I wake during the night to the sound of gurgling water from the creek. I’ve been deep in sleep but nature is calling so I crawl out of the tent. I fumble my way down the path a suitable distance from camp when my head torch lights up something massive and white in front of me. I get a big fright before I realise that I’m in Carnarvon Gorge and the big white thing is the cliff on the opposite side of the creek. I laugh inwardly to myself as I realise how silly it is that I still have these moments of disquiet in the bush at night. On return to my tent, I am asleep again in no time.
Hours later I pass the same high white cliff as we set off to walk to Battleship Spur. It’s 5km each way from camp and we will have to climb about 600m in altitude to get there. The contour lines on the map are close together for much of the walk so I am glad we’re just carrying daypacks, not through-walking like others who left camp before us were.
The walk to Battleship Spur starts in Boowinda Gorge. The gorge is narrow and twists as though the water was swirling as it cut through the rock. The ground is covered with a deep layer of washed river rocks, making the going slightly tricky. For 800m (1/2 mile) we follow the gorge, our voices and the sounds of our feet crunching on the rocks echoing off the walls. So far the walking is flat and we’re feeling fresh.
The sight of three orange arrows pointing up a gully leading straight out of the gorge ends our innocence. There’s no real track to follow; just a steep well-worn gully that ascends 75m in altitude straight up out of the gorge following the same steep path that water would rush down. It’s a strenuous clamber but I never feel exposed. At the top of this first climb is a sign warning that the trail ahead is strenuous and should only be attempted by experienced and prepared walkers. Mum and Dad agree this sign has come a few hundred metres too late.
The scramble up the chute leads to a beautiful grassy plateau. And then yet another steep climb. This time we climb a flight of rough hewn stairs that lead us ever upward for another hundred vertical metres. A short flat section allows us to catch our breaths before the climb continues, almost relentlessly all the way to Battleship Spur. We stop part way up the climb to have some snacks and water overlooking some of the amazing views that the gain in altitude allows. It’s absolutely magnificent to be up here amongst the cycads and soft red-flowering grasses of the plateau.
After a long tough climb we finally reach the Battleship Spur lookout. Here we can take in the entire front section of Carnarvon Gorge. We can see Bulimba Bluff guarding the left side of the entrance to the gorge and the way the gorge snakes deep into the mountains. We walked this entire path just yesterday but it looked so different from creek-level. From our vantage point up here we can see just how small we humans really; on some parts of the gorge floor you can’t even see the opposite cliffs but up here they are so striking.
We find a grassy spot under the shade of a cycad down off the bluff and rest for an hour. Mum and Dad have brought up reading books and I have a text book that I need to read before next weekend’s exam. We’re all totally at home out in the bush like this, relaxing out here like some people might relax in their lounge rooms. All we need to do is walk back down to camp; an activity that takes less than half the time of the climb.