Weekly photo challenge: Rise/Set

For the last three years we’ve gotten up early on Christmas Day to head to the beach for sunrise. It has become a ritual for us, we load the car up with towels for us and the dog, fill our takeaway cups with fresh coffee and I make sure my camera is ready to go. Leading up to Christmas is always a mad rush of last minute shopping, tying up loose ends at work and preparing for visitors. The beach is relatively peaceful and quiet at sunrise, it is a beautiful and calming way to start the day.

This is my contribution to the weekly photo challenge

Cheers!

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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.

Wordless Wednesday: Summer

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

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.

 

A real life dragon

Splash! I quickly turn knowing that I have just missed my chance of seeing a water dragon. These little reptiles generally don’t stick around, especially when I have Bundy with me but I got lucky walking around a local wildlife reserve one afternoon. The lake in the reserve has been on the receiving end of a lot of regeneration activity in the past 12-18 months with native trees and grasses being planted all around the foreshore. Piles of branches stacked around tree stumps are yet to be cleared away and these make great little hiding holes for all sorts of creatures. Wary of snakes I steered clear of one pile and kept Bundy close as I inched towards the water’s edge in order to photograph the pelicans on the lake. It wasn’t until I looked away from the pelicans that I noticed a lizard sitting on the pile of wood, an Easter Water Dragon to be precise.

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Easter Water Dragons can be found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. They can live for up to twenty years and will eat insects, small reptiles and frogs as well as fruit and other vegetation. Some people keep them as pets but I think you need a permit to do so and I would much rather see them in their natural habitat. Occasionally I see them lying on the side of the road, it is nice and warm for them and they will scamper off when they see you coming however they’re not always that lucky at escaping traffic.

The water dragon barely moved, his eyes watching every step Bundy and I took. I was grateful to have my camera and 70-200mm lens with me rather than my phone, allowing me to get close-up photos without disturbing him too much. You might be wondering why I’m referring to the water dragon as a male, if you look closely at the photo you can see that the water dragon has a reddish chest, apparently the chest of a male water dragon goes bright red during mating season so I’m thinking that this boy is on the prowl. After mating the female lays up to 25 eggs in the soft soil or sand and then she does a runner, playing no part in the parenting. Thankfully the kids are independent once they hatch, I just hope they stay off the road.

A walk in Springbrook National Park

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Springbrook National Park, Queensland

Springbrook National Park  is located in the Gold Coast hinterland, 45 minutes from the coast and not far from the border dividing Queensland from New South Wales. It is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area and declared by UNESCO. The earliest humans to live in this area were the Yugambeh people, now acknowledged as the traditional owners. Throughout the park you will see signs written in English and in Yugambeh language.

Saturday was the perfect day for a walk in the Springbrook National Park, my friend and I choosing the Class 3 Purling Brook Falls circuit  which is 4 kilometres long and takes the average person 2-3 hours to complete. Add another 45 minutes if you want to visit Warringa Pools. If you’re keen on taking photographs, want to stop for a bite to eat or have a swim then add a bit longer. There are shorter and longer walking circuits plus a couple of lookouts if you just want to admire the view.

Temperatures can be cooler in the park, we wore long pants and a long sleeve shirt and felt comfortable for most of the walk although we did see plenty of people wearing gym gear but they were moving at a much faster pace than us. Wearing long sleeves and long trousers helps avoid ticks and leeches. I also recommend taking a bottle of water and a snack or two plus sunblock and insect repellant, you can still get sunburned walking through the forest and the mosquitoes can be vicious. There are a few locations that are fenced off from visitors, including the top of the Purling Brook Falls and the pool at the bottom for safety reasons and possibly to protect the immediate environment.

Springbrook provides the visitor the opportunity of seeing and hearing a variety of wildlife, we frequently heard the call of the Eastern Whipbird and Bush Turkeys are extremely common. When walking along one section of the park we heard the rustling of leaves as something moved slowly through the undergrowth. Patiently we waited and were rewarded with a glimpse of a goanna, eventually he decided that it was safe to come out of hiding so we watched him as he crossed the path and ventured up the hill and undercover. Lorikeets, kookaburras, wrens and robins are also common, but some of them are so small and move so quick that I didn’t stand a chance when it came to taking a photo. Seeing a pademelon flee from the verge and into the bush as we drove back from the ‘best of all’ lookout was a special treat, it is not often that we get to see this type of wallaby.

Having packed enough nut bars to feed a small school group, we grazed throughout the walk and rewarded our efforts at the end with a visit to The Fudge Shop. The coffee smelled too good to resist and we bought a chunk of lemon meringue and creme brûlée fudge for an extreme sugar hit. If fudge is not your thing they do serve ice cream and there is a small selection of local produce including arts and crafts for sale.

I imagine that Springbrook National Park is really popular in the warmer months, and that the creeks and waterholes fill up with day trippers and families camping nearby. At the Natural Bridge section of Springbrook you can see glow-worms after sunset, their environment is particularly sensitive so there are rules around visiting this location. The Natural Bridge is easily accessed and the walk through subtropical rainforest to see the naturally formed arch over the creek is well worth the effort.

Having been on the Gold Coast for 17 years, I cannot believe that I have not spent more time exploring such a spectacular part of Queensland. It definitely won’t be that long before I return to Springbrook, there are more walks to do and it is a wonderful way to get some exercise and experience nature.