Wednesday, 22 April 2015

TOD Tour, Day 70 - Finch Hatton Gorge

Showering in the rainforest
I don't think it's possible to adequately describe how amazing it is to fall asleep listening to a creek run past, perhaps three metres below you, with the smells and sounds of a rainforest occupying you into your slumber.

This morning, it all worked in reverse but with bird calls incrementally adding to the background.

This little piece of rainforest paradise is in the Finch Hatton Gorge, about 60kms west of Mackay. The gorge runs perpendicular to the north of Prospectors Valley, where the Finch Hatton and Rawson Creeks have cut their way. Our camping spot was at Platypus Campground, a little over a kilometre from the start of the Finch Hatton section of Eungella NP. The road up here is well used but largely unattended dirt road with a granite base and can't be driven at a speed beyond 20km/hr without rattling the teeth.

This particular camp, literally on the western bank of the Finch Hatton Creek, is owned and run by the unique and beautifully irregular Wozza - real name unknown. He has been here for twenty five years, erecting this odd collection of bush buildings, preaching his strong views on conservation and original green politics and wandering down to the small camping area at 4:00pm each afternoon with a few stubbies, his pipe and a well worn bush derby. He had told me on the phone to "look for the crazy old bloke in the hat". For $20 a night, you get a space for your tent, a communal bush kitchen, flushing loos and by my reckoning, the best bush shower I've used. Our vehicle is the largest possible for the site and as a result, we were given "the palace". It is without doubt, the best site in the place.

Everything is bush constructed - big timbers, bolts and screws and fencing wire and the ubiquitous corrugated iron. The cisterns are ancient, pull cord, open topped jobs. There is a sign warning you to close the lids or the frogs get in. Someone before Sue must have forgotten because she opened to a big green tree frog. Wozza has erected bush huts, six feet of the ground, single room, half-walled turnouts with a platform covered by a foam mattress and a mosquito net hanging above. A few wooden pegs constitute the wardrobe. An open air reading room and kitchen lie not far from his quarters, which are two elevated huts joined by a walkway and a downstairs "office".

The crowning glory are the showers. They are three walled timber and corrugated iron, with a slopping cement floor into a closed drain. It's a large space - probably three metres square - and in the centre, an old fashion eight inch metal shower rose sprays hot water from a wood-fired copper. Behind you, beside the door, are three opaque coloured six inch panes of glass. The fourth wall is the feature. It's rainforest. You stand there showering onto a non-existent fourth wall with rainforest to keep you company.

Absolute bliss but don't come here if you are expecting creature comfort. As Wozza's flier says, "no doof doof music, no mod cons".

Wozza was a Mullumbimby boy "until they ruined it" and came up here to do his own thing. He shared some strong views with me on the way places like Mullumbimby and Nimbin were ruined by money and junkies. It's been years since he's left his new home despite thinking that a break  would do him good.

Tomorrow night he'll be down at the camping area again, collecting cash only camping fees, sucking on a few stubbies, firing up his pipe and having a yarn.

On the two nights we were there, we were the only Aussies. Young tourists, bent on ecotourism come here to see the gorge, to jump from the rock cliffs and get a taste of Australia that when presented in such a fashion, is rarely authentic. Wozza, however, is an original.

In the morning, we drove the short distance into the national park to travel the walk up along Finch Hatton Gorge. The "Wheel of Fire" is the end point of the track, only 2.1kms away but the 317 steps which mark the last quarter was enough to deter us. Instead, we walked three quarters of the way there and stopped at Callistemon Crossing, a spectacular crossing over Finch Hatton Creek which is strewn with granite boulders, small connected pools of running water and a strange, large leafed tree with unripe green fruit, larger than a lime but with a smoother texture.

Returning by the same track, we detoured to The Cascades. It's a series of small waterfalls that empty into a deep and elongated splash pool with sheer rock walls on three sides. The water was clear in the late morning sunshine but also numbingly cold. Despite signage warning of previous injuries and deaths recorded at this spot and the warning of a prohibition against climbing or jumping from the rock walls, a young German tourist did just that twice, increasingly to the chagrin of his girlfriend. The rocks around the top of the pool were dry but treacherously slippery.

We took photos, ate morning tea and Sue dipped her legs in a smaller pool. Ignorance has nothing to do with an ability to read the language, it would seem.

Returning back to the carpark, we were stopped in our tracks by a metre long, slender snake. With no reception here and no reptile book, identification will have to be postponed. Chances are it was some form of tree snake. I'll advise readers when I can make my apps work!

The afternoon was spent reading and Sue tacked in a swim in the creek, down in the deep water pool where the sign advised "swimwear optional". Oh, that Wozza! We had another wonderful rainforest shower and then supped the later afternoon over books and red wine.

Having ventured down to the platypus pool twice for no return in what seemed an unlikely spit, red wine seemed a more reliable alternative.

Tonight, the creek will draw me into slumber again.       

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