We learnt of Jowalbinna when scouring Wiki Camps looking for a place to camp near the Old Coach Road. All the comments said that the rock art tours here are amazing. I had tried contacting Steve, the owner since Mossman but with no luck and when we arrived there at 5.30pm after a long day driving we discovered he was away ‘til 3pm the following day. A random friend of a friend of a nephew type bloke directed us to the bush camp.
We set up camp for the night near the creek. This place was really well set up with bush toilets that flushed, showers with donkey hot water systems (they heat up from having a fire lit under them). It also had a heap of basic cabins with beds in them. A mother and daughter arrived quite late to stay in one of the cabins. They had booked a tour with Steve the following afternoon and day following that.
From my reading I had learnt that Quinkan rock art (the rock art in and around Laura, including Jowalbinna) is recognised as one of the 10 most significant rock art sites in the world by UNESCO due to its age and the amount of sites in close proximity.
As Steve was away we had come to the conclusion that we would head to Laura in the morning and do the most accessible site 12kms south of Laura. However in the morning, the sole other couple in the campground let us know how to find some of the rock art at Jowalbinna. Steve had passed this information on verbally to prior campers and it was passed down the chain. The couple that passed it on to us had decided not to go as it was quite remote but we were keen to give it a go. We are so glad we did.
It involved a drive and walk up a hill following orange tape on trees to an area of sandstone cliff. At one point we dropped into a shaded gully that was filled with butterflies. It was like being in nature’s butterfly enclosure. We then climbed a little more until we found the first rock art. There were four sites on this short work, each spectacular and because there were no formed tracks or infrastructure it really was the most incredible experience.
One site was really low and hidden; Matthew found it, and the rest of us would have walked straight past. This art would have to have been painted while lying down and it really was quite surreal as we lay on our backs viewing the art that would have been painted so long ago in this same spot.
We feel so privileged to have experienced this art hidden away in the bush. I later read an article from Australian Story about Percy Trezise, Steve’s father and his passion for Quinkan rock art preservation. It is so interesting and we are so grateful that such people can invest so much in preserving aboriginal sites and culture and trying to bridge scientific and academic knowledge with local aboriginal culture.
On the way out we visited the more accessible rock art at Split Rock, just south of Laura. It was also amazing in its own right but has clearly deteriorated more, especially from the dust of foot traffic. The experience of the morning’s rock art adventure will be cherished by our family forever.