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Eco Day-Tripping for Boaters: Couran Cove

Eco Day-Tripping for Boaters: Couran Cove

Heading off to a defined destination on your boat is always a memorable experience, especially when that destination is filled with resort-style facilities, a range of restaurants and cafes to suit your budget, and a world-class eco walk to stimulate your senses.

This is a family-friendly unpretentious place, which makes for a very entertaining, resort-living experience that include swimming in the pools, use of the kayaks and SUP’s, playing various sports – tennis, squash, volleyball, basketball, etc. – and access to a variety of children’s playgrounds.

For a most mystical experience you and your family can share, the resort is home to the Alcheringa Trail. The site of the resort was once a meeting place for the Kombumerri and Noonuccal tribes where stories were told and retold over thousands of years. So it is a unique opportunity to enjoy nature in all its glory, soak up the serenity and grab some exercise as well.

By following the Alcheringa Trail, you will see evidence of the periodic Aboriginal people of South Stradbroke Island and you can learn about the flora and fauna of the area, as well as the tools and methods they developed for survival here, well before the European arrival. The trail also takes in the Rainforest Boardwalk, an elevated deck path through the sub-tropical rain forest, where you can interact with the local wildlife and learn how nature has developed a self-sustaining eco-system on the iconic sand island of South Stradbroke.

USEFUL TREES

This is an ongoing history of the oldest culture this planet has to offer. The trail features many examples of how the local people used the environment to create their maritime freedom. By removing the bark from certain trees, they were able to make canoes for fishing and fun. And the nearby Coolamon Tree, where the fork of this tree has been shaped to form a hollow, where fresh water collects.

Your self-guided walk will visit the mangrove areas, which has many medicinal properties for the Aboriginal people including the treatment for skin disorders and infections. The mangrove forest’s greatest gift is that it is the nursery for many fish species ensuring renewal of stocks. You will also find the Buttress Tree, a type of fig tree that would have been sought after as a suitable raw material from which to carve a boomerang.

Along the trail, there is the Shield Tree, a hard wood tree with the bark previously used to make shields because it kept the natural curvature of the trunk. The surface is where the wood was usually smooth and required little working. The bark itself was a very useful commodity. It could be removed without killing the tree. Depending upon the way it was removed, it had many uses. Strips of bark could be woven or plaited to make baskets or ropes. Larger slabs could be used for making bowls or plates. These trees were chosen because their timber was easy to work, and the finished product was very light and easy to carry.

In the area, there are several Fire Trees, which were used as a guide and a signal to ceremony and ritual. A fire lit at the base of a tree was usually protected by the bulk of the trunk. The tree acted like a chimney and provided fuel from its woody heart. As the fire burnt into the tree, a small cavern was formed. Over time, new bark attempted to grow around the charred heart creating a fireplace that was well contained and protected from the rain. Such fires would be allowed to burn throughout the night and gave adequate light by which to navigate in the darkness. There are several other examples of the fire tree in the vicinity of the resort grounds.

BUSH TUCKER

To the local Aborginal people, every plant was either used for food or tools. For instance, the Aboriginals found it useful to burn green bracken fern fronds in smoke-houses made from paperbark to smoke fish. The fern’s roots contain lots of starch, but poisonous tannins had to be leached from the starchy tissue to make them edible.

Fruit was harvested from trees and shrubs including lilliepillies, figs, wild ginger, blue tongue and many more. Seeds were collected from the seed heads of grasses and sedges. Flowers from wattles, tea-trees, cottonwood trees, banksia and other plants were eaten or soaked in water to make sweet drinks.

SACRED PLACES

There is a sand depression in this locality, which was once a “bora ring”, a broad, shallow excavation in soft soil forming an amphitheatre in which tribal rituals and ceremonies were conducted. Bora rings had special significance to the Aboriginal people. There were separate rings for men and women. “Men’s business” was conducted without the women present, and vice versa. Bullroarers (ancient ritual musical instrument, historically used for communication over great distances) were hung from trees, indicating a sacred ceremony and telling all not involved to keep well away.

The location of the bora ring was the site for male ceremonies and rituals such an initiation and circumcision. Interestingly, another ring lies on the southern tip of North Stradbroke Island, which may have been associated with this site back when the two islands were joined.

Just off the Surf Beach Road is the Great Midden, a pile of leftovers from thousands of years of ceremonial feasts, which contains an invaluable record of the past occupation of this site. The Great Midden was established when the Noonuccal People from the North and the Kombumerri people from the mainland started using this place as a meeting ground.

Shellfish and crabs collected from the local waterways were often brought back to camp for cooking and feasting. Once their contents were consumed, the empty shells were cast onto a common heap (midden). Over the years of repeat visitation, the heap continued to grow. Carbon dating of remnants from this site indicates an age of over 8,000 years! It was last added to as recently as the mid-to-late 19th Century.

YOUR DAY ACCESS

Couran Cove Resort is a short boat trip across the Broadwater from the Gold Coast. There are 1,800 acres of conservation park at your leisure, and excellent resort facilities for your hospitality. The Resort is keen to invite boaters into the marina harbour at very reasonable day rates. The small fee for each vessel includes resort access for all passengers on board, which is usually chargeable per person. For a small boat (less than 6.5mtrs), the day use cost is $20; for a jet ski, it is $10. For a boat over 6.5mtrs, the day rate is $40, and includes power and water.

All these rates include a resort access fee for all guests on the boat (normally $25 per person), which allows use of our pools, non-motorised watersports, and the sports centre. An Alcheringa Trail map and self-guided tour information is available at reception.

You are on island time that is very relaxed depending on the beat of your own drum. However if you want to speed things up a little, bicycle hire is available at a cost of $25 for the day.

In winter until late October, a walk across the island to the pristine surf beach will give you a vantage point to view migrating whales that are heading north to breed.

For well over 20,000 years, people have inhabited Stradbroke Island. It is a sacred and beautiful place, so please treat this land with respect.

By Andy Kancachian

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