Searching the grooves and hollows of the sculpted rocky river bank, big dumps of flood debris yielded shapely logs tumbled and worn smooth from the motion of water. Unfortunately, we needed something smaller than logs. One pile yielded a few possible choices but, we were after spoon sized pieces of clean, smooth timber. We were hungry and I'd left the cutlery at home, 400 km away.
Our roaring hunger was the result of a long day walking and exploring in Kwiambal National Park, a remote reserve on the western side of the ranges in the New England granite belt. Within the park, the Severn and McIntyre rivers carve their way through the countryside creating some fascinating river topography. We began our weekend adventure at the main campground, Lemon Tree Flat, where the Severn River meanders past a nice grassy area lined with river red gums and weeping callistemons. Granite boulders and wide slabs break up the flow and make for great basking rocks after a summer swim. Water dragons abound and at Kwiambal (pronounced Kigh-am-bal) we spotted our first ever Eastern Bearded Dragon, then several beautiful turqoise parrots and flocks of double-barred finches.
We headed out from the campground along The Junction walking track, past long quiet pools, before heading up into the hills past fruiting prickly pears. The track eventually returned us to the river at a point where it was choked with boulders as it dropped over a series of steep ledges before finally cascading into a spectacular gorge lined by sheer orange and black cliffs stretching ahead to a distant bend. This is where we found ourselves for our second night in the park: bivvy bags spread out on a rock ledge, us searching the gorge's nooks and crannies for replacement cutlery.
At the head of this gorge lies it's most spectacular feature: a narrow but deep canyon-like section where the river has laboriously carved deep, smooth, beautiful sculptures and patterns in the rock. Swirling flood water has shaped half bells and circular plunge pools all the way along the canyon. High overhead, two rocks lean out across the canyon like half completed archways.
The gorge, and its canyon, was a natural playground. Rock-hopping, scrambling and slabbing around, the granite rocks provided great friction and grip for our boots. An explorer's delight. The cypress and ironbark woodlands grew right to the edge of the orange cliffs. In the afternoon, as the western sun heated the air and rocks, we resorted to rock-hopping around in the nude before plunging into the river to cool down.
In terms of sights and walks in Kwiambal there is plenty on offer. The Junction walking track is a 7km return walk to the junction of the Severn and McIntyre Rivers with a highlight being a short diversion to Dungeon Lookout. McIntyre Falls is another area located in the park. From the main campground it is either a car or bike ride away. There are two lookouts and, for those wanting a closer look and/or a swim on a hot day, there is a little track that steps its way down to the huge plunge pool beneath the falls. The rock walls around the pool support tenacious fig trees, which bury their roots into cracks in the rock, searching out water and nutrients.
Back on the banks of our rocky gorge, searching further and further downstream for cutlery, it was finally getting too dark to continue looking and so we had to go with what we had. The two pieces of wood we found looked remarkably promising. Broad and flat and small, the only draw back was the occasional furry splinter if you sucked too hard on your 'spoon'. Still, they worked well enough to get dinner into us and we went to bed in the open air, tummies full, legs tired, river below and the dark seeping across to suffocate the final glow of light reflected in the worn out pools. Through a thin veil of cloud, stars drifted and vanished and drifted free to night as the air filled with the sweet smell of crushed coleus, air held heat and flood channels filled with the debris of our dreams.
The campsite that night was in fact shortlisted for our Best Campsites of 2012 blog (click here). In the morning, waking up on our high ledge, we watched the first sun hit the ridge tops and finally reach the river where it lit up unseen patterns in the rocks by spreading shadows across dips and hollows.
While the patterns and formations of rock are the most striking feature of Kwiambal National Park I can't go without mentioning the wildlife - white-plumed honeyeaters, grey kangaroos lounging on the grass at the campground, water dragons, an old man goanna shedding his skin, bar shouldered dove and waking to the sound of screeching sulfur-crested white cockatoos.
As we left Kwiambal National Park, a final swim still drying on our skin, we stopped in at the Limestone Caves just outside the park boundary. The caves are home to many insect-eating bats and were once mined for bat droppings which were used for a low grade fertiliser. We wandered through the high tunnels, past archways and dead ends, lighting the place up with our headtorches and feeling not so much that we were in the dark but that we had seen the light in discovering this unique and out of the way national park.
NPWS call Kwiambal National Park their "quiet achiever". Its isolation is part of its appeal. For more info on the park visit: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkHome.aspx?id=N0156
|Severn River - patterns in the flow|