Carnarvon National Park
View from Sandstone Ridge
Time. It is constant, yet changes based on perspective. Recently, a stranger noted that you don’t realise how quickly time passes unless you have children. I don’t necessarily agree that you must have children to feel the effects of time, but they are useful measuring sticks. The passage of time can be acutely felt when you haven’t seen your friends for a couple of years and, what feels like overnight, they go from being parents of a toddler to a fully formed small person. It is then you realise how much time you have missed. And just how important the moments that we get to spend together really are. The past few years have really highlighted this for me, and so many others, so what started with a crumb of a possibility deep into the first Covid lockdown quickly turned into 18 months of planning and preparing for an unexpected Australian adventure.
Mark and I had always talked about how, when we had children, we would continue to travel as we did without them because, as we so arrogantly noted, it can be done – it just takes a little more effort. Agh, childless Mark and Emma – what optimists
they were! Aside from a trip to Vanuatu when Annalise was six months old, there hasn’t been a whole lot of exploring in our household over the past five years – mainly local holidays to family friendly destinations. Which is what made the idea of spending six months in a pop top camper gallivanting around the country with my little family even more appealing.
After a slight Covid related delay at the start of our trip, a pivot on our plans, and a generous offer to ride out the isolation at Mark’s fathers house, we packed our lives up, put on the out of office, and hit the road. The first couple of weeks were dedicated to traveling up the east coast, from Lake Macquarie to the Gold Coast, spending time with family and friends. A quick one-night stop at Bluesfest was all the confirmation that we needed that some semblance of our previous lives was within reach. Like most things with children, we just needed to adjust our expectations to fully enjoy the experience. Instead of moving from stage to stage as we normally would, we set up in front of the main stage and big screen while
Mark and I individually went to the other stages to listen to the music. Once the sun went down, we took turns as one person stayed at the camper listening to the music from afar while the other was able to fully immerse themselves in the festival.
The festival itself is a testament to the resilience of a community that has recently been devastated by floods, before that Covid, before that bushfire. Each stage blasting a combination of great music, messages of strength and (given the current phase of the election cycle) political commentary. Although The Waifs were down one sister (who is also their killer harmonica player) they were able to crack out a great set relatively seamlessly. The smooth sounds of Fat Freddy’s Drop was all Ewan needed to get into the groove and John Butler’s beautiful rendition of Losing You moved me like all good live music has the ability to do. Then there are all the little gems you catch when you wander to a stage with little idea of who is playing. This is probably my favourite thing about Bluesfest - the quality of the musicians is absolutely second to none. I managed to
catch Ray Beatle who was one of my favourites, while Mark raved about Kingfish Ingram whose delta blues sounds drew him away from Crowed House.
The days that followed were spent at Sea World and visiting more family so when we finally left a rainy Brisbane we were ready for the adventure to really begin. Our first stop was a sopping overnight camp in Injune before heading to Carnarvon National Park. Our original plan was to camp on park at Mount Moffit, however the information centre at Injune advised that the road was ‘sticky’ and to steer clear. Another pivot and we ended up at Carnarvon Gorge section, staying by chance at Sandstone Park, gobsmacked by the glorious outlook of the park. Sandstone cliffs rose from the earth covered in lush greenery – a far cry from what I envisioned this part of the world to look like. In a reversal of roles, Mark has undertaken most of the research for this trip, planning the route and watching traveling families on youtube – trying to scout out the best experiences for everyone. I knew that at some point on this trip I would be surprised, I just didn’t expect
it to be the first stop outside of Brisbane.
After reviewing the hikes available to us I quickly realised that the section of the park I was most interested in was at the furthest point of the grade three hikes – or the easier hikes. The Art Gallery – home to over 2000 engravings, stencils and free-hand paintings. A short 10.8km hike. Mark and I hadn’t really had an opportunity to test the hiking prowess of the youngest members of our group but we thought this was a good place to start. We set off early morning and were quickly greeted by the first of six creek crossings, pleased that I was wearing my sturdy hiking boots I scooped up Ewan – the easier of the two to carry due to his koala like grip – and carried him across. We kept a slow pace as we made our way along a boardwalk into the gorge. Vegetation was lush, butterflies were circling, and the birds were singing happy that the sun was finally out. Any thoughts of a world outside where I stood were washed away and a sense of calm began to swell.
The Art Gallery was
as beautiful as I had expected. The entrance was a huge sandstone wall with vivid hand stencils and animal drawings – it was hard to believe that these paintings were born in ancient times. A long rock overhang housed more paintings, engravings, and some disappointing graffiti from the 1950’s. I imagined the walk back would be tougher than the walk to the Art Gallery but it surprisingly felt quicker. Perhaps knowing what is to come makes time move faster and could be why I have always loved the feeling of visiting somewhere I have never been before – time exploring a new place always feels slow and considered – present in the moment.
We spent the next day exploring the other short hikes but still managed to clock up 5kms on the small legs of our children. When they thought the hiking was over, I thought it would be a great idea to go into the park on dusk to see if we could walk the nature trail in search of owls, gliders and perhaps a platypus. Armed with torches, flashing gumboots and the quiet sounds of a stampeding herd of elephants we entered the nature trail. I’m not
Hiking to the Art Gallery
One of six creek crossings to the Art Gallery. You have to cross each creek twice - on the way there and back
sure what I expected given the company but I had hoped to see something. I became a little frustrated when the sun was setting quickly with no wildlife in sight. It was then that I felt gentle kisses on my hand and realised that, even in the absence of the big moment I wanted to capture, this was still a moment to be present in. And I guess that is the entire purpose of this trip. To notice the big moments as well as the small ones. The ones that we miss when we are trying to manage the busyness of our lives. The small moments when added together make up an awful lot of time.
Did we see any animals on our nature walk? Well, it wasn’t a complete fizzer. We saw a frog, an echidna and two cane toads!
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