Queensland steps up to welcome the world to its Great Walks
QUEENSLAND believes it has hiking trails to match the best on the planet and two energetic explorers have completed a 10-day adventure to gather proof to present to the world.
The National Trust of Australia (Queensland) and Queensland Government have combined to launch the Q10 Great Walks and intrepid duo Luke Edwards and Lisa Marshall accepted the challenge to complete one walk a day for a combined 400km of hiking from Currumbin to Cooktown.
The Q10 Challenge had the two Queensland adventurers zig-zagging 4000km across the state on the expedition of a lifetime.
National Trust employee Luke devised the idea to tackle all 10 walks in just 10 days and Noosa Trek coach Lisa Marshall was happy to join him on the challenge.
Both set off thinking they already had a pretty good idea of what lay ahead, but what they actually discovered surpassed all expectations.
"I haven't lived in Queensland that long and it's just made me so proud to be a Queenslander now and to realise there's so many amazing walks for us to do,” Lisa said.
"There's some beautiful trails out there and, among the many highlights for us, the standout was Hinchinbrook Island ... the Thorsborne Trail is just stunning. And Carnarvon Gorge.
"And Fraser Island. Everything really.”
In particular, the pair loved the community spirit associated with Carnarvon Gorge.
"The locals really came together to make us welcome,” Lisa said.
"They're so proud of what's out there and so they should be. It's just beautiful.”
Unlike South Africa-raised Lisa, Luke is a born and bred Queenslander but he too was surprised by what they saw.
"The exciting part is you think you know Queensland but then you go a bit off track and it's so diverse,” he said.
"We didn't leave the state and look what we saw. At Hinchinbrook, everywhere you go you're like 'what, wow how can that be'.”
Publicity surrounding the challenge threw a spotlight on what Queensland has to offer, and 2020 is targeted as the year to get an increased number of hikers heading out on one or more of the Q10 Great Walks.
Luke's dream is for hikers seeking bragging rights to mention one of the Queensland walks in the same way they currently talk of New Zealand's Milford Track, Italy's Dolomites or Tasmania's Three Capes Track.
"For someone to throw out a Queensland Great Walk as a badge of respect, that to me would be success," he said.
"At the launch we said we wanted to find a bragging right to throw on the table and we absolutely found that.
"We sampled all of Queensland's Great Walks and that wasn't enough. We want to go back for a more relaxed look.”
Part of the purpose of the 10-day adventure was to gather promotional material for next year's push get hikers out exploring Queensland.
"We have a huge amount of great footage, lots of interviews we did with the rangers on the trails so we will be producing a range of informative documentary-style videos on each Great Walk to help people make informed decisions on their choices,” Luke said.
Currently, each Great Walk has its own static page on the Department of Environment and Science website (visit: parks.des.qld.gov.au/experiences/great-walks) with maps and other vital information, but the idea of the videos is to bring those pages to life.
"People will be able to see the beauty of each walk but also understand what they need to do in order to successfully complete them,” Luke said.
The team is also producing a documentary about the trip and plans to head out with a road show next year to highlight the state's offering.
"We've already had a lot of questions from people excited about wanting to do the walks and seeking advice on what and how to do them,” Luke said, adding that the walks are all available now, with April to October the peak season.
The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast Great Walks are suggested as ideal starting points, with each providing the option to extract yourself at points along the way and stay with accommodation providers rather than necessarily being committed to camping.
"So you've got the ability to create your own version of the walk with different start and end points,” Luke said.
"With other walks, the further inland you go the more remote you are, so you need to be fully self-sufficient.”
While most walks offer multi-day experiences with set start/finish points, Lisa said there was always the option to do day walks.
"At Hinchinbrook, it's just like being in a dreamworld for a day,” she said.
"At Carnarvon Gorge you can do some beautiful day walks. And Fraser Island is another great one for day walks, maybe basing yourself at Kingfisher Bay Resort.”
Lisa said that while the aim was to get as many people as possible out enjoying what's available, it was vital people were well prepared. So she said they needed to do their homework, pack the right gear and train for it properly.
"Obviously, we don't expect people to do what we did over such a short period,” she said.
"We will be encouraging them to take their time, stop at all the beautiful towns along the way, and be realistic about what they can achieve in the time they have available.
"I truly believe in the magic of being out in nature and how good it is for us both mentally and physically to spend time outdoors."
Lisa has written an online e-guide on how to get trek-ready, covering everything you need to know when you're actually out walking, plus a 16-week training guide (visit: trekcoach.com.au/online-coaching).
"It's all about helping people to prepare properly so they can go out there and have the best time possible,” Lisa said.
"We saw lots of people of different ages out on the trails, but we also saw a lot of people wearing the wrong footwear and clothing.”
Lisa said it was vital to be prepared physically and to be realistic about the requirements.
"Walking around the block with your dog is very different to being out on a bush track that's undulating and rough underfoot,” she said.
NTA (Queensland) CEO Jonathan Fisher said the National Trust had always been committed to conserving and celebrating natural heritage, and was proud to be partnering with the Queensland Government in promoting the Q10 Great Walks.
"We are really about promoting active lifestyles and getting people to celebrate the diversity of Queensland's stunning landscapes," Mr Fisher said.
Minister for Environment and Science Leeanne Enoch said Queensland was unlike anywhere else in the world.
"Queensland is home to five World Heritage Areas and more than 1300 national parks, marine parks, state forests and other protected areas," Ms Enoch said.
"We are home to the world's oldest tropical rainforest this - the Daintree - and we have such a vast environmental landscape, ranging from the desert to tropical rainforests to the Great Barrier Reef.
"All of these places are incredibly valuable to our state, and help provide unique environmental experiences to visitors.”
The 10 great walks, from south to north, are:
. Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk;
. Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk;
. K'gari (Fraser Island) Great Walk;
. Carnarvon Great Walk;
. Mackay Highlands Great Walk;
. Whitsunday Great Walk;
. Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail (includes kayaking);
. Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island;
. Goldfield Trail, Wooroonooran National Park;
. Gamaay Dreaming Track, from Cooktown