Monday, 13 April 2015

TOD Tour, Day 62 – Warrumbah Gorge

Sue's elusive friend
Our last day a Carnarvon NP started with the realisation that we had visited here three times, each visit being ten years apart.

It was a relaxed morning: reading mostly but it also include morning tea with new acquaintances, Rob and Sue and for Sue, finally getting to see the platypus which live in the Carnarvon Creek beside our accommodation at Taranakka Bush Camp.

After lunch, we walked into Mickey Creek but took the right fork in the track to Warrumbah Gorge, described by some as the most beautiful place in Carnarvon NP.

Like most of the side gorges, there is a walk into the main gorge wall of a few hundred metres, to a point where the tracks divide, then a climb up into an increasingly narrow opening in the gorge wall. At a point where a NP sign informs you that the formal track ends, local encouragement takes over and you breeze on past.

What waits beyond the end of the formed track is quite spectacular. A crack which starts as perhaps twenty metres wide, with sheer walls rising on either side and large rocks littering the space between, varying but being consistently the size of bowling balls. Pools of water from the intermittent stream which flows through the gorge only after rain, lie in various states of stagnation. The water is cold and still and crystal clear. The gorge takes several turns, always with the walls closing toward each other and the passage becoming more difficult. Stepping stones help in some places but in others, passage is maintained by the narrowest of ledges and scant handholds, with pools of water waiting for any slip. Getting wait would be an inconvenience but the rocks which lie in their pools are the sleeping maleficent.

I could touch both walls
at once at this point
Sue had to call it quits about two thirds of the way before passage just became too inconvenient, at a time when the walls towered sixty metres to the surface but only a few metres apart. It was a fair effort to get that far. My latent blokeness took me on along narrow ledges, through a space where the walls closed to a metre and there were no hand or footholds and progress was only made by pressing your feet against one wall and your hands against the other and finally over a vertical climb over a boulder which blocked the gorge and required passengers to make two footholds more than a metre apart vertically over an overhang on two sides with limited handholds. It struck me as I rose over this obstruction that ascent was one thing but descent would be altogether more difficult. So it proved. A clamber over a log which had fallen lengthways along the narrow crevice completed my journey, for beyond it was a pool that extended for perhaps ten metres and looked to be at least thigh deep in places.

Enough was enough.

A bloke with longer legs and a twelve year old son breezed past and through the pool, never to be seen again … until he passed me on the way out.

I was right about the backwards decent back off the boulder. Luckily for me, a nurse by profession and an understanding and envious middle aged woman by experience, who had expressed envy of my original daring do to go over the boulder, stood waiting for my return and quietly gave me feedback about how far my feet were from the now unseen footholds.

It was a magic place and as always in such wild places, the photographs don’t provide justice to our endeavours to breach it.

This marked our last afternoon for this trip to Carnarvon Gorge NP. Anyone who likes to walk through the bush and be amazed by stunning physical scenery, geology or aboriginal culture and art work, should mark this place down as a must. Apart from walks which are relaxed stroll, right through challenging day walks up to 20kms, there is also a seven day walk which takes in both the floor of the main gorge and the tops around it. It is rated one of Australia’s great long distance nature walks.

At the entrance to Warrumbah 
They should also get here while the place is still in good stead, as the previous Qld government has reduced park staff from 11 down to 4. The park office, previously a font of information and history, is rarely staffed. The camping area inside the national park is open only for Qld school holiday and even then, severe restrictions apply as to which types of vehicle may enter. There are occasional ranger guided activities but these are usually only in school holidays and even then they are few and getting further between. Twenty years ago, there was a ranger talk and slide show every night of the holidays – it was her that our daughter Sarah first cried over Faces In The Mob - and guided walks on every other day. One of the few walks is on tomorrow but cost $50 per adult!!!

This was a good detour to make.

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