Buttresses, Pademelons and Glass Houses
A lazy Sunday afternoon in the countryside unexpectedly turned into a memorable lesson on South-East Queensland's amazing natural history. My wife and I often take a drive north of Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast hinterland plateau lands, where we can see magnificent views of the coastal plains below us, and the unique Glass House Mountains, named by Captain James Cook in 1770, while sailing up the coast aboard the Endeavour. Their shape reportedly reminded him of the huge glass furnaces, or glasshouses, back in his native Yorkshire. They are, in reality, a gathering of volcanic plugs, some 26 or 27 million years old, stripped of their pyroclastic exteriors with the passage of geological time.
On this particular Sunday, a quick check on line produced a reference to Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, an apparently popular conservation park, near one of our most favourite country towns, Maleny. This reserve, the entrance to which is directly across from the above Glass House Mountains view, is indeed so popular that we have managed to completely miss the turn-off (from the main road servicing the area) countless times during the 14 years or so we have been based in Brisbane (an hour and a half's drive away).
As we ambled along the walking trail, it soon became apparent that this was no mere collection of mature eucalypts (gum trees to you) haphazardly displayed in one of Joni Mitchell's 'Tree Museums'. Here was an impressive living slice of subtropical rainforest, once common throughout the north-eastern parts of Australia, but now mostly removed as a consequence of the spread of European settlers, who cleared the land for farming and picked out the tallest and straightest timbers for building houses and furniture and a variety of aids to over two hundred years of development.
Here we saw countless varieties of now rare rainforest giants, such as 'blue quandong' and 'red cedar', reaching up to the canopy some 30 m plus (approximately 100 feet) above us. Their roots were buttressed at ground level like the abutments supporting some medieval cathedral tower.
Then there were parasitical strangler figs, which grow up the host tree, crush the life from it, then remain as hollow sentinels long after their prop has passed on.
We saw countless impressive vines, many thicker than your arm, hanging down to the ground from way above us in the canopy; some swinging loosely, perhaps waiting for Tarzan or his jungle apes to swing on by; others spiralling strangely around trees and branches; many thicker than your arm, or your leg.
After every bend in the track, we looked up, half expecting to see Treebeard's forlorn Ent face looking down on us, just as Tolkien imagined in his fictional Fangorn Forest. Then there were fungi clinging to felled timber off-cuts, beautiful to behold, but as curiously and uselessly ornamental as an ashtray on a motorbike.
Every now and then we would hear strange thumping noises and soft clucking, in between the more familiar bird calls. Then, magically, as we had almost completed our stroll around the walking track, we saw this small creature foraging for food only three metres away, partly camouflaged in the undergrowth. We were so lucky to encounter the red-legged Pademelon (pronounced as in the Irish Paddy) a tiny relative of the Kangaroo and Wallaby, which we later found out is relatively common here in the reserve, provided you keep you eyes open and are relatively quiet.
Wise in hindsight, the reserve's on line link later informed us that the soft clucking noise is indeed typical of the Pademelon and that they make thumping noises with their hind legs to warn others when disturbed.
Now back in the car park, surrounded by more familiar sights and sounds, and with the afternoon sun now low in the sky, we ambled across the service road and soaked in our farewell panorama of the Glass House Mountains (Cook's furnaces).
Hope you enjoyed our Sunday escape. Come along with us next time!
When not researching the weird or the wonderful, the comical or the cultured, the sinful or the serious, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:
The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a sometime poet and occasional writer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded people with diverse interests.
Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.