The morning light was clear, the air crisp and light, and the Australians were wearing pullovers. They would never survive in Scotland. Picnic tables were placed on the grass area with ideal views down the Pioneer Valley where the town of MacKay nestled at the bottom. Sylvia insisted we ate al fresco and so our normal breakfast of fresh orange juice, bread and jam, and coffee was consumed whilst gazing at the finest view I have had whilst eating breakfast. Usually I don't wake up until after breakfast but in this atmosphere I had no chance to return to sleep.
As well as platypus, and I am still unsure whether we watched 4 last night, though it is probable we saw one active one three times, we have come to Eungella to walk some of the hill top hugging rainforest trails. Eungella National Park is one of Queensland's most ecologically diverse parks as well as being one of the largest in the state. Although much of the 49,000 hectares are inaccessible, the southern part of the park is well developed.
Our first walk was from the village. When we arrived at our turn around point, we met our elderly neighbours from the caravan park. They were out for a drive and I noticed their back offside tyre was going flat. Despite my wanting to help, the 79 year old gentleman insisted on being the one to lift the tyres in and out of his car, and do the work of changing the tyre. Now I know how my son feels when 'his old man' insists on doing work to prove he still can.
Before leaving the forest we past by roosting fruit bats, (the Flying Fox), and they were not too pleased. We stopped to take photographs and they noisily kept flying from one tree to another. Being disturbed after hard work on the night shift clearly did not encourage them to pose for the camera, so after apologising we went for a late lunch. Our camp site office is also the village post office, and a café which also makes delicious ice cream in four flavours. No prizes for guessing what we had for pudding.
The walks at Eungella really made us feel we were in a rainforest, even though the road could not have been too far away. The tracks, over wet leaf mould were soggy in patches and root systems crossed the path. We crossed streams and small gully's, moved hanging vines aside and climbed over others, walked through deep shade and sunlit gaps. The paths hugged the hill side whilst steep slopes slid away from us. Although there was a concern we could fall, the many trees would surely stop us. At a special area was 'The Sky Window'. This allowed very good views but unfortunately because of the position of the sun, good photographs were impossible.
After walking 6 ½ miles during the first part of the day, we drove the 3 miles to the Broken River car park by the platypus viewing bridge, arriving at 4pm. Last night we had been told by a resident of MacKay, (the city 50 miles away), of a pool downstream at the back of the viewing area. We found the path and walked to the pool where we were rewarded with uninterrupted views of a platypus traversing the pool seeking food. After watching for 40 minutes we made our way back to the main area by the bridge and joined other watchers; no platypus were to be seen. The same result occurred along at the viewing platform. Cold but happy we ended our viewing after watching a large number of big wading birds land on the river before taking up roosting spots in the trees.
Awaking to yet another lovely day, I booked us in for a third night so we could enjoy further walks in the forest, and breakfast was again spent at our eyrie on top of the world. Below us in the valley the best morning breakfast programme in Australia was broadcasting, (in part), from a small town. We could have rushed down to watch. I felt sure that Squeaker, my monkey, would have been able to claim 'as seen on TV' if we had attended; Sylvia thought the hill was too long and difficult to merit such an effort!
Today's walks totalled 5 ½ miles. We were delayed during the afternoon when walking up river and came to a large pool at about 2.15pm, when we spied a platypus diving for food. Whilst watching the platypus for 35 minutes, we also saw a second platypus which swam along the length of the pool, dived near the end and surfaced in the still water beyond the short falls of water leaving our pool.
This walk could be continued by following a further path which was too far for us as we had to return to our van. However we walked as far as we dared before turning back. Inside a rainforest after night has fallen is not the best place to be and we had no torch. Despite the failing light we got back quite quickly as we had had taken good notice of the interesting vegetation as we first past, and only needed to keep a good view of the path. One of the hazards to me has been the hanging vines. Some of them have taken their job description a little too literally for my liking. When Sylvia ducks, I duck. Sometimes Sylvia has not needed to duck and I have found that being several inches taller is not always an advantage.
Once out of the forest the light was much better. It was now 4.15pm and we took two others along to the back downstream pool where we watched a platypus diving for food. I am still trying to work out how the platypus knows when to dive and stop me getting a good picture. And they are not too cooperative at surfacing where I would like them to be. Most of the photographs remind me of a captured butterfly pinned to a bit of cardboard; lifeless. However, the photographs will remind Sylvia and me of the magic moments watching these shy animals.
Tomorrows plans are; another mountain top breakfast, travel to the valley floor, take pictures of our mountain top, and enjoy a waterfall walk in Finch Hatton Gorge, the last 550 yards of which included 337 steps.
On waking we found out why the name Eungella meant 'a place in the clouds'. It was raining and we were in the clouds. The long steep winding hill did not appeal to me at all. After deciding to eat breakfast indoors, we set off and past by a thunderous waterfall 6 times; the fall passing under us as we crossed large cattle grids. Forty slow bends later we were at the bottom and heading for MacKay, a city named after Sylvia's clan.
Before leaving Pioneer Valley we visited Melba House which is now a tourist office. Melba House was the home of the unrivalled soprano, Dame Nellie Melba for the first two years of her marriage to the 'Sugar Factory Manager'. As nice as this valley is, Nellie clearly believed it would be more interesting travelling the world and being treated as a superstar, so she up and left. Sylvia had a very interesting time looking at the displays of Melba House.
I learned that the tourist lady had spent a week during the start of June 2006 in a rented cottage at Rattray, Blairgowrie, and she wants to re-visit Scotland someday. What a small world we live in. She now has our card and e-mail address and who knows; maybe we will meet her again on our home turf.