Tag Archives: Coochiemudlo Island

Branching out into new trees

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LESS IS MORETON View from Coochiemudlo Island to Stradbroke, between bloodwoods (oil on hardwood by Michael Burge).

I DON’T know about other artists, but I find foliage extremely challenging to paint.

In art classes at school, our teacher explained the effect of aerial perspective, which requires the fine detail of a canopy of leaves to be rendered as a solid wash, not a mass of lines capturing individual leaves.

Although in reality, capturing foliage is a combination of both techniques, and the fine line between them holds the key to successful treescapes.

In the sclerophyll forests of the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, I grew up observing the dry, reddish-green hues of the eucalypt trees that eventually saw the region World Heritage listed.

When people in the northern hemisphere asked me what the place was like, I’d often say: “Think the Grand Canyon, with foliage”. It’s quite true: remove the dense green blanket that covers the Blue Mountains and we’d be left with a stony, gold and pink landscape akin to Arizona, traversed by the creeks and rivers that shaped the canyons.

Here in my new subtropical home, the riparian landscape relates more to the ebb and flow of water.

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NOT TOUCHING Here on Coochie, tree trunks often stand apart in rows.

It’s taken me a few years to tackle this new landscape’s foliage, with its wetlands, woodlands and mangroves that give onto Moreton Bay views, stretching to peaks and mountains from which the rivers carve their way to the sea.

Fooled by the lack of four definite seasons in my first year here, I thought a nut tree at the end of our street was dying when it lost its leaves in winter.

The trees seem to stand differently than they do on the ridges of the Blue Mountains. It’s common to see them growing in stands where the trunks do not superimpose, like well-behaved children holding themselves to attention. Perhaps they are old planted rows,  or maybe the effect is entirely natural?

Coochiemudlo Island’s Melaleuca Wetlands receive much of the focus of the island’s conservation measures, but there are significant pockets of vegetation beyond their 19 hectares.

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TALL TIMBERS Cypress Pines, Coochiemudlo Island (mixed media, by Michael Burge).

Throughout the foreshore, native Cypress Pines (Callitris) claim their place with far more right than the dominant exotic Monterey Pines that dot the upper Blue Mountains, the result of attempts to recreate English gardens over a century ago.

But both have the same cooling impact, with their deep emerald shade. Under various local names – including Bribie Island Pine and Gold Coast Pine – they rise to extraordinary heights before seeming to rest against one another. Take even the shortest walk around the island and you’ll see them, just inside the island’s perimeter.

Paperbarks (Melaleuca) abound in the island’s wetlands, where their soft forms are composed so differently to gum trees, with stocky, short trunks and heavy arms, shrouded in layers like puff pastry.

Old growth gum trees (Eucalypts) and bloodwoods (Corymbia) stand at incredible heights in some places, providing important habitat for birds, particularly the island’s parrots. Standing at many island street junctions, these soaring columns are unmissable during a walk through the island’s interior.

And the most alien of them all, the mangroves, like trees with two canopies – one skyward, the other pushing its way into the earth in a skeletal framework of roots, sometimes underwater, sometimes high and dry.

The best way to see the mangroves is to take a kayak around the western edge of the island on a rising tide. Here, you’ll be able to safely ‘fly’ between mangrove branches and over their underwater ramparts. In winter, when the water is clearest, it makes for an unmissable experience.

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LIGHT TOUCH The striations of light hitting paperbarks, Stradbroke Island showing across Moreton Bay (oil on canvas by Michael Burge).

Walking through the island woodlands at the end of the day, with the sun split by hundreds of trees, light falls in a myriad of colours on trunks and branches, tinting them with a glow that shines so brightly it almost seems unreal.

Tree trunks appear as though they’re striped with an impossible apricot and pink glow, while the deep blue-green of the bay and distant islands are unaffected by the play of sunlight.

And foliage is transformed into clouds of iridescent green. I daren’t render a single line to capture it.

Check out my online gallery for Moreton Bay land and seascapes; Coochie Boat Hire for kayak hire through the mangroves; and Escape to Coochiemudlo Island – a walking tour that takes you through the island’s interior and wetlands, and around the foreshore.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Walking my country

“I learned more about this place than I imagined was possible.”

FOR more than three decades I lived in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, until the call of the subtropics saw me relocate to Moreton Bay in South East Queensland in 2012.

From the very beginning, this place has been beautiful and story-filled, but it was also undiscovered country for me.

My sense of place is one of the strongest sides of me, but I knew it would take time to come across the stories and culture of this new place. I also undertook a petition in this community about marriage equality, which meant coming out publicly in a place where I was unsure what the general reaction would be.

So it was the perfect antidote, and an inspiring challenge, when VoiceMap approached me in 2015 to produce an audio tour for Coochiemudlo Island, right at the geographic centre of this archipelago.

IMG_1761I approached a friend, neighbour and author David Paxton, a member of the Coochiemudlo Island Heritage Society.

David has engaged in an ongoing conversation with the traditional owners of this part of Moreton Bay – the Quandamooka people – about the cultural heritage of Coochiemudlo Island. He’s also researched its European history.

Walking around our island home, in under an hour I learned more about this place than I imagined was possible, and through a process of editing and researching, we came up with a tour: Escape to Coochiemudlo Island, which is now available to download on your mobile phone via the VoiceMap app.

Everyone’s heard about Pokémon Go and many are into Geocaching. VoiceMap is similar in that it makes use of GPS (Global Positioning System) to navigate.

There are no signs on the tour, just David’s voice guiding you around Coochiemudlo Island, narrating its stories while you stroll the island foreshore and through its interior.

IMG_1756Some of the highlights include one of Coochiemudlo’s iconic accommodation destinations, Quirky Cottages, a holiday farm-stay like no other.

Sites of ancient Aboriginal culture and tales of explorers, settlers and farmers are woven into this unique way to interpret and understand the island.

The tour also passes through the island’s Ramsar Wetlands, a place replete with bird life; and it touches on stories of Matthew Flinders’ visit to the island in 1799.

Getting to know my community’s social fabric, its past and its natural beauty, has been a pleasure and a privilege. Our VoiceMap is just the third such tour in Australia, and Queensland’s first.

Coochiemudlo Island is not far from civilisation – we’re just 35 kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD – yet here beyond the edge of the city’s seaboard, life moves at a very different pace.

Our VoiceMap doesn’t give away all our secrets, or cover everything about Coochiemudlo, but I encourage you to come and experience a bit of what the island has to offer.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Burgewords goes bookseller

A Writer’s bookish adventure.

IT’S shaping up to be the Era of the Book at my house.

Not only do I have four of my own titles in the publishing pipeline – a memoir, a short fiction collection, a play and a collection of my articles – I am also embarking on selling printed books by other authors.

I love books – always have, always will. It’s a passion that comes from forty years of filling my boots with tales of other places and lives.

Living on an island, I find there’s a higher level of adventure in the air, so I have hatched a plan to sell second-hand books at my local markets, starting on Sunday July 19, or, as we islanders like to call it – Matthew Flinders Day.

There’s a few tales going around about Matthew – the first European who stepped foot on Coochiemudlo Island in 1799 – but that’s another story.

My bookstall will be replete with maritime tales, explorers’ yarns, adventure stories and the odd pirate, in addition to an affordable range of fiction and non-fiction titles from the past two decades.

Come along and fill your boots!