Monday, 13 April 2015

TOD Tour, Day 61 - Moss Gardens & The Amphitheatre

There are very few things that will get Sue out of bed before 7:00am. In fact, until this morning, I can think of none. However, when I dared to try and break through her dazed, half-sleep this morning with the suggestion we go down to the creek and see if there was a platypus about, she was up and dressed faster than a George Bailey innings.

The talk we attended in the late of yesterday afternoon, offered by the management of our accommodation, indicated that the best place to be guaranteed a siting of the elusive little monotreme, was in the creek below the camp kitchen. In fact, at least two mating pairs were said to be there.

So, in the early morning light, we made our way to the bank or at least that part of the bank we could secure, as many others had been erstwhile in following the advice. After fifteen minutes, the crowd was thinning and after twenty five there were just a few of us. It was then that I could sight of a little furry submarine sliding across the surface of the creek about thirty metres away. Even that could hold Sue for any longer, her back telling her it was time to go. That just left me and a deaf bloke chatting about the chance of further sighting. I'm not being facetious. He was profoundly deaf, declaring it to me when he arrived but we managed.

A few minutes later, when the platypus returned on the far bank, he let out a yell to alert me. After a few minutes, he went to get his wife - also profoundly deaf - and his bright little daughter who gently warned me about her parents disability. She hadn't inherited their disability. I never cease to learn things in life and it took a while to concentrate on the little fellow overturning rocks on the far bank as they signed their excitement.

The next bad day I'll try and remember these three and their joy, expressed in silent amazement.

The platypus continued on, working the far bank and oblivious to a growing audience gathering on the bank. Once the jungle drums get the beat going, a campground can empty for such things. It worked over the interface between the water and the bank, covering about twenty metres in the space of fifteen minutes, constantly shucking rocks and digging in the soft bank for tasty crustaceans.

When it finished there, it started working the bottom of the pool, surfacing for air and then diving to mud to shovel for food. Whereas capturing its image along the bank had been relatively easy, trying to snap a photo in between dives was almost impossible.

Over the space of forty minutes, I managed to get a few shots and some decent video footage ... which I took back to the van to show a very disappointed wife! Perhaps tomorrow she'll have more luck.

Our aim today was to walk the main track up the centre of the Carnarvon Gorge and visit the Moss Gardens. Like all of the main attractions in this park, the Moss Gardens lies up a side gorge which has been cut into the sandstone cliffs by small streams which come down to meet Carnarvon Creek. We have walked to all of the side gorges on previous visits (1996 & 2006) but these day, long days walking can be difficult for Sue. In fact, before beating forth from Tamworth in February, it was unlikely we would do more than three kilometres flat walking in any one attempt. Dorrigo put paid to that.

We started walking at about 8:30am, moving into the gorge at a steady pace, despite the undulations at the start of the walk they we didn't remember. After about 800m we came upon the Boolimbah Bluff track and then about an hour in, we arrived at the turn for Moss Gardens. More climbing, a long creek crossing and before long, we were sitting in a delightful, cool place, with a waterfall gently falling in front of us and moss growing abundantly on the sandstone walls. A remarkable place.

Looking at the map and charged with the fact that in two visits she had never seen the Amphitheatre, Sue insisted we walk on.

The Amphitheater is a large chamber behind a crack in the main gorge wall. It's a small space, perhaps twenty metres across and thirty metres long in a flattened oval. The walls rise vertically - and I mean that literally - and end sixty metres above you. It's an impossible place to shoot photos and evidence what your eyes see. There is no way to do it justice.

The acoustics are said to be fantastic in this place. On Sue's insistence, once other punters had left, I sang for her: "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha and "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserable.

We met a nice couple, Rob and Sue, chatted with them for a while and made a date for drinks later in the day.

The walk back to the car was quiet, particularly after the Sue stopped interrogating a lady from Rockhampton for local information. She has become the equivalent of the tourist face hugger, never letting go until she has sucked the essence out of locals.

Back at our digs, Sue made grandma noises and complained of aches and pains until I took her out to a coffee shop at a nearby bush resort and we struck up a conversation with Beth, a young tourist on a working visa from Suffolk in England. She shared with us the places they had seen in Australia and we filled in the places she had missed. Lovely young lass.

Drinks to round out the evening and then I faced the local wifi, convinced after an hour or so trying to do what I can accomplish in ten minutes at home that it might have been quicker to drive to all parts of Australia and deliver blogs personally.


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