WomanGoingPlaces went for a walk into a 60 million year-old Australian rainforest.
This forest is so ancient, it existed even before Australia was a separate continent, when it was still part of the massive land mass of Gondwana.
So it’s remarkable, that by simply driving one hour out of the city of Melbourne, we were able to hurtle back in time to these ancient origins.
The rolling hills and valleys of the Dandenong Ranges National Park are still covered by thick patches of cool temperate rainforest. But there is easy access for drives and walks, and many lovely spots for picnics. We began our walk at Grants Picnic Ground in Sherbrooke on the Monbulk Road (route C404).
Glorious crimson rosellas flew out of the trees and landed on our heads, our arms and our hands. We cupped a handful of seeds and they calmly nibbled them from our palms. Green King parrots with their red bellies swooped down and settled on outstretched arms and were in no hurry to fly away. Sulphur-crested cockatoos, dazzlingly white with neon yellow plumes strutted around us. They vied with pink and grey galahs to snatch the seeds that fell to the ground.
We then took a dirt path leading us deeper into the forest along the Hardy Gully Nature walk. This is quite an easy walk, but there are many other different walks available, ranging in difficulty and duration.
Very quickly we found ourselves in a lush fern gully, walking beside spectacular Mountain Ash. These eucalyptus trees are the world’s tallest flowering plants and can reach over 100 metres in height, with massive thick bases 30 metres wide. These giants of the forest provide shelter and food to over 100 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs.
Between and below the eucalyptus trees, are thick layers of of ferns. We are immersed in a world of green, lacy fronds. Bright green mosses cling to fallen logs and cover the base of trees. And we can hear water trickling down through the ferns, over the moss and into small streams.
The smell of the air is unforgettable. It is a mix of eucalyptus leaves, tree bark, and the wet earthiness of ferns and undergrowth. It is a smell so distinctive and so clear that it seeps into your memory and just settles there.
The raucous laughter of a kookaburra breaks the stillness. But is it really a kookaburra? Perhaps it’s the world’s best mimic – the Superb Lyrebird? The lyrebird can perfectly imitate not only the warbling of other birds, but also the sounds of a chainsaw, explosions, musical instruments, dogs and babies crying! Occasionally you can spot one in the undergrowth, and see the magnificent tail feathers of the male on display in the shape of a lyre, which is how the lyrebird got its name.
Fossils reveal that the lyrebird has lived in these rainforests for over 16 million years.
But rainforests are shrinking dramatically. We must do everything we can to preserve these irreplaceable, incomparably beautiful forests.
Post and Editing of photos – Augustine Zycher
Photographer – D. Zycher
Photos of lyrebirds courtesy of Parks Victoria
For further information on visiting the Dandenong Ranges National Park contact
Parks Victoria http://parkweb.vic.gov.au