This post was inspired by my hesitation to write the original post that I had planned. It is essentially my journey of thinking.
Originally I was going to write all about one of my most favourite places in the world: Jasper Gorge. Even after all of Europe, this tiny hidden treasure along the Buntine Highway in Australia’s outback continues to take my breath away everytime.
However what makes it so special to me is that it feels like a place that is a secret only a few people, myself included, are in on. You see when you turn off the highway into the lousy gravel pit that constitutes the Jasper Gorge Campsite it’s understandable that the place would slip your mind before long, leaving nothing but vague recollections of the sausages you struggled to cook up as there’s hardly a piece of decent firewood to be seen.
I hesitated on writing the piece for fear that it would be a hidden gem, a beautiful secret, if it was suddenly out and about for everyone to see. Was I being selfish? I thought back to my Icelandic travels. Only a decade or so ago people hardly even knew there was a small country hidden below the arctic circle. After volcanic eruptions from the tiny versatile nation stopped flights in Heathrow we finally noticed it was there. Next thing we knew a few people were taking the time to check it, hardened travellers ready for the more extreme nations. When they discovered a country with breathtaking waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches covered in chunks of ice and hoards of puffins they must have realised it wouldn’t remain a secret for long.
In age of social media, many of us can admit that our travel destinations are influenced more by instagram posts than anything else. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the first things that got me to direct my attention to Iceland, you only have to see one photo of Skogafoss or Godafoss and you’ll be putting it on your bucket list too.
I was told by a tour guide while I was there that Iceland’s tourism industry was now growing by 30% every year which is phenomenal. More tourists flock there every year than the entire population of locals.
When I was considering writing about Jasper Gorge I thought about this. I thought about flocks of people bringing in their boats. Sign posts telling every Tom, Dick and Harry where to turn into the pandanus. Fences to prevent anyone from falling from some of the precarious ledges.
However I did think of something else. I though about how important it is for people to go out and see these places to remind us of our beautiful our world is and why it’s so important we protect it. We can’t empathise with places that we’ve never seen or feel concern for the habitat of a bird that we’ve never heard of. The wilderness isn’t something that only exists in David Attenborough documentaries, it’s out there everywhere.
So let me tell you about the beautiful Jasper Gorge; 70km off the Victoria Highway down the rugged dirt road of the Buntine.
When I first went to Jasper Gorge as a child I didn’t think much of it either when we arrived, but my Dad had received a tip off from a local indigenous man he worked with about rock caves and hidden pools so we had brought along an old canoe. Once we were gliding across the water it becomes evident that the entire place is so very alive. Azure kingfishers zip low and fast across the water and corellas nest in the holes of gum trees that hang over the water. The water is constantly splashing as rifle fish shoot at flies and turtles come up for breath. After embarking a fair way down the gorge a small gap between the pandanus palms that line the bank became visible. We waded through with our canoes up a narrow stream. At the end of the stream we climbed over some rocks to find ourselves at the bottom of a sheer rock face and crystal clear pool at the bottom.
We climbed around the rocks further and came across a cave through the escarpment rock that took us right to the top for an impressive view before descending back down into a gully.
We followed the gully further down before coming across another pool, deep, blue and still, at the bottom of a rock face. We swam and sat by the edge and enjoyed the serenity.
I revisited Jasper Gorge only recently with a close friend. After a day of canoeing and exploring we returned to our campsite to sit, listen to the birds and enjoy the setting sun. A four wheel drive pulled up and two young men got out promptly. They walked around for a moment, took a photo or two and complained about the flies. They commented that there wasn’t too much to see and got back in there car. My friend and I exchanged a smile.