By Alayne Russell Tag Along Tours co-pilot and navigator
This is the second part of our Queensland Explorer 21-day Tag Along Tour Brisbane to Cairns blog.
This blog covers days 4-7 of the tour.
Sat 4 July: Leaving Chinchilla, we again headed off south-west stopped for morning tea at a pretty spot called Caliguel Lagoon. The noise of hundreds of sulphur crested cockatoos and corellas filled the place, and the trees were festooned with them, like Christmas trees draped with Christmas lights!
We met some people there who had been staying for some fishing, and they said the noise goes on all day! Talk about spending some quiet time, peacefully fishing.
Travelling on from the lagoon, we passed through a hamlet called Glenmorgan, where someone had an antique car museum. There were a dozen old Morrises parked along the fenceline, looking in fabulous condition. Some of us regretted not stopping for a photo.
We got into Surat for lunch. This is a lovely village on the banks of the Balonne River, and had an impressive gallery-cum-aquarium-cum-library-cum-museum,which we all looked through.
The aquarium showed the types of fish to be found in the river. They include perch and Murray cod, the museum had a wonderful display of communications from Cobb and Co days through to the present (remember actually dialling a telephone?).
The gallery had a special exhibition on,of artwork from one family in the district. Well, what a talented group!
There were paintings in oils and acrylic, cartoon-style drawings in colour, charcoal drawings, and jewellery made by various members of the family. My favourite was an oil called The Three Amigos, which depicted three kelpies, and was on sale for $350 (It is a good thing there is no room for something that big in the van.)
Leaving Surat, we travelled through more pastoral country and came across a large mob of cattle being driven by drovers on horseback. Bill asked one of them how many cattle there were, and the reply was 1500. We naturally drove slowly and carefully through the ones which were crossing the road.
We also passed a Santos-owned and run gas processing plant,and stopped for some photos. We got into our evening bivouac at around 4pm, at the showgrounds at Wollumbilla, where Bill kindly baked us some delicious scones for afternoon tea-happy hour.
Alayne Russell at a cycad in Carnarvon Gorge NP (3m)
Sun 5 July: From Wollumbilla we headed into Roma. Now, three quarters of the group are not Queenslanders, so we expected the shops to be open, even though it was Sunday. Not so! Even Woolworths was closed! So was most of the town.
Fortunately for us, the IGA proudly advertised, Open 7 Days, so we were able to stock up for the few days ahead of us at Carnarvon Gorges Takarakka Resort, where the remote location means the foodstuffs are frozen and come at higher prices.
We also went to the Information Centre in Roma and found out about the Avenue of Heroes, which is made up of Bottle Trees with the names of those who died in the world wars affixed to them. This made for a unique war memorial compared with those found in most other towns in Australia.
There were other things to see also, but Neill and Roberta and Phil and I were side-tracked by the monthly farmer's market at the RSL club, where we spent up big on home made jams and chutneys, cakes and biscuits.
I bought six books for $13!
We all met up again at the Information Centre where we had a cuppa before heading off to Injune for lunch, then on to the Gorge.
Bill and Helen had been seeing emus in different places over the last couple of days, but as they have been near the back of the group, Phil and I (leading) have been well and truly past them before Bill has radioed to say where they are.
I saw a group of brolgas outside of Roma, but finally Phil saw a group of emus but they were on the right, and he radioed about them before mentioning them to me, so I still have not seen any!
We stopped at the memorial to a Dakota aeroplane which had crashed in a storm in November 1943 with all lives lost (US servicemen and Australian crew), on our way into Carnarvon Gorge. Someone had left flowers there recently, as they were still fresh, which was lovely to see.
We arrived at Takarakka Resort at around 4.30pm, and were assigned our places. This is a nice caravan park, which, because of school holidays is quite full. They have extensive camp kitchens and big areas for open fires, as well as plenty of room for each site. After setting out annexes (a sign that we do not expect to move for a few days), we gathered again for happy hour and some planning for the next two days.
Mon 6 July: We awoke to cloudy skies and a grey day. How unfortunate as we had hoped to get some beautiful photographs today!
Phil and I headed down to the Carnarvon Gorge National Park Visitors Centre, about 5 km from Takarakka. From there we intended to walk to the Moss Gardens, and maybe Wards Canyon.
As we walked past the Visitors Centre we passed wallabies feeding quietly, totally ignoring us even though we were within metres of them. It was lovely to see that they were completely unafraid of people.
The birdlife was amazing, with calling and flitting about going on around us constantly.
There were many families also walking the paths, which was also lovely to see especially families with teenagers, as many of us know how difficult it is to pry teenagers away from their electronic toys!
We wandered along, being passed by great numbers of people, as we stopped every five minutes for 10 minutes as Phil puts it, to take photos.
It was quite dispiriting to have such a grey background, but nevertheless, we did our best. After about two hours, we got to the Moss Gardens, which were really lovely.
Carnarvon Gorge NP typical flora to be seen in park
The canyon has a small waterfall at one end, but it also has constant small waterfalls as water, which has fallen as rain on the plateau above, filters through the porous sandstone until it comes to the impervious shale layer, when it filters out into the canyon.
The moss, lichen, ferns and liverworts grow profusely, making a lovely green layer and light in the small canyon.
We stayed for about half an hour, enjoying the ambience, then started back to the motorhome at the car park, where we arrived at about 2.45 for a late lunch.
Arriving back at Takarakka, we put our laundry on (the washing machines had all been in use in the morning, as is usually the case in caravan parks).
Then we relaxed and chatted to the others, who had all been on different walks with different levels of difficulty, depending on the ability and interests of those concerned. We ended the day hoping for a better day, weather-wise, tomorrow.
Tues 7 July: Today we woke to find beautiful blue skies and a warm, sunny day. Hooray!
Phil and I spent some time talking with others in the group. Helen had departed at 8am to go on a guided tour. We left at 10 for the Visitors Centre again, planning to walk up Boolimba Bluff.
This is a level 3 fitness experience and the last 300m was steep, needing ladders in some places. Wow!
The birds were singing gloriously again, and there were fewer people on this particular track perhaps the majority were the more sensible?
However, we walked along, constantly climbing, and I kept glancing up at the Bluff and thinking, Im sure I will never make it right up there.
Photographically speaking, it was lovely, but difficult for Phil to take the panoramas he loves so much because of the growth of all the trees. I was enjoying myself though, as I do not do panoramas.
Carnarvon Gorge NP main walking track thru gorge-2
After about an hour or so, we got to the last 300m. Wow!
We certainly had to climb up at this point!
It was very good aerobic exercise, and the asthma puffer got a work-out by me.
I felt sorry for Phil who was carrying his tripod.
Each time we met someone coming down, it was a good opportunity to practice politeness and say You go first so we could get our breath back.
Once we got to the top, we still had to walk about another kilometre to get to the lookout at the edge of the Bluff for the views which were absolutely magnificent and well worth the walk, even though my legs felt wobbly. Phil took a number of panoramas, and of course, I could not get a wide enough angle to do the scenery justice.
Unfortunately, instead of installing a flying fox, or supplying parachutes, the expectation was that we would walk back down the same way as we had gone up. What lack of initiative on the part of the rangers!
Going down was much quicker, although much harder on our knees. We got back to the van about 2.15, for an earlier lunch than the day before.
On our way back to Takarakka, we saw Suzanne walking extremely briskly towards the Visitors Centre, so we didnt interrupt her.
3km down the track, at the Eco Lodge, where there is a restaurant, we saw Bill Nesbitt and Allen Driver hailing us, so we gave them a lift back to Takarakka.
It turned out that they had walked to the lodge hoping to buy lunch, but the chef had a conference party for dinner, and was short-staffed, so there was no lunch on. So they had scones and coffee instead.
Back at Takarakka, we got the washing off the line, swapped some books at the book exchange, then sat down and took the weight off our feet.
Helen arrived back about 5.30 (what a long day!) absolutely raving about how wonderful the guided tour had been and how worthwhile it was.
The group went to the Moss Garden, Wards Canyon, the Amphitheatre, and the Art Gallery, and had had wonderful explanations of everything that they saw, from animal and bird life to geography, history and Aboriginal culture.
At the Art Gallery, they had a talk by Uncle Fred, an Aboriginal elder of the district. He is extremely knowledgeable about his peoples past and what the art is all about. Uncle Fred who provided an excellent commentary by all accounts. It sounded like it was well worth doing.
Tomorrow we are off to Emerald.
Bye for now, Alayne Russell
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Editors Note: Also see -