We turn off the highway towards the Carnarvon Gorge and wind through green grassy farmlands where the cows loll about. This is a hidden valley. In the distance the sun picks out the escarpments of Carnarvon. We pass the remains of an aircraft which crashed during World War Two killing the crew of Australian and US airmen, we are constantly surprised at the places where we find evidence of the war. We ford small creeks and the road turns to corrugated dirt for another fifteen kilometres. Woody grits his teeth. We cross Carnarvon Creek and enter Takarakka Bush Resort. Damn we’ve found yet another paradise! There are tall palms and prehistoric looking Macrozamia palms and lots of bush. The park is protected by the towering gorge walls. The campground sites are spacious and we’re bounded by Carnarvon Creek. Which they say is home to platypus. Pretty Face wallabies and kangaroos bound about and there is the constant call of currawongs. Cheeky little Apostle birds play at our feet. They even wrestle each other, rolling about in the dirt then cuddling up and preening each other. As they walk about searching for crumbs they make funny little grumbling sounds.
At 9:20am light of step and with great excitement we set off on what the guide describes as an easy 14km walk. Our aim is to walk to the farthest of the ‘best attractions’ in the gorge then visit each of these ‘best attractions’ on our return. It is a very long walk to the first attraction then we pass each of the others in quick succession. The scenery is nothing short of stunning and we crisscross the Carnarvon Creek many times, becoming more adept at sprinting across the stepping stones with each crossing.
With plenty of energy in reserve we reach the Art Gallery (the furthest of the best). And oh, it is well worth the walk. We climb through a split rock and up to a sheer white sandstone cliff face that is covered in Aboriginal art, drawings, stencils and carvings as high as people could reach. There are ochre stencils of hands and boomerangs and drawings of nets.
On the return journey Ward’s Canyon is a steep climb into a narrow canyon that is cool and dark. There is a broad overhang where we have lunch and I feel that we are not the first to have found shelter at this spot. A small stream runs through the canyon on a base of bright red rock, so red that the water looks like a trickle of blood. The stream then drops many metres as a dainty waterfall.
Down we clamber and back along the trail to the Amphitheatre. It is here that the climbing gets the better of me so I rest on a log to catch my breath and watch the wildlife while the others scale the vertical ladders to the top.
Once again we take to the trail but our joints are now complaining and the feet aren’t happy either. We climb up to the Moss Garden where water drip, drip, drips through the sandstone then trickles over a shale ledge to form a perfect waterfall.
With all of the ‘best attractions’ ticked off we start the long trudge back. We are surrounded by views that one would expect in a National Geographic magazine. There are grasslands, fern gullies, thousands of majestic palms and tall silver gums. Gum trees that are so tall that we strain to see their tops. We see kangaroos and small wallabies with tiny brown paws, the colour of a Siamese cat’s ears. We even meet an echidna.
Eventually we reach the car at 5:20pm tired and sore after eight solid hours of hiking. Thankfully Woody has a big pot of Corned Beef cooking on the stove for dinner because we’re all speechless with exhaustion.