Australia Diaries – Never Stop Exploring – Lamington National Park

Brisbane has a lot of national parks and reserve. And we were spoilt for choices. Finally we settle on Lamington National Park, one of the biggest in the area about 2 hours drive from Brisbane City. However, we took over 2 + hours to reach the place passing by the Gold Coast on the way! Consequently by the time we reached, it was almost noon.

We stopped at the Park Office to check out the trails and because we were left with only about 5 hours of walking time, and knowing our own propensity for taking our own sweet time for birding and taking photos, on the advice of the staff at the Park Office, we decided to just do a short hike that should take us about 3 hours max.

At the trail head, we came across this contraption – a device to sanitise our shoes! So that we don’t carry any unwanted things into the park. How about that. They think of everything. Apart from this minor excitement, the first part of the hike was among thick vegetation and with no view.

We did come across this tree which looks like a face.And can hear many birds but cannot see them.

But after some walk we got our first view at this lookout, Bellbird Lookout.

Not very impressive though. We backtracked part of the way before turning off to a new trail. Somewhere along the way, 3 other hikers appeared. Chinese. Can’t tell whether they were Taiwanese or PRC definitely not Singaporean but they were super loud in their conversation. Which is very annoying when all we want to do is enjoy nature and not hear irritating voices. To make it worse, they also decided to go the way we were heading!

Finally we came to this lookout, Koolanbilba Lookout.

Definitely more promising and we were preparing to lounge around and have our lunch here when those people caught up. Sighed……. Not willing to listen to their incessant chatter, we decided to move off and hopefully they won’t follow.

This time we took a new trail which mean we will be cutting it close to 3 hours and more likely exceeding that. But so far we haven’t seen anything really interesting or any great view. Bu at least the walk was more interesting skirting the cliff edge and with many broken cliffs creating dramatic walk points.

And then we came to this Yangahla lookout .

Oh wow! A piece of hard rock jutting out over the valley and with a panoramic view to boot! Great. We had our lunch there and took many photos.

 

Bonus was this little bird that stayed on this tree for us to shoot away.

Extra bonus – the Chinese trio didn’t appear and nobody else came along so we didn’t have to share the rock.

Apart from the trail we took, there are many other trails of varying difficulty suitable for hikers of different level of fitness at Lamington.

And the other thing worth nothing – the drive to and fro the place involving driving up a long curvy Binna Burra Road comes with great views.

Good to stop at the various rest stops along the way to enjoy the break and keep the driver fresh and alert!

Never Stop Exploring – Bulim Forest

The Bulim/Tengah forest will soon be gone – converted into another block and block of flats and condominium. So before it is gone forever, I went down with some friends to have one last look and also first look at the place.

First thing that strike me when I entered the place was its sheer size. From the main road, it looks just like any small patch of forest but once in, we were like Oh Wow! Just take a look at these photos:

As I understand, these place used to be a kampung before the villagers were resettled in the Chua Chu Kang and Bukit Batok areas and the SAF took over the place for the army training. Hence, the nice wide paths that criss cross the entire area.

There is supposed to be a small stream but we didn’t manage to locate it. Instead what we saw was this little longkang which I understood was a lifeline for the people there during the second world war.

This stream and all the mini waterways there eventually leads to this new longkang.

While we were there, we observed many birds including a large flock of Long tailed Parakeets and many other smaller forest birds. We also spotted Brahminy Kite and White Bellied Sea Eagle flying overhead.

A rather beautiful place to admire Mother Nature and admire its beauty. Sadly scene like these will disappear soon as the crazy Gahmen continues on its relentless quest to concrete the whole of Singapore.

Big Tree @ Gunung Lambak

The first time I went to Gunung Lambak was 2 years ago. Back then I thought it was a fairly easy hike/climb. In fact of all the mountains that I climbed in Malaysia, I rate this the easiest until Saturday’s climb. 2 years ago when I went there, I didn’t go to the Big Tree. I was told it was tough but people tend to exaggerate the toughness so I took that with a pinch of salt. 

Gunung Lambak can be divided into 3 parts – from the foot of the mountain where the waterpark is to the summit with the telecom station and from there to the Big Tree and return to the summit and lastly a relatively easier hike from the summit to the 2nd peak or false summit before descending to the foot of the mountain.

There is 2 ways to go up to the summit at this location where there is a sort of tea house manned by the nearby residents. The last time I came, we took the so called “difficult” route.  This time round, we were a bit lazy and took the easier route which is just next to the board.

Of course, there is always a catch and the easier route was a few hundred metres longer! But true to what they said, it was indeed much easier to tackle this portion notwithstanding 1 small part where we have to clamber up some steep trails.

Once we reached the summit, we decided to head down to the Big Tree. I didn’t go there the last time round so this time I followed the rest. I should have stayed with 2 smart ladies who wisely decided to wait for the rest of the group at the summit. It was a long 1.5 km walk down to the big tree. A very steep walk where thankfully if not for the rope that some kind soul had put up along the trail, I will probably be sliding down  all the way to the Big Tree. It was a long painful 55 minutes of slow walk down with me sliding on my bum twice. And for all the hard work, all we got was this big tree which one can easily find in say our Singapore Botanic Garden!

The worst part of this? The long climb back up. This has gonna be the most torturous 1.5 km I ever did with my calves and quads screaming in agony with every upward flight. Unlike other mountain, this was one continuous climb up with just a sort 20 metres or so of flat trail. But we did surprise ourselves by doing it 10 minutes faster than the descent!

Back at the summit I had my lunch there. There wasn’t much of a view up there though. Blocked by all the trees. Pity.

We descend with one group opting to go to the false summit. Me? I have enough for one day and opted to go down straight. And I am happy we made that decision because we were rewarded with sightings of the Dusky Leaf Langurs and the Pig Tailed Macaque! This is the first time I seen a Pig Tailed Macaque and it was a bittersweet experience between the pair of them were spotted around the water park area and the ice cream vendor was feeding it with ice cream!

Fraser’s Hill

Went to Fraser’s Hill over the weekend. First time there and not really know what to expect, perhaps something like Cameron Highlands. But no matter what was looking forward to the trip, cause it was to be my first overseas birding trip and secondly to get away from the scorching Singapore heat. Fraser’s Hill didn’t turn out to be what I expected though.

Firstly it is kinda undeveloped despite it being one of the few remaining cool highlands left in Malaysia. There was no 5 stars hotels, no posh restaurant, no tourist markets and no tourists! What was there were some old buildings left over from the colonial days and which has mostly been converted to either guest house or corporate holiday retreats like this place here.

Other buildings are not so well maintained and have been left to fall into disrepair and abandoned in fact.

Even the main accommodation for tourists were some old weary looking buildings with limited facilities like just a restaurant with mediocre food and a small gift shop like the Punchak Inn that we stayed at. 

No giant supermart; no shopping mall and no amusement parks. This could be hell of a boring place for general public which is why there are no hordes of tourists and I love it!

Fraser’s Hill is a place not for sightseeing tourists but for nature lover, the green kind and not the sun, sand and sea type. What Fraser’s Hill lacks, it more than make up for with abundant forests

Various hiking trails

And a mini waterfall

But Fraser’s Hill fame is not the forest or the cool air but the wildlife and more specifically the birds. And birders and other nature lovers come here, to look at all sort of colorful birds, butterflies and even moths. And that is the reason why I was there too but more of that in later posts.

Windsor Nature Park

Singapore opens another “nature” park – the Windsor Nature Park which is actually what to me used to me part of the MacRitchie Reservoir entering from the Venus Road side. And naturally knowing how authorities’ fixation on clean and neat, what used to be a nice semi-wild trail is now very sadly sanitised.

Like this broadwalk here. Previously it was just a nice trail with railings at the side to prevent people from encroaching into one of the few remaining natural stream left in Singapore. Now there is this nice broadwalk. Oh well, I suppose if it helps to keep the people from trampling all over.

The stream that goes into the forest. When the kids were younger and I was not into this nature protection thingy, we came here to catch the little longkang fish like guppy, mosquitoes fish, cichlids and the occasional barbs. Nowadays, activities like that are forbidden and carry a heavy fine which is good as we need to protect the little bit of nature that we have left although I must said most of the fishes there nowadays are not “local”. 

In addition to the broadwalk from the Venus Road carpark where there is now a Visitor Centre and a toilet, there is another new broadwalk, the Drongo Trail running almost parallel with the old trail adjacent to the SICC road. This broadwalk is above ground level and allow visitors to see at least the mid level of the trees and its inhabitants. This will leads to MacRitchie Reservoir.

From Venus Road entrance, there is another trail called Venus Walk but this is a cemented path and leads to the Windsor housing estate. It does look very nice though and very “runnable” hahaha.

Fortunately, my favourite part of this trail which is now officially known as Venus Loop has been left largely untouched and there is still this beautiful canopy tunnel as well as the winding trails for me to run through.

Overall I must admit Nparks have done a good job of striking a nice balance between keeping the place as natural as possible and yet protecting the environment. The expected popular area have been reinforced with the broadwalk and most of the trees and plants appear to be left untouched.

Never Stop Exploring Tanjong Tuan, Port Dickson

We reached Tanjung Tuan late and the Raptor flypast had largely gone by for the day. So our group leader decided to bring us for a short “easy” hike through the Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve.

Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve is a small area of protected forest in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan. Like all Malaysian rainforest, it is dense with lots of undergrowth.

We started off somewhere at the top near the light house. Our objective was the beach and a village somewhere below. Going through the trail was not difficult although the trails didn’t appear very well trodden. What made it slightly more challenging for me was that I was still holding on to my 3.5 kg of camera and lens in the hand. I wanted to dismantle them and put them away but the thought that I may spot some birds or animals kept me from doing so. So I trekked slowly and carefully to make sure that I don’t hit the lens against a tree or a rock.

Although the trail was short, there was many side trails and with the group getting separated frequently, there were much back tracking. And at some place, there was short sharp drop which with my hand full I had to negotiate very carefully. In the end I did slipped once and allowed my body to take the impact rather than use my hands to cushion the fall rather than risk dropping the camera!

Eventually we came to a small little beach. Clean water but dirty sands.

Then we made our way up and this time the going was much easier as there were wooden and concrete steps to walk on. That lead us back to the main road where we headed back to our apartment while some of the others hopeful went back to the light house to see whether they can spot any raptor.