Last December J & I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. The day itself was a bit of a fizzer; I awoke with a 6 yr old’s foot up my bum and J started work at 5.30am. So romance.
Eh, it was fine. Once the right time presented itself however – the following Easter weekend – we left the boys with their Aunty Justine and headed off for a long awaited
dirty weekend romantic getaway. The first night we spent in Kingscliff, enjoying long walks on the beach and our first ever degustation menu at Fins restaurant; after six yummy courses in four hours we were stoked to discover we hadn’t lost our knack for adult conversation!
Our second destination was a place very close to our hearts; Binna Burra Mountain Lodge in the Gold Coast hinterland. It was built in the 1930s on an 800m high ridge in the middle of Lamington National Park, which has been part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage site since 1986. It’s a hidden treasure of the Gold Coast, and perfect for our anniversary because (a) we got married there, and (b) the traditional gift for 5th anniversaries is wood.
We parked at the Visitor Info Centre on the way up and checked for track updates. There are still detours in place from when Cyclone Oswald blasted through in 2013, heavy rains can cause landslips and make creek crossings dangerous so check before you go, and let someone know where you’re going. All sweet for us though so we settled on the Lower Ballanjui Falls circuit – one we hadn’t done before and at 11km return and moderately easy it wouldn’t kick my arse too much.
Down the road from the visitor centre carpark we found the trailhead for the Lower Bellbird Circuit which led to our walk. The track skirted the foot of the cliffs below Binna Burra and Bellbird Lookout; on one side the Numinbah Valley stretched out below us, and on the other the soaring rock face had lichen, roots, and entire trees growing out of it. The track passed shallow caves and beneath massive fallen trees.
Soon the track headed downwards and the trees began to close in.
The day was cool and partly cloudy, and light filtered softly through the canopy.
The ground was springy underfoot, a thick carpet of decaying leaves and damp earth. Not a breath of wind stirred the air, and the only sounds came from the swish of our backpacks, the soft thud of our boots and the occasional call of a bird. It was cool and shadowy among the trees, and the gentle terrain meant we walked very comfortably, relaxing into an easy rhythm, and were able to appreciate details of the landscape as we passed through it.
Thanks to my finally knowing how to use the Nikon properly, I took more decent photos on this rainforest walk than I have on all of our walks in the past 7 years. As an added bonus I took less time (and swore less too) so J didn’t have to get frustrated with me, which is always a bonus in a romantic getaway.
The track started getting sodden underfoot, and we soon had our first creek crossing.
Getting closer to the largeish Nixon’s Creek it got wetter and wetter, and each step made a satisfying squelch in the now very muddy track. It was about this time the taxman showed up.
Because he was busily jogging across my calf I managed to flick him off, and didn’t have to break out the salt. Some of the swampiest sections of track had newly spread chunks of bluemetal over them, and we passed the blue tarps of the helicopter drop zone a bit further on. The track met Nixon’s Creek and we followed the sound of gently running water for the last kilometre to the falls.
After we ate our servo sangers I wandered around taking yet more photos, though I found I couldn’t get very close to the falls with the Nikon due to all the wind and spray coming off them. All the falls are usually pumping in the wet season between December and March, though in April was still good thanks to all the lovely rain the week before.
We hung around for an extra half hour then started back the way we came.
We turned off onto the Ship’s Stern Circuit for a different way home, instead of retracing the Lower Bellbird Circuit. After a fair bit of climbing, the winding track popped out high above the valley floor and we had some spectacular views.
Then a bit further on at Koolanbilba Lookout we discovered the clouds were suddenly much lower. Lovely and dramatic!
The lodge wasn’t far off but I was absolutely dyinggg for a wee by this stage. I’d been looking for a good spot for ages but couldn’t find anywhere with sufficient coverage.
I found myself sizing up every large tree we passed; I had to be able to wee behind it without my arse being visible from the track.
Thus relieved, I was now even more inclined to take my time and get shots of the various beautiful fungi that grew beside the track.
On the home stretch J finally got a little antsy with my frequent stopping, and wanted to push through and finish. I wanted to keep stopping and taking photos. Calling on the wisdom that has come from over five years of marriage we decided I’d loiter behind while he went on ahead to finish the walk and then hike down to retrieve the ute. It was a good decision: he followed a ‘short cut’ which turned out to be quite hard going which he found fun.
I finally got to the lodge just as the sky darkened and it started drizzling. After lovely hot showers, warm clothes and dry shoes we headed to the common room to snuggle by the crackling log fire for some grownup drinks, nibbles and a chat. As per tradition for over 60 years the dinner bell was rung at 6pm to call us to the Clifftop Dining Room; as we waited to enter the giant thermometer by the door read 18C; clouds swirled around us and nearby cabins disappeared into the mist.
Dinner was exactly what I was in the mood for – hot sweet potato and roast capsicum soup with crusty warm bread rolls, followed by slow-cooked Moroccan spiced beef with rice and vegies. Hot peach crumble and custard for sweets… and all done within an hour! Much simpler fare than last night’s dining experience, and together with our beautiful long walk I think I liked today better; mud and leeches and sweat and wilderness. Then before the main course was done there came the rumbling of thunder and a steady rain started on the roof. We’d had the perfect walking day and then were gifted with the perfect settle down by a cosy roaring fire then cuddle up in bed listening to the rain on the roof night.
It was even more special knowing that the next day, Easter Sunday, I’d wake up next to the man I first met on Easter Sunday 2006, and subsequently married here 5 and-a-bit years ago. It’s been a wonderful 9 years – thanks hubby.