It’s 6 am, and through my tent flap, I am watching the gradually brightening sky. Bursts of noisy bird
calls presage the advent of dawn. The air is cool and sweet and smells of grass.
By 6:30, the sun has still not made an appearance, but the stars have faded and, as was the case yesterday at this time, the crescent moon was still visible, in a silvery lavender sky that got paler the closer it was to the fiery horizon. Time to get up—not just to face the day, but also to photograph the spectacular predawn sky.
Unfortunately, the flies awake early, as well. (Kate says she has never seen them as bad as they are this year. Great.) The flies are attracted to everything, but especially to light colors, so I also photographed the back of the white t-shirt of one of my traveling companions—just in case anyone wonders if I’m exaggerating. (By the way, if you click on the thumbnails, you can see the images at full size. Lot more detail visible that way.)
After a good breakfast, we were off and hiking up to and then down into Menu Gorge. We headed away from camp through the tall, golden grass, across flat, broken, black and red rock, to a place where we could descend a steep tumble of huge boulders to the base of the gorge. Pandanus, paperbark trees, and thick vines crowded in on either side of a narrow stream that runs down the center of the gorge.
We hiked through more tall grass and deep leaves, over “streams” of rocks (no doubt stream beds when there is more water during the rainy season), and scrambled up and down massive piles of boulders and ragged rock walls. The stream became wider as we headed up the gorge. The water was so clear that we could see the bottom, as well as the fish that were swimming among the submerged rocks and branches.
I loved the look of the pandanus, despite the serrated edges that clawed us as we passed. At one point, made our way through a beautiful grove of screw palms. Because the day was already heating up, we stopped by a pool, where the stream widened a bit, to take a drink and splash ourselves with water.