Binna Burra Was An Escape From The Real World. Until Now.

There are few certainties in life. I always had one. That no matter how weary the world ever made me I would find sweet solace at Binna Burra Lodge.

Year after year since I was 4 years old, I’ve been returning to the sanctuary of Lamington National Park. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to a pilgrimage. As close as I’ll ever get to religion.

Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints is the mantra of Binna Burra’s many returning regulars. But the fire that destroyed our hilltop haven on Sunday night took everything and left nothing.

Until my father called to tell me the news, my kids had never seen me cry.

Image: ABC News

I can’t count the number of times I’ve visited or the kilometres I’ve trekked on those sub-tropical trails. What I can remember, clear as a Coomera day, is a visit three years ago when a ranger told me in an alarmed tone that they were seeing cane toads around the place. Never seen the critters this far south, she said, a sure sign the climate was quietly changing.

I ignored the cane toads and hoped they would hop away. But there is no ignoring Sunday’s fire.

Binna Burra chairman Steven Noakes summed it up when he said any rebuild would have to take into account the impact of climate change on sub-tropical forests.

Fire’s always on the agenda but there’s never been anything as catastrophic as this. We’ve never had dryness like this before. When you’ve got a subtropical rain forest it means you have rain and a forest and we’re just not having the rain.
Sunset over Illinbah. Author pic.

No TVs. No newspapers back in the day. Just the whip birds and the Lodge and like-minded strangers becoming friends in the time it took to unscrew a bottle as the sun set on a day enveloped by nature. Binna Burra was my escape from the folly of the world. Now the folly of the world has destroyed my escape.

But there is no escaping the folly of climate change denial. Record drought. Record heat. “The forests are in a state where even a small ignition source can cause major problems,” said Richard Thornton from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

The BoM’s Andrew Watkins said the southern half of Australia had experienced the driest-ever January to August. “When we take into account temperatures as well, which have been the highest on record for winter in some of those bushfire areas, we’ve had high evaporation. We have very dry soils and dry fuel as well.”

Suddenly the fire in the Games Room takes on an eerie presence. Author pic.

Thankfully no one died in the Binna Burra fire, but when I heard the news it felt like losing a different kind of family member. My parents first took me in 1975. I last took my family two months ago. My kids, 10 and 8, placed an UNO card on page 32 of a book in the library so they could finish when we returned in the October school holidays.

We will still be going back. To help rebuild.

Me (middle with the Billy Tea) and my brother and sister walking the Binna Burra trails back in the '70s. Author pic.

My parents’ ashes were the only kind I thought I would ever see at Binna Burra. Such is their love for the rainforest retreat they have asked their three children to scatter them over Coomera – a river that winds through the National Park and is as peaceful in life as you could hope for in death.

The perfect eating, and resting, place. Author pic.

They had a chair with their name on it in the Clifftop Dining Room, my favourite of all the historic rooms and cabins at the Lodge. I struggle when I imagine it taking flame.

My parents' chair, occupied by the littlest Harrison who'd walked 18kms that day and deserved a seat. Author pic.

Come on up to the real world is Binna Burra’s slogan. Well, the real world did come on up. It’s time to listen to what it said on arrival.


A GoFundMe has been set up to provide support for the Friends of Binna Burra (FOBBs) who have assisted with preservation and specialised projects on the site since 1984. You can donate here

Main image: Supplied/ABC News.