Giants still live here

This forest is the sort of place that makes me stop in my tracks. I wait, and extend my senses. It’s shady, cool and wet. Tree ferns and mosses abound, and lichens positively drip from the trunks of the ancient trees stretching to the sky.

Tree ferns share space with beeches

As I walk through the lush forest, I keep expecting to see giant plant-eating dinosaurs – maybe even a muttaburrasaurus – lumbering in the gloom. It’s so moist that groundcovers spread all over the earth under the trees.

Moss seems to grow everywhere - on upright trunks, branches and fallen limbs

Gorgeous groundcovers spread over the earth

There are no dinosaurs in this forest any more, but there are still giants here. As I stand looking up – and up – at the Antarctic beeches, I seem to be looking at several trees close together, but in fact they are all trunks of the same tree. I stand inside a ring of trunks, surrounded by one living tree. Some individual trees are thought to be as much as 2,000 years old. I get a sense of what an Ent might be.

Many trunks from one tree

The Antarctic beech (Nothofagus moorei) for which this region is famous has been around for a very long time. The tree and its close relatives were on the old supercontinent Gondwana, which included what is now Antarctica, South America, Africa, India, New Zealand, Madagascar and Australia. The trees were carried along as the supercontinent split up at least 65 million years ago, and so one or more species of Nothofagus are found in most of these countries today.

Earlier in the day, I had stood looking out over the sweeping slope of the old volcano to Wollumbin, ‘Cloud Catcher’, a sacred site of the indigenous Bundjalung people. A wedge-tailed eagle and butterflies swirled on the rising air.

Wollumbin, the centre of the old super-volcano

The 'Scenic Rim' of the old volcano, a World Heritage site, is covered in lush subtropical rainforest

Back in the forest, bird calls echo eerily through the trees. I can hear the odd chortles and whirrs of an Albert’s lyrebird (Menura alberti), found only in this region. Like its better known relative, the superb lyrebird, it can mimic an amazing range of bird calls. I’ve heard a superb lyrebird in Sydney’s Royal National Park, mimicking camera clicks and a chainsaw, too.

Reluctantly I retreat from the mosquitoes and leeches who have detected a feast-in-waiting. I leave with the wish that these trees will still be around in another 2,000 years.

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9 Responses to Giants still live here

  1. Rebecca says:

    Joy, where specifically is this? It reminds me a lot of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

    • Joy Window says:

      It’s the Border Ranges National Park in northern New South Wales, almost in Queensland. It’s a World Heritage site. The rainforest vegetation is very like that in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, but more subtropical – and doesn’t ever get snow! It’s about one and a half hours’ drive north of where I live.

    • Joy Window says:

      Sorry, I got distracted by the news of the earthquake in Christchurch. I meant to add more information about the park.

      This park, in northern New South Wales on the east coast of Australia, is a World Heritage-listed site of about 31,000 hectares (76,600 acres). It covers both sides of the deeply sloping rim of the immense Mount Warning shield volcano (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Warning), the largest volcanic crater in the southern hemisphere. The original volcano is thought to have been twice its current height of 1,900 m (6,200 ft) above sea level, and have a diameter of over 40 kilometres (nearly 25 miles).

      The volcanic plug in the centre of the caldera is called Wollumbin (Cloud Catcher) by the indigenous Bundjalung people, and I’ve been told that it is a men’s sacred site. There’s a tourist walking track to the top of the plug and it’s a popular walk (especially on New Year’s Eve to stay overnight and watch the sunrise), but some local Aboriginal people want it closed as a sign of respect. I’ve never walked it for that reason.

  2. suzi smith says:

    they are giants! a magical place indeed, thank you for sharing.

    • Joy Window says:

      You’re very welcome, Suzi. I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog – lovely photos and words. I love England and want to go back for a visit some time soon. I went on a tour of the West Country a couple of years ago – see http://www.dragonseyetours.com – and fell in love with the countryside and archaeology.

  3. arati says:

    truely enchanting! love the pictures.

  4. Cath Clark says:

    Wollumbin the Cloud Catcher~ a beautiful name. So much nicer than Mt. Warning.
    Liked the bit on the mutabullasaurus, too. Perhaps the Doctor will run into one some day and we’ll get to see if they ate the occasional bit of meat or not…

    • Joy Window says:

      For those who don’t get the ‘Doctor’ reference, Cath and I are both rabid Doctor Who fans (a British TV scifi/fantasy series about an alien good-guy travelling in time and space).

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