The group had decided to split into two groups of two to tackle this particular section of the gorge - one group was to continue along the Z-Bend section of the gorge with floatpacks (as there was no way to continue walking along the ledges along this section), whereas the other group was to walk to the next food drop and rejoin the other two at 4-Ways. I decided to take the 'dry route' and head inland predominantly because of all the sensitive electronic equipment that I was carrying with me.
In order to head up to the food drop, we had to branch off left to walk up a side gorge
just under one kilometre from where we had camped the previous night. It was just a short scramble up some scree, past a commercial abseiling group, through a narrow cut in the rocks with sheer walls on both sides and up a stairwell that lay at the end. The track then lead down to a junction, where we found a signpost that stated that the route that we had just taken was aptly called the 'Gorge Trail
' and was 2 kilometres long (2km to return to the crossroads, and 2.6km to return to the carpark). The two hour estimate that was given seemed very conservative though, especially considering that we had only taken 15 minutes to climb up.
I turned right at the junction to head over to the Z-Bend Lookout, and found a fairly large slab that had the fossilised tracks of an Eurypterid (Order: Eurypterida
) imprinted into it. The Eurypterids, also known as Sea Scorpions (a misnomer considering that they were not true scorpions, nor did they all come from the sea), are an extinct group of arthropods and are known to be one the earliest land dwellers (late Permian - 460 to 248 million years ago). They are thought to have been amphibious and likely caused fossilised tracks (like the one that was imprinted in the slab) when moving from one pool to another.Eurypterid tracks fossilised in the sandstone
Just beyond the slab was the viewpoint - a fenced area that showcased the impressive 180 degree bend of the canyon, a bend caused by 'joints' that intersected each other in the sandstone. The river generally follows a path that leads in roughly the same direction by following these 'joints', the path of least resistance if you will; but when two of these 'joints' intersect, the river can abruptly change direction and follow a joint that runs perpendicular to the one that it was previously on.
After soaking in the spectacular views, I walked back to the junction and turned right to head Northwards along the 1.2km-long path that undulated through the bush and lead to the Z-Bend carpark
. We quickly grabbed the supplies that had been hidden just off the carpark and continued along the (6km return) Four ways trail (Idinggada Yina). The sand-lined trail lead through the bush, it's wide swathe passing clumps of grass trees (Xanthorrhoea australis
), before winding its way down and around boulders and algae-filled pools and emerging back out into the gorge at a point where two gorges intersected each other - fondly known as '4-Ways'.
It was already 10:30 by the time we reached 4-Ways. The plan had been to meet the others at 11:00 and to head up the canyon if they didn't appear. 11:00 came and went, so the two of us dropped our packs and started walking Southwards down the gorge, in the direction that they would be coming from. We ended up walking just over a kilometre along the sides of the gorge until we came to a point where we could go no further without swimming up the river. The views along this section of the gorge were glorious - great stretches of overhanging rocks with alternating bands of red and orange, contrasted with the deep green waters of the river. We called out and hooted, but all we heard in return was the echo that reverberated back up the canyon and the plopping of fish as they occasionally jumped out of the water in their attempt to catch the insects that hovered over the surface.
The only three possibilities that I could think of that would explain their absence were that they were progressing at a much slower pace than they had originally anticipated; that there had been an accident; or that the swimming was either too difficult or that the water was too cold, and they had decided to head back and take the route that we had taken. We decided that since we were unable to progress any further, the best thing to do would be to head back to 4-Ways just in case the reason was the last one (that they had decided to head back). As we were walking back, a circling Kestrel (Falco sp.
) kept on blocking the sun that was right over our heads, reminding me of the earlier incident with the goat
. Just as a feeling of dread was starting to sink in, we caught a flash of white in the distance, and the dread immediately transformed into a feeling of great relief as I realised that that flash could only mean one thing - that they had just come into view as they rounded the bend in the gorge.
After regrouping, we continued to make our way Northwards up the gorge. We came upon a 'kayak station' of sorts soon after, where we realised that we could not proceed and were forced to cross over to the East bank. The others had their packs enclosed in layers of plastic bags and rain covers which allowed the packs to float for a short while. I on the other hand, had a lot of sensitive electronic equipment so chose to inflate my sleeping mat and 'ferry' the pack across on top of the mat instead. We continued to walk along the gorge once we had made the river crossing, in the shallows of the banks, practically hugging the cliff face, before being able to climb back on to the ledge once again.The wind seemed to pick up here and whistled through the canyon, the only sound not drowned out being the "Plop! Plop!" of the water as it bobbed up and down in the hollow undercuts at the base of the canyon.
We reached another section of the gorge that was impassable not too long after, leaving us with just two choices - to descend down to the water, or to ascend up to the top of the cliff. We ended up choosing the latter and clambered up the cliff, zig-zagging our way up, and breaking off chunks of rock and kicking down loose scree in the process. We followed the contour for a while after reaching the top, and then descended down a gully that gave way to a scree path that lead all the way downwards.We emerged out onto a field of rocks that were strewn across the river, with a grove of trees along its side that looked like it would make decent shelter. Despite being surrounded by dead branches and kangaroo (Macropus
) bones, we decided to make camp, thoughts of dinner drowning out everything else.