Monday, October 3, 2011

Camooweal Caves National Park

Camooweal Caves National Park - (Nowranie) 

The Barkly Highway to Camooweal, from Barkly Homestead, passed through some very green landscape due to the very late wet up in these areas. This certainly has not looked like the "Red Centre" anywhere on our travels!  There were also kilometers and kilometers of flat yellow grasslands with no other vegetation at all.  During very dry periods this would probably only have the tiniest amount of visible grass.

Some eighty kilometers from Barkly Homestead, we came across a very large bush fire.  Fires in this part of Australia, don't seem to burn in the same ways that they do in the wetter eastern part.  The flames are relatively low and are mainly burn the grass and spinifex, not the tree canopies.

Ten kilometers before Camooweal, we crossed into Queensland.  This is the first ever visit to Queensland, by Sue!  It also means that we have now travelled in every state and territory of Australia this year! We had been to Tasmania in January. 

From Camooweal we took the turn off to Camooweal Caves National Park (Nowranie), where we stayed the night. The road in leads through pristine vegetation, but only for a short while.  The fences have been knocked down in places, so the vast herds of cattle from the nearby station have flooded into the national park causing severe degradation of the soil and indigenous flora.

When we arrived at the campsite, it didn't look very inviting, despite the large expanse of water, the remnant water of Nowranie Creek. This was because the cows were using the grounds as their own personal recreation space.  We tried shooing them away, but all our efforts were in vain as they just kept returning.  The cows in desert areas are bred for their drought tolerance and ability to digest dry and brittle vegetation, they are also very large and bred from Brahman Cattle, so they can be quite fierce.  These cows, however, proved to be merely curious, so once they had cured their curiosity, they were happy to move on.

Unfortunately the cattle had left their calling cards, with dung in the shelters and all over the possible camp sites.  We thought we were going to be the only people there for the night, as no one else turned up for some hours.  But, a group of four Germans eventually arrived on dusk. They were on their way to Darwin. We have found the German tourists, on the whole, to be not particularly friendly, preferring to stick to their own, these were no exception. Foreign tourists are now outnumbering Aussies, by a massive percentage, now that the "grey nomads" have all gone home.

After the cattle had drunk at the waterhole, and as night fell, flocks of birds also came to enjoy the water. We saw a Jabaroo, an Egret, Little Comorants, ducks, Pink-Breasted Galahs, Cockatoos, Eastern Cockateils as well as the usual Mud Larks, Small Ground Pigeons and Crows.  The best bird-watching time, though, was early in the morning when there were huge flocks of Budgerigars, an Egret, white Heron, Whistling Kites, as well as the other birds seen the night before.

On the way out we visited the caves. These caves are part of the Barkly Tableland, mentioned in the previous blog.  This is where the water collects from the wet, seeping through the limestone rock, into the underground aquafers below. The water has eroded cave systems, that have been breached in places, by the surface collapsing into a sink hole. An aerial survey shows that there are 87 such caves in and around Camooweal, with another 67, suspected ones, apparently making in the largest cave system in Australia.

Three Bustards were sharing the grazing space with a large herd of cattle.  These are very large upright birds, that were eaten by the early settlers, reportedly very tasty!

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