Tag Archives: National Park

The Warrumbungles

Some of the spectacular granite bluffs known as ‘The Warrumbungles’ formed by volcanoes 13 to 17 million years ago, of which 90% have eroded away leaving only the toughest remnants standing sentinel over the predominantly flat landscape.
After to many months working in the orchards I’ve finally saved what I need to continue my travels. I finished working in September and went on a whistle stop road trip around a small portion of Australia, and still clocked over 10,000km. I’m now in Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina wait for for my Antarctica cruise to depart.
From Stanthorpe in South East Queensland I headed south west through out back rural New South Wales to the deserts of South Australia. I then turned north on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. I hadn’t the funds or time to make it all the way up to Darwin, so turned east back into Queensland to the tropical coast and the Great Barrier Reef. Finally heading south down the east coast to catch a flight out of Sydney to South America.
In the centre of the north eastern quarter of New South Wales is the Warrumbungle National Park. Here a group of precipitous rocky bluffs, remnants of past volcanic activity, rise dramatically out of the flat savannah grassland that predominated the surrounding landscape. The park is reputed to be incredibly diverse in flora and fauna owing to its varying elevations and its location between the dry grassland inland to the west and the wetter forest stretching off to the east coast.
Looking down on one of the most distinguished features of the park ‘The Bread Knife’.
Views across the peeks of the park and looking out across the western plains, flat to the horizon and where I was headed.

Some of the plants growing on the bright, exposed, rocky parts of the park.

And flowering in the dappled light of the cooler forested valleys floor.
Clematis sp.
Acacia sp.
Black snake soaking up the rays in a dry creek bed.
Beautiful patterns created by the many Lichens.

Main Range National Park

Sunlight piercing the canopy illuminates the palm fronds in the dense rainforest.
Birds-nest ferns perch high up on the trunks of the tallest trees.
The Cunning Gap it the pass that links Brisbane to the east with the agricultural regions to the west of the Great Dividing Range, a string of mountains and extinct volcanoes which runs the length of the eastern side of the Australian continent. Any streams flowing to the east quickly flow into the pacific but water flowing west takes a long journey inland and out to the Southern Ocean, although it may not make it that far during drought. The pass was discovered by Allan Cunningham (1791-1839) who incidentally was chosen by Joseph Banks to collect plants for Kew Gardens. He arrived in Australia in 1816 and under took many plant hunting expeditions in Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland, identifying many new plant species. The pass was opened up in the 1830’s, a vital link between communities though treacherous due to the steep unstable terrain which still poses problems today.
Looking up through a stand of palms (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana).
Looking up the trunk of a Strangler Fig tree which is one of the most prominent tall tree species.
Higher up the pass where the forest is more light and open.
Looking up a tall Hoop Pine (Auricaria cunninghamii) draped with mosses.
A young orchid among the mossy branches.
Unusual bulges on the trunk of a tree.
This picture was actually taken in the Greenstone Valley in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. My juvenile side felt that it would pair up well with the previous picture. Gota love nature!
Passing clouds.
The tough waxy leaves of a tiny epiphytic orchid that ad fallen from the canopy.
The spent flower spike of a Spear Lilly (Doranthes excelsa) on the rocky outcrops that break above the treeline.
Looking up to the summit.
The craggy rocks are the plug of a long extinct volcano which are peppered with Spear Lilies and Grass Trees.
Looking to the north to the sheer cliffs of a once vast volcanic creator.
Looking out to the east towards Brisbane.
Plectranthus species.

Sundown National Park

I had visited Sundown National Park on the Queensland, New South Wales a few time but not from the eastern entrance which is only accessible by four wheel drive vehicles. I ignored the signs and drove in regardless and needless to say didn’t get too far before I had to hoof-it. From where I left the car it was a good two hour hike into the gorge so I was expecting something reasonably spectacular as a reward. It turned out the gorge was more of a cliff, and when you think of ‘red rock’ you imagine the colour of the interior and Ayres Rock. The gorge/cliff is the edge of the volcanic granite that characterises this region which is grey-brown but coloured red by lichens. Hopefully I will be able to rustle up a four wheel drive one weekend and explore a bit further into the park.
Red Rock Gorge.
The black stain of Red Rock Falls which must have only just dried up as there was still a pool at the top quenching the thirst of a herd of goats. As well as goats, I saw several wild boar and two dear all non native to Australia. Apart from a few roos the native fauna illuded me.
The road into the park through sheep country.
Driving through the bush before the road became to rocky.
Acacia sp. in flower throughout the bush are the distinctive colour of the winter months.

Girraween in Winter

Banksia spinulosa var. neoanglica (New England Banksia) in full bloom beneath the granite boulders of Girraween
Here’s a few more pictures from Girraween Nation park. Being mid winter now, the changes from the summer months are subtle. Frost morning and the dry days have left the grass and bracken in the openings golden and russet toned but little else has changed greatly. Acacias, Banksias and Legumes take advantage of the cooler months to flower and will soon be followed by the main spring flowering as the frosty morning disappear. Change here is marked more by wet and dry, and the passing of bush fires. Following the wet summer and and lush growth which is now going crisp in the dry winter weather poses a greater risk for fires than usual of which several large ones are being fought right now around Queensland.
Banksia spinulosa var. neoanglica (New England Banksia).
The woody seed capsules of the New England Banksia waiting for the heat of a bush fire to open. Curious boulders among the Gum trees.
Looking out from the Castle Rocks that rise high above the tree-line, yellow acacias sp. flowering in the foreground. 
Leucopogon melaleucoides (Snow Bush) and Acacia venulosa (Veiny Wattle, Woolly Wattle)
Pultenaea hartmanii (Stanthorpe Pea) and tiny white fungi sprouting from a dead twig.
Patterns in the bark. The second reminds me of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’.

The Scream.

Grazing roos.

Trapped Between the High Rises and the Waves.

Wild passion flower.
 It’s been a while since I last blogged, so here comes a few in quick succession to catch up on my travels so far. These are some pictures from Noosa National Park, a few hours drive north of Brisbane, where I went for a hike early one morning a few weeks ago when visiting ‘The Lost Garden of Belli Park’. The park sits in a narrow strip of land with the Pacific Ocean to the east and holiday developments to the west. It protects a valuable coastal habitat that is vastly diminished due to beach front development. Apparently it is a haven for fruit pigeons, eastern yellow robins, rufous fantails, satin bower-birds and crimson rosellas as goannas, possums and koalas. As for bird spotting I’m not shore that I saw any of the above although they may well have been sing away in the canopy, as for reptiles and marsupials, they must have been asleep. Plants on the other hand aren’t so difficult. The vegetation in the park is variable and runs in narrow bands parallel to the coast. To the west of the coastal highway is the section or the reserve known as Emu Mountain rising about 90m above the coast. Here the soil is thin and rocky and the vegetation is known as walnut heathland, with plants like small leaved Banksia species, trunkless Xanthoreas (grass trees) and Mt. Emu She Oaks (Allocasuarina emuina) among others. The Mt. Emu She Oak in particular has had its distribution reduced. They now only exist along a 35km range of coast with the major population on Emu Mountain. To the east of the highway is the main, flat coastal section of the reserve. Here rain forest, open Eucalyptus forest and Pandanas palms flank the highway. The forest then open up to a strip of marsh/swamp,dominated by sedges and crossed by a meandering board walk, which is separated from the Pacific Ocean by large dunes. On the inland side of the dunes where there is less standing water grow the curious and variable Swamp Banksia species with their large leaves and flowers varying in colour from rust brown, orange, cream through to green. Beyond the dunes roared the breakers rolling in from the east. I was down on the beach before 6am and didn’t expect there to be many people about, but in the warm coastal air eager surfers were out making the most of the waves coming in on the early high tide.
Here are some pics from the coastal section of Noosa National Park.
Board walk emerging from the white paper bark woodlands crossing the swamp to get down the beacch.
Yellow Iris like flower in amongst the reeds and sedges of the swampy section.
One of the variable swamp Banksias alongside the board walk.
 Swamp Banksias species one of which is being eaten by a hungry beetle.
Early morning surfers catching the high tide at 6am.
These are some of the tough creeping plants that hold the dunes together against the wind.
Muscle shells on an old corroded gas can now high and dry in the dunes.
And here are some more pics this time from the western Emu Mountain section of Noosa National Park.
Banksia and Calistemon species.
Xanthorea seedhead and dodder scrambling through the endangered Mt. Emu She Oak (Allocasuarina emuina).
Banksia seed capsule and another open woody seed capsule. Sorry, don’t know what this chap is.

Place of Flowers

Girraween National Park in the very south of Queensland’s Granite Belt is 11,800 hectares of rugged granite peeks, precariously balanced boulders, Eucalyptus forest and open sedge and heath land. The name ‘Girraween’ is Aboriginal for ‘place of flowers’, and is an apt name as there are said to be spectacular displays of wild flowers through out he spring. Now in March, late summer, the hot dry weather has seen an end to the main floral show. Though there has been higher than average rainfall and the many fallen trees and piles of grass, twigs ad branches heaped up against the rocks are testament to the floods that swept through the park earlier in the year, the heath land and forest floor is now dry.
One of the precariously balanced boulders silhouetted against the sun and a shadow on the granite face of the dominant feature of the park ‘The Pyramid’, a large granite dome rising high above the canopy of the surrounding Eucalyptus forest
One of the open areas of heath land and the exposed rocky summit of Mount Norman in the distance.
The thin coarse soil dries out fast in the heat but there were still a few tough flowers in bloom. The most prominent were the bright golden daisy flowers of Bracteantha bracteata (Golden Everlastings) a perennial herb growing in the open forested areas of the park. Also flowering among the open Eucalyptus forest the silver flowers of Actinotus helianthus (Flannel Flower). It is called the ‘Flannel Flower’ as the plant is entirely covered with soft woolly hairs, a likely adaptation to dry conditions. Creeping through the boulders on the higher slopes, the tiny yellow flowers a Goodenia species.
Bracteantha bracteata ASTERACEAE (top), Goodenia species GOODENIACEAE (bottom left) and Actinotus helianthus APIACEAE (bottom right).
It was a hot and particularly humid afternoon and by the time I’d hiked up the 45o sheer granite face of the Pyramid rock I was suitably knackered. Cracks in the rock erode over time leaving behind balancing boulders, some stacked two or three high. The silhouetted rock at the top of this blog is a good five metres high and is perched on the summit of the pyramid; but for how much longer? The summit offers views over the forest canopy to the bulk of near by Bald Rock to the East in New South Wales, the state line running between the two peeks. I sat for a while watching thunder clouds building on the horizon in the humid air. By the evening these had build into a large storm and produced some spectacular lightning for a good few hours.
Looking up to the summit of the Pyramid (left) and a tenacious black cypress clinging to a crack in the rock.
Several of the rock formations throughout the park have been given names such as ‘The Sphinx’ with a small stretch of the imagination does vaguely resemble its namesake. Others, like the rock formation named ‘The Turtle’ in my opinion may require a little something in addition to just your imagination to fully appreciate their form.
The Sphinx and building thunder clouds.
Twenty five species of Eucalyptus are present in the forest surrounding the pyramid and I’m afraid my Euc ident skills aren’t up to much and many are only distinct and identifiable when in flower. None of the trees were in flower but one of the species stood out from the others with bright amber/orange peeling bark glowing in the low, late afternoon light. A few trigger orchids were flowering  among the leaf litter.
Trigger Orchid and Eucalyptus species.
A couple of empty cicada grub exoskeletons clinging to the underside of a tree.

The Second Biggest Rock in Oz.

For the next few months my time will be spent in Stanthorpe, southern Queensland while I’m buissy picking apples to fund my travels. Finally the rain has stoped and at last I had a day off when the sun was shining, so I took a second trip to Bald Rock national park. This time I was able to see the rock in its entirety as it was previously shrouded in cloud.
The smoothe granite face of Bald Rock striped with lichens and moss.
The mass of Bald Rock is second only to Ularu in Australia. Precariously balanced on top of the rock and strewn throught the surrounding gum forest are many large, weathered rounded boulders, stacked up as if purposfully. Some seem as if one good push could role them away, I had to fight the inner devil in me.
The balancing rocks, the emblem of Stanthorpe.
The rock nesteles in tall white barked Eucalyptus trees. The view from the summit across the canopy is particularly green as the trees are covered with fresh green growth following the wet weather and have yet to age to their charastic glaucus blue. Strips of bark metres long dangel from the trunks, peeling away revealing the fresh white beneath.
Peeling Eucalyptus bark.

Crevices in the rock provide foot holds for wild flowers to take hold. Eventually trees take root and combined with rain and frosts eventually break down the rock into the smaller bolders arround its base. The spiny sead heas is from Lomandra longifolia.

Lomandra longifolia.
Cracks in the rockd provide warm homes for lizards with luxury views.
Dipodium punctatum a paracitic orchid drawing its nurrishment from the roots of Eucalyptus trees.

Bald Rock National Park

Kangaroo and Joe shelter from the sun
 A kangaroo and joe sheltering from the sun under a Grevellia tree on on of the few and far between sunny days of late.
When you think of Australia you would usually associate it with drought, though that is not the case at the moment. Since the hiking in the Blue Mountains Alex and Ale (friends I’m travelling with) and myself headed inland to Young the self proclaimed ‘Cherry capital’ of Australia and were greeted by dark rain clouds. This was in the first week of December and not much has changed since then. The ripening cherries, the best crop in years, were just about to split open and go to ruin due to the persistent rain. Grain farmers have also faced an equally bleek year. Fearing a shortage of work decided to drive two days north through the rain to Stanthorpe just across the boarder of Queensland. We are now buissy thinning apples when the rain allows.
Standing stone on Bald Rock and minature landscape creater in one of the many shallow gullies.
Stanthorpe is 900m up on a range of hills called the Granite Belt. These range of hills are the remnants of massive underground magma chambers that cooled to form coarse grained granite boulders that have been exposed over millions of years by errosion. The largest of these is so big it is second only to Ularu. Mysterious balancing rocks and precarious gum trees clinging to cracks in the rocks appeared through the mist. As my few days off are dictated to when ever it rains for now I just have to put on the rain gear and get out there. All though I couldnt see Bald Rock in its intirety as it was shrouded in cloud, the rain creats an eery atmosphere. Cracks and gullies in the rock allow plants to get a purchase and formed wini landscapes, and the colours of the granite cristals shon in the wet and were animated by cascading water across its face.
An orderly row of ferns and Dendrobium speciosum Growing ontop of rounded granite boulders.
In the dripping Gum forest that surround Bald Rock are strewn many rounded balders toped with tough waxy orchids Dendrobium speciosum which unfotunately i missed the flowering of by a few weeks. Cracks between the rocks bring order out of cayos, such as this row of ferns.
Tiny mushrooms at the summit
As the spectacular sceenery was enveloped in a wall of grey, my attention was turned to the smaller details. This tiny group of mushrooms were only bigenough to tupport one raindrop each growing out of a root no thicker than a piece of spaghetti. The boulders in the fore ground are rabbit droppings.
Acacia sp.
Solanun sp.
Bedraggled Acacia flowers were one of the few trees in flower and among the stands of Eucalyptus grew a spiny Solanum species, quite incongurus with the other sclerophyll (tough leaved) plants.
Hail storm
Found my car parked in a raging torrent after more heavy rain.
A few days we have been sen home from work early due to storm warnings for fear of the risk of lightening and being pelted by hail stones. Many of the orchards are covered by nets byt this only limits the damage. The region is on the tropic of capricorn but 900m above sealevle so the air is relativly cool resulting in spectacular weather, un less of course you are an apple, peach, strawberry or a farmer that grows them. I gought cought out in one on the highway, the sound on the car was deafenning. Luckilly it skirted the orchard and caused minimal damage to the fruit.
Distant storm clouds and naturalised Verbena bonariensis
The storms do make fore some spectacular sunsets. In the foreground is Verbena bonariensis, an escaped garden plant naturalised along the road side.
The road home, oh deer!
I have also fornd out there is a reason why they advise you not to travel during heavy rain as i found myself the rong side of a flooded gridge after another rainy hike. Some locals in the same predicament as me watching trees float by told me the road round to the north was also cut and to the south was a 300km round trip the may also be cut. So a night in the car it was to be. The water had subsided enough to drive through by five o’clock the next morning after a while spent clearing piled up branches and trees.
I’ll take another hike up the rock one sunny evening to get some pics of it in it’s entirety.

Ruined Castel Rocks

On an early morning hike out to the Ruined Castel Rocks, before the coach loads of day tourists spoil the silence. In the cool forest on the floor of the canyon I came across a male Liar bird, the master of mimicry. They are like a small brown pheasant with an airy peacock tail all in sepia tone. Not being the most birds they woo the mates with elaborate and quick-fire impressions of all the other bird sounds in the forest. They even mimic man made sounds though this one has no camera shutters and chainsaws in his repertoire it was non the les impressive.
Video of Liar Bird
The Snake Orchid, Cymbidium suave, was growing in a Eucalyptus tree in the hollow left by a fallen bow.
Snake Orchid, Cymbidium Suave ORCHIDACEAE
The Ruined Castel Rocks reach up just above the tree line conveniently arranged like a giant spiral staircase. Sitting atop of a rise in the middle of the canyon floor they offer a 360o view of the surrounding cliff faces that are other wise reduced to fleeting glimpses through the canopy.
Around the rocks and up on top of the cliffs where the conditiond are hotter and dried grows the Scribbly Gum Eucalyptus sclerophylla. It is called the Scribbly gum due to markings left on the bark by browsing moth larvae.
Scribbly Gum, Eucalyptis sclerophylla MYRTACEAE
In amongst the greener the large, bright yellow, buttercup shape flowers of a shrubby twining, Hibbertia dentate shone out advertising their wares and a bright clearing left by a fallen tree was full of Senecio linearifolius, making though most of the available light.

DILLENIACEAE and Senecio linearifolius ASTERACEAE

Hibbertia dentate
Two lizards spotted on the walk were the Leura Water Skink Eulamprus Leureansisand the as yet un-identified by me little bearded dragon like lizard. The Leura lizard was amongst the foliage in the cool damp forest and the little bearded dragon was sunning himself up on the hot castle rocks.
Leura Water Skink Eulamprus leuraensis and the as yet un-identified lizard.


View of the forest under-story.

Katoomba in The Blue Mountains

Katoomba, a small town in the Blue Mountains renowned for its hiking, rock-climbing and caving is a short train ride, 120 west of Sydney. I had expected, given the name ‘Blue Mountains’ to be greeted by spectacular alpine scenery on arrival. I was some what disappointed when there wasn’t so much as a rolling hill on the horizon. I turns out that Katoomba is on top of the mountain, and geologically speaking the region isn’t mountainous but a high plato and network of steep canyons and valleys. A short walk from the hostel in the centre of town reveals the spectacular scenery, which doesn’t tower above you but drops away vertically beneath your feet.
The Three Sisters sandstone rock formations and the Jamison valley.
The vast canyons have eroded more than 500m down through layers of sandstone, shale and clay. The cliff edges drop vertically more than 100m down to the forests blanketing the valley floor. Looking down there are distinct changes in vegetation from rain forest at the bottom of the valleys, supported by plentiful ground water rather that abundant rain fall, which is dark green and has a notable absence of Eucaliptus, of which there are over 100specied in the Blue Mountains alone. Rising up the slopes are the wet sclerophyll forests dominated by tall open stands of Eucalyptus with open canopies more that 60m in height, with an under story of soft leaved trees, climbers and grasses. Following layers of clay within the sandstone cliffs are hanging swamps where the ground water peculates out above the clay forming bands of  mosses and ferns that eventually drop from the cliff faces under their own weight. Finally the top of the plato consists of dry sclerophyll forests of open shorter, stands of Eucalyptus with a shrubby under story of flowering shrubs with small, tough spiny leaves.
One of the smaller tree species forming the under story of the forest in the botom of the canyon. I’ll let you know what it is when I find out.
The blue colouration of the mountains is down to the glaucus colour of the Eucalyptus leaves through the haze. Dropping down into the canyons down steep flights of steps carved into the rocks the atmosphere becomes noticeably cooler as you enter the humidity of the forest. Two trees dominate this part of the reserve, the Blue Mountain Gum Eucalyptus deanei with id towering smooth white bark and the Turpentine tree Syncarpia glomulifera with depictured bark, many of the trees burnt out completely in the core of the trunk by past fire storms and still supporting lush canopies. Tall tree ferns Cyathea australis lined the paths along with shorter squatter Dicksonia antarctica.
Blue Mountain Gum Eucalyptus deanei
Turpentine tree Suncarpia glomulifera
It was my first impulse to head straight down into the rainforests, however it turned out to be the high open forests on the tops of the canyons that support the most diverse range of flowers.  Here the soil is much drier and nutrient poor as they are leached to the valley floor. The scrub consists of many different varieties of  Acacia, Boronia, Grevellia, Hakea and pea plants (family FABACEAE) according to my book on wild flowers. There were many Banksias with remnants of past flowers and tough woody seed capsules that guard against fire, that unfortunately had finished flowering. There were other members of PROTEACEAE in flower along with many other wild flowers.
Isopogon anemonifolius PROTEACEAE
Banksia Eric folia PROTEACEAE
Telopia speciosa PROTEACEA
Lambertia Formosa PROTEACEAE
As is always the way I took pictures until the battery in my camera could carry on no more. Literally minuets after I rounded a corner and discovered not one but two different orchids in full bloom. My camera mustered up enough strength to take a quick snap or each. Fortunately they were not too far out so I hiked back up to the early the next morning, when the light was much more amenable of photography to take some more. The pale pink, butterfly shaped orchid has a mechanical anther which when the flower is genteelly touched, flicks suddenly like the arm of a catapult delivering a sticky package of pollen onto the back of an unsuspecting insect.
Haven’t been able to name these yet either, sorry!