After another gloriously restful sleep in my tent, I was refreshed and ready to lug my heavy pack up the Main Gorge Track to Big Bend bush camp. The trail is only 10km but there are plenty of extra side tracks to extend the walk, which is exactly what we did.
As we set off across Carnarvon Creek on the stepping stones that lead away from the visitor centre, I couldn’t help but realise that this is now my life: setting off into the unknown carrying all I need. It’s quite a surreal feeling knowing that there’s no home to go back to at the end of a long walk or ride. Well, there is; I was carrying my home on my back.
We retraced our steps from the previous days’ walks past the Bulimba Bluff turnoff and then on to the Moss Garden turnoff where we stopped for a rest on some wooden benches. The National Parks have placed a bathroom here too so walkers don’t have to sully the sensitive bushland; a great investment in the future of the park.
The track continued deeper into the gorge. I barely noticed the heavy weight of my pack as we followed the creek upstream. I was too taken by the changing textures and colours of the greens that surrounded me. Some were bright and almost flourescent while others had a blue-grey tinge. The trees changed shape and colour too: there were thick black-trunked cycads, tall palms with textured bands circling their girths, and blue gums with their distinctive ghostly white trunks.
Our next stop was The Ampitheatre. We dropped our packs at the junction from the main track and rock hopped across the creek. We climbed the steep ladder into the thin slit that hid the lush green hole where ferns and mosses grew. It was amazing. We were so deep in this hole, yet plants still thrived here.
We continued our hike even deeper into the gorge. The creek crossings became more frequent the further we walked. The clear water has washed the rocks smooth. In some places the track and creek bed were soft and sandy, creating variety and challenge to our loaded hike.
We dropped our packs again just outside Ward’s Canyon. This cool, damp and narrow canyon is the home of some of Central Queensland’s biggest ferns. For the Traditional Owners of these lands, this canyon was a place where women went about their business. It was named after the Ward brothers who, in the early 20th Century, stored the marsupials they hunted in the canyon while waiting to sell them to their buyers. The canyon is visually beautiful, both due to the green ferns and grasses, and also the textures and lines in the water-washed rocks. A great place to stop and rest.
Not far from Ward’s Canyon we visited The Art Gallery. This is an ancient burial site that the Traditional Owners have allowed the public to access. An elder, Fred, who is now employed by National Parks was in the Art Gallery telling the stories of the site. I always feel honoured when elders take the time to share their stories. Fred’s been going to the Art Gallery for thirty years. He started doing it as a volunteer and has shared the stories of the Traditional Owners all that time to generations of visitors. Sadly, he’s retiring next week on 28 April (not sad for him but sad for us as a nation as his stories will not be heard here anymore). I enjoyed listening to Fred and the stories he told. While many people take photos at The Art Gallery, I personally chose not to because I have a thing about taking photos at spiritually sacred places. You’ll just have to walk up there one day :)
It was a long walk from the Art Gallery to Cathedral Cave. Or at least, it felt like a long walk. This was the most challenging section of the Main Gorge Track because it had the most creek crossings, and sand and river rock under foot. But that didn’t make it less enjoyable. Cathedral Cave is another Aboriginal art site where many drawings adorn the caves white walls. Again, it was a funeral and ceremonial site, so it is always a privilege to be allowed there and I chose not to take photos. Let me be clear here, I don’t think it wrong for others to take photos. It’s just something I chose not to do.
Half a kilometre further up the track we reached Big Bend bush camp. Small tent sites were nestled here among the trees along a bend in Carnarvon Creek. There’s a picnic table and a drop toilet.
I pitched on the edge of the river with a view of the towering cliffs opposite (photo above is view from my tent) then proceeded to spend the afternoon lazing around. Just brilliant.