Cobbold Gorge, South of North but completely North of South, Central Queensland. Beautiful in itself but for us an Oasis, here’s why…
Dear Diary – We’ve been on the road now for four days and four nights. I have grave concerns for our survival. We started losing power day one due to an unreachable fault in a cable located inconveniently under all the crap that a tent dweller must pack for a two week road trip. Our water supply is nearly gone. These overnighters leave no time to fix the issue.
Day Five – We arrived at Adells Grove excited by the prospect of digging out the solar power to recharge the; fridge, battery-pack, torches, laptop, you know, everything! It became apparent at this point that during all our pre-trip planning parties not one of the six odd people that had been there before, mentioned that Adells Grove (which is in the middle of no-where, in north west Qld) is in the middle of a rain forest? No sun. No clean drinking water and we’re here for three days… oh no!
By our last day at Adells Grove we had lost all power and were completely reliant on ice, how primitive. All fresh water gone, we’ve now resorted to boiling murky Adells Grove creek water. Not to worry, we’re certain to find a clean water tap in Normanton.
Normanton– There is a purple pub and several other pubs, actually there is a rather large ratio of pubs to visible houses? There is a replica of what must be one of the world’s largest crocodiles. Indigenous people a plenty- some selling painted rocks, and taps. But every tap in town has had its handle removed, go figure? Never mind, perhaps our next stop at Leichardt Lagoon will be our saviour.
Leichardt Lagoon – No fresh water, be careful of crocs and snakes and do NOT stand too close to the water, got it! Due to a faulty fuse back at Normanton we arrived at this beautiful destination a little late to catch the much needed rays to recharge our rather desperate power issue. What else to do but head to the lagoon for the stunningly superb sunset , eat cheese and mingle with fellow campers. The word was that the showers were top notch and top notch they were. To enhance my showering pleasure my nephew Connor coaxed frogs from the neighbouring cubicle onto my head, ahh kids. Dang, I left the shampoo with Jason again. (Leichardt Lagoon full review)
It’s 5:30 am, day eight. As I drink my re-boiled murky water coffee I ponder which article of dirty clothing I should sport for today’s drive? My hair is rather rancid and moments away from dreadlocks, I hope none of last night’s frogs have decided to take up residence there. I examine the fridge (now an esky), we’ve miraculously managed to keep some of our meat frozen but the vegetables are now pig fodder. The Caravan will inevitably need to restock on fuel, I think they get about three metres to the gallon. We don’t need petrol but I’ll use this time to stock up on some fresh food.
Fresh food – It does seem Ironic that near every bit of traffic on the road is a road train of some description yet few of them must carry fresh fruit and vegies. I nabbed the last piece of broccoli from the produce cabinet at Croydon, leaving only a single withering lettuce leaf to occupy the space. Frozen vegies to the rescue. We stocked up on milk and sugar, low on both as we needed much more of it to drown out the murky water taste from our coffee. Bread is an issue! We have two petrified squashed and mangled pieces left. The Trailer is in about the same situation. On to Cobbold Gorge via one last desperado supply stop at Forsayth.
Forsayth – The “Fresh” produce department at Forsayth was rather well stocked compared to Croydon. I picked up a lettuce, I won’t lie, it’ needed a bit of work, a capsicum and something that at one point in its life was probably a cucumber, or a zucchini, not completely sure? The real golden ticket here was the frozen bread department. With a loaf for ourselves and one for the Trailer I smiled with delight as I really had no idea how I was going to toast and butter those pitiful pieces of bread we’d been carting around.
By now we’d been on the road for eight days and eight nights. The drive from Croydon into Cobbold Gorge is rough, dirt, winding and long. We’d spent so much time on straight roads that the road into here actually made me feel queasy. But knowing we were there for three nights with a much anticipated powered site was enough to ease my mind.
You are welcomed into Cobbold Gorge Jurassic Park style with an immense signed post, infinity pool, restaurant, helicopter and tour shuttles waiting to beckon you aboard. The greeting at reception is so professional, courteous , clean and so Jurassic Park touristy that you need to pinch yourself. Imagine our relief when we’re told you can drink the water, sing hallelujah!!! The powered sites here are terraced and gravelled- great for fossicking through if your into pretty stones and even greater for keeping your feet clean. Our group took up a whole terrace of four sites. We unpacked, immediately hooked up to power and gleefully topped up our water supply, YAH!! Next stop, toilet.
Wow! Although the toilets and showers are unisex with separate basins outdoors they were truly fab!! Completely private, floor to ceiling enclosed and the showers were ensuite style with their own toilets and mirror. Life was good! My grooming routine was not, thanks for the reminder mirror and to think I was excited to see you.
The first night was met with welcome relief and relaxation. Mornings first light was the prime opportunity to do some much needed washing. Enjoying a fresh water cup of coffee and chill out was all we had to do till our tour embarked. After so many days driving long hours it was refreshing to embark for our tour by means of a small stroll to reception before boarding one of the air conditioned tour buses.
After a short drive listening to our guide relay the fascinating history of the Robin Hood property we reached the walking part of our tour. A meandering stroll through the bush learning about native plants and how they were used for medicinal, hunting and even macabre applications leads us to a grave. I won’t give the story away, but one of the parts that fascinated me the most was the placement of the grave. What looked to us nothing more than a bushy walking path was once the main transport/travel route to the coast hundreds of kilometres away. It made sense then that the grave should be placed near this path. One day another weary traveller may recognize the name on the tombstone at long last making word to relatives of the whereabouts of the departed.
We turn around and reach the gorge by foot, first viewing the Gorge from overhead before making our way to the water. One does need to be somewhat agile to reach the top of the gorge. I can’t help but wonder how many other tourists made reference to that old Aussie movie “Picnic at Hanging Rocks” on the ascent? The view is well worth the effort and the guide has an eagle on eye everyone. One false move towards the edge and you’re a goner!
The Gorge is not real big in comparison to others in this country. It really is no wonder that this sacredly beautiful place was left undiscovered for so long. Sure, the aborigines and the odd weary traveller probably stumbled across this remarkable place, but in a time when mere survival and water was more trying and important than a pretty view. Hence its existence was left unravelled and pure, frozen in time. That is until 1992 when visitors of Simon (the sons’ present owners) brought with them a tinnie to investigate the waters of the property.
We enter the water at the same location and travel slowly up the narrow sandstone corridors forming the walls of this majestic, natural marvel. The Gorge is eerily quiet and calm. So narrow are some parts that you must lean forward to avoid the bulging sandstones complexity. The water is still and glass like, century year old concaveness walls reflect back at us through the watery mirror. Fish swim deep beneath us interrupted momentarily as the boat slowly impinges its surrounds. Spiders web privately, moss grows graciously and birds glide though the Gorge before soaring upwards into the blue, blue sky. Narrow ledges lend themselves perfectly to fresh water crocodiles and gently swaying trees stand guard, as if protectors of the phenomenon that beholds them.
The tour of the Gorge isn’t exactly cheap, but I honestly think it well worth the money. It’s evident the money raised goes straight back into maintaining the park and adding new additions like the infinity pool. It wasn’t super hot during our stay, but it was warmer enough to be enticed by the charm of the country style pool overlooking the lake (infinity style) and conveniently located near the bar/restaurant. I’m one of those weirdo annoying people that take a good twenty minutes to submerse themselves into cold water. It was warm though, so I psyched myself up, changed into my bikini and started marching to the pool with distinct purpose and bravado. My confidence wavered halfway as Jason and Connor warned with quivering blue lips of the freezing horror of the water ahead. No! I was not to be deterred. Before I knew it was on the edge of the pool ready to take the plunge. This did of course take about fifteen minutes of coaxing and lying by the rest of the crew, but I did it and it was freezing…. really, really, freezing!! But refreshing, as they say?
The only Cobbold negative (and this is being completely picky) is the bar “In” the infinity pool was not operational while we were there. This really didn’t matter but it would’ve been fun and some whisky would’ve helped to warm us too. Of course the bar/restaurant is right beside the pool but once you get out of that icy water there’s no getting back in.
Our last dinner at Cobbold was at the restaurant. It certainly wasn’t gourmet but it was pretty bloody good. In fact the fish I had, be it that it was frozen and all, was possibly the best battered fish I’ve ever had. After dinner Mark, Jason and myself gathered out the front to take star photos under the entrance sign and then the infinity pool on the way back to camp. The stars in the sky in the outback are mind-blowing and here was no exception. If you travel to the outback for no other reason, then it is definitely reason enough.
Cobbold Gorge is fantastic! In addition to the Gorge tour, helicopter flight and the ice cold infinity pool, you can also hire kayaks and paddle around the lake, play aqua golf or take some of the alternate bush walks and the Agate Creek Gemfields are a gemstones throw away, should that be your thing.
There is wifi access, although restricted to a small area outside reception. Cabins are available- recycled from the Olympics as were the amenities, so I’m told. The unpowered sites are flat and shady. Personal fires are permitted and a few large communal fire areas are dotted throughout the property. The amenities are second to none, the staff were wonderful and knowledgeable and the tour fantastic.
From the moment we arrived we had a wonderful time. The reality is we probably won’t make it back with hundreds of other places and gorges to see, but we do take with us some fantastic memories and photos. Revisiting these photos and writing this review has been a lovely, heart warming flash back. And, all these months later I still find myself talking about this incredibly wonderful place to anyone who will listen. The BIGGEST thumbs up and five stars from me. Cobbold Gorge I Love You!!
All powered up, freshly laundered clothes, a replenished supply of crystal clear spring water we hit the road again. Reluctantly we bid farewell to the encompassing beauty of Cobbold Gorge and the abiding vast and glorious Savannah that surrounds it.
Thanks, Rose and Jason – The Tent