Natural Bridge over Troubled Water?
There was very little smoke in the sky today, in spite of the bushfires still raging to the south, across the border, in NSW and the prevailing south-westerly winds. Time to go bush into one of the many unique world heritage rainforest areas in our coastal-plain hinterland, while weather, time and circumstances permit us a safe and leisurely visit. Nevertheless, guilt nagged at me as I drove out of town, leaving the television and radio news coverage behind, choosing for a few fleeting hours to forget the effects and images portrayed of these massive, multi-faceted, maelstroms of fire. These unprecedented raging orange tornadoes, that have had, are still having, and will continue to have wreaked so much damage on so many of my fellow Australians (including their property and livestock) who, through a roll of the dice, have chosen to live (or been born into) a rural lifestyle, and on the massive numbers of our wildlife that have been extinguished.
As I drive through calm and serene rural terrain, ascending slowly towards, then through, the Springbrook National Park, then on towards the Natural Bridge section located near its southern boundary, I wonder at the peacefulness around me and the greenery of the paddocks and forests. But never far from the back of my mind, are images of how quickly this terrain might erupt into fire, at the storm strike of a seasonal dry lightning bolt, as a consequence of a carelessly dropped cigarette, or an accidental spark from a power tool or short circuit between powerlines, as if reminding me constantly that there, but for the grace of whatever deity of choice, could possibly go any of us.
The area 'discovered' by non-indigenous timber 'getters' as Natural Bridge, is located within Cave Creek and the headwaters of the Nerang River, and takes its name as a result of the following phenomenal process which occurred over geological time. Cave Creek, aided by the gravity erosive forces of falling water on the volcanic rocks of the region, eventually broke through the roof of a deep cave at the base of a waterfall on the creek, thus linking it with a previously scoured pool above it, thus resulting in a perfect arch or bridge in the basaltic rock.
At the time of our visit (see title photograph and photo-montage above), the waterfall and pool were perhaps less spectacular than published photographs by others might suggest, mostly due to the region having been in drought for some time. This did not distract, however, from the wonder and beauty of this unique cave feature, the roof of which also houses a colony of microbats (too small and active to show up distinctly in the photo below) and a reported fantastic display of glow-worms (unfortunately requiring more pre-planned access at night ... on the bucket list for a later visit).
The wonderful and various trees and plants which we passed on the steep but carefully constructed stepped descent to the cave (or 'natural bridge' area), are part of the surviving Gondwana rainforests of Australia, comprising a number of separate reserves, but listed as a single UNESCO world heritage site, located generally between northern NSW and throughout Queensland. These rainforests are considered to be "a living link to the vegetation that covered the southern supercontinent Gondwana before it broke up about 180 million years ago."
One of the more easily identified relics of the Jurassic Age Gondwana connection are the many hoop pines we saw in the area. The photos below show these distinctive pines, along with another typical feature of the rainforests, being epiphytes (plants which grow on trees without contact with soil), in this instance various staghorn ferns.
Perhaps the most peculiar structure in the forest canopy, however, is the strangler fig (pictured below). These fig trees begin life as seeds which germinate in the fork of a host tree. The fig sends down 'prop' roots which thicken and interlace, eventually completely surrounding and eventually 'strangling' the host tree. After a few hundred years, all that remains is the interlacing and strangely creepy combination of fig tree roots and almost animated shapes (given enough imagination), with the host tree having totally disappeared (gone to greener pastures).
In the past, all these rainforests have been considered to be 'permanently' too wet and well managed to be at risk of exposure to bushfire, unlike the vast areas of eucalypts and farming areas surrounding them. We are currently charting troubled waters, however, where climate change is undoubtedly producing much warmer and prolonged drier weather, resulting in tinder dry fuel debris being allowed to accumulate in the floors of many forested regions. Consequently, the bushfire season is becoming much longer than before and the opportunity for pre-emptive back-burning (outside bushfire season) and removal of accumulated fuel is seasonal much shorter and demands a much more concentrated effort than has previously been planned and accommodated.
The bottom line is that, this year, for the first time in living memory, our Gondwana rainforests are also being affected by wildfires (refer ABC Radio National podcast).
What we need is sustained and prolonged rain, and soon, to "wash away the sweat and tears".
When you're weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all (all)
I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
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.