Saturday, February 23, 2013

4WD adventures

My company car was recently changed from a Toyota Kluger (fast but essentially a sealed road-only SUV) for a Hilux. My boss apologised for the downgrade but I didn't mind - all those bits on the geological maps marked '4WD only' were suddenly open and accessible. Of course, a fully-kitted mine-spec vehicle does get a few raised eyebrows in National Parks...

National Park #1 was Girraween again. There are several walking tracks through the centre of the park best accessed with a 4WD, which I hadn't been able to get into in September. I did a walk which crosses the state border into Bald Rock NP in NSW, and climbed the Rock. It's like the Girraween granites, but somehow the water runoff had made the faces stripy. Very pretty, and not much of a climb.

The start of the climb

Bald Rock

The stunted forest at the top of Bald Rock

That night back in Girraween it rained, giving me an excellent chance to see where my tent was leaking! On Tuesday the rain was heavier. I did one short walk up Billy Goat Hill, but the blowing mist obscured a lot of the view, so I drove half an hour south to Boonoo Boonoo NP. This park's right on the Great Dividing Range and features a spectacular waterfall. Spectacularly wet, that is - it was absolutely pouring. As I wandered through the wet rainforest, I met another of Australia's famous creatures, the leach. No photos sorry, I was screaming and flailing at it in a manly and dignified way. Pity I missed the other one.

Billy Goat Hill, Girraween NP
When it rains, the granite tops are studded with small pools.

Boonoo Boonoo Falls

The next day the rain had cleared, so I packed up and headed a couple of hours west, into Sundown NP. I camped at the southern end of the park a few months ago, but that was just a taster. The rest is accessed by a long 4WD-only road - it took nearly 3 hours to drive 22km to Burrows Waterhole.

Most of Sundown is composed of metamorphosed (baked) sediments, under which a granite body was forced up about 240 million years ago. The hot fluids from the granite deposited metal-rich minerals in the overlying rocks, and these were mined intermittently last century. The remains of the old mines are visible on the drive in. Another legacy is that the waste rock is slowly leaching metals into the nearby streams - some have dangerously high levels of arsenic.

I camped at Burrows Waterhole, which is now officially my favourite camp ground ever! It's large, grassy and quiet - I was the only one there - and the waterhole has platypus and shags swimming in it. It also had me swimming in it, which scared off the wildlife!

The company car at Burrows Waterhole 

 Sunset. The sounds of birds, insects and wind. No cars, radios or other voices.

My camera got wet at Boonoo Boonoo, and took a bit of fiddling to get it working again. This is me trying to figure it out (the solution was to leave it in the sun for a few hours).

On Thursday I walked down the River Severn to an outcrop called the Rat's Castle. It's the top of an intrusive dyke, and gave great views over two watersheds. I walked back to camp down Sundown Creek, and spent an enjoyable afternoon with my feet in the waterhole, sipping red wine while fish nibbled my toes. Did I mention.. best camp ground ever?

Rat's Castle outcrop

View from the Castle over the River Severn

Red Rock Gorge - the only place where the sediments have been eroded away, exposing the underlying granites

 Sign at Red Rock Gorge

Nope, I don't think the Hilux was a downgrade!

A couple of notes. Firstly, the access road was very rough - don't even think about it in a normal car. Secondly, I was walking about by myself in a fairly remote area with no phone reception. You need to be prepared for that sort of adventure - a map, GPS and good sense of direction are essential. If you break a leg, you'll still have to walk/crawl out, or be prepared for a very long wait!


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