A personal reflection...

Brian Egan
Past NPAQ President

 Mt Bellender Ker from Bruce Highway (Matthew Palermo, Wikimedia Commons)

Mt Bellender Ker from Bruce Highway (Matthew Palermo, Wikimedia Commons)

Articles in the February/March issue of Protected by President Graeme Bartrim and Tony Groom mention how experiencing aspects of nature can trigger an interest in conservation and may also provide real mental and physical health benefits.

You’ve probably all felt your spirits uplifted in this way at times when visiting some of the localities in our Queensland national parks. I know that I have! Think of the overall appeals of iconic Lamington, the magnetism of Mt Barney (especially if a bushwalker), the gorges and side canyons of Carnarvon, the magic island scenery of the Whitsundays, losing yourself in the wildflowers of Girraween or Cooloola, or the World Heritage tropical rainforests of North Queensland.

Many years ago I read an article in National Parks, the magazine of The National Parks Conservation Association in USA. The early Celtic peoples had a name for those places in nature where they felt closer to the presence of their gods/mother nature. They called them “the thin places” where the walls separating them from their gods were thinnest, and they could feel a strong emotional involvement. It helps if you have an iconic place or building involved. Some of the “thinnest”  places for me around the world include –

• An early morning panorama of Everest and associated peaks from Everest View Hotel above Lukla at 4,000m, enhanced by a brilliant blue sky after 3 days of cloud and snow.

• Iguassu Falls National Park on the Brasil/Argentina border, as you’re immersed within its hundreds of thundering waterfalls and fabulous lookouts.

• Sitting at peace on a rocky slope in Arches National Park in Utah, drinking in the view of nearby glorious Delicate Arch with its backdrop of the sun setting behind the distant snowy mountains.

• Visiting the soaring magnificence of Reims Cathedral in France when its great organ came to life with some of the most wonderful organ music I’ve ever heard – that’s 40 years ago but I can still see and feel it!

 Josephine Falls, Wooroonooran NP (LecomteB, Wikimedia Commons)

Josephine Falls, Wooroonooran NP (LecomteB, Wikimedia Commons)

And my top pick for Australia is a place that few if any of you would have visited - the top of Mt Bellenden Ker in Wooroonooran National Park between Gordonvale and Babinda. It’s a strenuous climb up steep rough trails, starting not far above sea level and ending almost a mile high in the sky. The lower slopes are tall, dense lowland rainforest, often cyclone damaged with lots of nasties like stinging tree, lawyer vine and leeches. This grades with altitude into upland rainforest (different species, shorter, and less underbrush), and then into cloud forest above 1,500m, with different species, a low dense canopy due to frequent cloud and high winds, but relatively open underneath.

So what’s so wonderful about it? It’s beautiful open forest, easy to walk through; golden bowerbirds and their bowers could be seen for the last 400m or so of altitude; stage makers (tooth billed bowerbirds) could be heard and their large cleared stages decorated with fresh green leaves located; and it was the only place I’ve ever had tree kangaroos drop down beside me and look before bounding away. But topping everything were the unusual tea trees (Leptospermum wooroonooran) which were common on the tops of the range here. They form much of the canopy in some parts, produce an abundance of white flowers in early summer which contrast with the greens of the other trees, and are readily seen from the Bruce Highway almost a mile below.

To top off all the wonders below, these tea trees produce a network of very strong branches and are easily climbed. Choose your tree carefully and it’s possible to emerge above the smooth canopy from the hips up. You’re monarch of all you survey in all directions, from the distant coral reefs offshore to the canefields below and the Atherton Tablelands to the west.

What a great and memorable feeling – it’s a very thin place indeed!