In the vast yellow sweep that is western Queensland, grand natural features are few and far between. Cattle stations disappear across the horizon and black-soil plains struggle to hold trees, let alone mountains or other defining characteristics.
Among the few exceptions, Carnarvon Gorge is probably the most striking. A deep gash through sandstone hills, it’s a canvas of ancient Aboriginal art. Cycads and fan palms cover its banks, and white cliffs tower up to 200 metres above Carnarvon Creek. The gorge itself is stunning, but most of its key attractions – the Moss Garden, Amphitheatre, the Art Gallery and Ward’s Canyon – are squirrelled away in side gorges. Explore them all and it requires about 22 kilometres of walking. But even if you do explore them all, you won’t have seen everything.
There are side canyons here that aren’t part of the trail system. This slot canyon is one of them, and it’s the most beautiful of all the things I saw when I was in Carnarvon earlier this week. From the main gorge we turned off into a side canyon and then we kept turning, until we were in a side gorge of a side gorge. The cliffs closed in and for a time I could almost spread my arms and brush fingers along both walls. One side was plastered in moss, the other was bare and smooth. Flood debris littered the floor, though this day only a skin of water rolled over our feet. Cool winds funnelled through the side gorge, chilled by rock that never sees the sun. Soon we were going to have to step back out in the the baking heat in the main gorge, but I’d have been content to linger for, say, a week or three.
* Adventure before Avarice travelled courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.