Beautiful weather today again, and the road was pretty easy, other than an increasing number of road trains (and the same plentiful caravans), traffic is still very light. We are happy to have our UHF radio to communicate with the big trucks so when they’re ready to overtake us, we can slow down and give them space. Those guys have deadlines to meet and we don’t want to be those pesky slow nomads that hold them up and aggravate them; they are slightly bigger than us….
Diesel prices have dropped some 25-30 cents/litre since we left home over 2 weeks ago; we have now found it just around the $2 per litre. And that is in regional small towns which we always think would be more expensive. Anyway, we tend to take on 65-75litres when we fill up now with the increased tank (from old 60 to new 100litres).
Carnarvon National Park is quite large and split into a few sections (which don’t interconnect and only accessible via totally different routes). We are staying near the Gorge in the nearest campsite to all the walks (except during school holidays when they open this humongous campsite right inside the National Park at the start of all the tracks. But we are happy to be here outside of those periods as it would be absolute party time for families!!
We did not manage to get a powered site, but once we got here, that was an absolute bonus… we scored a sun-drenched (good for solar panels!) site in the the non-powered site ‘circle’ which is the least busy but still with all the same facilities as the other (powered) sections, ie the big fire pit (wood supplied); huge covered but open sided camp kitchens with some 10 picnic tables; 2 gas stoves and 2 barbecues; 4 kitchen corners with multiple sinks and taps with hot and cold water; plus clean and nice amenities. It’s the most we’ve ever paid for a site, but we are absolutely stoked to be in this place in this weather.
After setting up we drove into the gorge and got our bearings. We decided on just a short famil and walked to the ‘Rockpool’ and met another couple who we hooked up later as well. They went for a dip – we hadn’t brought our swimmers but enjoyed the lovely scenery.
Back to the campsite for happy hour on the large ‘deck’, where a movie was shown at 5pm to give a complete overview of the extensive campgrounds, the gorge and all the different walks plus the type of fauna/flora we’re likely to encounter. We enjoyed a beer with our new mates Robyn and Ralph, and they joined us for dinner/drinks over in our campsection where Arno and another guy had already started the fire, so we knew it would be a warm place to gather. We had a great time with various camp neighbours in the dark around the fire. But we all headed to bed early as we knew we’d be up to do some big walks tomorrow.
Had a cold night, but our lovely gas heater kept us very comfortable. We didn’t have a 6, 7 or even 8am start like some of the very keen hikers…. But we were on our track just after 9, and the hiking weather conditions could not have been better if we had been able to order them.
We covered around 20km of some beautiful walks with end destinations such as the ‘Cathedral’, ‘Art gallery’ and ‘Amphitheatre’. All are spectacular with a backdrop of clear blue sky, varying vegetation of gums, palms, low and high ferns, even some sort of pines! The track was beautifully (natural) laid, clear and fairly wide (mostly around 1m) with steps up and down made with boulders, sandstone, some timber retainers. The most interesting characteristic is the multiple crossings of the Carnarvon Creek. There are 16 altogether on the big walk (the other tracks are offshoots), and these crossings are all done over smooth, but various shaped rocks. So a walking stick to maintain balance is not an unnecessary luxury.
The crossings make for interesting walks and conversations, but clearly not super friendly for people with wonky knees or hips as you’d not want to misstep or lose your balance in shallow but extremely rocky water; you could end up seriously injured. But we took our time and loved it all.
Jen had sore toes after and soaked in a hot Epsom Salts (still left over from our Tasmanian adventure) footbath which felt wonderful.
After we recovered with a beer, we explored our big campground which is surrounded by the Carnarvon Creek. We climbed up the lookout hill to enjoy the sunset, and then cycled to the creek to sight a platypus or two, which by all accounts should be out and about at dawn and dusk. A bit of ripples and splash but nothing more but we are really hoping this trip will let us see one in the wild.
Had a quick stir fry meal and ate inside the van, couldn’t even bother with a fire! Early night but no early walks tomorrow, maybe an early hop down to the river for some platypus spotting?
Missed the dawn for platypus spotting, but had a lovely easy start with coffee outside in the morning sun followed by a cycle around the magnificent spread-out park with a load of laundry on the back to drop in a machine at the other end, and of course lots of socialising with our new and even newer hiking acquaintances who were all vying for the same (only 2) machines! Anyway we all had a laugh and as no one was in a hurry given most had completed big walks yesterday, and the sun was likely around all day to dry the washing, the waiting time was used to chat. Cycled along the path and finally saw a platypus around 10am and Arno was happy as.
He spent some time working on his pictures, and after lunch Jen dropped him off for the bluff walk (3 hours with a gazilion uneven and steep steps) and amazing views once on top. He absolutely loved it and took some wonderful photos.
Jen decided on a different walk that had a short sidetrack that was not widely advertised, but a fellow camper had mentioned it was well worth doing as it ended in a breathtaking narrowest of high high gorges where you could almost touch both sides. There was not another soul on the entire walk and this highly acclaimed gorge walk ended in a ‘path ends-danger’ sign before getting to the most beautiful part… had a bit of a go but realised it wasn’t something to do all alone – at some point it even included scaling of walls, so turned back just to be super lucky to run into Robyn & Ralph (whom we had met at the Rockpool day 1) who had also heard about this little hidden gem from someone! So we did it together and it was so worth it; in between amazingly high walls on both sides that looked like they had once fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. Trees growing on the top of the cliffs, and moss over the lower part and incredible layers of stone.
Later in the day we drove over to the next campground high on top of a ridge, Sandstone campground, with an almost 360 degree view where Jenny & Graeme were staying – we joined them for a sundowner, and enjoyed the sensational sunset colours both east and west, around their fire. Ralph and Robyn joined us for a bit as well with other hiker Karen (we’re all from Sydney!
Tomorrow we leave for Emerald and as J&G are staying at the same caravan park we planned not to cook, and have a dinner out together.
Wednesday 10 August: Carnarvon Gorge – Emerald
Arrived at Emerald around lunchtime and had lunch at a tavern before setting up camp. Booked 3 nights to just relax. Quite a large caravan park next to a large swimming pool and golf course where Arno booked a game for the next morning. We grabbed the bikes and toured around a bit dropping in at the visitors information centre and then enjoyed the very lovely botanical gardens. We had some lovely ribs at the golf club bistro with Jenny & Graeme and were in bed reasonably early. A good day’s work deserved a couple of good feeds….!
Golf for Arno, grocery shopping for Jen. Nice easy day around the park, enjoying the sun, cleaning a bit. Arno made friends with some of the local rainbow lorikeets, and at one point had 6 sitting on his arms, and head. Early drinks in the camp kitchen with J&G which we continued after dinner. We will explore the town more on bike tomorrow. Saturday’s forecast is for rain, so feel that’s a good day to move on.
Started the day with a last coffee with J&G on their way out; we’ll miss them; we’ve had some fun times and plenty of laughs with them, decided we definitely meet up when home, especially given we live so close!
Load of laundry and off to a bit more exploring of the town taking pictures of The Big Easel, with Vincent van Gogh’s sun flowers painting (tribute to the man himself), a dragon art work, and rode through the leafy streets of town.
Leaving tomorrow and with rain forecast for tonight, packing up tonight to just get up and go in the morning.
Snapshot map of trip so far.