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!

Australia Diaries – Brisbane Botanic Garden & Mt Cootha

Another must visit place on my oversea visits is the Botanic Garden in that county. Brisbane has 2 main botanic garden , the City Botanic Garden which is actually within walking distance of where we were staying but we choose the Brisbane Botanic Garden because it was on our way to Mt Cootha.

The Brisbane Botanic Garden is a 56 hectare garden opened in 1976 located in Toowong, a 15 minutes drive from the city. Upon entering the place, the main attraction seems to be a big pond where we sighted a few species of water birds like the Purple Swamp Hen, Pacific Black Duck and Euraisan Coots.

Like most garden world wide, it is divided into different theme areas like the Cactus House, Japanese Garden, Rainforest, etc

But because we came after in the afternoon after our trip to Mt Cootha, we had little time to look at the plants and instead spent the time “birding”. Apart from the water birds, we saw a flock of Bush Stone Curlew, a rare bird in all of Australia but doing well in urban Brisbane. We also has our first encounter of a Masked Lapwing which started to react fiercely when we approached. I think it has a nest somewhere. We also saw a Brush Turkey and of course many small garden birds.

A nice little place to while away the time and explore artificial nature if one is not so incline to go to the nature reserve.

Bonus Trip –

The Brisbane Botanic Garden is situated at the foot of Mt Cootha so we actually started our day at Mt Cootha instead.  The summit of Mt Cootha at 287 metres above sea level is accessible by car so we drove all the way up although our original intention was to hike up. At the summit, one can get a panoramic view of Brisbane City.

There is a toilet and a restaurant and gift shop at the summit – too commercialized for our liking so we decided to explore the trails around it.

For those not inclined to hike- a better itinerary  is to visit the Brisbane Botanic Garden first and then to drive up to the Mt Cootha summit for the view and refreshment.

Australia Diaries – Australia Zoo

I make it a point to go to a zoo in every major city that I go to,  that is, if they have a zoo of note. And in Australia, none come as famous as the Australian Zoo so that was our first destination straight from the airport to kick off our Australia holiday.

The Australia Zoo is of course most famous not for its animal but for its founder – the late Steve Irwin, the famed Crocodile Hunter. The Australia Zoo is on the outskirt of Brisbane, about 1.5 hours drive away and as a testimony to the fame of Steve Irwin, the road leading to the Zoo has been named after him!

First thing we saw when we went in was this lizard lying in the open. And then we saw more and more of them. These are native Water Dragons and free roaming in the zoo.  Cute little fella ain’t it.

Of course our purpose in coming to the zoo or any foreign zoo is to see any animals that we might not be able to see in the wild or anywhere else and not some common reptiles. So we were looking forward to seeing some native Australian animals like the Playtus; Tasmanian Devil and of course Australia’s famous venomous snakes. But sadly the zoo has no Playtpus and we didn’t see any Tasmanian Devil in its enclosures. We did see the Dingo though.

There were plenty of Koalas and we can even touch them at one of the exhibits.

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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!

Tian Lai Seafood Garden @ Gelang Patah

Gelang Patah has a few nice dining place. One of them is Star Chef Restaurant. The other is Tian Lai Seafood Garden. I been to Tian Lai twice and so far I been pretty impressed by the quality and quantity of the food served and at Malaysian prices too. Not inflated tourist price.

Their house special is the Pork Rib Curry. This is like a cross between Japanese curry and rendang. It come served is a claypot and the pork ribs are stewed until so tender that they are almost like mutton rendang.

I understand their fish are very fresh but we have made it a habit not to order fish for dinner as they are usually overpriced. Instead we have everyone’s favourite, crab! Black pepper crab.

Not very nice looking but taste is real good. Almost like the Still Road black pepper crab.

Other items that are real good are their hotplate tofu and sambal kangkong. These basic zhi zhar staples are well executed and is a must have side dish.

Prices are very reasonable despite the quality and quantity. Service is good depite the place being packed or at least it was the last 2 time I was there. 

Running @ Leisure Farm Resort

Whenever I go away, I try to get in a short run and it was no exception when 2 weeks ago, we stayed over at a friend’s place at the posh Leisure Farm in Malaysia. The place is big – real big. It sits on 1765 acres of land spread over 7 gated compound and 4 strata plots and comes with facilities like club house, swimming pool, orchard and f&b outlets.

Just to get an idea of how big the place is, we stayed in a bungalow in one of the gated compound and managed to do a complete loop of 10 km within that compound alone!

It was a cool morning when we started our run. It fact it was threatening to rain but thank goodness the weather held and we had an enjoyable time exploring the place.

The place was built apparently on an old forest converted to palm tree plantation to now residential and it is very hilly.

Beside the slopes, there are many many empty plot of lands waiting for some rich landowner to built their own bungalow.

We came upon a beautiful little stream and we could run alongside it for a short distance before we went back on the road.

On the road, there were many big bungalows, some typical European design with big driveway, porches and arches. Then there were the modern type with big glass facade. And there is this futuristic house

There is a little canal or creek as they called it.

The highlight was when we came to this place.

A dead end but a very tempting looking place. Good for trail running and birding! But since we were guests, we didn’t enter the area and choose to continue running on the road. That was when we heard some rustling up in the trees. My immediate thought was macaque but it turned out to be this:

A big band of Dusky Leaf Langur! What a nice surprise and a nice way to wrap up the run.