Dorrigo details

Rainforests are often majestic and always green worlds of their own. Dorrigo National Park has a two-hour walk that takes you through such a world.

While focal points like the Falls are spectacular, it’s the details along the way that fascinate me.

Conical hanging birds’ nests? Or accidentally arranged lichen?

Vines reach for the light way above, and lichen hitches a ride on most things, decorating bark to green furriness.

Different lichens decorate in different ways, here trailing like delicate green feather boas.

This walk is on a steep hillside, where the very large trees need all the earth hold they can get, so buttresses are common, but not often as narrow as these.

The bark of the tree varieties is interesting enough, but some bore strange markings like moon craters or excrescences like foetal creatures.

Fascinating details that I wanted a guide to quiz.

I saw many more varieties but could not photograph them as halfway round the walk I was caught in a thunderstorm, with heavy rain and stinging hail. I had to stow the camera in my bag and don the emergency plastic poncho. The camera survived the long wet trip back, my boots and trousers and the poncho didn’t.

Rainbow or cloud?

Stormy subtropical weather does not suit me. I am pining for drier, higher climes…

However, this climate does have its special effects that only happen here.

Like this week.  A brief storm and shower, then the mountain lowered its clouds into the valley.

But the day wasn’t over and the sun exerted its supremacy.

As the cloud rose back up, its indefinite lower edge was tinged with rainbow colours, like an oil slick. But no rainbow ‘bow’.

Was I seeing correctly?


But as the sun won, the cloud was clearly cloud and the rainbow was a rainbow.

Just for a few moments they had merged identities. For me.

Colour me perfect

Looking out of my eastern window, I was struck by how perfectly the colours of the fur of the Eastern Red-necked Wallaby match those of the local rocks, here laid as a tank base. They really belong.


Not three metres away I spotted an echidna; not so camouflaged in my yard, but good to see as they’ve been absent lately, no doubt busy aerating other slopes. You can easily twist an ankle in my orchard in the many holes they’ve dug.

Like the wallabies, they have flea problems, but they are at least equipped with an extra long claw to get at them and scratch amongst the spines.


Now, in this non-stop rain, from my wet verandah I see that the wallabies and roos are still out there doing what they must, bedraggled and darkened but hopefully dry underneath their fur.

A few are sheltering under my verandah, but most want to be feeding.

This mother seemed to me to be exhibiting supreme patience as her big joey drank… and drank… and drank… while the wind whipped the cold rain around them. I hope he’s grateful.

Wallaby wipe-out

We all know how mothers have to be on the ball to keep an eye on the young. This was borne home to me afresh by my wallaby mates lately.

After days of dreary chilly rain, the sun came out.

The only wallabies that seemed even half-awake were the mums with toddlers.

This one had a very young joey, still mostly pink and hairless. I have since seen it hop out of the pouch for brief second or two; it’s all legs!


But as for the rest of the gang? Lolling, lazing, drying out, cleaning up — or just snoozing. En masse, apart from the mums needing to have their eyes open, they were wiped out by the morning sun, laying out the tails and warming those pale tummies.

They are very good at doing a total flop in a sitting position. I wish I could!

Drying out roos

After six inches of rain in a week, all of us here on the mountain were fed up with the incessant wet.

When the sun came out on Saturday, so did the hoppy animals.

It dries out quicker in the open, like in my yard, so the roos and wallabies crowded in for drying space. I did my washing, with the solar power batteries bubbling away again, and they lolled about.

Obviously a week of rain favours the bitey critters that annoy these furry ones – not to mention the scourge of leeches that proliferate in the wet weather.

So when they weren’t sun-snoozing, they were scratching. No matter to them where they lolled — or where they scratched.

In a wide variety of poses, their efficient claws were put to use on their very flexible bodies.

In a way, it felt like I’m running a resort, a gym-cum-sun spa, for macropods.

Scrambled sky messages

By day the weather has been wild and windy, making my escarpment edge trees roar like jet planes as they whip and whirl under the onslaught — and protecting my clearing.  

Early morning, it can be quiet, but ominous. 

‘Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning…’

And while there’s been no rain, the sky often looks as if it intends to, a strangely leaden backdrop for a bright sunlit treeline, pewter behind the red-gold.

One morning a faint sunshower drifted over, with no visible cloud source above, and a pale rainbow appeared in the blue western sky.

I think the message in such weather is ‘expect the unexpected’. I’ll  just have to keep an eye out for the next surprise. No wonder I’m never bored here.

When the rain stops

After 24 hours of absolutely incessant rain that put almost three inches (74mm) in my rain gauge, it stopped. The sun shone and the breeze puffed the clouds a little higher than the trees, although not enough to clear the mountain ranges.

Such rain on my tin roof drowns out all other exterior noises, and many interior ones! Suddenly, I could hear a rushing sound, too strong for casual way the trees were being moved by the wind.

The spring gully must be running!

This is the head of a ‘riparian gully’, one of several steep gullies that I have been regenerating with indigenous rainforest trees, but it only looks like a river or creek when the spring-fed dam above it overflows.

Today it is running fast on a well-worn route, over slippery rocks and grateful mosses, before disappearing into the dense tussocks hiding the sudden plunges, the waterfalls that cause the loud freight train sound that I could hear.

If no more rain, the sound will be gone by tomorrow, but the spring will overflow gently for perhaps a week, feeding the thickening rainforest further down, and ultimately the creek in the next valley.

Coal floods?

As central Queensland floods, I am hearing much in the media about the economic damage to the coal mines there, but not what those mines are contaminating as the floods surge through them. Or as the exposed coal stockpiles at every mine, rail loader and port loader wash into the floods.

 When the town of Theodore was evacuated, I immediately thought of the flatness of the country and the road to Theodore, which runs for kilometres beside the Moura mine’s heavy metal-laden overburden dumps, now washing into the rushing flood, and of their contaminated mine water, usually stored in earth-walled tailings dams.

And if you ever thought road and rail were solid things, just look at how they have been pushed aside by  water — lifted like frosting on a cake, as shown by this photo of the Banana to Theodore route, passed on by Avriel Tyson from near Rolleston.

What will such power have done in all the mines up there?

In previous floods, such walls have broken or been overflowed, and mines fined (tuppence!), as at the Ensham and Rolleston mines in the Emerald region, for releasing these toxic waste waters into the river system — and hence to the Great Barrier Reef. This photo, of the Rolleston mine flooding in that previous event, was taken by Avriel Tyson.

The Tysons have been isolated on their homestead island of slightly higher ground (which I had thought was flat when I was there) by the current unprecedentedly high flooding since late December, creeks breaking their banks that never have before, their road washed away — one of their heifers turning up 20 kilometres away! — and they are told that the next-door mine has had two metres of water over its railway line. 

As the waters dropped, Avriel took photos of flooded Sandy Creek near their boundary, with the Xstrata mine behind.

Tysons have been here for over 100 years but Avriel says that this is a first; that the normal flood direction is baulked by the mine’s ‘ring tank levees and overburden piles’.

She wonders what the mine is doing with its water, and, looking at the debris on the fence and grid at their boundary with the mine,  I too wonder what invisibles the mine has deposited.

Farmers expect to work with flood plain systems, mines can’t.

There are about 40 mines in the Bowen Basin, many of which interfere with the natural spread and flow system of floodwaters, their massive earthworks blocking and channelling so the plain no longer functions as nature designed.

In the Surat Basin, increasingly sieved with a network of gas wells and test bore holes — Taroom, Chinchilla, Dalby — what will the aftermath damage be from all the submerged and tumbled drilling sites and pipelines? The photo above, passed on by Avriel, is on the Taroom/Roma road.

 Mine management ‘plans’ for hazardous materials and wastes may tick the government boxes for approval but they only work on paper, not on the flood plains. Thirty more mines are planned for the Bowen Basin in the next five years, and half of the existing 40 are expanding.

Poisoned river systems, poisoned silt deposited on farmland?  We need to hear from the mining industry how they are dealing with this aspect of multliple flooded mines, not just how it will hurt their profit margins.

Sunshower power

Tropical storms, fruit splitting, grass growing faster than the wallabies’ appetites, ground squelching underfoot, leeches on the march as soon as I leave the verandah… this is not how summer is supposed to be here.

I am confined to the cabin and the verandah most of the time, and can only peer through the veil of rain at the wallabies keeping the roses stripped. They seem to have lost their taste for oregano, so it’s racing to bloom and seed before they attack it again.

I don’t mind the rain so much, as I must work at the computer every day. So I need power.

And, despite all the rain, I get it. The odd weather creates lots of sunshowers, and while there may be lumps of moss growing on the solar setup, the sunpower keeps charging the batteries.

Convenient magic!

Forest fabric art

I have often admired the work of textile artists like Jan Irvine-Nealie, where fine stitching subtly emphasises the shapes and patterns of nature.

However, lacking such patience and delicacy, I have never attempted anything like that.

Until the other day, after a short but violent hail storm and heavy rain, the sun came out for this picture. Not Jan’s tiny stitches, but great long ones, plain as a tailor’s tacking stitches, not necessarily all of even length, but in perfectly straight lines, perfectly spaced.

And it’s the latter that gives this away; I couldn’t stitch a straight line to save myself. I had removed the guttering from the verandah roof last summer, because it was sagging and leaking and a fire trap. Now the water simply ran off the corrugated iron roof.

There was so much water still doing that after this storm that it was dripping fast and continuously, in lines rather than round drops, falling from each of the dips of the roof.

It was one of those lightning moments; having taken the camera out looking for hail photos, I was given this instead.

New wallaby breed?

On a recent damp day, as the wallabies grazed past the house fence, one female seemed to have a light stripe across the nose.
They have a whitish stripe on their cheeks, and this can be more distinct on some than others, but I’d never seen a horizontal stripe.

Was it a scar, or did I have a variation on the breed of red-necked wallaby?
After watching for a while as she fed and bent up and down and scratched and twisted about, I fetched the camera to zoom closer and try to determine if it was a scar or no.

Actually, it looked like a band-aid!
Closer still, it was revealed as a dead leaf — a damp dead leaf, pasted firmly across her nose by the rain.

Treasure hunt

After being cooped up in the cabin for too many days, wondering if my wood supply is enough to last out the wet spell, especially as the tin cover blew off the woodpile – I seize the chance to go for a walk in the forest as soon as a likely long fine break occurs.

I know I am bound to find something interesting or beautiful or both. My first stop is always where the dam overflow crosses the track and heads down the gully. 
First treasure found: water sliding silver over rocks, moss glowing green and tiny plants as pretty as jewels.

Next I walk around the dam, squelching over the grass where the hidden spring higher up is running across the clearing. Few trees have seeded here, no doubt because the wallabies and kangaroos love this spot and graze here daily.

But at the base of the one large shade tree, I spot a bright splash of colour against the dark trunk, and head towards it.
Second treasure:  a clump of fat fungi crowded together, orange to amber on top, flesh to salmon to brown below, upcurved bowls for catching leaves.

Light rain starts to fall and I hurry home, grateful for the brief outdoor time. And for the fact that here on my mountain I am always assured of finding at least one treasure.