Queensland has some great bush walks, some of the best walking in Queensland is in the central Queensland; Carnarvon Gorge National Park, where dramatic landscapes foster, striking flora; spear grass, grass trees and prehistoric cycads and ferns, and an abundance of fauna, including the often elusive platypus. Country of Bidjara and Karingbal people, I wish to acknowledge their elders past present and emerging and acknowledge their on going connection to the land.
I love those awe inspiring landscapes, deep time landscapes of old rock that bring home our unsubstantial existence. Nothing like old rock to remind us of our insignificance to the universe and our transitory existence. The gorge is a bountiful, lost world in the otherwise arid region of central Queensland and it has some of the most magical walks to be found in national parks, the main gorge walking track, takes in some awesome experiences over a relatively short distance, roughly 20ks, with the best sights easily visited within a 14k round trip walk, including the culturally significant rock art gallery, the prehistoric glory of Wards cannon with its ageless cycads and palms, the serenity of the moss garden, and the awe inspiring natural beauty of the amphitheatre. The main gorge track is accessed from the park information centre and progresses over a well formed central trail with side trips branching off.
Water forms a central element to the gorge with the main trail largely following the line of the creek that runs through the gorge, fed by rain and artesian sources, the water is a source of life and the first obstacle you will deal with on any walk and you will deal with it again and again as you cross and re-cross the creek over and over. So good boots are not just advisable, they are essential. While returning from a days walk we encountered a group of walkers who had, had to deal with a medical emergency, when a walker slipped on a rock on one of the crossings, fell and hit her head on another rock, easy to do, especially if you are tired and your boots don’t have adequate grip. Worth remembering that you are largely reliant on your own resources, so make sure you are up to the walk and that you are adequately resourced to walk out if something does go wrong.
Water has carved out the dramatic features of the park, like the amphitheatre where the washing machine like action of water swirling in a gap in the rock has carved out the dramatic structure, or the moss garden where water thousands of years old is slowly filtered through the rock to constantly drip out into the ferny sanctuary. The trail largely follows the creek, and it pays to keep your eyes open when walking the ridges above the creek, as that is where we made one of our platypus sightings. Walking along we spotted the unmistakable ripples of platypus surfacing and diving, it became an excuse to stop for a moment and watch, sure enough our patience was rewarded. We had a birds eye view of the active and uninhibited animal. They can be notoriously difficult to see in the wild but at Carnarvon we had three encounters with the iconic animal. Takaraka, the camp ground where we stayed had a resident platypus in their part of the creek, and our final and surprising sighting was at the Rock Pool, the last place I expected to see one, since it is the one place in the park where people are allowed to swim. I thought for sure it was an area that would be too disrupted by humans to nurture a platypus, but standing on the bank and staring at the titular rock, I turned to see that I was being intensely observed by a pool resident. The area was rich in wildlife, plenty of roos and pretty-faced wallaby, lots of bird life, had hoped to see lots of azure kingfisher but only got to see one, did get to see lots of their cousins the Kookaburra. I was actually hoping for another sighting of the azure kingfisher at the rock pool, but I can’t complain when I got another up close encounter with a platypus instead.
On our first day at the gorge we walked to the culturally significant art gallery, a site of international significance, with its enigmatic examples of stencil art. The sight felt as sacred as any cathedral and I felt privileged to be standing in front of the ancient images. The site felt mysterious and powerful, amongst the images is the faint outline of a giant serpent, the Rainbow serpent of the dreaming that created the gorge by carving it out as it travelled along the creek system. Carved along a section of the gallery is a repeated motif of female sexuality, the vulva, that made the place feel particularly powerful in a feminine way. Signs at the entrance to the gallery explain that the stencil net image indicates that burials also occurred in the area, giving the site a powerful association with birth and death. The fragile art indicates a site of learning and spiritual significance and it is a humbling experience to see it.
On our last day we thought we would tackle some of the shorter walks, so we visited the Rock pool, too cold to actually swim but as mentioned previously, we did get to see another platypus. Then we did the Mickey Creek walk, a pretty, easy gentle stroll up the creek. It is one of the minor walks but it is a very easy trail and still simply beautiful, well worth doing.
Carnarvon is one of Australia’s great iconic walks, and one I highly recommend, in fact I am already thinking about when I might be able to get back to the park again.