Landmark Birthdays: Part 2

My final landmark birthday fell in the middle of a triple celebratory 6-month holiday, camping around Australia. It was my 49th birthday (my 50th year), my husband had entered his 60s the previous year and it was our 25th wedding anniversary!  We had just sold our Dorrigo property the previous year and were foot-loose and fancy-free again! Originally, we had planned a 3-month trip to Cape York, finishing with Lawn Hill, but we were having such a great time and all our obligations were being met, so we decided to continue travelling around the rest of our amazing continent. The outlay had been relatively small, as we already had an old Toyota 4WD, which we set up with my patchwork drawers in the back to hold all our provisions.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1436 We bought a heavy-duty canvas tent, which could be erected in 5 minutes flat (and often was!) and a car fridge, but we already had most of the camping equipment, including an inflatable queen-sized mattress and a light bushwalking tent, not to mention Caroline’s favourite travelling companion, the porta-loo, which kept threatening to fall down on her during the trip!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5101 Our youngest daughter, Caroline, who had just left school and was accustomed to joining us on our anniversary camping trips, came with us, as well as her guitar and a mascot called Nomad (as in Grey Nomad!), an Eeyore donkey from Ross’s favourite childhood book, Winnie-the-Pooh! Here is our intrepid adventurer at Cooktown Botanic Garden on the head of ‘Mungurru’, the scrub python, who created the Endeavour River, according to local aboriginal legend. It was carved out of Cooktown Ironwood (Erythrophelum chlorostachys), a very hard wood, from which the aborigines also used to make their spears.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1838 It was wonderful having our very own travelling minstrel and the perfect way to encourage fellow campers to turn off their radios and listen to some real music! She even entertained a tour group of 18 retirees with Wilderness Challenge’s 4WD safari tour at Jowalbinna on Cape York.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_2687We had some wonderful adventures together from:

Climbing Mt Kootaloo on Dunk Island; visiting relatives and friends in Townsville, Cairns, Herberton and the Daintree; and revisiting Cape Tribulation (see below), where we camped on the beach totally on our own for our honeymoon, all those years ago, and just before the Bloomfield Rd went in- now the place is crawling with tourists ! ;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1722Watching a rescue of an injured fisherman by the Royal Flying Doctor Service at Musgrave Station, where the road had to be cleared of cattle before the plane could land; and viewing Eclectus Parrots, Palm Cockatoos, Yellow-bellied Sunbirds, Double-eyed Fig Parrots and butterflies at Iron Range National Park. The photo below shows a male Eclectus Parrot.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_2486Learning to juggle at Moreton Telegraph Station with Smokey, the support team for Michael Mitchell’s ‘Great Australian Cancer Bush Walk’,  retracing Steve Tremont’s footsteps from the tip of Cape York to Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, along the Great Dividing Range; being attacked by cave bat lice at Captain Billy’s Landing- a very uncomfortable night !; and swimming at Twin Falls;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_3891Singing and playing guitar with other guests round a campfire at Punsand Camping Resort on the top of Cape York ; Feasting on freshly-caught crab the size of a dinner plate at Jardine’s old homestead site (photo above)  and playing guitar on the very tip of Australia- Caroline actually walked to the cape 3 times- the 2nd time to collect Nomad and the 3rd time her guitar (photo below) !

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Driving part of the Old Telegraph Track past huge termite mounds and bustards to the notorious Gun Shot section, environmental vandalism by 4WD at its worst! To give you a bit of an idea, see : Needless to say, we did NOT attempt it! We drove up to the cape early in the season and I think a lot of our fellow travellers thought that we were a little bit strange, because we weren’t fishermen nor 4WD enthusiasts and we actually enjoyed looking at birds !!! ; crossing flooded streams and having to wade through potentially-infested crocodile waters to check for depth and dangerous potholes !; and exploring ancient aboriginal cave art at Jowalbinna and Laura, including a tour with Steve Tresize. The cave art below was at the Guguyalangi Gallery at Laura. UNESCO rate the Quinkan region as one of the top 10 rock art sites in the world.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_4823And this was all before my birthday! We camped at Old Laura the night before, and my 49th birthday was heralded by a flyover of hundreds of squawking Red-tailed Black Cockatoos! Such delightful raucous party animals!!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5186BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5250BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5193BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5227BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5204 Ross gave me a tripod for my birthday, but we decided to reserve the official birthday celebrations till the mid-June, when we were spending a week in a house in Cooktown.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5215

I had a makeshift birthday cake- a crustless slice of bread, smeared with Nutella and lit with 3 matches at Kalpowar Crossing, where we set up camp in Lakefield National Park on the banks of the Normanby River.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5288 We met a lovely couple, Ruth and Dave, from Mornington Peninsula, who were in effect having a pre-honeymoon, as they were married the following year. We shared many interests like archaeology, aboriginal cave art and environment and Ruth also sang and played guitar, so we enjoyed listening to duets by Caro and Ruth.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5602BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5582

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Never smile at a crocodile!

We saw a huge freshwater crocodile sunning on the riverbank and loved our birdwatching at all the billabongs and lagoons. The first photo is Lakefield Lagoon and the second photo was taken at Catfish Waterhole.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5524BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5273Here are some of the birds we saw :

Magpie Geese, with goslings, hiding amongst the Lotus leaves at Red Lily Lagoon;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5494Brolgas feeding on the tubers of sedges;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5500Green Pygmy Geese displaying iridescent, metallic green feathers;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5540Comb-crested Jacanas and their babies crossing lilypads;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5302BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5513White-bellied Sea Eagles (1st photo), Ospreys, Brown Falcons (2nd photo) and Black Kites surveying for prey;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5556BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5638Stately Straw-necked Ibis nonchalantly strolling by dozing crocodiles;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5574Sacred (1st and 2nd photos) and Forest Kingfishers (3rd photo) perched on river boughs;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5321BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5522BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5563Rainbow Bee-eaters, which nest in riverbanks;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6003Black-fronted Dotterels on the dry bed of the Morehead River;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5641And Pelicans climbing the thermals high in the sky. For more information on Lakefield National Park, please see : 25%ReszdIMG_5689So many birds and an ornithologist’s paradise!!!  But the jewel in the crown was the highly endangered and difficult-to-find Golden-shouldered Parrot. We had tried to find these elusive small parrots at Musgrave Station on our way up and down the cape to no avail ! The manager at Musgrave told us to check out Windmill Creek, where we waited for half an hour- still no luck ! His Auntie Sue (Sue and Tom Shephard, Artemis Station) was the honorary caretaker for these parrots on her property, but she was away at a family funeral! We called in at Lotus Bird Lodge (, an expensive resort and prominent birdwatching venue, with over 200 species of birds , whose owner very kindly let us eat our picnic lunch in the cool shade of their verandah and walk around their water-lily billabong.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5788BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5787BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5740BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5849BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5813 We saw huge flocks of Little Corellas, a Black-backed Butcher Bird, a sleepy trio of Papuan Frogmouths (1st photo) and Roger Ramjet, a hand-reared baby Red-winged Parrot (2nd photo).BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5801BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5792 The owner suggested that we drive a further 200m past Windmill Creek and walk in to the termite mounds, in which they make their nests- still no parrots! And then, just as we’d given up and come to terms with never seeing them, we were walking back to the car and down they flew –  a small flock of 8 males and females – grazing on the side of the road, despite all the passing traffic!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5958BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5934BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5938 So special and a wonderful birthday present (since the birthday was extending over the whole week!), only to be equalled by seeing the first Gouldian Finches of the season (a breeding pair with 2 offspring!) at Mornington Wilderness Resort on the Gibb River Rd, Western Australia later in the year!!! For more information on the Golden-shouldered Parrot, see :  and Another good site, which also covers Eclectus and Palm Cockatoos, as well as Gouldian Finches is :

We had a wonderful week in Cooktown- one of my favourite tropical towns! Here is a link to their tourism site: 25%ReszdIMG_1768 It started with the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, which is also the annual Discovery Festival, a series of events held to commemorate Captain Cook’s landing here back in 1770, though really it was to celebrate my birthday!!!  We knew that there would be lots of visitors to town with the camping grounds fully-booked, so we had pre-booked a house underneath Mt Cook for a week, while we waited for the Lizard Island seaplane to be repaired. The weekend started with a 7.30am Can-Can workshop with a troupe called Sassy Catz from Cairns ( The dancers were fabulous and their costumes very cute and colourful.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdDSCF0403BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdDSCF0417 Because Caroline and I were the only participants, apart from the organizer, they invited us to join them in the Grand Parade through the main street in town. What they neglected to tell us was that they were at the front of the parade, just behind the boys in white, the Barrier Reef Jazz Band, who played totally inappropriate music, to which it was impossible to dance! Afterwards, we had a guided tour of Cooktown Cemetery , where we saw Mary Watson’s grave and learned about the Normanby woman, a fair-skinned woman living amongst aborigines in 1873. We also had a guided tour of the Cooktown Botanical Gardens.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6193BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6176The re-enactment on the Sunday was held in Bicentennial Park on the Endeavour River at the exact spot Cook landed in 1770 to repair his ship after damage on the reefs off Cape Tribulation.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6239BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6250 The cannon, sent to Cooktown in 1880 as a response to a request for military backup against a threatened Russian invasion (!), was fired, then we attended the hilarious Lion’s Club Billy Goat Derby. It was held on a steep street, cushioned at the bottom with hay bales.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6259 Forty intrepid contestants raced a variety of highly creative, home-made carts from bath tubs to Captain Pugwash’s bright pink boat on wheels, driven by a polar bear ‘Bundy Bear’;  a bicycle affair; and the cockatoo-decorated ‘Indigenous Warrior”.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6274BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6273BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6264 We were also very impressed by the Stepping Out sponsor maidens, who negotiated the steep slope in their high heels with great style!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6269We watched the wonderful Hopevale Aboriginal Dancers perform in the Cooktown Botanical gardens and finished the day with a lovely sensual dance by the Shee Sha Belly Dancers, their pastel gauzy veils swaying in the warm breeze and finally, a spectacular fireworks display reflected in the river. I think that it is almost the best fireworks I have ever seen – forget Sydney !!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6281 Another day, we walked from the Botanic Gardens to Cherry Tree Bay and then up to Grassy Hill, the perfect place to watch the sun setting over the Endeavour River and the Coral Sea.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6346Then, it was time for my official birthday celebration. I reopened a wrapped tripod, as well as a blue polka-dot chiffon skirt, some earrings made out of red seeds, a book on Pioneer Women by  Susanna de Vries and an illustrated music score of a song, written by Caroline, about our trip. Birthday breakfast was delicious pancakes with tropical fruit.

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BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6369 Dave and Ruth, our friends from Lakefield National Park, called in for a birthday lunch- we’d bumped into them unexpectedly when shopping on our arrival in Cooktown. They came bearing bread rolls, tomatoes, blue cheese and chocolates. It was so good to see them and hear all their news. We caught up with them later again in Kakadu National Park, again by accident, and later had a planned rendez-vous in Darwin. We also visited them in their home on the Mornington Peninsula a number of times during our stay  in Victoria.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6376After they left, we drove down to the stunningly beautiful Archer Point , 15 km south of Cooktown, to watch the visiting tall ship replica ‘Duyfken’, sailing south. Such a magical spot in the golden light of the late afternoon sun! The colours were spectacular- red grass,  gold and green mangroves and blue, blue mountains plunging into the sea.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6379BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6389BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6396BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6455 We celebrated my birthday in style at the magnificent Shadows Restaurant in the shadow of Mt. Cook. A superb menu, but so difficult to choose as every meal was divine!  I had an entrée of prawn spring rolls, a coral trout with tartare sauce for mains and a coconut and rum crème brulée for dessert- heaven!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6512BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6502BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6510BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6500While I won’t recount the whole trip, there were two more birthday highlights : a walk up Mt Cook the next day and then our long-awaited weekend on Lizard Island.  I lost so much weight on that trip through hiking up every high point in the heat and sweating it off! For the first time in my life, I had a waist! It was fantastic! I think I need another trip to the tropics!!! Even though it was Winter, I still needed 6 cold showers a day to cope with the heat!!!  We also used the local pool every day – in fact, we were invited to join the local aquarobics group!

Before we left Cooktown, we climbed to the summit of Mt. Cook (431m). The circuit track is 6 km long and takes 3 hours.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6531 We climbed up through open forest with ancient Palm Cycads and Zamia ferns, Kapok Trees and Native Cypress to a rainforest full of Cordylines, Elkhorns, thickets of lethal Lawyer Vines and colourful rainforest fruits on the forest floor. The 2nd photo is the Zamia Fern, Bowenia spectabilis, one of the world’s smallest cycads.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6638BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6562 And then to the summit with its wind-sheared vegetation (including Umbrella Trees and Oak-leafed Fern) and spectacular, extensive views over Walker Bay and Archer Point to the reef, Quarantine Bay and the mouth of the mighty Annan River.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6615BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6625BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6612 We saw Orange-footed Scrub Fowls, Wompoo Fruit Doves, Rose-crowned Fruit Doves and an Osprey soaring in the thermals. Cooktown is very windy, with the trade winds blowing constantly from May to September.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6609BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6557And finally, Lizard Island – what a spot to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary!  We had initially booked a seaplane from Cooktown to Lizard Island, which had the added advantage of landing on the water, right next to the National Park campsite, but unfortunately mechanical problems meant we had to abandon that plan and drive back to Cairns on the Friday to take a flight to Lizard Island,  270 Km to the north, with Hinterland Air instead.  Because of the exorbitant price of the new tickets, we left Caro with friends in Cairns. This is our first sighting of Lizard Island from the air.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6881That Saturday was the best day for flying over the Great Barrier Reef in months and we had fantastic views over the coast, patch and ribbon reefs and atolls. Captain Cook was amazing navigating through all those reefs!  We could even see the high sand dunes of Cape Flattery  to the north in the distance.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6859BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6865BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6890 We shared the tiny 6-seater plane with the pilot and the island nurse in the front seats and another couple, who obviously had a much bigger income and were staying at Lizard Island Resort ( roughly $2000 per night). See: 25%ReszdIMG_6904BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6905BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7029 We, on the other hand, were paying $4.50 per night in the National Parks campsite on the far northern (left in photo below) corner of Watson’s Bay and we got the entire campsite to ourselves. Now that’s what I call true exclusivity!!! For a map of the island and details about the walks and the island, see: 25%ReszdIMG_6901BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7003BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7447BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6982It felt like a long walk from the airport, even though it is only 685m, but we had to carry everything in. We took the 30 minute Pandanus Track over Chinaman’s Ridge, past Pandanus Palms and through a Paperbark forest, over a Mangrove boardwalk and past the ruins of Mary Watson’s Cottage to the sparkling white sands and aqua waters of Watson’s Bay.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6919BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6950BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6963 Mary Watson (21), whose grave we saw in Cooktown, died with her baby son in tragic circumstances in 1881. She was married to a bêche-de-mer fisherman, who was often away and she used to walk up to the highest point of the island, Cooks Look, to watch for his return. Unbeknown to her, the latter was an important ceremonial aboriginal site, where young boys were initiated. A group of Dingaal people came to investigate smoke on Lizard Island and killed one of the two Chinese servants, wounding the other, and a terrified Mary set sail in one of the bêche-de-mer boiling tanks with her infant son and the injured servant. They all died of dehydration within 8 days on the waterless Howick No. 5  island. You can read her diary entries on : Below are photos of an aboriginal midden and the ruins of Mary’s cottage.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7499BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6948BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6978After a long walk up to the end of the beach and past Mary’s old well, we arrived at the camp site to meet its resident silver gull (photo above) and a couple of yachties, Guy and Annika, from ‘Street Legal’, who had been sailing round the world for 10 years and were halfway through their trip! They explained the etiquette of the camp treasure chest ‘Pandora’s Box’, hidden in a wooden barrel at the back of the campground and inscribed with the message : ‘Who be ye that disturbs my slumber, tell me your story and pay my price’! The rule is that if you open the box, you must put some treasure in. The box was already filled with silver goblets, candlesticks and necklaces. Obviously, yachties have plenty of loot to spare, but as light-weight campers, who had to lug everything in and out, we were stumped for a few days as to what we could possibly contribute! The solution dawned on us at the last panicky hour! It was obvious!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6975BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7467BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6977For our whole stay, clean water had been a major issue! We were collecting water from Mary’s well, but hated the taste of our purifying tablets, so had been boiling the water instead.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7356 Unfortunately, we had neglected to bring in our empty 10 litre water flagons- a big mistake (!) , but we did have our washing up sink, so Ross would trek to the well a few times a day, then return, awkwardly carrying the heavy square tub, filled with water, in front of him. The only receptacles we had to store the purified water were 2 demi-litre bottles of Rosé, which we had drunk on our first night. So, when we were pressed to come up with a treasure, it was as plain as the nose on our face! Water is one of the most precious commodities in the world, especially when scarce, so we filled those two  little bottles with our valuable water and put them in the chest, along with an inspired ditty in the log book explaining the logic, which you can read at the end of this post!! You can see our little bottle on the left of this photo!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7468We had a wonderful weekend on Lizard Island. In Watson’s Bay, we snorkelled over beds of giant green, blue and purple velvety clams (Tridacna gigas), each measuring up to 1.2 m across and weighing up to 230 kg. There were also 8 species of solitary corals (including a blue one) ; 350 species of hard corals; Feather Stars; Sea Pens; Sponges; and a wide variety of colourful fish : Black-and-white Damsels, Yellow Butterfly Fish, Six-barred Wrasse and Parrot Fish. It looked like an underwater forest! Unfortunately, I lost my snorkel on the last day somewhere along the way! Lizard Island is renowned for its fringing reef (photos 1 and 3) and its clam gardens (photo 2).BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7017BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7336BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7350We made friends with the yachties, who were heading for Darwin in July to form a safety convoy before sailing to Indonesia and risking the pirate threat. ‘Kalida’ belonged to a lovely couple, Alison and David, who were home-educating their children, and we also met a charming Norwegian couple called Rune and Eden. The yachties and campers naturally bond together, because both are prohibited from the resort, except for the staff bar. The yachties had commandeered a National Park table and set it up on the beach as a drinks venue for The Lizard Island Yacht Club, where we were invited the first night. We checked out the staff bar on the second night!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7056BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6962Lizard Island was declared a National Park (1013 ha) in 1939, with the addition of other islands in 1987. While known as Jiigurru by the Dingaal people, Captain Cook called it Lizard Island after the goannas, including the Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes).and Gould’s Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldii), which he saw on the island.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any, though we saw plenty of burrows in the sand!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7307BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7358  It is a dry island rather than a tropical one- 60 per cent of the island is grassland. The sheltered south-west side of the island supports an open woodland of Eucalypts, Acacias, Tibouchinas (photo 4), Brachychiton and Kapok trees (photo 3).BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7308BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7105BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7296BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7177

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Umbrella Tree

We walked up huge granite boulders to Cooks Look (359m), so called because this is where Captain Cook looked to find a way through the reefs in 1770. The 2.25 km walk takes 2-3 hours.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7011BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7126 We saw Yellow-bellied Sunbirds, Fruit Doves, Rainbow Bee-eaters and huge bumblebees, but no lizards!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7317BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7353  The summit was covered with beautiful heathland, stunted eucalypts, umbrella trees, orchids and ferns. We met a couple of dive instructors, who amazingly knew all about Dorrigo – it transpired that the couple, who managed  the research station for the Winter/ Spring months, Bob and Tania Lamb, spent the rest of the year in Coffs Harbour and we had mutual friends from Dorrigo! Unfortunately, they are no longer there.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7184BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7183BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7189There were fabulous views over the entire island of Watson’s Bay, Lizard Island Resort, the airstrip and Blue Lagoon.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7151BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7162BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7083BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7153BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7320BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7134On our third and last day, we packed up, dumped our bags at the airport and walked across to Blue Lagoon and the Lizard Island Research Station.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7503

It was established in 1973 by the Australian Museum and conducts research on the coral reef, as well as hosting academics and researchers and educating visiting school and university students. These are good sites to visit :  and, as well as an informative introductory video at : While we were there, some Texan university students arrived back after scuba-diving (1st photo). The 2nd photo is the station’s research vessel.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7511BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6946 Tania (far right in 1st photo) gave us a guided tour of the station with our yachtie friends. We saw a PhD project on the effects of global warming on foraminifera, nudibranches and hard coral, but there are so many more research projects.  From research conducted at Lizard Island, up to 100 scientific publications are produced each year.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7513BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7526BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7532BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7549

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Crown of Thorns Starfish and coral reef destroyer!

The yachtie kids loved the tanks of marine creatures, including a Decorator Crab, whose shell was covered with lots of little pieces of Chux.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7563BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7558 It was a fascinating place and if we ever want to return to Lizard Island, there are volunteer opportunities, where board is free in return for cleaning and maintenance duties: see and If you are a qualified divemaster, you can be a research volunteer- see :

After our visit, we walked to the beautiful Blue Lagoon and Trawler Bay.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7655BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7626BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7618BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7590BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7648

Then sadly returned to the airfield and flew back to Cairns.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7661BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7667And that was the end of Landmark Birthday No. 3 !  We continued on our Round Australia trip till mid-October with so many amazing adventures and experiences, but that’s a story for future posts!!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7407

Here is the Lizard Island poem as promised:


Lizard Island Ode by a Pair of Very Merry Campers!

We flew from Cairns on a gorgeous day,

Then hauled our packs to Watson’s Bay

And pitched our tent at the camping stove,

Where we soon discovered this treasure trove,

Full of jewels and trinkets gold

And other treasures to behold!

What could we humble camper pair

Possibly add to enrich such fare?!


We pondered on this for three days

While snorkelling, walk-ling…never to laze

Beside the beach or read a book-

We even climbed up to Cook’s Look!

But, whenever we ever got a free spell,

We had to go off to the well!

Collecting water was arduous work!

An essential duty we could not shirk!!!


We carted and boiled in tiny lots,

Because we’d forgotten the ten- litre bots!

The Aquatabs were horrible!

The water tasted like a pool!

…The final night! And still no clue!

To help us , we imbibed a few!

We needed treasure beyond compare

To match up to these baubles fair!

Then, FINALLY, we had some luck!

Another swig- a brainwave struck!

The treasure that we strove to find

Was under our noses! We’d been so blind!!!


The most precious treasure of the lot

Was what we had in each tiny pot!

So, we’ve packaged it in a Rosé bot

And added it to this priceless lot!

The next poor sod with a raging thirst

Will surely open our treasure first!

And please excuse this AWFUL rhyme!

It’s ‘cos we’ve guzzled too much wine!!!

Winter Falls : Wadbilliga and Deua National Parks

Now that the weather is a bit cooler, it’s an ideal time to explore the wilderness national parks on the escarpment to the north of Bega. We tend not to do much bush walking in Summer because of snakes, as well as the heat, though Tuross Falls and the Cascades in Wadbilliga National Park would also be  wonderful  to visit in Summer….

The easiest access to Wadbilliga National Park from the south is via Cooma and the sealed road to Numeralla. Here is a map from the National Parks brochure:BlogWinterFalls30%Reszd2016-05-08 10.15.21 On our first visit, we took an the unsealed road Tuross Falls Rd  from Nimmitabel and while we saw some lovely old grazing properties dotted with giant granite boulders, the road from Cooma is much easier and quicker.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0016BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0017BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0169BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0020BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0019 From Countegany Rd, its only 4.5km to the turnoff into the park and another 7km to the Cascades camping area. Here are 2 maps from the National Parks brochure:BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-08 10.15.16BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-08 10.15.10 There are 20 sites beside the river and 2 walking tracks : a short walk (5-10 minutes) down to the Cascades and a longer one to the Tuross Falls viewing tower (2 hours return, though we only took 1 hour).BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0158BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0160BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0165BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0168BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0167We started with the Tuross Falls walk, which winds along a sandy track past huge granite boulders and outcrops.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0023BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0025BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0033 The granite was intruded into the sedimentary bedrock 400-100 Million years ago. I loved their rounded domes and weathered forms.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0026BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0038BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0029BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0121BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0118 The soils have low fertility, but still support a wide variety of vegetation from eucalypts to banksias, hibbertias, hakeas , wattles and grevilleas.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0035BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0040BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0044BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0112BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0101BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0102BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0109BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0117 Because of its ruggedness and relative isolation and history of predominantly open grazing, there was little clearance of the vegetation, so the old growth forests are relatively undisturbed and provide plenty of nesting hollows for birds, gliders, possums and owls. We saw plenty of wombat droppings on our walk and disturbed a pair of Superb Lyrebirds, who glided very quickly and very silently away!BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0062BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0100Tuross Falls are spectacular and well worth the walk in. They drop 35m into a gorge, which is 5km long between cliffs, up to 100m high.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0057BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0049 The falls looked like silky tresses and the rainbow at the bottom of the falls was quite beautiful!BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0090BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0093BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0092BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0084 The pool at the base then feeds via 2 smaller falls into another pool, which in turn falls into another pool, which then bends back to continue the river , having dropped a further 360m.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0054BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0055BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0051 Apparently, there is a narrow ridge a little back along the path, by which you can descend to the base of the falls. Here is the Tuross Falls Climbing Guide Map, as seen in : 10.16.27On the walk back to Cascades, we diverted to explore a huge granite outcrop off the path. BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0103BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0108BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0105Another visitor had made a cairn of rocks at the top.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0106BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0107We were also very impressed with the Cascades.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0156BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0125BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0126BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0127BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0152BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0134 The view from the viewing platform down the Tuross River with its long pools is beautiful.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0130BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0146 Apparently, you can also access Tuross Falls by rock-hopping down the river, swimming across 3 pools, then abseiling 40m down the falls. If you would like to do this, it is worth visiting this site :

Below the viewing platform, a track leads to a water slide into the first of the pools. It would be great  fun in Summer- apparently, it is advisable to slide down the side nearest to the track!BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0140BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0142BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0141We then drove ½ hour back south along the Tuross Falls Rd to Wadbilliga Rd, a 4wd track, which starts in private property and looks south to Wadbilliga Peak (1337m) and the 7km long plateau (average altitude: 1200m), which separates the Wadbilliga and Brogo Rivers and is another future walk.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0173BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0175 The road climbs down from snow gums and dwarf sheoaks and heath, then skirts the mountain at Conways Gap, where we saw another rainbow over the rugged cliff line.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0181BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0184BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0185 To the south lies the Brogo Wilderness, untraversed by any tracks and the total catchment for Brogo Dam.

Further down the track are spectacular views of the coast.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0196BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0197 We surprised a lyrebird with its baby, who made a tremendous racket of indignation, then tore off down the road!BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0209The road was scarcely wider than the vehicle and skirted by overhanging tree ferns.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0220BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0223 The steep escarpment catches all the rain and the rainforest is very lush.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0217BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0219BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0200The views of the surrounding cliffs were spectacular.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0214BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0225We finally made it  down to the beautiful Wadbilliga Crossing, where we enjoyed a cuppa with an inquisitive Yellow Robin.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0231BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0234 I love the huge sheoaks, gums, angophoras and huge rain forest vines here, as well as the very attractive rocky banks of the river.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0241BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0242BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0235 The Lakes Camping area down from here has 15 sites. As the sun went down, we passed through lush river paddocks to Yowrie, past Galba Blacksmithing Forge, to Wandella, then Cobargo and home.BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0248BlogWinterFalls20%ReszdIMG_0247It was such a lovely day out, that one week later, we decided to explore the next national park to the north : Deua National Park, another wilderness park. Here are 2 maps from the National Parks brochure:BlogWinterFalls30%Reszd2016-05-08 10.15.26BlogWinterFalls25%Reszd2016-05-08 10.15.37 We drove via Cooma, then took the very civilized, dirt Snowball Rd to our first stop at Badja Swamp Nature Reserve, the only example of a subalpine vegetation community on the eastern margins of the Monaro Tablelands. The colours of the grasslands and peatlands were beautiful and a tiny heath was beginning to flower.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 13.28.23BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 13.28.43 Again, we saw plenty of wombat droppings and this veritable palace, as well as a family of choughs! If I was a wombat, this is where I would live – well away from the risk of being flattened by cars on the roads, which are littered with their dead cousins!BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 13.26.02BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 13.32.37We took a quick look at Middle Mountain Road, which leads into Minuma Range Fire Trail and the Bendethera Fire Trail and is the access to Bendethera Homestead and Caves from the west. From all accounts, this road is serious 4wd territory with very steep grades and some pretty dodgy parts round Dampier Trig, so we had already decided to explore Bendethera from the east ( along Little Sugarloaf Rd ) in the future, but we wanted to check out the start of the track. Ross baulked at the first deep river crossing! A map from the National Park interpretive board showing the route to Bendethera:BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.03.38Bendethera (1860s on) was one of the early properties in the area, supplying fruit and vegetables, bacon, beef and grain (corn, wheat, millet and oats) to Moruya, as well as the miners in the goldfields of Araluen and Nerrigundah . The George family carted everything with a team of 40 packhorses, using 4 bridle trails. The homestead, a single-storey, hip-roofed dwelling with a front verandah and a separate kitchen, was burnt down in 1969, but the old bread oven, a family grave, a water race, post-and-rail cattleyards, exotic mature trees and cleared river flats still exist. The property has a fascinating history and it is worth reading the NPWS management plan for the area at

From the site of the old homestead, a 3.6km track leads to Bendethera Main Cave, which was one of the earliest protected areas in NSW, being protected in 1897. It is a large cave and its roof is 90 feet high. Handrails, steps and cuttings were made in the 1890s and 1903 and still exist today, along with signatures from the 1890s. There are also 40 other caves in the area and the Bendethera karst system is 4km long and up to 0.5 km wide. It is in the same line of limestone as the Wyanbene cave.

After the Middle Mountain Rd, Snowball Rd becomes Krawarreee Rd and a little further on is the turnoff to Wyanbene Caves along Wyanbene Rd – nothing is signposted, so it obviously isn’t promoted that heavily by NPWS!BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.37.55BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.43.03BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.49.20BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.50.12It is a lovely drive in past rolling hills covered in colourful Scrub Sheoak and beautiful views over the surrounding countryside.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.43.35BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.43.09BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.44.22We passed this lovely old homestead on a bend in the creek on the way in.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.55.36BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 14.35.47At the end of the road is a delightful bush campsite with 5-10 sites. We much preferred it to Berlang Camp, which we visited afterwards.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 14.59.41BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.31.27BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.31.34Everything is very low key. The entrance to Wyanbene Cave is a simple gated hole in the hill and is hard to detect from the base of the hill. It is just to the NW of Ross, as he passes through the gap in the fallen tree.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.21.07BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.09.15BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.15.44 We climbed down a steep ladder into the dark and that was enough for me!BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.18.08BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.09.58BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.13.57 Ross took the torch and went a bit further in down a tiny hole to the creek. You are only allowed in the first 200m, after which you need a caving permit from NPWS, but that was far enough for Ross too. To go further in to the chamber entailed a stomach crawl along and in the freezing cold water of the stream within a space of 2 foot high!BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.13.35Can you see Ross waving from the bottom?BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.16.13BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.16.25 Apparently, in the Aboriginal Monaro/Snowy Dreamtime story,  Wyanbene Cave , along with Tuross Falls, was created by Djamalang, the Platypus, as he travelled from the Shoalhaven River to the Snowy River.

A much more romantic than the dry geology history, which goes as follows:

500 Million years ago, sediments, deposited in a deep ocean trench, were folded, heated and compressed to form a sedimentary bedrock, while fringing coral reefs in the edge of the seas became limestone bands throughout the area.

400-100 Million years ago, large granite bodies were intruded into the sedimentary rocks, pushing them upwards and metamorphosing the limestone in the Wyanbene and Marble Arch area, recrystallising it into coarse red and white marble.

Wyanbene Cave is one of the longest karst systems in NSW with the passage measuring 1830m long. It is an outstanding example of a cave formed by a subterranean stream, where water slowly dissolves the limestone over thousands of years. It contains a large number of limestone formations including stalactites, stalagmites, shawls, helicites and flowstones.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.14.21BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.15.15It is also home to the threatened Eastern Bent Wing Bat, as well as the Eastern Horseshoe Bat, the vulnerable Sooty Owl and a number of aquatic and terrestrial cave invertebrates, including syncarids, a species of crustacean adapted to living in the icy cold waters of caves.

A pair of bushranging brothers, the infamous Clarke Brothers, had a hideout nearby in another cliff overhang until they were captured  in 1867. Wyanbene Cave was also popular with tourists in the 1930s and were protected in 1931. It is still explored by speleologists today, but I’m afraid that I’ll never be one of them! I was very happy to get back on top of the ground! BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 15.18.50Our final stop was at Berlang Camp (15 sites @ $6 per night) to visit Big Hole. Here is a map from the National Parks brochure:BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-08 10.15.31 We had to cross the Shoalhaven River to access the 3.5km return walk to Big Hole. Ross was a mountain goat in his last life and rock-hopped across, while I just took off my boots and waded through!BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.10.07BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.12.09 The first part of the walk is up a dry stony ridge, but I loved it when we reached the scrub sheoak and snow gums. Such attractive vegetation and beautiful views!BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.29.19BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.24.52BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.29.24BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.30.18BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.29.33BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.32.56Further into the forest, we discovered Big Hole and it is spectacular!BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.38.22BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.40.48BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.42.32 Measuring 35m across, 200m around the circumference and 110m deep, it was formed when the ceiling of an underlying limestone cave collapsed. The theory is that sedimentary siltstone, sandstone and conglomerates were laid down under the sea 350 Million years ago over a large body of limestone at or below the level of the Shoalhaven River. The limestone was dissolved and carried away by water, leaving a large underground cavern, whose sedimentary roof then collapsed, creating the Big Hole. Here is a photo of the interpretive board:BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.02.53

The cavern must have been so deep, as there is absolutely no evidence of the fallen debris. In fact, there are no broken tree limbs either, which is amazing, given the reach of the branches of surviving trees, clinging onto the cliff edges.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.43.17BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.41.21 Instead, there is a bed of 2m high soft tree ferns, supported by the Shoalhaven River underneath. I loved the ferns adorning the rock walls too.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.39.08BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.39.32BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.38.51It was protected back in 1932. On our next visit, we will continue on the walk (13km return) down steep steps into the ravine to see Marble Arch. We retraced our steps back to the camping ground.BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.48.14BlogWinterFalls20%Reszd2016-05-05 16.50.19By the time we returned to the car, it was 3.30pm and since we did not want to get caught in the dark, we decided to go home via Braidwood and the sealed Kings Highway instead of the Araluen 4wd track, which was an old bridle trail from the Araluen goldfields to Moruya. We travelled up this route back in 2012- an incredibly scenic drive- and we will do it again, perhaps stopping to camp at one of the camping sites along the Deua River : Deua River, Dry Creek and Baker’s Flat, so I will have more photos later, but for now, here is a taster from the 2012 trip!BlogWinterFalls50%Reszdaug 2010 740BlogWinterFalls50%Reszdaug 2010 741BlogWinterFalls50%Reszdaug 2010 747BlogWinterFalls50%Reszdaug 2010 751BlogWinterFalls50%Reszdaug 2010 755For more in-depth information about these beautiful wild national parks, please consult the NPWS management plans for the area at :