The world at large

A few kilometers from the main camping area at Carnarvon National Park, I slammed the brakes when I spotted the outline of a kangaroo not more than 10 feet from the roadside. The wildlife on Blackwater-Rolleston Road was great, but I fancy 'roos more than birds and reptiles. I don't think my mom or I took a breath, for fear it would disappear immediately like the emu earlier.

Now nothing could diminish our spirits! We saw Australia's icon, out in the wild, and captured a few great photographs and then... we arrived at the campgrounds. Kangaroos were everywhere: lounging on the grass, hopping across the picnic area, snacking in the weeds nearby. I threw the car into "P" and we actually got closer than I expected to. I doubt kangaroos are this relaxed in the outback, but still, we respected them as animals & didn't try to intrude (I watched a young girl try to pet a kangaroo later, until it jerked upright, stared her down, and looked ready to rock back on its tail). We went on an easy dusk hike in search of platypi, but returned to camp defeated.(a 'roo butt in the foreground; a 'roo head in the background)
Mom & I had seen so much native wildlife that day! Coupled with the fact that Carnarvon's facilities were a bit more modern than Blackdown Tablelands', after a hot shower, dinner off the provided grill, running water, and toilets that flushed, we were in a jubilant mood. Overwhelmed from the day & since we had to switch campsites the next morning, Mom & I both opted to crash in our Little Ford Falcon That Could. I awoke at 3:00 AM with a  pinching pain in my left knee. I tried to fall back asleep but experienced the sensation again. I began to rub my knee when I felt IT still inside my pant leg! I flipped and screamed to mom to turn on the interior light. On the verge of an anxiety attack, the THING still pinned against my skin, I lifted up my pant leg to find: a small, black ant. So it wasn't an infamous Australian spider. PHEW!.... but then I remembered we weren't in America! This was a volatile country housing the deadliest fish, jellyfish, shark, snake, and spider on the planet! The bites began to swell and turn red. My next three thoughts were: "Is it a poisonous outback ant?"; "The nearest hospital is 110 kilometers away"; and "This stinging/burning sensation is intense!" About to freak out, I circled each and every hive with a ballpoint pen and checked my knee every 5 minutes for a half hour. Obviously, you know the outcome of the story, but you never know when, where & how Mother Nature is going to sneak in and ambush you!

Our first full day in Carnarvon we hiked the motherload. The majority of the aboriginal sites and attractions are off the main trail which is a 10 kilometer hike one way (not including the sidepaths and distance to attractions).

FIRST STOP: ART GALLERY
Mom & I were blessed to arrive at the Art Gallery just as Fred -- an aboriginal park ranger -- was offering free information and advice (like hold your pee, the park is monitored 24/7 by closed circuit surveillance) on his day off. He said he hiked every morning in Carnarvon to remind him of his ancestors' legacy. From Fred, everyone listening learned so much about his tribe and the land's culture like:
** Carnarvon Gorge really is an aboriginal cemetary. Therefore, most of the markings at Art Gallery are similar to headstones.

** Until 1931 Carnarvon National Park was privately owned, until the owners sold it back to the Australian government since it was unfit for their cattle.

** "Boomerang" means "woman's rib". The legend is an indigenous man left his dead wife in her "cylinder" (like a casket). Upon returning something or someone had dismembered her. In his rage, the husband launched the wife's rib at a tree, which arced and missed. He made modifications & the boomerang was born. (aboriginal axe courtesy of Fred)

Fred also brought along some of the tools his people use such as a spear, coolamon, and messenger stick. To me, the most amazing fact was that the stencils date back 2,500 years. You can do the math...

SECOND STOP: WARD'S CANYON
This was my mom's favorite place out of the entire park.... and to think we almost passed on it because the park's description of it was bland! It started with a trail that headed downward toward a quiet, shaded mini-waterfall washing over dark rocks. Upon closer inspection we found steps also leading upward. Following the trail it stopped at a small, railed lookout at the top of the baby falls. Upon closer inspection we found there was another lookout higher up. Climbing the trail Mom & I were now at the ledge where the water spills over to form the cascades. Upon closer inspection we traced the stream's path futher uphill. Still following the trail we rock-hopped and entered an open cave with significantly colder air. Finally, the trail & we were stopped by a wooden railing as the rock cave's wall continued uphill. Ward's Canyon was like a never-ending Christmas present. Just when you thought you had the best view, more unfolded ahead. Here in the cave were the world's largest ferns: King Ferns. Their fronds were a vibrant and healthy green. They spread along the stream's course. They have survived since the age of dinosaurs.
LAST STOP: AMPITHEATREEven from afar mom & I could tell we were approaching the Ampitheatre because the trail kept leading us to an almost solid rock wall. Mom said it reminded her of Charybdis & Scylla (from Greek mythology). We had to climb old, metal ladders to get into the passageway which was only 15 feet across at its widest point. Then the narrow strait opened up into a massive, somewhat acoustic bowl. While the passageway was chilled by the wind, the Ampitheatre provided a dangerous -- from flash floods -- but sheltered haven.Mom & I arrived back at camp around dusk and scarfed down a hearty dinner with Mommy & Joey eating their meal alongside us. We were flogged a.k.a. exhausted and it was only our first day at Carnarvon National Park!

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