We had quick overnight stop at Emerald on our way south to Carnarvon Gorge. We hadn’t been able to book a campsite in the national park so we stayed at the Takaraka caravan park located only a couple of kilometres away which turned out to be a great place to stay.
The next morning we had ourselves a substantial breakfast in preparation for the day ahead before driving into the national park.
The Great Carnarvon Gorge Walk covers a total distance of 87km. We were not planning to do all of that but to complete the section which travels up the main path through the gorge to Big Bend, and then investigate the side trails on our way back. At 8am we set out. The trail starts with large stepping-stones across Carnarvon Creek. On the other side the path is level and easy to follow.
As we progressed we appreciated the changing landscape: incredible views of the marvelous sandstone cliffs; sections of rainforest with the sounds of trickling water and the cool shade from the overhead palms and lower down, the remarkable ferns. We startled a large kangaroo as we rounded a bend of tall grass and after a heart stopping moment he bounded off. As the track zig-zagged up the gorge the stepping-stones across the stream became smaller and less stable, but we managed not to fall in!
Finally we made it to Big Bend, 10kms in and our end point for the day. We used the toilet and had a short rest before turning around and heading back.
Our first turn off was Boowinda Gorge. This continues on for quite a distance but we just checked out the first one or two k’s. The track surface is over the natural creek cobble stones, so we had to take care not to twist our ankles. The sheer rock walls of the gorge are smooth, evidence of the eons of time that water has been shaping this area.
The next stop was at Cathedral Cave. Archaeological evidence has shown that this was a campsite for the local aboriginal population. A boardwalk runs along the length of sandstone for viewing of the indigenous art. In contrast to the artwork we had seen previously on this trip, most of this painting was stencil form of handprints, tools and even an old rifle.
We sat on the picnic benches and had our lunch while enjoying the peace and quiet before continuing.
Our next turn off was the Art Gallery. A short 340m track, although the last 300m are up a fairly steep slope! We were rewarded with a boardwalk displaying more indigenous artwork. While Cathedral Cave is more of a campsite, the Art Gallery is thought to be a more ceremonial site.
Our last stop for the day was Wards Canyon, a short 400m detour into a very quite, cool and tranquil grotto. We enjoyed another break and took in the ferns and mossy rocks of our surroundings.
The final trek back to the car was hard work, especially the last 5km’s but we finally made it back to the car and drove back to camp where we tended to our blistered and aching feet. We’d covered 25km.
The next day we were back out on the trail again. This time we were not venturing quite so far, and headed straight to Moss Garden, a beautiful small gorge of ferns and moss-covered rocks that ends with a lovely small waterfall.
We headed further up the trail to the Amphitheatre. We climbed the ladder and walked through the narrow fissure worn through the rock over time. Once inside the sheer cliff face wrapped around us and climbs to spectacular heights.
We ate our lunch inside the amphitheater before heading back, having covered another 10km on foot. Although there were still a few small tracks that we had yet to explore we were done in and headed straight back to camp where we enjoyed a couple of well earned beers.