Saturday, January 11, 2014

12 January 2014 - Caboolture Showground, Caboolture, Queensland

Friday was a perfect day to go to the movies, or at least the morning was, and so we did. We sat spellbound by The Book Thief and have placed it up there with the better movies we have ever seen. We had also been to see The Railway Man when we were in Ipswich and thoroughly enjoyed that; however I do think The Book Thief even surpassed that.

It had rained heavily on and off through the previous night, and did not pause even long enough for us to make our way from caravan to landcruiser, or landcruiser to shopping mall, however in these temperatures, getting wet is sometimes a relief, even if it does play havoc with one’s efforts to look elegant.

The weather yesterday was much improved, the temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and no rain in sight. We should have made the best of it by heading off into the hills, but instead satisfied ourselves with shopping for groceries, now only for one or two cans of whatever at a time rather than the normal half dozen. The fridge is looking decidedly bare as is our under-seat “pantry”. We decided that once the new annual registration labels arrive for both the caravan and landcruiser, we will more earnestly target appropriate storage and then book flights out. We might otherwise be twiddling our thumbs until next Christmas.

Discussion over, we headed off after lunch to look at more open homes; the thought of building does not seem as daunting as it did through the years my sisters and parents were designing and building their own new homes. Perhaps that can become the next big project when we get back to New Zealand, or perhaps not. We have certainly gathered some good ideas. For now, one week at a time.

Back at the showgrounds, now even more congested with fellow campers than a few days ago, we wandered over to see what was happening in the show-ring. Hundreds, even thousands, of petrol heads are gathered to show off the shiny bits under their bonnets, or at least the car’s bonnets. We decided we were not really interested enough to find the official gateway, our view through the fence was enough to satisfy our curiosity. Instead we returned to our camp and watched as the keen equestrian folk pack up and head home after a long day in the dusty rings.

This morning dawned pretty much as the day before, except the showgrounds were much busier. While the petrol heads had raged on into the night, the base sounds of their music still reverberating across the park until after ten last night, the Country Market folk had taken their place this morning, in greater force than the week before, and in proportion to all the customers or browsers who had turned up to join them. If we are here next Sunday, we may wander over and see what a full contingent looks like, but for today we had other plans. I was determined we head up into the D”Aguilar Range to the west. 

With lunch packed in the eski, we set off on the D’Aguilar Highway toward Kilroy, but turned off at Wamuran, sixteen kilometres north west of Caboolture, and travelled more or less the same distance south west to Mount Mee. Travelling along the D’Aguilar Highway, it was evident where the fresh produce sold at the Country Market came from; we saw pineapples and bananas growing near the roadside and numerous signs directing us to palm nurseries. From Wamuran, Campbells Pocket Road winds steeply up the escarpment to the tiny settlement of Mount Mee at 501 metres ASL. We were intrigued to find ourselves crossing the Caboolture River, here not much more than a trickle down through a gully.

As we travelled up through the region we were reminded of the hinterland west of the Sunshine Coast, although there, one comes upon marvellous villages such as Montville and Maleny. But then, truth be told, while we enjoy a brief wander through places such as those, we do prefer the more remote and less sophisticated settlements.

The D’Aguilar National Park is divided into two distinct sections; the Mount Mee in the north, and the South D’Aguilar in the south. The northern section can be accessed just five kilometres south of Mount Mee, this settlement comprised only of a school and a restaurant. The area was only declared a National Park in 2009, although its European history is somewhat older. 

The first Europeans to enter the Ranges were farmers and timber-getters in the 1840s. While much of the country was ostensibly cleared for farming, giant red cedar and hoop pines were felled and used as timber for houses that still stand in Brisbane today. Other timbers milled included Blackbutt and Silky Oak. In fact timber from here was used to build Brisbane’s Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and the old Hornibrook Bridge which connects Brisbane to Redcliffe.

But the concept of conservation was earlier than 2009; the earliest timber reserves were gazetted in 1918 and extensive logging of hardwoods took place after World War II. In 1930, Maiala National Park was declared, the first in the Range. Declaration of other national parks followed, including Jolly’s Lookout in1938, Manorina in1949 and Boombana in 1950. In 1977 the concept of the greater park area was born, to establish protection of the expansive bush land areas, and they are indeed expansive. Interestingly the park area itself only covers an area of 20.5 square kilometres.

Picabeen palms
The main picnic area in this northern section of the park is named The Gantry, after the massive shed that still stands with remnants of an equally massive gantry, all originally owned by Hancock’s sawmill. They began milling in the 1930s using a bullock team and a boiler to run the steam engine. Note that I am talking about the 1930s, not the 1830s! The shed, still standing was added to the mill in the 1950s to house the overhead gantry crane and its supports.

From here there are two walks available for the day visitor; the thirteen kilometre Somerset trail and the one kilometre Piccabeen walk. Needless to say, we chose the latter and enjoyed this short wander through the bush peppered with Piccabeen palms except where it passed through a lush grove of the same.

From here we drove to the Somerset Lookout, a half hour drive through the forest on roads recommended for 4WD only, and then only when the gates are open. From the lookout, we enjoyed spectacular westward views over the Great Dividing Range, Somerset Dam and Lake Wivenhoe’s headwaters. Small obscure signs at intersections mark the trail so one is inclined to believe, erroneously, that it is a one way route. Not so, as we soon found, but it should be. There are some very steep rough sections which we were lucky enough not to encounter oncoming traffic.
A circled number on the map enticed us to the Falls Lookout and the Bulls Falls, just five minutes from The Gantry on unsealed road, but accessible to all but lowered vehicles. We walked the short half kilometre down and the same, back, first enjoying the views over the northern side of the Range and the Neurem Valley, and then to peer down at the bald rocky way carved out by the sometimes raging Bull Falls, but today a series of puddles.
Somerset Lookout
A little further down the road, more suitable for 4WDs rather than the rental cars we had seen at the falls, we descended into a deep gully to do the Mill rainforest walk. The 1.4 kilometre circuit winds its way through subtropical rainforest, through towering strangler figs, more Piccabeen palms and across dry stony creek beds. Here we heard the strange booming-like calls of the Wompoo fruit-doves, something we had missed, although not consciously. There were also other birds high in the canopy however our fellow walkers included a quartet of young people having a happy noisy time, not at all interested in the native fauna. Needless to say, we were not impressed.

We returned to The Gantry, now busy with picnickers, day trippers and walkers, people like ourselves, out to enjoy the cool of the forest and the beauty of the wilderness. From here we could have driven north up through the park, to the only two formal campgrounds but decided instead to head back out and on home, travelling this time more directly north from Mount Mee, rather than the narrow winding descent to Wamuran.

Of course when you are half a kilometre above the sea-level, there is no escape from steep descents and so we found as we returned via the Mount Mee Road to the tiny settlement of D’Aguilar, marginally bigger than Mount Mee; D’Aguilar has a pub.  

From the Dahmongah Lookout
We stopped at the Dahmongah Lookout, from where we had fabulous views north east to Caloundra and the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast including the Blackall Range, and east across Bribie Island all the way to Moreton Island. Below us were the Glasshouse Mountains in all their curious shapes and splendour. Here at the lookout we learned that the immediate area was once known as Dahmongah, the local aboriginal word for flying squirrel or flying possum; the school opened in 1884 and Post Office were named accordingly. In 1899, the name of the school was changed to Mt Mee and so it has since remained.

Farmland around Mt Mee
Immediately after this lookout, the road descended just as steeply as the one we had ascended earlier in the day, but this one had interesting names attributed to bends and other landmarks; The Dog’s Waterhole and Long Bend two of which I recall, dating back to the time of the bullock teams that had to make their way up these steep roads. Wider than the other one travelled earlier, we agreed that this would be the preferred route if one found the need to tow a caravan such as ours up through the range.

D’Aguilar is only twenty kilometres from Caboolture so we were home in no time at all. The stall holders of the morning had all packed up and gone and the horsey folk who had returned for more equestrian exercise early this morning, were also packing up for the day.
Chris was happy that he hadn't missed too much of the cricket One Day International and I was happy to chat on line with one of my sons while he worked on his vehicle; ah, the wonders of technology! 

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