Carnarvon Gorge – Weekends Done Right
Carnarvon Gorge is GORGEous. I thought it best to get that beaut out of the way nice and early before I let it consume me.
One of the benefits of having a boyfriend who lives roughly 900km away is that when we spend time together it’s very well spent. Our last visit involved an adventure to Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland’s central highlands. I mean trail running through Carnarvon Gorge? Talk about the perfect date.
It took two hours to reach the national park from Emerald and driving in we noticed some trails off the side of the road. With the whole day ahead we decided to stop and explore what was Mickey Creek Gorge. The trail wasn’t very long and after a few hundred metres it turns into rock hopping through a narrow gorge. It was a very humid day so it came as a surprise how much the temperature dropped as we snaked our way along. The colours were beautiful so many greens, browns and reds throughout the sandstone walls. When we got as far as we could, we soaked it all in, made a few 127 Hours jokes, then turned around and started back. The run back started off leisurely but the minute the trail opened up a little I was Kilian-ed Western States style by Sammy sprinting around me and taking off. Feeling fresh I took off after him and waited for my opportunity to return the Kilian-ing. I must confess I am not very confident going around people on trails. One time I accidentally stood on another runners shoe trying to get around him and yep his shoe came off, whoops! After a few false starts I got the courage up and thankfully without stacking it crept around. We got back to the trail head huffing and puffing with our hands on knees and I knew it was going to be a fun day.
Mickey Creek Gorge
Getting back in the van we started heading on towards the Main Track. The way the Main Track works is that it weaves to the end of the gorge but along the way there a little off shoots you can take to explore different sites. The first off shoot was Boolimba Bluff. The Bluff offered views over the entire valley so of course we were going there. It was a hard slog climbing up the side of the gorge and ladders had been built in to help. It was definitely worth the effort being able to look out and see just how big Carnarvon Gorge really is. It was beautiful and a bit mind blowing that water had carved the entire landscape over the years.
Views out from The Bluff
Back on the Main Track we continued on what was quite a beat up trail. The weather must have been bad recently because there were lots of logs to leap over and broken branches. It was fun to see how high we could jump over all the obstacles. The next stop was the Moss Garden. A vibrant green water garden that no matter what time of the day, month, year, has water dripping from the sandstone walls.
One of my favourite stops had to be the Amphitheatre. It is a chamber gouged into the rock providing beautiful acoustics. There is a ladder to climb up then you creep through to what is a secret hideaway. There was a chair in the centre which had the sun perfectly shining solely on it. I made a bee line for it, sat down, and closed my eyes with my head tilted to the sun. Sammy said my face was pure happiness in that moment of peaceful contemplation. The peacefulness didn’t last long I mean we were in an acoustic chamber so of course we were going to test it out. After a few yells and howls we climbed out and headed on.
While we checked out Wards Canyon, a little side gorge with a waterfall, and the Aboriginal Art Gallery, I had a few fairy moments. The trail is all single track and in sections has long grass leaning over. As we were running along the grass butterflies, moths and grasshoppers would all shoot out along with us. There were so many of them that they’d fly into you. It was pretty cool and made me feel like we were in Fern Gully.
All day it had been incredibly humid, hot and sticky. We were super excited to finish the day off with a swim either in the river or the rock pools to cool off. When we got to Cathedral Cave the air started to feel dense and there were rumblings of a storm in the distance. As we got back to the Main Track the heavens opened up and a torrential downpour began. It was almost like we were in a totally different place. The river crossings got a bit tougher, the trail got muddier and the air colder. Then as quickly as it started, it stopped and we were once again sweating under the sunny skies.
After the first storm swept through.
Boowinda Gorge was the most entertaining leg. One of The Great Walk trails starts along here so we thought we would suss it out for future adventures. The gorge starts with high risen sides and is strewn with rocks. With all the rocks we were reduced to a hike, keeping an eye out for The Great Walk arrow. We kept going on and on, then on and on some more, never finding where this freaking trail started. Conversation turned to us being trapped in a time warp emerging from the gorge to find hundreds of years had passed. Yes, that is how long we drudged through this gorge. After many “we’ll just see what’s around the next corner” conversations we accepted defeat and turned around. I found out later that the trail starts only about 400metres along the gorge *slaps forehead*.
Big Bend marks the end of the Main Track and is a campsite with a giant rock pool. We declared it snack and nap time pulling up on a picnic table. We ate all of our food not worried about needing food for the drive home because that was a problem for future us, and then lay down for fifteen minutes of shut eye. I couldn’t nap because I was too transfixed on thinking about who would play me if a movie was made about our hundred year time warp experience. Sammy on the other hand is a nap master and was out like a light. During our half way hang out the weather once again started to take a turn. We quickly gathered all of our gear and started back just as the rain came through.
We had planned it so the run back could be an all-out slog as we would have already explored all the off shoots on the way up. It was like an interval session strapping it between the river crossings. I nearly had a mini heart attack at one stage as I ran past a kangaroo twice the size of me and with more muscle than The Rock. He was hiding in the grass next to the trail and just as I ran past stood up making me leap a little before running a bit faster ahead. When we got to the next crossing we had a laugh about much he frightened us and how big he had been.
At some stage on the way back the weather had cleared up once more so we were able to go for a swim. It was incredibly refreshing sitting in the water and the perfect end to the day. If you are ever in central highlands I would definitely recommend a trip to Carnarvon Gorge. You can camp, explore, swim and just generally have a pretty sweet time.
Well earned swim.