As is our wont, we used as an excuse an invitation for Beryl to be on the QUT Faculty of Health Sciences Review to take a week driving to Brisbane, and a week driving back. Part of the deal with QUT was that we would not charge them for travel, but they would cover four nights in Brisbane, including parking. This was one night more than would have been essential had Beryl flown from Sydney, but she saved them at least $200 in taxi fares and the air fare, which more than covered the extra night. So, we think they got a good deal, and we were happy.

1. Barrington

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First stop was Barrington, where we had two nights at the Barrington Village Retreat. Lyn and Maurice were our hosts - they were trying to sell the property. It was a luxurious self-contained AirBnB place with lots of birds.

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On Day 1 (the day we arrived) we hiked the Buckety Scenic trail, which provided a lovely stretch for the legs, with a steep climb up to rocky volcanic granite mountain tops and quite tricky paths to the summit, with views over the other side of the valley. The grass trees were simply magnificent. Beryl can’t help taking lots of photos of them, and encouraging Tim to do so.

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On Day 2 we drove into the Eastern section of the Barrington Tops National Park. To access the Southern and Northern sections requires entering from different starting points, many miles away. Barrington Tops is the highest table land (peak = 1586 m) after Kosciuszcko and offers several very distinct micro-climates, which we explored on various walks (Beach Forest Track, Andrew Laurie lookout, the River Walk and Sharpes Creek). Some of the tracks were closed.

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Overall we managed 8 k, 3.5 hours, and 300 m climb, but much of the day was spent in the car getting to and from the actual hiking trails.

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We saw lots of birds in the area - white headed doves, galahs, kookas, ducks and ducklings, lorikeets, and black cockatoos.

2. Promised Land Glennifer

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On a previous visit we stayed in the Promised Land Retreat, and thought that our booking was for that. As we seemed to know about the place (that they had bikes we could use etc.), they also assumed we had booked in. We unpacked everything in a wonderful wooden cottage (see photos), then went for a 2 hour cycle around the Promised Land loop. We returned, bathed in their jakuzi, only to meet the host who explained that we were not booked in there, as someone else was, and it seemed our booking was at another property which AirBnB naughtily sold as though it was the Resort.

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So we packed up everything at dusk, and found our own accommodation, which was OK, but not quite up to what we thought we had booked. There was a price differential, although neither were cheap.

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Our new place did boast a couple of friendly horses who hung around at the fence in the hope of some attention.

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On our one full day we hiked up the Syndicate track, one we have done on several previous occasions and love. We stretched ourselves, and did 16 km in 6 hours with over 1000 m climb.

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Red cedar, beech and rosewood was harvested in this area from the 1830s. Then hoop pine was discovered on the Plateau. W.J. Hammond acquired a lease on a corridor of land in 1910. Local businessmen then formed a Syndicate to build an inclined tramline to transport hoop pine from the Plateau to the timber mills in Bellingen. From there, it was shipped to Sydney. Hoop pine was used extensively for household joinery, furniture and butter boxes.

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The tramline, known locally as 'The Pine Line', was constructed of locally cut timber. It was two miles long and climbed 2,600 feet. The rails were built of 6"× 4" brushbox and the sleepers were split hardwood placed at two-foot centres with a gauge of four feet. Wooden trestle bridges were built over the gullies and hundreds of rough posts were sunk into the ground to anchor the track to the mountainside. Trolleys built of 6” × 9” beams, were approximately 14 feet long and five feet wide, with 18” cast iron wheels. The winching station, built halfway up the line, controlled the ascent and descent of the trucks. the station operator kept in touch with the drivers of the two trucks via a telephone line that ran parallel to the tramway. The logging tramway operated along the Syndicate Ridge from 1913, until its closure in 1928. The syndicate ridge Walking Track, opened in 1988, now follows the remains of the tramline from the Valley to the Plateau.

Coachwood trees were harvested on the Plateau for construction of Spitfires during World War II.

3. Black Sheep Farm, near Nimbin

On our travel day, it was pouring with rain, which was welcome for everyone.

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Black Sheep Farm is so called because the group that purchased and built the place were all the 'black sheep' from their respective families. It is not a farm, as such. We had a superb wooden cottage, with really interesting bathroom and toilet facilities, lovely balconies, lots of birds and even a swimming pool and a wooden heater. The latter was more welcome, given the weather.

A red-necked wallaby (Pademelon) grazed on the grass.

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On our full day we hiked Mt Nadi in the Nightcap National Park, and also Mt Mathews. The rainforest was special, and we think we saw a rare Rufus Scrub Bird, but were unable to capture it on camera. The walk was 7.25 km, took 2.5 hours and the total climb was 340 m. We also spent a little time in Nimbin, the counter culture centre of Australia - lots of aroma therapy, pottery, etc. Just outside Nimbin there are some spectacular rocks - old volcano plugs.

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4. Brisbane

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The trip to Brisbane was easy, and our accommodation, close to Queensland Institute of Technology, was great.

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We had a full apartment, with a balcony overlooking the gardens, washing machine and drier etc. Beryl was 'full on' for three days with the review of the Faculty of Health. Tim, who had the better end of the deal, enjoyed some of what Brisbane city had to offer.

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Starting at the gardens (and QUT) it is possible to follow a walk along the river to the Story Bridge and crossing there to return on the other bank with views of the city. The South Bank offers restaurants, amusements and galleries, and there are a couple of bridge options to bring one back into the CBD.

We walked across one of the footbridges to dinner with friends on our last evening.

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The gardens and the river offer some bird opportunities, though not as many as elsewhere on the trip.

5. Lamington National Park.

Our exit from Brisbane was a breeze, given the valet parking associated with our deal with QUT and the easy exit onto the highway from Quay West where we were staying.

We drove directly to Canungra, without a stop, so enjoyed coffee etc. there, as well as stocking up on a few basics. The 30 km trip from Canungra to O’Reilly’s on the Green Mountain section of the Lamington took us about an hour as there were major road works on a very precarious road strip into the remote retreat. But we arrived at a good time, and were able to check in a little early, providing the opportunity to do a hike.

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This was not our first visit to the Lamington National Park, but on the previous visit we stayed in Canungra, and drove to the track head. We hiked on the Toolona Circuit then ( some bits in common with the Box Forest Circuit), but for the last four hours of the hike, we were in pouring rain, and had no views from the rim. Staying at O’Reilly’s was a good decision, given the road works, and we managed two great hikes in glorious weather.

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Box Forest Circuit (13 k, 3 hours 10 minutes, 320 climb) was just wonderful, albeit that we had to push ourselves given the late start, and impending darkness.

The Brush Box Trees were unbelievable, as was so much of the rain forest. Pictures say it all. We passed many waterfalls, rock platforms etc. and a few birds, whose calls were clear, but who were elusive in respect of photos.

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We ate in our room that night (bits and pieces) and watched the sun set on an amazing dust storm, something that is apparently common at this time of the year when windy.

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On the full day, we hiked the Albert River Circuit (26.3 km; 560 m climb, 7.45 hours, and Fenix claimed we had done 33,250 steps). Bits of the track are boring as one needs to hike about 6 km on a major track before getting to the interesting ones. Clearly Queenslanders are not up to steep climbs (as we are in the Blue Mountains), so they create many 'switchbacks' to deal with what was really a minor elevation change. The 'switchbacks' increased the length of the walk more than we would have liked relative to the opportunity for good aerobic exercise.

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But the bush was great, with lots of opportunities to take photos of the Antarctic Beach Trees, where three of four trees often share a root system.

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There were lots of small waterfalls/ cascades, and lovely pools. We saw a few birds but were entertained almost all of the way with the bird calls. Pictures tell it all.

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The track follows the edge of the escarpment for a way, close to the border between Queensland and New South Wales. Mount Warning is a spectacular volcanic plug forming part of the remains of the Mount Warning volcano - the rest of the volcanic remains form an attractive part of the outlook.

Dinner at O’Reilly’s was necessary as the 'villas' are not self-catering and we had no food that did not require cooking facilities. Tim ate pork shanks and I had grilled salmon. We shared a wonderful 'O’Reilly winter vegetable salad' as an entree, which was a very good decision.

Then back to the room to download pictures and listen to Tim playing guitar - no TV etc. there which was great.

6. Lion’s Road and the Border Ranges

We left O’Reilly’s early on Monday morning, managing the hour plus drive (30 km) to Canungra on scary single lane roads, high in the mountains, with lots of road works and delays. Then through to Beaudesert where we found a wonderful fruit and vegie outlet - "The Fresh Pumpkin', with superb Queensland produce, so we only needed a few extras from Woolworths.

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The Lion’s Road is a wonderful windy and steep trip down the Rim from Rathdowny to Kyogle - not the main road, but one made possible by voluntary contributions and work by the Lions Club.

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We viewed where a spectacular railway line had been constructed in 1913, using a spiral including tunnelling through the mountains to obtain a suitable incline for the very steep drop off associated with the Rim. The line is still in use, carrying about 10 trains each day, 5 in each direction.

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The weather was inclement, but our host welcomed us at a lovely self-catering accommodation about 15 minutes away from Kyogle. She is a lawyer who taught cyber law at Swinburne University near Melbourne, although they have owned this piece of land for about 20 plus years, and worked hard using permaculture principles. It is a lovely spot, and the home we stayed in was built from local timber off the property by her partner, with everything in wood, beautiful verandas, and lots of birds. The only disadvantage was the rain and cold, so we were unable to sit outside, as is our wont, for more than a short while. We did manage to capture a few birds eating the banana flowers and enjoying the vegetation they provided.

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We had thought that the rain would prohibit a hike on our day planned for hiking in the Border Ranges, but we were fortunate. Most of the park was closed for roadworks following major slips etc. after a hurricane. There was one access into the park and we were able to do the 2.45 hour, 10km hike (270 m climb), including the Rosewood Loop track, starting at Sheep Station camping ground.

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On our way to the track head we passed a special scene with green meadows, cows with their white faces and lots of egrets following in the wake of the cows, as they do.

Other scenes were also worth capturing.

The palms, trees, waterfalls and rivers, including fun river crossing bridges, were the highlight of the walk.

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Back in our accommodation we lit the fire (although September, it was cold) and settled in for the evening.

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Then, the long trip back to Lawson. We had thought about another day of hiking but it was raining in many of the spots we might have stopped, so we spent a night in Tamworth in a motel unit not worth describing.