INTO THE JURAS­SIC

NAT­U­RAL BEAUTY IS NOT THE ONLY DRAW TO THE PRE­HIS­TORIC BUNYA MOUN­TAINS NA­TIONAL PARK

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | ESCAPE - WORDS: DONNA JONES The writer was a guest of www.dis­cov­er­south­bur­nett.com.au

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.

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