being overcome by algae, weeds and dying trees, but all that has changed thanks to a group of dedicated people. I have watched and admired the changes happening as a result of an ongoing regeneration program which has seen the clearing of dead and invasive plants. Native plants have been planted all around the lake and as they grow they provide a source of food and sanctuary for wildlife as well as beautifying the area.

This literal interpretation of this week’s photo challenge: growth is my contribution to the challenge.

Grasses planted around lake

Wordless Wednesday: Summer

At the beach with Bundy the dog
Summer is early morning walks on the beach with Bundy

Weekly Photo Challenge: 2017 Favourites

This is the last photo challenge of the year: 2017 Favorites and what a year it has been, plenty of ups and downs and far too much time spent in my head. My saving grace has been volunteering at a local shelter, being around dogs and working with people who love them as I do makes me happy so the fact that several of my favourite photos of 2017 feature dogs will come as no surprise.

Dear old Mason had a hard life, he arrived at the shelter in extremely poor condition and all he wanted was to be loved. A favourite with the volunteers, Mason would get lots of cuddles and he loved being out in the exercise yard if only to sit on or near you. Soaking up all the love and the attention he could, it was wonderful to see the expression on his face.

Mason the dog
Sweet boy Mason

Bandit was another favourite among staff and volunteers at the shelter, he arrived in poor condition and was initially a little cautious. Looking at his scars it is possible he was used as a bait dog for fighting, but being a stray we’ll never know for sure. All Bandit wanted was to spend time with people and snuggle, a beautiful boy with lots of love to give. One of the volunteers adopted Bandit, no doubt he will now have the life all dogs deserve one filled with love and care.

Bandit the sooky la-la

8 year old Zeus would sit at the front of his pen and quietly watch everyone pass him by, dismissed because of age or possibly because of the way he looked. Zeus was a red staffy mix and some considered him to be a dangerous red nose pitbull, nothing could be further from the truth. Like Mason and Bandit, Zeus just wanted to hang with his people and he loved his time with staff and volunteers even if it meant he just had company while he rested.

Zeus the dog
Happy Zeus

Tigger the water baby. Never happier than when he was splashing around in water, you can see the joy on Tigger’s face as he sits under the running water. Tigger was a highly stressed boy in the shelter environment, getting him out of his pen and away from the noise of the shelter was a priority for staff and volunteers.

Tigger the dog in a pool
Water loving Tigger

My boy Bundy. The love I feel for this little fellow borders on obsession, and as he gets older my desire to protect him and keep him safe and happy only strengthens. The poor boy suffers through endless kisses, photo shoots and tacky costumes without complaint although I am sure that the duck liver treats help immensely. At the moment he is lying outside my office door, stretched out on the cool tiles in an effort to remain cool. The urge to kiss his forehead and scratch his belly is strong however I know it is too hot for such a fuss and I don’t want to disturb him.

Bundy the dog
Bundy being very tolerant and compliant.

This year I made an effort to take more photos, not all of them are of dogs because we are lucky to be very close to nature and have access to local wildlife. Please enjoy my last few favourite photos from 2017.

Little green frog
Little green frog
Scaly breasted Lorikeets
Scaly-breasted Lorikeets
Water monitor
Water monitor at rest by the pond
Pelican and birds on pond
A day at our local wildlife reserve

Sunday smiles

After six years of spending my Sunday morning volunteering at our local animal shelter you would be forgiven for thinking that I’d be ready for a break. It’s true that some Sunday mornings it is a struggle to get out of bed at 6am and it would be easy to roll over and go back to sleep, but those thoughts don’t last long because I love my Sundays. They keep me sane. It is hard to resist smiling at the little faces, boofy heads and wagging tails that greet you, they’re so excited because they know that it is their time for pats, walks and most importantly, breakfast. For a few dogs, the interaction with volunteers and staff is the kindest that they’ve ever had and being in a shelter is the safest place they have ever lived. Their stories will break your heart, you want to take them all home, save them and love them but it is just not possible. Thankfully there are good people out there who will adopt shelter dogs, some visit the shelter regularly looking for the right dog for them and their situation and others only ever adopt dogs from a shelter, returning when one has passed or if they feel ready to add a second dog to their family. I am grateful for those people, they know that taking home a dog without having the details of their past means that they may take time to settle. They understand that puppies require work and that training is an essential. Yes there are people who are clueless, they ignore the advice of shelter staff and they expect that a dog should be toilet trained, quiet and easy to walk without any effort. In time the dog returns to the shelter, for one reason or another. I would like to think that for the most part people do the right thing and I try not to focus on the cruel and the stupid because it makes me sad.

These are some of the wonderful creatures that I have been able to spend my Sundays with, most of them have been adopted and the others, well the staff and volunteers will keep on loving them until the right family comes along.