TAMING THE GLAMPING JUGGERNAUT

nightfall camp glamping luxury camping lamington national park queensland.“Take me to a quiet place with earth under our backs, cradled in a forest glade.  There we will point out things we see and acknowledge those things we do not.   In solitude we take in the wisdom offered in each other and take in the hum of the forest.” – Phoebe Wall

Oh my,  the days are flying,  Christmas is almost upon us,  the forests of Lamington National Park are thick with new growth,  a new tent sits in its clearing and we haven’t posted on nightfall’s blog for close to 12 months.  How remiss.  Where did the year go?

What have we been up to at nightfall? A bit of this and a bit of that,  with lots in between to distract us from writing perhaps.   We like to think it’s been a time of consolidation,  with a few big steps along the way.

Peter Greste with Heidi RossFebruary was cause for celebration when our good friend,  the Australian journalist, Peter Greste was finally freed from jail in Cairo,  after 400 days of wrongful detention by Egyptian authorities.  If you stayed with us before that time,  you might have inadvertently become part of Peter’s journey,  as I took phone calls day and night,  responded to emails and rushed off to host family press conferences.

As Peter’s friend and a friend of the family,  I (Heidi) ran the media campaign to secure his freedom,  while Steve worked twice as hard to keep nightfall on track.  Over the year,  we liaised with more than 350 journalists from around the world.  It was  grueling,  challenging,  exhausting and rewarding.   Journalist Alice Gorman captured our campaign life well in this article.

We often joke that Peter’s freedom was also our own … allowing us to finally focus wholeheartedly again on our nightfall dream.  Working between guests,  it took us until May to bring online nightfall’s third glamping safari tent.  Yes,  more sewing for me;  welding,  landscaping  and furniture building for Steve;  and lots of decisions about furnishings and bedding.

nightfall camp glamping luxury camping lamington national park queenslandnightfall camp glamping luxury camping lamington national park queenslandThe results are worth every bit of the slaving on detail.  Since we opened the camp,  guests have commented on the homely eclectic touches in our permanent tents.  We love the evolution our our under-canvas accommodation,  as we add to the layers of understated luxury — linen cushions from Reinventare,  delightfully soft linen sheets from Cultiver,  Scandinavian style towels from Linum and Luna Gallery’s delectable mohair blankets  (fully machine washable and able to go in the dryer … revolutionary!).

nightfall’s camp lounge also evolved:  a bit more timber here and there and canvas panels to close down the space in winter for cozy nights of stories and laughter at the shared Long Table,  beside the open fire.  Eight adults makes for a wonderful dinner party atmosphere.

Now,  as the days and nights warm,  our thoughts return to the creek,  with its cool waters and the opportunity to again create the romance and intimacy of Dining on the Rapids.  Nothing beats the hypnotic sounds of tumbling waters,  the flickering of kero lamps reflected in the flowing stream and time with your lover.  The days are also now warm enough for massages and personal yoga sessions on the creek.  nightfall’s therapist Kara Swift is passionate about organic product – her facials and massages are a favourite way to rejuvenate as you soak up the sounds and magic of our wilderness.

So what lies ahead for the next few months?  A full house … what’s new!

Yes,  we’re sad many of you who’re choosing to return are finding you can’t get in for months.  We currently turn away more guests than we’re able to accommodate.  Yes,  we could build more tents,  but then we ask ourselves what is it about nightfall that’s special.  In part it’s the intimacy of the experience,  so no,  we won’t be adding a host more tents.   Instead we promise to become better at reminding you to book ahead.

We  have also realised a need to refine nightfall,   so Steve and I actually get at least one day off each week.  We need to tame our galloping juggernaut,  so nightfall does become the centrepiece of our genuinely  sustainable life.

From March 2016,  we have tweaked our format,  creating nightfall’s new Ultimate Weekend Retreat  –  arrive mid Friday and don’t leave until Sunday afternoon (none of those uncomfortable 10am departures!).  We believe those extra hours will add to the feeling of an extended break.  Add an open bar,  a myriad more little touches and a three-night Ultimate Long Weekend option each month … but more of all that in our next blog.

Enjoy the count down to the Festive Season,

Warmest Regards,

Heidi and Steve

Heidi and Steve, nightfall host owners

Celebrating winning a Queensland Tourism award …

 

nightfall-camp-queensland-tourism-award

 

What an honour it was for nightfall camp to be named the Silver winner for New Tourism Development at last Friday night’s Queensland Tourism Awards.

The award is a benchmark for industry excellence – an accolade we’re very proud of,  especially when we still only consider ourselves in ‘guinea-pig’ testing mode.

Our thanks goes to the wonderful guests we’ve had these past few months, each of whom has contributed to helping us fine-tune nightfall’s luxury camp experience.

 

Reflecting on a luxury camping life

queensland-luxury-camping-glamping-nightfall-campWow, time flies! It’s almost eight months since nightfall camp began taking ‘guinea pig‘ road-test guests to fine-tune our Queensland luxury camping (glamping) experience and the identity of our wilderness camp.

The response continues to amaze us. nightfall’s laid-back personalised experience touches a core. Referrals, positive reviews and returning guests mean the camp is booking well in advance – we don’t have an available night until January 2015.

bucketlist glamping queensland luxury camping nightfall campindoor-outdoor-bath-glamping-nightfall-camp-queenslandingviews-wilderness-luxury-camping-glamping-nightfall-camp

Through winter, the in-tent designer fireplaces were a hit. Some loved reclining in a steaming epsom-salt bath (vintage tin baths, no less), with champagne, views of the fire-place flames and the wilderness outside. Others rotated the fireplace to face the bed, creating a cozy candle-lit under-canvas cocoon by night. Mornings were just as special, snuggled-up in bed,  cuppa in-hand, watching the flames of the fireplace and the birds outside  – all against the backdrop of mist swirling around the dramatic gorge rock-face.

luxury-tent-camping-glamping-nightfall-camp-queenslandThe warm weather has now shifted the focus: guests instead relish immersing in nature. The canvas walls of nightfall’s luxury tents are almost permanently rolled-up, creating private mesh rooms which blend seamlessly with the surrounding forest. From the couch, the bed or even the generous rain-head open shower, there’s an almost unhindered view of tangled green foliage, dotted with brightly coloured parrots and the occasional shy grazing wallaby.

We’ve a sense of deep satisfaction, watching the delight of our guests, walking into nightfall’s spacious private tents for the first time. There’s universal approval of our bespoke architect-inspired design with its generous space to lounge, play or simply retreat by day or night. Many comment on the high-quality, hand-crafted, detail, including the carved rock hand-basins, hand-formed copper tap-ware, wire-brushed aged-hardwood floors and recycled bridge timber furnishings.

christmas-creek-at-nightfall-camp-luxury-camping-glamping-queensland(Looking upstream on nightfall’s private creek frontage. Image thanks to Photography by Kingsley)

Steve and I love to watch the stresses of daily-life lift.  Faces visibly relax and glow as visitors soak-up this life where time and the everyday are not a factor. Perhaps it’s the fresh country air, or the days spent deep in the wild forests or by the creek … be it exploring or just lounging between rapids, deep swimming-holes and just reading a book and day-dreaming in the comfortable outdoor beanbags, placed in shady spots beside the tumbling waters.

We now realise that perhaps we under-estimated the magic of nightall’s 1.5km private creek frontage – the water so pure you can drink it. On hot days, we all retreat to secluded shady spots or the deep cool waters – always with a nice cool drink or two. By night, we light-up the flowing waters with primitive kerosene lamps, their flames flickering like fairy lights. Dining on the Rapids has become a signature warm-weather dining experience, loved by guests. Sitting under the stars, nightfall’s fire-cooked organic cuisine and biodynamic wine tops off a truly intimate and unique occasion.

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The nightfall camp of today is still a long way off the camp we dream of – not that our guests mind. Dry conditions (yes, in contrast to the extreme wet of last year!) have slowed  landscaping and we’ve learned a few lessons about making sure we give ourselves the occasional few days  without guests, ensuring there’s time to do the jobs that still need to be done. Life at nightfall  remains truly a wonderful learning adventure.

THE JOURNEY TO PLATYPUS POND – PERFECT CREEK SWIMMING

 

nightfall-wilderness-camp-platypus-pond-walk-after-flood

There’s nothing nicer than taking the afternoon off for adventure and many of our first guests have commented about the special feel of nightfall’s Platypus Pond,  not far from the camp’s main lounge and swimming hole.

Platypus Pond is named after the elusive monotreme which,  if you pick the right time of day,  can occasionally be seen all along our Christmas Creek headwaters.   The secluded swimming spot is a gentle 500m rock-hop from nightfall’s main camp.  Depending on the height of the creek,  in most parts you can also choose to walk beside the water.

christmas-creek-lamington-nightfall-wilderness-camp-luxury-camping-queensland Platypus pond walk  gallery rainforest

Along the way sections of  Queensland gallery rainforest meld with dramatic vertical sheets of rock.  Look closely and you’ll spot a range of orchids, giant figs and other treasures.  The flow from nightfall’s spring-fed waterfall also joins the creek a little way from the camp.

swimming-hole-christmas-creek-nightfall-camp-glamping-queensland platypus-pond-christmas-creek-at-nightfall-camp-private-swimming-hole-scenic-rim-queensland

A vertical rock face at the creek edge and deep water herald your arrival at Platypus Pond.  Here the creek is often over three-metres deep.  It’s fun to jump from the cliffs into the deep water,  but please make sure to check before for obstacles and boulders below the surface  (they occasionally come down from neighbouring Lamington National Park when the creek floods) .

Platypus Pond is one of many secret spots along nightfall’s private 1.5km Christmas Creek frontage.

(images:  top – nightfall host Heidi and resident wallaby joey Lillypilly negotiate a rocky outcrop along the journey (creek level higher than average);   middle  –  gallery rainforest along the way;  bottom – nightfall host Steve collects the perfect bark serving bowl (post-flood treasures) and the thrill of plunging into the depths of Platypus Pond on a hot afternoon.

SHAPING QUEENSLAND GLAMPING WITH GUINEA PIGS: THE DREAM MOVES FORWARD

glamping-queensland-bath-luxury-camping-nightfall-wilderness-camp

No, nightfall camp’s guinea-pigs are not the hairy little critters some keep as pets:  they are our first  glamping guinea-pig guests who,  over the past few weeks,  have generously offered feedback and a myriad of inspirational thoughts as they experience nightfall’s new luxury camp on the edge of Lamington National Park.

As ‘glamping‘ hosts,  Steve and I are the kind of people who want everything to be perfect straight-away.  We’re learning the reality is all new ventures require a settling-in period.  Like it or not,  we are reminded these things take time,  especially when you set the bar high.  Fortunately our ‘Guinea-Pig’ Opening Feedback Special is keeping the process exciting.   As we go about ironing out the lumps and bumps – adding detail to our luxury tents,  beautifying along the way and sourcing  forgotten elements – we’re also relishing the opportunity to include the fresh and unique perspectives, shared by guinea-pig guests.

We’re truly inspired by your ideas,  including placing two vintage tin baths on the creek bank – what better than a steaming soak beside the crystal-clear white-topped rapids (naturally contamination will be avoided by avoiding oils or bubbles);  coals to cook additional breakfast toast,  should you desire;  and a mud-map to guide guests to the secrets of Lamington National Park.  We also chuckled at the suggestion to name one tent the ‘Tent House’,  adopting the glamour of a Penthouse with extra treats and indulgences,  perhaps appropriate to honeymooners and others on special occasion retreats.

luxury-tent-nightfall-camp-glamping-queensland

(photo L to R: each tent sits in its own private forest clearing;  enjoying the views;  generous 62m2 of living space;  looking in through the openable shower wall – and yes, the shower does have a wooden floor)

Tourism is a new for Steve and I.  That’s good and bad.  Tried and tested industry operational formulas are there for a reason,  but we’re finding it’s helpful to not know too much,  instead adopting a fresh approach.   nightfall camp is not a hotel – we prefer to think of it as sharing our little patch of Australian wilderness.   We’re enjoying discovering the best and most personal ways to make our guests feel at home.

We’re also loving tailoring your experiences.   Some guests prefer the most private of private retreats with picnics in the forest,  secluded massages and romantic dinners,  tucked-away on nightfall’s intimate creek-side beach:  yes,  we do have fun setting that one up … picture a candle-lit table beside the creek with a personal wood fire.  Carefully placed  lanterns line the water’s edge,  ensuring the flickering flames reflect in the moving stream and gently light the cliffs on the other side of the creek.  For other guests, the nightfall camp experience is more social:  we enjoy the warmth of evenings by the communal fire and dinners together,  swapping life experiences and bantering over who will have the last piece of Mum’s legendary pavlova.  Steve’s fire-cooked organic fare is also proving a hit – wood-oven-roasted vegetables with rosemary lamb,  wild cress salads and steaks seared over the flames are popular,  so too is the locally-grown mango,  sprinkled with brown sugar, grilled and served with ice-cream for desert.

It’s wonderfully rewarding to finally share nightfall with guests.  We think we have a pretty special spot and we love hearing others feel the same.   The fresh perspective of newcomers is gold.  nightfall’s ‘guinea-pig’ special was to have been a short promotion,  but after some consideration we’ve now decided to continue it a little longer … your feedback is critical to the development of nightfall’s unique character and for that we are most grateful.

If you’d like to be a nightfall camp glamping guinea-pig, you’ll find details on our opening special page.

Until next time,

Heidi

A NIGHTFALL CAMP GIFT VOUCHER – THE PERFECT LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS PRESENT

 

Did you know nightfall camp does gift vouchers?  They’ve been going like hotcakes for the last few weeks.

Presented as a square card, they’re impressive to receive in the mail. Try our wilderness immersion experience, our wildly romantic retreat or just a night away.  All vouchers are valid for a year from the date they’re issued.

There is still time to email a copy to put under the tree or if you contact us today, we can deliver to Brisbane on Monday December 23.

Phone Heidi on (07) 5544 8070 to order yours.

voucher composite

(images: top – front and back of gift voucher card; below – inside gift voucher card)

A REMINDER TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST

 

Graham and Nell, Lamington

There’s nothing like death to remind us of our impermanence.   And so it is that a cloud hangs over nightfall camp and our close-knit Lamington community, with the sudden passing of our dear friend and neighbour, Graham.

Our thoughts are with his partner Nell and their family.  Our memories are filled with recollections of shared laughter and deep discussions over glasses of Graham’s legendary home-brew.  We’ll miss his generous hugs, his dry-humour, his passion for innovation, his ingenuity and his talent for re-purposing, not forgetting his creative use of baling-twine.

As with all in our community,  Graham had been deeply involved in bringing to life our dream of nightfall camp and the on-going building of our Queensland glamping experience.

 

Together we problem-solved how to drag huge canvas’ through my industrial sewing machine, positioning with contact glue instead of pins.  He was on-hand to refine and test the camp’s gravity-fed water system;  he was there with a glass of cold home-made ginger-beer as I oiled the first tent floor and, if anything was ever broken or missing a piece, it was likely Graham would find something in his shed with which to fix it.  ‘Oh, you can’t throw that away’ he’d say. ‘We might need it one day’.

To Graham and a life well-lived.  We miss you already.

And so we pick ourselves up to live again with passion. With our first guest bookings from February, we’re waiting eagerly for the return of the plumber to nightfall camp.  After so long in the planning and many refinements,  we can’t wait to see the last bits come together — the hand-carved rock basins;  generous showers, open to the private forest outside and king-sized beds, hand-built from chunky reclaimed bridge timbers.

In the interim there’s also other work to be done, fine-tuning of our luxury camping visitor experience, landscaping and maintenance – weeding, mulching and extending gardens, planting more trees and putting love into our organic food gardens.

building-nightfall-camp-queensland-glamping(images L-R: departed wwoofers  Ben and Ellie;  Ellie trellising tomatoes with Anne; Juri clearing Glycine vine with Ben; Christian installing tent canvas’)

We’re sharing this Christmas with our three wwoofer volunteers.  Christian hails from Perth – a school teacher on long service leave.  Anne and Juri are from Germany.  She’s on her way to New Zealand to begin a conservation-related internship and he’s taking a break from riding a motorcycle around the world.  We’re looking forward to enjoying a few Christmas-morning Bloody Mary cocktails with those who share life on our ‘dirt track’, before taking a couple of days off to spend time with family and friends, soaking in nightfall’s  creek rock-pools and savouring the good life.   Another highlight – our annual neighbourhood ‘Christmas Creek Classic Cup‘ – a private New Year’s Day golf in the wilderness event.

From all at nightfall camp, we wish you a relaxing and peaceful Christmas. Enjoy the break.

wallaby-joey-wildlife-glamping-queensland(images L-R: Lillypilly – relaxed after a feed and a cuddle; ‘what’s for breakfast?)

p.s  in response to those who seek a ‘Lillypilly update ‘  – yes, nightfall’s resident wallaby joey continues to thrive.  She’s now  1.14kg and growing up fast.  Each morning she has us in stitches of laughter as she hops our staff tent at great speed –  up, over the bed, around the couch, along the wall and back .. lap after lap.   A cushion obstacle to two adds to the fun before she presses her head against us for a cuddle.

A NEW ‘ROO’CRUIT …

australian-wildlife-experience-wallaby-joey-nightfall-camp She’s got big dark eyes, thick lashes, long muscular legs and hilariously oversized feet. As a petite example of Australian wildlife, she’s also a breath of fresh air in the intense moments building Queensland‘s newest luxury camping experience.

australian-wildlife-wallaby-joey-wilderness-experience-queenslandWelcome ‘Lilly Pilly’ (named after the trees so common in this region).  The baby red-necked wallaby joey captured our hearts the instant we scooped her quivering body off Christmas Creek road.  Her mother was nowhere to be seen.  Judging by the grazes on the youngster’s legs, we assume both were hit by a car – an unfortunately common occurrence on Australia’s roads.

At first glance the young macropod is a comical combination of  carton-mouse head,  over-size ears,  the body of a rat and  disproportionately large T-Rex rear limbs.   With kangaroos, echidnas, koalas and platypus,  it’s easy to see why Australia’s unusual mammals baffled early naturalists.  On first reports,  the platypus –  an egg-laying,  rubber-billed mammal with fur and the webbed feet of a duck – was even considered an elaborate fraud.

Fortunately Lilly Pilly is an easy charge – relaxed, comfortable and curious about her surrounds.  She’s also intriguing.  She washes herself like a cat,  licks in affection and dips her head to say please tickle my neck a little more.

As her adopted ‘mum’,  my favourite time of day is when she emerges from her pouch to nibble on grass roots and cavort around her play-pen.  She stumbles like a drunk when she forgets she doesn’t  always have the co-ordination to scratch and stand at the same time.  As her confidence grows, it’s time for laps.  She bounces here and there before making a quick run for the pouch, tumbling in classic joey style into foetal position to catch her breath and regroup.  On rare moments she’s more grown-up, sticking only her head into the pouch to collect herself.

wallaby-joey-wildlife-experience-queensland-nightfall-camp (L to R: New Wwoof volunteers Ben and Ellie meet Lilly Pilly; day 1 – getting used to a cloth pouch;  day 4- checking out the playpen;  sleeping like a baby…)

Lilly Pilly’s arrival has helped put perspective into the intensity of this final push to complete the building of nightfall wilderness camp’s Queensland glamping experience.  Feeding the young joey every  four-and-a-half-hours, day and night, enforces moments of quiet contemplation, deepening my connection with our Australian wildlife, nightfall’s surrounds and my sense of wonderment at the cleverness of nature.

We’re now into the nitty-gritty of construction, adding layers of detail to our permanent tent accommodation.  It’s slow considered work, where attention to the creative and innovative is paramount.  Consider the bathroom fit-out: it would have been easy to walk into a major franchise to pick off-the-rack taps, but that’s not nightfall.  Even when you have great ideas,  there are stumbling blocks in the plumbing and building regulations. Taps alone must have hot and cold symbols and WELS certification. Rejecting the mainstream chrome took us along a bumpy journey, eventually culminating with the discovery of  New Zealand’s Heritage Bathware company. Their aged copper and brass tapware was exactly what we’d been looking for.  Heritage Bathware owner Michael Brown lovingly handcrafts rain-head showers and adds his distinctive touch to vintage taps. He also has great vision, easily grasping styles which differ from the norm. We now wait excitedly to put the look together when the plumber returns.

shower head

COMING SOON: ANNOUNCING NIGHTFALL’S OPENING DATE AND LIMITED OPENING-CELEBRATION OFFER.
BOOK NOW OR ENTER YOUR EMAIL BELOW TO JOIN OUR MAILING LIST AND HEAR THE NEWS FIRST

FRIVOLITY AS WE CREATE ‘PLATYPUS WATCH’

building-nightfall-camp-revegetation-erosion-control‘Pick me, pick me!’ There’s a child in all of us and, yes, we’re guilty of indulging in a little horsing-around, while building nightfall’s luxury tent accommodation on the banks of Christmas Creek beside Lamington National Park. This week  laughter was intercepted with squeals,  as neighbour Rob and Wwoofer volunteer Kirsty rode nightfall camp’s ‘chair-lift’ equivalent.  Perched in an excavator bucket above the tumbling waters of Christmas Creek,  their antics were part of work to repair a high overhanging creek-bank. The erosion-control job was always going to be tricky,  but seated in the excavator bucket they were safely able to drill holes in the steep soil face and plant Lomandra longifolia (ideal for holding the bank together).  Fortunately it was a smooth ride – Steve’s machine-operating skills are well-honed by months of earthworks,  shaping the camp to form access tracks,  tent platform sites, pier footings,  rock walls and more. nightfall-camp-erosion-control Repair work to the bank also makes the spot, dubbed ‘Platypus Watch‘,  safe for  guests.  The elevated vantage point will soon be home to couple of deck chairs – think relaxing on dusk with a drink and nibbles or sipping an early-morning espresso coffee as you sit quietly waiting to glimpse  the secretive marsupial.  Christmas Creek’s deep pools and well-covered banks are perfect habitat for the platypus, but they also make the illusive monotreme hard to spot. nightfall-camp-christmas-creek-post-flood (image: the view from ‘Platypus Watch’ –  three days after a reasonable flood you won’t see platypus,  but the water is an amazing blue-green) nightfall’s private luxury tents and camp infrastructure are carefully positioned in a previously disturbed section of our 257-acre site.  We’ve now planted almost 800 trees into this creekside area to restore the gallery rainforest to a habitat typical of our mountain headwaters.  Some of the work falls under the banner of a wider SEQ Catchments-SEQ Water Upper Christmas Creek Restoration Project.  Their focus is water quality – after all, the water which passes nightfall camp enters the Logan River and forms part of the drinking water supply to Brisbane and the Gold Coast. nightfall-camp-revegetation Restoration and horsing-around aside, it’s been a somewhat frustrating week, with work on the ground slowed each day by rain from storms.  Steve and Etienne have had a muddy job,  putting pipes in the ground to get water to each tent.  The builder has also again been delayed.  Fingers crossed next week he’ll lay the last of the floors in our tents. Sadly our time with nightfall’s Wwoof volunteers Etienne and Kirsty is also fast drawing to a close. It’s hard to believe they’ve been here for three months.   With thanks for their help, wonderful humour and great support, we wish them well on the next chapter of their global adventures. nightfall-camp-wwoof-volunteers-and-hosts(image: Wwoof volunteers Etienne McLaughlin and Kirsty Phillips, with nightfall camp hosts Heidi and Steve Ross and ‘Mr’)

HELP FALLS FROM THE SKY, SOMERSAULTING WORKERS & BANDICOOT BARRIERS …

 

test-photograph-staff-luxury-tent-nightfall-camp

Dusk and the starry-night sky are perfect for time-lapse photography, except when you have high winds.  Such was the evening we chose to trial some shots of a nightfall camp luxury tent  – they’re far from perfect, but the test images give us an idea of where we’re headed.  Now we can’t wait for our photographer to work his magic.  What do you think?

building-nightfall-camp

It’s been another busy few weeks, building nightfall camp.  All of our luxury tent roofs are now up, thanks to neighbours and a band of friends who actively seek out adrenalin-fueled challenges.  In spectacular fashion, the ‘high ropes’ boys recently dropped into our Lamington gorge.  Laughter and banter flowed as they quickly got to work on the tent frame, somersaulting  and gliding like acrobats to first put in place the insulation and then the tent fly-sheet. Those of us who prefer to stay on the ground could only marvel at their agility and confidence. No dragging ladders around for these boys.  Then last weekend we had cause for real celebrations as our final tent roof was hoisted into place with the help of nightfall’s neighbours and Wwoofer volunteers.  It takes about eight people to do the job, so we’re very grateful to  those who’ve come to help with the raising of each tent.

bandicoot-proofing-permaculture-gardennightfall’s organic permaculture food garden has also moved into a new phase with Steve’s parents Neil and Margaret instigating construction of  a solid fence to keep out the bandicoots.  The friendly nocturnal marsupial critters love to dig for worms and other insects, but they’re also very efficient at uprooting anything in their path, including our precious new seedlings.  Now there’s only a few  final touches to go and the garden will be fully enclosed.  A mesh barrier below the ground should stop even the most determined bandicoot.  Our remaining challenges: grasshoppers, snails and slugs.  Molasses spray and beer traps go some way to protecting the plants.  A pond encourages birds and frogs who’re happy to gobble up the slugs and other ‘pest’ bugs.  Such is the life of organic permaculture gardeners.

Wildlife features highly in camp life at the moment.  We saw our first koala, crossing nightfall’s carpark a few weeks ago and each day we’re entertained by the antics of a growing band of brightly-coloured king parrots.  What really took our breath away however was Monty, the python, shedding his skin as we watched in awe.

Monty-python-sheds-his-skin

About a week ago we noticed the tell-tale glazed look across his eyes, as the scale covering them came away.  Then the other night we saw him rubbing his head along the timber to release the old skin.  Sure enough he began to peel it back, wedging his body and contracting his muscles to ease out of the skin.  “Like a giant poo’ was the expression which best summed up the process!

So what’s next in this final stage of building nightfall?  Lots!  After several delays we’re hoping the builder will return this week to finish the tent platform floors.; the under-floor stainless-steel showers trays are finally ready (after glitch the first-time round) signaling a return for the plumber;  I’m madly sewing walls again; we’re planting trees along the creek as part of a catchment restoration program and watering madly to keep them all alive;   and  Steve is laying pipe to get water up to the top tanks and back down to each tent.  We’re also keeping a close eye on a bushfire burning on the other side of our back ridge in the Widgee section of Lamington National Park.  There’s no threat at this point, but it’s important not to be complacent.

fire-at-widgee-at-lost-world-scenic-rim

WOW – HOW GOOD IS THE CREEK ON HOT DAYS!

 

christmas-creek-nightfall-camp(image: Etienne, Kirsty, Steve and ‘Mr’ in the creek rapids at nightfall camp  – quite the place for workers to spend summer lunchtimes)

The weather gods are smiling on nightfall camp.  As the days fly by we’re making great headway, completing the last critical jobs before the coming summer storm season again brings rain to the site of Australia’s newest luxury camping experience.

plumbing-in-nightfall-campLast week we breathed a sigh of relief as the plumbing/drainage pipes were approved by the council inspector and safely ensconced in the ground.  The frame for the last tent is up and as I write Steve is putting the finishing touches to rock retaining walls and drainage behind the tent deck platforms.

The kitchen gardens are coming along nicely too, now thickly spread with organic sugarcane mulch to help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture (a little ironic after the months of mud).  We’ve also sown oodles of wonderful seeds to make sure nightfall‘s diners have on hand the best possible choice of just-picked local organic produce.  Heirloom varieties are another of our passions, so look out for some interesting tomatoes and capsicum over the next few months.

Occasionally we are asked why it’s taking so long to build nightfall’s luxury tent accommodation and camp infrastructure.  Aside from the rain which plagued the first eight months of construction, the reason is that nightfall is a labour of love.  A cliche perhaps, but it’s also true.

You can buy off-the-rack kit tents on the internet and throw them up in a couple of days.  Beautiful tables, chairs, couches, light fittings taps and more abound.  But all of those quick ready-made items just didn’t  fit with our vision for nightfall camp.  So, yes it’s personal – a truly bespoke concept, which takes time to shape and evolve in its own unique way.

 

Our retreat and tent design are a blend ideas from some of the world’s best tented safari camps, coupled with input from architects, eco-tourism gurus, sustainability experts and others.  The 62m2 tents are almost 100% built by us: we bring in the builders and plumbers when it’s essential but on the whole Steve and his boys cut and weld the six-mm thick steel frames; together with our wonderful friends and neighbours we stand them; then they’re fitted with canvas walls, sewn by the girls and I.  We’re all involved in fitting-out the camp, hand-crafting the more creative furnishings and decorative ‘found-in-nature’ features.

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(images – standing the last tent with the help of friends and neighbours, Etienne checking levels and making adjustments the old fashioned ‘chock’ way, Heidi concreting in the footings)

This arrangement comes in part because it’s difficult to secure tradesmen in regional Australia and because of the cost of labour for such delicate and detailed hand-built work.  Long ago Steve and I made a life-style decision not to max ourselves out with a huge mortgage.  At times I curse the resulting tight budget.  More often than not I realise it is what makes us all the more resourceful, creative and true to our desire to truly live the Simple Life.  I also appreciate how lucky I am to be married to a man who can do almost anything.

If you’ve ever brought to life a big idea you’ll appreciate the complexities of progressing something this huge to finish.  Project managing the entire development ourselves and doing most of the building is akin to a wildly erratic roller coaster ride.  Our journey swings sharply from excitement and satisfaction as each task is ticked off, to days when the perceived enormity of what’s still to do remains daunting and overwhelming.  In those moments it’s hard to focus and keep track of the seemingly endless lists of things that need to be done, things that need to be ordered, things that need to be revised, and then more of the above all over again.

The saying ‘Just Do It‘ often comes to mind at the point.  And so here we are, taking baby steps into the final stages of building nightfall.  Look out soon for an opening date!

MASTERING THE ART OF PATIENCE …

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Overcome the challenges.  Repeat.  ad infinitum.  Yes,  the building process certainly teaches patience,  both on our part and that of the wonderful guests,  waiting for the opening of nightfall’s  Gold Coast Hinterland luxury camping experience.  It’s great to hear you’re excited because we are too!

We’ve faced a number of challenges in the past few weeks,  the first being just how to get two 2500L galvanised water header-tanks to their position on the hill,  high above the camp’s luxury tent accommodation.  With the steep and slippery access track finally dry enough,  plan 1 was to carry each tank up with the help of nightfall’s excavator.  Fail.  Plan 2:  make a cradle for the tank and then do what we do best at nightfall – use people power to get the job done.  After a little welding and a couple of phone calls we were ready.  Our wonderful neighbours arrived and with four people on the front and five on the back the adrenaline kicked in.  Determination combined with brute force to place the tanks on their high platform.

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nightfall camp will be self-sufficient when it comes to water.  Rainfall from our creekside shed roof will be collected in a 5000G galvanised tank,  then pumped-up to the header storage tanks on the hill and gravity-fed to each tent.  UV-treatment will ensure the water is safe for drinking.

The other major challenge this week was rain,  complete with an impressive show of thunder and lightening over our Gold Coast Hinterland region.  The 41-mm which fell returned our final tent site to mud, so it’s back to doing odd jobs while we wait for the ground to dry once again.  If all goes to plan we should be able to drill the post holes next week and the camp’s plumbing trenches will go in the following week.   With the final piece of critical infrastructure in place we’ll at last feel confident enough to name an opening date.  Fingers crossed we don’t get more than a few showers before then.

If you’ve read our blog before you’ll know international Wwoofer volunteers play a big part in the building of nightfall.  We’ve got a great crew on board at the moment.  Etienne Mclaughlin has become Steve’s right-hand-man,  helping weld tent frames,  cut fire wood,  clear the creek-crossing causeway, build rock-walls  and more.  Half French,  half Scottish,  with an Irish surname and born in Barcelona,  Spain,  Etienne is proficient in four languages.  His English is spoken with a fascinating blended accent which keeps most new visitors to nightfall guessing about his heritage.

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The UK’s Kirsty Phillips has also been at nightfall a few weeks now.  Her marketing background and creative thinking has been refreshing,  as we dream-up an opening special and revamp the website to reflect nightfall camp’s evolving identity.  She’s a whiz at weeding bindi-thorns from the grass,  so we can all walk barefoot;  a dab-hand helping to sew canvas walls for nightfall’s luxury tents,  and to top it off she shares our passion for the natural treasures which surround us.  A  while ago we used pebbles from nightfall’s creek to craft a prototype doormat for the entry to each tent.   Kirsty’s been hard at work collecting suitable stones for the real thing.  While fossicking on nightfall’s Christmas Creek ‘beach’,  she also created a stunning collection of small coloured stones, shown in the photo at the top of this blog post.

SUNSHINE, HAPPINESS AND TICKING OFF JOBS

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(image: relaxing in nightfall camp’s private section of Christmas Creek – these sun-filled days of swimming are almost back)

Main tent footings poured, tick; water pipes laid into trenches, tick; lower trench filled, tick; insulation into the roof of guest tent one, tick; trees trimmed over solar panels, tick … yes, without mud everywhere, at the moment there’s almost a sense giddy exhilaration building nightfall camp’s luxury tent accommodation.

Seven months of continuous and unseasonal  south-east Queensland weather appears to finally be over for our mountainous Gold Coast hinterland retreat. Even the forecaster on the radio last week supported our sense that something was changing: “It’s pretty questionable if we will get any significant rainfall for the month of August” he said. Needless to say, we did more than cheer.

These last few weeks of winter have been spectacular – clear blue skies, crisp cool mornings and some delicious warm day-time interludes, one of which even led Steve to dive into our deep creek swimming hole for a dip.

After living for what seems like an eternity with drizzle, rain and mud, it’s hard to put into words the full impact of this change. We can finally traverse nightfall’s construction site without gumboots and progress jobs which have been stalled for months.  A new energy and lightness also fills our souls, as well as a happiness, which has caught me off guard. Have I been unhappy?  No, but perhaps working so hard to always stay positive and look on the bright side has somehow masked the true extent of the doldrums which come from prolonged difficult times.  The contrast now of sunshine and lightness is revealing to true extent of what has in fact been quite a challenging period.

Building without mud is so much easier and faster. With the main tent footings poured last week, all is now ready to begin assembling the four portals which make up the frame for nightfall’s main tent. The 6mm thick steel sections each weigh hundreds of kilograms, but hopefully, with the ground now drier, we’ll once again be able to use machinery to help hoist them into place. As you might remember, nightfall’s previous two luxury tent frames were raised with the assistance of a dozen or so friends and neighbours because it was just too muddy for machine access.

With a little luck, no more rain and some warm sunshine, in the next few weeks we might even find our hillside on the banks of Christmas Creek dry enough to lay the plumbing pipes into trenches and place the gravity-feed water header tanks up the hill.

Fingers crossed!

(images – pouring main tent footings: Lamington innovation – the concrete chute extension crafted by a neighbour; our trusty ‘dingo’ mini-loader has saved many a day – in this case carting concrete to fill the far side footing)

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(If this is the first time you’ve read our building nightfall blog diary, you might be interested in looking at other entries and the rest of our website.  As with on-the-ground construction, our website is also a veritable work in progress.  New images and information are added as we progress.)

DESIGNING AUSTRALIAN WILDERNESS ACCOMMODATION – SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS

 

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(image – road-testing nightfall camp’s proto-type ‘swag’ bed, under the stars, beside our main campfire)

In the quest to craft the ultimate authentic Australian wilderness accommodation experience,  it’s hard to go past the simple pleasure of sleeping outside,  with nothing between you and the spectacular star-filled night sky.  In fact,  in Australia,  it’s tradition.  Canvas ‘swag‘ bedrolls are as much a part of our pioneering and explorer history,  as they are of modern jackaroo life on our vast outback stations.

“Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”
– the 1895 ballad ‘Waltzing Matilda’ by Australian poet Banjo Patterson,(occasionally referred to as the unofficial national anthem of Australia)

The swagmen of Australia’s late 1800s and early 1900s were often itinerant farm-workers,  many who walked from job to job,  carrying on their backs a spare set of clothes and a ‘bluey‘ (blue bush blanket),  wrapped in a canvas tarpaulin.  Their ‘swag‘ often also contained a tucker bagtucker (food) and a billy (kettle) for making tea.

At nightfall camp we’ve spent a much time considering how best to capture the magic of nights in a canvas swag,  with your face open to the inky sky,  watching for shooting stars, satellites,  the milky way and the Southern Cross.  Our core criteria is always comfort:  the raw-luxe which is integral to our Queensland luxury camp wilderness experience.  The result — a custom-designed,  hand-built swag;  a cocoon of canvas decked-out with high-quality mattress,  luxury linens,  feather pillows,  plumped quilts and insect-screening for those who like to know they’re protected from creepy crawlies.

Throw in a hot-water bottle for cooler nights,  slip between the sheets and you’re ready to experience a unique close-up perspective of our Queensland wilderness.  On most nights the velvety sky overhead is dotted with a million stars.  You’ll feel the gentle caress of cool breezes on your face,  smell the scents of the forest and experience the unique sound of Australia’s nocturnal wildlife as it punctuates the constant tumbling of water,  flowing down Christmas Creek.  At dawn,  a new sound-track begins,  as whip-birds call to mates,  glossy-black cockatoo’s fly overhead,  kookaburras laugh and king parrots come in for an early breakfast.

Each nightfall wilderness accommodation experience includes this option to sleep under the stars.  We’ll happily make-up a swag on your private tent deck.  In case of light rain,  you can pull over your swag‘s canvas flap or retreat back into the comfort of the king-sized bed inside your permanent luxury tent.

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Aside from designing and sewing  nightfall‘s proto-type swag, and road-testing it,  sleeping beside our main fire (image at the top of this blog post),  it’s been a quiet week at nightfall camp.  We’re still waiting patiently for our Gold Coast hinterland hillside to dry and the moisture in the air to drop enough to let us move forward with oiling floorboards and putting up canvas walls on our private luxury tent accommodation.

July 2013 capped off with 116mm of rain – more than double last year’s 52mm for July and almost four times the 30mm which fell in July 2011.  This amount of rain wouldn’t be an issue in open well-drained countryside,  but our forested site, combined with cool winter days,  are unfortunately keeping the ground sodden.

And so we continue to learn the art of patience,  looking on the bright side, and focusing on the myriad of other details which need to be completed before our new Australian wilderness accommodation can open.

EVOLVING AN AUSTRALIAN WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE WITH FIRE-COOKED ORGANIC CUISINE

 

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“To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything else in the world” U.S novelist Charles Dudley Warner

Nights under star-filled skies, roaring camp fires, beautiful wines and the distinctive flavours of flame-grilled and slow-cooked camp-oven food … ah, the simple pleasures, which we’re melding into our lives, as we craft nightfall camp‘s new Australian wilderness experience.

Fire is soul-food for Steve and I.  Like moths, we’re are magically drawn to the leaping flames. We’re seduced by the gentle crackling of the burning timbers and entranced by the flavours of flame-cooked cuisinenightfall camp‘s main fire pit sits under leafy figs, not far from our private stretch of tumbling creek waters. While we continue to build the camp we spend most evenings seated on or beside the large rocks which surround the fire. It’s easy to talk, laugh and share experiences, as we watch the dancing flames, savour the unbridled warmth and often cook our meals.

wood-fired-oven-nightfall-camp-queensland-wilderness-experienceAs I write, the mouth-watering smell of ironbark smoke lingers on our hands. We’ve just lit nightfall‘s new custom-built Aromatic Embers wood-fired oven and grill, in preparation for another evening exploring the alluring art of wood cookery.  Our mission — to evolve a distinctive signature flavour for the organic cuisine of nightfall‘s Queensland luxury camping wilderness experience.

In-spite of the fancy new oven, cooking with fire has a strong primal-feel. This is food which harks back to a past when life was simpler. It speaks of ancient traditions, family gatherings, comfort-giving nourishment and nostalgic memories of camping.

We’re learning to tame the leaping flames to a level which sears and caramelises when fast grilling, or imparts delicious deep smokey flavours, laced with woody aromas, when slow roasting. Do it right, in combination with high-quality freshly-picked produce, and fire is the ultimate flavour-enhancer. The wood used is not just a fuel. It also becomes the healthy additive-free seasoning. Each timber species has its own personality with unique distinctive flavours – citrus compliments fish while lighter woods, such as olive, impart delicate nuances of flavour best paired with vegetables. I can’t wait to experiment with wood from old wine barrels – I’ve  read ‘they realise a toasted smokiness with a subtle interplay of oak and wine, giving notes of vanilla and spice’.

What a delicious journey we’re on …

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(If this is the first time you’ve read our building nightfall blog diary, you might be interested in looking at other entries and the rest of our website.  As with on-the-ground construction, our website is also a veritable work in progress.  New images and information are added as we progress.)

LOST WORLD HUES INSPIRE ARTISTRY

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(image – the first rough draft of nightfall camp’s hand-drawn guest map)

The  overwhelming desire to capture a moment of magical light on a landscape is something most people are familiar with.  There are many days I’ve wished I had the skills to translate, with water-colours onto paper, the delicate hues of nightfall wilderness camp‘s Lost World wilderness. This week I’ve had a little taste, by proxy, thanks to one of our artistic guests.

Christine Urquhart is a theatre designer who, with her husband Rhys, came to nightfall camp as volunteer workers. Fortunately for us, Christine had a four-week break in her schedule as Production Designer for Zen Zen Zo‘s upcoming depiction of the Greek tragedy Medea.

This week Christine set about creating a ‘mud-map’ to help guests find their way around nightfall camp. She worked to capture the rich palate of blues and greens which dominate nightfall‘s forests and the Lost World, as well as the special hideaways on our immediate frontage to Christmas Creek. Jokes about maps in the mud aside – yes, it continues to rain almost every day – we love the result. We’re also inspired to keep a set of water-colours in nightfall‘s main lounge, allowing guests who’re overcome with artistic desires to capture their Queensland wilderness experience in a uniquely personal way.

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(image – landscapes and water-colours inspire artistry;  hand-made for nightfall camp’ organic food garden; a contented, muddy echidna)

While Christine has spent time painting, Rhys has unleashed a loving passion for ecological restoration.  Almost single-handedly he’s carefully marked young trees which are naturally regenerating in nightfall wilderness camp‘s gallery rainforest and culled the weeds which hinder their growth. Aside from us, his greatest fans are nightfall‘s echidnas. They’re loving getting muddy,  rooting around for critters in the newly disturbed soil.

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(image – Rhys Williams and Christine Urquhart work in nightfall’s rainforest  regeneration area)

The time has now come from Christine to return to the theatre, so today we farewelled the couple as they return to Brisbane. We also say goodbye to German volunteer ‘Wwoofer’ workers Julian and Kai – they’re off to become ‘Outback Packers’ … first with a course in working on a farm and then, hopefully heading into the ‘real’ Australia,  to immerse in life on an Outback cattle station.

Julia, Kai, Rhys, Christine

(image – a break from volunteering at nightfall camp: Julian, Kai, Rhys and Christine, wearing the obligatory construction ‘mud boots’)

WALKING LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK – INSPIRATION FROM HISTORY

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“We plunged through a green doorway, as sudden as from light into darkness and into the jungle itself where the trees rose in moss-covered columns,  some green, some grey, some mottled, some rough, others smooth, some twisted and distorted, others straight and stately,  all to support a continuing canopy of green … What a garden!”        (Arthur Groom, One Mountain After Another)

Queensland explorer, naturalist and tourism pioneer Arthur Groom’s inspirational account of walking Lamington National Park and the area which surrounds nightfall camp. His words perfectly capture the essence of the wild World-Heritage-listed Scenic Rim mountains we call home. Groom’s adventures, and the story of pioneer Bernard O’Reilly’s dramatic rescue of the survivors of a crashed Stinson Airliner, motivate many to visit our part of the world to experience first-hand the majesty and ruggedness of our our backyard, on the doorstep of Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Retracing history

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Last week nightfall camp’s international volunteer Wwoofer workers Christine and Rhys headed off, walking Lamington National Park’s so-called ‘wilderness section’, in search of the historic Westray’s Grave.  James Westray fell to his death in 1937 – he’d set out to raise the alarm after surviving the crash of a Model A Stinson Airliner on the McPherson Range.  The fabric-covered monoplane, with seven people on-board, vanished in cyclonic conditions en-route from Brisbane to Lismore,  New South Wales.

The fate of the wreck became a national obsession as Air-force and private planes searched far and wide for survivors. In the end it was bushman Bernard O’Reilly who solved the mystery. The Scenic Rim pioneer’s heroic two-day solo-trek,  to a burnt-out spot in the forest,  uncovered the charred remains of the plane and later led to the rescue to the two surviving passengers. Four men did not survive the impact of the crash.

The Stinson rescue is an epic story of courage, determination and adversity, which became the subject the telemovie ‘Riddle of the Stinson’, starring Jack Thompson and also a number of books, including Bernard O’Reilly’s own publication, ‘Green Mountains’. The Queensland State Archive’s Stinson Inquest File also provide a fascinating insight into the crash and subsequent rescue.

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Westray’s Grave and ‘The Stinson’ – walking Lamington National Park

The hike from Christmas Creek to Westray’s Grave begins not far from nightfall’s luxury tent accommodation – a relatively easy trek on an un-formed trail beside the pristine tumbling creek waters. Pockets of piccabeen palms ( Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) and a wide variety of rarely seen plant species are found in the ancient Gondwanna subtropical rainforest which lines the route.

Fitter, more experienced bushwalkers may be interested in continuing on up the steep hillside to reach the Stinson wreck-site. After 76-years in the rainforest, only a few pieces of twisted steel remain. The ravages of time, or possibly vandals, also recently took their toll on the memorial, with the disappearance of the plaque of Captain Rex Boydon. It was a proud day late last year when nightfall camp host Steve Ross joined others from The Lost World to place a new name-plate, supplied by the relatives of one of the dead men. (see image above).

While the track to Westray’s Grave is suitable for most fitness levels, the trail from Christmas Creek to the Stinson Wreck is best only attempted by experienced bushwalkers or those who are fit and accompanied by a guide. For those seeking an extreme challenge which rivals sections of the Kokoda Trail, you may also enjoy retracing the epic journey Bernard O’Reilly made from O’Reilly’s Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park to the Stinson wreck site.

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Walkers staying at nightfall camp also have access to hikes on our property, including  to our little spring-fed ‘waterfall’, overhang cave and the popular Buchanan’s Fort, with its spectacular clear-winter-day views to Brisbane and occasionally the Glass house Mountains. Our dream is to perhaps one day put a ‘swag platform’ on this high-point of nightfall camp, so those who’re feeling adventurous can truly ‘camp-out’.  We can’t wait to be the first to try it!

(some images, walking Lamington National Park to Westray’s Grave, courtesy of Rhys Williams)

TREASURE FROM THE WILD …

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I spy with my little eye something beginning with T …  it’s Treasure from nature, perfect for building our unique Queensland Accommodation.

Yes, with each significant creek flood at nightfall wilderness camp comes a trove of flotsam and jetsam – jewels in all shapes and form, washed down from the nooks and crannies of the Scenic Rim‘s Lamington National Park, where Christmas Creek begins.

Like beech-combers on an outgoing tide, we delight in waiting for the flood-waters to drop so we can explore nightfall’s private creek banks for unusual gems:  driftwood with delicious twists and elegant form, moulded by the water’s force;  coloured rocks and stones which glitter or seed pods straight from nature.  Occasionally we also find signs of human-life — chairs, parts of bridges and even small pieces of a car washed down the creek in 2008.

Many of our found treasures are being incorporated  into the design our guest luxury tent accommodation,  as well as nightfall’s creek-side guest lounge and gardens-  components of furniture, lighting or decoration,  both inside and out.

(images L to R: blue waters, three days after this week’s flood; casuarina seed in the debris; a blue rock, part of this week’s first discoveries)

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It’s been another of those weeks I write about so often – yes, more rain!  We recorded over 100mm from Monday to Wednesday, dumped by an East-Coast low pressure system, the likes of which have not been seen in winter in these parts for decades.  On Tuesday morning Christmas Creek was in full flood.  Our carefully dug electrical-wiring trench’s lower section was filled to be brim with silt, and, in many parts,  the sides had also caved-in.   The electrician now joins the list of construction trades to be re-scheduled. Such is life building nightfall camp‘s luxury camping experience.  I cannot wait for the day our new unique Queensland  accommodation is ready and we can move on to a new part of our lives!

It’s far from doom and gloom though. Our British Wwoofer volunteer worker,  Rhys,  has found great satisfaction liberating the trees beside the creek from an ever-encroaching canopy of glycine creeper (Neonotonia wightii).  It’s a pest originally introduced to feed cattle. Uncontrolled, the glycine threatens to overcome much of the native habitat, swallowing young trees and eventually killing all in its path, increasing the risk of erosion of  creek banks.

(images L to R – playing with rocks, a sapling scarred by a glycine creeper, the rear-view of the echidna we spotted by the creek)
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Rhys’ wife Christine is a theatre set designer – what better person to come to nightfall camp to help create our guest experience? Her artistic touches are beginning to appear in nightfall’s organic kitchen food gardens and we’re loving her input into the finer styling details, including light fittings, hand-crafted from Christmas Creek’s driftwood.

Today we were all lucky enough to spend time watching an echidna on the banks of the creek beside nightfall’s lounge. Rhys and Christine have also been looking out for nightfall’s shy platypus, as well as taking time to explore nightfall’s  257 acres and the rugged wilderness of Lamington National Park.

(Image – on route to Westray’s Grave, Lamington National Park historic site)
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If this is the first time you’ve read our building nightfall blog diary, you might be interested in looking at other entries and the rest of our website.  As with  on-the-ground construction, our website is also a veritable work in progress.  New images and information are added as we progress.

NEW FISH DISCOVERIES IN SCENIC RIM’S WORLD HERITAGE LISTED LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK

 

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Imagine finding a fish species that’s never before been seen in your part of the world.  Yes, it was excitement all round,  as the scientists who visited the Scenic Rim‘s nightfall wilderness camp explained their discovery in the headwaters of Christmas Creek, close to where it emerges from Lamington National Park.

For over 11 years, the Department of Science researchers have surveyed fish numbers and species in our pristine Gold Coast Hinterland waterway, using a stun, count and release method called electro-fishing.  The species found were quite consistent, until the scientists last visit, when they discovered a school of Mountain Galaxias (Galaxias olidus).  We’re told this small, elongate, tubular fish only has a nine-metre home range and was previously unknown to our region. The question is which gene pool do Lamington’s Galaxias hail from and how many other species of fish remain undiscovered?

The researchers had a quick, but unsuccessful, look for the Galaxia in nightfall camp‘s section of Christmas Creek.  It was their second visit to our Scenic Rim hideaway, where we’re currently building  luxury tent accommodation. A short survey six months ago recorded five species:  Long-finned eels (Anguilla reinhardtil),  Australian Smelt (Retropinna semoni), Freshwater Catfish, also called Dew fish (Tandanus tandanus), Firetail Gudgeon (Hypseleotris galii) and Cox’s Gudgeon (Gobromorphus roxio), the population of which at one point dropped to next to none, but numbers are once more growing strongly.  We also know of Mary River Cod in our headwaters.

Electro-fishing relies on two electrodes which deliver current into the water, momentarily stunning fish close-by and bringing them to the surface.  The fish are not killed but numbers can be counted, species recorded and fish measured along with other data gathered for analysis.

At nightfall camp we’re also involved in an  SEQ Catchments water monitoring program, recording baseline data for this part of Christmas Creek.  Using a Horiba we’re able to sample ambient water in-situ, recording water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, electrical conductivity, turbidity, Total Suspended Solids, ORP and salinity on a  monthly basis. Our results are combined with data from hundreds of other Scenic Rim volunteers to form a comprehensive baseline record, essential for monitoring catchment health,  both in our headwaters and further downstream.

(Images from left: Australian Smelt, juvenile Long-finned eels, Cox’s Gudgeon)

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WHEN WILL YOUR QUEENSLAND LUXURY CAMPING EXPERIENCE OPEN? THE MUCH ASKED QUESTION!

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‘Are we there yet?’ Almost! The last six months of building nightfall’s newest Queensland luxury camping experience in the rain have certainly been a challenge, but we are finally heading into the final stretch … if the weather will hold off a little.

nightfall camp rainfallA quick study of our six month local rainfall figures this week confirmed our suspicions. Yes, our mountain hideaway, beside Lamington National Park, has experienced its wettest January to June period in 14-years, with 52 days straight of rain and falls or misting precipitation on just under half of the 168 days this year. In the first half of this year we experienced double our usual monthly falls, with 12-months rain falling in under six months.

Fortunately our team isn’t adverse to mud, so on we go. In the past few weeks we’ve added two more luxury tent fly-sheet roofs and in the next few days the floors will be laid in readiness for fitting of the canvas wall panels.

The bad news is we’re still waiting for our hillside to dry enough to dig the trenches needed for plumbing and electrical wiring. A few weeks of dry weather is all we need for our hillside above Christmas Creek to go from mud to a slope safe for excavation.  You never know!

Amid all the rain and mud, it’s been quite special for us to keep receiving phone calls  and emails from people keen to be among the first guests to stay in nightfall camp’s luxury tents. We love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the little details we’re still working to nut-out.

As soon as the plumbing and electrical trenches are  in we’ll be ready to make a big announcement about an opening date for nightfall camp and a special pre-opening ‘road-test’ opportunity.  Join our email list to be one of the first to hear about this limited deal.

Some of this week’s action, building nightfall’s newest Queensland luxury camping accommodation –

Walking in the fly roofMany hands ..Roof to tent 3Mud on the ladder

Mud!Mud to the top of my bootsIMG_0511Heights? no problem