Friday, 12 August 2016

Currawongs Playground visits a currawong playground... AKA Carnarvon Gorge

Before we left Manhattan, KS, there was much discussion about when my mum should take 2 weeks holidays: our first 2 weeks back or 2 weeks after Queensland's winter school holidays. Once it was decided that the latter would be better, because we would be over our jetlag and any travel related illnesses, we had to decide what to do or where to go. I suggested Carnarvon Gorge and the rest, so to speak, is history! Photo heavy, so please keep reading...

We had been visiting Michael's grandparents in Beerwah and drove from there, leaving a little later than planned, taking a wrong turn that added about an hour on to our trip, and finally arrived late on a Wednesday evening at Takarakka Bush Resort. We basically needed a day to recover from the travelling, and we didn't know how far the National Park would be, so my parents drove to the nearest petrol station to fill the tank - a 220 km round trip! But we were enjoying the wildlife, the colours and smells, and playful antics of the currawongs. So many currawongs!

Jimmy was pretty taken with the leaves, wallabies and kangaroos. And all the toys and books at Takarakka's reception/shop. He scored a Takarakka sticker and a price tag.

Seriously, though, this area is beautiful and, after being away from Australia of over 2 years, it doesn't get much better than seeing Jimmy in the Australian bush - hanging out with Michael and my parents added to it. Being in an area I've wanted to visit for 15 years was the icing on the cake.

No filters, no alteration. Just Australia in all its shades of green and brown and red. 

The kangaroos and wallabies are so used to having people around that they stick around and keep doing whatever it was they were doing. They're still wary of people and we were not allowed to feed them, but it was amazing to be so close to them. Joey's included.

As our first day worn on, the clouds started coming in and the light conditions were a bit funny (yes, I'm still only on the first day of photos!). Some settings produced cold greys and others produced warm browns. 

That afternoon, Michael and I went to the daily information session where we were told about the different walks at Carnarvon Gorge National Park, how to watch for platypus, and what the coming days might be like, weather wise. Well... the forecast was not great and it was recommended that leaving the next day might be a good idea for anyone who wasn't sure about their ability to get out and over the creek crossing, should the creek rise and we be rained it. It was a thing we were assured rarely happened and that, even if it did, the water should go down in a matter of hours. What did we do? We weren't worried because we were staying until Monday, so we decided to go for a long walk the next day.

And walk we did! We went despite the light rain and the lack of wet weather gear. And it was just magical. Breathtakingly so. And the mix of flora so interesting: eucalypts, she oaks, grasses, palms, plus wattles. 

Look familiar? Trust me, it was very pleasant out and we weren't the only ones making our way to the Art Gallery that morning. We were the only ones with a 3 year old, but with four adults all willing to take turns carrying Jimmy when he couldn't walk (or wasn't allowed to walk because he kept getting himself wet), it was ok. Plus I had our trusty Manduca, which made a huge difference.

We made good time getting to the Art Gallery, and stopped for an early lunch. We were all wet and a little cold, but it was soooo worth it. Jimmy was a little cranky, but he was the coldest of all of us, so his mood was entirely understandable. His mood improved remarkably when the chilli chocolate came out. 

Even if Jimmy had been warm and dry, I think the significance of the Art Gallery would have been lost on him - paintings and rock carvings dating from 3,000 or so years ago to white settlement are amazing, and need to be seen.

Protected from weather systems and direct sunlight, some of the paintings look like they were done last week - it's incredible. There are little signs filled with information about the local Aborigines and the meanings behind the paintings are carvings. 

We took a group photo before turning around and making our way back towards the park entrance, but there were three more wonders of Carnarvon Gorge to see. But it was still raining. And we were feeling the cold, even though it was only midday. And Jimmy was done. And we had a long walk back to the car. And we wanted to be sure that we could get back to the car and Takarakka and our tent. So, Pop and Jimmy went straight back (about 4 km or so), while Granny, Michael, and I stuck our heads in at Ward's Canyon.

If we had known how sheltered Ward's Canyon was, we would have had our lunch there. Not only was there a little more setting room under the rocks, there was room for a restless and cold little boy to run around - or at least, there would have been, if he wasn't on his way back to the car. So, if you're planning to walk to the Art Gallery and then take in the other side routes at Carnarvon Gorge, have lunch at Ward's Canyon. Make sure you go all the way into the canyon, don't stop at the top of the waterfall. It's a such a lovely spot. 

Granny, Michael and I made our way back to the entrance and car, and found Pop and Jimmy in the Visitors Centre. We made our way back to our tent, ate an early dinner, and went to bed, tired but warm. Outside our tent, the clouds opened up and the rain kept falling.

And falling...

And the creek kept rising.

And rising...

And before we knew it, we were stuck. All of us. No in or out of Takarakka Bush Resort for anyone.

The staff were really very good about it: anyone who had to stay beyond their original booking stayed on for free; anyone who was expected to arrived was called up and their booking cancelled; and twice daily updates were held, with the exception of Monday, when updates were every few hours. There was nothing to be done but settle in and try not to be grumpy, which wasn't an issue for us, because we expected to be there over the whole weekend. So, we relaxed into it, as much as we could, and tried to stay dry (ha!).

One of the downsides to constant rain was that there was no campfire and therefore no coals for damper, so Michael improvised with rocks, aluminium foil, and lots of flour. And it worked! It was lovely with the stew that night. We did it more than once, especially when we realised that it was nearly dinner time and we were out of bread (again!). 

Our level of meal planning let us down a little, and somehow we forgot to pack cocoa, but we managed and with a few additions from the shop (meat, butter, bread, milk, and ice cream), we did alright. The families who had hoped to leave on Saturday managed too, although they were, understandably, a little less relaxed about it all, especially Sunday evening when we had been teased with a rainless period, only for the rain to start up again.

Most of the rain was gentle but constant. This kind of rain event was highly unusual - so much constant rain for over two days - especially considering that winter is the dry season in Queensland. We had packed for the cold, not the wet, even though the forecast was for scattered showers, but somehow kept mostly dry. We strung up clothes in our tent hoping they would dry, but they did not and we ended up washing our clothes in an effort to make them dry and ran almost everything through the dryer, do not tumble dry or not. And everything was damp within an hour. Granny, Pop, Michael and I were very happy to be in a raised Taka Safari Tent and not a tent on the ground.

We may have had to keep him on our bed with his legs tucked up under a blanket, playing with his cars or listening to us read Winnie the Pooh, while his feet warmed up, and he was very good about it. But, by late Sunday we reached the point where we gave up trying to keep Jimmy's shoes dry and let him go barefoot. Needless to say, he loved it. And his feet were easier to clean than his boots or sneakers and dried faster too, as nothing seemed dry for long in the high humidity.

And then the rain stopped. And Michael made a little burner, because the ground was still soaked, but we needed some sort of entertainment - platypus spotting was not going so well, because the creek was muddy and flowing quickly. We had clean and dry clothes and a few more days worth of food, but we were running low on coffee and the shop had run out of bread and blocks of cheese.

We stayed until Tuesday morning. We all did. Everyone who was at Takarakka on Friday night. And on Tuesday morning, we were given the all clear! to go. When the going happened, depended on the height of the vehicle, and whether or not it was 4WD. While a low set, 2WD we waited. And waited. And then left not long after 1 pm.

We made it across the first creek crossing easily enough, but we still held our breath and crossed our fingers. We waited nearly an hour at the second creek crossing, because we were not confident and we were not alone - we joined two other low set 2WD cars that were already waiting for the creek to go down. Two Takarakka 4WD's came by, on their own mission, and they lead all three low set cars and passengers across the crossing, holding our breath and crossing our fingers. 

It was the third creek crossing, the last crossing just before the highway that proved to be too high, so one of the Takarakka cars lead us along a back road - an 80 km long dirt road that added over an hour on to our trip. It was a little muddy and slippery at times and we were closely (and tensely) watching the car in front of us, but we made it to the highway and we made it home late that night.

And because we missed more than half of the walks at Carnarvon Gorge, we're already talking about going back. Perhaps when Jimmy is a little older and capable of walking 9 km in a day. And perhaps with a little more planning of meals and with more coffee and flour, and some cocoa. And perhaps with a highset 4WD, although in the dry it shouldn't matter. See you in the not too distant future Takarakka and Carnarvon Gorge! 

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