This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2002 Travels June 15

SATURDAY 15 JUNE     ADELS GROVE

It was another hot day.

We tried to get going early, but could have done better!

Drove the rough road to the National Park again.

Hired a canoe. Our timing was actually quite fortunate, as those who had gone out early had finished their time, so we didn’t have to wait.

We opted for a three hour hire, as we intended to try to get right up to the end of the Upper Gorge – where we’d seen from the Lookout a couple of days ago. This would be a 6km paddle altogether.

The canoe was similar to the one we used yesterday. like then, I put John in the front, so I could steer/direct.

Getting into the canoe was easy, because they had a type of built ramp, and the hire man helped.

The paddling was easy as there did not seem to be much current, and the water was totally calm. Going up through the Middle Gorge was really beautiful – in parts, sheer red rock walls rising out of the water. In other parts there were narrow areas of bank between the water and the Gorge walls, where there was lush growth.

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The Middle Gorge from the canoe hire area

So it was all red and green contrasts. Even the water was a greeny colour.

The creek water has a really high calcium carbonate concentration, reflecting its origins in limestone rock. It is calcium precipitation that formed the little falls and rapids, like Indarri Falls, the Cascades, and the ones at Adels. In some places, little white clumps of calcium could be seen floating. We had been told that drinking the creek water tends to make one thirsty, because of this.

There was lots of bird noise from the paperbark and pandanus fringes along the creek. We could see archer fish in the water.

After a leisurely and easy paddle through the Middle Gorge, of about 1.5kms, we reached Indarri Falls. Though only a few feet high, they look quite impressive from the water level, with water flowing over in several places across their width.

There used to be a proper canoe portage around the falls, to facilitate taking canoes between the Middle and Upper Gorges, but this was wrecked in the big floods of 2001.

We were able to pull the canoe into the bank and get out, one at a time, without mishaps.

Given our lack of experience at canoeing together, until this trip, and the fact we planned to be getting in and out of the canoe at Indarri Falls, I was not quite game to risk my camera, so we had to be content with our mental images.

We carried/dragged the canoe about 25 metres, along a path, to the access point above the falls. Again, got back in the canoe ok. Felt we were getting quite good at this!

We paddled on, for about a km, eventually rounding a bend and going towards what appeared to be solid vegetation. Had we not already been up on the tops, on our walk, might have assumed that the gorge above Indarri was short and not worth paddling to the end for.

But we had seen from above that there was a narrow channel through the bushy stuff, that opened into the big waterhole beyond it. So there were really two parts to the Upper Gorge.

The narrows through the pandanus and paperbarks was different and extended for maybe 150 metres before it opened out again. The high red rock walls became lower then, especially on our right hand side.

We could see the Lookout hill above, where we’d sat and watched the gorge on our walk.

The gorge ended where the creek entered it – small and shallow and not able to be paddled.

We paddled back the way we’d come – but of course it looked different, going the other way, so was equally engrossing.

Negotiated the detour around Indarri with no hassles – apart from the weight of the canoe. It was heavier than it looked, and quite an effort was needed for the two of us to manhandle along the narrow path.

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Middle Gorge near Indarri Falls

We were quite careful, at the end of the paddle, lining up the canoe with the landing ramp. It would have been embarrassing, after our successful journey, to have fallen out of the canoe in front of the man doing the hiring!

Ate a very late lunch in the Park campground area. It still did not seem all that busy. We remained convinced that Adels was by far the best place to have stayed.

Spent the rest of the day relaxing at the van.

Tea was leftover fish cakes.

Today’s canoeing was one of the best things we have done on all our travels. It was so beautiful, peaceful, and so unique. I remained amazed that this area seemed so little known – or publicized.

Slept very soundly!


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2002 Travels June 14

FRIDAY 14 JUNE     ADELS GROVE

A fine morning led to a hot day. It got to 37 degrees inside the van!

John wanted a loaf of bread made in the machine. I did not want to do this, because the van batteries ran a bit low yesterday – the fridge is running a lot – and I thought they should be allowed to get to full first. But John was determined.

The bread maker finished its operations about 12.30pm. It laboured a lot during the kneading stage – not enough power. The result was a funny shaped, very heavy loaf.

I had a salad for lunch. John had the new bread for a sandwich. He was not happy because I was still using up the grain bread mix – it might break his teeth!  He got me to throw out the 4kgs or so that I had left.

The batteries did not get to full again today, after that power drain.

After lunch, we went up to the shop/office and paid to hire a canoe. Canoes to paddle on Lawn Hill Creek, here at Adels, were on offer, and John wanted some practice before we went paddling at the National Park. He had not really done much canoeing, and none in recent times.

We were given paddles – the canoes were already at the launching place on the creek. Walked down to there. Had to get into the canoe, off the bank, but managed that alright.

The “wobbles” of a two-person canoe worried John at first, but he soon got used to that. The fairly wide, open canoes were really straightforward to manage. I had him sit at the front, so I could instruct him and control the “steering”.

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The broad waterhole of Lawn Hill Creek, at Adels Grove

We had a very pleasant paddle upstream on the large and placid reach of the creek, for quite a distance, until we reached some shallow rapids. The other end of this long reach is at Adels Grove, where there were some small falls and more rapids.

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Reflections in Lawn Hill Creek

 We saw a small freshie croc, who remained floating about in the water, despite us passing fairly close to it.

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Freshie croc, sunbaking on log

John found the hard canoe seat and the position he was required to sit in, quite uncomfortable for his hips.

We got out of the canoe with no mishaps of the falling in variety. Returned the paddles to the shop, which was a good chance to inspect their used book exchange, where I picked up three novels in return for a donation into the Flying Doctor collection tin.

Then we walked down to the swimming area that was supposed to be more shallow than the main waterhole – on a smaller creek channel that separates off from the main creek,  around a little island. I went swimming. John watched – he was unsure about swimming in water that might be deep, but I found it actually had some nice shallows too. There was no real current, either. It was really enjoyable.

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The shallower swimming section of the creek

I made fish cakes for tea.

All this exercise is definitely leading to early nights.


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2002 Travels June 13

THURSDAY 13 JUNE     ADELS GROVE

We were not up and going as early as I’d hoped to be.

The National Park Guide indicated that several of the walks were best done in the earlier morning, or mid afternoon – not in the heat of the middle of the day.

The 10km of road to the National Park was very corrugated and rough. Having to go back and forth on that was going to be one drawback of staying where we were. But the route into the Park is an interesting one, winding between hills.

I’d thought we could do one of the shorter walks, like to the Cascades, to walk ourselves in, and because it was 11.30 when we set out from Adels Grove. I’d packed the makings for a picnic lunch, with the intention of eating it at the National Park camp area.

But John decided when we got there, that we would do the longest walk. out over the sandstone ridges, to the Upper Gorge, and back via Indarri Falls. That was a circuit of a bit over 7kms! So I packed the lightest lunch makings into the day pack and left the block of cheese and the vegemite jar at Truck.

The track climbed very gradually, between sandstone ridges. The going underfoot was alright, but it was hot. Then it was a fairly easy climb up to the ridge tops.

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The Middle Gorge in the distance, from the ridge tops

From the Lookout there were great views over the Upper Gorge.

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The Upper Gorge, showing the way in from the Middle Gorge

 

Lawn Hill Creek is fed from springs that originate from the nearby eastern edge of the limestone Barkly Tablelands. A number of the other streams of this corner of Qld originate in the same way and feed into the Gulf of Carpentaria. This origin means they flow all year round – a permanent water source for the local pastoral properties and the like.

 

In the area of the National Park, Lawn Hill Creek flows through a deep gorge, cut into red sandstone. The Gorge is split into three parts, by shallow rapids -Cascades – between the Lower and Middle Gorge, and by the low Indarri Falls between the Middle and Upper Gorge.

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Lawn Hill Creek narrows at the end of the Upper Gorge

The contrast between the red gorge walls and the deep green colour of the creek water was striking. Because of the permanent water, there is a lush riverine ecosystem along the creek banks – a stark contrast to the dry scrub and grassland country surrounding it.

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The top end of the Upper Gorge, showing scarring from wet season floods

 

We had lunch sitting on a bench seat that some thoughtful National Parks person had installed up there, overlooking the gorge. I had some salami and tomato to go on our Cruskits – the toppings were a bit sparse, though, and I didn’t eat much.

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Upper Gorge from the Lookout

Saw a freshwater crocodile float around in the water, below us. According to the Adels literature, these are the only kind of crocs in the creek and Gorge, and they are very timid, preferring to avoid people rather than eat them!

Just as we were about to leave the Lookout, saw two canoes paddle into view, from around the corner in the distance. We said we must do that, one day, while we are here!

The track went down to the edge of the Gorge, then followed it for a way, through pandanus, and often with the water right at our feet.

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The track beside the creek, in the Upper Gorge

Then we reached the Indarri Falls – low cascades over tufa (hardened calcium deposits) walls. This wall across the creek was quite wide, with about four different water cascades going over it. Again, incredibly photogenic.

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Indarri Falls

We sat by the falls, just looking about, for a while. Could see big and small fish in the water, which looked quite deep. It was definitely not a place for John to swim! It actually looked as if it would be hard to get out of, with deep water right to the edge, and slippery banks.

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There seemed to be a track where people could take canoes around the falls. I didn’t think getting into and out of canoes would be all that easy, here, either.

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Middle Gorge walls at Indarri

After our sojourn at Indarri, the track became unexpectedly hard going – up and down rocky ridges, and it was very hot. A lookout gave us great views over Indarri Falls and the Middle Gorge.

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Indarri Falls and the Upper Gorge

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Indarri Falls. The rough canoe exit point was at the far left

After about a km of this and a couple of tough climbs, we came to a high point that overlooked the campground – it was a relief to have the end in sight.

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The Middle Gorge from Indarri Lookout

The track was a very steep “staircase” down. I would not have liked to be going up it!

I could see why people get the heat exhaustion that the lady at Adels had warned us about!

It was 4.30pm when we completed the walk. Had a bit of a wander and look around the camp area.

I was been disappointed that, at the National Park, there was not an information display of any note, and no sales outlet for things like postcards. There was just a shelter with brochures on offer – the same brochure that we’d been given at Adels – and a few notices pinned up. I guess I’d been expecting something like there was at Carnarvon Gorge.

The camp area there was quite dry and dusty with mostly small sites. It was nowhere near as nice as Adels. Notices said that campfires were banned. The showers were cold water only. But the creek was wide and deep there and clearly attractive for swimming.

There really did not seem to be that many people in the campground, despite the lateness of the afternoon. So much for the notices we’d seen at places like Gregory Downs, saying the campground was booked out.

We drove back to camp with the Truck air-con going. Nice.

There were more people in the Adels Grove campground when we got back.

After much appreciated showers, John got the campfire going. We baked potatoes in foil in the embers, then John BBQ’d the lamb fillet that I’d marinated this morning in a Korma mix. I made a salad too. It was a very enjoyable dinner.

The night featured a superb starry sky, with a sliver of a new moon. But it got cold once the sun had gone down.


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2002 Travels June 12

 WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE   GREGORY DOWNS TO ADELS GROVE   91kms

We had a fairly leisurely pack up and departure, not having far to go.

It was hard to hook up the van – the jockey wheel was wedged in the river pebbles. I really should have thought to put down a board to rest it on! John became really impatient with my efforts.

It was a pleasant enough run to Adels Grove. The way was fairly flat, sometimes quite substantially scrubby, other times rather bare grasslands. There were occasional scrub lined dry creek gullies; we needed to slow down and take care not to hit these too fast. Eventually a low range appeared in the distance.

The turn off to the zinc mine was about 45kms from Gregory Downs. The unsealed road got worse after that – there must have been more maintenance done on the section that served the mine. John perceived the road as rougher than I did.

There was not much traffic at all.

After crossing several more substantial stream channels fairly close together, a couple with shallow water in, we came to the entrance to the Adels Grove campground. Made our way along a driveway to a donga building that was the office – with a large building site beside it. There were a number of really attractive trees about, so first impressions were favourable.

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Just as we were driving in, there was a distinct roar, and a plane took off from a nearby airstrip – it was a Flying Doctor plane.

We asked for a site that would give us plenty of sunshine for the panels, as this was an unpowered campground. We were told that each site had its own tap, fireplace and BBQ plate. The cost was $16 a night – we booked in for a week, so got the final night free, which brought the cost down a bit. Received a brochure about the place, with a map of the campground, and also one about the Lawn Hill National Park.

The office, which was in a green painted demountable donga style of building, had a small shop area at one end, with some basic supplies, and a freezer that held icy poles.

To make some conversation while we were being processed, I asked how many staff were working here, and how easy it would be to get a job in a future tourist season – the lady replied that it would be quite easy. That was an interesting idea to tuck away.

I asked about the Flying Doctor plane we’d seen. A tour guide had been taken ill and evacuated. To myself, I wondered what would happen to his tour group now, but it seemed too inquisitive to ask. The reception lady did say that it takes the plane 45 minutes to get here from Mt Isa, and that they’d had two other emergency evacuations in the past few days – but that rate was not normal! We had visited the Cairns Flying Doctor Base, back in ’98, so were aware of this coverage of the outback for medical emergencies – but this was the closest we’d come to seeing it all in action.

Although the bookings book I could see on the office counter looked quite hectic, there did not actually seem to be that many campers in the place. I thought maybe people book here, over the phone – as we did, with no deposit needed – but go to the National Park first and find out that they can get in there after all. We had always intended to stay some time here, as Melbourne friends had told us it was nicer than the National Park campground.

We drove to the camp area, a little distance away from the office. The campground covered quite an extensive area. There was a really good separation of the natural bush and trees, between most sites – they were more like clearings in the scrub. It was very pleasant to find something different from the normal geometrically laid out campground. Our site boundaries were marked by white painted rocks.

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We had a very good sized site. It was not too far to walk to the amenities block, which was rather basic, but clean. The hot water for showers came from a wood burning heater arrangement, outside. There was no laundry.

Set up. Had lunch. Lazed about on our site, as it was quite hot. No other campers came in to the sites near us.

We’d been told at the office that the construction site was a big new building that would be the managers’ residence, kitchen, office/shop and an open-air licensed restaurant. That seemed a bit ambitious, out here, was my initial thought. The construction area was roped off. As the campground was some distance from it, we were not likely to be disturbed by building noises, fortunately, as it was otherwise a lovely, peaceful place.

As it started to get a bit cooler, later in the afternoon, we walked down to Lawn Hill Creek, which was part of the place. We walked along its bank, on tracks through quite lush vegetation. The creek made a really large waterhole at one point. There was one section where there was obvious flood damage, with undermined banks, and that was fenced off from walkers.

We encountered B and D again, also walking around exploring. They were with a tour group, having left their van at Gregory Downs. They came in today, for one night only. They went walking at the National Park this afternoon and were going there again in the morning, to go canoeing on Lawn Hill Gorge. They said the tour groups stay in tents, on the other side of the Office area from where we were. Obviously, some meals were provided for them.

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Lawn Hill Creek at Adels Grove

According to the information we’d been given, this place had been established in the 1920’s, on a former mining homestead lease, by a Frenchman – Albert de Lestang. He set up a type of botanical gardens here, experimenting to see what would grow in these conditions, and sending seeds to other Botanical Gardens around the world. The name Adels Grove came from the initials of his name.

In the early 1980’s a couple set up the bush campground here, but they had sold it a year or so ago. I supposed that new owners explained the new building activity?

Our tea was pasta with tuna and capers.

I tried to teach John the card game Mike had taught me at Duck Creek. Don’t think I properly remembered it, because it did not seem to flow as well.

No TV here, of course. We haven’t had it all that much, so far, on this trip, and I have to say that I do not miss it!

Although, on our way out here, we had seen no sign of the mine, apart from the road turn off, at night could see the glow of reflected light from it.

We are finally at Adels Grove/Lawn Hill! Two years ago, adverse weather caused us to abort plans to come here.

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2002 Travels June 11

TUESDAY 11 JUNE     GREGORY DOWNS

The camp area emptied out somewhat, fairly early in the morning.

We walked around and had a look at the vacated places, but then decided to stay where we were, rather than go to all the hassle of packing up the camp and relocating, for only one or two nights more.

Went for a drive out along the Camooweal road, to try to find the canoe trip access points to the river, shown on the General Store brochure. Wanted to see what the river was like at these points, and also if there were camp spots there – we would be coming back this way after our visit to the Lawn Hill area, and might find somewhere great to prop for a little while.

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Gregory River

We found an access point about 18kms out, marked by two drums beside the road. It was a bit tricky to get into – the track was eroded, then sandy, but it led to a beautiful, huge, area for camping – on firm ground, not river stones. The river was beautiful here,too, some rapids, with pools above and below. There were a number of drums for rubbish about, so obviously it was regularly used. It would be a great spot for tents. John said he would not be keen on trying to get the van in there.

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Gregory River, about 20kms upstream from camp area

Another track, this one about 12kms out, was marked by one roadside drum. It led to a large area of river stones that were deep and not compacted, like the ones where we are camped are. There was a Coromal van there, on about the only patch of ground that was viable to tow on. The river was narrower there – a pool, with no rapids.

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Reflections in a deeper pool

On the way back, we bought fuel at the hotel – $1.69cpl! Also bought a pack of steak at the Store – John’s choice.

Had a late lunch back at the van. By now it was hot.

Went for a swim in the afternoon, as we had seen others doing. I walked upstream along the bank to a place where there was a divided channel and a narrow “race” around a bend. I went in there, where there was a very strong current, like a spa. I got bumped a bit by stones in the race, and then the current wanted to seep me under a clump of pandanus. I caught a branch of this to keep me out in the open, and got some splinters!

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Rapids in the river

I advised John not to do the race section, but to enter the river below it, into calmer water. The current carried us down to our camp, fairly quickly. It was hard to stop there and just sit in the water, due to the current. The river looked deceptively lazy but the current was definite.

We went back and did the float down again, from the calmer section. Then sat in the water for a while. It was clean, clear and cool, and a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

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A motor home came in. The couple looked about. John encouraged them to park near us – they seemed desirable neighbours and would create a buffer from those maybe less so.

As the afternoon wore on, it became cool quite quickly, and suddenly too cold to be lazing around in wet bathers.

John lit a little campfire and cooked potatoes in foil, then the steak and some zucchini halves on his mesh grill. He also cooked some eggs and made himself a steak sandwich, with bread. I found the scotch fillet, though tender, to be very bland – not as tasty as southern steak. Different cattle breeds, obviously. The meat was not good value, having cost us $8.

This morning, mother kite pushed Baby Huey out of the nest. Tough love! He hopped/flew to a nearby branch, then took off and flew! It must have felt pretty good. He was not good at landing, though, tending to miss the branch he was aiming for and crash down to a lower one. The parent birds hovered about him – literally! He had several more flying sessions during the day. We were so lucky to have been here at just the right time to see this.

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So now what do I do?

Sat by the remnants of our fire for a short while, after tea, but then it was an early night.