Byline: Phil Hawkes
IT'S late October on a beautiful clear mountain-fresh day at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park, the traditional land of the Yugambeh people. In the lobby I overhear a conversation between a couple from Brisbane and the receptionist. "We're lucky to be here," says the wife. "This morning my mother told us we should cancel our booking as the place had been burnt down in the recent bushfires, so we made a phone call and found that wasn't true. So here we are."
Yanina and Apoorva at the desk say they've heard this comment from a number of guests, and there's been much confusion caused by dramatic scenes on TV. Later, at the manager's daily guest briefing over afternoon tea (where appropriately, lamingtons are served), Brendan Long explains that in its 93 years of existence, O'Reilly's has not been damaged by bushfires because it's in the Gondwana subtropical rainforest area dating back millions of years, unscathed.
Tragically, the Binna Burra lodge and other properties across the range were destroyed, the difference being those sites also contain eucalypt and sclerophyll forest which is prone to bushfire events. The village of Canungra (the jumping off point for the road into O'Reilly's) was not damaged although it was used as a base for fire-fighting authorities. Still, the false perception exists that the whole Scenic Rim area was burnt out; local businesses are just getting back on their feet and visitation is very welcome.
Back at O'Reilly's, an Advanced Eco-Tourism resort, there's much to enjoy in the clean air nearly 1000 metres above sea level, away from the coastal humidity. Ideal weather for walking, so I set off with another couple on a leisurely two-hour return hike to pretty Moran's Falls where there's a picnic area, good for a BYO lunch. There's historic interest there too, being the site of a bark hut where the O'Reilly brothers first lived when they moved here to establish a dairy farm in 1911... but that's another story.
Apart from a...