Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodela Walk, Blackdown Tableland National Park - December 2016

After our Northern Territory adventure we tried to escape the rain by heading east, all the way to the coast. On the way across the continent we dropped in at a park that Sam and I hadn't visited for around twenty years, Blackdown Tableland National Park. I remember Blackdown Tableland as being a bit off the radar back in the day, but it must of left a bit of impression on me as I've always wanted to go back. Back then the the access road was rough dirt all the way from the Capricorn Highway, but now a good bitumen road takes you to the top of the tablelands which makes access fairly easy, once up on the tablelands the road is still dirt but it's OK for a conventional car with care. There is also a 4wd only loop which we did twenty years ago, but you can visit most of the main attractions without two diffs.
Yaddamen Dhina Lookout was a little on the grey and murky side first up this morning.
Our first objective today was to revisit Yaddamen Dhina Lookout, to be honest though the grey overcast conditions meant that the lookout was a little underwhelming this morning. With a washed out sky we decided to head off on the Goodela Walk and re visit the lookout later in the day. The walk to Goodela (Two Mile Creek) contours for awhile before gently descending down the creek line. Initially the good track passes through some fairly open dry country passing by numerous large rocky sandstone outcrops, the rocky outcrops are a bit of a feature of walking in Blackdown Tableland National Park I think.
These rocky outcrops are a feature of Blackdown Tableland National Park.

Fifteen minutes or so after leaving the carpark we met up with the creek and from then on we gently followed it downstream to where it plunges off the plateau. Once tracking along beside the creek the track is a little steeper but it's still fairly gentle as far as a bush walk goes, there were a few steps and bridges to ease or way. The creek was home to a lot of ferns and with a bit of water trickling down it made for very pleasant walking with plenty of opportunities to watch the water trickling down over the sandstone slabs. Ten minutes or so after starting down the creek we arrived at the top of the falls, now while there wasn't a lot of gushing water plunging off the abyss there was enough to make for a reasonable photo.
Once across the creek the track follows it gently down stream.
There are plenty of spots that you can get off the track to check out the creek.
Before eventually we got to the spot where Two Mile Creek tumbles off the plateau.

Having never seen a pool of water that I didn't want to swim in I was soon scoping out the plunge pool below the falls, quickly working out a way down I left Sam at the top and did a bit of off-piste work until I emerged onto the rock slabs below the falls. With no one around to scare except for Sam I stripped off and waded in, I love this wild swimming as much as I love the walking, the only thing that would have made it better would have been a bit of blue sky, oh yeah and if I could of talked Sam into climbing down to join me would have been a bonus, but as I've mentioned before not only does she have the looks but she also has the brains in the relationship too!
I reckon that pool looks good for a bit of wild swimming.

After drip drying for a bit on the warm rocks I pulled my boots (and clothes) back on and climbed back up to where Sam was waiting. Our walk back to the ute was a little slower, not just because we were walking back up but because the sun was making its first sustained appearance for the day, so the retrace wasn't as boring as they sometimes can be as I was able to abuse my polariser a bit. After the best part of a week of cyclonic rain in the Northern Territory it was quite a pleasant novelty to look through the view finder and see a vivid blue sky. Arriving back at the ute I ducked back down to the lookout and while the view was pretty good I decided to come back again on our way down off the tableland later that afternoon, the Yaddamen Dhina Lookout photos you see around this paragraph somewhere are a result of that late afternoon visit, fuck I'm getting anal as well as old!
Heading back up to the ute the sun made a belated appearance.
Can someone tell my the name of these trees, they are everywhere up here.

The Dirt.
We walked 4.8 kilometres on this easy stroll and climbed 78 metres. This walking track was really well maintained (actually they were on all our walks in Blackdown Tableland National Park). There isn't actually a track to the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls but if your OK with some easy scrambling then it's easy enough to find your way down. These falls would be best seen on a sunny day after some decent rain, the park was a little dry on our visit but what do you do, you can't control the weather. As far as I know there aren't any published walking notes for this walk, I just used the very basic notes off the Qld Parks site.
Relevant Posts.

I went back three times to get these photos....

Yaddamen Dhina Lookout

I think the late afternoon visit was a good call.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Redbank Gorge, Western MacDonnell National Park - December 2016

After our short walk out at Gosse Bluff we tracked a little further around Namitjira Drive to Redbank Gorge. Nowadays Namitjira Drive is sealed for its whole distance which was a bit of a help today, leaving only a few flooded causeways as the only obstacles in our way, well until we arrived at the access road anyway. The access road to the Redbank Gorge was a wet and wild affair today, with Redbank Creek flowing it meant one decent creek crossing and on the steeper sections it felt like I was driving a toboggan on a red mud slide sometimes. Pulling up at the car park we noticed a couple of walkers occupying the shelter trying to keep dry, it turned out that Simon and Zara had just spent 18 days on the the middle of summer - that's pretty hardcore in my books! With the weather meant to seriously deteriorate over the next few days I was happy to be able to offer them a ride into town in case they got stranded out here, which turned out to be a pretty good call.
Redbank Creek near where the Larapinta Trail crosses over it.
Before heading back to town though I wanted to go and explore Redbank Gorge. This is a remarkable little gorge with the walls sometimes less than an arm span wide, I've tried to explore up here before but cold water, slippery rocks and some sore ribs from a close encounter with those same rocks meant that I've never got right in. Descending from the car park to Redbank Creek I wasn't filled with optimism today either, with the creek well and truly flowing just getting to the gorge was going to be a challenge. The good news is that there is now a fairly good pad along the west bank of the creek, the bad news was that after 2 or 3 hundred metres the creek claimed the pad.
We were able to make our way along the west bank of Redbank Creek for a little while.

Wandering upstream in my hardcore bushwalking attire, Sam decided to stay dry on this side of the creek.
Leaving Sam and most of my gear I stripped off and waded into the brown water, the water was only just over waist deep at its deepest but it was still easier to swim than wade as the creek bed is littered with big rocks which were impossible to see in the brown water. Emerging on the east bank I slowly made my way upstream, the red rocks interspersed with short sandy sections which provided a bit of relief for my bare feet. About ten minutes after leaving Sam I got to the waterhole at the entrance to the gorge, one of the advantages of Redbank Creek flowing in summer was that as the water was flowing down into the waterhole over kilometres of warm rocks which meant that the usually frigid water was actually quite warm today. Glancing at the dark grey clouds above I was quickly reminded of one of the negatives, a slot canyon isn't the place to be in a flash flood.
When you reach the life saving ring you've made it to the waterhole.
That's not hair on the top of my foot, its sand...honest.
The slot canyon that is Redbank Gorge.
I decided to swim in and see how I would go, I wasn't overly concerned about flash flooding as I figured that the slippery rocks and rushing water would stop me before I could get to far in anyway. First up though I had a swim across the waterhole, normally you can float across here on your back and admire the red bluffs against the blue outback sky above, the brooding dark clouds didn't look quite as good today. Once across the waterhole I felt to full force of Redbank Creek gushing out of the slot canyon.

The wet rock in the canyon had the grip coefficient of wet soap.
Wrapping the strap for my water proof camera tightly around my wrist I swam against the current as far as I could before gabbing the slippery red rock wall. Feeling around with my feet I was soon standing up with the waist deep water trying to spit me back out into the waterhole. By slowly using the natural handholds on the walls to help pull me upstream I slowly and carefully inched my way into the gorge. The first major obstacle that I got to was a small waterfall, there was no way I could climb upstream against the rushing torrent so my only option was to try and climb around it, this is how I hurt my ribs last time. 
It doesn't look much but this water was waist deep at it's shallowest.
Every so often I'd get into a quiet eddy.
This time I managed to climb up the slippery rocks without coming to grief, once above the first falls it was back into the water. The gorge here is only an arm span wide and I tried a few times to do it photographic justice, but to be truthful standing in a raging torrent on smooth rocks with about the same grip a wet soap while pointing the camera at the sky and trying not to get swept down stream wasn't the easiest photo that I've ever taken, I definitely wasn't mucking around with my exposures. The wet rocks on the walls of the canyon not only looked beautiful today but they were providing refuge to some of the locals, swimming under one overhang I found that I was sharing it with a water monitor, at least it wasn't a snake.
It's a fairly narrow canyon.
I was sharing the gorge with some locals.

The sound of rushing water was now getting pretty loud so I suspected that I was nearing another waterfall, pulling my way up against the current I soon could see the next obstacle. After a couple of goes at making my way up using the walls, trying to stand in the current and getting spat out downstream I decided I'd have to try different tactics. Wedging myself sideways to the current I chimneyed my way up onto a ledge using the sides of the gorge to brace myself, a manoeuvre that I would of found difficult in my twenties let alone in my fifties. Back on dry rock again I was able to stand up and get a bit of a look further upstream. A few metres further on the canyon narrowed even further but between me and that section was a more substantial waterfall, there was no way that I was going to go up this one against the current. So to cut a long rambling post short this is where I turned around, but not before getting a photo and vowing to return once again one day to explore Redbank Gorge a little further.
This is as far as I got today,
There is still bit of un-finished business here.

Floating downstream was a little easier but I still had to be careful the raging water didn't smash me into any of the rocks, luckily the waterfalls generally had some deeper pools at the base of them. Floating on my back, feet first, the currant spat me out into the wide waterhole at the head of the gorge and the adventurous part of the walk was over. All that was left to do now was to head back down stream to Sam who had been patiently waiting for me under a rock overhang.
Floating back down stream on my back....feet first.
I had to be very careful easing my way back down these small rapids.
I've just been spat out into the waterhole....that was definitely good fun!
The adventure wasn't quite over though, just as I got back to Sam the heavens really opened. We got drenched walking back to the ute, looking out over the foot hills of Mt Sonder the scene looked like Tasmania in the middle of winter, well without the fluffy white stuff, but you get the idea! After re-arranging the gear in the ute to make some room for Simon and Zara we headed back to Alice Springs on what was a fairly wet and wild drive, a couple of days later a car with two tourists in it would get swept off a causeway along here.
I still had to walk back to the car park, the rain was now getting fairly serious.
At least the desert in summer isn't cold.
The creek side pad was a bit rough in spots.
The Dirt.
I walked/swam around 2.5 kilometres on this excursion. If you are just walking to the waterhole and Redbank Creek isn't flowing then this is an easy walk. As I did the walk today it would probably be classed as a hard adventure, the wade and swim up the slot canyon being particularly serious. Redbank Gorge is far enough out of Alice Springs that its rarely crowded, especially in summer and being a permanent waterhole it makes a great spot for a swim on a hot day. The trail head also marks the beginning or end of the Larapinta Trail.
Relevant Posts.

The foot hills of Mt Sonder.
Sam's walking along thinking how lucky she was to hook up with this Feral bloke.....maybe.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Gosse Bluff, Tnorala Conservation Reserve - December 2016

The eroded crater of Gosse Bluff (Tnorala).
With the weather un-seasonly wet in Central Australia Sam and I decided to do some shorter walks this year. It was worrying me a little that if I managed to get out onto some of the longer walks then by the time I tried to return to Alice Springs the roads may be impassable and I might be stuck out in the desert. The grey skies and mud also weren't doing a lot for my walking mojo either. So today we decided to head out to Gosse Bluff and check out the short network of walking tracks out there. To get there though we had a bit of an epic drive down through Hermannsburg, the road was a river of red mud today, although judging by the road works going on our next visit will be along a sealed road I think.
We had to quickly learn how to disembark without getting red mud all over us on this trip.
Gosse Bluff is known as Tnorala by the local Arrernte People and they lease the land to the Northern Territory Government. The scientific explanation for Gosse Bluff is that it is an impact crater left over from a huge meteor strike 142.5 million years ago, the meteor blasted a crater 20 kilometres wide, although years of erosion have reduced the bluffs to around 5 kilometres in diameter. It is thought that the impact packed one million times more power than Hiroshima and would of killed all living things for hundreds of kilometres. Nowadays Gosse Bluff makes a grew place to stop and stretch your legs for a while on the drive from Watarrka to Alice Springs.
Heading up to the first lookout point, you can see the information board on the ridge above my head, I reckon we'd walked about 50 metres to get here.
Gingerly climbing out of the ute we more or less managed to avoid most of the red mud coating the side of it, something that we would have to become good at over the next few days as the ute only got dirtier. Now while the grey skies may have been sucking away my mojo a bit it wasn't cold, actually it was pretty warm and humid so much so that pulling on my walking boots caused me to break out in a sweat. Luckily we'd chosen a pretty easy ramble to start our walking holiday, within five minutes after leaving the car park we arrived at the first lookout over the crater, an information board explaining the dreamtime significance of this spot for the local indigenous people.
Due to cultural reasons there is no off track exploring allowed, this is as far into the crater that you can go. From what I've heard there is some indigenous art sites scatted around the walls so maybe one day it will be opened up a bit.
There is no shortage of red bluffs to photograph, sun rise and sun set on a blue sky day would be beautiful I would think.
From the first lookout we backtracked twenty metres and basically circumnavigated our way around the car park on a walking track. The vegetation inside the crater appears a bit more lush than outside on the arid plains, obviously the topography would help with the run off although like a lot of places up here there's a dreamtime story to explain the abundance of bush tucker as well. The vegetation inside the crater mainly consists of spinifex and witchetty bush along with a few ghost gums in some of the bigger creeks. It was quite pleasant wondering along the level track getting reacquainted with the sights and smells of the Red Centre again. 
The higher second lookout provides for a better over view of the crater, as well as a bit of a cooling breeze today.
After around 15 minutes (yeah its a short walk) we got to another turnoff for a track that climbed up to another lookout. This lookout is east of the car park and is the best spot to get an overview of the crater and it's eroded walls, being well and truly the highest spot on our little stroll it also provide a welcoming breeze to take the edge of the humidity. With more dark clouds heading our way we decided to leave our lofty vantage point and head back down to the ute, arriving just in time to avoid another soaking.
The climb and descent of the second lookout was the crux of our little walk.
Heading back to the car park through the spinifex and witchery bush.
The Dirt.
We walked 1.2 kilometres and climbed 63 metres on the short stroll. This easy walk is probably suitable for most people although the second higher lookout is a little cliffy so you'd have to be a bit careful there. Probably the best place to get information on Gosse Bluff is the NT Parks web page, but it's pretty basic and the map is useless for walking. John & Lyn Daly have also mentioned this walk in their old Take a Walk in the Northern Territory book, but like the parks stuff it's pretty basic. The good news is that with the walk being so short in length walking notes aren't really a necessity on this stroll.
Relevant Posts.
Gosse Bluff in the distance, from Tylers Pass.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...