I have a thing for waterfalls. There is something about them that always draws my attention. Perhaps it is the sound of the water as it rushes down the rock face and hits the water below. Perhaps it is the freshness of the spray that lingers in the air. Or maybe it is just the way the sunlight dances on the water as it pours over the escarpment and weaves its way over and around the rocks. It is a symbol of life; quenching thirst, refreshing dry skin, essential for survival.
I grew up in South Australia: the driest state in the driest continent. There are a few waterfalls in South Australia, but like many Australian waterfalls, they can be seasonal. Most of Australia’s waterfalls are found in the Great Dividing Range, which runs from the tip of Queensland down through New South Wales to the Grampians in Victoria. It is over 3,500km long and the third longest land-based mountain range in the world. Toowoomba sits on the Great Dividing Range, or the Range, as it is often called.
One of my favourite places in Toowoomba is a recreation area called Picnic Point. It is actually one of the oldest recreation areas in Toowoomba, established around 1885, and has undergone a lot of changes since then. On a clear day, there is a great view to the east, down the Range, to the Lockyer Valley and beyond. But my favourite place at Picnic Point is the waterfall garden.
It’s not a real waterfall. It was constructed back in 1965 on the face of a bluestone quarry and over the years they’ve done a lot of work to create a rainforest setting. It’s quiet, shady and secluded. Except for the steady drone of the traffic in the background, you could almost forget that you were in a large regional city. The rock face is about 5m high, so it’s certainly not a big waterfall, but I like the sound of the water as it drops from the top and flows down through a series of pools. On either side of the largest pool at the bottom, there are two old-fashioned lampposts that remind me of The Chronicles of Narnia.
As soon as I step out of the car, I can hear the waterfall. I know that every time I come to Picnic Point, except in times of severe drought, I can expect to hear that sound. Just the idea of a waterfall fills us with expectation. On our recent trip to the Crows Nest National Park I was filled with that same expectation. After walking through the bush, past the water pools, up and down numerous steps, I was expecting to see a waterfall. Sadly, I was disappointed. There was no water. Not even a trickle. It’s been a very dry season. Despite the disappointment, I am determined to go again. No matter how many times you see the same waterfall, it is never the same. Every time is different and that is the beauty of nature.
In the meantime, I know that I can go back time and time again to Picnic Point, wander down the short path to the waterfall garden, sit in the shelter, listen to the kookaburras laugh and watch the water as it tumbles down the rocks. When I have had my fill of serenity and solitude, I can return to the hustle and bustle, refreshed and replenished – until the next time.