May, 24 2010
Desert Queens Baths, Karlamilyi National Park
William L Fox

We turn back, re-enter the park, and head for the Desert Queen Baths, a series of permanent pools in an intimate gorge found at the end of a rough 18km track. That short distance takes us an hour to traverse in second gear, and as the red cliffs on either side narrow toward us, animals are channelled alongside. Dingoes, camels, kangaroos, and even and most improbably a wild burro. We come over a small saddle just as the sun heads behind the ridges and on our right is a stony red hillside with gums standing on it as if gardened. In front of us is a far vista, the desert stretching out and dropping over the curve of the Earth. It's one of those views that makes you appreciate the size of our planet, how wild it once was, how strange it still is.

We beat the photographers to camp, which is a short walk from the first of the pools, so Tim and Larry and I go salvage firewood from the flood wrack in the small gorge. Some of it is wood that's been previously burned in a bushfire, but it's only been singed and still usable. It's a fire and flood regime here, alternating between cyclones and drought. After dinner around the campfire, Christian and Mike are Photoshopping images on their twin laptops, working by lit keyboards, while I write by the dazzling desert moonlight.

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