“Are we going to be climbing hills or going hiking?”
This is the new question that the boys ask me whenever we are flying to a new holiday destination. I would like to say this is asked in excited anticipation, but the rather disappointing truth is that they would rather spend holidays in swimming pools and on beaches.
So, when we planned a two week tour of Queensland, while in Australia, they could be forgiven for thinking that since we had booked accommodation in beach resorts on the Sunshine Coast and the Capricorn Coast that we would be spending all of our time at the beach, especially as I had bought them snorkelling gear and an underwater camera.
The poor wee mites.
For on Day One of our tour, as we drove to Noosa from Brisbane, and everyone was half asleep, I unleashed my hidden agenda and managed to convince everyone of the merits of a Glasshouse Mountains Walk. Next week, I attempt to broker world peace.
The Glasshouse Mountains are about an hour’s easy drive from both Brisbane and Noosa and make for a perfect stop on the way to or from either. They are as stunning as they are treacherous. Climbers are regularly injured trying to ascend their peaks and recently a woman was seriously hurt and had to be airlifted to safety.
So, it obviously made perfect sense to take my girlfriend and twelve and ten year old boys to the top of one of them.
Now, before you question my parenting skills, please understand that recklessly traversing up and over mountains is a family favourite. We’ve explored the Tatras in Poland and Slovakia and the Alps of Switzerland while we’ve bagged a few Munros in Scotland and we even climbed up a volcano (ok, it was inactive) in Italy.
A wee hill in Queensland would be fun.
Plus, I had actually researched all of the Glasshouse Mountains walks and, in Mt Ngungun, I had decided upon a relatively easy one for us to climb. Mt Ngungun is the sixth tallest of the Glasshouse Mountains, but it is also one of the most accessible. As long as you get there early and don’t stop for breakfast at the Glasshouse Mountains Lookout Café.
Although, you should actually totally stop at the Glasshouse Mountains Lookout Cafe as part of your Glasshouse Mountains walk
Not only is the breakfast menu worth the hours drive from Brisbane/Noosa, but the views across the Glasshouse Mountains National Park make the climb up them almost redundant. Almost. If lucky, you might even spot a few kangaroos that patrol along the mango trees, but who unfortunately decided to stay hidden during our visit.
We had set off from Brisbane at first light and when we arrived at the Glasshouse Mountains Lookout Café, we discovered that it didn’t open until 9.00am. This was just after 8am and I was keen to forego breakfast and start our ascent, but my girlfriend Teresa is a different animal. Without coffee and food she struggles to function. I have long since learned not to come between her and her sustenance.
So wait we did and I am glad that we did. Bacon, eggs and toast is such a simple dish, but it is surprising how often the bacon is too streaky and the eggs too runny. Maybe it was because we were on holiday or maybe it was because Queensland pigs and chickens are a breed apart, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a tastier pre-workout meal (seeing as I am also a fitness blogger, it was the perfect combination of carbohydrates, protein and fats), while wee Jack wolfed down his waffles and Danny salivated over the selection of cakes
Once nourished, we set for Mt Ngungun and promptly went the wrong way. Which turned out to be a blessing, for a couple of hundred metres up from the café the Glasshouse Mountains lookout can be found.
Although, look out or you’ll drive straight past it. It is situated on the left hand side of the road and around a sharp bend. There are toilets, benches and the most wonderful panoramic views. Every Glasshouse Mountain can be viewed from this location and it really is a jaw dropping experience. I took 367 pictures, but still couldn’t capture how beautiful it was. You really need to see it for yourself. This is especially true if you lack the energy or inclination to mount an incline of one of the mountains (sorry for the terrible word play).
We eventually dragged ourselves from the Lookout and with the aid of our satnav (an absolute necessity if touring in Australia) we headed towards Mt Ngungun. We arrived just after 10am and parking at its base was at a premium. It is free, but spaces are limited and you’ll pay dearly for arriving any later. We did luckily find a spot (on a verge), but others were not so fortunate.
The walk starts off gently enough and apart from the last climb, there are wooden and stone steps all the way up. It does require a certain level of fitness and some narrow parts can be congested, but I witnessed people running up and down it and one parent even carried a young baby up, complete with push chair. It was a timely reminder to me that I really need to improve my fitness levels. Despite their complaining, the boys are like mountain goats once they are let loose and they loved spotting lizards and insects as we made our way up. We were even excited to see our first wild brush-turkeys. Eventually, after about the 200th sighting in Queensland, the novelty wore off.
So, how does Mt Ngungun rate as a walk and what did it do to my heart rate as I made the steady climb to the top?
According to my fancy and wonderful Garmin Forerunner 735XT (review coming soon) it took us just over 28 minutes to reach the peak of Mt Ngungun after a relatively strenous 450 feet climb. With an average heart rate of 134 bpm (beats per minute) and a max of 165 bpm, it was wasn’t quite the easy walk that I had anticipated, but it was highly enjoyable walk. We were touring in early July and even then, the temperature and exertion certainly made me sweat, so please take plenty of water. The tree canopy isn’t thick, so don’t forget to slap on some sunscreen either.
Teresa and the boys struggled a wee bit on the way up, due to the heat (we are Scottish), and I would urge a serious word of caution on the final 50 feet to the very top. It does require a little bit of rock scrambling and sure footing. It is a long and bumpy way down and as a responsible parent (honest, I am) this was a step too far, for them at least. However, for me, the risk was totally worth it for these stunning views (and selfies, obviously) across the Glasshouse Mountains and the lush sub tropical forests below.
Queensland is rightly celebrated for its stunning coastline, but hidden in the hinterlands are these majestic mountains, numerous national parks and wee towns that capture your heart and the contents of your wallet.
If you plan your journey well (or are just lucky, like us) you will drive towards Noosa on a Saturday or Wednesday and you will stop off at Eumundi for possibly the best market in Queensland. Yes, even better than Kuranda, the jewel of the Far North.
Eumundi Markets is a diverse collection of over 600 stall holders who all share the ethos of make it, bake it, grow it and sew it. Here you will find quality handmade goods and foods from all over the world. They had everything including a kitchen sink (bush style)
Teresa was especially taken by the authentic homemade Ginger Beer and it was just as well that we brought a spare suitcase, as every second stall had a souvenir, shawl or scented candle that Teresa just had to have and for which I just had enough money to pay for (to be fair, her salary did pay for the entire Oz trip).
Eumundi Markets closes at 2pm, so my advice If you are driving from Brisbane to Noosa) is set off early, climb Mt Ngungun BEFORE breakfast at the Glasshouse Mountain Café before then heading towards Eumundi. That way you might also find time for a quick stop in Montville, a charming little town full of quaint artisan shops. That is if you can find a parking spot. Unlike Eumundi, which seemed to have hundreds of parking spaces, Montville has few and we drove around for ten minutes before disappointingly disappearing north along the extremely scenic drive towards Noosa, where I would once again convince my family to go for another walk in the wilderness.