Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Porcupine Gorge and how meat ants can be used as a great disciplinary tool for children.

We left Winton after the quickest pack up ever, keen to depart the flies and what had been a mostly trying stop on our trip, but not before we popped into the bakery to have a quick finger bun and coffee with the local inbreds. Nice.

The drive up to Hughenden along the Kennedy Developmental Rd was pleasant, travelling through sparse grazing land interspersed with the odd driveway apparently promising the homestead of a cattle station at its end. You feel the isolation of these far flung areas very acutely and like real ‘townies’, felt ourselves wondering when we would catch sight of another car or even a roadtrain: we saw five vehicles in just over 200kms. Driving under the vast open blue sky, through light green countryside with just a straight road unfolding in front of us, we couldn’t help feeling that better days were ahead.

"Brolox" Fiela and Marguerite's pet globe spider.
Many a happy  (and disturbing) hour was spent catching
grasshoppers to chuck in his web and watch as he spun
them into his next meal.
And they were. We stepped out of the car in Hughenden and our faces lit up- no flies! Then went to the FJ Holden Café for what Lonely Planet described as ‘excellent’ food. They weren’t far wrong, though the waitress could have warned us when we ordered the ‘FJ Super Burger’ that it involved everything a normal good hamburger would have (like pineapple and beetroot) but with bacon, egg and a steak. It was outrageous and delicious.

We picked up a few supplies and headed out for Porcupine Gorge for 4 nights of communing with nature. And commune we did, on the road, with some cows. Lots of cattle were grazing, and I’d been trying to conjure up some brakes on the passenger side along with a white knuckle grip on the door every time we came near any close to the road. Fiela on the other hand was taking a fairly nonchalant attitude to the stupid beasts until two came running toward us in a narrow gully while we were doing 60kmh. Those cows almost ended up as FJ Super Burgers themselves and I pumped out enough adrenaline to jumpstart an overdose victim.

The top of Porcupine Gorge.

Marguerite "the leader" on the way down. Not to be repeated on the way back up!

We arrived at the gorge, pleased to see there were only a few flies and even fewer people. After a frustrating set up involving chocks, the spirit level and a huge meat ant nest, we settled in for a beer with one of the other people camping there. Unfortunately he was a disgruntled Hughenden Council worker, so while he had some great information about the area, he also liberally sprinkled it with some vitriol directed at his fellow employees. Then we met the one other person camping, who we realised within a few minutes was drinking his way around Australia with a dog called Slushie.

We got rid of those two thanks to the kids and bath and bed time, and sat out watching some unbelievable stars.

Fiela with The Pyramid in the background.

The campground is at the top, and we didn’t realise how high up we were until the next morning when (after watching a flock of around 30 black cockatoos screech their way over us) we made our way to the beginning of the walk down into the gorge. It is a beautifully crafted landscape, all gumtree coated top, red hued cliffs and the beckoning murmur of water over rock bouncing up the walls toward us. The Uys Huis was in love with this part of the Outback already.

Rock hopping and creek swimming fun.

It was pretty hot and the 1.2km descent into the gorge steep so by the time we made it to the creek running at the bottom, it was swim time. Marguerite had a fantastic time exploring little rock pools and hopping between big boulders, and Fiela managed to find one of those magical rapids which is just like a spa. The water was lovely and while it was fairly murky, it was also a beautiful temperature. The hike back up to the campsite was a little harrowing thanks to Miss M’s version of the Crying Games (quote of the day “I don’t want to be the leader I just want a red drink and my moviiiieeeee!!!!!”), while Caesar fell asleep in his carrier, blissfully tuning out to the drama screaming its way up the stairs.
Marguerite, ready to tackle the walk she "never want(ed) to do ... again" yesterday.

The Pyramid.

We went back down every day for the rest of our time at Porcupine Gorge, having found an awesome swimming hole directly below the Pyramid, a huge rock formation in the shape of its namesake. Happy days were spent exploring, swimming, marvelling and thanking those beautiful stars that we had the entire place to ourselves.

Swimming hole fun...

This waterhole was a few metres deep and directly below The Pyramid.

Exploring the other side. Clearly we had been to too many museums of late, as Marguerite proceeded to give us a "tour" of this "very very old rock place- now don't touch ANYTHING or you'll have to get off the tour. See this rock hole? It's very very old..."

Apart from the slow down when cows are grazing by the side of the road thing, there were a few other lessons learnt over the four nights spent here:

·    Meat ants swarm
Fiela and his mini-me.
Or so Marguerite found out when told repeatedly to leave one of the nests alone but of course, couldn’t help herself: she poured some water in and the meat ants swarmed up her legs, giving her a few little bites along the way. This lesson also proved to be quite the disciplinary tool, with Fiela threatening a few times to put her back on the nest.
·    BBQ tools are not fireproof
Or so Fiela learned when he heated up the Baby Weber for a roast, inconveniently forgetting the cleaning wire brush and BBQ tool were inside. Our roast also had a faint plasticky taste, but we all seem fine so clearly no real heavy toxins were consumed. On the plus side he did manage to pick up a brand new set in Georgetown a few days later for $1.
·    Sometimes it’s better to give up and try again tomorrow.

In one day I forgot to bring the computer along to a café we specifically went to so we could use the wifi, put chocks under the wrong wheels and therefore made the camper even less level, made dinner for the kids but forgot about Fiela and I (potato chips for dinner again) and generally had a complete shocker. I managed to get my shit together the next day, clearly proving this last point.

The road on the way out of Porcupine Gorge up to the Undara Lava Tubes....

Porcupine Gorge did more than give us a few simple lessons though. It allowed us to reset ourselves after the Winton debacle and spend time together in the most constructive way possible: in a campertrailer, just us, the bush and a beautiful little gorge.

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