“This place had better be good” I half-jokingly shot at Mark while sweat rolled down my back. The heat seared from everywhere and setting up our camper in the heat of the day suddenly felt like a serious lack of judgement when we decided to have a slow morning leaving Gregory Downs. The corrugated road to Boodjamulla National Park (aka Lawn Hill) gave us our first taste of the dusty outback roads we had heard about. I was concerned about whether our little camper would hold up, Mark was concerned about how much red dirt found its way inside. To my surprise, neither of our concerns were warranted.
It had taken us three driving days to get here, our only real stop was in Winton which laid claim to three things. The birthplace of Qantas, the pub where Banjo Patterson first played Waltzing Matilda and a significant area where dinosaur fossils had been found. We were there for the dinosaurs.
Winton is a typical Australian outback town, the main street housing three pubs, kitschy opal shops and a fantastic visitors centre with a Banjo Patterson Museum. The Dinosaur Museum, Australian Age of Dinosaurs, is home to 54m long dinosaur
tracks, a working laboratory and a gift shop. Set atop a small hill overlooking the parched plains below Ewan thought the place was amazing, mainly due to the numerous dinosaur statues scattered around the large site. Annalise was less impressed, and I think she would recommend the inclusion of at least one set of animatronics. To be fair, the concept time is difficult for children – if you asked them prior to our trip how long we were going away for they could factually answer the question but neither of them really understood what that meant. There is no way they could begin to grasp the significance of million-year-old fossilised footprints and the story that can be deduced from them so long after the creatures that made them are gone. It was quite amazing.
The drive from Winton to Gregory Downs was the longest we had attempted. We had always wanted to spend the bulk of our time in the Northern Territory and Western Australia so we both knew long drive days were needed but this one felt particularly tough. The road stretched on for an eternity and the landscape was dry and harsh, small shrubs, grasses and kites
the only visible signs of life. It was on this drive that Mark told me how he had found out about Boodjamulla.
“I was having a look at the area on google maps and I saw this little green patch, so I zoomed in and there it was” he told me.
And…. I thought. You followed that up with some additional research and weighing up the pros and cons to driving a fair hunk out of our way to get here and because of something amazing that is in the park you decided it was not to be missed! No no. That was it. Just google maps. I began to wonder whether my hands off approach to planning was sensible indeed…!
We had tried to snag a campsite at Boodjamulla, but with only 14 sites available on park we missed out. Luckily, we were able to secure a place about 10kms outside the park at a place called Adels Grove. Adels Grove was hot. Really hot. The type of hot that makes you want to lay down until it is not hot. By the time we had finished setting up the camper all four of us were
ready to cool down and after inquiring about a place to swim we were advised that the park’s creek was nicer than where we were staying. Equipped with our swimmers and zero knowledge of the park, we drove in.
The landscape at Boodjamulla was formed over millions of years, is continually changing and central to that change is a creek that cuts through the gorges like a snake. The traditional owners, the Waanyi people, believe the gorges were formed by a rainbow serpent who has the power to take the water away – I imagine that to be a terrifying thought given the harshness of the land. As we moved closer to the water the air cooled and ferns appeared, but it wasn’t until we set eyes upon the creek that the brilliance of this place was revealed. The turquoise water appeared like a glass sheet, smooth and motionless. A colour I have never seen water before. It was so dark that it seemed as though your eyes would not be able to penetrate the surface however as you moved closer swimming fish appeared. It was breathtaking and wonderfully cool. We spent the afternoon exploring the area, swimming in
the creek and splashing around a rockpool we found.
The next day we decided to hike to the waterfall, a short 3kms return but I had some reservations about how hot it might get and, oh yeah, the crocs. We had been spending months telling the kids that we would not be able to swim in parts of our trip because of the crocs and they had heeded our message – they were appropriately terrified! When the ranger told us that we could swim in the creek because “the freshies here are timid” they were not convinced and would only gain confidence after some serious coaching. The ranger also told us that when we got to the waterfall we were not to swim in the small pool at the top of the waterfall because recently a croc was spotted in there.
“Think about having a bath with a croc” he said casually “It doesn’t end well”
Well yes, I thought but surely getting in a pool with one doesn’t end well either. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a go. The hike to the waterfall was hot but short so very manageable, the only section that was
a little tricky was the steep rocky descent to the large turquoise lagoon at the base of the small waterfall. The day was spent swimming at the lagoon and in other sections the creek, my mind straying occasionally from my state of blissful relaxation to the crocs who chose not to make an appearance.
“Well”? The one worded question from Mark hung in the air as we drove away from his google maps find. He was happy that he had pulled this one off and he already knew the answer.
This place was beautiful. An unexpected oasis amongst an ocean of rocks. “When it comes to the things that matter, generally you are right”.
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