Friday, January 7, 2011

Holiday Day Twelve- Paronella Park

Before heading away on our trip we were urged by many people to visit Paronella Park. I checked out their website prior to leaving Brisbane and I was very excited about finally being able to visit.

It's hard to describe Paronella in words. It seems kind of cheap to use just a few words to describe a place that is so special and interesting. But in simple terms, Paronella is the life's work of one man, Jose Paronella. Jose (for reasons that I don't think anyone will ever truly understand) set out to create for himself a place where his dreams could come true. In his case his dreams revolved around building a castle and creating a wonderful park where people could visit, relax and explore. What is amazing about Jose is that he built everything himself, by hand. In fact, he even rendered his buildings himself, without even wearing gloves. You can't imagine what a task this would have been until you see Paronella for yourself.

Jose also prided himself on hospitality and so when we arrived, at 4pm, in the rain with poo all over the van, we were met outside by a lovely man brandishing umbrellas for us. It was such a nice surprise and we felt instantly welcome and wanted.

Singing in the rain

Paronella has camping facilities available and these are included in the price of entry. Once we had set up the van we then joined a tour group for a trip into the magical world of Paronella. The first thing that captivated out attention was this fabulous waterfall. Indeed, it seems that this waterfall was Jose's main reason for choosing this piece of land. 

At the bottom of the falls Jose built a picnic area. There are concrete tables and benches plus fencing and planter boxes. Don't forget that everything you see at the park was built by hand, by Jose!

As we explored this area the spray from the waterfall almost touched us. It felt fresh and the water looked so inviting. You are allowed to swim here and apparently if you swim under the waterfall there is a concrete chair under there that you can rest on. I was going to let the kids swim there the following day but circumstances (ie the hospital trip) prevented that.

 Family photo at the waterfall. Note Mark's crown.

After the waterfall we then moved on to view the old 'recreation' area. This building housed a cafe and an eating area and it also overlooked a tennis court. At the bottom of the building there are a series of 'changing boxes' as Jose required all his visitors to change into suitable attire before they could swim or play tennis.

Changing boxes

After marvelling at the building we then set off for 'lover's lane.' Jose built the lane by burrowing through a hill, single handedly. His vision was for the lane to include tanks of fish (like those that we now see at Underwater World) and he had even constructed a ticket box. However his construction was slightly lacking and so he never did open his Lover's Lane.

The lane is now home to microbats which we were able to see after wandering deep into the lane in the dark.

Outside the lane is another, smaller waterfall which Jose named after his daughter. Apparently the water comes from a natural spring and Jose had toyed with the idea of bottling the water and selling it. He decided against this though, thinking that no-one would ever purchase bottled water.

As the concreting was all done by hand there are footprints, fingerprints and hand-prints all around the park. Here Big Boy compares his foot with a little footprint we found near the waterfall. Almost a perfect fit.

After leaving this area our guide took us to this majestic line of trees. It was truly breathtaking and I was left imaging Jose planting them, all the while knowing he would never live to see them look like this. If you squint, you can see the large waterfall in the distance- Jose made sure everything he built or planted had a view to the waterfall.

The tour ended here however this is not the end of the Paronella experience. Your guide leaves you at these trees and you then have to make your way back up to the entry area. As the park is huge, this takes some time. Before he left, our guide handed us food for the fish and turtles and we followed the signs through the bush to locate the place he said they would be. Sure enough we were not disappointed.

While we were feeding the turtles a bush turkey snuck up behind Mark and stole his food! The picture below is an action shot of the kids chasing the cheeky bird.

After (unsuccessfully) trying to catch a turtle (Mark, not me) we then started making our way back. We passed the recreation area again and I took a shot of a monument in the foyer and a side view of the building.

We then made our way back up the grand staircase which was the first part of the park that Jose built. It is very high and leads you back up to the castle area.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the castle so I've had to borrow two from Google. The first is how the castle looks today and the second is the castle in its hey-day. The castle was built as a movie theatre and ballroom and apparently the parties at Paronella were amazing to attend.

I can't say enough about how wonderful the trip to Paronella was. It really put a lot of our house worries into perspective - surely if Jose can build and landscape all of this by hand then we, with money, help, power tools and machinery, can finish our renovation. Being here also taught  me that we should never give up on our dreams and that the only thing standing in the way of achieving our vision is ourselves. Your vision may not be to build a castle but whatever it is the time is now - don't die thinking 'if only I had...'


littlemissairgap said...

Paronella Park is such an amazing place. I've been there a couple of times when I was a teenager & enjoyed the walks & being daring enough to stand under one of the little waterfalls ... freezing! Took hubby there once & discovered he didn't like suspension bridges. Is that still there?

Bayside Rose said...

Almost looks like a film set! Looks like an amazing place and thanks for the background info. So interesting.
Pam x

queenbeegymboree said...

Wow, this place looks amazing Lorna! Loved looking at these, makes me want to visit all the more!

simmone said...

Thankyou for the wonderful pics.Hubby used to wander around the overgrown gardens as a teen.How inspiring and sad is Jose's story,definitely a must see for me one day.You have some lovely photos to cherish.Thanks.

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