The sun dropped behind the ridge and my path gradually faded into darkness. It was a new moon, which meant there was no light upon my trail tonight. I continued steadily through the forest, passing nameless shapes in tree hollows that made my skin erupt into goosebumps. The path now turned pitch black, forcing me to use the light of my phone.
Walking the last five kilometres alone in darkness, I arrived back at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in southern Queensland. Three men were sitting on a wall, drinking, engaged in conversation. I got closer and realised it was just a statue. I looked up and the stars were scintillating brilliantly overhead, as the night was as clear as I’d ever seen it up here on the mountain plateau. Just why had I returned this late?
It was 2pm when I began my journey towards Elabana Falls in Lamington National Park, retracing the steps of my adventure last month. The smell of wood, earth and moss hit me, and there was a purity behind it that went deep into my lungs. It felt really good.
As I passed through a tunnel of leaves, an animal crashing through the undergrowth pulled me back to the present. I was now determined to be more mindful in this gobsmackingly beautiful place. So I walked slowly, deliberately – watching, listening – and it was a good hour and a half before I reached Elabana Falls. From here I followed a new path along Toolona Creek towards my destination for the day, Chalahn Falls.
I passed about five waterfalls along this trail, watching water slide into gaps permanently cast in shadow before tumbling down ledges, deeper into the forest. I saw vivid green leaves shimmer beneath sunbeams and dappled light. I leapt about to get a better look and slipped on a few moss-covered rocks.
A caterpillar dangled by a thread, fungus spread across rocks and logs like tender brains and mouldy pancakes, thriving in the dark, moist conditions. Leaving one waterfall I came across another, then another and if it wasn’t for Kristin’s post on this trek I probably wouldn’t know that one of them was called Gwongurai Falls, which was my favourite on the trail.
I don’t usually do blurred waterfalls shots, as I find them a bit cheesy, although it’s been so long since I’ve tried that I found it a novelty. I had fun with my tripod, slowing down time with silky curtains of water and a few frozen selfies at Chalahn Falls.
I told myself I’d have to return if I didn’t reach Chalahn Falls by 4pm, as daylight was fast sliding towards the other side of the world. Being the stubborn person I am, I trekked on, this time telling myself that at 4:30 I really would have to return. I arrived at Chalahn Falls at 4:23pm, feeling pleased that I had achieved my goal. I sat there for 30 minutes, snacking, playing with my camera and enjoying my last few moments of daylight.
Chalahn Falls was a little disappointing compared to the other falls I’d encountered, although there was satisfaction in reaching it. I bet this place would sing when the water is really pouring, but that wasn’t today.
I turned to watch the sun descend behind the ridge at 5pm and I knew I had over 5 kilometres to walk back. Most of this I would experience in darkness, as this was the beginning of my end. However it had been worth it, to take my time, to experience fleeting moments in the present within Lamington National Park.
A few facts (and a tip)
- The walk to Chalahn Falls starts at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park and is roughly 10.5 kilometres return.
- The entire loop around the Toolona Creek circuit is 17.4km long.
- You can take in Elabana Falls, Box Log Falls and even the Box Forest circuit on your return if you have time.
- The path has a number of fallen trees and slippery rocks, which should be fine to tackle if you’re reasonably fit. However it can be a slog in wet conditions.
- Slow down, take your time, leave early if you have to – unless you don’t mind returning in the dark.
Have you been to any waterfalls in Lamington National Park? What was your experience like?