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Postcard from Carnarvon Gorge

July 5th, 2010 0 comments

Carnarvon Gorge has long been on my list of must-do walks. We arrive just in time to get a map from information and check into our lodgings – a safari tent. Camping with an en suite. Now that’s what I call camping!

The walk is a there-and-back-again, criss-crossing the Carnarvon Creek on stepping stones over 20 times, with side trips to canyons and aboriginal art galleries. The ranger asks me how long it would take me to walk 14 km and I reckon about 6-8 hours. So he suggests I aim for the Art Gallery and then check out the Amphitheatre, Ward’s Canyon and Moss Garden on my return.

I head off at 0830. It’s crisp and clear – cold really. I soon encounter a tour group of geriatrics. They are so deaf they can’t hear me calling out “coming through”. And soon after, another tour group blocking the path, closely inspecting the trunk of a tree. And then I have the gorge to myself. It’s lovely and quiet. At last. Solitude, stillness, spirituality. The only sound is the soft trilling of treecreepers, the flapping of currawong wings as they abandon the path ahead, and the incessant tinnitus in my head.

I reach the Art Gallery at 0945 so I push on another 4 km to the Cathedral Cave. A seductive sign points to the end of the main gorge track at Big Bend, so I fang it and reward myself with a nice cup of tea. 10 km in two and a quarter hours – not too bad for an older person. Plenty of time to explore everything on the return. Binaroo Gorge is a side trip of about one km, but is absolutely stunning, with steep, narrow, moss-sided walls. Cathedral Cave has wonderful art and etchings. On closer inspection some of the etchings look a bit dodgy. And indeed. They are images of the human vulva. Wow! Thousands of years old. And I thought sex was just a recent invention. I spend a good half hour inspecting the works in detail. Back to the Art Gallery, and oh no, more vulvas. Everywhere, in your face, vulvas. Lunch, taking it all in, then Ward’s Canyon, cool and intimate with king ferns, the Amphitheatre, an awesome chamber, nearly 200 feet deep, entered through ladders and a slit in the rock. A womb, perhaps, to accommodate all those vulvas? And finally, with my boots dragging and scuffing the track, the sublime, dripping, Moss Garden. Back at the start at 1700 – eight and half hours and 25 km. No wonder my legs feel like cramping up.

The walk is definitely in my top five day walks. Number one must remain the yet to be completed Tongariro Crossing, with three failed attempts. Number two must be the walk of a lifetime in the Grampians – the exhilarating Mt Stapleton-Hollow Mountain challenge. Any walk at the Prom ranks highly, and the Murchison River at Kalbarri is good, but I’ll give Carnarvon Gorge number three.

The Missus gives me two Panadol Osteo to ease the aching legs, but it’s hard to sleep. Tossing and turning, dreaming about vulvas.

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