NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION OF QUEENSLAND 2ND Post-War Field Outing to SPRINGBROOK
January’s Foundation Day Weekend, 1947.
As recorded by then new Member, Cecily SANDERCOCK (now FEARNLEY) in 1948 and discovered amongst old papers in 2009.
The N.P.A.Q. Outing to Springbrook was planned for the Foundation Day Week-end, of January 25th – 27th 1947. The Association’s Outing Committee was conducting the trip to Springbrook on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, and it was my first with them. I had joined only a few months before. I knew it was on the Queensland/New South Wales border and separated from Lamington National Park by the Numinbar Valley, but I had never been there. Apart from a group of small National Parks on the tableland there should be farms with a few houses, then rain forest, eucalypt forest, creeks and waterfalls. It would be interesting to camp there and visit for the long weekend.
As two lads also from the Brisbane City Council Works Dept.’s Drawing Office had also joined the N.P.A.Q. recently, we three decided to go together. I persuaded a girl friend of mine, Una to join me on this trip, for Una and another friend (Fay) had recently climbed Mt. Samson with me. However Una had become attached suddenly to a young lad who was already going as part of another group, and we asked if we could join them. They were quite agreeable.
Decisions had to be made as to what food, clothing and equipment should be taken. Then Lionel Simpson, one of the lads offered to take Norm Traves and myself in his car. Una was to come too if she so wished. But she didn’t wish, as she preferred being close to her new interest. So the back of the car was to be filled with bread and other luggage that the others of our party perhaps would find awkward to carry in the passenger train.
For the previous four days it had rained – nay, it had poured in great sheets from the heavens. Now and then there was relief; then for a change it just drizzled. The cause of all this rain was a cyclone that was slowly moving down the coast. The morning of Saturday arrived, and early frantic phone calls were made. “Are you going?” “Do you think it will fine up?” “Is it still on?” This was my first outing with N.P.A.Q members, and I wondered how they would react to damp weather. I certainly did not want to be considered a softie or a squib!
With true Sandercock stubbornness and dogged determination I decided to go or die in the attempt. I wasn’t going to buy provisions and pack up my bags for nothing!
So at 0800 hrs (yes, I used to use military time then and sometimes even now) Lionel arrived at our front gate in his little Morris 8/40, and I pushed my huge heavy pack inside. It was the same pack and tent bundle I had carried for Mt. Samson. “I’m going to find a lighter pack somewhere” I thought. We then drove across to the South Brisbane Railway Station and waited there for Norm.
Only a few of the original parties were as foolish as we were, and in our own group we ended up with 7 instead of the intended 11 members. The few who had decided to brave it out ‘no matter what’ were obviously keen indeed. Though we expected the rivers to be high, we had no doubt that we would be able to get through quite easily.
The train departure time came, and then I realized the other 4 members of the original party including Una had come only to wave off the adventurous ones. Lionel and I said “adieu” to Rex, Rolf, Bill and Ruth, then continued to wait for Norm. The back of Lionel’s little car was by now packed with luggage, as the train travellers had handed us most of their bundles and packs. They thought it was inconvenient to carry it in what was after all only a suburban carriage.
Norm duly arrived, and we three set off, rain still falling down and coming through several openings of the material roof on my side of the car, despite fitting in the celluloid windows. Indeed I decided to wear my raincoat to keep the water off me!
We three were in great spirits as Lionel drove along the road towards Southport. A few sections were under water but we merely made a mighty splash and spray as we went through them. In low sections off the sides of the road we saw whole paddocks were under water, and it looked as if we might indeed have difficulty in getting through. A short discussion, and we resolved to go ahead as far as we could, and meet our difficulties when we came to them.
Passing over the Logan River’s bridge, we saw below us a swirling mass of dirty water. The river was very high, indeed it was running a banker! On and on we drove, rain still pouring down, until a car’s driver travelling in the opposite direction called on us to stop. Seeing our small low car, he earnestly suggested we should turn back. The Coomera River had broken its banks and the road was well under water. We thanked him, but decided to press on, and see it for ourselves. I had never seen a really good flood before, and here was an opportunity not to be missed.
Lionel contributed one of the many good patches of humour we enjoyed on the way. Almost every car approaching us signalled for us to go back, and he tired of it. So as each car approached he would lean out, wave, and call out “How are you Mate?” which quite upset the concerned motorist. He uttered it in such a debonair fashion, too!
The Coomera River is very wide at this point, and has a high bank on the northern township side. Consisting of a dozen or so houses, a general store, garage, post office and the inevitable pub, this small town had a great string of roadside parked cars around the pub. We drove on towards the bridge. Only a few cars and owners were stopped there, owners of those previously parked cars were probably drowning their sorrows inside that pub. Here we pulled up, jumped out, and walked right across the bridge in the pouring rain.
Sure enough, the low southern riverbank was well and truly flooded, and side paddocks covered upstream and down. In front of us the road disappeared under a vast sheet of water. Muddy water from the west met the wind and rain from the east, causing small turbid waves to break on the Pacific Highway!
The main river itself was a raging torrent, with debris of all kinds floating down. It was respectable debris in a way, for we saw no dead animals like cattle floating along, just trees, branches and fences. Before the week-end was out though, three men were to lose their lives in these waters, and thousands of acres of crops ruined.
We tried to estimate the depth of water on the road, but thought 3’0’’ to 3’6” a little too deep for our tiny car. As we stood there in the wet a big truck came along, and stopped to consider the situation. Of course we struck up a conversation with the driver, and a sudden exclamation from both parties revealed that Norm and the driver knew each other from Wartime Service up in Borneo, Tarakan and other similar places.
After swapping yarns, the driver decided to try to get through. Off he went, slowly entering the water, then sinking lower and lower as he progressed. After about 50 yards he stopped, decided to think better of it, reversed out, and parked the truck. He would wait. As it was presently high tide on the coast, the general opinion was that it was the tide backing up the flood waters. Low tide was to be at 1500 hrs, but after a discussion, we three decided to turn back to Beenleigh. There we would ring through to Mudgeeraba where the train party had arranged to assemble if the mountain road was impassable.
As it happened, the low tide later made no difference, for more water was pouring into the river from the headwaters. Instead of subsiding, the depth of water increased.
While driving back along the highway past flooded valleys etc., we noticed more streams of water were flowing over the road than when we were driving south. That was certainly an indication of what was to follow.
Refreshments by way of a pie and soft drinks were bought at Yatala near the Albert River. A well-recommended pie stall is there, noted for its gastronomical achievements in that commodity. In other words, they are really BEAUT. How we enjoyed those pies! We had not even thought of lunch before, and the time was now 2.15pm.
Next river to cross was the Logan, a much longer river than the Coomera, with a proportionally greater watershed. We knew also that it was close to breaking its banks, and that would cause considerable damage. We stopped the car, and saw three men with a horse and cart in the paddock adjoining the river. Two of the farmers were very busily harvesting corn as fast as they could, while the third was loading the cart/dray and driving the horse plus load up the hill. That large riverside paddock was a picture, the crop ready for harvest, but at that stage they had not progressed very far!
On our side of the river we saw a man wandering through a much higher paddock and wondering if it would be safe from being flooded. So little one can do to prevent a flood. I saw that low paddock a fortnight later without a single stick standing, and heaps of river sand covering the rich soil.
Into the little car once more, and we again headed for Beenleigh.
The Railway Station was our first stop, but the place was deserted. There was no sign of life anywhere. How could we contact our group to tell them of the problem. Lionel left Norm and I at the Station while he drove to the Post Office to try to phone them. There would be a Public Telephone outside.
Previously when driving south through Beenleigh we had stopped (as arranged) to buy 6 loaves of bread and 3 dozen eggs, all to be consumed by our group on this long week-end. The members who had left Brisbane on the 9 o’clock train had probably arrived in Mudgerebah around noon. We also knew there was another train due to leave Brisbane about 1.30pm on which other N.P.A.Q. members would be travelling. Our idea was to give this second group the food and all the first group’s gear for them to deliver to our first group. We would return home, defeated.
At Beenleigh Lionel had trouble on the Public Phone raising the Post Office Exchange at Mudgeerabah, then contacting our group. It was Saturday afternoon, and nobody works on Saturday afternoons, particularly in a small town! Eventually contact was made, and it was not long before he was speaking to Rolf. The train travellers had seen the Coomera River was over the road when their train crossed on that river’s railway bridge. They then realized we would not be able to drive further, so on arrival had bought lots of biscuits from the local store. They planned to stay the night somewhere, somehow, and return to Brisbane by train in the morning.
When Lionel told us their story our main worry was their lack of food and gear. All of it was in the back of Lionel’s car, so they had only the clothes they were wearing – shorts, shirt, groundsheet/cape, and sandals! I ask you, now could we leave them to spend a night like that? No, no, a thousand times NO!
What to do next? We would stay at the Station and take the next train to Mudgeeraba. When would it arrive? The Station had been deserted before, but slowly other people were arriving, all rather anxious. Eventually the Stationmaster appeared. This looked hopeful, so we asked him the time of the next train. “No more today”. “Oh, but there must be. It left town at 1.30pm” we replied. His response was “That doesn’t stop here. It is an express, with its next stop Ernest Junction”.
We were certainly in a muddle now, and wondered what we could possibly do. Norm tried to get some satisfaction from him, but I was not hopeful. He seemed a not very agreeable man. While this conversation was going on more and more people were arriving, and asking when the next train for Southport would arrive. The township of Southport was in partial flood from the Nerang River, and the wireless was quoting several properties being threatened by large seas whipped up by the cyclonic winds. Apparently these travellers were being held up by the flood just as we were, and desperately wanted to reach their properties.
The increasing number of travellers and desperation of their requests eventually bore fruit. The Stationmaster suddenly announced he would stop the train for us all to board. “How soon will it be here?” we asked, and the reply came “five minutes time”!
Whoosh! Panic right and left. Here we were with the luggage of seven people, bread and eggs and similar, a car to be garaged goodness knows where, tickets to be bought, and all to be done within five minutes! I almost became a streak of fire during those few moments. Out of the car with everything, rolls of blankets, packs, little haversacks, billy cans, frying pans, 6 loaves of bread and 3 dozen eggs which I made my personal responsibility, and all kinds of miscellaneous packages. All this, mind you, going on in both wind and rain.
When everything was out of the car Lionel jumped in the front and raced it away (what a job) while Norm and I carried everything onto the platform. I think we made four trips each. That job done, Norm lined up and bought the tickets. He finished just as Lional came in running. Everything was O.K., we’d made it in under 5 minutes.
Just one minute later the train appeared, BUT instead of stopping at the platform, it halted back by the water stand, situated about 20 yards on the approach side of the platform. So, though stopped, it was not at the station platform itself! Other people were walking to it beside the tracks, then scrambling up into the carriages, so we thought that was what we would have to do – with all our luggage!!
Carrying as much as we could we three ran along to the train, looking for what we hoped would be an empty compartment. By saying we ran, I am not quite speaking the truth. Staggered would be more accurate, so great was the weight of all the bundles we had draped over us. I left it to the boys to decide on the compartment, but they went on and on, and at last opened a door way up above and asked the people if they would mind some luggage.
The poor passengers did not have much option, for up I clambered while the lads passed up all we had with us. To say the faces of the other passengers registered amazement is to greatly understate the fact. It seemed to fill all the empty space on the bench seats, and when I thought of what was still to come I wondered what their reaction would be then!
I was left there beside ‘our’ open carriage door while the boys returned for more luggage. I waited and waited and they didn’t return. What on earth could have gone wrong! I scrambled up, shut the door then leaned out of the window. I’m afraid my nerves were becoming rather strained with all the excitement of the last few hours. Then the train started moving, with still no sign of them. It carried on to the platform and what a relief. There with the rest of the luggage were the two boys. I admit I was tense for a few moments for fear that the train would not stop at all and I would be carried on with all this luggage and no train ticket, the lads left stranded behind.
But I need not have worried for it did indeed stop long enough for the boys to pile the remainder in, and when I say pile, I mean it. Each narrow compartment of this Queensland suburban carriage has two long facing seats from one side wall to the other, a door in both walls. Our complete passageway and now both unoccupied seats were piled with bedding rolls and packs. On the only ‘empty’ seat beside me were a few small packs, the eggs, and the bread wrapped in my raincoat for safe keeping. We settled with much sighing, and immediately struck up conversation with the other passengers. We explained how the road was blocked, and that all this luggage wasn’t ours, but belonged to four other people as well. We were all going camping. Then I brought out some biscuits I had and handed them around. It seemed the least I could do to get these strangers ‘onside’.
Then I had a brilliant idea of checking up, for many times I‘ve been caught in the wrong section of a Queensland train. Sure enough, we found this part of the train was going to Southport, while the front half including the very next carriage (we were in the first compartment of this carriage) was going to Nerang, Mudgeeraba then Tweed Heads! We were just ONE DOOR too far down along the train.
What to do now? We were told that the next stop was Ernest Junction where the two carriages would be disconnected. It was there we would have to effect another change-over. One of the passengers told me he would know when we neared the spot, and we could be prepared.
As the train puffed merrily on, we looked outside and were astounded at how much land was now under water. One of the little creeks that had been flowing over the road, one we had splashed through earlier, was now completely blocking traffic. One car was stopped right in the middle and was being pushed out by several men. The Logan River had not broken its banks as yet, but the Coomera and the Albert were each just a broad mass of moving water. In several cases the water was right up to the railway line, but we did not stop and kept right on. The rain was very fine and light now, but gusty winds were blowing strongly.
At last Ernest Junction was pronounced close at hand, and the train stopped. There was no station platform, no nothing. Looking out we saw the signals were against us, so we decided to take the risk and change over here. We clambered down to the ground, and you know how high those carriages are! We didn’t even say “please” to these new people, but I jumped up once again and we started the transfer. Norm handed the packs to Lionel who ran along to me and I hauled them up and stacked them in the carriage.
You have no idea how exhausted I was by it all, for I expected the train to start moving off at any moment. These passengers protested with insinuating asides, but I did my best to explain we were in a dreadful predicament, and these bundles did not all belong to us! Norm and Lionel were barely in the carriage before the train commenced moving, and what a relief when we were told that this carriage was indeed heading towards not Southport but Tweed Heads.
By now I was feeling emotionally exhausted as well as physically tired. There had been quite a series of tense decisions to make, and hard work involved as well. About a quarter of a mile further on the train stopped, this time at Ernest Junction Station. You’ve guessed it, there was a beautifully flat platform outside. Oh, if only we had known the train would stand there for several minutes, the transfer would have been so very much easier! However we were in the right carriage now, and we intended to stay put until Mudgeeraba hove into view. I appealed to the fellow passengers to let us know before we came to it, and told them of our trials. They became quite friendly and helpful after that.
Approaching Nerang township the train line ran beside the Nerang River for a while. Truly I had never seen anything like it before. That turbulent mass of brown water just rushed along, a swirling torrent with all kinds of debris tumbling and bobbing in it. Neither cattle nor human could possibly have swum to shore, the current was so strong. It looked evil and horrid, a force of great destruction, yet fascinating at the same time. Though some of the town’s yards and sheds were in water, most of the buildings were on a ridge. The water would have to rise another 30’ or so before it would cause any major damage to central shops and property.
Onward the engine chugged, and at last Mudgeeraba hove into view. Bad luck kept with us, for did our last carriage stop by the platform? No. The platform was too short. But this time there were many willing hands and laughing faces to help us unload to ground level all the packs, bundles and packages. All were soon carried up onto the platform, and with merry chatter each was claimed by rightful owners. Our transportation task was now complete.
Considerably brightened, I enjoyed the talking and short walk from the Station to the Shire Hall. The Association had hired it for us to stay in for at least one day depending on the weather. The only luggage I was allowed to carry on that walk was a small haversack and the precious eggs!
At the Hall we joined with all the remainder of the N.P.A.Q. groups, and discovered the bus for Springbrook was held up at Southport. It could not get through because of the floods. The official decision was then to wait where we were until morning, and see what had happened by then.
Our little group reconnoitered the building, and decided to camp on the stage. Apart from we three from the office, all the others were members of the Brisbane Amateur Theatre Group, a dramatic society. It was obvious that they should chose the stage on which to camp, we three with them. The painted backdrop to the stage of this small country town was priceless. I must describe it.
On the right was depicted a towering cliff with a most remarkable waterfall tumbling down. Across the back three major trees were painted as part of a wood, with the stream flowing through it into the distance, supposedly originating from the stage. One tall tree was painted on the left, and it was under this tree that I decided to rest my weary bones and set up camp.
By now the afternoon was far advanced, but we decided to go for a walk and view the surrounding scenery. Mudgeeraba township, situated on a slight rise, consisted of a few timber ‘Queenslander-style’ houses, a hotel, general store, plus a café. Further along the road we saw a very dilapidated shop with the sign up saying ‘Butcher’ but it did not look as if it was still used.
The ground around the Hall sloped down into the water at the back, and that covered acres and acres on three sides of the township. I have no idea as to the depth, but it seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see in one direction, as far as the next hill about a mile away on the other side, while in the middle small bridges stood up above the water surface. As for the road to Springbrook, that was certainly under water, but it commenced at no great depth. Rain-caped and bare-footed we splashed along this road for a while, enjoying being outdoors. It was still windy, but the rain was not heavy.
Back at the Hall bedding was being strewed, and cooking commenced for our seven hungry people. On N.P.A.Q. trips each group looks after its own members. A small stove that burnt methylated spirits was our only heat source, and you can imagine all the juggling and switching of billy cans and dixies needed over that small flame before only the essential part of the meal was cooked. Most was eaten cold. Somehow I was elected ‘O.C. Food’, and all the worry of producing a meal was on my small shoulders. There was so much food, for we had brought sufficient for the other members as well, not realizing they would pull out at the last minute.
After dinner we had impromptu evening entertainment. One of the lads produced a mouth-organ, so we sang songs. Then there were games, jokes, and general fun. Lights out was at ten O’clock, and we soon prepared to settle down for the night. Norm was out late, and when he came in found someone had ‘lifted’ his pillow! It consisted of various parts of underclothing, towels, jumpers etc. Wild commotion while each part was retrieved, then quietness, apart from the continual drumming of rain on the iron roof.
Suddenly the quietness was pierced with a shriek and torches flashed; Ruth had discovered a cricket was under her pillow and it sang blithely right in her ear! Finally peace was restored and as usual I fell asleep. It was not restful, for that wooden stage floor was awfully hard, and I kept waking up trying to turn over into a more comfortable position.
Morning came with still more rain, and it looked as if there was no hope for us to reach Springbrook. However by the time breakfast was over it had almost stopped, and the clouds were lifting. Incidentally, our shower for washing was the outside tank’s overflow, full from catching the roof’s run-off. We wore bathing costumes for our morning wash!
Cooking breakfast this morning was much easier, for a large communal fire had been lit outside with some tarpaulins stretched for protection. Our bacon and eggs were ‘done to a turn’. After breakfast we walked into town once again, to be told by local residents that we were completely cut off from the outside world, except for the railway telegraph. We all worried that our families might be concerned for us, so we sent telegrams to reassure them.
The Logan River had badly damaged the Railway Bridge, and they said only a few sections of the road to Burleigh were above water. All we could do was to go for another walk. The rain had ceased, and the vast stretch of water lying all around was no longer rising. Parts of the road were dry, and the walk most profitable. A ripe watermelon was discovered amongst the debris, bobbing around in the flood waters. It was a most welcome addition to our salad lunch.
By this time we were in such a state of mind that we didn’t care two hoots what happened, we were in the ‘lap of the gods’. An official walk was arranged for the afternoon to go up to the weir, so off we went. On the way an empty truck caught us up, and as the driver was going to the weir himself, we all jumped on board. He intended to proceed as far as he could to see if the road to Springbrook was indeed closed. Rumour had it in the town that there were six bad landslides on the way up the range, and it would take days to get them all cleared.
The Weir came to view at last. First the driver jumped out and waded across to test the water’s strength and depth. Though the current was strong, it was only knee deep so he decided to drive through. Our weight I feel sure helped in this case. Even so as the truck crossed I could feel the back being swept sideways when we were in mid-stream, but the engine kept going and we reached the other bank without mishap. It could have been a rather nasty incident.
Pressing on, we passed a few minor landslides until we reached the Upper Nerang River and its low-level bridge. The bridge and its railings had been knocked about by debris, and there were several small trees as well as one big one lying across the bridge. The water was about 2’ deep, but everyone waded over and helped remove the obstacles. Hands, energy and the farmer’s axe were used, and as they say, ‘many hands make light work’.
Just as we were finishing the last tree a truck arrived on the opposite bank, loaded with men from Springbrook! We found they had been doing the same as us, clearing as they came down the mountain. That meant that the Springbrook Road was now OPEN. They told us that Springbrook had received a fantastic 55” of rain during the past week, but there had been no further rain since early morning. Their bus driver was amongst the men, and said that IF no more rain fell and IF the road to Southport was passable, he would be able to get his bus, and take us up the range next day. Hooray!
So, back up onto the truck we scrambled, eager to get back to Mudgeeraba. At the Base Camp (as it had become) yet another large evening meal was prepared on that sheltered fireplace, then eaten, to be followed by more impromptu entertainment. One of the highlights of this stay was the presence of a piano on the stage, previously locked. After being unlocked that morning by the hall custodian, it was no longer left silent. I remember on one occasion ‘Chopsticks’ was played for 40 minutes solidly by Rolf, Bill and Norm! Rolf and Bill were trying out new ways of playing the melody and were teaching Norm how to do it.
Another bedtime was spent on the stage under the tree on that hard unyielding floor. At least this night was different from the previous one, for there was no continuous drumming of rain on the galvanized iron roof.
Next morning we were up early, for this promised to be a special day indeed. It was the Australia Day holiday Monday, and it looked as if we might be able to see Springbrook after all. After breakfast all food was packed up except for our lunches. How we hoped that the flood waters by late afternoon would have subsided sufficiently for the bus to drive us out. The Hall was swept and tidied, then all our equipment stored in a small room at the front. At 9 o’clock sharp both bus and driver arrived and we set off for the mountain, all bright, sparking and happy.
It was a lovely drive up the valley. The clouds had certainly lifted, and everything was looking fresh and green. Even the air seemed cleaner. However the road was very soft and downright dangerous at several spots where the bus wheels would not grip in the roadside’s soft slush. As we wound upwards several landslides were met. They were ones partly cleared by the mountain men the previous day. Each we managed to pass both slowly and safely. No wonder there had been landslips of soft earth and rock when so much rain had fallen.
Up, up we went, with glimpses through the trees of beautiful valley scenes. Eucalypt forest trees now gave way to rainforest, and we made one special stop. Photos of a pretty silver waterfall beside the road were taken, and I feel sure that in normal times it was just an insignificant trickle.
On again, and finally the top plateau was reached. I was surprised at the large areas of cleared country up there, expecting it to be all rainforest. Dairying is carried on extensively, and expanses of coarse paddock grasses contrasted vividly with tracks and worn areas showing bright red volcanic soil. Dairy cows were obviously happy with the thick luscious pasture.
Our bus journey ended at a great lookout. Below was Wariee Canyon with its two major waterfalls, Blackfellow and Twin Falls. Looking past the cliffs and down the valley we could see in the far distance both the coastline and the sea itself. What a view! Most remarkable of all was the vast amount of water we could see lying on low country and shimmering in the light.
We then walked along the track around the edge of the canyon, crossing the top of Twin Falls. Water was pouring over it in no uncertain manner. We were told later that the country was so dry before this rain that then only one part of Twin Falls was running. Not so on this day!
Further on we came to the section where the path commenced descending the cliffs. Sections of stone steps and pipe hand-rails helped us as we followed the path right down into the gorge. There are times when the benefits of civilization are appreciated. It would have been very difficult to have climbed down on wet rocks and lose soil without those steps and handrails. We crossed many little creeks and rivulets I am sure would not have been there in normal times.
Down amongst the rainforest everything was wet, yes, EVERYTHING. The track led us firstly to Blackfellow Falls, heralded well ahead by the sound of rushing water. Next came the dampness of swirling spray, and finally the falls themselves appeared. Appeared, yes, through half-closed eyelids, so strong was the down-draught and moisture.
This walking track is constructed to lead you behind the falls. Normally that would be an excitingly novel experience, but on this day conditions were sure different. With all our waterproof equipment being worn, even then water seemed to get through to clothes and skin. Remarkable also was the strength of the down-draught wind. How my ex-army hooded raincape flapped around me! I had never encountered anything quite like this.
On and on we went, through luxuriant tropical vegetation. Huge fig trees and so many other trees formed a high canopy above vines and tree-fern glades, while moss, ferns, moisture, even leeches were everywhere. Groves of Piccabeen palms spun their own magic, and walking became real pleasure.
Our aim now was to visit the base of Twin Falls. Here again we met the swirling rain and wind given off by a waterfall in flood. This time I could not see the falls at all! Only if one had waterproof ‘waterproofs’ and goggles with active wipers could the falls themselves be seen in full action. We retreated.
Following the track a little downstream we stopped to enjoy our lunch. There, lazing around on rocks we watching the water tumbling past. The sun was trying in vain to shine through the high misty clouds still covering the sky, though one could see there was a strong wind moving them along up there. Typical post-cyclone weather.
Lunch finished, we headed for the track that ascended the cliffs, for now we wanted to visit Purlingbrook Falls. Once back on top of the escarpment we had a four mile walk, so our strides lengthened. All the countryside looked a picture, for as I mentioned before the grass colour was particularly rich. Along the roadside we found several patches of mushrooms growing. Though several members gathered them saying what a wonderful meal they would make, I did not see anyone later actually cooking or eating them.
At last Purlingbrook Falls were reached, and they were truly MAGNIFICENT! There was no time left for any of us to walk down to the base and back, but just seeing them from the top in flood was quite enough. It was a picture I shall never forget. Perhaps it was because I could see them without having to squint through the spray!
Walking back to the road we joined the waiting bus for our return trip. As the vehicle wound its way down the range our mouth-organist produced his instrument and played it all the way. I found he was a Rover Scout also, and he certainly had us singing well-known songs as we went along, right back to the hall.
At one time the whole busload of about 35 people were organized into singing “Three Blind Mice” as a round. We were in full flight when the bus had to stop through a car standing in the middle of the road. This was a “One Way Traffic” section, and the driver came over to the bus. He had to wait until we had finished our round before he could make himself heard. The car belonged to the P M.G. Department that administered both postal and telephonic communications in 1946.
He was repairing telephone lines to the mountain, for lines had been broken in several places by falling trees.
Once back at the hall, a conference was called to decide what was to be done. Eventually the bus driver agreed to try to get through to Burleigh Heads on the dirt road, and then discover if we could possibly reach Southport from there, another 10 miles or so closer to Brisbane. We of course were all in favour of that, for the closer we (that is Lionel, Norm and myself) were to Beenleigh and the car the better.
We each changed into our dry ‘going home’ clothes, then once more packed up and, the bus loaded, set out on the homeward journey. Would it be as exhausting as last Saturday? We hoped not!
All was going well when, at the top of our first hill, one of the tyres had a blow-out. The bus emptied, everyone gave advice, a few helped, tyre was replaced, and we were on our way again. Burleigh was reached after only a few fordings, which the driver said was a good sign for us to continue to Southport.
At Southport we stopped for dinner while the driver and a few members including Lionel found the Police Station. Asking the state of the road to Brisbane, they were told it was very bad. The Logan River had damaged the road bridge, while the rail bridge had been partly swept away. It would be possible for us to reach Beenleigh, then to take the road to Tambourine Village, then branch on to the Camp Cable Road that joined onto the Beaudesert to Brisbane Road. Apparently that was the only way we could reach Brisbane that night, provided we did not get bogged on the Beenleigh to Tambourine section.
The bus driver was uncertain, but with the urging of several of us (particularly we three) he agreed to take everyone as far as he could that night. Apparently he had to be back at Springbrook by 6 o’clock next morning, so would have little chance for sleep. Luck was with us for a change, for he had his larger bus in Southport. That had been held up originally by the floods, and we were able to transfer ourselves plus luggage to that. So much more room meant personal comfort.
Everyone was very tired by this time, and I must confess I slept in fits and starts as the bus moved through the night. I remember waking on one occasion and seeing by the bus’s headlights that sections of bitumen were just not there. Side embankments seemed to have vanished too, so it was a rather bumpy ride.
All too soon Beenleigh was reached and we three separated ourselves from the group. Gear out, fond farewells made and good wishes given, then we watched the bus drive off to the north. Lionel went off to find his car if his car was still there, and it still was. As we were loading our much smaller load of gear into the back seat we were approached by a stranger. He was obviously under the influence and alternately pleaded then insisted that we take him to Brisbane. He even offered us £1 if we would do it. Apparently his desire to reach the city remained with him, though he had lost control of other thoughts.
Ruth had elected to return with us, so we two girls deposited ourselves on the back seat with luggage under, over and around us. In fact we could only just see over the top of one of the bedding rolls.
Our road commenced by following the bus’s route, and not 15 minutes had gone by before we saw it stopped ahead of us. Naturally we drew up to discover what had gone wrong. Apparently they had met a bulldozer busily working on the road repairing it, for next morning a fleet of buses would be leaving Southport heading for Brisbane. They would need to use this road, being the first transport to bring back the big holiday crowds of Foundation Day weekend. There was no railway available, for that was still completely out of action.
In moving off the road to allow our bus to get through, the heavy machine had become bogged. Goodness knows how long it would be before it could be moved and could finish its job.
We commenced by following close behind the bus, and as this road was in patches of bitumen and gravel we were always coming across difficult patches. Our little car took longer negotiating the rough parts, and the bus drew out of sight. One bridge we came to had its white railing posts completely missing in the middle, mute evidence as to the past fury and height of flood water.
All was going as well as could be expected until we met a very bad stretch which commenced about 30 yards in front of a small wooden bridge. The road just seemed to disappear, and we were faced with an area of huge boulders and great pot holes. The complete road surface had been swept away.
Norm jumped out and surveyed it at close quarters with the car’s headlights and his torch. With heaves and sighs he commenced to ‘road make’ in front of the tiny car’s wheels, waving Lionel forward inch by inch. As he worked he likened it to his days at Tarakan where it was a common occurrence for roads to be washed away overnight by dense downpours. We of course assured him that we were honoured to have such an experienced man at our service, and were quite content to leave everything to him.
Poor Lionel’s nerves were on edge, but after what seemed an age we reached the bridge itself. On the other side the road partly remained, so not as much work was required of Norm.
A few yards further on and a different type of strain was placed on our driver. The road surface was so soft that the wheels were sliding all over the place! It was particularly dangerous for all of us, for the offending creek was running parallel to the soft road. Nothing but a 10-14’ drop was between the edge of the road and the water! Lionel was both a careful and skillful driver, and we managed to get through this section of the road safely.
Further on we came across two cars bogged in the soft road, both large types that one would expect could managed this surface easily.
Finally we reached Tambourine Village and knew that only bitumen roads should lie ahead. Notice that word ‘should’.
What a relief it was to be able to sit back and relax, though poor Lionel still had to drive the car another 40 miles to Brisbane. It was while travelling along this stretch that I became conscious of a queer feeling in my stomach, but did not say anything about it. Was it nerves, or something I had eaten over the weekend. I knew I had not eaten any mushrooms!
Only one wrong turn needed to be rectified before we reached the Camp Cable Road turn-off, and we felt we were getting somewhere at last. Camp Cable was the site of a very large U.S.A. Army Camp during the war, set out in natural bushland amongst trees for camouflage. Their roads were relatively new (only a few years old) and asphalt covered. I had been involved in drawing plans of this camp in 1944. Our little car’s headlights showed us that the way now was clear and good.
Turning later onto the Beaudesert to Brisbane road we soon found another obstacle to overcome. As we approached the McLean Bridge over the Logan River we could see red lights strung right across it. They were on the northern side and our headlights showed us the complete northern approach road had been very badly damaged and washed away. Debris was draped right across on both side railings, so the river must have been at least 3’ above the roadway. This flood incidentally had also washed away practically all the old bridge that previously stood just downstream. That was the first bridge, originally built by Convicts before 1840.
To continue on our way we had to make a difficult detour, with a man holding a light walking in front of us. Not a pleasant job for him, at midnight walking cars around a temporary detour, but we were thankful he was there.
Not far past the bridge we met the bus returning south. Later we discovered he was returning to Southport, having dropped his passengers at the Moorooka Tram Terminus.
As the car was once more on a bitumen road it drove smoothly. That had a lulling effect on its passengers, for Ruth was asleep at my side, Norm was definitely nodding, and I was as sleepy as a pain in my middle would allow. I fervently hoped Lionel would keep awake, so kept on talking to him.
Brisbane was reached, and Lionel gallantly drove me home to Kelvin Grove first. (Was it so I would stop talking?) The time was about 2.30am (0230hrs), when this little car pulled up at the house and I staggered out. It had been a most eventful, indeed enjoyable weekend, and though many people would not have appreciated our inconveniences, I would not have missed it for worlds. That sentiment I know is shared with every member of our party and probably all the participants. Being only my first trip with the National Parks Association of Queensland, I wondered what the next one would be like! It is now 2009 and I am still a member. Does that say anything?