Written by Lucie
Mark and Lucie were taking a well-deserved holiday, visiting Skye and Jesse on the Sunshine Coast in October 2015. To give our wonderful hosts a break from hosting we decided to hike the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk (Queensland has ten Great Walks, confusing labelled as ‘great!walks’ on all signs).
The hike is advertised as a 58 km, four-day walk across the Blackall Range. We thought that four days sounded very excessive for that distance and decided to do it in two and a half.
Our kind chauffeur, Jesse, drove us to the start of our hike on Delicia Road. This involved a massive climb up and then a dirt road that dead-ended unexpectedly. Mark had seen a bit of pink tape tied around a tree near two posts just a little further back and suggested that we get out and start walking there. We weren’t convinced it was the right place but we thought it was probably going to work out okay. Plus we were both pretty keen to get out of the car and start walking.
We bid farewell to Jesse (thanks!) and started walking into the bush with a spring in our step. A very short distance in we came across Thilba Thalba campsite which confirmed we were in the right place!
Technically we could have started our walk 7 km further back at Gheerulla Falls and made Thilba Thalba our first camp. We decided on our slightly appraised route because it was after lunch by the time we got going and we had arranged to be picked up at 4pm two days later, cutting into our walking time. At Thilba Thalba we got a lovely view of Mapleton Forest Reserve and then continued on to on Gheerulla Bluff. Here there was a 200 m detour to the Thilba Thalba Viewpoint so we dropped our packs and made the climb up for a spectacular view of Mary Valley. A warning sign at the viewpoint exclaimed ‘Actung!’ Mark first thought it was out of place but then he got thinking about the name ‘Hinterland’ and wondering what that means or where it comes from (clue, it is German and means ‘the land behind’, often used to describe remote areas).
After the viewpoint we had a steep descent to Gheerulla Creek and found an idyllic lunch spot where we could dangle our feet in cold water (it’s hot in Queensland!).
After lunch we followed the river and found that both of us were feeling a bit queasy, and full of burps. Mark was considering a TC (tactical chunder. Ew).
We had many dry creeks and river beds to cross and, although the guide warns of ‘wet feet’ the only places where we had to cross actual water had bridges or big stepping stones. The water was a bit weird. Where it sat in pools the water was murky and often a cloudy bluey-grey. Continuing upstream we eventually reached a track junction where we had planned to take a detour to Gheerulla Falls, before coming back and taking the other path to our campsite for the night. However, it was about 5pm by this point and we were still feeling kinda crummy so we chose to sack off the falls and head to camp in the remaining light. There were many more falls to come on our trip so we weren’t worried about missing out.
We got to Ubajee campsite for perfect sunset views of the valley and distant layered peak ranges. We were the only people there and so had the pick of the crop for setting up our tent. We cooked dinner and made friends with some endangered barred frogs, some small marsupial-rodents that we think were either musky rat-kangaroos, or rufous rat-kangaroos. Whatever they were they were very frisky and quite cheeky, coming right up to us and our tent. We looked at pretty stars and then called it a night, a very peaceful night.
We woke up feeling pretty good but a bit lazy and so stayed horizontal playing cards for a while. As we were eating breakfast an older guy came through the campsite. He was planning to walk the whole of the top, loop section of the walk in one day and was therefore getting an early start. We had a not quite so early start of 9am.
The first part of Day Two was an easy section of trail through the trees along Leafy Lane to a current logging track. Even though we were following a very simple and well-marked track with no turn offs we passed signs at regular intervals to tell us to keep going straight. Then we passed a turn off for Mapleton Day Use Area. We shuddered, thinking it must be for day walkers. Our path then turned south through Delicia Road Conservation Park with the Linda Garrett Loop. Linda Garrett is a pretty awesome lady. She bought a section of land and then donated it to be kept as a conservation area. It was a rainforest with very reddy-brown water, as if it had a very high iron content, and a lot of noisy birds. After exiting Linda’s Park we crossed a road and then walked down a short section of gravel road to get into the Mapleton Falls National Park. This bit, unlike our previous section, decided that no signs were required at exciting junctions. It turns out that you need to keep on walking straight and follow the Wompoo Circuit (although considering it’s a circuit I guess you could take either direction) which has information signs for various trees, including the picabeen palm and its hipster friend the Topknot Pigeon.
There was a nice lookout called Peregrine Lookout, presumably there are birds of prey in the valley. We finally found the Mapleton Falls Picnic Area to confirm that we were in the right place. We were really looking forward to a cool down in the water but it turned out that this was not the place for that. We crossed over a pathetic trickle of a waterfall thinking, ‘this had better not be it!’ Then we found the lookout for the actual falls. It was closed because of a landslide. Poor us! On the plus side we saw our second monitor lizard of the day.
We walked away from Mapleton Falls along a road in the full afternoon sun for a short while. One of the houses had a jam stall with an honesty box at the end of their drive; we thought it was pretty cool. It would have been tempting if it wasn’t for the fact that we were hiking.
We turned off the road and walked down a long pseudo-driveway. We don’t know what was at the end of it because the great!walk path turned off and ducked back into rainforest. We dropped down to Baxter Creek (seeing a snake on the way) and then found another idyllic lunch spot with water for cooling down in (and snake number 2). After lunch we crossed over Baxter Creek by way of a small suspension bridge and then went to the Baxter Falls detour. Baxter Falls were pretty impressive and we had a bit of a swim freak out – should we or shouldn’t we? On the one hand, it looked like a pretty great spot in terms of water depth. On the other hand we were very full, didn’t fancy having a lovely cool swim immediately before a massive climb, the water was a really weird colour and there were more snakes around, some of which seemed pretty at ease with the water. We think that over the course of the hike we saw the lesser black whip snake, common tree snake and possibly the eastern brown snake. We chose to be cautious, especially since we’d just had a pretty good dunk and cool down over lunch. We started the long climb back up out of the valley towards Flaxton Walkers’ Camp. Once again we encountered some pretty poor signage, this time in relation to how far it was to the camp. Halfway up we stopped for a drink of water and Lucie realised that the entire sole of her left boot was hanging off. We did some emergency first aid using the tape.
We arrived at the campsite early in the afternoon and had the place to ourselves so we stripped down and had a cool down and a wash. We then lazed around, had dinner and made friends with more super cheeky little critters before bed.
On Day Three Mark woke up super early (having gone to bed ridiculously early the night before) and got up to read a book – this made him happy as it justified having carried it this whole time. We set off to a chorus of laughing kookaburras and walked out of the forest to the village of Flaxton. We had to do a small section of road through Flaxton, which sounded a bit lame but it was early in the morning so we weren’t in full heat and the houses – sorry, mansions – were very nice to look at. Plus there were more houses with produce for sale and we harvested a couple of avocados.
We exited Flaxton and entered the Kondalilla National Park, dropping down to the Kondalilla Falls Picnic Area and a boardwalk to the falls. We came to a split in the path and found that the path down to the base of the falls, also signed as the path for the great!walk, was closed due to track damage and rock falls. This meant that we couldn’t see the actual falls and we had to take a little detour. On the plus side the new path took us past a big rock pool with a small waterfall and so we went for a swim – it was rather chilly!
After we were satisfied with our water (and eel!) experience we set off again and passed a massive goanna on the track, soaking up the sunshine. Then we saw a few smaller lizards in the sunny patches of the rainforest as we worked our way down to Skene Creek.
As had been the case in other rainforest sections the smells of all the plant life was amazing; so rich and sweet. We had lunch at a beachy spot on The Narrows part of Obi Obi Creek (again with feet splashing), and then, as has also been the case, we had a big climb up after lunch. It was hot. It was uncomfortable. There were snakes and lizards and birds. When we finally reached the top of the hill we got to Baroon Lookout, which had fantastic views of the creek below and Baroon Lake in the distance. It was very impressive. Plus we saw Peregrine Falcons! We then wove our way down through the trees, past some termite mounds and did a short, packless detour to The Narrows Lookout, which looked down on the gorge that Obi Obi Creek was now running through. Down and down we went until we reached the end of the creek and the end of our hike. We did a few extra hundred metres to Lake Baroon to have a swim whilst we waited for Jesse to arrive to take us back to the Sunny Coast.
Lucie: Farewell boots old friends, you have served me well!
Total Ascending: 700m*
Total Descending: 1300m*
Total Distance: 58km
*Extremely rough estimates