Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A hippy, his rainforest haven and the elusive platypus

(4-6 July 2010)

Just before hitting Mackay, we travel inland towards Eungella NP past endless fields of cane. Driving through Mirani, there is the heavy scent of molasses that permeates the air creating a sickly sweet sensation – though probably not as heavy as trying to breathe with your head in a vat of honey.

Our destination is the Platypus Bush camp in the Finch Hatton Gorge section of the park. All I know is that there is the promise of the tribe sighting a platypus sometime over the next few days so this is a kind of special diversion from the beaches and the coastline as we end up some 70km inland from Mackay.

Wazza is the owner of the Platypus Bush Camp, and he is one of those characters who make the trip worthwhile. A former surfie/hippy drop out, he skipped Sydney (or more precisely, West Pymble) at the age of 15 and headed to Brunswick Heads. Now, an aging hippy in his early 60s, with salt water in his veins, he still tries to get to the sea for a bit of sailing, however, the Playtpus Bush Camp is his pet eco-venture.

It is quite simply the best unadulterated bush retreat with no mod-cons – you can either camp or rent one of his log cabins (ie cabin on stilts, with no door and tarp as window covers – very rustic). And the best part is the bush showers – a wonderful stone shelter with three sides, the fourth open onto the rainforest gardens, with the water heated by woodfire. And then even better is that you are surrounded by the rainforest – and serenaded by the gurgling creek with crystal clear fresh drinking water.

Oh, and did I mention there is a platypus pond down a short track from the back of the campsite? So there we went on our first evening, with most of our fellow campers to espy the elusive platypus.

Did we see one? Well I think I saw one flit through the water – and photographed it – an indistinguishable blur in the fading light.

Well there’s always tomorrow morning . . . although we lucked out again – we think the platypus here are early risers.

We spend a day up in the upland rainforest at Broken River, just past Eungella town that is reached after a winding and steep drive (12ยบ ascent!); but the views from the road are breathtaking – as would be stepping off the side of the road!

Broken River actually offers another platypus spotting opportunity – one that is almost guaranteed – and I did see one from the path, half way to the viewing platform where the tribe were already waiting patiently and quietly, however, the angle of the sun, combined with the shade from the trees prevented their view. We wait for some awhile longer, but keeping the tribe engaged to spot a creature that could appear anywhere and anytime is a challenge beyond their level of patience, which is perfectly reasonable.

The forest walks at Broken River are well signposted and also provide plenty of information with many signs along the tracks describing the rainforest, its ecosystem, as well as identifying key flora.

We tried spotting the platypus again at the bush camp, both on the final evening and on the morning we reluctantly leave, vowing to return.

As Wazza said, if he can impart just some of his philosophy on campers, then it’s all worthwhile – ‘tread softly’ folks!

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