Category Archives: Araucaria Ecotours

trip reports, other news about Araucaria Ecotours

Outback tour October 2009

Our next Australian outback tour will run from 13-18th October this year. This will be the last outback tour until March or April next year, as the weather out west gets a bit hot for comfort during the summer motnhs.

kangaroos near Currawinya National Park
kangaroos near Currawinya National Park

So if you’d like to experience the genuine Aussie outback this year – red kangaroos, plenty of emus, ranglelands and wilderness rather than farmland, red soils, semi-arid shrublands, lots of parrots and lizards … email us soon (only 4 places remaining on this tour)

First outback tour a success

kangaroos near Currawinya National Park
kangaroos near Currawinya National Park

I don’t feel like I’m in the outback until after St George (about 500 km west of Brisbane). That’s where red sand country begins, there are rangelands instead of farms and long stretches between towns. Our guests, both keen bird photgraphers, agreed it was worth the drive.

Stopping many times to let red kangaroos and emus cross the road, watching brolgas, major mitchell cockatoos and blue bonnet parrots, and soaking in warm mud that left our skins feeling wonderful left us with no doubt that we were having a true outback experience

Cockatoo coming to drink at water hole
Cockatoo coming to drink at water hole

Currawinya National Park was our main destination, famous as an internationally-important Ramsar-listed waterbird breeding site and as the place where captive-bred bilbies were released into an extensive (and secret) area surrounded by cat/fox/rabbit proof fencing. Uniofrtunately the large saltwater lake was almost dry, and although the freshwater lake was full, there had not been enough time for the small invertebrates to build up to a point where many waterbirds could make extensive use of it, so there were not as many of these as we had hoped. Still, the landbirds around some of the waterholes and the whole experience of being in wide expanses of semi-arid vegetation kept the excitement levels high, and it was a delight to see wild brolgas up close..

The banks of the Paroo River in the national park provided a great place for bird-watching
The banks of the Paroo River in the national park provided a great place for bird-watching

We used a mixture of a high-quality motel, a cattle station and a small outback pub for accommodation, and next time may also camp within the national park near a spot where we saw many birds in the trees near the Paroo River. Meals ranged from picnics to outback pub fare (surprisingly good) to an award-winning restaurant (a bit of luxury for our first and last evenings in the Riverland Motel at St George).

We rose at or before dawn most mornings to maximize our viewing of birdlife, relaxing in the warmer part of the day as most animals very sensibly do (do you recall the song ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’?), ready for dusk when wildlife again became active.

A new experience for all of us was the mudbath at the Eulo Date Farm. I tried it myself mainly for the novelty, but was so impressed I’ve decided to treat myself to one each time we pass through Eulo (the last town before reaching Currawinya). For $60.00 (not currently included in the tour price) you relax for half an hour in warm mud that is packed with nutrients that have accumulated for mellenia, while enjoying a plate of dried fruit and nuts and cold water and a choice of tea, coffe or wine as the nutrients soak into your skin. This mud is then washed off, you dry yourself and apply a cleansing mud all over your body, let it thoroughly dry and wash that off as well, before rubbing in a moisturiser. I can’t remember my skin feeling so good, and the effect lasted not for hours but for days.

Another new experience for me was a detour we made to the town of Thargomindah, the third town in the wolrd (after London and Paris) to have electric street lights using hydro-electric power. The electricity was generated from high-pressure hot water from an artesian bore, and there are demonstrations each afternoon (which this time we arrived at the worng time for), lighting up one of the original lamps. The bridge into the town was flooded due to heavy rain to the north, just enough for us to splash the red dust from Currawinya off our vehicle as we drove through.

Our next outback tour will be in late May which, if there is sufficient interest, could be extended for two or three days to include the Channel country to the west, where there is currently a profusion of birdlife due to the flooding of waterways. In September we are planning to etend the tour for a couple of days to enjoy the celebrations of National Bilby Day at Charleville. The final outback tour for the year will probably be in the first week of October, and should be great for reptile activity as well as nesting land-birds.

First Australian Outback Tour

Towards Currawynia National Park, Outback Australia
Towards Currawynia National Park, Outback Australia

Red sands, red kangaroos and lots of birds and lizards! We’re gearing up to head way out west for our first-ever outback tour, which will run 18-23 April this year.

Our main destination is Currawinya National Park. We’ll be traveling through many vegetationchanges and looking for red kangaroos, eastern grey kangaroos, western grey kangaroos, wallaroos, emus, Bourke’s parrots, Major Mitchell cockatoos, sand goannas. shingleback lizards andother outback fauna

The diverse and prolific birdlife of Numalla (a large freshwtare lake) and Wyara (a large saline lake) within the National Park, and their importance as breeding grounds, led to their international listing as a Ramsar Wetland site, and we’ll be not only visiting these from within the Park but spending two nights at an outback station near its boundary with views to one of the lakes.

Bilbies, those odd aardvark-looking cousins of bandicoots whose range has severely declined since white settlement, have been released into a 29-square-km area of the National Park protected by a fox-proof, cat-proof fence, and are breeding well. We probably won’t be able to see these delightful creatures, but it’s good to know they;re doing so well.

We won’t be neglecting comfort or compromising on safety, but guests shouldn’t expect a luxury coach or five-star hotels – this is an off-the-beaten track tour away from the usual facilities. We’ll be rsing early so we can be active at dawn, and also exploring at dusk and early evening, having a siesta in the hot part of the day (just as the animals very sensibly do), with meal times being worked in around this. The first and last day of the tour will entail a lot of travel in a 4WD vehicle, but this is a very authentic (and flexible) way of traveling through the real Aussie outback. We’ll be meeting genuine Aussie outack characters, seeing an amazing expanse of brilliant stars, and of course seeing plenty of birds and other wildlife

There are still a few vacancies on this tour.

Wildlife Information Centre

The Wildlife Information Centre on the Araucaria Ecotours property had its official opening at the end of September 2008. Those who attended enjoyed sangria or fruit juice and a guided tour of the Centre, the nature trails and the creek, and watched a short video on local wildlife with images and music by Darren Green. Ths Centre takes you through 500million years of Australia’s history, current Australian habitats, local fauna and flora, and the behaviour and ecology of wildlife using local examples. There is a children’s corner, an interactive computer and a screen for videos and other presentations. From the Centre lead various nature trails such as the Butterfly Walk

464mm rain leads to worst flood in Beaudesert in 60 years

We needed the rain. But perhaps not so much all at once.

Darren and Ronda had been manning the visitor information centre at Binna Burra (Lamington National Park) in early January, and knew from a phone call from Denis that they wouldn’t be able to get home to Running Creek that night, as one of the local bridges was flooded.

Driving through pelting rain, they considered turning back but continued on instead to Brisbane. Rain frtom Lamington National Park drains into the valleys, including Running Creek. Next morning they couldn’t contact Denis or any of their neighbours by phone, so rang the phone company (Telstra) and were told yes, the line was down but it would be repaired withint 48 hours.

Ronda asked how their chaps were going to manage that if the line was under water, and was surprised to be told there was no report of flooding in that area (the phone was in fact unable to be connected for another 11 days, because of the flood damage).

She rang the State Emergency Service and was told yes there was severe flooding, they would not be able to get home but could reach Beaudesert (halfway point) if they left Brisbane immediately, before the flood waters hit the Logan River at Jimboomba.

They reached Beaudesert and continued south for about 10 km to where the road was already flooded and impassable, and what had been paddocks to each side were now vast lakes, with water lapping around the edges of houses on what had been hillsides overlooking the creeks. Dogs and children seemed to be enjoying this.

Worried about Denis (who they knew was now cut off from telephone communications and access to neighbours except over a very steep lantana-covered hillside, and who could be in danger if anytihing prevented him from reaching his asthma medications) they arranged with the emergency folk to send a helicopter the following morning, and spent the night with their friends the Taylors in Beaudesert.

Next day the emergency crew landed ther helicopter near the Araucaria property and found Denis was fine, but also reported that five of the bridges along the road had been destroyed. As soon as the waters subsided sufficiently later that day, Ronda and Darren drove as far as they could, alarmed to see that over 95% of the trees aloing the creekbed had been felled by the flood waters.

After leaving the car at a neighbours and crossing over a log onto the last bridge remaining almost intact, hearing that the next bridge was gone they started the long steep climb towards their property boundary, only to have a lightning storm begin just as they reached the exposed hilltop.

Fifteen seconds between ligthning and thunder, then 7, then 2! They quickly ducked under the fence and lay under the lantana bushes, hoping the plastic trashbags surrounding the laptops in their backpacks were tough enough to keep out the pounding rain. After a steep, slippery, sloshy, lantana-prickly trek down the first hill and an easier walk through grassy eucalypt country down the next, finally all were re-united.

We were told after a similar flood about 20 years ago that it was the worst for about 40 years, and this was worse, so it must be the worst for at least 60. Two bridges across the creek adjoining our property were totally demolished, and three others damaged along the road.

Temporary bridges have been established and work is soon to begin on new bridges that will be better able to withstand any future torrents. A sea wall has been built between our two bridges to prevemt half the road from being washed away again. We hope the telephone lines will at some stage be diverted so that they are less vulnerable.

Tours started again a couple of weeks later. We thought we would have to change the routes of tours to visit only unflooded areas, but this proved unnecessary, as councils on both sides of the border were quick to repair damage to roads to let vehicles through, although along Running Creek Road access was restricted for about a month to local residents and helpers (and our tour guests).

From the Beaudesert Times:

Shire submerged as rivers reclaim region.

Beaudesert Shire has been declared a natural disaster area after widespread flodding cut roads, ruined businesses, washed out bridges and left residents stranded … O’Reillys in Lamington National Park recording 464mm of rain

[the same paper also reported the helicopter visiting Denis, cars being stuck in floods, the O’reilly’s vineyard being destroyed, the township of Rathdowney being cut off by floodwaters on all sides, and many other stories]