Bunya Mountains_Day 1

Saturday 5th October 2013

We left Brisbane around 11am. The sky was blue, as often in Queensland, the Sunshine State. 🙂

blue sky

We had decided to head to the Bunya Mountains. Here is the map of our trip to there, about 250 km North West of Brisbane.

Bunya Mountains on map

On the way to there, we passed the Lake Wivenhoe on our right. This artificial lake was created when the Lake Wivenhoe dam was built in 1975 after the serious floods of 1974 to be able to control the Brisbane river. This Lake is also the source of water supply for most Brisbane inhabitants and even Gold Coast ones. It’s a beautiful lake, with a very strange shape that would make you think it is natural!

Lake Wivenhoe

After about 3-4 hours drive, we got to Bunya Mountains, called like this because these mountains have the largest number of Bunya pine trees in the world such as this tree on the picture:

Bunya Mountains sign

However, “bunya” is a transformation of the word “bonyi” which was the name given to that tree and its pine cone by Aboriginals.

Bunya Mountains is a very special place. They were created about 24 million of years ago by some volcanic activity. The Aboriginals called the Bunya Mountains “Boobarran Ngummin” which means “mothers’ breast”. They believed that the creators of the land, people and animals lived here. The new settlers also considered this place important, as it became the first big national park created in Queensland in 1908. That same year, Witches Falls was created, a few month before, and is now part of the wider Mt Tamborine National Park.

But it is special most of all because it has a very important meaning in the history of the area. It was what has been identified so far as one of the most important meeting place of the Aboriginals tribes in Australia. About 600 to 700 people from various tribes would gather there once every three years, when the bunya pine’s harvest was the biggest.

bunya cones

We didn’t see this bunya cone as this fruit is around only in late summer. It can weigh 5 to 10 kgs and you better not be under the tree when the pine cone falls! During their gathering which could last for months, the Jarowair, who were the Aboriginals living here, would use a vine and climb the trees sometimes 50-60 meters high to go get those pines. There were strict rules in who could harvest those pines and how many to harvest in order to preserve the trees. They would roast them for hours to extract food. They would invite tribes from all over the area, the Giabal living nearby, as well as the  Barunggam and Kienjan living a bit further. People would come sometimes from hundred of kilometers away, every three years, when the harvest was the biggest. During these months, the tribes would meet first at Gummingurru. They would engage in trade, in wedding ceremonies, resolving disputes, spiritual discussions, and story telling.

European settlers started arriving in the region in 1840, and started logging activities, considering the forest for timber. Most of the red cedars were cut. At the time it was even called “red gold”. Now the red cedars are almost an extinct specie around there. They started dispersing (or killing) the Aboriginals and preventing them from gathering. The last Aboriginal meeting was in 1902.

I had heard those stories and wanted to check out that place. It started already to fascinate me!

We saw the first wallabies on our way to Westcott camping, located in the middle of the Bunya Mountains.

first wallabies

So cute!


We got to the Westcott campground, pitched the tent, and went for a short walk, the Koondaii lookout. Here is the map of the area. It counts about 35kms of walking paths.

Bunya Mountains walking tracks

The view was really beautiful over the Koondai valley.

Koondaii Valley

We also saw lots of cactus! I didn’t even know there were cactus in Australia!


In the evening, we met with Madi and Eric, a young couple from Melbourne now living in Brisbane, and shared a fire. It was awsome to gather around the fire, watch the stars and share stories. We regretted to not have brought some potatoes and marshmallows though as that would have been way more appropriate than pasta for a fire!

We saw some bandicoots.


The night was quite freezing, in contrast to the start of summer in Brisbane, and we were glad we had brought tons of blankets!

Some interesting resources I found about the Bunya Mountains if you want to read more:

Everything before to go to the Bunya mountains (National Park website)

About the Aboriginal tribes names which lived around and gathered at the Bunya Mountains festival

About Gummingurru, where Aboriginals gathered on their way to Bunya Mountains festival

About the Bunya Bunya pine

About the creation of the Bunya Mountains 24 millions of years ago

More about cycling there

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