Mount Tamborine is set in the third oldest National
Park in the world, and its volcanic history is fascinating for adults and kids alike. Millions of years ago, the earth was a single landmass – the supercontinent known as Pangaea.
Around 200 million years ago, the land broke apart and the country we know as Australia split off and started drifting north. As the country passed over one of the earth's hotspots 23 million years ago, a number of volcanos formed on the east coast. This process gave rise to an enormous shield volcano – the Tweed Volcano – which remained active for three million years.
Lava travelled far and wide before cooling, therefore the volcano's footprint covers an area stretching from Byron Bay in the south-east, Lismore in the southwest, right up to Mount Tamborine, where we are staying for the first part of our hinterland visit.
"Thunderbird Park’s picturesque bushland setting is an outdoor adventurer’s dream"
It’s not time to go fossicking for round lumps of volcanic rock with little pick axes in the thunderegg mine just yet. First, my sons and I are booked to do a trail ride through the rainforest with Horse Riding Hinterland. We arrive at the paddock to find a row of ponies saddled and ready to go.
“Do you want to go on a big horse or a little pony for your lead rein ride?” the riding instructor asks Eva, our fearless five-year-old daughter who is going to walk around the grass while I take her two older brothers on their first proper trek. “A big one!” she replies with a grin. While my husband Matt watches her adventure, our eight-year-old twin boys and I are introduced to our horses for our trail ride. The boys start to look nervous as we’re given instructions about how to hold the reins – this is the first time they’ve been on a horse.
We mount our rides and set off into the forest, following the instructor. The boys quickly get used to going up and down slopes and steering around tree branches as we walk under the cool shade of the rainforest canopy. I can see by the grins on their faces they are having fun and gaining in confidence as we clip-clop along beside Cedar Creek, enjoying the serenity of the birdsong in the trees.
Before we know it, the half hour ride is over and we are riding across the grass back to the stables. “That was awesome!” exclaims Reuben as we dismount and give our horses a pat. “When can we do it again We meet Eva and Matt in the café just as the lorikeet feeding is underway. The kids take handfuls of bird food and hold out their arms so swarms of colourful birds land on them. When the birds have had their fill, we finally take the three excited kids to the thunderegg mine.
Sam welcomes us and gives us a presentation to show us what we are looking for when digging.
Thundereggs are spherical lumps of volcanic rock. Larger eggs can be cut open on the machine to reveal patterned stone inside which shows the layers of ash.
"Remember to look for the green colour as you dig and you'll know you're in the right place," Sam reminds us as we leave.
We take a bucket and a little pick each and set off on the walk to the open mine. The kids can't wait to get started, so we begin digging at the first level of the mine. We settle down in our own areas and start chipping away at the rock. We look for the green colour and then stay there to keep on digging, pulling out promising pieces of rounded rock as we go.
After a couple of hours, we walk back to the mine shop feeling pleased with our haul. Sam empties our buckets on the counter and picks the best rocks to cut
open on his machine. The kids watch in fascination as he cuts them open and returns with the eggs split in half showing the patterns within. We leave with three happy, dusty children carrying bags full of heavy rocks.
Exhausted from our day's adventures, we are so pleased to be staying on site at the Cedar Creek Lodges.
"We find our lodge in the trees right beside the banks of Cedar Creek – it is utterly peaceful"
We check in and find our lodge in the trees right beside the banks of Cedar Creek. It is utterly peaceful and our busy lives feel a world away.
After washing off all of the dirt from our mining efforts, and grabbing a takeaway pizza, we light the cabin's log fire. Queensland may be much warmer
than the UK, but it is almost winter and the mountain air is cool. I hold a match to the ready-laid fire and watch the flames lick the logs. We huddle together
enjoying the novelty of the fire and the cosiness of the cabin lit by flickering firelight.
We find the cabin's wooden box of board games and that is our night sorted – no need for TVs or electronics. This is true disconnection.
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