AUSTRALIA’S NARROWEST GORGE
This was the second time we have visited Cobbold Gorge and it won’t be the last! A really spectacular location in the Gulf Savannah region, this is a breathtaking part of the Outback. We loved it the first time but since then a spectacular glass bridge has been built and is Australia’s first fully glass bridge spanning a 13 metre gap and with a 19 metre drop into the water below. I was thinking of the Grand Canyon bridge and wondered if it measured up but there is no comparison. This is just amazing because of the location and also because of the size – tiny compared to the Grand Canyon but equally impressive.
Cobbold Gorge Village http://cobboldgorge.com.au is part of Robin Hood Station which is a working cattle property and is a 6 hour drive from Townsville or Cairns. The drive itself is interesting through ancient geological landforms and small townships in the Gulf Savannah region. Forsayth is closest to the station and tours run to Cobbold Gorge from there as well.
The cattle seem unperturbed by motorists on their way to the village and we passed many termite mounds of all sizes and shapes which stood out in the red earth. Wildlife was abundant – red and black cockatoos, lots of kangaroos and even wedge tailed eagles.
On arrival at the village we checked into our accommodation which was in the Boundary Huts – very comfortable, air conditioned rooms with ensuite and tea and coffee making facilities as well as little verandahs to sit and soak up the views.
There is a variety of accommodation to choose from and many arrive with caravans or campervans and are fully catered for in the nearby campground. We chose to dine at the restaurant which is located next to the swimming pool overlooking the lagoon. Great food, wonderful ambience and there was even a guest playing his guitar – what more could you want?
To visit the gorge you must do a tour with a Savannah Guide which takes 3 hours. A short bus ride takes you to the starting point for the walking/boat tour – our group was small and the guide very informative. We started with the walk which was about an hour and a half and began along the water’s edge and then up through interesting country and onto the sandstone escarpment. The guide pointed out various species of spiders with finely spun webs, hollows for wildlife and beautiful paperbarks.
What fascinated me was the “Soap Tree” – a very special tree nestled near the water’s edge with leaves that make “soap” and is apparently a godsend for those out in the bush with very few supplies. First you find the tree, then you gather the leaves and rubbing them between your hands, magical soap appears!
We climbed the escarpment and heard some of the history of the place and stories of the pioneers who first came to this part of the country. Then we walked across the ancient landform to a point at the top of the gorge where the bridge is located. The gorge is stunning with 30 metre sheer walls from the bottom of the water to the top of the escarpment. The bridge shimmered in the morning light and we had to put on special covers over our footwear so as not to scratch the glass before gingerly walking across!
Whilst admiring the view and becoming more confident about walking on glass, a small boat was silently gliding through the gorge below – this was another group who were to do the walk after the boat trip.
A short path down the escarpment to the water’s edge and it was time to do the electric boat trip – the guided cruise takes about 45 minutes and is a wonderful way to see this beautiful gorge. The boat is so silent and gliding past the sheer rocks which one could touch and then looking through the crystal clear water, it was a dream. There are fresh water crocodiles resident in this place, known as Johnson River Crocs they are harmless and just add to the mystique of the area.
We watched tiny spiders weaving webs and saw butterflies and dragonflies flitting through the rocks. At one point the guide pointed out a place he calls “Duck Rock” – it is the narrowest point of the gorge and only 2 metres across and thus he calls out “Duck” to avoid the looming overhang! Then we saw the bridge from the water – and how spectacular that was!
Back at the village and eager to find out more about the history of the station, I found a very informative poster about Francis Cobbold and I pondered his life and times and wondered what he would think now – hopefully he would be proud of the fact that so many have enjoyed this remarkable part of the outback thanks to the ongoing pioneering spirit of the Terry family of Robin Hood Station.
We had one final thing to do before we ventured on our road trip and that was to enjoy the Outback sunset from the Quartz Blow – a short distance from the village and down a fairly rough track we found a beautiful spot to sit and watch the sky turning yellow, then pink and finally vivid red whilst enjoying a glass of wine, beer and some nibbles. A perfect end to a perfect day and a great finale for our friends from WA.