A walk in the park, Aussie style

ALONG THE WAY: Names along the way highlight Australia’s Indigenous culture and history.
THE WAY OUT OF THE PARK: Almost at the end of the road, five hours and 10km later.
BEAUTIFUL SCENERY: Mapleton’s park is a wet sclerophyll forest dominated by blackbutt, turpentine, brush fox and flooded gum trees.


ROCKS AND BOULDERS: The dried up Gheerulla Falls.


FLOWERS: A flower pokes its head up amid Mapleton’s dense forest and undergrowth.

LOTS TO SEE: Nothing like a giant termite mound to catch the eye.

AFTER hearing New Zealand is looking to charge overseas visitors who undertake any of its ‘Great Walks’, I almost wish Australia had thought about doing it some time ago. Holding a pommy passport I already require a visa just to enter the place. A charge to access a great walk would almost be a blessing, if not a possible excuse to flag it.

Suffice to say, however, photographs as proof, I have ticked an Australian Great Walk off my bucket list. Not that it was on there. But when walking was mooted on a recent trip to mark a friend’s milestone birthday, I could hardly be a party pooper.

The memo said bring sneakers. With Queensland’s Sunshine Coast as the destination and staying right by the ocean, I thought that meant strolling the exquisite shores of Maroochydore to Mooloolaba, latte and laziness as the reward. Queensland’s famed Glass House Mountains hadn’t been mentioned, thank goodness.

But given a 7.30am start, reality began to hit when the backpacks came out, offers of walking poles were made, plus a checklist of enough food and water for five hours. This was no stroll in the park. Well, technically it was a park.

Mapleton National Park to be precise, in the boondocks of Queensland’s outback. OK, not quite the outback.

Hinterland is the actual definition. But when maps emerged among the seasoned troopers and no one was entirely sure of which path to take (not to mention a vivid memory between the two local leaders of getting lost the last time they were in this very park), my Kiwi cohort and I were a tad sceptical.

Mapleton where?

North of Maroochydore

In case you’re contemplating knocking off this great walk, Mapleton National Park is north of Maroochydore on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, roughly 105 kilometres from Brisbane. In the hinterland.

Head north via Bruce Highway, pass Woombye, go over Diddillibah Road towards Nambour, then it is left and below the Wappa Dam, but not as far as Gheerulla, though the Gheerulla Falls are in the park. Got it? Bee-uty!

And we think Maori place names are tongue twisters!

Of the seven women, five experienced trampers, one 10 years younger than me and in training for an impending endurance challenge, I was the baby of the group, but on a gold card, I hasten to point out. Give in? To my peers? More than my life was worth. With no life insurance, that’s not much. I hadn’t even told the kids I would be in the middle of nowhere, let alone Australia.

Apart from the fact I have barely walked more than three kilometres in a day — and that’s on the beach — a 10-kilometre hike, uphill and down gully, is not exactly what I had envisaged.

Going up into the hinterland invariably means going down at some point. Or, as one seasoned hiker in the party advised at a tricky part: going down usually means going up. This was about halfway through the three-point-turn goat track to Gheerulla Falls. Which, as it turned out, have been dried up for some time.

Still, it was on the path to the exit, somewhere.

The drive from Maroochydore to Mapleton was picturesque. It was just that the start of the walk didn’t boost confidence. Camp leaders couldn’t decide at which point to enter the park. There are several entries, walks of varied lengths and degree of difficulty, not to mention some uncertainty as to the exit point and where to leave the cars. It required constant map reading which, according to the male map-reading encyclopaedia, was not a woman’s best attribute, apparently. But what the heck. Girls can do anything, right? Just follow the leader I figured.

Tail-end Charlie

Tail-end Charlie is my second name after all, bestowed after a cycling holiday in France with another equally intrepid group of adventure seekers. By comparison, at least that tour mother knew the route.

Needless to say, and without boring you about the chatter of leeches and giant mossies, the prospect of snakes and tripping over boulders in the dried up Gheerulla Falls, I can hand on heart say that I knocked the blighter off!

Dare I say it, I even felt a wave of achievement, proving the adage: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I gained insight, admiration, awareness and absolute gratitude that when you put a bunch of women together for a day, one thing binds them: support, laughter and an unwavering appreciation of being alive, 70-something and still able to tackle a five-hour hike in the hinterland.

Will I do it again? Probably not. But ask me again after I turn 70!

AFTER hearing New Zealand is looking to charge overseas visitors who undertake any of its ‘Great Walks’, I almost wish Australia had thought about doing it some time ago. Holding a pommy passport I already require a visa just to enter the place. A charge to access a great walk would almost be a blessing, if not a possible excuse to flag it.

Suffice to say, however, photographs as proof, I have ticked an Australian Great Walk off my bucket list. Not that it was on there. But when walking was mooted on a recent trip to mark a friend’s milestone birthday, I could hardly be a party pooper.

The memo said bring sneakers. With Queensland’s Sunshine Coast as the destination and staying right by the ocean, I thought that meant strolling the exquisite shores of Maroochydore to Mooloolaba, latte and laziness as the reward. Queensland’s famed Glass House Mountains hadn’t been mentioned, thank goodness.

But given a 7.30am start, reality began to hit when the backpacks came out, offers of walking poles were made, plus a checklist of enough food and water for five hours. This was no stroll in the park. Well, technically it was a park.

Mapleton National Park to be precise, in the boondocks of Queensland’s outback. OK, not quite the outback.

Hinterland is the actual definition. But when maps emerged among the seasoned troopers and no one was entirely sure of which path to take (not to mention a vivid memory between the two local leaders of getting lost the last time they were in this very park), my Kiwi cohort and I were a tad sceptical.

Mapleton where?

North of Maroochydore

In case you’re contemplating knocking off this great walk, Mapleton National Park is north of Maroochydore on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, roughly 105 kilometres from Brisbane. In the hinterland.

Head north via Bruce Highway, pass Woombye, go over Diddillibah Road towards Nambour, then it is left and below the Wappa Dam, but not as far as Gheerulla, though the Gheerulla Falls are in the park. Got it? Bee-uty!

And we think Maori place names are tongue twisters!

Of the seven women, five experienced trampers, one 10 years younger than me and in training for an impending endurance challenge, I was the baby of the group, but on a gold card, I hasten to point out. Give in? To my peers? More than my life was worth. With no life insurance, that’s not much. I hadn’t even told the kids I would be in the middle of nowhere, let alone Australia.

Apart from the fact I have barely walked more than three kilometres in a day — and that’s on the beach — a 10-kilometre hike, uphill and down gully, is not exactly what I had envisaged.

Going up into the hinterland invariably means going down at some point. Or, as one seasoned hiker in the party advised at a tricky part: going down usually means going up. This was about halfway through the three-point-turn goat track to Gheerulla Falls. Which, as it turned out, have been dried up for some time.

Still, it was on the path to the exit, somewhere.

The drive from Maroochydore to Mapleton was picturesque. It was just that the start of the walk didn’t boost confidence. Camp leaders couldn’t decide at which point to enter the park. There are several entries, walks of varied lengths and degree of difficulty, not to mention some uncertainty as to the exit point and where to leave the cars. It required constant map reading which, according to the male map-reading encyclopaedia, was not a woman’s best attribute, apparently. But what the heck. Girls can do anything, right? Just follow the leader I figured.

Tail-end Charlie

Tail-end Charlie is my second name after all, bestowed after a cycling holiday in France with another equally intrepid group of adventure seekers. By comparison, at least that tour mother knew the route.

Needless to say, and without boring you about the chatter of leeches and giant mossies, the prospect of snakes and tripping over boulders in the dried up Gheerulla Falls, I can hand on heart say that I knocked the blighter off!

Dare I say it, I even felt a wave of achievement, proving the adage: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I gained insight, admiration, awareness and absolute gratitude that when you put a bunch of women together for a day, one thing binds them: support, laughter and an unwavering appreciation of being alive, 70-something and still able to tackle a five-hour hike in the hinterland.

Will I do it again? Probably not. But ask me again after I turn 70!

Facts

Bought in the 80s and donated to Mapleton by Linda Garrett, the park was gazetted in 1994.

Apart from the tracks, it is undeveloped; 44.6ha protect a significant tall, wet sclerophyll forest.

This is dominated by blackbutt, turpentine, brush fox and flooded gum, a habitat for two endangered frogs, wallabies and birds.

Leeches an unwelcome by-product. Camping permitted.

Australian Great Walk — Mapleton National Park

Getting there

Air NZ - Maroochydore direct:
July to October, from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch

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