Breaking trail at Belair

22 12 2008

On October 6th, 2008, a new trail was opened up at Belair National Park, and it’s a beauty. It leads from the grove of cherry trees on the appropriately named Cherry Plantation Road, over the new bridge which spans the wetlands, and heads off to an “avenue” of sequoias which very few people (us included) even knew was there! You had to be prepared for bushwhacking, not bushwalking, to reach this part of the park, until this trail went through…

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It’s been marvelously prepared and is still like new at the time of this writing (Christmas week, 2008). You’re walking an easy gradient, on freshly-graded gravel, surrounded by ferns, native trees and bushes … also bramble vines by the gajillions. (They were imported into this country and spread like a weed. They also have heavy crops of sweet, flavorful fruit. We’ll be be “brambling” in March or so, which is autumn, or fall, in Aus!)

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Click on the above image to retrieve a large-size, printable map. We searched far and wide for an onlinemap that was good enough to actually be read, and at the same time had enough features to be worth the bother of downloading it … no joy. So, here is a scan from the interior of Belair National Park’s own giveaway brochure. They’re free at the gate … they’re also copyright, and this is fully acknowledged here. The map is presented as a service to readers (and an exhortation to the park to make an online version available, so that we could link to it). To reach the new trail, start at Karka Pavilion, walk Cherry Plantation Road to the gate, go through the gate and look for the new bridge, which will be on your left. Cross the bridge and follow your nose — getting lost is impossible…

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The trail is walkable for most people. The very frail will find a couple of the little slopes hard going, but the good news is, the raked-gravel surface is so even, if a helpful friend or rellie wouldn’t mind giving a hand with a wheelchair, no part of the new trail is inaccessible to all…

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The woodland is remarkably beautiful and — which is astonishing at this time of year — lush! It’s wonderful to see such green at Christmas. However, park rangers must be looking at the same growth and wringing their hands, because this is what makes for a nightmare bushfire season, around about February, when the heat has really kicked in, and all this has dried out to tinder…

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You might not see a lot of birds in the bush, but you’ll certainly hear them. In fact, you could be looking right at them and not see them — some of the most beautiful (and loudest!) voices issue from birds about the size of your thumb! Settle down quietly and watch for a while, and you can hope to see the most exquisite wrens and thornbills, black cockatoos and many kinds of parrots, not to mention —

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Belair is the absolute BEST place to look for koalas. There’s nothing like seeing these little guys in the wild. Seeing them in a zoo is fine as a tourist attraction, but the truth is, the thrill is in hiking a woodland trail, watching the trees, and seeing a face looking back at you! The koalas in Belair National Park are 100% wild. No one “cares” for them — these are absolutely wild animals …

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…though the fact is, they’re so darned cute, you could be forgiven for thinking they were pets! They’re like little pandas … like soft toys. The day these pictures were taken (December 17, 2008), we saw seven different koalas … also two emus, plus lizards, and so many kinds of birds.

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The end of this particular trail is the avenue of sequoias. Where else in the world will you see sequoias and koalas about fifty yards apart? The trees are thriving in the South Australian climate — which is a lot like the California climate: hot and dry, with about the same amount of rainfall in the three months of winter. These trees were planted in 1962, and they’re already tall. They’re not the only sequoias in the park, nor even the biggest, but they’re beautiful and flourishing:

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The trees were planted as a war memorial, and on the day we photographed them, a message had been left, tucked behind a rock, at the base of the memorial stone. It was a special, personal memorial to the crew of a Lancaster bomber of 100 Squadron, who “lost their lives returning home” one night in November, 1943. We returned this memorial carefully to its place, where it had sat since November 11th, five or so weeks before. We can think of no better place for it to be: the peace in this place is beyond description.

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Many thanks to all those who worked to open up this new trail. It’s a wonderful addition to an already wonderful park.





Wild flowers are the joy of October in the Adelaide Hills

27 11 2008

If beaches, wineries, restaurants and culture have all become a bit passe … how about some healthy exercise? All you need is good pair of sneakers, a sun hat, a water bottle — and a reason to walk a few kilometers in the fresh air.

October has the potential to be the best month in South Australia. On an average day it’s warm without being hot, there’ll be plenty of sunshine and also plenty of cloud (though little in the way of rain lately; the drought is settling in, big time), and it’s early enough in the season for the countryside to still be as green as Ireland. In fact —

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–everything in the world seems to be blooming. Australia is not well known, overseas, for its wild flowers, but if there’s a botanist hiding inside you … if you have a camera with a “macro” function you can’t wait to put to the test … then here’s your big chance. There’s no better time so visit SA than October, because —

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— it’s the one time of the year when you can wander a cool, green woodland trail, and see both delicate floral beauties no bigger than your thumb nail, and huge great “flowers” that look more like a yard scrubbing brush! Australia being Australia, much of our flora (as well as our fauna) is different. Even the folks who live here are constantly astonished by the variety in the flowers —

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— which seem to explode into color when spring begins to warm. The honey bees downunder are a little different from those in the northern hemisphere; many of those you’ll see in the countryside are wild. They’re smaller than European and American honey bees, but they work just as hard…

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…and they’re equally as harmless. Incidentally, there are kinds of honey down here that, if you’re a honey fancier, you just have to try. We don’t have the heather honeys, but try the yellow box on your toast at breakfast.

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Virtually any of the national parks offers fantastic opportunities to see South Australia’s wild flowers in October of any year. Our recommendation would have to be Belair National Park, for several reasons. It’s so easy to get to — just minutes from the suburbs; it’s big enough to get off the beaten path and go “bushwhacking,” with a great chance of also seeing koalas, kangaroos and emus; and since it’s in the hills, it’s also inclined to be cooler and greener than other parks … of which there are many. And we’ll be visiting those on this blog in the weeks to come.

The photos on this post were captured at Belair, and at Worrawong Earth Sactuary.