Eungella National Park is the largest uninterrupted stretch of the Gondwana Rainforest, and also the best place in the whole of Australia, and hence the entire planet, to see a Platypus. I was quite excited about it, and I was also excited about the camp we were going to be staying at.
I found this place on Google and it had brilliant reviews, people saying it was a little slice of paradise. As we approached the road turned to gravel and dirt, then we had to ford a couple of little creeks, so the allure was only growing as far as I was concerned.
We pulled into the car park area, and there were a few folks sitting at a table with a sign that said ‘Office’ on it. The sight was an interesting one to say the least, so Erin decided to stay in the car with the kids, while I jumped out for a chat.
Allow me to describe the scene.
The hand drawn Office sign with an arrow was pointed towards a late sixty, early seventy ‘ish’ fella called Wozza, who was perched on a wooden bench with his top off. He had long shaggy hair that fell from a hat belonging to Gandalf, and the only thing that drew your attention away from that was the nipple ring, which quite frankly, he could have done without. I could let him away with the hat, but the nipple ring was a bridge too far.
The other occupant of the bench was what I would call a super hippy. A 40 ‘ish’ woman with long, dark tangly hair, wearing an orangey woollen dress that you could see through because the knit was so loose. The top of this almost ‘see through’ dress, hung down so far that I could almost see her breasts. No piercings in case you were wondering.
So that’s a lot of nipples on display. I was happy the kids were in the car.
Anyway, I asked where the camp site was and was told that I was in it.
“Just set up right where you are mate.” drolled Wazza.
Hmm… I’m not so sure about that.
“Do you not have somewhere a wee bit further away?”
“I don’t want our kids to annoy anyone, or wake people up in the morning.”
“Doesn’t bother me mate, anyway that’s it, you’re in the camp site.”
OK, give me a minute.
I came back after a brief chat with Erin, and said we were going to move on as it wasn’t for us.
He, and the super hippy, insisted we walk down to look at the pool and the communal area before making our decision. So we did. And it was lovely. It was rustic. Relaxed. A little rough around the edges, but actually very nice. When you added the characters into the picture however, it was like a cross between Lord of the Rings and The Beach. It just wasn’t the right place for us. Without kids perhaps, it would have been a different story.
I think it was the super hippies that did it for Erin. Just not her cup of chai latte.
So we said our goodbyes, turned around and headed along the road to Eungella. And Jesus what a road it was. The steepest, twistiest road we’ve been on so far, but as you climbed further up the view got more impressive.
We reached the top and there was a big Bavarian chalet sitting right on the edge of the escarpment, with a hand gliders’ launch pad at the bottom of the lawn. Not something you see every day.
Meanwhile Erin’s online trying to find us a place to stay for the night. She finds a spot nearby, which unfortunately has shut down. Shit. A quick chat with a local mowing his lawn, and we’re directed to Broken River camp site. A national park camp spot that turns out to be freakin’ lovely, and right next to the platypus viewing spots. What a stroke of luck.
We quickly set up, then walked the 50 yards or so to the bridge where you can see Platypus from. The best time to see them is early morning, or dusk – so we were right on time. Nothing… So we walked down the path beside the river to a viewing platform, that just happened to be across the water from our tent.
And there it is. A platypus. Within thirty seconds of arriving we’ve spotted one of the shyest, most difficult to see animals in Australia. Amazeballs.
It’s bed time now though, so Erin takes Skye back, but Katie and I linger for a while. We stand there quietly as bush turkeys wander around, platypus play in the murk, and then Katie spots a long necked turtle pop up to say hello. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment surrounded by nature. I can imagine scenes like that have been going on for thousands of years, and I felt that we were truly privileged to be witnessing it.
The next day we went for a hike, and encountered another animal I’ve never seen before. Before we set off however, I noticed a family having problems with their campervan, so I walked over to see if they were ok.
“Yes we’re fine, we’re waiting for help to come. We think it’s a flat battery.”
“Well if you need a hand just let me know, we’re off for a hike, have you guys done the track by the river?”
“Yes” she replied “But watch out for the leeches, they seemed to be quite fond of my husband.”
“Oh… leaches. Hmm..”
Erin, Katie & Skye were all wearing shorts, and Katie had Crocs on with no socks.
“Ah we’ll be alright.”
And off we tramped into the rain forest full of leaches.
It was beautiful, and the little glimpses of river now and again really added to the experience. We found a clearing where Katie spotted another turtle sitting on a rock in the river. We clambered down, and sat watching this little fella soak up the warmth of the sun. Eventually he noticed us, slid off the rock and disappeared into the cool water.
Skye pestered a skink with a stick for a wee while, then we returned to the track and we continued until it turned away from the river, beginning the return leg of the loop. Again there was a lovely view so we stopped, sat down and got out a few apples and some water.
I looked down at Katie’s feet, and noticed a little worm. One end attached to her foot, the other end wiggling in the air like a little snail’s antenna. Shit. A fucking leach. I reached down and brushed it off. Yuch.
“OK guys, everybody check your feet. That was a leech.”
We all had leeches on our shoes, all wiggling away looking to attach to something they could suck on. A frantic brushing ensued, mom and pops attempting to retain an element of calm as the kids bordered panic, Katie in particular.
OK we’re good, let’s move! I put Skye on my shoulders so she was clear, and we stopped every five minutes or so to check each other’s feet until finally, we popped out of the forest into the picnic area at the end. Phew! Yuck! Bloody leeches!
Erin declared she was finished with hikes in the rainforest, and I wasn’t exactly dying to head back into this particular section of it either so we finished off the day with a piece of cheese cake and a coffee at the Bavarian Chalet. Leeches and cheese cake. Thanks Eungella. It’s been great but I don’t think I’ll be back in a hurry.