INTO THE JURASSIC
NATURAL BEAUTY IS NOT THE ONLY DRAW TO THE PREHISTORIC BUNYA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
As I sat in the passenger seat of the Toyota sedan, I lapsed into an easy silence, realising the vehicle had somehow miraculously become a time machine.
My chauffeur for this first part of my journey was Craig Tunley from Discover South Burnett. He and I had been chatting about food tourism and some of the produce on offer in the region that covers roughly 8400sq km and includes the towns of Nanango, Kingaroy and Murgon.
It also includes the magnificent Bunya Mountains National Park, an area we were now entering, as the trees closed their foliage above the road, transporting us back to a landscape reminiscent of the Jurassic era.
I sensed, rather than saw, his smile as my jaw hit the floor and I uttered a single syllable, “Wow.”
“It’s not bad, huh?”
We were on our way to the village of Dandabah, a delightful spot made up of chalet-style accommodation, most available to book, nestled right on the edge of the national park.
Our destination opened up before us, lush, green and teeming with activity.
A huge expanse of grass area around the accommodation centre, function rooms and
Poppies on the Hill cafe, was being meticulously cropped by hundreds of black-striped and red-necked wallabies.
Here and there a brush turkey wandered around, oblivious to the homo sapiens bustling around at The Bunyas cafe, Lyrics restaurant and general store across the road.
A sign at The Bunyas announced bird feeding at 3.30pm next to an artificial waterfall whose gently trickling sounds were melting away all the tension I tend to carry when I travel.
I looked around appreciatively, was introduced to the other members of our group who had arrived together from Brisbane and we waited for our guide, John Learmont from the Bunya Mountains Natural History Association, to arrive.
John took us through Cedarvale, a 140-year-old bush homestead originally built by William and Maria Mcclelland on a property at nearby Bell (roughly half way between Kingaroy and Dalby as the crow flies).
Inside was a treasure trove of items detailing the rich timber-getting history of European pioneers in the region and exploring in great depth the varied flora and fauna and chronicling the natural and geological history of Queensland’s second national park – declared in 1908.
The Bunya Mountains National Park now covers an area of 19,493ha and has numerous walking tracks and hiking trails suitable for people with all levels of fitness.
We spent the next couple of hours meandering through the park.
As we did, John pointed out the stinging Gympie Gympie tree, gorgeous Moreton Bay fig trees that strangle other trees to use them as an initial support plus some younger bunyas – only about 400 years old.
We glimpsed an owl and encountered a young carpet python or diamond python.
We then decided to grab a bite of lunch at The Bunyas cafe before the bird feeding was scheduled to start.
After a bit of patience we were treated with a visit from both a male and female king parrot and a crimson rosella.
As afternoon turned to evening we got to experience what is claimed to be the highest whisky bar in Australia – Shackleton’s.
Set inside Lyrics restaurant, which is part of The Bunyas cafe complex, we were treated there to a couple of wee drams of the Scottish, a little Irish whiskey and a sweet and tasty little number from Canada.
There are 138 whiskies to try at Shackleton’s and when you do, try a tiny square of fudge just before you sip your preferred tipple. The result will be worth it, I promise.
The atmosphere was elegant and relaxed and after a delicious meal we headed off to our chalets in preparation for an early start the next day.