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Maidenwell

Coomba Falls
Maidenwell is a small town in South-East Queensland’s South Burnett district. It’s a two and a half hour journey by car north-west of Brisbane. The town is a gateway to the nearby Bunya Mountains, but is also known for its large privately owned astronomical observatory, and the spectacular Coomba Falls.

My friend, Eric, is planning a social ride in this area in a couple weeks, so I jumped at the chance to ride through it with him today and help him work out the best route.

Hoop Pine Forest
We started at Yarraman, a beautiful timber town on the D’Aguilar highway. Yarraman is surrounded by Hoop Pine plantation forests. Plantations can sometimes be monotonous places, but not here. Majestic Hoop Pines (Araucaria Cunninghamii) are native to South East Queensland. Even when planted in regimental rows, they are still beautiful serene giants. They don’t cause a toxic monoculture like introduced plantation pines (Pinus Radiata and Pinus Elliotti). So you’re more likely to find healthy and diverse ecosystems in Hoop Pine forests – even plantation forests.

Forest Summit
We followed a few forestry trails westward from Yarraman. The roads undulate for about ten or fifteen kilometers, slowly rising to a peak of about 660 metres above sea level. This provides some moderate climbs, with a few enjoyable fast descents down the smooth clay roads, as well as some great views.

Bunya Mountains
As we progressed further, we were able to see the Bunya Mountains to the west.

Maidenwell
After working hard to get up some of those hills, I was glad to arrive in Maidenwell around lunch time, and devoured a delicious steak sandwich. It’s a beautiful small country town with a pub, general store / cafe and small war memorial.

Jean Johnston
It’s also a very friendly place. Jean and Neil Johnston live on a farm nearby. Jean very kindly let Eric and I ride through some of the trails on her farm.

Old Iron Bark
They haven’t had rain in this area for a few months, so the ground is starting to look a bit dusty. Jean says she loves this old Iron Bark tree. They grow very slowly, and this specimen is huge, so Jean thinks it’s at least several centuries old.

Rocky Outcrops - MaidenwellRocky Outcrops - Maidenwell
Rocky Outcrops - MaidenwellRocky Outcrops - Maidenwell
The Johnston’s property is home to some spectacular rocky outcrops. Jean told me this whole area is very important to the Wakka Wakka aboriginal people. There are a couple of Bora Rings nearby, and even some ancient rock art. Jean’s neighbor, Max Forsyth has visited the rock art and tells me one of the paintings is of a whale. This is amazing because the ocean is 200km away. Max says he thinks the paintings were done by Aborigines visting from the Hervey Bay area.

Coomba Falls
Once we left the Johnston property, Eric and I followed a stock route to Coomba falls…

Coomba Falls
Coomba Falls is a very special place for a number of reasons.

The falls have created deep permanent water holes which serve as refuge from drought for the local plant an animal life.

A unique hybrid variety of the Grass-Tree (Xanthorrhea) grows here. It’s not found anywhere else.

More importantly, these water holes were an important part of the life of the local Wakka Wakka people before European settlement. During extened dry periods with no or little rainfall, they could always rely on the Coomba waterholes to provide fresh water.

Tragically, the falls were the site of a massacre in the 19th century.

European settlers killed hundreds of aborigines here, including women and children. Some reports say that the bodies were thrown into the water hole, and that there are human remains at the bottom of the deep pools.

As a result, local aboriginal people never go here any more. Ironically this place of beauty and refuge is now a place of deep sorrow for them.

Hoop Pine Cathedral
From Coomba Falls, Eric and I continued our trek along an old overgrown stock route. We had to scramble over a few fallen trees before eventually making our way back onto the forestry roads.

We took a few different roads through the forest back to Yarraman. In some places, with towering Hoop Pines either side of us, I felt like I was in a natural cathedral.
"Pocket Lane"
Timber Harvest
Eventually the forest opened up as we entered some areas where the timber had been harvested recently. It takes about sixty years to grow a Hoop Pine plantation forest. The area looks bleak after harvesting. It’s sad, but on the positive side, it seems to be reasonably sustainable. The trees are native to the area, and for most of those sixty years we get to enjoy (and ride through) a beautiful forest. I think I can live with that.

We rode 63km in just over 6 hours including breaks. All up we climbed about 1,200m and I burned about 4,000 kcal (about 7 Big Macs).

I’d rate this one 7.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. Take plenty of water and snacks. It’s a long time out in the sun, so make sure you re-apply sunscreen a couple of times during the day.

4 comments to Maidenwell

  • Loretta

    Hi Neil,

    I loved reading your blog on your bike ride to the Coomba Falls. What a beautiful and spiritual place it is.

    I’m interested to know what level of cycling experience is required to complete the round trip from Yarraman to the falls, and do you need a mountain bike.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards,
    Loretta

    • G’day Loretta
      Thanks for your kind words.
      You could do the round trip from Yarraman to Maidenwell on a hybrid bike or tourer, but I wouldn’t do it on a road bike. You’d need to stay off the stock routes and just stick to the dirt roads. There 3 major climbs: (1) Out of Yarraman up into the forest (2) Out and back along the road to Coomba Falls (3) riding back up the hill from Maidenwell. You’d be ok provided you can handle those climbs. And if you don’t have a GPS, it would help to take a good paper map. All the trails are on Google Earth, but the intersections can get confusing if you’re not familiar with the area.
      Neil

  • Thanks Neil for recording this trip and including SEQ’s shared history of this dreadful massacre of Aboriginal people at Coomba Falls.

    Peter

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