Situated in pristine country, 750km northwest of Brisbane is the Carnarvon National Park. The highlight is the astonishingly beautiful Carnarvon Gorge and I did the 240km drive north from Roma today to do some of its walks.
The full walk is over 10kms one way following the Carnarvon Creek with several detours along the way to interesting geology and human formations. I left Roma at 6am and got there at 8.30am. The rangers recommended against the full walk with a very hot day (> 35 degrees C) expected. I still plumped for a tough 14km walk that took in four of the Gorge’s intriguing diversions.
The geology of the area is complex. The white cliffs are sandstone and volcanic eruptions formed basalt caps.
The trail crisscrosses the creek on numerous occasions and it is important to keep an eye on the stones below as you hop across for fear of ending up in the drink.
I decided to go to the farthest detour first and work my way back. After 7km of walking I got to the Art Gallery, home to the Aboriginal rock art. Here Indigenous painters used stencils, quartzile tools, hand designs and free painting all the aspects of their lives. The life-size boomerangs, pottery, kangaroos and emu eggs are matched with a collection of vulvas unknown elsewhere in Aboriginal art. The thousand-year old stencils mix with more recent European etchings from people still leaving their mark.
Next stop is Ward’s Canyon. The canyon is named for two brothers who camped here while trapping possums in the 1910s. The canyon is known for its tree ferns and king ferns. The king ferns are particularly impressive and this is only place away from the Australian coast you can find the threatened species. The two metre-long fronds rely totally on the water supply to keep them erect.
As the time crept towards midday, the sun was almost directly overhead making shade difficult to find and walking a hot and sweaty exercise. Plenty of water was required though the rangers don’t recommend you drink the creek water.
The third stop is the amphitheatre. The shape of the entrance (reached by 50 steps) is a clue perhaps as to why the Aboriginal graffiti was full of vulvas in this area.
This is a magical spot. Like the Gorge, the amphitheatre was formed out of the erosion soft sandstone by the relentless forces of water. It is not hard to be awed and its cool shade was greatly appreciated today.
The last stop was the Moss Garden. The sandstone soaks up rainwater like a giant sponge. When the water meets an impenetrable layer of shale, the water moves sideways and trickles out from the wall. The constant moisture sustains a green oasis of mosses, ferns and liverworts. After 4 hours and 15km of walking in the hot sun, it was a relief to get back to base. The Carnarvons are a walker’s paradise – but there is a reason it was quiet today. The tourist season is from April to October, when the temperatures are at least 15 degrees cooler.