Our original plan in Australia was to go from Sydney down towards Adelaide and then all the way up the Stuart highway to Alice Springs, continue north an unspecified distance, and end up in Cairns sometime before the 17th of September. When we picked up the van, we decided that maybe we should stick more to the east, and the plan was revised. The bottom line was that when we left Sydney we really didn’t have a clear plan, which began to cause some problems. We were driving, but not seeing anything interesting. We were cooped up in the van or at least in the vicinity of the van for five days without having much to do. In New Zealand we were going out hiking every single day. In Australia, we were sitting in the van either driving or parked. Not only that, but the van, as was to be expected because that’s the way things go, was having some mechanical issues. According to Adam who is one of those men who can look under the hood and actually diagnose a problem unlike many who just stand and stare hoping the answer will come to them through osmosis, the radiator overflow reservoir was sliced through and was leaking. He did MacGyver a solution by stuffing a plastic bag in there to act as a bladder, but it was still rather worrisome. So after 5 days in a shoddy campervan with nothing of note to see, we were ready to kill each other. When we decided to drive over to Carnarvon National Park, we didn’t realize that this would be the place that would keep one of us from stabbing the other to death with a plastic fork.
The campervan park was a pretty nice place except for the fact that there were kids everywhere. Not just kids with their parents, but a big group of middle schoolers who were there for camp. I absolutely detest middle schoolers. But the park itself had nice amenities and a platypus pond where you were supposed to be able to see platypi, but after spending an hour and a half straining our eyes in the growing darkness, we gave up the search. It did however, inspire us to make up a card game that we quite enjoy called “Platypus.” Well, Adam made most of it up, but I named it and added a twist here and there. We may post the rules sometime, but right now it’s still in the testing phase. It really is a good game and we’ve been playing it for the past few nights.
Even if there were no platypus sightings, the park was absolutely full of birds. The sound of birds overhead was actually distracting. I’ve never really been interested in birds before. They never caught my attention and I certainly would never say that I liked them. Birdwatching? Yawn. But Australia has the most magnificent birds and you can’t help but take notice. There are the rainbow lorikeets flying in a V formation looking like brightly colored arrows in the sky , pink-bellied gulahs, cockatoos with their vivid yellow combs, take your pick. My mother would be horrified. I’ve seen her make her “I’m terrified” face in only two situations: going on a roller coaster (that we tricked her onto – “really, it just goes around in circles,”) and having a close encounter with a bird. But I’m starting to find them very appealing.
The next morning we went up to the visitors’ center to start the big walk in Carnarvon Gorge Park. With all of the side trails it ended up being about 15 miles, but nothing could be more worth it. Again I’m sort of at a loss for words to describe all of the things that we saw there. There was Cathedral Cave which is covered with Aboriginal art stenciled in reds, yellows, and whites, some of which may be up to 3,500 years old. (A group of scouts was hiking the same trail, and when they got there one young boy’s voice echoed through the area, “Is this all we came to see?” See above note about detesting middle schoolers). There was Ward’s Canyon which was a rain forest area full of giant king ferns. There was a moss garden with sandstone walls covered in moss dripping water slowly and continually. We ran into a kangaroo, almost literally, who was munching on some grass. We were pretty close and it started to turn to hop away. I actually said out loud, “No! Don’t go.” And then it turned around and posed long enough for me to take its picture. Then it hopped away. I know it’s just a coincidence, but it’s a funny one.
In short, we stayed out in Carnarvon Park all day and got what we needed: some exercise, a nature fix, and a good reminder of why we came on this trip together.