Eungella National Park: Of Strangler Figs, Leeches and Long Holidays

ROAD TRIP DIARIES #2 – Bush Walking at Eungella National Park

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We woke up on a foggy morning after spending our first night camping at Eungella National Park. The cold and misty mountain of Eugella is a retreat from Queensland‘s tropical heat but we were warm enough inside the camper and had a comfortable night. The whole camping ground was shrouded with fog and the stunning view from atop was now obscured by dense fog that made it harder for us to get motivated to start the day early and do the rainforest walks. We prepared our breakfast inside the van while planning our route for the day. After a much needed hot shower, we finally checked-out from the camping ground and headed to the nearest lookout.

 

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The rainforest park offers several graded walking trails ranging from wheel-chair accessible walk to the most challenging 57 kilometer Mackay Highland Walk. Aside from bird-watching and wild-life spotting, bush walking is another popular activity here. We had another day to spend at the park so we decided to do three of the short walks before heading back at the Broken River for more platypuses watching.

 

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The rainforest circuit was my favorite walk among three. The trail was well-marked and there were signs with info about the history of the rainforest and interesting trivia about the flora and fauna found in it. It was about an hour’s refreshing walk through the dense forest of towering trees and broad-leaf palm trees while listening to the occasional calls of the whip birds. The most interesting part of the walk was a strangler fig we saw in the middle of the trail that formed an archway. The fig has completely overtaken its host tree and has formed a hollow inside where you could climb like a ladder.

 

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Strangler Fig


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It was during one of our treks in Dolores, Quezon when I first saw strangler figs. I wouldn’t have noticed if Charles didn’t point it out to me. Apparently, it is very common in tropical rainforests and still plays an important role even though it is an agent of death for its host tree. It is a food source to many rainforest creatures and its hollow trunks provides sanctuary for hundreds of species.

 

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On the way to the town small town of Eugella

 

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Through this walk, I learned that the lush cane fields in Pioneer Valley were once part of the rainforest but were cleared for agriculture. I could just imagine the vastness of the forest when it was in its pristine condition considering it is still, even now, the longest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest in the country. Further along our walk, we still saw some of the marks of the recent cyclones that hit Queensland – some fallen trees had obstructed the trail.

 

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One of the three leeches that hitchhiked in my shoe

 

The circuit rainforest walk traversed to the other side of the mountain and it emerged near the town of Eugella. After our walk, Charles tried to hitchhike to get back to the lookout where he parked our camper van while I waited outside the only food shop in the town.

I looked for my own comfortable nook and hurriedly removed my shoes to relax my feet. I forgot to wear socks during the walk and it was getting a bit uncomfortable. To my great horror, three bloody leeches crept out of my shoes. Tough luck indeed! The first and only time I didn’t wear socks was also the time these bloody suckers hitchhiked with me uninvited. I didn’t dare go near those shoes again for the next 3 hours until it was time to do one more hiking and some serious assurance from Charles that they were gone.

 

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The playful platypus putting a good show for everyone

 

Luckily the platypus saved the day. This time, we saw two platypuses, which put a good show for everyone for quite some time. It was a treat! Usually they will just do a quick appearance and disappear again in the murky water. After one final snap shot, we drove to the town of Finch Hatton and looked for Platypus Bush Camp to camp for the night. It was much cheaper to camp here but the facilities are very basic. No electricity, no hot shower, it is basically just camping in the bush.

 

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Outskirts on the way to Finch Hatton Gorge

 

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But the best part of this camping ground was the swimming hole nearby with crystal clear water and a possible sighting of more platypuses (after all it’s called Platypus Bush Camp). It was like old -fashioned roughing out in the bush camping except we slept inside the car instead of tent. We joined the other campers in a bonfire later at night after having an afternoon drinkie near the water holes. We met some British backpackers who were on a road trip for 8 months and a couple with a baby from Tasmania who was planning to have a road trip for a year! And I thought 6 weeks were already too long to be away from the daily grind of normalcy.)

 

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Swimming hole near Platypus Bush Camp

 

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We retired for the night looking forward to seeing the stunning waterfalls of Finch Hatton Gorge the next day. I reflected on the great day we had just experienced as I drifted off to sleep, trying not to dream of those bloody leeches ☺

 

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Setting the campfire for the night

 

(This is part of our 6-week North Queensland Road Trip Series, which took place July- August 2010)

Australian Road Trip: A Vantastic Beginning

Road Trip Series # 1 – An Encounter with the Strangest Animal in the World


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