This weekend I was reminded of what I love most about Australia – its vast natural beauty. With a couple of friends, Mick and I went to Binna Burra, a heritage listed resort in Lamington National Park on the Gold Coast Hinterland.
We snake up mountain via narrow roads with hair pin turns, I feel sick in the stomach. It is motion sickness. I remember the time when I was five and my family was holidaying in Palma de Mallorca for the February winter vacation. We hired a small car to go to see where Chopin stayed at the monastery in the small village of Valldemossa with his lover, George Sand, in 1838-39. Up over the mountainous landscape we went in this little car, through hair pin turns, up and down, my father loving the speed. And I felt motion sick, but not wanting to have to stop again, given the trouble when I had to pee on the roadside. So I end up throwing up all over the car. We stop at a fountain carved into the mountain to clean up the mess, and I cry and am comforted and reassured it is all ok, but please could I give my parents some warning when I feel unwell.
Nothing goes as bad up the hillside this time, and when we arrive in the cool, thin air, we meet up with our friends and go for a short walk to a fantastic view over the valley, complete with harness wound around a couple of large gum trees for absailing down the steep escarpment. As I walk to the edge, I feel the rush of adrenalin which holds me back. Smart installation, that adrenalin, protecting me from myself like that. Not that I would ever contemplate absailing as a probable activity – I am too scared of heights and feel seasick just at the thought.
The next day we walk through thick rainforest with tree ferns and palms sharing the canopy with tall and invasive figs, casuarina forest with pine needle floor, and wallum heath land with bright banksias mixed with bottlebrush, and carnivorous sundew in the moist areas on the path. We stop at a large cave where water gently comes out of the rock and courses down the rockface, making it glisten in the sun. And we look out over the valley at different vantage points. It is an image that just needs a flock of black cockatoos flying across the valley, but unfortunately they are not that obliging.
The next day before we leave, Mick and I scale the mountain side down windy paths, down to the waterhole. Cool, clear water gently rushes through boulders to a deep pond. Giant rocks, loosened and dropped from the rock face lie where they landed and are now covered in lichen and moss, side by side with large trunks of fallen trees, similarly covered, but decaying somewhat faster than the rocks. Small hobbit like steps have been cut into the cliff face and I am challenged by very narrow paths, hugging the rockface while trying not to look down the steep gully below. The people who created these steps and paths loved this land, this landscape so much they devoted their life to arguing for its protection, and did much to set up the system of national parks, some world heritage listed with the UN, that dots the surface of the ancient landscape that Australia is.
And I am thankful there are places of such breathtaking natural beauty, where you are so remote that nature still is pristine and unpolluted by human intervention. Many such places still exist only hours away from my home in Brisbane. They remind me, again, of life’s wonder, brevity and fragility. We must enjoy it for the short period we have it and leave the earth habitable for our children’s children.
I look forward to going back to Lamington National Park in July when my brother and his family are here for their holidays.