Oct 31, 2010

Down Again

Girraween Flower So we climbed down again and hopped into the trusty Utility to find ourselves a place to settle down for the night.

A 4WD track climbs up the back side of the park and around the back. We ambled along there past kangaroos and wallabies having their evening saunter before arriving at Racecourse Creek and settling down next to a peaceful waterhole and the sun was soon disappearing behind the battlements of the valley leaving us to collect the plentiful firewood, make ourselves some serious canned soup with sausage sandwiches, and drink our respective beverages of choice in a fugue of fragrant smoke.

Down and Up

Girraween Panorama It had taken us an hour, maybe a bit longer to mount the Pyramid.

It took about twenty minutes to come back down again.

We broke out the peanut butter, and the honey, and the bread.

We drank coffee from plastic wine glasses. Someone had forgotten the cups.

We climbed through the forest on the other side of the valley to Castle Rock, which wasn't as difficult a climb, though it still was quite steep... and getting a bit warm. The forest was haunted by big rocks, and wildflowers. The big rocks are quite spooky.

Will identified the most realistic rock we had seen so far. After all, the Pyramid isn't a Pyramid, Castle Rock doesn't look like a Castle and the Sphinx is a bit of a stretch too, not to mention Turtle Rock, which doesn't look like a turtle either. However Bumcrack Rock on the path to Castle Rock is a shoe-in.

After a deeply knackering climb to the top of Castle Rock we once again basked on the summit with views across the valley. We looked across at the Sphinx and though maybe it was best appreciated from a distance.

It was three on the afternoon, after all. We had a campsite to find and food to prepare.


Balancing Rocks The alarm clock went off at 4.30am.

Autonomically the inclination was to return to slumber but semi-concious reflex took over and instead I packed, whilst simultaneously cooking toast and making coffee.

When Will turned up at 5, he informed me in a good-news bad-news type way that his license had expired and that therefore I would be doing the on-road driving. That served as both the good and the bad news. We set off for Girraween.

At 9am or so after a stop-off at Warwick for croissants we arrived at Girraween and paid for our camping permit and all that before sitting down to a coffee in the valley.

The plan was to climb the Pyramid first off then we'd see how we went and maybe go for Castle Rock in the afternoon.

Girraween is a landscape that is defined by granite. It's a rugged place (though strangely no carpets) that is dotted by huge granite domes on top of which site huge granite boulders. Sometimes there are more boulders sitting on top of those boulders.

The elements have worked their magic over millions of years and lichens have eaten their way through stone until some of the boulders are apparently very finely balanced on top of one another.

And the hills are hellish steep.

Still not to be overawed by silly things like steepness, we climbed through the forested hills till we broke the tree-line then climbed the granite dome of the Pyramid. We looked at it across the way and a little eye-protraction said thirty degrees of protracted inclination, inclining us towards slow, careful progress with shoes pointed up the hill.

The Pyramid used to be called the Dome and this seems a better name really, since it isn't a Pyramid... it's a dome. A rocky bubole that penetrates from the green landscape and surges up for a considerable scramble before flattening out to reveal a crown of titan rocks, the most striking and famous of which stands on a tiny little foot and looks for all the world as though it's about to fall over.

The rock on that side of the dome falls away precipitously and slightly gut-wrenchingly into a valley. On the other side is the Second Pyramid.

We hung around at the top of the Pyramid taking in the expansive valley around us.

Oct 26, 2010

Curse Words

Onalog Nicole has returned in one piece and it's jolly nice to have her back.

Eloise is becoming quite foul-mouthed, in an amusingly Aussie kind of way.

She dropped something earlier on in the bathroom. Her voice floating up the hall "Bugger!"

Then shortly afterwards "Pardon my French."


It should be noted that Bugger isn't a swear word here, though of course we don't actually encourage her to use it. Other than by pressing our lips together to suppress our laughter.

Tomorrow I'm off on a little jaunt to the Granite Belt. I'll be sleeping in the back of a Ute. Should be fun. Back Thursday, fingers crossed.


Ngungun Rain.

Oct 21, 2010


Coonowrin Nicole has been away for a few days on a conference to New Zealand, which was nice for her, but of course we missed her.

She left me to deal with the Birthday Party at Stafford Skate City, which of course was dead easy. I went roller-skating. Eloise was less interested in having me help her than other more experienced practitioners, which was fine by me.

I ferried her out to the middle of the rink for the Birdie Dance. I drew the line at dancing. It would have been too, um, dangerous. Seriously.

That was Saturday... after dropping Nicole off at the Airport we'd been to the market in the morning and seen some friends there who live just around the corner. We bagged an invitation to use their swimming pool.

So on Sunday in the afternoon we toddled around there and Eloise had a swim for about thirty seconds in the frigid waters. After that much play was had and we ended up being invited to supper, so that turned out to be a little more major than expected.

On Monday Eloise had the day off school for a pupil-free day so we went for our constitutional up to Mount Coot-tha and did walk number two which works its way past a pond, up the side of a creek before hanging a right over a hill, round the top and back down.

It was round the top that Matilda went missing; we called her for a while but no answer so, having a five-year-old in tow and the priority being on progress, we pressed on.

After a while Matilda caught up, and starting walking along with us. That's pretty suspicious behaviour. She seemed to be limping a bit too, so I thought she's probably twisted her ankle or something, and didn't think too much of it.

After a while she was still with us, and my curiosity got the better of me. I checked that leg out and there were no apparent problems. When I checked a little bit higher up I noticed a little blood on my hand so we looked underneath her torso to be confronted by the mother of all gashes, the subcutaneous fat red and bursting out from the flensed skin, pulled an inch wide and probably five inches long.

So quickly down the mountain, Eloise commendably cool in the crisis, and quickly to the vet, who as it happens is having surgery monday anyway and can get her in within half and hour.

And Matilda picked up at six o'clock, dazed, confused, stitched up, and on no-walking orders with various parts of her body shaved and her chest looking like a furry Frankenstein's monster.

On Tuesday Eloise was back at school for Wilston State School's 90th birthday. I went along for the morning celebration and heard her/them sing the song they've been practicing for for ages. Think Wind Beneath Your Wings. It wasn't that ghastly thing, but it was in the ballpark.

On Wednesday, unencumbered by such commitments, I drove up to the Glass House Mountains and climbed Mount Ngungun. It was steep, but dry.

From the top I saw the approach of rain. I descended, hastily.

Mount Glorious Rainforest

Maiala Rainforest With Eloise back at school, dog-walking leaves just a few hours for useful day-time activity, enough time for a drive up into the mountains, a quick stomp around the rainforest and a very careful drive back down again.

The paths around the Maiala rainforest were damp and several little streams had to be forded, stepping tentatively around woody debris coming down with the wash.

The damp ground had been loosening its grip and several trees had overcome its resistance and come crashing down. Some titans had fallen and taken some others with them.

On the way back the clouds came over the hill and a faint mist started to drift over the forest.

Clear Mountain Water

Clear Mountain Water In further rain-chasing activity one day I visited Cedar Creek for half an hour or so. The road there had just re-opened after the flood waters receded and the creek was in full flow with the waters coming down from the rainforests of Mount Glorious.

Oct 16, 2010

Rain Rain Rain

Wivenhoe Spillway Since our sojourn to the tropics it seems like it's been nothing but rain rain rain.

It can't have been that bad really since we've cycled to school every day, but we haven't seen so much sunshine.

A couple of weekends ago Eloise and I were out walking when the heavens opened. Eloise had had the foresight to bring an umbrella, so she was alright, Jack, but I relied on my Northern Territory hat and was therefore soaked to the skin.

Last weekend it absolutely bucketed down and we had around 50mm in a day, causing flooding and general consternation. Whereasa couple of years ago the reservoirs were in danger of falling below 20% full, now they are at 100%.

In fact at Wivenhoe Dam, the largest of Brisbane's reservoirs there was so much water that the floodgates were opened for the first time in over ten years, so I went up and had a look at the epic amounts of water being released.

For a couple of days the woods were awash and normally quiescent streams transformed into rushing torrents.

A few days later and most of water has gone back to the sea.

Oct 8, 2010


Artist Fine plans we had for our final day until we realised that we didn't have time to realise any of them, what with the car having to be back by 3pm.

In fact, after we'd had our customary morning swim and gotten our, um, selves together, we were hard-pressed to make it back to Darwin in time. It turned out to be very much further than we thought....

However due to some inspired guesswork by Nicole we managed to return the truck with everything ship shape.

With our flight departing at ridiculous o'clock am we had serious time to kill so we went and visited Mindil Beach and the market there for the eating of international foods, the counting of backpackers and so on and so forth, for many hours until the sunset.

Eloise tried her hand at stock-whip trickery and inviegled her way into the tent of an Aboriginal Artist then proceeded to follow her around.

Eventually our time was up and we headed for the airport.

Oct 7, 2010

Gunlom Plunge Pool

Gunlom Plunge Pool Here is the pool in the morning, a hundred metre walk from our tent. Beautifully warm, quiet, peaceful.

Except the fish that bite your ankles.

Oh, and we found an aquatic snake thingy in the rocks that poked its head out for a while.

And there was a crocodile bait there... untouched.

Family Snapshot

Gunlom Matt from Melbourne kindly pointed my camera at us and insisted on taking a photo.

This is the one where I wasn't scratching me ear and we were all actually looking in the direction of the camera.


Gunlom Rockpool In the morning we got up for an early mid-morning swim at the rockpool which was lovely: no-one else was there and I swam out across the pool into the shade underneath the cliffs with the waterfall gushing away nearby until I floated into something which gave me the fright of my life until I realised it was a pandanus frond.

At the shop afterwards buying ice cream we met a family from Melbourne who were spending a year traveling around Australia. They were going to a Park-organised Cultural Activity and we went over to join them doing some pandanus-weaving.

We made little bracelets from the palm fronds which was quite difficult... the fronds had to be stripped to make string and stuffing, very fiddly.

We thought it would take an hour or two but it ended up taking most of the day which was entertaining but meant that the 4 wheel driving got canned.

Instead we climbed up to the top of the waterfall where there were more rockpools to swim in.

We climbed further up and went for a swim in a larger pool with the Melbournians. The pool gave way to a gorge as we swam upstream, Eloise with arms around my neck.

The gorge further narrowed and we ended up in an amazing gorge with water rushing over the wall at the top end with a multitude of tiny frogs basking in the cool spray.

We climbed down again as the sun set and made it down just as it was getting dark.

Good sleeping that night.

Oct 6, 2010

The Road to Gunlom

Dust on the Road to Gunlom We ummed and ahhed a while over what we should do with our last couple of days.

It seemed like there were some nice lagoons near Cooinda but we didn't much fancy camping there with the whole mozzie thing, and we fancied a bit more 4WD action (Nicole did very well driving back, I managed not to bite any nails).

We also wanted to actually stay somewhere for more than a day, so we stopped off in Cooinda for petrol and an ice cream and cash (although I forgot that minor detail) and headed down another fearfully corrugated dirt road to Gunlom, with the idea of staying there and the next day 4-wheeling it to a place called Gimbat.

We got to Gunlom in the late afternoon and after pitching the tent went looking for the local croc-free billabong.

Which turned out to be just a couple of hundred metres away from our campsite... and it was rather amazing: a rock-lined lake beneath another one of those imperious cliffs over which spilled a waterfall, its spray echoing around the cliffs which lit up red us the sun went down.

And with the full moon hidden behind the cliffs the night sky was quite something.

Twin Falls Gorge

Twin Falls Gorge After a spot of food and a trip to the highest toilet ever - both in terms of altitude (it was on stilts) and odour (somebody had left the toilet seat up on the composting toilet) we set off for the falls.

A short walk took us to a little marquee next to a boat on the river. The crocodile signs loomed large.

Not having the right change to pay the ferryman, we negotiated then boarded the ferry. Just before we left the previously stranded rescue-ees of inappropriate 4x4 fame turned up, having managed to cadge a lift.

The boat headed upriver into a spectacular gorge: the cliff faces towered high above and the water looked very inviting until you saw the croc traps which lined the shore. Under the surface were huge boulders, clearly visible in the clear water. Our pilot managed to steer a sinuous course between them, finally reaching a far shore as Eloise handed around snacks to all aboard.

We disembarked then continued up the gorge on what could be described less as a walk than as a scramble, sometimes along sandstone ledges that were only centimetres wide. Over crocodile-infested rock pools. Really. No, not really.

At the top of the gorge was a little beach surrounded by humungous cliffs over which trickled the last gasps of the waterfalls.

A jetty reached out into the water to give us the perfect view. Oh, hang on, actually it was a crocodile trap.

Oct 4, 2010

Four Wheel Driving

Onward There was a semi-palpable sense of excitement, nay dread in the air the next morning as we girded our loins for the adventure ahead.

We had set our sights on Twin Falls Gorge which lay down the four-wheel-drive-only track we had glimpsed the previous day.

With our four wheel drive would we conquer the long dark road that stretched out on the map, the map which warned us not to attempt such a feat without a satellite phone with which to call in the Emergency Services?

Or with our four wheel drive would we become stranded in some unknown country with no satellite phone with which to admit ignominious defeat?

Well, we thought, bugger it. What's the point in having hired said beast if we weren't prepared to give it a go.

We set off down the track which soon turned into an area of dirt between the low forests of gum and termite hills as it wound its way toward the distant cliffs to which we assumed we were headed.

Before long we happened upon a poor lost soul walking up the track towards us. We stopped and bade him hello, and his plaintive call for help was a little worrying.

He was an Englishman who had been told that his vehicle wouldn't have trouble making it down the track but he needed help. His 4x4 was completely stuck with his friends waiting with it and could we help him?

We had no towing equipment so the sorry answer was no, so we topped up his bottle with water and left him walking back to the campsite to get help.

The track degraded into powdery dust which the tank laboured through reasonably effortlessly through we didn't get much out of second gear.

Before long we came to a section where the track split into two dauntingly dust-filled gashes in the earth. In the middle gash lay a van; a Wicked Camper as it happens; stranded like some beached whale.

The girls left behind were a little agitated and we stopped to let them know what was happening. Before long the campsite guy came along so we left them to it and gunned it down the other gash... no worries, except at the end where it looked like we might run out of speed, but the trusty Landcruiser saw us through.

The track wound sinuously across the countryside, the dirt changing from grey to yellow to red and back to grey. We learned that the grey stuff was the stuff to watch out for, powdery and yielding.

It went on for many miles across dried out streambeds before we arrived at a day use area and were then confronted by a river to cross with just a few posts to steer between.

So nerves steeled we slid the truck into the river, the water rising up around us, pushing it in front like a... well like a big car going through quite deep water. It was terribly exciting.

And then a few minutes later we arrived at Twin Falls Gorge. Intact.

Hurrah for us! There was a semi-palpable sense of relief.

Until we decided that Nicole should drive back.

Oct 2, 2010

Rocks and Corrugations

Nourlangie So we skipped away from the border, and went down to the township of Jabiru for shopping (biscuits) and petrol.

Nothing much at Jabiru: a lacklustre shopping centre seemed to about cover it, so we switched onto the Kakadu Highway and headed towards Jim Jim Falls.

We were making good time so we took a little detour into stone country to see Nourlangie Rock and the Anbangbang Rock Art Gallery.

This turned into another hot hike but soon we found ourselves nestled amongst the huge sandstone rocks so the shade and the channeled breezes actually made it pretty comfortable.

The rock art featured mysterious characters such as the Lightning Man who kind of captured Eloise's imagination for a while.

We went up to have a look from a viewpoint and by the time we got back to the All-Terrain Armoured Transport we realised we'd kind of blown our schedule a little and needed to chip off with some rapidity.

So down the Kakadu Highway again until the Jim Jim turnoff where we embarked on a 50km drive down a gravel road, which was heavily corrugated and quite a soporific drive.

Corrugations occur in roads because of the hysteresis in automobile suspension. The wheels hit a bump and the suspension springs absorb the shock but the wheel keeps wobbling up and down for a while. Enough cars, and these wobbles make further bumps in the road. And the bumps cause further bumps, and the road becomes one long crenelation.

It's noisy and annoying.

Still we made it to the campsite before dusk started to gather, nestled in a rather magnificent sandstone valley fringed by cliffs on either side.

The road ran out and turned into a track.

We pitched the tent hammering the pegs in with the rock we'd remembered to pack, gathered firewood, cursed the flies, had tea, watched it get dark while reciting Each Peach Pear Plum.

No mosquitoes. Fantastic.