Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Isla Gorge - Queen's Birthday Weekend 2008

Darryl and I left the Hospital (I had just dropped into work) around 1pm to drive to Isla Gorge. Our route took us up the Razorback to Mt Morgan, through Dululu and then on to Banana, where we topped up the fuel - $1.73.9, which was surprising considering diesel is $1.75 in Rocky (without the discount). We tried to check out the Tourist Info Centre at Theodore, only to find that the craft shop hosting it closes at 12 noon. We arrived at Isla Gorge around 4.30pm, and were surprised that none of our group has preceded us. Only one other lot of campers were present, a nice couple, Pippa and Colin from Grenfell in NSW. We orientated ourselves, and started to set up camp when Ian and Jane, from Gladstone Bushwalkers, arrived. Next to arrive was Pauline from Rocky. Others turned up during the night. We entertained them at our campsite for happy-hour, when we tried making Mulled wine. To me, the spicy, hot wine was delish,  but it was too sweet for Ian. We all 'hit the sack' reasonably early. The lookout and campsite is only 1.3km from the highway the sound of vehicles was fairly regular during the night. 

Morning, with fog draped in the canyon, saw us up bright and early, as the trip was to start at 8am. Mary arrived from Emu Park with 5 minutes to spare, and the 10 walkers piled into 3 vehicles to drive South down the highway to Karinya Station, the private property we were traversing. 

We stopped at the main gate for Ian to notify the owners and then headed down the moist black soil road. The cattle on the pasture grass were in fantastic condition, and skipped playfully as we passed. The cars were parked on the property, and we walked downhill to the boundary of the National Park. We criss-crossed Budyi Creek, sometimes walking in it, and the grass was long and thick, and we suffered plenty of cobbler's pegs and Nagoora Burr. The edges of the creek were bordered with Sandstone carved beautifully by the water, and I was madly taking photos, I wondered why none of the old hands were, and of course soon discovered that the further down the creek we traveled the more spectacular the sandstone escarpments became. Fig trees clung to cracks in the rocks, and moister sections housed ferns, moss, and moisture-loving plants. We came to an area with a larger erosion, forming a huge, but shallow cave and were thrilled to see some artwork, although the old-hands were almost dismissive saying these red handprints were smudged and faded.

Continuing down the creek we found a nice spot for morning tea. After morning tea, some people came across a Rabbit dying of myxomo or calici virus. At some stage we walked into Kallarbo (?) Creek. This area had huge Opuntia (prickly-pear), some of which looked as though they were dying from Cactoblastis onslaught – it is great to see these pest species succumbing to the biological controls. Botany of the area included huge golden Banksia flowers, at least 3 varieties of flowering wattles, and some trees which looked like stringy-bark but its bark was very fluffy-looking, and we speculated as to whether it was natural, or caused by possums.  Soon we came up to another sandstone wall, with a huge arch. Ian took a group photo with all of us standing in the hole. We spent some time investigating the area and having lunch. Rod pointed out the many Liverworts on the ground. Darryl took off to see how high he could go. He nearly made it to the top but turned back when he ran out of time. We heard the sounds of an aircraft, Ian said there was a fly-in for little helicopters at Theodore.

On the way back we were having afternoon tea when 4 young walkers with full through-walk packs sauntered by. An Emu was startled by us, and ran away. Once back at the campsite we enjoyed lovely hot showers, provided by Ian and Jane. Happy-hour was held around the camp-fire, with nibblies and more mulled wine. Eventually we staggered back to camp to cook dinner, although with all the delicious nibblies we really didn't feel all that hungry. That night I slept very well, possibly because it was a cooler night than the one before.
Morning dawned to a lovely day. The walkers headed off, from, the campsite, and down into the Gorge. I decided to give my knees a break, although they had held up very well the previous day. I watched them descend, and then headed back to camp. Around 10.30 I was buzzed by several of the little helicopters, so I waved and took photos. The sky had some amazing cloud formations.

I spent the day reading a Family tree magazine kindly loaned to me by Jane, had a nap and also read a book. Eventually – around 3pm the peace was broken by Darryl calling out hello as he arrived back at camp followed closely by the others. Hot showers were again 'the go', and the gathering around the campfire melded into Happy-Hour, with lots of great nibblies, drinks and even more mulled wine. Even though most of did not feel hungry after all that we decided to cook dinner. At some stage I noticed that I had lost my pedometer, and, as it was dark, the cursory hunt did not reveal its whereabouts, although I knew it had to be close as I had seen it when I had my shower. Plenty of interesting conversations ensued before we let the campfire burn down and took off to our respective beds. I didn't sleep quite as well as the previous night, partly due to the fluctuating temperature, and partly due to a regular noise coming from outside, which sounded like something trying to get into our rubbish bag. The mystery was solved at dawn when Darryl discovered a mouse eating the remains of our seaweed crackers from happy-hour! Mind you – he was rejecting the flecks of seaweed!
A beautiful sunrise greeted us, and we walked out to the lookout to take some photos. Ian came over to say good morning, and present me with my pedometer, which he had found, in the middle of the night near his camper, when he had dropped his torch. (I feel this was way more than the call of duty for him to spend the night searching for it!) After breakfast we partially packed up and just after 8am Rod led 9 of us, (Mary planned to pack and go home), down a spur to the left of the shelter-shed. I took it very easy so as not to cause my knees any trouble, as it was quote steep with loose, decomposing sandstone. We got down to an arch and passed through it to the other side of the spur, before descending into the stony creek. At one stage Darryl noticed a cave up to the right, and he, Rod and Larry took off uphill to investigate. We waited to hear if they had found any art for us to look at, but they soon reappeared without reporting any. The creek met another and we saw many interesting rocks and formations as we walked downstream. At a t-junction, where the smaller creek joined Gorge Creek, Rod led us up straight ahead, which led to the base of a sandstone ridge.
We stopped here for morning tea, then had a casual exploration of the area. Darryl went left, and I climbed straight up to look at an interesting looking cave. This also afforded a lovely clear view across the valley to the spur hosting the lookout and camping ground. The others eventually came up my way as I slowly, and carefully, descended again. When all had once again assembled we walked downstream until our direct path was blocked by a large rock ledge, which would have boasted a wide waterfall if the creek were flowing. Rod diverted us to the right and we had a reasonable descent back into Gorge Creek. The walk continued downstream for a while until the point was reached for us to begin our ascent. This led to the base of the lookout, and we scrambled up the steep, slippery loose slope. Darryl had made this ascent in 18 minutes the previous day, but there was talk that Ian had once done it in 15 minutes. My time would never come close to this, (so Ian's time is safe if I have anything to do with it!) After seeing what it was like to ascend, I was very pleased that I had declined the previous day's walk which started by descending this same way – I am sure my knees would not have stood it. At the top, a hot cuppa and lunch was enjoyed before final packing up, and goodbyes prior to the drive home. It is quite a pleasant drive through this country, and a highlight was a group of about 8 emus in a paddock, eating discarded grain, although I am sure the farmer owning the grain would not have shared our delight!
We stopped a few times, on the way home, to purchase citrus fruit, avocados and seafood, and at Banana to buy some junk food.

Sunday (by Darryl).
We left camp about 8:15 and headed off past the lookout to follow the steep spur down to Gorge Creek. While everyone had a few minutes rest in the creek bed, I tried, without success, to find the source of a pungent odor, but it was not until we headed down stream that we spotted the decomposing body of a black wild pig tucked in close to the bank of the creek- the EPA is baiting the National Park to remove feral animals. Further downstream, from where Budharra Ck joins Gorge Ck, we headed off for the saddle between Observation Peak and Wappuka Ridge to have morning tea. Rod led us to the left around a gully and on approaching the Wappuka Ridge, Larry and I headed up to look at large caves high up on the ridge while the rest traversed around inspecting caves on the way. After morning tea, we climbed Observation Peak from the right of the saddle and continued on around to the large hole near the top. We took pictures and investigated other caves, then headed back down from near the hole back to the saddle where we had left our packs.
On leaving the saddle, we walked to the western side of Wappuka Ridge to a natural tunnel that gave us access to the Eastern side of the ridge where we had lunch. While most of us relaxed and munched on our prepared meals, Larry explored the ridge around to the north. Lunch finished, we initially turned south only to change direction at the end of the cave to drop down to the Children’s Cave. This cave is another small tunnel through one section of the ridge that has a number of small hand-shaped red ochre paintings sprayed on the wall. From here we followed a small creek back to Budharra Ck, which we then followed for about 30 minutes before stopping at a large overhang above the creek to inspect the art work. The artwork here had more of the red ochre hand and boomerang shaped splatter and, what appeared to be a couple of more recent attempts with cream colored ochre. A few minutes past this overhang, we again found where Gorge Creek joined and also indicated the start of the steep climb back to camp. After an invitation to break the fifteen minute barrier for the climb back to the lookout, I headed off to see what time I could walk it in, and managed to complete the climb in eighteen minutes.