Saturday 19 June 2021
Brisbane to Roma
480 km driving
We woke up early, packed the fridge and pillows and headed to the Ampol at Blacksoil to meet up with Brenda, Barb and the kids by 08.30am. The trip to Roma was mostly uneventful, stopping only for toilets, coffee, lunch, swapping drivers and fixing the van mirrors that came loose on Brenda’s car. We arrived in Roma around 3:00pm. Found our accommodation for the night (we both opted not to set up camp and splashed out on a room / cabin for the night). Our room smelt of smoke, so we asked for a different one. Let’s just say that we won’t be staying there again. Apart from the broken kettle and the bright blue light through the glass front fridge, I was colder in the tin shed than the next four nights in the tent. We all walked a couple of kms into town and had a lovely dinner at Royal on 99 (would recommend for breakfast, dinner or just coffee).
Sunday 20 June 2021: Roma to Takarakka 245 km driving
Up by 8:00am (we had a sleep-in as we were waiting for John Power and Sean who had stayed the night in Chinchilla, and Red with her friend Meg who were leaving at 5:00am from Brisbane to join us in Roma and travel together). We checked out and drove into town to have breakfast at the bakery: Bakearoma. Well, if you are in a hurry, don’t order there. Luckily, we were not (in a hurry). It took 3 hours to get our coffee and breakfast. Poor Cooper was the hungriest and had to wait the longest and then they gave him sweet chili sauce to pour on his pancakes instead of maple syrup. We did some window shopping as nothing was open on Sundays with Sean and John arriving around 11:45am. Red and Meg had left late and were still an hour behind, so we fueled up and drove to Injune where we had a toilet stop and waited for our youngest to catch up.
Finally, at 2:00pm we made our way to Takarakka, arriving at around 4:00pm. A quick set up and off to the office for their daily video showing the Gorge walking tracks and attractions. There was a plague of mice in camp, so we were all careful not to leave food or rubbish around. At camp already, were Craig and Debbie McKay and John’s work mate Dan and his partner Hannah who had both arrived earlier that day. We all had an early night as we had planned to do the longest walk on our first day, whilst we all had the energy for it.
Monday 21 June: Big Bend and back 25 km walking
We all woke early with the aim of leaving at 06.30am. Just after 7.00am, with backpacks, lunch and water in hand, we drove the 4 kms to the Visitor Information Centre to start our first day of walking adventures. At 7:14am, after a group photo we headed into the Gorge. There are 16 crossings of Carnarvon Creek, and although we found the first one fun, confidently rock hopping across to the other side, the crossings got more challenging and harder to navigate as the day went on, with number 11 and 12 zig-zagging several times on tiny, slippery ‘pebbles’ to balance on in the middle of the crossing. We made good time to Beg Bend (9.7 kms from visitor center), which was the end of the Gorge tracks, stopping for morning tea along the way and lunch at the Big Bend campsite.
Big Bend is a big elbow of the gorge, with sweeping sandstone walls and a pool of water at the bottom. We watched the birds fly in and out of the holes in the wall whilst catching our breath. On our way back we took the sidetracks to visit Boowinda Gorge -we rock-hopped through this side gorge with wave-like, smoothly eroded sandstone walls that snaked around never-ending corners carved by past extreme flows of water into amazing shapes. Boowinda is an indigenous word meaning 'thunder', therefore if you hear thunder when in Boowinda Gorge, it's time to leave as it is prone to flash flooding.
Cathedral Cave was next – with a massive overhang, this site was the main campsite for indigenous people using the Gorge in the past. Its walls are covered with rock art.
Then on to the Art Gallery – It contains rock art walls with over 2000 individual motifs, made up of around 1350 engravings, 650 stencils and a smattering of freehand art.
Our last site to visit was Wards Canyon - The track into Wards Canyon is short, but quite steep. At the end of the trail were some massive fronds of King Ferns, which are the only known colony in Central Queensland. It was cool and lush with vegetation. A stark difference to the sandstone walls of the other tracks.
We headed back on the main track with Barb having hurt her knee (bravely pushing on) and arrived back at 2:40pm. The coffee shop was closing at 3:30 so a few of us rushed ahead to buy a coffee whilst others waited for the late comers (Meg and Red had taken a few extra sidetracks). We had prepared a stew that morning which was warm and cooked by the Dreampot by the end of the day. Best plan ever..Early to bed.
Tuesday 22 June: Boolimba Bluff
11 km walking
We woke at 4:00am to prepare to walk up the Bluff to see the sunrise. Leaving camp by 4:30am sharp -John, Sean, Dan, Hannah, Craig, Danny and myself. Rock hopping the creek in the dark added a new technicality. Boolimba Bluff is the Gorge’s main lookout. It stands about 200m above the level of the creek and its track contains around 960 stairs. In hindsight it was great doing it in the dark as you could only see one step at a time. I pushed past John and ‘powered’ on up, then looked back and could no longer see anyone or any lights. Apparently, John was heard saying some choice words when he saw how high my light was and what he was yet to conquer. We all made it to the top and caught our breath whilst setting up our tripods on the cliff edge. First light was at 6:24am with the sunrise at around 6:58am. We enjoyed the serenity and experienced the Australian bush waking up with plenty of bird calls in the air.
At 7:01am we took a group photo and made our way back down, amazed and in awe by the track we could now see. The morning light hits Wagaroo's Gorge’s western walls and is reflected into the shaded gullies, lighting them with an almost magical light. Sean was having knee problems on the way down, so we took it nice and slow returning to camp by 8:30am after another coffee and French Patisserie breakfast. The rest of the day was spent around camp relaxing. We tried catching a glimpse of the resident Platypus, but no luck. A few of us, (Brenda, Barb, the kids, Danny and I), walked up a small hill behind camp to watch the sunset. Alyssa didn’t make the sunrise, so we thought a sunset was just as fitting. By 5:30pm the sun was gone. Early to bed for me.
Wednesday 23 June: Lower Gorge tracks 14 km walking
We headed back to the Gorge for another day of walking at 9:00am. We aimed to see the rest of the sidetracks off the lower section of the Main Gorge track. Hannah and Danny also now had sore knees and Brenda had very bad blisters on her heals from Monday’s walk, so slow and steady was the order of the day. We pushed to the furthest site that we hadn’t yet seen (about 4.3kms) and worked our way back. The Amphitheatre is one of those places that have to be experienced; words and photographs simply cannot do the place justice. It is accessed by a narrow, elevated slot canyon and then opens out into a substantial vertical hole in the sandstone. The geology and how it has eroded to create the surrounding features is truly amazing. We sat there taking in the serenity and the acoustics which were also impressive.
Our next stop back down the gorge was the Moss Garden. This spot was one of my favourite and Danny and I waited quite a while to have the place to ourselves so that we could video the sounds of the waterfall, dripping water and wildlife. The track follows Koolaroo Creek into Hellhole Gorge and climbs sharply in places before crossing the creek to enter Violet Gorge. The Moss Garden cliff line whose base is covered by a lush carpet of mosses, pepperomia and ferns is supported by the largest spring in the Gorge. It was quite serene. We made it back to the Visitor Centre by 1:25pm with a compulsory coffee stop on the way back to camp. The afternoon was spent putting the feet up. Personally, I was wrestles, with the thought of only one more day left to explore, so the planned ‘easy’ walk for the next day to Mickey’s Creek (3 km return) got me thinking…… I tentatively approached Danny with the idea of going on a slightly more challenging walk, on my own, to Battleship Spur. After lots of “you’re crazy !!?!?”, he helped me plan for my trek the next day. An early night for me……but I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited.
Thursday 24 June 2021: Battleship Spur 30 km walking
Up at 5:45am, backpack kitted up with PLB (tested and working – Thanks to B4wd club, it’s a great investment and it was definitely peace of mind for me), lunch, first aid kit and plenty of water. Danny dropped me off at the start of the gorge at 6:30am and kissed me goodbye. The gorge was just in daylight and all the stepping stones on the crossings were dry as there had been no foot traffic yet that day. I made good time, 1 hour to the Amphitheatre (4.3 kms) and got to the Boowinda Gorge (9.7 kms) within the 2 hour mark A quick drink and snack stop before my trek up the hill. The Gorge is lined with small boulders on the floor, which narrows to only a few metres at some points. Overhead the cliffs soar 30 odd metres into the sky. When deeper into the gorge the air temp dropped dramatically.
It took me about half an hour of rock hopping to reach the turnoff to the track up the hill, marked by a collection of cairns and a small sign that shows the trail branching off to the right. The first 100 metres of the ascent out of Boowinda Gorge was tough, ascending a steep gradient that requires a small amount of scrambling. Following the initial ascent, the trail is a tease most of the time, with 4 false summits and testing inclines. You can see Battleship Spur in the distance, but climbing one rocky section after another, a small, steel ladder, a shale scree and navigating narrow tracks along the cliff edges got me there eventually. Battleship Spur sits 1080 meters above Beg Bend overlooking Carnarvon Gorge. To say the view was spectacular is an understatement. So worth it. I made it there by 10.10am. Sent Danny, Sean and John a text to say that I had made the top then sat and absorbed my surrounding for the next half hour. After an apple and taking a few photos to prove that I made it there, I headed back down the hill. I found this a little more challenging as I was super cautious not to slip and took careful steps. I was on my own and had not seen another person for the 5.5 hours since I left Danny. (I did talk to myself a little though). The track was well marked but not so well worn as in the gorge.
I came across 5 hikers on their way up the hill who had camped the night at Big Bend and were doing the great walk (5–6-day walk – of which I did the first day and a half that morning). I think they got a fright, not expecting anyone else as crazy as them already heading down the hill. I made it down, then back through the Boowinda Gorge and found a lovely lunch spot down in the Gorge. Still, no one else around. Half hour for lunch then I headed back across the 16 creek crossings and along the gorge floor, only meeting people when halfway back along the main track. I made it back at 1:50pm (according to Strava, 5 hours 54 minutes of walking time and I used up 3,600 calories). I called Danny to pick me up. (He was having coffee and didn’t get my message until 20 minutes later). I was ready for a rest. Lucky for me we had all booked for the catered, roast meal at Takarakka. Dinner at 6:00pm and I was still awake and on a high at 9pm.
Friday 25 June: Takarakka to Roma (or Chinchilla or Brisbane for some)
After 4 days of good weather, it rained all night and we all packed up wet. By 9:00am we were all ready to make the trek back to our destination for the night. Danny and I headed to Roma for a night in a luxury hotel (so nice), before a couple of days at Mount Moffat on our own.
Thank-you John for taking us all to such a wonderful place full of memories and adventures to cherish. Thanks to all the others for your great company. (Alyssa was a walking champion – always keeping up with the head of the pack – Well done). Thanks to Danny for trusting me to be on my own for a day in the bush. Now I’m itching to go and do the rest of the Great walk.