The moss garden
17 November 10
Our expectations for visiting the Carnarvon Gorge section of the Carnarvon National Park was based on tales of relatives who had visited the Gorge ten years ago or more. We knew that it was considered a must-see, but we weren’t really sure why.
Now we do. It’s the place to take the photographs that grace postcards and calendar spreads. It’s every rainforest-lover’s dream-come-true. It’s in the middle of nowhere and the remoteness has preserved its unique attraction by keeping the number of visitors down. It’s pristine, gorgeous and worth every fuel dollar spent.
Our first day at the Gorge, we set out as a family on the 7km round trip to the Moss Garden. As soon as we left the car park, we had to use stepping stones to cross over the Carnarvon Creek, and we crossed over this creek once more on our way to the Moss Garden.
Much thought had gone into the placement of the large, flat river rocks, so it wasn’t a treacherous crossing. We simply had to watch carefully and monitor the children who could hop from stone to stone as easily as us.
The trek started out as an average sort of bush-walk. Sure, we were walking through a beautiful national park, but it wasn’t breathtaking. And then we crossed over the creek again, hopping from stone to stone, and started to climb up one of the side gorges.
The tall cliff walls had sheltered the plants below, creating a micro-site with its own wet environment. We passed moss-covered rocks and little pools of water collecting on the impermeable shale before racing off over the rocks to join the bigger creek.
The park had put a lot of work into making the path accessible. As well as maneuvering the flat rocks into place to allow creek crossings, the path was lined in places with round river rocks. Steps were carved out of the mud and reinforced with concrete sleepers made to look like rocks. For some steep climbs, timber or aluminium steps were bolted to the rock.
The pathway culminated at a timber walkway that looked out to a pool of water with a little waterfall trickling into it. The sides of the gorge were lined with dripping moss. Exactly where the sandstone finished and the shale began was clear because it was here that the water escaped the softer stone and began to trickle out, providing an ideal environment for a horizontal line of ferns.
David and I were blown away by the breathtaking beauty of it all. We were looking at something very special, something worth all the hours of driving.
As we sat and enjoyed the view, we shared some dried fruit. The girls were energised by the dates and their previous fatigue from the 3.5 km disappeared. When it was time to go, Aisha and Brioni disappeared off down the track in front of us. I was carrying Delaney on my back and we walked at Calista’s pace.
As we proceeded along the path, David and I were at first amused by the older girls’ energy spurt, and then we became alarmed when we reached a junction of two tracks and the girls were not waiting for us.
Our original plan was to head further into the gorge to see some of the other points of interest, but the girls’ absence meant that we needed to follow them down the route we assumed they took — the track back to the car park and our truck.
We didn’t know that Aisha and Brioni had made a pact to hide in the bush, watching us pass by and then planned to follow us surreptitiously. We ended up walking too fast for them, and they took a wrong turn for a little while before backtracking and finding their way onto the main track again.
When David and I reached the main car park, we were dismayed to realise that the girls weren’t ahead of us. David stayed at the truck with Delaney and Calista, and I started back up the track. I quizzed every walker I passed. Some of them had seen the girls — others hadn’t. (The girls had deliberately tried to hide from all the other walkers on the path.)
Running back up the track, I finally met the girls around a bend. Aisha burst into tears when she saw me. Before then, she had held herself together as she realised that she had lost sight of us and needed to take care of Brioni. The girls were relieved to be found and didn’t fully understand the implications of being lost in the bush — especially at night.
We were so relieved to be reunited as a family and spent the next long while talking about what the girls had done, and how it could have potentially been a sadder event.
That evening we stayed just up the road in a bus-parking spot. It rained a lot of the night, but we were warm and safe, happy to be together again and ready to resume our exploration of the gorge in the morning!