Queensland Road Trip, May 2022
Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.
It’s not supposed to rain in May in far north Queensland. Normally the dry season starts in May, with warm sunny days and mild nights right through till November. The exception is when La Niña comes visiting.
While the weather pattern known as El Niño creates hot dry conditions resulting in prolonged drought, La Niña brings cooler temperatures and increased rainfall. This year Australia’s eastern states experienced their second La Niña in a row, with heavy rain and serious flooding in many areas.
As we headed west into savannah country it seemed the dry season had finally started. But La Niña had other ideas and delivered another deluge across north Queensland. Luckily we were on the edge of the broad band of rain, so our plans were hardly affected. But we did experience a rare phenomenon – we were rained on in Cobbold Gorge.
The gorge and nearby Cobbold Village are only open from April to October when the dry season allows access. While the Robertson River shrinks to a small stream, boat tours of the gorge are possible because Cobbold Creek is fed by natural springs.
Our tour began where a pontoon bridge crosses the creek. After heavy rain the previous afternoon, the water was higher than usual and flowing fast. Flat bottomed boats were tied up alongside the bridge, but we had somewhere else to visit first. We followed our guide over the bridge and up the hill between large sandstone formations.
Our destination was this 11 metre long glass bridge which crosses the gorge at a height of 17 metres. From here we could see the creek and the sheer walls of sandstone up to 30 metres high on either side.
We looked down through the glass floor onto the sandstone beside the creek, deeply grooved where it had been shaped by the moving water.
Continuing on past the bridge, we walked back down to the creek and the waiting boats.
Once we were all safely seated our little boat set off, powered by a silent electric motor. We glided along the widest section of the creek, under the glass bridge and into the gorge.
The residents of Cobbold Gorge include a population of freshwater Johnstone River crocodiles. With increased storm water in the creek, our guide wasn’t expecting to see any but just as we entered the gorge a single croc was spotted up ahead. The boat slowed and we watched as she drifted ahead of us for several minutes before turning and disappearing beneath the surface.
Further on the gorge narrowed until the boat was almost touching the sandstone walls. One saw-shelled turtle, no bigger than the palm of a hand, rested on the stone just above the water.
As we reached the end of the gorge we could hear the sound of running water. Tiny streams fed by yesterday’s storm cascaded over the top of the walls. The water in the creek, usually dammed at this point during the dry season by a natural wall of stone, tumbled over the rocks. And it was here that it started to rain.
The rain continued unabated on our return journey through the gorge. By the end we were all very wet but our spirits weren’t dampened. Instead we were buoyed by the privilege of visiting this special place in such unusual circumstances.