By Sarah Vercoe
Forget about life for a while at a sanctuary in the heart of Mapleton National Park, where Gheerulla Falls mesmerises, no matter their magnitude.
Best described as indubitably unreliable, whether Gheerulla falls is a marvellous cascade or punitive trickle depends highly on recent rainfall.
When the falls are rushing they’re striking, yet when the water drips like a leaky tap the scene is all but a pond in the middle of the forest. Whichever falls you’re presented with, the setting offers up a serene spot to pause and contemplate life for a while. It’s effortlessly spectacular and curiously understated.
With two possible routes to Gheerulla Falls, which you take depends entirely on your vigour.
The first is a three-hour romp through the woods, from the farmlands of Gheerulla to the lush forest of Mapleton National Park. The journey takes you through subtropical rainforest, over rushing creeks, and uphill towards the falls.
A certain sense of adventure is required for this route and while I’m partial to the odd frolic through the woods, I opt for the slightly shorter, downhill version from Delicia Road in Mapleton instead.
A leisurely walk that requires little effort, the entire trail is just 1.5km downhill to the waterfall. But the journey starts long before your sneakers touch the trail. Cloaked in rainforest, a serpentine dirt road winds through forest flanked by stunning views across the hinterland, charming you the moment you lose sight of civilisation.
There’s no dedicated carpark from this trailhead, requiring you park your car road-side next to the blink-and-you’d-miss-it signpost pointing you towards Gheerulla Falls. Telltale sounds of the wilderness lure you in the moment you open the car door. Whipbirds command your attention from the treetops, bellowing their whip-crack from high up in the canopy.
From the road, a well-worn trail descends alongside diverse rainforest with birdlife flitting between Piccabeen Palms, Fern Trees, and Gum Trees. The forest is home to Fantails, Honey Eaters, Drongos, and if you’re eagle eyed or a seasoned birdwatcher you may even catch sight of the elusive Whipbird.
You’ll know you’re close to the falls when you spot a rocky creek-bed leading towards Ubajee walkers’ camp, the mesmerising sound of water flowing nearby. A handful of rugged stairs lead you over a ridge and down towards a circular oasis with the waterfalls at the heart of it – or, if like me you’ve come after a dry spell, a trickle of water.
The pretty pond at the falls’ base doubles as a swimming hole in summer; a stately rock pile rising up from its depths quietly awaiting the next deluge. Through edging towards the borderline, it’s an oasis hidden within its own pocket of forest, encapsulated by a series of mossy boulders and trees, dappled in sunlight.
The serenity is palpable and you’ll likely have it all to yourself. While merely a couple of kilometres between you and the quaint boutiques and charming cafes of Mapleton, this section of Mapleton National Park sees few people.
An amble in these parts offers ample opportunity for introspection, which is seemingly appropriate given the amount of time we have to reflect on life these days. And whether you witness a marvellous cascade or a punitive trickle at Gheerulla Falls, it’s easy to fall under the spell of nature on this trail.