During the Welcome to Carnarvon Gorge presentation we were told that despite culling, 4,000 brumbies lived in the park. I awoke in the middle of the night and heard one cantering around our cabin neighing. We were also told that platypus were best seen in the early morning so I woke up early. It was very cold but I stood very quietly near the Rock Pool for about half an hour watching the surface. I saw a couple of ripples every now and then as some creature broke through the water briefly. I was just about to give up when I saw ripples near the big rock. Something was swimming around the edge, then went into a small cavern and disappeared. It looked like a platypus. A few minutes later a 30cm platypus surfaced about 4 metres away from me. It swam closer, poked its head up, seeming to look straight at me then hid behind some reeds. I moved to get a better view. It surfaced saw me move and ducked straight back into the water. I have only ever seen platypus once before in the wild but due to a series of coincidences over many years these strange creatures have become my mascot.
Unfortunately we did not have enough time to do the longer walks at Carnarvon Gorge and being spring I would not be comfortable walking there anyway. Perhaps a visit in winter would be better but we were told it can be very cold.
We drove north, skirting Emerald then on to Alpha. We followed a huge truck with Heart Foundation and HeartofAustralia.com written on it. This provides specialist medical services including cardiology and respiratory medicine to rural communities. Arrow Energy, appears to be the largest sponsor of the project. Arrow, owned by Shell, produces CSG which is known to cause heart and respiratory problems!!!
At Barcaldine we stood over the man-made canopy of the tree of knowledge and listened to the timber chime in the wind. This monument to the formation of the Labor party is hard to describe but definitely worth stopping and seeing. Nearby is a huge windmill on the site of the first Queensland government bore into the Great Artesian Basin. In December 1887, after a month of drilling to a depth of 645 feet, the drill suddenly dropped seven feet and within a few minutes water rose up into the air, forming a glass dome as it fell. ‘When the Barcaldine water baptised the Western plains it was felt that a new lease of life had been secured, and that the drought had been robbed of some of its terrors.’ (Artesian Water, Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton, Qld, 6 March 1894, p. 6) Celebrations started at Shakespeare’s Hotel opposite the bore. The driller was feted by all 14 of the town’s hotels and as news spread, hundreds of people came to see the extraordinary spectacle.
We drove through Ilfracombe, deciding to stop there on the way back. We eventually stopped at Longreach after a long day on the road.