“There’s a reason for that,” said a friendly but sombre voice behind me.
Tony and I had been to Lawn Hill Gorge 27 years ago with our two pre-schoolers and Tony’s mother Daph. We had memories of lush grassed campsites and the spectacular gorge of green water and thick green foliage lining the steep ochre-red gorge.
Lawn Hill this time had a dry carpet of rocks and dead leaves in the camping sites. The voice behind me came from Ranger John Prince. He said they used to water grass three times a week at Lawn Hill but the trees started dying. The trees in that part of the world need six months of dry then six months of rain. Twelve months of wet kills them. He gestured to a stunted dead tree.
“OK,” I said, “but is it true you don’t have any hot showers now?” True, said Ranger John. They used to have a donkey boiler but there were problems with wasps building nests and then kids would play in the fire because their parents didn’t look after them.
OK. Cold showers and swims in the lovely fresh water. “Are those huge catfish still there?” No, said Ranger John. Seems the local Aborigines had a sit-in protest at Lawn Hill when the giant Century mine was about to open up. He wasn’t specific but said 150 or so Aborigines had to eat something.
Despite the changes, Lawn Hill was still a brilliant oasis at the end of a dusty 100km run from Gregory Downs.
I learned from a poster that the water is such a striking shade of green because it actually isn’t green at all. All colours are absorbed into the water except the colour that is not present, in this case green. So green bounces back because it’s not actually there, a bit like Kevin Rudd.
We swam, lounged canoed and went for a walk along the edge of the gorge up to the lookout (above). A fit looking young couple passed us and were taking photos at the top.
With heavy German accents they told us the view was incredible. They were from Zurich. I suggested their homeland of Switzerland had even more spectacular scenery – the frosted mountains, meadows, cute chalets and expectations that Heidi would come skipping down a track with her goats.
Yes, they said. Switzerland had nice scenery. “But not like this,” they both emphasised, gesturing to the gorge below. Majestic rock landscape blazed red and all shades of gold. Startling emerald water was fringed with jade foliage. Higher up, stark white trunks on gum trees contrasted with clustered leaves straddling 50 shades of green, from lime to sage. Brilliant blue in the sky backdrop emphasised the 3D view.
They sat and soaked it in, entranced. Heidi, eat your heart out.