Saturday, April 9, 2011

Crossing the creek at Carnarvon Gorge

I’ll start this entry out by telling you that we lasted exactly one night in the tent that Andy mentioned in his last post. The second day at Carnavon the rain kept coming down, so we decided to upgrade to a self-contained cabin with an en suite bathroom and actual walls, windows and a door! The guilt we felt for spending the extra money quickly subsided as we settled into our warm and mold-free accommodation.

We woke up on our third day to sunshine and perfect hiking weather and were out the door by 7:30 am, with lunches packed, for our day hike on the main trail up the gorge. The hike up Carnarvon consists of a main trail that follows Carnarvon Creek upstream with several branching trails that lead to smaller hikes up some of the side canyons. As we left the visitor center we were told that, due to the recent rain, all of the creek crossings were washed away, and that we might “get our feet wet.” As we approached the trailhead we noticed that a 30-foot wide, 12-inch deep creek stood between us and the trail on the far bank. I guess that’s what the ranger meant by getting our feet wet. The crossings were actually pretty fun, and by the time we reached the "Art Gallery," 8 crossings later, we were pros.

The Art Gallery is a massive sandstone cliff off the main trail that contains a large number of Aboriginal rock paintings and has been a special spot for Indigenous people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Andy and I both felt that we were in a very special place as we sat and absorbed the history and imagined the people who created these images so long ago. Almost all of the paintings were actually stencils, made by placing objects (hands, boomerangs, stone axes, etc.) on the rock and then blowing ochre around them. We both felt lucky to have had the lectures and stories from the Aboriginal people we’ve met here in Australia so that we had at least a very simple understanding of some of the images. We stayed for about 45 minutes just soaking it all in and enjoying the fact that we were the only two people there, which made the experience all the more special.

On our way back down the trail we stopped for lunch (and a swim for me) at a deep pool in the creek, and then took some of the side trips that we’d passed along the way. The first was Ward’s Canyon, a beautiful narrow canyon that’s home to the last mainland community of the King Fern, a living fossil left over from prehistoric times, with fronds measuring up to 15 feet long. We also took a trail up a series of ladders and through a narrow crack in the canyon wall that opened into the Amphitheater, an enormous space surrounded by high canyon walls and open to the sky about 10 stories above our heads. On our way out, we startled some bats and gave the one person behind us on the trail a good laugh as we ducked and ran for the exit.

On our last night at the gorge we were treated to night-spotting by Simon, one of the rangers at the park. He picked us up around dusk, and once it was dark, took us back on to the trail to see what kind of wildlife we could spot. Our main goal was to spot some of the species of gliders that live in the park, and thanks to Simon’s spotting skills, we were successful! We ended up seeing a greater glider, the largest species in the park, in mid-glide, and then later spotted a smaller yellow-bellied glider. The gliders are similar to flying squirrels, except marsupial, with skin flaps that allow them to jump from a tree, spread their limbs, and glide across the forest. It’s an amazing sight. We were also able to check another animal off our must-see list: the echidna! Echidnas are unique to Australia and have quills like porcupines as well as a long snout and tongue for feeding on ants. They are also "monotremes," which means they are mammals that lay eggs (like the platypus.) We were able to sit inches away and watch one thanks to the red filter on Simon’s light.

All in all, Carnarvon was a fantastic experience even though it started out a little rough with the rain and worries about getting the rental car into the park. Just like everything else we’ve done in Australia, it was full of fantastic memories.

We’re now sitting in our dorm room at the Univ. of Queensland Research Center on Heron Island at the Great Barrier Reef. We’ve had a fantastic couple of days here so far, but I’ll leave that for Andy to tell you about in his next post. Hope everyone back home is well!


It looks nice, but add a downpour and some
mold and it loses its charm quickly!

Much better . . .

Andy next to a huge ghost gum. This type of eucalypt
is my favorite. It's beautiful!

One of the 9 creek crossings. Good job Andy!

Andy at the entrance to the
Art Gallery

The Art Gallery

Boomerangs and handprints at the
Art Gallery

More Art Gallery . . .

A view of the sandstone walls of the gorge
taken from the trail

This beautiful creek carved out Ward's Canyon.

Entrance to the Amphitheater . . . watch out for
the bats!

A king parrot in front of a ghost gum

Mama kangaroo with her joey in her pouch

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely fantastic. I am in deep envy about the aboriginal paintings. I'll bet it was magical.

    Jeff H