Friday, 28 June 2013

Carnarvon National Park

Our slightly ‘out west’ trip so far has taken us through a few towns, lots of wide open space, lots of road works (Australian roads are really not very good!), lots of ‘road trains’ (big macho looking trucks towing one or two trailers, that can be up to 36m long. They take a long time to start and stop, so they don’t like changing speed and are pretty frightening looking on the road coming at you on a narrow road, or right up behind you) and lots of dead kangaroo’s at the roadside. We were told not to drive after dusk as the kangaroo’s wait until a car’s headlights light up the other side of the road and, because they can see, they just hop out, straight into the path of a car! They really are stupid!

The 'Big Rig' evening show
Roma was our first stop, an interesting town stuck in the middle of nowhere. The visitor centre is right next to the ‘Big Rig’ centre, a big museum celebrating Roma’s claim to fame as being the cradle of Australia’s oil and gas industry. Every evening they put on a half hour show and we were told it’s really interesting, so at just $8 each we were curious enough to give it a try. It was good fun, Roma almost made it big, but not quite and they were quite happy to make fun of themselves. It was founded a few years after the pioneer Mitchell first got over the mountains in 1846 and described the area as the most pristine primeval forest and landscape he had ever seen. Within a few years many people descended into Roma and water became scarce so, after drilling for artesian wells several times, they struck gas! Not knowing what to do with it, they let is hiss out for 5 years before someone had the bright idea of using it to light the streets. Everyone came from miles around to see this marvel, except the gas ran out after about 10 days! They drilled for oil with the help of some Americans, but (they believe) they sabotaged it and tried to make the company bankrupt to remove competition. Eventually it was decided that the oil and gas was too difficult to get out so it was all moved elsewhere, leaving Roma as a little backwater. Today the oil companies are back there again, but on isolated compounds, so of no benefit to Roma. Poor little Roma!

Apostle birds on our campsite (look like they are wearing a mask!)
Carnarvon Gorge
Another long drive north took us to Carnarvon National Park, a huge gorge gouged out by water action over millions of years. The ranger who gave a bit of a talk round a campfire on our campsite set in the bush told us it’s the biggest artesian basin in the world, feeding water into five of Queensland’s major rivers. An impermeable base of shale has two thick layers of sedimentary, porous rocks, overlaid by a thick layer of volcanic basalt, put down 10 million years ago. Water seeps through the ground into the sedimentary rocks, but can’t get through the shale, so seeps out sideways, carving out the gorge. 

It’s something like 35km long, of which 11km is accessible on foot and there are a number of side valleys making the whole thing very picturesque. There’s also a 6 day ‘great walk’, going along the gorge but then up into the hinterland and right round the high ground. 

Various lengths of walk are possible, but we decided to do the longest day walk possible (at least should I say, I decided!). 

3000 year old Aboriginal rock art in the 'Art Galley'
22km in all, it went as far as we could go to the ‘Big Bend’, taking in ‘Cathedral Cave’ (a huge natural feature covered in Aboriginal art, said to be over 3500 years old), ‘Boowinda Gorge’ (a very narrow twisting gorge with no path), the ‘Art Gallery’ (a significant Aboriginal rock art site), ‘Wards Canyon’ (a short steep walk to a small waterfall), ‘The Amphitheatre’, our favourite (a narrow slot canyon that opens out into a large chasm, all hollowed out by water and accessed by a ladder) and the ‘Moss garden’ (a picturesque little spot with a waterfall and mosses dripping with water where the different rock types and how the whole gorge was formed is really shown).

A brief stop for a snack break
Rock art in Cathedral Cave

Boowinda Gorge, the narrowest side canyon

The ladder entrance to the Amphitheatre
The weather forecast was good, with zero chance of rain, so after learning from Paul we didn’t take the waterproofs. Had a bit of a scare halfway through when it started to rain – but only a few spots so we were OK. Jackie had a sense of humour failure when I said I wanted to go right to the end (we had gone most of the way, with only ½km remaining, so I went on my own while she sat and watched some swifts flying about). After meeting the captain of a super-yacht (owned by a Melbourne millionaire) having a few days off to walk the gorge, we bumped into him several times in the various side canyons throughout the day and got to know him fairly well (Jackie said we should have invited him to dinner as he’s staying on our campsite on his own).

Looking back out through the slot of the Amphitheatre
Inside the Amphitheatre chasm

The 'Moss Garden'. Apparently that water hasn't seen daylight for 10,000 years (according to the park Ranger)
This wierd Eucalptus deformation round a rock I saw at the 'Big Bend'
Anyway, with fairly tired limbs but a nice feeling of having had a good day out, we’re just about falling asleep (at 8:15pm!). Tomorrow we’re off again to a sapphire mining area, Jackie wants to go ‘fossiking’ for sapphires! We also hope to find an internet connection, there is nothing here. I’ve typed this tonight knowing I won’t be able to post it, but hopefully we’ll find somewhere tomorrow. 

Free wi-fi courtesy of Springsure Library, a little town we stopped at on our way north. Must dash now....

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