Matt Williams is a Brisbane based landscape photographer with an impressive portfolio. Below he shares his story of visiting Carnarvon Gorge, one of Queensland’s most spectacular and popular natural features.
Anything that hasn't already been said about Carnarvon Gorge National Park is probably not worth saying, with the park being a longtime favourite of Queenslanders for decades. It really is a special place, and the jewel in the crown of the Central Queensland Sandstone Belt.
Basing myself at Takarakka Bush Resort for my three night stay, I'd done a little pre-planning to get the most out of my time.
I arrived mid-morning and booked in to my camp site. I set up my swag and went for a stroll around the resort, getting a lay of the land, trying to work out the best place to spot the elusive platypus later in the afternoon. A quick bite for lunch then it was time to pull on my hiking boots. I'd decided on tackling Mickey Creek Gorge first, followed by the Aboriginal Art site at Baloon Cave. The short walk to Baloon Cave, passes fan palms and cycads before arriving at an overhung section of sandstone protecting many fine examples of Aboriginal stencil art.
TOP TIP: For that full Indiana Jones experience, you really can't beat taking the right hand track to Warrumbah Creek Gorge. You'll find yourself at the bottom of sheer sandstone walls, that continue to get closer and closer the deeper you go. Scrambling over moss covered rocks and climbing makeshift log ladders just adds to the sense of adventure. Soon, you'll be at a point where you can touch both sides of the gorge with outstretched arms.
Back at Takarakka Bush Resort, my reconnaissance work from early paid off, with a sighting of the platypus only minutes after arriving at the creek.
Today was the day for my big walk up the gorge proper. An early start, meant that I was heading off in the cool of the morning towards my target for the day: The Art Gallery. Apparently there are over 2000 stencils, engravings and freehand paintings adorning the 62m long sandstone walls at The Art Gallery. I didn't bother counting them, for all I know is that it is one of the most impressive sites you will ever see. A boardwalk, fencing and interpretive signage now keeps idle hands away from the delicate sandstone and artworks.
TOP TIP: Young players – if you get up early and hit the tracks, there's a good chance that you may be the only one at the Art Gallery. To me, being able to sit there with only the sounds of the bush around me, as I took in this amazing site, made it all the more memorable.
On leaving the Art Gallery, I started back towards the Visitor Area, encountering fellow walkers as they made their way deeper into the gorge.
TOP TIP: A piece of advice that I was given before heading off on my walk, was to head to the furthest place you wanted to walk to, then do the many shorter side walks on your way back. This was very good advice that should be taken by all new visitors to the gorge.
First port of call on the return leg was Ward's Canyon. Entering Ward's Canyon is like stepping back in time, and is home to the world's largest fern, the king fern and is the only place in Central Queensland where these plants survive.
Next up is the Amphitheatre. Prepare to be blown away after you climb the metal stairs and pass through the small opening before emerging into a 60m deep chamber, cut into the sandstone by running water over millennia. If you've got a voice better than me (did someone say fingernails down a blackboard??) apparently the acoustics of the Amphitheatre rival that fancy white sailed building in Sydney! Or so they say....
If the Amphitheatre blew me away with it's size, the Moss Garden took my breath away with it's serenity. Every shade of green imaginable can be found at the Moss Garden, where water constantly drips from the sandstone above. Timber bench seating is provided, enabling me to sit back and relax, taking in this lush environment of mosses and ferns.
After the Moss Garden, I walked 3.5km back to the visitor area, and then a short drive back to Takarakka for a well deserved beverage.
Starting well before dawn, today is the day when I really got my body working. With a good torch, I headed to the top of Boolimba Bluff in the dark. Rising some 200m above Carnarvon Creek, the Bluff offers the only lookout from the gorge. It's also the best place to watch the sunrise, hence I was walking in the pre-dawn darkness. The lung busting efforts of walking the steep stairs were soon forgotten as the approaching sun started to illuminate the surrounding sandstone ridges with golden hues. Another bonus of walking in the dark, was that I got to experience the walk out in daylight for the first time. It was a win-win really!
Making it back to the visitor area, I still had two walks to check off my list. First was the Nature Trail that leaves from the visitor area and follows Carnarvon Creek, and second was the Rock Pool also on Carnarvon Creek.
After all this walking, it was time for me to head back to Takarakka Bush Resort for some well deserved rest before once again going and visiting the friendly platypus.
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