Long walk

My recollections of my previous walk in Carnarvon Gorge 50+ years ago are vague. I do recall seeing the ‘art gallery’ cave but I don’t recall clearly how much further up the gorge Trevor and I went. I expect no such forgetfulness about our walk today since I can feel the effects of all 34000 steps recorded by my Fitbit.

We pulled out of our campsite about 8:00 am and were starting our walk up the gorge about 20 minutes later. Our time was limited by the need to get away early enough to make the drive to Rolleston and settle in there before dark. To do that we needed to be back to the entrance around 3:00 pm so Majella had suggested we walk straight up as far as we could by 11:00 am and then turn back, taking some of the side excursions on the way back as time permitted.

As we crossed the creek at the trail entrance we could hear a flock of birds calling loudly and often. When we were close enough we could see they were magpies feasting on fruit in palm trees. Perhaps the fruits were ripe enough to have fermented. The swooping from tree to tree and constant calling certainly sounded like a lively party.

We climbed the hill away from the creek and soon left the birds behind. Once up the hill the track ran level for a bit until we passed the turn off for the Boolimba Bluff lookout. We passed that by as too adventurous for two old folk and headed on up the gorge. There were few minor ups and downs but it was mostly level going through the cool morning air until we came down the hill to the junction with the side path to the Moss Garden. That had been recommended to Majella by Laura so we pressed on, leaving it for the return journey.

Soon after that point we reached the second of the many creek crossings. Like the first at the trail entrance it had a series of well placed large flat stepping stones. They were just above water level so things would get interesting after rain but were much easier to walk across than some at the crossings further upstream. By the time we reached the 12th crossing later in the morning we were still dry but had some near misses with small wobbly stones, gaps in the sequence, and disappearing paths.

We bypassed the Amphitheatre sidetrack on our way up but opted to visit the Art Gallery since it was close and on our ‘must do’ list. There was a creek crossing and some steep walking to reach it. Since my previous visit there has been substantial work done to provide a viewing platform that keeps people away from direct contact with the art work and ensures a clearer view. Unfortunately the art was vandalised in the past with names and dates from the 1950s but there was no sign of more recent damage.

Wards Canyon was bypassed because the sign described a steep climb and we pressed on toward the Cathedral Cave, another gallery, hoping to reach it by our turnaround time of 11:00 am. That allowed about an hour for 4 km and Majella set a cracking pace in her attempt to meet that target.

About an hour on we came to a bend with a large cavity on the far side of the creek. Majella thought that must be the Cathedral Cave since it appeared to be large and impressive enough. The lack of signage to that effect gave me doubts and I wanted to press on. Majella decided to wait while I went on to look. I eventually reached the Cathedral Cave 3 creek crossings and 15 minutes of fast walking upstream. It also has a substantial viewing platform and a range of art. I paused just long enough for a few photos and then headed back to find Majella and begin our return journey.

She had come a little way further along but by then it was approaching 11:30 am and time we were heading back. We walked as far as the Art Gallery, about an hour, before pausing to sit on the seats at the junction and eat our lunch – wraps Majella had made from last night’s burritos. They were tasty and fortifying for the walk back.

Some people we met near the junction for the Amphitheatre told us it was well worth seeing but involved some steep climbing and ladders. Majella decided to wait while I took the side trip. It was well worth the effort to see the large space eroded behind a thin crack in the cliff wall. The space has been hollowed out by the action of water entering via one narrow gap and leaving via another. The swirling water in the gap has eroded a large space that supports vegetation until it is washed out in a heavy downpour.

A short way further down the gorge we took the side track to the Moss Garden. It involved a little more than a kilometre of walking (return) with a series of sets of stairs. Again, we arrived at a location with viewing platform to protect the environment while ensuring visibility of the extensive wall of moss kept moist by water dripping out of the sandstone cliff where the porous rock meets an impervious layer of shale. The whole side gorge was lush and green with tree ferns, palms and other vegetation.

Back on the main track we headed for the park entrance as quickly as our weary legs would carry us. It was about an hour back from that point and we were both flagging as we approached the creek crossing at the end of the trail. We arrived there not long after 3:00 pm. Majella estimated that she had walked 17 km and that with the extras I had walked 20 km.

We took a little time to make and drink coffee in the van before heading out of the park and north to Rolleston. We arrived here at about 4:45 pm. The manager at the van park where I had booked a site told me he was about to call to check since we were the last in and he had already turned away a couple of vans because he was full for the night. I was pleased I had bothered to book since I would not have fancied driving another hour to Springsure.

We parked and set up for the night and then went off to shower. Dinner was a simple affair of cheese and crackers with strawberries washed down with liquid of choice.