I’d never heard of the Glasshouse Mountains before. I read about them in the Lonely Planet, they sounded nice and we could actually get booked into a campsite over Easter, so that was it. I discovered later on why there was availability in this particular site, but I’ll get to that in a while.
First of all, the Glasshouse Mountains. Wow. Amazing.
The mountains themselves are a series of individual peaks, rising prominently above a flat but elevated plain about 50 kilometres back from the ocean. They’re large enough to be seen clearly from the coast and it was Captain Cook, once again, who gave them their name. Their shape reminding him of glass houses he’d seen back in England. Their true origin, however, is a lot more interesting than that.
It was volcanic activity that forged this exotic landscape, with molten rock bursting through the earth’s crust more than 25 million years ago. Over time the surrounding land eroded, leaving us with a stunning demonstration of what mother nature can do if she feels like it. Almost as if she’s showing off.
The entire area is carpeted with enormous eucalyptus trees and feels very remote, even though it’s only half an hour from the coast. I wanted to pick up a banjo. But not in a Deliverance kind of way. It wasn’t a creepy place, more a Grizzly Adams kind of vibe to it. Me and my beard fitted in nicely.
We stayed for ten days in all, which is longer than we’ve spent anywhere so far, but I absolutely loved it.
Good friends and their kids joined us for a week, and we explored the area together. We went fishing in out of the way creeks and we swam in waterfalls. We had shopping & coffee days in quaint little villages. We visited poor ol’ Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, which was expensive but actually pretty cool, and prompted a series of ongoing questions from Katie about stingrays.
Mount Beerwah, booya!
And the two dad’s got a morning to themselves one day. We escaped about 6:30am, downed a couple of coffees and arrived at the foot of Mount Beerwah, ready to take on one of the most difficult climbs in the region. Yee ha!
It started off with a nice little hike. Nice for a few minutes that was, before turning straight up into the woods. Fifteen minutes of that was enough to knock any chit chat on the head, make you focus on just breathing.
Then we arrived in a clearing and you could see all the way to the top. Phew, time to catch our breath, admire the view, and figure out how we were going to get up the rock face in front of us.
The guidebooks had said this was actually the most difficult part of the climb, and I could see why. We were looking at a flat wall of rock, about 5o degrees in elevation, with very little handholds. It continued for about 40 metres or so, then it looked like getting a bit easier.
We picked our route, and off we went. Like most things that seem a little daunting to begin with, it wasn’t so bad once we got into it. It wasn’t the easiest bit of rock I’ve ever climbed, but it wasn’t the most difficult either.
Hidin’ me beard
It took us about four hours to get up and down the whole mountain, and by the time we reached the bottom I felt like I could take on the North face of the Eiger. The whole adventure was, to use a word that’s much overused these days, fucking awesome. It’s years since I’ve done something like that.
One the way down we passed a couple of teenagers who were utterly exhausted, sweating buckets and whinging about how difficult it was. It made my day. Ha! Young fellers. Ain’t got it in them anymore. Although truth be told we also passed a much older guy on the way up (as he was coming down) and he was just cruising. Hopefully that’ll be me one day. Fucking awesome.
And then there was Steve
The highlight of the Glasshouse Mountains is difficult to pick. There’s the natural beauty of the place. The elation at having climbed the mountain, and realising I’m not as old and decrepit as I thought I was.
And then there was Steve. The owner of the camp site we were staying in. The most Ozzy fella I’ve ever come across in my life, and an absolute character of the highest order.
If volcanoes had thrust Steve into the world 25 million years ago, he would still be standing too – a little weathered and cantankerous right enough, but still in the game. He was a perfect incarnation of the landscape he inhabited.
A few facts about Steve.
- He owns a campsite but hates campers
- He builds stagecoaches
- He was drunk when we checked in
- He holds the world record for driving the most amount of horses in front of a stagecoach
- He’s only ever had one holiday in his life
- He cares not a jot for what other people think
- He’s been overseas once, and that was enough
We arrived at the gates around dusk, rang the bell and waited a good while, before a short, stocky fella arrived. He was about 60, with the ruddy complexion of someone who has lived their entire life outdoors. He also had a big smile on his face, like he’d had a few beers and was immensely happy with the world. I liked him immediately.
There was a good bit of wildlife to be seen in the area
Twice during our check in he mentioned he had looked all over the for the perfect woman, and she just didn’t exist. This he proclaimed with an unashamedly wide grin. To use ‘city’ speak, this guy was fully self-actualised, and fucking loving it.
Over the next ten days we spent a good bit of time with Steve. He would drop his wee boy down to play with the girls, and often stay for a beer or two.
When he wasn’t regaling us with stories of the bush (and bashing budhists!) he’d scoot around on a quad bike with a container of weed killer on the front, and a wooden box full of beers on the back. What more could a man want.
One afternoon the ladies disappeared for some retail therapy, leaving the dads at home to mind the kids. This was the price to pay for having climbed a mountain, and was fair enough as far as I was concerned, but Steve just couldn’t get his head around it.
His chat was priceless. “There’s no woman better than what I got right here”. He reached behind, grabbed another tinny out of the box and popped it open. “And I got as many of these as I like. They don’t talk back. Don’t give me any shit.”
He’s got a point there. I’ve never had a beer talk to me, never mind talk back.
He told us the history of Cobb & Co, the great old Australian company that delivered the mail by stagecoach, and he had one of the few remaining Cobb & Co stagecoaches, that we all got to climb around in.
He told us how he couldn’t be bothered with campers anymore, even though he owned a campsite, and he told us how he’d recently discovered he was related to a guy who helped the Durak family drove thousands cattle across the top of the country over a century ago.
The Durak family were a hardy bunch of Irish settlers who made their fortune through grit and determination, and this ‘drove’ is one of those legendary stories that helped form the fabric of Australia’s history. It took them three years to drove 7,250 cattle and 200 horses, over 4,800 kilometres from Cooper Creek in Queensland to Argyle Downs in Western Australia – and it’s the longest recorded cattle drive in history.
It didn’t surprise me in the least that Steve was related to someone involved in this kind of caper. He would have given Crocodile Dundee a run for his money.
I don’t think the girls were overly fond of him right enough, his old school attitude was maybe a wee bit too much for them, but I thought he was hilarious. Well done Steve. The King of the of the Glasshouse Mountains, and the highlight in my book for sure.
Alas, eventually our time there came to an end. I could have happily stayed longer. There were lots of hikes still to be had, and I felt very content hanging out for a while. Nevertheless it was time to go, and although Noosa was only an hour and a half along the highway, it couldn’t have been more different if it tried…