Saturday 13 August 2011

Carnarvon Gorge Trip - Day 2

Day 2 - 13/8/2011 - Walk to Big Bend and back

We thought that we would get the big bush walk out of the way on the first day, that way we still had a few days to recover if it knocked us around too much.  Plus the weather was ideal for walking.  Again, not a cloud in the sky and it was cool but not cold.  We came out to Carnarvon expecting it to be fairly cold at this time of year, but the temperature only dropped to 6 deg over night.  We didn’t even have to fire up the diesel heater!

We left camp at around 8:45am and drove up to the Carnarvon NP visitors center which was about 5km further along the road to the start of the walks.  It was probably a touch after 9am when we started out on the track.  We were going to tackle the walk out to Cathedral Cave but along the way we thought we would go for broke and go the extra 500m to make it to Big Bend.  What is an extra 500m after already walking 9.1km!  Just ask Jodie at the end of the day!!!  All up it was about a 23Km round trip!  This is the most that Jodie had ever walked in a day and she was feeling it by the end of the day.

We followed the info centre advice and didn’t worry about doing any of the off shoot attractions on the way out to Big Bend.  The goal was to get to Big Bend as quick as possible and then do the sight seeing on the way back.  That way if you don’t have time to see all of the sites, it is not as far to walk to the ones that you missed on another day.

The main track had been realigned for some reason so now there were only 12 creek crossings instead of the 20 previously.  For about the first two thirds of the way to Big Bend, the creek crossings were fairly easy to follow.  The tracks across the creek were pretty easy to follow due to the number of people walking it and I would say that the Rangers have also made it easy for people to see where to go by creating rock pathways which were fairly well defined.  However from the Art Gallery to Big Bend it was getting a lot harder to follow the track across the creek because the this part of the track wasn’t as well trafficked and it looked like the Rangers hadn’t started on repairing the track since the effects of the wet season.  All you had to go by was a little orange or red triangle nailed on to a tree on the other side of the bank, and if you were lucky other walkers had made some rock cairns to help show people the way across the creek.  There were also stones that were arranged to act as a stepping stone path across the water. The water must stay at a fairly constant level all year round - except when it rains.  Not much leeway for a rise in the water levels!  The rocks were only just above the water.

Cliff faces
Creek bed
As we passed the side track to the Art Gallery, we came across an older couple aimlessly wandering the creek bed looking for the Art Gallery.  They hadn’t found the way across one of the creek crossings before the Art Gallery side track and instead had been walking up the creek bed and missed the side track completely!  They were trying to make it to Cathedral Cave but after we explained that they had missed the side track to the Art Gallery and they had to look for the triangle markers, they turned around to head back to the Art Gallery.  We pointed them in the right direction.  We never found them on our way back so we assumed they found their way back!

We made it to Big Bend by about 12:00pm, so we decided to have some lunch before starting to head back and do all of the side tracks.  After lunch we had a bit of a wonder around Big Bend and took a few photos of the overhanging sandstone gorge before heading back towards Cathedral Cave.

Big Bend Creek Bed

Big Bend Creek Bed
The creek in Big Bend
The patterns in the sandstone
Next stop was Cathedral Cave.  It was absolutely amazing!  The fact that it is about 10km walk from the Information Centre seems to have protected it from any graffiti - it is amazing to think that the handprints and other paintings could be thousands of years old.

Steve at Cathedral Cave
Cathedral Cave
Rock art up close
The next stop on the way back was the Art Gallery.  I don’t know if it was because we were staring to get tired or not but we didn’t think the Art Gallery was as good as Cathedral Cave.  It wasn’t quite as big and the aboriginal art work had been a bit vandalised by people carving their names etc into the sand stone.  We didn’t even take that many photos of it.

Rock art at the Art Gallery
Next stop was Ward’s Canyon.  Jodie sat this one out at the start of the side track as it was a steep track up into the canyon.  Considering we still had at least 6km to go to get back to the Information Centre, Jodie decided to rest her legs so that she could make it all of the way back.

Ward’s Canyon was absolutely stunning!  Initially I nearly turned around when I got to the water fall just below the entrance to the canyon because it wasn’t all that spectacular, but I thought that I should just just go up a little bit further to check it out.  I am glad I did.  The photos I took just didn’t do it justice.  As you were walking into the canyon you felt as though you were entering an magical enchanted land, with ancient ferns and a cool crystal clear trickling stream running beside the little walking track heading off into the canyon.  The temperature dropped by at least 5 degrees and there was a cool breeze flowing through the canyon.  Absolutely magical.

Entrance to Wards Canyon
Start of Wards Canyon

Looking back towards the entrance to Wards Canyon

Some educational stuff

The ferns and looking towards the entrance of the Canyon
Next stop after Ward’s Canyon was the Amphitheatre.  It was close to 3:15pm by the time that we reached the Amphitheatre so it was starting to get a bit dark in the valleys.  Considering we still had about 5km to go to get back to the visitors centre, we couldn’t spend too much time here other wise it would be getting very close to sunset by the time we got back.

Entrance to the Ampitheatre
You had to climb up the metal gantry to enter the Amphitheatre.  You could see and feel where the metal platforms had been distorted due to the force of the water in the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 wet season.  It would have been an amazing sight to see the amount of water flowing out of here.  As you were walking through the crevice to get to the “60 metre deep chamber” of the Amphitheatre, there was a super-cold wind whistling through the crevice.  It felt like it was coming straight out of a freezer.

Walking through to the Amphitheatre
Once inside the narrow walkway opened up into a big, (surprise, surprise), amphitheatre.  The acoustics were great and the temperature was really cool.  It is pretty amazing to think how it was formed.

Inside the Amphitheatre - we came through that gap just left of centre
On the way back out
It was 3:30pm by the time we left the Amphitheatre.  We still had 4.3km to go to get back to the Information Centre.  Despite how tired we were, we managed to get back to the Information Centre by 4:30pm.  Jodie was absolutely knackered.  I was nearly thinking that I would have to fireman's carry her the last kilometre or so but luckily the last couple of hundred meters was all down hill which helped.

Washing away the pain of the day in the cold river water
When we got back to camp, Jodie was straight off to the showers to sooth the aching muscles under the hot showers.  Meanwhile I was attending camp with a few cold brews!  Jodie was so worn out that she pretty much curled up in bed straight after returning from the showers.  I finished up cooking dinner and Jodie ate hers in bed and went strait to sleep after finishing it.

After cleaning everything up, I started playing around with the long exposures on the camera again.  Had I known that tonight would have been the best night for no neighbours I would have have spent a lot more time taking the shots that I did.  Unfortunately I hadn’t mastered how to achieve tack sharp focus in pitch darkness!  Here are some samples anywhere.  It is a shame that these are a bit out of focus but at least you can see what I was trying to achieve.

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