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Days in the gorge (November 2010)
contributed by iandsmith
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After the Trevor rafting experience (photos included this time) we sat around the table and out came a book about canoeing and rafting on all the rivers of Australia. It was amazing, must have been nearly a lifeís work.
However, in the volume was The Gorge. Iíd never heard of The Gorge. Been to Grafton more than a hundred times and missed this treasure. I wouldnít miss it this time.
74 kms to the west, the last 27 kms on dirt and there I was, on private property amidst some of the most beautiful scenery Iíd ever seen in Australia. Neil, the owner, was waiting to greet me. The property had been in his family for 111 years. I could understand how they would be reluctant to part with it.
One of the properties up the river belongs to the Myers (yes, THE Myers). He said their Lear Jet lands from time to time. I thought ďThatís a different planet to the one Iím onĒ.
Neil took me down to the river and into his tinnie and we proceeded to head up to the gorge. Itís such an impressive place. Granite protruding either side forming a small canyon with a backdrop of the lower mountain slopes of the Great Dividing Range. I was so impressed I returned a few days later.
INTO THE GORGE
I arrived late at night and parked between the two trees; one that commemorates Neilís father and the other his mother. Theyíre placed at the best vantage point on the property. The view over the river is where it takes the sharpest curve in its whole length, a fact Neil was keen to point out the first time Iíd visited. Apparently it was due to volcanic upheaval a couple of years ago (as in millions), glad I wasnít around at the time.
There was a quarter moon out trying to push its rays through the drifting cloud that lent a surreal soft light and picked out the rocks and the irregular surface of the turbulent water.
Neilís arrival woke me up around 7.00 a.m. but he had chores to do and didnít finish all that until 8.30 when we headed off to the tinnie for the dayís adventure. Today I would get to see the falls, my excitement levels rose accordingly.
We boarded and punched up against the current, in excess due to the recent rains. Neil explained that it was nearly 2 metres over normal levels. He told also of the recent drought times when the falls Iíd come to see, Rainbow, didnít even have a flow for eight days. As you will glean from the photos, things are different at the moment.
The drop off point is just beyond the final rapids and you have to climb a small cliff to reach flatter ground. Neil waits while you do this because, understandably, some have experienced difficulty.
On top itís a mixture of conglomerate, rock pools, verdant grass and scrub but thereís a thin trail meandering through it all, at times hard to find but youíre never lost and thereís always the roar to aim for. The rush of the river and the narrowness of the gorge make it a noisy place but Rainbow Falls predominate.
The coming of the rains has brought much life to everywhere and the number of spider webs, tadpoles and dragonflies are testimony to that. The sun and burgeoning cloud are making it hot and humid and the rocky areas are particularly warm and I start sweating soon after I commence walking.
The lily ponds, native flowers, butterflies, fungus and dragonflies add touches of colour here and there breaking the rhythm of the lush scrub and harsh rock.
I aim for the noise after about half an hour and crunch over a thousand rounded stones, left behind from the massive May flood no doubt, before reaching the solid rock of the gorge and the awesome sight of Rainbow running a bunker.
With this amount of fresh charging through the turbid waters are stained dark brown and the whirling foam makes abstract patterns on the rushing surface in a dramatic display of natureís power. I tarry for a while and then head further upstream where it looks like I may be able to get across on an island and see some of the other rapids because the Clarence River here is a waterway of many channels. Iíd thought that there were three falls in succession but it turns out that they are almost side by side.
Sadly, though I managed to get across on to one island I couldnít make it any further when confronted by racing bands of water that were too dangerous for any passage on foot. I retreated back to Rainbow and sat for a while so as to embed this memory to be cherished but the heat from above and off the rock became too much so I moved on, brushing through yet more spider webs as I searched for better photo angles in places where normal human beings wouldnít be bothered to venture.
I was now heading back to the homestead but the heat and missed sleep were sapping my energy. Iíd brought along a water bottle and had drunk it and refilled it from little side streams twice but still thirst lingered on. Time to stop for a skinny dip in a splendid rock pool. The water must have been about 25 degrees, it was sublime and I lingered for about 10 minutes before continuing on and when I came to a wonderful shady fig tree I again paused.
Fortunately the farm wasnít too far away now but it had taken me four hours and when I arrived and Neil offered me a drink I could hardly refuse. During this repast I heard more stories of the property. How the fishing TT shows had been here, Steve Starling quite recently and the ET show seven times, five with the man himself present. Neil related how they would have someone fishing off the bank and a helper, just out of sight behind a bush, would tug the line to simulate a bite. Theyíd then edit it in when they actually did catch a fish later on.
He also told how one episode was about lures and they couldnít catch a thing after hours trying. Neil said heíd catch them one if they wanted. His brother had 7 casts and caught 5 but they said they couldnít use those lures because they were sponsored by another company. Neil suggested catching one and then putting it on their lures but they said it would be cheating, to which Neil replied it didnít stop the other shows!
He then showed me a booklet on the property that included a picture of a large python which led him to a dozen stories about slippery scaly things; the worst (for me) was when his wife Sue was working on the bench we were sitting on outside which is beside a big tree. On the other side of the tree Neil noticed one of the dogs acting strangely and, upon investigation, came across a 2 metre brown snake looking for a meal.
Another was when his brother went to remove a large python off the fence but it became so enamoured of him that Neil had to go and unravel the snake from his brotherís arm. Some of the many joys of life on the farm!
I was sad to leave but glad to know I will return sometime in the future, itís truly a special place.
This story was uploaded into the Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia entry for the Gorge 'Clarence Gorge'.
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