Walking in the Enchanted Woods. Meeting Eagles and Owls.

Oh, how I wish you could have walked through the woods in Lamington NP with me today. They are truly splendid. So primeval, with massive, convoluted trunks, covered in twisted, strangulated vines and figs, great roots stretching out across the forest floor. In truth if a dinosaur emerged on the path in front of you or a tetradactyl soared overhead, you would hardly be surprised, so ancient are your surroundings. It even smells primeval: a sort of rich, earthy, wood and mulch smell. A bit like dipping your whole head into a big bag of garden mulch!!
We started early, just after 9, and walked to the Treetop Walk quite near our lodge. This is a series of perhaps 15 wooden suspension walkways, high up in the treetops, with the trees stretching away far below you. It wobbled a bit. And there were worrying notices about only having 6 people per strand. Which made you wonder and calculate whether recent indulgences meant that you could possibly equal the weight of 3 small people…. Anyway, we survived to make our way back down again.
We then walked on to the Mountain Garden. This is a lovely wild garden landscaped by some ancient colonel in the past and still holding its own against the relentless force of the rainforest beyond its fences. I do wonder if he served in the Indian Army at some point, but I can find no information on him. It is just so like some of the Himalayan gardens we have visited, even including some of the same plants. Fantastic spot and such a labour of love.
We walked on and completed the Orchid circuit in which we saw no orchids but did see many beautiful trees and ferns, and heard the birds calling particularly the whip-whip of the whipbird. Saw some pademelons too, running frantically for the bushes at our approach The tracks are really quiet. You don’t meet anyone on them, or hardly anyone.
By the time we’d finished this track, it was 1030 and time for a coffee back at the lodge. Which timed nicely with the complimentary morning coffee and CAKE that was on offer. The cake was extraordinarily good. Squares of dark chocolate sponge topped off with red syrup and cream and a crunchy beetroot crisp. Is this Red Velvet Cake??? I’m not well versed on cake because I don’t eat it much, but I made an exception in this case, and I had walked a long way after all…. So I had 2 squares.
We then headed off into the woods again. This time to visit first, Mick’s Tower, an antique bird viewing tower deep in the trees. I thought I might climb up its 90 feet to the platform but the vertical metal ladder that took you up, was agonising even through my shoes, so I gave up. We walked on down through the valley towards the Wishing Tree. The track was very narrow, steep, wet, covered in roots and tree mulch and not that easy. By then, we had walked about 7km in all. Not a long way in comparison to what many serious walkers do, but to us quite significant, and you do have to take into account the steep upping and downing and the difficulty of the track. Anyway, it was as spectacular as all the rest. Giant trees, some of which the track actually went through. Some of them with symbiotic plants growing up their trunks, ferns and the like. Some with colourful fungi covering them. The fungi here is amazingly brightly coloured and some of it is huge. We have learned that it plays an important part in the health of the rainforest as does the leaf mulch that falls to the floor and provides a habitat for insects.  One of the fungi was the size of a dinner plate.
Eventually, we arrived at the Wishing Tree. A truly massive tree that had a hole through the middle that you could walk through. On the approaching side, you just saw the hole amidst the giant roots but once through it you were actually standing in a veritable tree “cave” so large was the hollow. You could easily have camped in there for the night. There was a small tree stump in the middle to sit on and make your wish and Bob obliged for the camera.
We pressed on, rather than retrace our steps back up the very steep track, deciding to link up to an old logging route, The Red Road, to get back to O’Reilly’s. It was longer, but looked to be less steep and certainly less slippery. Indeed it was, although we had to cross two creeks, walking on rather precarious planks balanced on rocks. No one fell in!!!!
Finally we emerged onto the logging road and followed it uphill till we reached the hill road leading to the lodge. Here we had a stroke of luck. A woman employee came along in a 4wd and offered us a lift!!!! Result!!!!!! We rode back the last kilometre in style and went to have a nice rest in our room and some lunch.
At 1pm we had a meeting to go to the Birds of Prey exhibition. The lodge has a collection of Australian birds of prey that have been hand reared and they show them every day. There were only about 12 of us so it was very close up and intimate. They had an Australian Barn Owl called Star (adorable), an Australian Barking Owl, A Black Kite, A Kestrel, A Nanking falcon and a Wedge Tailed Eagle. They were all absolutely extraordinary birds, so beautiful, incredible eyes…… We got to see them really close up, flying, sitting and eating little meaty snacks like rats legs!!!!!! At the end the handler offered a one on one with either the eagle or the barn owl. Bob quickly put his hand up for the eagle and he got the immense privilege of holding this magnificent bird on his arm for at least 5 minutes. I took the pictures! A very special experience and he was thrilled.
From there we headed off walking again!!!! This time to a point known as Python’s Rock. This track was, as usual, through dense rainforest but on a more level, although descending gradient, that eventually came out at a bottomless bluff overlooking The Lost World Valley. The vistas here were staggering, just green, green trees and hills in every direction as far as you could see. No manmade thing visible. To our left was Moran Falls, a cascade of water falling hundreds of feet. In front and to the right was just endless plummeting valley. We sat at the viewpoint and refreshed ourselves with the view and…. A Snickers Bar!!!! A trek well worth the effort. Back we went through the woods and to the lodge. Just in time for: complimentary afternoon tea and CAKES!!!! This time it was a raisin, nut and spice scone. Delicious.
Well, by now we were pretty tired so we returned to the room for showers and a rest. There was a spectacular sunset, the sky was a red and gold fire over the mountains.  We watched, toasting with a nice glass of red.

Then about 720 off to dinner. Now, I’d been looking forward to dinner all day. Really, really looking forward to it despite all the cake.  They offer a roast shoulder of lamb sharing platter complete with all manner of unusual Australian vegetables. Not cheap at $85 for two but not too bad either for those deserving of reward for much hard walking. Imagine my gutted disappointment when we arrived at 720, a full 80 minutes before last orders to find they had no lamb left. Oh, well, the seafood platter then (bit unwilling to be honest as we were up a mountain but…),… no, that had gone too. She went away and checked. There was one chicken sharing platter left. Oh, if only you’d come at 530 when we opened, she offered as consolation…. It wasn’t. 530!!!  That’s teatime where I come from not an hour when you’d sit down for a massive platter of roast lamb!!!  We declined the privilege of paying $85 for a roast chicken platter (unbelievably it was the same price as the lamb and the seafood ) and Bob had a curry and I had a mushroom risotto. Both were nice and the portions were generous but neither was a big old roast of lamb. Very disappointing.  Still haven’t quite got over it…..

Had a lovely day here and highly recommend a stay at O’Reilly’s if you get the opportunity. It’s good value and has an unbeatable location and a great family history and tradition surrounding it which you can definitely feel. Just don’t leave dinner too late…..


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