Detour to Carnarvon Gorge
We met a French couple in Agnes Water who debated about whether or not to go to Carnarvon Gorge. She was insistent that they make the six-and-a-half hour drive inland because she’d heard it was something they shouldn’t miss. He was not convinced, but she was doing her best to change his mind.
I have no idea if they ever made it to the gorge, but her argument was enough to convince me. On the way south through Queensland Jared and I decided to add it to our route, which meant an extra hour each way on a partially dirt road that was known to close during heavy rains. The forecast was looking ominous, so we decided to squeeze in what we could in a day, then get out of there before the skies opened.
The Takkarakka Bush Camp was our only real option for camping, and its $38 a night price tag for an unpowered site reflected the isolated location. We checked in after lunchtime, quickly set up the tent without its awning, and laced up our shoes to hit the gorge.
Carnarvon Gorge’s main track starts at the Visitor’s Center and winds for 9.7km until it hits Big Bend. Seven side tracks can be incorporated to your walk and combined to create a number of day walk options, the longest of which is 22km.
We made an ambitious choice—the 14km return encompassing the moss garden, ampitheatre, Ward’s canyon, and art gallery. The map suggested we allow 5 hours to complete the walk, but if it took that long we’d be hiking in the dark.
The map also offered up a helpful tip: walk to the furthest point on the main track that you plan to reach, then go down the side tracks on the way back. It was a successful strategy; we worked up a sweat but completed the walk in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
I would have loved to see more but this was a case where we needed to appreciate the time we had, and that we did. The gorge was extraordinary: looming sandstone cliffs below a solid blue sky, kangaroos and wallabies skipping about, hidden passageways, stone creek crossings, and beautiful works of Aboriginal art.
Back at Takkarakka I tried in vain to spot a platypus but was rewarded instead with the sight of my first wild echidna. That night while cooking dinner the grass was occupied by pademelons, an odd sort of cross between a wombat and a wallaby, about the size of a large watermelon yet easy to miss in the dark. (No pademelon photos from Carnarvon but just you wait until I finally write about Tasmania.)
In the morning we went for one more hike, a 1.5km track into Mickeys Gorge, an offshoot from the main gorge. The printed distance is a bit of a misnomer because there’s more to it than the marked track. Partway in you’re presented with the option to veer off into Warrumbah Creek Gorge.
Do this. After a short distance you’ll reach a sign indicating that you’re at the end of the official track. Once you get there, keep going. That’s where it gets good.
Carnarvon Gorge was one of an endless number of spectacular places in Australia I’d never heard of; if it hadn’t been for the French couple planting the seed, I’m not sure we would have turned off the highway.
When you’re road-weary it can be hard to justify driving out of the way for such a short time in a place, but this was one detour that I’ll always be glad we took.