Headed south on a long overdue trip, to the Granite Belt with a packed itinerary, but to be honest, it was way, way, way too much to do for 3 days in such a renowned corner of our state and I knew that. Can't blame me for trying though :P. It probably didn't help that everything was so beautiful and for someone who likes to stop and smell the roses, and explore and linger…. yeah, there was a lot of lingering (twiddles thumbs innocently). It was also cut short by an infected toe, but I'm already planning to go back, because I didn't get to do even half of what I would have liked too, and it would be a shame to not go back to what has to be one of the best national parks I've been to. :)
Went down the Cunningham Highway and New England Highway straight through a much traversed through Warwick and turned right at Thumlimbah, where a giant apple stands, through the pretty locality of Pozier, which is packed with apple orchids, though theres no apples to accidentally drop off into your hand on the unfenced ones at this time of year :P
Also went to Passendaele's Transmission Tower, which the back of the map said had a pretty view, so unless I went to the wrong one on the circuit drive, it didn't have a view. The tower itself was slightly unusual but unremarkable. The area though is really cool with granite boulders just everywhere. Easy to see why it's called the Granite Belt.
Headed back to Pozieres, then south to Donnelly's Castle which is a reserve set aside in the memory of original settler Ned Donnelly, which I didn't think would be anything significant, but boy was I wrong.
The boulders from the outset were nice, but just getting to walk amongst them up close and personal was really cool and awe inspiring. Just wondering how they all take on the same rounded shape, and the clean cuts where they have sheered off, it was like an enormous puzzle, and you're wondering if a chunk is going to fall off while you're there, perhaps on you. Definitely wondering how they stay balanced and don't topple over.
There was also lots of colourful birds that come very close, and there a pretty nice view from the lookout too.
And then there was an awesome cave, which is less a cave, and more going in and between, and over and under massive boulders that are about the width of a hallway or less but it's so much fun to climb all over them. My favourite was getting on my hands and knees to crawl between a gap (a bit to the left of the gap in the second picture below, only smaller), then later trying to get on top of a boulder wedged between two massive boulders (second picture), then falling on my ass because I couldn't get on it. :P
I had no idea what to expect from this place which I had just read off the back of a map. I thought it would probably take about 20 minutes and I'd be off. Four hours later!!! :D A definite recommend.
Traveller's Tip - Always allow lots of time for things to be unexpectedly awesome. I was planning on getting to Girraween at about 10am-ish, after a 4am start. I ended up getting there at 4pm!!!
Next, Stanthorpe. Checked out the lookout at Mt Marley which has great views across the township from the east, but unfortunately trees are view blocking the main attraction, Girraween. Still worth the look. I'm pretty sure you can see Sundown National Park though.
Also checked out the Soldier's Memorial which back along is on the same road, which is a really nice commemoration to our fallen soldiers of the first World War, which is only enhanced by the boulders surrounding. Seriously, these things are everywhere!!! :) It's a bit off the side of the road, so you'll have to keep you eyes peeled. If you're heading towards Mt Marley, it's on the right, and if you're heading back it's on the left.
I was going to head to the Red Bridge, but daylight was running out. I'd also been told at the Information Centre that the historical Red Bridge had been painted white. What? So I gave that one a miss. One for when I haven't run out of time. :)
Finally headed to Girraween via King Storm Dam, but I missed an exit and ended up on the back up on the New England Highway, but that was okay because I got to get the Stanthorpe sign. Yes, I admit it, I'm a sucker for pretty town signs. It's a sickness. :P
King Storm Dam wasn't anything significant, but it beats the highway and it's a nice little stop if you want to do a bit of fishing. Also, walking your dog from inside your car seemed popular too. Also got to pass through Eukey, which was where there was a lot of snow recently.
The road just before you reach the New England Highway at Ballandean leads you to a Pyramid, which is not as big as the one's in Egypt, but is still impressive and stands out well from the surroundings, so you can't miss it, not that you'd want to. :)
Next up, I finally get to Girraween!!! It was pretty much night when I arrived, and it was definitely night before I'd picked a spot at my haunt at Bald Rock Creek Camping. Putting the tent up in the night is becoming a theme. I'm so good at it, that the one time I actually arrived somewhere before night, I put the tent up wrong #fail. I picked a nice little spot with a whole heap of boulders as a backdrop. Note: While the toilet and shower facilities are excellent, there is no power there. I know that it is an unpowered camping site, but when I called to ask about charging batteries, the ranger said there was power. Spent so much time going back and forth between my camp site and the Castle Rock Camping and Caravan area which did have power points to charge my camera battery.
It took a while to get the fire started, because this was my first time doing a wood fire BBQ, I totally messed it up, so I was pretty much freezing there waiting endlessly for relief from the bitter cold (genius idea to go in the peak of winter!!!), and to make matters worse, there was a sneaky thief lurking in the moonlit night. A possum!!! Okay, who am I kidding? It was the cutest, most adorable creature I've even seen, and the best thing was that it wasn't scared at all, even when I had my very bright headlight directly at it, and it came incredibly close. Less than two feet, and it kept trying to steal my bread!!! It had almost got it too, but it was busted!!! It was also great to head it go up a tree, then it came back down low with its head out, trying to get that bread. Such a fabulous close encounter of a wild animal that I've never seen before. Definitely one of the highlights. :)
The next day, late again, I headed out to do one of the 5 tracks I's intended to, but only two of which were done. The Junction is an easy 5.2km return track which follows the Bald Rock Creek until it intersects with Ramsay Creek but is really impressive and pretty. There are steep granite areas you can climb to get a view of the area, but they are optional. They're also very slippery when when as I hilariously discovered when my knee met with the granite. Impressive granite boulders litter the sides of the river, and small waterfalls make it really inviting to go for a swim. You know when it's not absolutely freezing in the middle of winter. Definitely a must for summer though. Just a gorgeous area.
Next Up, track 2 of 2: the Pyramid Track (3.6kms Return). It was a bit of a push to get this one before sunset because, like usual, time is not my friend and seems to go WAY too fast. Doesn't help that the Junction track was so pretty and all you want to do is linger. There is a great view of the mountain you are going to climb from the area around the information centre, and there is a gorgeous area of the upper Bald Rock Creek that you pass along the way. I opted to go via the impressive Granite Arch which is also an easy walk. The first half of the Pyramid track is also very easy, then there's the 100 or so steps. ARGH!!! It doesn't help that you have useless cardio and are trying to beat the sun and having a break is hardly an option. I sure as hell got a workout there. It's pretty much murder of the legs, but boy it is awesome. Everywhere here is awesome, dammit!!! Despite my efforts, I didn't get quite get a full sunset, but I got last lights, which was just as beautiful as it was absolutely mind numbingly freezing!!! Even with three layers of pants and four layers of tops. The almost full moon and the amazing view and the stars made it absolutely glorious. I did climb the rest of the pyramid, but I didn't take my camera, because it's it very steep and I really didn't want anything to happen to it, but the already amazing experience from being lower down was only heightened so much more. Absolutely magical. The highlight of an already amazing trip. <3 Walking back by moonlight was amazing too. :)
Last day at the beautiful Girraween National Park. Got up at 4.40am-ish and got the fire roaring and cooked some marshmellows. Oh man they are amazing if you've never tried them. I had the Pascall Berry Swirls ones. They caught on fire a lot, but after you remove the horrendously tasting blackened crust they are like gooey, melt in your mouth chunks of heaven. Om nom nom. Lots of early morning wildlife, minus the ever present kangaroos, but I had a kookaburra land on my tripod. :)
Headed to the border town of Wallangarra, where there's a massive billboard train, and a border marker, and a historical railway station.
Tenterfield in New South Wales is a much prettier town than Stanthorpe, with the entry road lines with Avenue Of Honour styled trees and historical buildings. The town is known for being a federation town along with Parkes and Cowra where Sir Henry Parkes delivered a speech that lead to the "Birth Of Our Nation". Headed straight for Thunderbolt's Hideout on the way north back to Brisbane via Queen Mary Falls, which is an awesome known hideout of bushranger Fred Ward. Not as impressive as Donnelly's Castle, but definitely worth a look.
I was running out of daylight, so instead of heading up through Queen Mary Falls way, I headed back the way I came, via Tenterfield and Stanthorpe. Noticed an F1-11 memorial on the way back into Tenterfield. And it had perfect lighting. :)
Even though it was cut short, I had a great time exploring nature in the one of the most picturesque places in south east Queensland. My highlights, of which there are many, was the Pyramids walk at night, Donnelly's Castle, the Junction, the marshmellows, the freezing cold (unpleasant but at the same time refreshing, and I've never seen so much of my breath :D) and the possum!!! I've still got to all the other walks to do at Girraween, I didn't even get to touch Bald Rock National Park, but then there is also Sundown National Park, not to mention a few other places I wanted to visit but never got the time to, so I'll definitely be back. :)
For all the pics go here http://goo.gl/B19bKD
Thanks for reading. :) And if you have any travel suggestions for the south east area, I'd love to hear them :)
Happy Travels. :)