Trekking through the rainforests down under
Budget: AUD$30 per night + groceries (AUD$5 per meal)
Although some of my adventures in Australia are paid for through my study abroad program, I've done my best to include budget information for each place I travel to, so these budget figures are directly from the national park camping websites.
Lamington National Park is a large park with many places to stay, but camping at the Binna Burra Lodge (where I stayed and did all of these hikes) is accessible for $30 per night. I would recommend spending at least two days there to fit in the two or three memorable hikes.
We've experienced the bush, folks, now its time to do a complete 180. Forget everything you learned about the no bullshit, no rain vegetation of Australia. Now we travel to one of the wettest parts of the country.
Lamington National Park is a sub-tropical rainforest an hour south of Brisbane. At the center of an old volcano crater, this forest has an extreme diversity of habitats, plants, animals and birds that people travel across the globe to see. (theres a lot of birds here. a ton. If you've never heard of a Lyre bird, google it because they're famous and I saw one)
Over the four days I spent here, I did a couple of hikes but my favorite was Lower Bellanjui Falls (12km round trip). Like I said, the park has a ton of different habitats, ranging from true sub-tropical rainforest, to temperate rainforest with an isolated population of Antarctic Beech trees (Northofagus) that likely won't be around much longer as the other rainforest trees invade (so go see them!). That being said, my favorite habitat was the Palm tree forest that dominates most of this hike.
It rained the day I did this hike, and as we walked along the track it became very clear how truly meant this vegetation is for that weather.
The forest comes alive in the rain.
Deep green leaves glisten, weighed down by heavy drops of shining water. The often overlooked fungi glow brighter as if energized by the water, and new life emerges in the presence of the wet season. Our trip went from listening for bird calls as sun shone through the canopy to crouching beneath fallen trees, examining overturned logs for beetles and glow worm silk, beaded with water.
This hike begins in a typical rainforest settling, with the first half dominated by tall, old rainforest canopy trees, thick lianes (woody vines) and soft ferns poking out of the rich dirt. If you're lucky enough to get caught in the rain, only a light waterproof jacket is needed on this track, because the canopy creates a nice net that only lets in the occasional drops to cool you off as you trek along.
You eventually come to a lookout marked by a (silly) diagram of someone falling off of the cliff. This sounds sinister to laugh at but all of the diagrams show the person falling off upside down so every time I saw one I pictured a person somersaulting and bouncing down this cliff like in a cartoon which I seem to find funny.
If you don't laugh really hard every time someone falls or gets hurt on America's Funniest Home Videos, you probably think I'm some sort of sadist.
This lookout has a beautiful view of one of the many canyons formed within the massive crater that is Lamington National Park (formed by a now-extinct volcano, 20 million years ago). The mist rises in the morning like cool smoke and if you can get everyone you're hiking with to shut up for long enough (for me this took some effort to get my group of 15 to stop exclaiming "wow" in Owen Wilson voices), you can call into the canyon and hear an echo that rivals Jim Carry's in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. https://youtu.be/mWIVdxYm3HM?t=30s
After this stop, you're about halfway and the rest is a straight shot of about 3km to the falls.
This is where you enter a wonderland. Until you've experienced a palm tree forest, I can assure you that you have no idea how magical palm trees truly are.
Growing up in California, palm trees are the backdrop of my day to day, so it should tell you something that I am stoked on this forest.
With palm trees in every direction, as far as the eye can see, looking upwards is a beautiful mosaic of light shining through the canopy. Around you, likely thousands of palm trees stand quietly, dripping water off of their shiny green fronds.
The photos I took on my phone are garbage, so look at this but then project a deep vastness and remove all of the crap quality about it and you'll be somewhere in the ballpark of what this forest is like.
Your reward at the end of this 6km (slightly downhill, I should note) hike is a waterfall and a small pool. We ate our lunches here (good thing too because after 6km, my new-to-hiking butt was about to faint of starvation), and then turned around and made the trek out. I didn't snap any good shots of the waterfall so there's a good excuse for you to go check it out for yourself.
Overall, Lamington was a must-see (I was required to go there for school so take this recommendation heavily since I enjoyed it despite that fact) and can easily be experienced for the price of one pound of Wagyu Beef or less!
That is completely irrelevant information but its what came up when I googled "what costs about $100" https://www.gobankingrates.com/saving-money/shopping/12-craziest-ways-spend-100/
Until next adventure,