Australia, Hiking, Mountains, Streams, Creeks & Rivers
Comments 9

Stranglers in the Forest: Green Mountain Haiku #1

A couple of months back, before it got too hot for all but deranged masochists to hike anywhere, my friend Chris Lynch borrowed his mother’s car, I downed a couple of Kwells to head off the inevitable car sickness, and we drove south a few hours to O’Reilly’s, the famous “rainforest retreat” set in the midst of mountainous Lamington National Park.

It was a last-minute escape plan, and we only came up with a rudimentary course while poring over a tourist map minutes before leaving my place: two nights in the Green Mountains section, at unimproved bush campsites (read: no running water or toilets), with lots of rainforest walking and waterfalls in between.

The pills worked, I arrived mildly stoned but nausea-free, and we left the car at the resort to set off down one of the numerous tracks that intersect, start or finish there. It was a fantastic trip — sometimes the hastily prepared ones are the best ones.

Early on, as I apologised for stopping for yet another shot, Chris remarked, “Take your time. This trip is all about photography. I’m going to be writing poems, so there’s no hurry.” I should mention that he’s a poet, and his notebook and pen were a lot more portable and lightweight than my electronic encumbrances.

Over that afternoon, following day and final long morning of walking, Chris was happy to pause and scribble while I clambered about trying to take decent shots without disrupting our momentum — hard enough by yourself but doubly tricky when hiking in company. It all worked out well, though dealing with bright sunshine spearing down into a shadowy understory is always a photographic challenge.

We camped at Bithongabel (“Bith-ON-guh-buhl”) the first night and Echo Point the second. When we finished I had a few hundred pictures and Chris nine finished haiku, some of which I’ve included here; I’ve added a note after each one for some context. This post stretches to nightfall on the second day. A follow-up post will cover the final day’s walking and the remaining hike-oo.

Hope you like this little foray into multi-disciplinary blogging!

*          *          *          *          *

1. Rainforest fig

Mainlines the waterfall

No reception.

I assume Chris is referring here to the lack of phone signal. He was evidently outraged that he couldn’t upload a selfie to FaceBook from deep within a rainforest ravine.


TARZAN COUNTRY. Thick, ropey vines snake upwards towards the canopy.


OPPORTUNISTS. Strangler fig (Ficus watkinsiana) & bird’s-nest fern. One of a thousand species of Ficus (perhaps my favourite tree genus), stranglers begin life as epiphytes (plants growing on other plants) deposited as seeds in bird droppings in a nook of a host tree. As they grow, they send roots downward till they enclose the host, eventually “strangling” it so that after the host dies & decays, the fig’s roots join and form a hollow “pipe”. Stranglers may also produce aerial and buttress roots, making mature specimens awe-inspiring, otherworldly monsters. Bird’s-nests are also epiphytes and often attach to tall trees in the competition for scarce rainforest light.


BIRD’S EYE VIEW. Bird’s-nest fern high above the forest floor.






GREEN MOUNTAINS. Chris on a typically verdant section of track.

2. Misty

Mt. Bithongabel


Hot chocolate at our foggy camp beneath the beeches would have made for a really lame haiku.




SURVIVORS. Antarctic beeches (Nothogafus moorei), relics of Gondwana (the ancient super-continent comprising present-day Australia, Antarctica, South America & Africa), are found in higher elevations in rare, usually isolated sites in northern New South Wales and South-East Queensland. Fossilised beech pollen has been found in Antarctica; the few surviving relatives overseas evolved from the same ancestor after Gondwana split. Their fabulously gnarled, moss-covered trunks usually coppice from a crown — so this is probably a single tree. Beeches, which can live more than 10,000 years, once covered swathes of a moister, more temperate Australia. This page has lots of fascinating info.


AT THE GIANTS’ FEET. A gorgeous — if chilly — campsite among the Antarctic beech trees on Mt Bithongabel.


SHADES OF GREEN. Lichen & sedges (grass-like plants fond of moist conditions).


RECLINING. Catching up on some morning reading.


THREE SISTERS. Morning trail on Day 2, skirting beech trunks.

3. Morning sun

Hits my face

Whip call.

The call of the Eastern whipbird is, along with those of the magpie, butcher bird, crow and kookaburra, one of the classic sounds of the Australian outdoors. If you’ve hiked in wet forest along the east coast of Australia, you’ve heard this amazing call — the male produces the prolonged tone and whip-crack, the female the short answering notes.

Here’s a sample:




CREEK CROSSING. Another reason I like a stick.









4. In the deep

Pool the dead

Leaf dances.

Much of the walk on our second day shadowed the Albert River — really a creek in our section — which descends via countless beautiful pools and cascades. So many cascades, in fact, that I can’t place a name to a single one. I was like one of those dead leaves, just spinning along on my way downstream.


GORGE-OUS. Chris (next to the dead tree) admires another glorious waterfall.


FERN OR TREE? Gigantic, prehistoric-looking lacy tree ferns (Cyathea cooperi) are commonly grown in gardens overseas & can reach 12m or more. They’re endemic to this area and milder parts of NSW.




BOXED IN. Chris peering from within a living brush box — some of these giants are over 1,500 years old.


A ROOF OVER MY HEAD. My tarp shelter at Echo Point campsite on Night 2.


A HOLE IN THE ROOF. A glimpse of half-moon through the forest canopy at our Echo Point camp.

5. In the sedge


Fisheye lens.

A reference to the lens (actually just an adaptor I use over a 16mm pancake lens) that really came into its own on this trip — it would be very hard, I think, to capture the immense space and depth of the rainforest environment without a wide lens.

*          *          *          *          *

 A  few more haiku and a bunch of pictures from the final day (including a sensational dawn) are coming in the next post…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Looks like a great trail to follow… it just refreshes our body and mind right?

    I just love this kind of terrain and used to go for short hikes in our place…

    I totally agree with your view “sometimes the hastily prepared ones are the best ones.” …

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and these beautiful images 🙂

    • Happy you enjoyed the post, Sreejith. Yes, there’s something really restorative and uplifting about hiking in forest, I think all the running water and oxygen do something very beneficial to the brain and body, plus all that green just feels like a tonic!

      • I totally agree with you, there is no better tonic than pristine nature.

        I just love hiking and it really refreshes us 🙂

  2. Are you saying I am a deranged masochist for my attempts at warm weather hiking? 😉 Actually I’d agree with you there. When I do venture out in the hot months I usually regret it. My walk at Springbrook was pretty sticky!

    I was disappointed in my rainforest shots as they were either washed out or too dark and I found it hard to capture the enormity of the trees, so I am very envious of your collection. Aren’t the Antarctic Beech trees amazing? The Lamington area is fantastic – like stepping into a fantasy novel – very Lord of the Rings-ish. . I’ve only been there once and want to return but that road freaks me out a little. It seems too narrow and with that cliff edge I just don’t know what would happen if a bus came the other way. Friends found huge earth worms there after storms (a metre long!) so that would be exciting to find also.

    I love the sounds of whip birds but without a decent zoom capturing pics of them has proven elusive. I’m sure they tease me. 🙂

    • I don’t even bother trying to photograph birds sometimes lately, unless they let me get pretty close. I need a telephoto so badly! Particularly as I’m turning into one of those bird-feeding older guys!

      The Antarctic beeches are unbelievable — you could easily imagine them in Tasmania but they seem almost anachronistic in S.E. Queensland.

  3. FERN OR TREE? the fern in the picture is Cyathea Australis the rough tree fern not cooperi 🙂

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