Weekends are for exploring and getting outdoors, this last weekend we drove for just over an hour to spend Saturday night at the Maidenwell sports ground free camp, and then spent the day exploring Coomba Falls which are just over 2 ks from the campground, we decided to just walk from the camp. It did mean walking down the road but we did not meet much in the way of traffic, the road ends at the top of the ridge above the waterhole, so not a lot traffic anyway. There is a small parking area on the ridge and a toilet but nothing else. The walk down to the waterhole is via stairs and built path, making access extremely easy except for the last few metres which is over older rougher stone steps, no disabled access. It is a hauntingly, beautiful, hidden gem. The Coomba waterhole is on Wakka Wakka country and as always, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the elders past present and emerging and their on going connection to land.
If any state disproved the lie of Terra nullius, Queensland is it, with the rapid expansion of colonial settlement bringing black and white into rapid and bloody conflict. Maidenwell was the reported site of an atrocity and the waterhole features in stories I have seen, while I have struggled to find detailed documented history online, I did find a report from Cherbourg mission mentioning the oral history that records a massacre of aboriginal people at Maidenwell, that claimed the lives of over a hundred people including women and children. Elsewhere I have seen more sensational reports claiming numbers over 300 and that bodies were disposed of in the waterhole itself, an appalling act on what must have been a loved piece of country. If you do know anything about the history, please leave a comment. This is not my story to tell and I would never presume to tell this history without an authoritative reference. Given what I do know about the bloody history of colonialism in Queensland, I believe that an atrocity did take place here and certainly you can find sensational references to stories like the one to be found in the Chronicle story here: https://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/ghost-spotted-site-aboriginal-massacre-asdfasd/2802845/#/0. Did I see ghosts or feel anything untoward? No not really, if anything the place felt peaceful, not so much that nothing dark ever happened here, more that the place felt like it was at peace again or at least that it was a place that allowed me into a calm presence. It felt that it was a place that commanded respect and the solemnity that entering a church commands, but then that tends to be how I feel in the bush anyway. Bush walking is a spiritual act for me, like a kind of contemplative prayer, without the dogma of religion, I am a pagan at heart. I have found since visiting on the weekend I have been left feeling down, maybe just my normal moodiness but I sometimes wonder about what actually triggers this down mood, maybe that is what is really meant by the word haunted.
There has been a fire in the area at some time in the past but the damage appears minor or recovering. As you pass down the stairs into the gully, you do descend past some rather magnificent grass trees, like sentinels on guard, these unique plants are rather grand and given the size I suspect quite old, (notoriously slow growing). There is a great majesty to the landscape here, with the grass trees, granite boulders and cliffs. Cawing crows announced our presence but it was the smaller birds of the area I was hoping to see. It was silent at the waterhole when we first arrived but we sat in the shade and just waited. Patience is rewarded. I am terrible at identifying birds, especially the small ones that flit about with such manic urgency, pretty sure I saw scrub wrens and the cocky little wagtail keen to check out strangers on his turf was pretty easy. The real gift was the amazing little rose robin, ( at least I hope that is what he was, not great at getting species right), but whatever he is it felt like a real gift to sit in shade and watch him and another flit about the trees about us.
The water fall was not flowing. A patch of granite was dark with moisture, where water obviously does seep. The water level in the water hole did seem to be considerably down on what it should be. Apparently the water hole never dries up and the depth is uncertain, but towards the edges I could see submerged rocks and there have been deaths when people have jumped from the cliffs into the water, (Darwin principal at work there I feel). Still this must be a lovely swimming spot in summer, a cool oasis in the heat. The other interesting flora was the rapidly emerging, impertinent prickly pear springing up in contrast to the noble grass trees.
The total walk from the campground down to the waterhole and back would only have been a little over 4 ks, but the hills were on the steep side, so it you want an easier visit you could drive down to the area, but it was a nice walk. A curious place, worth a visit, as the link above would suggest there are all sorts of stories about the location, even found a story about yowie sightings, when I googled, and no I didn’t see a yowie, just some lovely grass trees, granite cliffs and pretty birds though G’s camera did try to recognise a face in a rock at one stage.