This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2003 Travels September 1

MONDAY 1 SEPTEMBER     ADELS GROVE

Day off. The days were definitely getting hotter now.

We drove to the National Park.

Walked the Constance Range Track, which we hadn’t done before.

This left from the canoe hire area, but went along the other side of the little backwater creek, to the track around the Island Stack. Along this narrow section, beside the back creek, I nearly trod on a baby crocodile, that was on the track. We both got a fright.

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Little croc on walk track

It was a pleasant gradual climb, on a track less walked than the other Park tracks.

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Walk track up the Constance Range

We gained a different outlook over the Island Stack and the start of the Lower Gorge.

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Island Stack front R, Gorge in background

There were expansive views from the top of the ridge, in all directions.

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Constance Range to the NW, from top of track

We were very pleased we had managed to fit that walk in. It was not as spectacular as either the Island Stack walk or that to the Upper Gorge, but certainly well worth doing. Again, I was reminded of how much was missed by those who only visit this area for a couple of nights.

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Road into the National Park and the view to the south


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2003 Travels August 15

FRIDAY 15 AUGUST     ADELS GROVE

Day off for us. Not much of a sleep in because of the genset noise.

This morning, a big, lovely, quiet, generator was brought over from the Mine, on loan. Everything worked again, even better than usual. But the majority of the icy poles were beyond salvage.

The cook freaked out – too much of her vegetable stock had been sold through the shop!

L and R – friends of the bosses – arrived from Isa, bringing with them some stock to replenish what had not been ordered – soft drinks, some biscuits. But we were still under stocked in some things. It really was an impossible ask for the boss to juggle everything. V and I had tried to help by doing a check of stock each week, and writing down what was needed for the shop, for her to order. But she still tended to forget where she was up to, when interrupted – usually by the baby.

There continued to be a really big cloud build up through the day. It apparently then rained at Mt Isa, at Thorntonia and at Riversleigh, but passed to the east of us, fortunately. We did not need red mud around the tents!

I packed some sandwiches for lunch and we put one of old F’s repaired canoes up on the roof rack and headed off to the National Park.

Launched the canoe from the new ramp and paddled off up through the Middle Gorge. This time, I took my camera, in one of the plastic barrels from the canoe hire.

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Towards the Middle Gorge

We made our way through the impressive, tall, red walls of the Middle Gorge, then carried the canoe – very carefully – along the path around Indarri Falls, and relaunched it back into the creek.

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There’s a lot more beyond this point

Paddled on along the Upper Gorge, through the narrow constricted section that tricks some into thinking that is as far as they can go, and on to the much wider section of creek below the Upper Gorge Lookout.

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The Upper Gorge Lookout is up on the bluff

The end of that wider part really was as far as could be canoed, 3kms from the launching ramp. We beached the craft on a sandy bank beside the creek and set off to explore further by foot.

We walked upstream, along the side of the creek. We mostly followed tracks that had been made by feral pigs, through the spinifex and scrub. These were quite passable to pig height – about thigh high on us – but a bit dense and prickly above that height. But we could see where to go, at least.

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Country beyond the Upper Gorge

We found lots of very pretty little water holes, alternating with rapids sections in the creek. I used two rolls of film on today’s jaunt!

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Lawn Hill Creek changed character so frequently

Reached the tributary Carless Creek. This had flowing water, so we concluded it must be spring fed, too. It originated somewhere just to the east of the Musselbrook Mining Camp, we thought.

We’d probably walked along side Lawn Hill Creek for about a km when we reached the tributary, then walked some way alongside this, before running out of pig trails to follow and finding the bush bashing a bit hard.

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Carless Creek

Ate our lunch sitting beside a little water hole in this creek. We were so quiet and unobtrusive, just sitting there enjoying the peace, that a large feral pig wandered down the bank opposite us, just doing what pigs do.

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Large black feral pig

These pigs were such a problem in the Park – and at Adels, in particular out around the rubbish dump pit. Cook’s husband regularly took a rifle out there, late in the day, and sat up in a tree, waiting for them to come in scavenging, and shot as many of them as he could. This may have discouraged them from the pit, to some extent, but did nothing to alleviate the broader issue that they posed over much of Australia. What really worries me is the prospect of human disease, spread by pigs, getting loose in Northern Australia.

After lunch, made our way back the way we’d come. John was using a stick to push aside the vegetation along the track, and accidentally hit me in the eye with the stick. Luckily, my glasses didn’t break, but it hot at such an angle that I developed a black eye, which later became the cause of some comments!

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We came across a plant with distinctive black and red seeds. M later identified these as a poisonous native pea species. Around here, they were known as Black-eye Susan.

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Black Eye Susan – poisonous

On a narrow part of path, a dragon type lizard suddenly rushed at me from the side. It was clearly in attack mode and gave me quite a fright. It was a pretty little thing, with a really long tail. It actually tried to bite me – ferocious little tacker.

Retrieved our canoe – happy to see it was still there. Very few tourists canoe quite up as far as where we left it.

As we paddled back down the gorges, saw a couple of freshie crocs, sunning themselves on logs over the water – they were looking quite fat and healthy.

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Big fat freshie croc

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Lawn Hill Gorge

We left the canoe with the rest of the hire stock at the Park, so didn’t have to go to the effort of getting it back up on the roof rack of Truck.

Showered and had a pleasant happy hour sitting watching the resident birds and feeling happy with the world.

Then went up to tea. There was fish for tea. But there was not enough left after the guests were served, for the staff to have a proper meal – we were given very tiny serves. How hard was it to count out pieces of frozen fish, this morning, and get it right?

Even the poor meal could not spoil what had been a delightful day.


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2003 Travels July 9

WEDNESDAY 9 JULY     ADELS GROVE

A work day, John on canoes, me on reception.

M went off with John at 7.30am, in the canoe rattler. The plan had been for her and P to canoe up the Gorge, but he was late getting moving and driving his camper to the Park. By that time, she’d gone off with some tourists who were inexperienced and needed an extra body in the three man canoe, which was the only one available when they turned up. They came back very impressed with their “guide” – she had absorbed a lot of H’s spiel, apparently. And, of course, was an experienced paddler as well.

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National Parks map of the gorge area of the Park

P came back here, where he fished and relaxed.

A crew from Channel 9’s Getaway program – and Ben Dart – arrived, to film a segment on us and the National Park. All good publicity. So few people have heard of this area.

Some more aborigines from Doomadgee came in, to stay, to continue their search for the missing man.

Before I started work this morning, cooked a spinach, bacon and potato soup, for tomorrow night’s tea for us. Doing this freed us from having to be back in time for the establishment dinner.

Mail plane day. There was a parcel of mail from home, but apart from one card from a friend, nothing else of note.

I had arranged for P to eat tea tonight with the staff – and to wash some dishes in return! Unfortunately, tonight’s fish dinner was rather dry.

There was a staff meeting after dinner – so we could all meet A, one of the owners, who arrived today to manage the place, because the bosses were going to be away. In his absence, (B and M had gone to Mt Isa yesterday) there were some pointed comments made by the men to management, about the one who did not pull his weight with the cleaning and wood gathering and chopping.

The absent duo got back late, sometime through the night.


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2003 Travels June 29

SUNDAY 29 JUNE     ADELS GROVE

Finally – a day off!

We had managed to sell a pleasing number of scenic helicopter flights while the pals were here, so this morning, at 10am,  the pilot took B and me, and John, on the promised free flight.

Our flight lasted about 15 minutes. He took us out and over the gorges at the National Park. We did not go up very high and the views were wonderful. We flew over all the gorges – it was really spectacular from the air. Our return run was along Lawn Hill Creek – at treetop level! I was not sure how legal that was, but it was exciting. At the end, over the airstrip, the pilot did a steep climb, then “fell off” to the side. Wow! Our stomachs eventually caught up to us again. We came back high on adrenalin.

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Lawn Hill Creek, with the Gorge in the distance

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Lower Gorge, the Island Stack, distant Constance Range

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Middle Gorge and Indarri Falls

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Gorge cut through the escarpment

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The Upper Gorge, the Narrows, walk track beside gorge

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Lawn Hill Creek beyond the Upper Gorge, with side creek

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Middle Gorge, camp area, approach road and Constance Range

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Our staff compound in foreground, vegie garden, green roof of old donga

I phoned and got the ok from the Lawn Hill Station manager’s wife, to go driving on some of their tracks again. We wanted to go look at the old weir, which we had seen from the air, near the end of the Lower Gorge.

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Edge of Island Stack & walk track, old weir (lower R)

We had to go via the homestead again, across the creek ford to the north of that, then double back down on the far side of the creek.

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Track followed right side of creek towards old weir, at base of scarp

The weir was built in 1983. I was surprised that it was so recent, this diversion of the creek away from its original course. Before that, our section of creek was just a series of seasonal waterholes. So, in the days of the Frenchman, the creek was not a permanently running one – which made the establishment of his gardens an even greater feat.

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Former course of Lawn Hill Creek – once could have been like this by Adels

The diversion, of course, made the creek past the Lawn Hill Station homestead, a permanently flowing one. Only a year after the weir was built, the station owner – Sebastian Maier – made the offer of land that led to the setting up of the National Park. Maybe it was not co-incidental that the diversion weir was built before the National Park happened.

The drive was a really pretty one, with the Constance Range off to the west, and the green line of vegetation that marked the creek, to our left. Eventually, the track ran between some low hills of tumbled rocks and the creek, the way ahead narrowed  and the track ended.

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Track went between creek and low rocky ridge

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Caves at the track’s end

It was not far then to walk to the weir. From here, across the creek, the abrupt red rock face of the Island Stack loomed.

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Red walls of the Island Stack and reflections in Lawn Hill Creek

We walked around for a while, exploring and taking photos. The colour contrasts between the creek, the vegetation, and the rocks, were brilliant.

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Looking into the Lower Gorge from the old weir area

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The effect of the old weir on Lawn Hill Creek

Then we went back the way we’d come, and spent the rest of the day lazing about at the van.

The aboriginal group were still broken down and at out their camp. They had walked in today, to come to the shop. They bought some food and tried to get some more meths. This was when it came to light that they’d bought a bottle, yesterday. The boss phoned the police at Doomadgee, on their behalf, to report the breakdown and their need for retrieval, and was told it was being dealt with. So it seemed that someone there knew about them.

The main group of palaeontologists left today. Unfortunately, the volunteers and most of the students had decided to stay on for a couple of days of R&R, which meant that it would be a real scrabble to fit in the booked tour groups, even though one group did cancel a few days ago. Like it or not, most of the over-stayers had to move into the more scruffy emergency accommodation – the old caravans and donga rooms, near where we were initially parked – and near the generator. There wouldn’t have been any spare linen left in the store when they were set up! I suspected that V had not had a great day.

At tea time, we found that there was a possible Medivac case. A tourist presented with what may have been heart issues – he’d not long had a bypass. There was a big phone consult with the Flying Doctor, who eventually decided that he should be taken over to the Century Mine, for the paramedics there to assess. The boss was run off her feet and couldn’t do it, so John volunteered to drive him there. He knew the way, and had been cleared when he had his own, earlier, little emergency.

They returned a couple of hours later, with the verdict that it was a panic attack, brought on by worry because he felt really remote from medical help. He’d found out that, in significant ways, he was not that remote at all. He was grateful, and put a good donation in the Flying Doctor tin.

There was an interesting talk after tea tonight, by Sydney Uni archaeologists doing field work at Riversleigh, and up in the Mussellbrook section of the National Park, west of Lawn Hill. They had dated aboriginal relics back to at least 37,000 years – and maybe 43,000. A current line of research was whether over hunting had any impact on the disappearance of the megafauna. They believed that the two overlapped in this region – hence even greater significance for the Riversleigh area.

We were thinking about whether to join the Riversleigh Society. Maybe, at some future time, we might try to join the annual dig as volunteer workers?


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2003 Travels May 6

TUESDAY 6 MAY     ADELS GROVE

Another early start for John, who was on canoe hire again.

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John running the canoe hire at the National Park

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The view from John’s “office”

I had an 8am start, so I could do Reception until V started at 10am.

The boss had received the dates that the paleontologists would be here this year for the annual fossil dig at Riversleigh – arriving 19 and 20 June and leaving 28 and 29 June. I allocated them into accommodation – using pencil. Later, V checked these and altered a couple. That ten days would be a tight period for accommodation in the DBB section.

I only had three tents to do and the DBB amenities. F did the campground ones, for which I was grateful. I hung out a load of baby washing that boss had done in her washing machine, which was on the dry dock deck. Did shop/reception for an hour while V was at lunch and again at afternoon tea time. Mopped the veranda in front of the shop.

Like yesterday, John was back early, and minded the baby while he worked around the grounds.

I knocked off at 5.15 and had a very welcome shower. I’d raised lots of sweat today – the tents are very muggy when one is working inside them. I’d managed to Baygon myself while clearing spiders out of one – my nose ran for hours!

A company tour group came in. Some of the Grove owners ran a bus company that offered two night, three day guided tours from Mt Isa – to Riversleigh and the National Park, staying the two nights in the DBB tents here.

It was the first tour of the season for H, the Waanyi aboriginal tour guide. It was great to see him again. I think he was pleased to see us too – we had built up a bit of a rapport with him when we were here last year.

My back was a bit less sore today – maybe I was getting used to the work?

John had a busy day on the canoes today and was very weary.

We were in bed by 9pm – early nights were in order here. We were so tired that we managed to sleep against the background noise of the nearby generator, which didn’t go off until 9.30pm.


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2002 Travels June 17 – August 2

The area:

We were supposed to have one day off a week. This was sometimes irregular, due to demands of visitor numbers, but was made up later.

On some of our days off, it was hard to get motivated to do much except sleep in, laze around at the van, maybe have a swim in the shallow part of the creek. It was a measure of our inertia that, from the time we left Gregory Downs, till we left Adels, we did only about 600kms – and most of that was done getting there, and in our brief tourist time. We bought only 56 litres of fuel in our time there – at $1.22 cpl.

But we did get out and about a bit.

There was a short walking track, from Adels, up a nearby low hill – Lookout Hill, from which there was some outlook over Adels and the nearby country.

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From Lookout Hill, looking to the Constance Range & the gap the National Park road goes through

A bit further afield – and a short drive – was the track up Bill Hill, which was somewhat higher and gave better views. From that, one could just see the overburden hills of the Century Mine, to the east.

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From Bill Hill, moonrise over the zinc mine

One of the staff couples were in the habit of going off for an overnight of camping, on their day off, just to get out of the place, and away from people. They did not go far – just to nearby Louie Creek, or out to the NE, on Lawn Hill Station, further down Lawn Hill Creek. They had the permission of the station managers to do this.

A few times, we went for short walks in the National Park. One of these took us to the little Cascades, that had formed over tufa rocks – like a very miniature Indarri Falls, and similar to our little falls in the creek, up from the laundry area. Beyond these Cascades was the entrance to the Lower Gorge – out of bounds for canoeists and walkers, except where a walk track touched on it, at the back of the Island Stack.

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Little tufa Cascades at the National Park

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The entrance to the Lower Gorge

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The Island Stack and walk track to the Lower Gorge

We did go for an exploratory drive, one day, to the north, through Lawn Hill Station and out along the track to Doomadgee, for a way. It was quite easy to get lost in the maze of station tracks around the Lawn Hill homestead. This in itself was an interesting place, perched up high on a bluff above the creek. It was quite an imposing looking house. Below the bluff were lots of sheds, cattle yards and the airstrip. The track to be taken north wove amongst these – very poorly signed – and eventually skirted the bluff and the airstrip, before crossing Lawn Hill Creek further along, and then becoming easier to follow.

Lawn Hill Station quite intrigued me, so I found out what I could about its history from the Boss. The station had been a pastoral lease since the 1870’s, and was one of the largest stations in Qld.

In 1976, a Brazilian cattleman, Sebastian Maia, bought the lease and proceeded to oversee a very successful station. In 1991, the lease was sold to CRA/Rio Tinto, who acquired it and Riversleigh station, in order to do a deal with the local aboriginals, that would allow the zinc mine to go ahead. Although Riversleigh had been ceded to aboriginal control by the time we were in the area, lawn Hill was a little different, in that Maia’s company had a lease back arrangement for a while and continued to run cattle on the property. By 2002, managers were running the place for the company.

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The Constance Range on Lawn Hill Station

In 1984, Maia had donated an area of land to the Qld government, to be managed for the public good, for all Australians. That became Lawn Hill National Park. He added more land to it in 1992. It would appear that he never had any intention that any of his lands would come under aboriginal management or ownership; at the stage when he came to Lawn Hill, there was no record of significant aboriginal occupation of the area in recent times. It was unfortunate that his generous gifting of the spectacular gorge area  for future public access and good – and the decision by the Goss Qld Government to re-gazette the land away from its original pastoral lease status – opened the way for aboriginal claim to the Park.

I read a very interesting – and eye-opening account – of the way the local aboriginals behaved in the Park, and treated the wild life, when they attended for a meeting about the proposed mine – in “Three Years on the Road” by Brett Davis, who was working there at the time. It was also interesting for its description of Adels in the late 1990’s.

On top of a prominent hill, some distance north of the homestead, Maia had a large white cross erected, in memory of his mother. This is a real landmark on the track to Doomadgee.

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The Cross on the Hill by the track to Doomadgee

We did some more walking in the National Park.

The Island Stack Walk went to the top of a bluff that overlooks the Lower Gorge. The name derives from the fact that one side of the bluff is the creek and gorge, the rest of it is circled by an old channel of the creek, now a small stream. Thus, an “island” had been formed.

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The Island Stack

The track up was a steep, short scramble. The views from the top were excellent. One could see right down the gorge and creek.

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The Middle Gorge entrance, seen from the Island Stack

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Lawn Hill Creek beyond the Lower Gorge, from the Island Stack

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The Lower Gorge, from Island Stack

 

We also followed a track beside the old channel/small creek, that took us round to the Lower Gorge, at creek level. There was only access to this at this one small point, to protect wildlife, and sacred sites.

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The Island Stack and the Lower Gorge

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The Lower Gorge wall


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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!