All posts by Keyman

Tongatapu – Day 1

The flight from Brisbane to Auckland was 2 and a half hours, arriving at midnight. With the check in time at 5.45am, there wasn’t many options. My parents live in Auckland, so they came and whisked me off home for the evening where I sat chatting with them through the wee hours until it was time to head back to the airport.

The flight to Tongatapu – another 2 and a half hours – had barely taken off when I lapsed into a well needed sleep. With 30 minutes left in the flight, I awakened to a blanket of clouds below. Shortly after, it cleared leaving blue waters as far as I could see from the plane. Then, within moments, the Island of Tongatapu appeared magically from the great span of blue sky and puffy white clouds.

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The roaring waves of the beaches crash against the rocky beaches, but there is not a speck of sand as far as I could see. Palm trees are sprinkled lavishly across the entire island. The International airport is small, as you would expect from a small antisocial set of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and I met the man who would drive me to my accommodation on the island – Toni’s Guest House.

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The weather is warm – for winter, although there aren’t really seasons here. It’s muggy, and coming from a Brisbane winter – where the muggy has gone – it’s good to feel the heat again.

About 70% of the main roads on the island have been sealed, mainly from the Chinese influence in the Kingdom, but the most common site on the trip to the guest house is the Chinese shops along the way, small brick buildings with grills on the from that are filled with all manner of packaged goods. There’s would be one on every street corner, if there were indeed streets to have corners.

Toni’s Guest House is well set up. Several houses alone a dirt road run by an Englishman – Toni – and his Tongan family. The blue room, where I am staying, is a lavish and spacious area to stay. There aren’t many tourists around – they don’t get too many of those here. But even so, all of the rental cars have been taken already – there is a Mormon festival here at present. That is somewhat limiting for what I was intending, but will just go with the for and see how it goes.

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Every visit to the island should include the Friends Cafe, supposedly the best place in town to each at a decent price. I’m only here for two nights before moving on, so without a vehicle to move around in, I am dependant on Toni’s tour tomorrow.

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This afternoon I went for a walk around the main city of Tongatapu. Small when compared to pretty much any other city in the world, but it’s still quaint. Plenty of markets and the occasional flash building. The city is being rebuilt after it was put to the flame during the 2006 riots.

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This island is not know for it’s natural scenery, but am hoping to see some of that which it does exhibit tomorrow on the tour. Until then.. The islands in the bay…
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The Cougals – Cougals National Park

The Cougals National Park is a section of the Springbrook National Park on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. It’s a pair of peaks that rise out of the rainforest, rocky and beautiful.  Note, this is different to the Mount Cougal Cascades, which is not connected to the peaks hike.

The East Peak is the most commonly climbed and is a 8.5km return trip with a moderate grade. The West Peak has a hard grade and is a further 750m across a saddle, giving the total hike of both peaks 10km return.

There is no formal trailhead for the Cougals walk. To get to the beginning of the trail from the Gold Coast cross the border into NSW and then back again along a dirt road named Garden Of Eden Road to a gate where there is room for several cars to park. There are local’s driveways nearby, along with a handmade sign announcing the beginning of the walk and demanding hikers to stay on the track.

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The trail heads west along the fence line between QLD and NSW. The fence has barbed wire along it, but whether it is designed to keep the New South Welsh out of Queensland is unknown. The trail climbs uphill through brush with low branches.

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It had rained this last week, so the dirt here was a little slippery. The brush gave way to tall grasses along the trail, which in turn gave way to thin bamboo growths. The grass overhanging the trail sometimes contained thorny branches. I probably should have worn long pants as I sustained many small scratches by the end of the day.

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The grassy path explodes into rainforest with tall trees and the typical Strangler Figs everywhere. The trail follows the fence line, climbing and descending gentle hills. It’s fairly obvious when you reach the first of the Cougals, the trail climbs steeply with dirt and tree root steps making it slippery after the recent rains. While slipping is the ever-present danger, being snagged on the barbed wire makes climbing even more dangerous.  Caution is suggested.

Atop the steep climb, rocky outcrops stand tall above you with dark brooding caves along its face. We walked along the base of the major outcrop until we found our way to a path that climbed through it. The trail up the rocks was obvious as someone had tied a rope to aid with handholds.

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Once above the rope line, it was an easy climb to the top of the East Cougal and fantastic views of Mt Warning to the South,

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…the rocky face of West Cougal to the West, out to the coast towards the city of Tweed Heads out to the East and Springbrook National Park to the North. On this sunny day, the climb was well worth the effort.

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My companion and I did not stay long, however, deciding to push on before lunch. We climbed down to the saddle between the peaks with only one steep troublesome and slightly precarious climb. The trail crossed the saddle, but unable to find a suitable place to stop we proceeded around the great rocky outcrop known as the West peak, looking for an easy path up.

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The West peak looks to be a hard climb with its many rocky faces. We skirted around it passing a couple of rocky climbing places marked with pink ribbons until we found a dirt path through the undergrowth. It was a little slippery but surrounded by plants that gave plentiful handholds. While finding the route up was not the easiest, climbing up it was fairly straight forward.

Unlike the summit of the East peak, which is small, the West Peak has a large area with meandering pathways and what appeared to be a camp site. We stopped for lunch at the fire pit.

 

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The descent passed quickly, as it always seems to, and before we knew it we were slogging our way through the tall grasses and back to the car.

The Cougals is an awesome hike and I would recommend it to any fit and capable walker. It’s going down as one of my favourites in this region.

The Trail Wanderer.

Mount Mitchell Peaks – Main Range

The Main Range National Park is a section of South East Queensland’s Scenic Rim – a quarter circle of mountains attributed to the prehistoric Tweed volcano that existed here over 23 million years ago. The Main Range is about 115km inland from Brisbane and has plentiful walking tracks along its length.

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This last weekend, while passing through the Main Range, I had a free morning so stopped at Cunningham’s Gap – the location where Cunningham Highway cuts through the mountains. Cunningham’s Gap is the starting point of several well-defined and more casual walks.

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The Major Mitchell Peaks is a 10.2km, 3.5 hour walk, perfect for the time I had. The beginning of the trail starts opposite the car park and meanders its way up the side of the mountain along a forest path.

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The closeness of the forest gives the illusion that the trail is fairly flat, but it’s not.  It’s only the last few hundred metres that the trail begins to climb more steeply, with steps cut into the rock.

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The views to the east are fantastic with the road winding through the forest.  Lake Moogera can be seen between Mt Greville on the right and Mt Edwards.

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To the north, Mt Cordeaux.

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The trail heads back into the forest as it rounds the Western peak and emerges at the top of the Eastern peak, a short pinnacle of rock that’s been paved to prevent further erosion. I basked in the winter sunshine eating lunch with views in both directions.

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I would have stayed longer but the occasional icy gust quickly chilled me. The return walk passed quickly and the tranquillity of the trail was broken by the harsh sounds of trucks going past on the Cunningham Highway.  On reaching the highway, I returned to my car and continued on my trip.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Mount Tunbubudla East

Glass House Mountains National Park – again.

After spending 3 days wandering the trail of the Glass House Mountains, I’m back to climb one that doesn’t have one.  This time I’m walking with my hiking group and the mountain is Mount Tunbubudla East, a 300m tall, off track climb and is rated hard, mainly due to it being trackless.

Getting to the mountain is a mission in of itself. The old ‘major road’ that it’s off is actually a boggy dirt road and is untraversable without an off-road vehicle.  We parked at the entrance and as a group walked about a kilometre to the muddy starting point. We waited for others to arrive and find us before we headed off into the untracked grass at the base of the mountain.

I led the way, pushing a path through the long grass for the others to follow.  At the beginning there was a vague track, but this soon disappeared. The initial portion of the climb was up tree laden, broken ground. With no track, I had to evaluate each step and find suitable gaps between tree branches.

The climb became steeper before flattening out the higher we got, but because of the thick tree cover we were unable to see the views. As we approached the top we came to a large rocky area which did allow us a better view, north across the other Glass House Mountains.

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We reached the top and sat for lunch at the rocky cairn. I surveyed the route leading towards the West peak but found it too steep to descend. Alone it would have been fine, but with a large group in tow I made the call to return the way we’d come. This disappointed some, as the climbing down in that direction would have led to the climbing of the smaller,  steeper twin.

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The climb down held the same issues as the climb up – a lack of trail – and it’s also harder to see where you’re putting your feet. I again led, picking our way down the side of the mountain. We arrived at the base in short order and walked across the needle covered grass until we reached the muddy road. We could have climbed the other peak, but the mutual decision was not to. A kilometre later we were at the cars and headed off for a well-deserved beer at the Beerwah Hotel.

Trail Wanderer

D’aguilar National Park

16 June 2012

Rainforest Circuit, Cypress Grove and Greenes Falls.

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Maps on this page are owned by and used with courtesy of Queensland Government.  Please visit that site for more detailed information on hiking in this region.

While I much prefer harder and rockier walks, there were several walks in the D’aguilar National Park that I had on my list to do. D’aguilar National Park is mainly forest, so it’s trees, trees, trees, and the tracks are well-defined and not terribly difficult.

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To cross them off my list, I headed out with a friend to the Mt Glorious section and walked into the rainforest. It was an entertaining walk in the cool morning air, with large strangler figs in many places.

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The Rainforest Circuit and Cypress Groves were fairly standard fare. Greenes Falls was a great place for a sit down and a chat.

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The falls are fenced off, but this didn’t stop me from climbing the fence and rock hopping down to the edge of the falls.

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Western Window Track

Across the road from the Cypress Grove walks is another tree laden walk along the side of a steeply sloping cliff.

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Morelia Walking Track and Atrax Circuit

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Another slow meander through the forest, climbing fallen giant eucalypts and walking through great burnt out trunks.

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The trail eventually led to the Mount Nebo lookout, and while there is only a limited viewing area, Moreton Bay is visible in the distance.

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Overall, the trails in the D’aguilar National Park aren’t very taxing, but if you enjoy walking in the woods, this is a good place to spend a few hours on a warm sunday afternoon.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Mooloorah River NP, Dularcha NP, Tibrogargan Circuit

Today was my third day walking in Glass House Mountains.  On Day One I climbed Mt Ngungun and Mt Beerburrum, while on Day Two I climbed Mt Tibrogargan and Wild Horse Mountain. Today I won’t be climbing any of the mountains, instead walking several of the other short walks in and around the Glass House Mountains.

Mooloolah River National Park, Jowarra Section 1.5km

Mooloolah River National Park maps

Map is owned by and used with courtesy of Queensland Government.  Please visit that site for more detailed information on hiking in this region.

There are two short tracks in the tiny Jowarra Section of the Mooloolah River National Park and together they are only 1.5km long.  They are both only class 2 with concrete tracks and no climbing at all.  It was a cool morning when we arrived and much of the beauty was in the mists that hung about trees.  The two simple loops took little time to walk and before we knew it we were back in the car and off to Dularcha National Park.

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Dularcha National Park – 4km

The main draw card for the Dularcha National Park is an old railway tunnel about half way along the trail.

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The trail is wide and easy to follow as it runs alongside the new railway tracks.  Horses and cyclists regularly ride along the trail and while here we saw two different families on their bikes.  This class 3 trail rose and fell slightly as we walked but remained fairly flat.  While not a difficult walk I did break a sweat but more from the direct sunlight than how strenuous the trail was.

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The train tunnel was pretty cool, although was only fairly short.  There are reportedly micro bats living in this tunnel which I was keen to see, but we didn’t find any.

Dularcha National Park map

Map is owned by and used with courtesy of Queensland Government.  Please visit that site for more detailed information on hiking in this region.

The track is linear and after 2km you’re required to walk back along the same trail to the beginning.  On reaching the car, my companion waved the white flag, so I dropped him home and set off alone to do the last couple of more difficult tracks.

Tibrogargan Circuit and Trachyte Circuit – 7.3km

I climbed Mt Tibrogargan on a previous foray into the Glass House Mountains, but around the base of the mountain are a pair of tracks that when joined together are over 7km long.

Glass House Mountains walking track information and maps

Map is owned by and used with courtesy of Queensland Government.  Please visit that site for more detailed information on hiking in this region.

The Tibrogargan circuit (‘a’ on the above map) leads around the mountain to a T-junction where one branch heads back to the car park, the other is where  Trachyte Circuit (‘b’ on the above map) begins, cutting across the valley towards Mt Tibberoowuccum to a lookout before returning to the car park.  The trails are class 3 and class 4 respectively with a short climb to the lookout on the Trachyte Circuit.

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The views from the trail consist mainly of trees with the occasional creek crossing.  I stopped in several places to peer through the trees at one of the neighbouring mountains, but most did not give clear enough views to take photos.

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The most difficult part of the walk was the 100m section up to a Tibrogargan Circuit, where I chatted to some English tourists about New Zealand.

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The remainder of the track was fairly gentle and after a total of about an hour and a quarter I returned to the car park.

It was a good day of walks on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and while I hadn’t planned any further walks in the Glass House Mountains National Park, my hiking group had other ideas. In a month they plan to climb the Tunbubudla Twins, a pair of small peaks at the southern end of the National Park.

Next I head to The Cougals for something more difficult hard to dig my teeth – or feet – into.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

D’Aguilar National Park – Mt Coot-tha section

Mt Coot-tha is the tallest ‘mountain’ in Brisbane and is popular with tourists as its top lookout gives great views of the city and surrounding land.

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Map is owned by and used with courtesy of Brisbane City Council.  Please visit that site for more detailed information on walking in this region.

I’ve been to the lookout numerous times and have walked the lookout trail a couple of times also. On the northern slopes of Mt Coot-tha there are several less popular and less scenic walks I decided to explore.

Powerful Owl Track – 2.8km

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Powerful Owl Trail is a short track that climbs the north side of Mt Coot-tha.  Initially I was expecting a fairly straightforward walk in the woods, but shortly after beginning I got quite a surprise.  Not far after the beginning the trail turns quickly upwards  and climbs fairly steeply.  It certainly gets your muscles working and my calves felt it when I arrived at the top of the ridge.

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At the top of the ridge I followed the trail around to the left, through the forest until it began to descend down mud and roots steps.  After the steady downhill it didn’t take me long to emerge at a grassy reserve just around from the car park.

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Overall a good short walk although beyond the trees, not much to look at.

Simpson Falls and Eugenia Circuit – 4.1km

Beyond the Lookout Walk, the Simpson Falls circuit is one of the more popular on Mt Coot-tha.  It’s for this reason the trail leading to the falls is well presented and designed for casual walkers.  The trail climbs in switchbacks up the north-east side of the Mt Coot-tha with plentiful steps.

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Simpson Falls is a quaint little rocky area that during a wetter season would likely be more than just a trickle with small rock pools at the top and bottom of the rocky outcrop.  This was to be expected as it had been plentifully dry around the time I walked here.

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The Eugenia Circuit continues another 2.8km up the mountain from the Simpson Falls.  The path turns rockier and is less walked, crossing the stream twice on stepping-stones.  At a couple of points on the track I could make out suburbia over the trees, but no grand views.

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There was one other track I did not make it to – the Kokoda Trail, named after one of the men who walked the actual Kokoda trail.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.