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The Sunday Mail

A setting to dine for

A setting to dine for - The Sunday MailChocolates, roses and a 400-year-old fig tree greet nature-lovers, writes Danielle Lancaster

GURGLING through the ancient rainforest, Crystal Creek makes its way steadily southwards. Hammocks silently swing above it, tempting lovers to unwind, take it easy and escape.

A little farther down its rock-fringed banks, within the enveloping roots of a 400-year-old fig tree, 12 perfect red roses, a bottle of Moet and box of Belgian chocolates sit on a table surrounded by flickering pole candles awaiting the lovers to visit. We push on (it's not for us) over the creek, deeper into the rainforest.

With the chaos of Christmas behind us we have retreated into the Tweed Valley's upper reaches and to Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat. Secluded within 100ha of rainforest, it is bordered by World Heritage national parks protecting sections of prehistoric Gondwana rainforests - the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world.

It is rich with wildlife, a draw card for us, and with only one night we dare not waste time. In the distance, a "wark" alerts us that there are frogs hiding within the dense, moist leaf litter, though they evade us. Our eyes are continually darting, inspecting the tree branches for any signs of maybe a male regent bowerbird with golden yellow crown, mantle and iris and black-tipped wing feathers, or an elusive male rifle bird doing its rarely sighted courting performance. Luck is not on our side.

Underfoot we sidestep dainty fungi and negotiate buttress roots extending over ground in search of nutrients from towering trees. Everywhere is tinted emerald green and our nostrils are filled with the wild, rich aroma of decomposing leaf litter recently dampened by rain.

Voices seem to follow us and we stop. Is there someone else intruding into our haven? They, too, stop and for the first time we speak a little louder. The voices reply. We try again and the voices are repeated. Although we can't say for sure, we are convinced an Albert's lyrebird is hiding from view, this superb mimic imitating us.

Large ghost fungi, Australia's best-known luminous fungus, hint that this is a different forest at night.

This is indeed a rare and beautiful slice of paradise and, though within an hour of the mayhem of Brisbane's city traffic, it takes you a million miles away.

We make it back to our bungalow on dark and retreat for the night. The glass of wine beckoning on the balcony, the creek babbling in the distance and the scent of lemon myrtle wafting from the filling spa is enough to persuade us to stay in.

Raindrops run down the glass walls of the bungalow as the sun attempts to filter through the overcast skies in the morning. We head again into the forest for one last jaunt before departing ...

Our escape into the forest was not nearly long enough, and we are thankful it's only next door.

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