“Girraween?” said my hairdresser. “It’s lovely there. I had my first hangover at Girraween.”
Thirty kilometres south of Stanthorpe, in Queensland’s Granite Belt, famous for frost, stone fruit and wine, Girraween is beautiful, especially in spring, when the wildflowers are blooming. It’s a special place for many, including my family.
Con confirms Girraween’s past party status.
“I used to go out there from Stanthorpe. We called it Wyberba back then, and things were pretty casual. We’d have airbed slides down the cascades at the Junction, then have a barbecue and hold stubby races.”
“What do you mean, stubby races?”
“My mate Ross and me, we’d float our empty stubbies in the creek and bet on which one got to the bottom of the rapids first.”
By the time Con and I revisited Girraween National Park with our children, he had become a civilised person who would never throw bottles in a creek; especially in such a beautiful place as Bald Rock Creek, flowing through the park, past campgrounds and picnic areas.
We went there towing a little camper trailer. The campground was glowing with wattles that dropped yellow balls of blossom on the camper roof.
We took the kids walking along the tracks, down to the Junction through the wild flowers, and up to the top of the Pyramid.
Because it is coarse-grained, granite is easy to walk up, never slippery unless it is wet or eroded smooth where water runs down. All that is needed is a head for heights.
My mother was an artist who appreciated the sculptural shapes of the granite boulders and balancing rocks, sometimes adding granite sand and pieces of vegetation to give texture to her paintings.
The Granite Belt is inspirational for artists: the rocks with their fascinating shapes, their pinks and greys, glinting quartz crystals and blooms of lichen.
One recent early summer, Con and I visited Girraween, this time with our grandchildren. The sound of cicadas was everywhere: so loud it was deafening, a continuous, piercing, almost shrieking buzz. On a eucalypt beside the track a cicada shed its skin and unfolded its crumpled wings as we watched.
Empty cicada skins clung to every branch and tree trunk. The kids collected them and used them to decorate their jumpers and hats.
Our grandchildren enjoyed the rocks and caves, flowers and creek, but it’s the cicadas they remember most.
Our whole family has been to Girraween and Stanthorpe many times. I’d like to buy a house in the area, but only if I could have some boulders. If you live on the Granite Belt, you can expect a boulder or two in your yard. My cousin has built a house on top of a granite outcrop overlooking the National Park. She has a fine collection of boulders, and she’s building a garden among them. I envy her.