Carnarvon at a gentler pace
Day 2 augured sunshine, and didn't disappoint. But surprisingly, and unfortunately, my legs weren't ready for another vigorous workout. (See also, At last… Carnarvon Gorge, February 2014.)
I know, because I've seen pictures, that the view from Boolimba Bluff is well worth the climb, and with hindsight I wish I'd forced the legs. The Bluff is slightly more than 3 km from Park Headquarters. The track branches off to the right not far after the first crossing over Carnarvon Creek. The path rises gently as far as a steep gully, but apparently there's a sandstone cavern halfway up the steep bit where you can take a breather. From the top there are views up the gorge and over the Great Dividing Range westwards, and over the plains to the east. Don't make the same mistake as I did: go for it.
First, we had a leisurely mooch around the Rock Pool, a deep hole on a bend in the Creek downstream from Park Headquarters. The Creek is described as permanently running, fed by numerous streams in the Gorge system. The white sandstone cliffs are porous and act like a huge sponge soaking up rainfall over the highlands, but the water emerges above the underlying impermeable rock. I wonder if the Creek ran throughout Queensland's long Millennium Drought.
This walk was all about birds and trees and reflections and colour and rock and stones.
You might see a platypus in the Rock Pool – or higher up the Creek – but we weren't early or late enough in the day. I have yet to see my first platypus in the wild, and it's an important box that's not yet ticked.
I'd been surprised to see a Kookaburra on a ledge high up a rock wall. Was this the same rather portly chap we'd seen around the Lodge? Kangaroos seemed happy to share the Lodge gardens with guests, as long as we didn't get too close.
In the afternoon we walked, slowly compared to yesterday, to Baloon Cave, which we could access by taking a path behind our cabin along lower Mickey Creek, but which can also be reached along another path further up the main road from the Lodge. Baloon is an Aboriginal word for axe and there are stencils of axes as well as hands on the Cave's overhang (top). Aboriginals are not believed to have settled permanently in Carnarvon Gorge, for defensive reasons and because of lack of food, but also perhaps because it was considered to be a sacred site. They probably used rock from the cave for axe-heads, and artists may have made stencilling pigments from red and yellow bands within the Clematis sandstone.
The forest looked far more beautiful with dappled sunlight creating contrast. I wished our main walk had been similarly blessed. That night over dinner we listed all the plants and animals we'd spotted. I was beginning to conclude we could have done with more time at Carnarvon Gorge. The Moss Garden was a big miss. Water constantly seeps through the coarse sandstone and emerges above impervious shale, providing moisture for a variety of mosses and ferns. The 'garden' is in Violet Gorge which branches off Hellhole Gorge cut by Koolaroo Creek. Hellhole Gorge was closed when we were there. I don't know if this was temporary or not, but I imagine it is a quieter, off-the-beaten-track experience that at once became all the more attractive for being unattainable.
If you're fit and can easily walk to the head of the Gorge in a day, you can camp at Big Bend and then scramble up Battleship Spur for spectacular views. Another full day's strenuous walk is to Devil's signpost. Ask at the Park Headquarters for directions about the route along an unmarked track towards Clematis Ridge.
Having read the first Carnarvon post, a friend asked me the other day how long a stay I would recommend. I replied 3-4 days minimum, and longer if you want time to chill. That's twice as long as we had.
Once you've acquired the impression of unexplored possibilities, you leave with a tinge of regret and a desire to return. I had the same feelings when we departed Kilcowera cattle station a few days in to our Outback trip, and now I was approaching the end on the same note. The weather was beautiful on the morning we left to head back home to Brisbane. Beyond the Gorge entrance, golden grasses almost sparkled, mist created floating ridges, and the prospect of the city was, frankly, rather grim.
This post was last edited on 9 March 2014