The Glasshouse Mountains are a number of volcanic cores in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane. Over millions of years, the surrounding soil has eroded away leaving these strangely shaped peaks. They were named by Captain Cook in May 1770 during his first voyage. At school we were taught that they reminded him of glasshouses in his native Whitby, but it seems that glass furnaces were what he had in mind.
The people who lived here for tens of thousands of years have a legend about them, with strangely modern overtones. It concerns a family threatened by rising sea levels, the need for people to help one another, and the tragedy that arises from human weakness. (You can find an account on the Wikipedia page.)
Our holiday began with a train trip from Roma Street station in Brisbane to Beerwah, a small village named after the highest of the Glasshouse Mountains, where we sat in the sunshine waiting for my sister to arrive. The pleasant village had interesting places to eat, and two strange-looking structures by the pedestrian crossing. These turned out to be Apparatus for Expedient Market Deployment – Ananas Comosus, essentially a matter transference device developed by Joseph King in the 1930s for getting his pineapples to market before his competitors.
The best place for viewing the Glasshouse Mountains is the Mary Cairncross Park, a small pocket of rainforest in the Blackall Range. We went there a few days later and met my cousin Chris and his wife Rhonda.
Chris is an expert on birds as well as a skilled photographer. In a leisurely walk around the forest he pointed out to us many small birds as well as the calls of larger birds in the canopy, and we saw several pademelons (small wallabies).
We spent a few days at the nearby coastal resort of Alexandra Headland. I used to go for family holidays here when I was a child. At that time, it was almost completely undeveloped, and my great-aunt had an old house right on the headland. There was neither a refrigerator nor sewage; a man delivered blocks of ice for the icebox, and the nightsoil men came to empty the backyard toilet. Now it is built up along the coast and some way inland as well; country that was swamp with paperbark and ti-tree is now covered in holiday homes, shopping malls and even a university. But the beaches and rock pools are still as they were. They have left a small area of virgin bushland, which is full of birds; sensibly in my view, its existence is not widely advertised, and it took us some time and trouble to find our way in.
We stayed in a beach resort right opposite the surf club, and walked along to the nearby mouths of the Maroochy and Mooloolah rivers. One benefit of the development is the existence of very good eating places. I don’t mind giving a plug to the Lemon and Thyme in Mooloolaba, where I had the best tapas I have ever eaten (Hervey Bay scallops with mango chilli salsa and fresh avocado, or baked Meredith goats cheese with macadamia nuts, lemon and thyme honey and toasted ciabatta, anyone?). At Maroochydore we went to Cottontree, the calm safe stretch of river where we used to swim as children, and pelicans floated on the clear water. On the way to Mooloolaba one day, we were given a long serenade by a butcherbird in a paperbark tree.