Despite a driver losing temporary control of his vehicle around midnight and likely scaring himself awake as he spun his car to a stop just past the bridge beside us, this was a good night's sleep ... in between Sue's frequent communes with nature.
Having arrived an hour before sunset last night and being preoccupied in setting up, I hadn't looked about our camping area until this morning. Down by the Dawson River - wide as it passes the camp sites - a large boat ramp invites boats to join it and a group of free gas BBQs lie waiting for customers under a galvanised roof. Covered picnic tables and a good sized cleaning table make it clear this is an ideal spot for those who like to fish or swim or any activities that need a river underneath it.
Little wonder it was so popular. The campers became quiet early in the evening and stayed so as the moon came up, all settling into beds by 9:30pm.
We continued west during the morning, cross the Expedition Range and moving across the Arcadia Valley at our steady pace. With the van on, I poke along at 90kms/hr, which seems to be the best compromise of speed and fuel efficiency. The ninety minutes to Rollerston returned a very healthy 11.4km/100. I also discovered that the GPS on the Forester could give me an exact map reference, show our track and even give me an altitude reading. Using that information I was able to determine we were travelling to our western most point of the trip so far.
The main feature of the park is a small slab hut which had started life as a boundary rider's resting place on the property "Purbook". It had originally been part of a new homestead on Clematis Creek before prickly pear overtook the place and broke the spirit and financial resources of its occupants. The hut became a shelter for travellers, stockmen, contractors and hunters for more than fifty years before being moved into Beazely Park as a reminder of the district's past.
Across the road was a quiet school, lonely for children as we are in the first week of the Qld school holidays. It was adorned with murals, a well maintained garden and just looked friendly. Maybe it just something that ex schoolies notice but good schools speak of their quality just by appearance. Don't ask me to define it but it's true.
After our morning tea, we drove the short distance to the general store. Now over the years, we have enjoyed retelling the encounters we have had in village stores. Our experience has generally been that country hospitality - the further you remove yourself from the coast - is largely a myth. Usually, being ignored is a positive experience as these little places see the stranger, the traveller, the blow in as something akin to a visit from one of those smart fellas from "the city". Sometimes "the city" might be a town of 5000 a hundred kilometres away but mistrust seems to be the heartbeat.
Not so at the Rolleston General Store. We were greeted like long lost cousins who had arrived to find the relatives all waiting with open arms. A big, cheerful greeting, genuine warmth and service in the way service used to be ... "the customer is always right" was the maxim of this friendly little shop. As we left, having topped up the fuel tank, withdrawn some cash and been surprised to find gluten-free options on the shelf and lactose-free milk in the fridge, we left to "safe travels folks. Have a great holiday!"
Having let the Dawson Highway, we headed in an almost straight line south along the Carnarvon Highway, turning off sixty kilometres later for the final forty into Carnarvon Gorge NP. Much of what had been unsealed when we first visited twenty years ago has been given a good cover of tar. The final eight kilometres was more like what we remembered, rough and at times corrugated and slowed us down to below 40km/hr often. I wondered what state the Avan would be in by the time we got to our destination at Takarakka Bush Resort, on the greeting mat of the national park, but was surprised not even dust had invaded and everything inside was intact!
The bloke who dusted up the road before us was not so lucky. When we pulled up behind him at reception, his Landcruiser was sporting a flat rear tyre. He had replaced the one on the other side three days ago before leaving home but decided the other rear tyre would be okay, rather than spend an additional $300. Whoops.
We are looking forward to walking up the gorge tomorrow. Having been here twice before, we know what awaits us but the anticipation is no less. Late in the afternoon, we went to a talk by the owners about Carnarvon Gorge, the walks, what to expect and advice to visitors. Nothing new for us but worth doing none he less. We did find out that the best place to see platypi was in the pool right beside the accommodation and that Betong frequent the camping area.
Moss Gorge tomorrow: a side gorge which runs back up to the 200 mete high vertical sandstone walls and weeps age old water which has filtered down through the layers of porous sandstone and encouraged the growth of a variety of mosses and rainforest plants. Our children will be disappointed we won't be attempting Boolimba Bluff, something that is unavoidable given Sue's back and even more galling given that we originally climbed the 937 steps to the top of the Bluff - all of which a young Sam counted - twenty years ago with their 70 year old grandparents!
Age does not weary them, but a bad back condemns.