Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for July, 2010

Gibb River Rd – Week 3 of 3

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on July 26, 2010

Okay, when last I blogged we were on our way back to Drysdale River Station.  We left the Mitchell Falls and headed to King Edward River as we wanted to stop for a swim  and have lunch there.  We stopped in at a spot just short of KE River and went for a bit of a walk to see some nice Aboriginal rock art.

Blue-winged kookaburra

King Edward River crossing

We also saw a blue-winged kookaburra.  We had seen one at the Broome Wilderness Park but not one in the “wild”.  Dan spotted it from quite a distance away and it let us get quite close before it flew away. We stopped in at the KE River campground and found a lot of bird life there too.  Wade raced down to the river with the binoculars and bird book in hand!  It’s got 2 general camping areas and both seem very nice.  We had a lovely swim then had lunch with my bread made from scratch!  It was delicious, even if i do say so myself.  A tour bus had pulled up right next to us and set up for lunch and an overnight stay.  It was interesting to listen to the Tour Guide talking about the bird life, history of the places, etc.  Packed up and off to Drysdale River Station. We crossed over the King Edward River and stopped to take photos of the crossing. Drysdale River Station is a great place to ‘re-group’ after doing the Mitchell Falls.  The kids wanted to try to get the same spot to camp as we were at 4 days ago and as luck would have it, it was still there.  As we pulled up Wade yelled out “That looks like Lachy” and sure enough there he was. We met up with Jenny, Greg, Jarrod and Lachy and found out they were heading up to do the Mitchell Falls the next day with Rean, Steff, Ben and Sam – more friends from Karratha!! It was great to see familiar faces and Wade was in heaven with having a friend to play with and we didn’t see him for the rest of the afternoon.  We set up camp, had showers so we weren’t so feral then off to the bar for a drink and a chat.

Phone in a fridge at Drysdale

There is a blue public phone that is actually in an old fridge that we used to ring Joel’s brother Grant on for his birthday.  The kids chatted for ages, i think they are missing you guys a bit, as are we. Spent the next day fixing our air mattress, finally finding the other hole that was slowly letting the air mattress down so that by 3am every night, we were laying on the ground.  Joel’s back wasn’t up to it so by night 3 of our trip i was on the double mattress with Wade and Joel took one of the singles.  The kids took turns to sleep on the wretched thing with me for the rest of the trip.  After we patched it again, we tested it out and found that it was still leaking, just slower this time.  Ah well, just have to keep blowing it up, by mouth, at 3am as can’t run the air pump ‘cos it’s too noisy. We figured out that the mattress was 13 years old so really we’ve had a good run with it but I’ll be happy to chuck it in the bin when we get to Fitzroy Crossing!!! Spent the day washing and cleaning and cooking some more bread by campfire.  We were relaxing in camp when we watched another family decide to camp between us and the next camper and the toilet block.  The camping area  is HUGE with so much space but these people weren’t just one family, oh no, there were 4 families travelling together and they decided that where we were looked very nice so they would just set up right there. They moved the vehicles several times and kept getting closer and closer.  Then they proceeded to have a family gathering into the late hours – some people just don’t give a shit about others when they are camping!  I was so glad we were getting out of there the next morning and praying that they weren’t heading the same way as us! I felt sorry for Rean and Steff ‘cos these rude people were right on top of them and they had been out all day and weren’t going to get an early night’s sleep!  Left Drysdale Station River and headed off to Home Valley Station for a couple of days.

On the Kalumbaru Rd we had just gone through a very small water crossing and gone just a little ways when Joel suspected something was up with one of the tyres.  Sure enough the rear left tyre had a puncture and wrecked the side wall.  We did hear a bit of a thud going through this crossing and it was the first time Joel hadn’t stopped to a crawl to go through it.  It was just a puddle on the road really but whether it was a faulty tyre or what we still had to stop and change it.  We had left Drysdale before Jenny, Greg, Rean and Steff but they soon caught up to us and stopped to see if we needed any help.  Lucky they did as we were having trouble with the Hi-lift jack – it went up alright but there was a bent pin that wouldn’t let us lower the car. Between all of us, we got the car back down and off we went.  Said we’d catch up with them later and have a drink at Home Valley. We took a small track about 1/2 an hour out of Home Valley Station and had lunch down by a stream.

Home Valley Station Entrance

Dinner at HV8

Wade playing the didgeridoo

Dusty Bar and Grill at HV8

Home Valley Station is very impressive from the drive through the front gates to the grassed campsites, pool and bar area.  We had gone through most of our meal rations by now so we booked in for a meal at “Dusty’s Bar and Grill”.  After setting up we headed over to see our friends while the kids played on the amazing playground.  What a very relaxing afternoon.  After several drinks and a chat we showered for dinner.

The bar area is like a huge open shed, with the bar, kitchen and reception area enclosed at one end and the dinning area opening up out onto the pool area.  The roof is lined inside with old corrugated iron and the supporting beams are wooden poles set into 44 gallon drums that have been filled with concrete and inlaid on the top with large rocks.  The floor is stone and the furniture was all wooden and the atmosphere was fantastic.  Very family friendly and the meals were huge and very good value!  Towards the end of dinner a gentleman got up on stage and started a show. His name was Michael Tippo and he was an Aboriginal who played the didgeridoo and had played with Yothu Yindi at some stage.  He also explained a bit of history about the Station, it was opened it 2009 and that it is used to train indigenous students from all over the Kimberley.  TAFE have contributed a learning room on site so the Trainees can do both their practical and theory learning at the one place.  Michael was very talented on the didgeridoo and during a bit of  a break he asked for some young volunteers to come and have a go at trying to play it.  Aboriginal law forbids women to touch let alone play them so it was only for the young ‘men-folk’!  Daniel wasn’t interested but Wade got up on stage and had a red-hot go.  He gets them to use a smaller didgeridoo then he uses but Wade did really well.  It was school holidays by now so there were a few more kids around than we were used to seeing.  It was a lovely way to finish up the night.  Next day our friends were leaving us, much to Wade’s dismay, but we promised to meet up with them at El Questro Station in a day or so.

"Crikey" at HV8

Wade with an olive python

Wade with a python on the move

In the morning we met up with “Crikey”, a very knowledgable young man, who had caught an olive python out the back of the kitchen and was going to release it somewhere far away from the Homestead.  He talked about the snake and other reptiles and even let people touch the snake.  Eventually as it became settled he let people hold it if they wished.  Now Aunty Nicole, you may not want to look at a couple of these photos with Wade holding the snake and letting it crawl up his arm!! “Crikey” (or Daniel) has worked at the Australian Zoo and has been catching snakes since he was 14.  He is now licensed to handle snakes – thought that would look interesting on his resume`!  He was such a lovely guy and everyone that was there with him asked heaps of question and it was no problem for him to answer them.  After all that excitement we went for a drive and took a track that turns right just before the Pentecost River crossing and headed out to a couple of lookouts and river stops.  We saw a heaps of birds including the Rainbow Bee Eater (yes you can tell we have become quite the bird watchers now:)) and luckily no crocs were sighted.

Pentecost River Crossing

We decided to go across and do the obligatory photos of the Pentecost River Crossing now as the weather had been quite cloudy and we weren’t quite sure what we would find tomorrow.  It wasn’t as deep as Joel was hoping for but it was still quite a sight.  Took heaps of photos and then back off to camp for a swim, dinner and to start packing up.  We dined out again this evening, I know very un-camping, but we ony have 3 more meals left so we thought we’d make the most of it – I wasn’t complaining!  We didn’t stay for the show as we were all a bit tired.  Left early in the morning and did the Pentecost River crossing again.  The Cockburn ranges in the distance are absolutely magnificent, as is most of the scenery in the Kimberley! You need a Wilderness Park Permit to see and enter the El Questro Station and any of their gorges so we got one at Home Vally before we left as we wanted to go to Emma Gorge on the way in.  It was a fairly decent walk to the gorge but quite shaded for most of the walk.  The gorge is so beautiful and the water is a cool dark green colour.  It’s a circular gorge with quite an overhand at the top so it doesn’t see all that much sunlight, hence all the maidenhair ferns and moss.  The water is very cool for a swim, but very refreshing after the walk in.  There are some thermal pools off to the right of the pool but you will have to fight off the greys to get a chance to get in there:)!  There was a small pool about 100m before the main pool, called Turquoise pool.  The water is so crystal clear, it reminds me of the creeks and rivers from when I was growing up in the mountains in country Victoria.  We walked back to the car park and had a picnic lunch on the lawns in front of the resort/reception area.

Emma Gorge

Back on the road to El Questro Station.  Not quite sure what to expect as people talk about it all the time ans some really bag it and some really love it.  Either way we wanted to see it for ourselves and make our own minds up.  The actual camping area is about 16km off the Gibb River Rd and some of it is quite corrugated.  We booked for 3 nights and found a camping spot right next to Rean, Steff, Jenny and Greg.  Wade was delighted and it was nice to catch up with them again.  Finished setting up and sat around chatting and enjoying some good company.  The boys decided to do a BBQ up at one of the Lookouts and the girls were going to have dinner at the restaurant.  Unfortunately the only time we could book in for dinner was 7:30pm so we headed off early for a drink or two before dinner.  Unfortunately Steff was not feeling too well by the time dinner arrived so she went home and Jen and I finished dinner.  We checked on Steff on the way home and wished her a speedy recovery.  Next morning we checked to see that Steff had recovered, seems she had a bit of a tummy bug but was feeling a bit better.

Daniel's sunset picture from Saddleback Ridge Lookout

We headed off to Zebedee Springs at about 8:30am.  They are thermal springs that are set in a rainforresty type area and are really something! We tried to get to the top pools but there were so many people already there, but then a lovely couple who were just about to get out, suggested we quickly jump in to where they were so we could have their spot.  It was great.  The water was so nice and warm and there was a little bit of a spa area, which was very nice on my neck and back!  We stayed there for about 45 minutes and we didn’t really want to leave but wanted to go to El Questro Gorge so off we went.

Zebedee Springs Mmmmmm.....

We parked up, geared up with towels, drinks and snacks and off we went.  You can get detailed maps of the gorge walks (and the 4wd tracks) from El Questro and Emma Gorge reception area.  We got to the Half way pool and stopped for a swim.  You have to scale a large boulder, which is on the other side of the small pool to get to the other side and continue the walk, so we thought we’d give it a go.  We carried all our gear over to the rock and passed it up to the kids, re-dressed and started the other half of the walk.  The walk is billed as a 2 1/2 hour walk to the top waterfall but pretty sure it didn’t take that long.  The walk up the gorge is rocky and along side the creek, with palm trees and ferns lining the gorge. It was a beautiful walk, with some interesting rock climbing involved. We made it to the Mac Milling Pool and waterfall.  It was beautiful too.  We were there with one other couple and after they left we had it to ourselves.  The boulder at the Halfway pool deters a lot of people from going further so there weren’t as many people at the end pool. After more swimming we hiked back to the halfway pool and stopped for another swim.  We had eaten all our snacks and were down to a few Allen’s snakes!  Decided we’d best get back  to camp for lunch.  Spent the afternoon relaxing and the kids updated their diaries.  Our neighbors got back from their day out and we decided to have another BBQ up at Saddleback Ridge Lookout and watch the sunset.  Left a bit late and only just caught the sun going down but what a view.  You could see most of the Station, the actual Homestead, a few of the gorges and some of the riverside camping areas.  A lovely evening and meal with friends.  Back to camp, boys watched a movie and I read my book.

El Questro Gorge - so beautiful

Climbing rocks in El Questro Gorge

The end of El Questro Gorge

4WDing in Explosion Gorge

Next day the neighbors were heading off to Kununurra so we bid fond farewells and thought we may cross paths in Fitzroy Crossing but not sure.  It was so great to meet up with you guys for the final week of out Gibb trip, we really did love your company and loved that you were as feral as us:)!  We were deciding what gorge to do today when we all decided that we were all walked out today, so we opted to do some of the lookouts and the 4WD tracks to some of the other gorges.  We went to the un-named lookout for a breathtaking view of the Pentecost River and the Station as well.  On to Branco’s lookout and Joel was beginning to grin with all the 4WD tracks he was looking at!  We visited Branco’s waterhole but you cannot swim there and for the rest of the afternoon we could not swim anywhere along these tracks as there were crocodile warnings everywhere.  A very large salt-water crocodile had been spotted in the Chamberlain Gorge and most of the waterways along these gorges are considered saltwater so NO SWIMMING!  Not to worry they were till lovely to look at and we could drive into all of them, so very little walking today! Went back to camp for a late lunch then off to Jackaroos Waterhole for a swim and relax.  Kids got their diaries up to date and did some maths and timestables with the kids. The campgrounds at El Questro were lovely and shaded but the number of toilets and showers were way too few for the number of people they pack into the grounds!

No swimming here!

Pentacost River before El Questro Township

El Questro Township

Next day we packed up early as we wanted to make it to Fitzroy Crossing not too late.  It was 649kms so a big day for driving, lucky we didn’t have the van!  The Gibb River Rd has large sections of bituminised road in between all the gravel on the way out to the Great Northern Highway.  We didn’t come in from the Derby end but we hear that much of it is bitumen until near the Windjana Gorge turnoff.  We stopped for lunch at Halls Creek and picked up some vegies – yes fresh vegies!!!-and arrived at Fitzroy Crossing about 4pm.  The powered sites are usually gone by lunchtime so we got the van and pulled up onto an unpowered site but we had no water in the caravan tanks as Joel had dropped the water our seeing as we wouldn’t be using it for 3 weeks.  We weren’t going to bother to fill up the tanks until the next day but when i opened the fridge to unload the Engel into, I found a nasty surprise.  There was mould EVERYWHERE!!!  YUK!  SO we had to lift all the legs and drive around and fill the water tanks so I could then spend the next 1 and 1/2 hours scrubbing out the fridge!  A quick dinner and early bed as we were all a bit exhausted.

Long river crossing towards Chamberlain Gorge

Our 3 weeks on the Gibb were fan-bloody-tastic.  We met some wonderful people along the way, made some new friends, met some old friends and saw some of the most beautiful parts of our great country.  It was a magnificent trip and I’m sure the boys (and us) will remember this trip for a long time to come. It was great family time too.  We will be spending a few days here in Fitzroy Crossing cleaning the car, our clothes and eating some fresh fruit and vegies.

Till next time

Ciao`

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Gibb River – Week 2 0f 3

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on July 21, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Joel and I have been a bit laid up with the flu the last few days but on the mend now so i’ll continue our adventures.

Adcock Gorge

We left Mornington Wilderness Camp and headed off towards Manning Gorge.  We stopped at Adcock Gorge for a walk and the kids went under the small falls but we did not swim here.  It looked just a little too still so the boys were happy to frolic under the falls.  It was a nice little gorge and we saw another Mertens water monitor on the rocks on the way in – read almost put my hand on it as i didn’t see it till the last minute.  Adcock Gorge is owned by Mount House Station and you used to be able to camp there but no longer can.  It was closed the last few years to visitors so it must have only recently re-opened to the public.  We left and headed off to Mt Barnett Roadhouse to pay for 2 nights (unpowered) at Manning Gorge. There are roadworks for 15kms into the roadhouse, but diversion road was  pretty good. The staff were very friendly and helpful there.  We set up camp under a heap of Jiggal trees as that was the only shade left – a very popular camping spot.  They have showers and flushing toilets but the best swimming hole we’ve found so far near the camp.  We finished setting up and went out to Galvan’s Gorge.  It was a beautiful gorge and to the boys delight (both old and young) there was a rope swing which got a fair workout.  As we got there about 3pm there were no other people there at all so had the place to ourselves for awhile.  It’s really nice to be in a place like that all on your own!  We met up with Callum and his parents again, whom we had met at Sir John Gorge at MWC.  He is only 6-7 and he loved climbing up onto the trees to swing off the rope with boys!  On the walk on the way into the gorge i spotted these red flowers and upon closer inspection i recognised them, even without the champagne!  They were native hibiscus flowers but i’d only ever seen them in syrup in a jar, that i put into my glasss of champagne.  Very red in colour so they must go purple with the preserving syrup.  There were hundreds of them just growing wild – if only i knew how to preserve them…hmmmm.  We stayed here for a few hours just swimming and jumping off the rope swing.  We stopped in at the Mt Barnett Roadhouse for an icecream before dinner for a change as they closed at 6pm. Dinner was bangers, mash and peas – so very australian!  We met up with and camped next to our new-found-friends, Merri, David, Marge and Greg.  Also Callum and his parents camped up near us for the night as well.  Wade jumped out of the car to show them where we were camped, which is where we think he lost his thong out of the car.  We got back a bit late to start a fire for cooking so just used the gas tonight. The roadhouse didn’t have any bread for a few days so i made up a bread mix and kindly asked the neighbours if i could steal some coals to cook my bread in the camp oven.  David had spent the afternoon making a fireplace with stones and a flue – very impressive!  We sat chatting around the fire but all very tired so early bed.

Native Hibiscus

Galvan's Gorge

Boys on rope swing at Galvan's Gorge

Camping at Manning Gorge

The next day we packed snacks, water and towels and headed off to the Upper Manning Gorge.  It was pegged as a roughly 2km walk but there was no shade and most people we spoke to all thought it was one of the longest and hottest walks so far.  To get to the walk you either walk arond the swimming hole or you can wade through the swimming hole and use styrofaom containers to put your stuff into so they keep dry.  Joel wasn’t up to the swim so he and Daniel walked around whilst Wade and I swam across.  By the time you dry off and redress it takes about the same amount of time as the boys took walking around but we were much cooler for the walk.  The Manning Gorge and falls were magnificent.  There was a really deep pool at the base of the falls and rocks all round the gorge that the boys jumped off into the pool.  The boys were slowly getting braver and more daring and climbing higher onto the rocks near the falls to jump off.  Daniel got to the second top tier but hesitated a few times as it was just so bloody high.  David, Marge and Greg made their way to the gorge also and David swam over to the falls as well.  He was egging Daniel on as well, who replied “Why don’t you come up here and try it!”  Not one to back down from a dare, up David climbed, stood next to Daniel instructing him how to do a safety jump from considerable heights!  Then off he plumetted!  Not wanting to be shown up as a woose, (and the fact that David is in his 60’s) Daniel steeled himself and after awhile stopped his knees from knocking long enough to finally jump off. It was met with resounding applause from all spectators!  We stayed there for hours just swimming, jumping and basking the sunshine.  What a magnificent place.  I still think it’s one of my favourite places on the Gibb.  We finally packed up to head back to camp as we hadn’t brought down lunch and it was getting on to 2:30pm and we were a bit peckish by now.  We stopped to say hi to Greg and Marge and were on our way to back to camp to have lunch and back track our paths from yesterday as Wade had lost one of his thongs out of the car (it had to happen eventually!).  There was another couple sitting next to Greg who were listening and mentioned that they had seen one, same colour as Wade’s, back at the campground, near the toilet block.  We couldn’t be that lucky i thought, but sure enough after the great long trek back to camp, we found it. After lunch we went firewood hunting as we wanted to cook on the fire tonight.  Still no bread at the roadhouse and i am out of the bread mix so looks like i will have to make one from scratch.  I did think to bring some dried yeast but only had SR flour.  Long story short, loaf looked and smelt ok but was a bit heavy and Daniel thought it tasted more like a scone than a sandwich the next day!!  At least it was nice with some jam!!  Greg and Marge came and joined us for a fireside chat after dinner and it wasn’t long before we realised that Wade had fallen asleep in his chair around the fire – God bless him.  The boys had gone hard all day and Wade is already like the energizer bunny so he was absoluttely knackered! This would be our last evening with our friends as we were heading up to the Mitchell Falls and they were heading along the Gibb to Homevalley Station.

Beautiful Manning Gorge

Daniel on highest ledge

Dan's big jump

Swimming hole at Manning Campground

We bid a fond farewell to our new friends David, Merri, Greg and Marge, we loved camping with you guys and promised to visit when we go through Wollongong.  We packed up camp and headed off to Barnett River Gorge for ann early morning gorge walk and a swim.  It was a lovely little walk in anf the boys found another rope swing.  Not quite as good as Galvans but we still had a lot of fun.  Back in the car we headed off and up the road to Drysdale River Station. We stopped at a creek crossing for lunch, eating the bread that tasted more like scones, but it was fresh and nice just the same. Drysdale Station is 60kms north of the actual Gibb River Rd and the road is quite corrugated but if you drive to the conditions is not too bad.  The Drysdale River Station is a million acres of working cattle farm. We stayed at the Homestead Camp as we wanted/needed to have showers and do some laundry.   They have a small store but they have a beer garden and bar and they sold cider so i was a very happy chappy! (And the shop sold red cordial – manna from heaven!) We showered, laundered and headed off to the bar for a drink and a chat with the neighbors.  The weather to date had been excellent but it was getting very overcast now and looked like raining soon.  The shower amenties are arranged with 3 ensuite-styled shower rooms (shower, toilet and basin) and one separate toilet on each side and the laundry at the end.  It’s a great place to meet others who have either already done the Mitchell Falls or are about to head up that way as well. I did wake up in the middle of the night and cover our chairs and tables and bring in some towels as it started to rain.  The next day we went to Miner’s Pool where the boys found yet another rope swing but it hung very low and the water was only knee deep underneath it.  That didn’t worry them as they still managed to enjoy themselves.  A group of people came down to swim and thought we were so brave to have put our stuff so close to the lizard – god damn another Perente, which we didn’t see as we had walked around the log to the left and he was on the right side. Rest of the day was spent getting their travel diaries up-to-date and we dined at the bar tonight. We had a roast beef dinner with all vegies and sticky date pudding for dessert.  Yummo. Heard there had been a bit of rain further north but we decided to keep to our plans and leave the next day.  Not too much rain overnight so off to the Mitchell Falls we go.

Barnett River Gorge

Miner's Pool

Beer garden and bar at Drysdale

Biggest Perente we'd seen to date

Pack up was a bit slower as rain had dampened a few things but a quick wipe down and off we went.  I have to say that this is the part of the trip i was looking forward to the most.  I really wanted to go and see if it was as beautiful as all the pictures I’d seen. The road from Drysdale onward had been graded for about 20kms but after that the road was badly corrugated again.  The most striking thing about the drive up here is that there are so many palms. At times they outnumbered the gumtrees and it was like driving through a rainforrest.   We stopped at the King Edward Campgrounds for a quick bite to eat and a look around.  It is a very nice and spacious campground but we felt it was too far from the falls for us.  The first 30kms of the next 86km had been graded and the road was quite good.  When we passed the grader and got back onto the un-graded road you could see just what a great job the grader guy was doing.  It took 2 hours to drive from the King Edward Campground to the Mitchell Falls.  We found a nice quiet campsite so stopped for lunch and set up.  It doesn’t matter where you camp you will hear the helicopters coming and going with trips to the falls and back but they only run from 8am till 4pm and you really don’t notice them after a while.  We tried to book a taxi ride back from the falls for one of the days we were there but they were all around lunchtime, with nothing later as the tour operators book out all the early flights up to the falls and the late flights back.  We decided to do a longer trip, way more expensive, but we could go and see up to Port Warrender and come back down along the falls as well.  Went for a quick splash in the creek near the camp, then set up the fire as wanted to have a roast tonight as i know I will be too tired tomorrow and we’ll be back too late to cook it tomorrow as well.  The kids are very good at cutting the logs to fit for the fire and collecting enough kindling to get it going with a match or two. The Boy Scouts would be proud! The wood we find up around here is not as good as the first lot we found outside Fitzroy Crossing as it doesn’t form very good coals. Not too worry we used up all we had and we’ll get some more in a couple of days.  Good night’s sleep ‘cos big day tomorrow-we’re going to the falls!

King Edward River Crossing

Camp at Mitchell Falls Campground

Big Mertens Falls

Wade was up early with the birds, literally, this morning.  I woke up and he was already up with the binocculars and bird book at hand watching the birds. Big brekky, packed lunches, drinks and towels and off to the falls we go.  We had decided to do the long walk to the Mitchell Falls first then stop in at the other falls on the way back.  The track is a class 4 then goes to a class 5 but we didn’t really find it that difficult and it was in the shade for most of the trip, which was a bonus.  The clouds of the last few days were gone and it was  beautiful, clear and sunny sky overhead. We had to cross the river to get to the falls so shoes and sox off and wade across with all our gear then put it all on again.  The falls were breathtaking!  I couldn’t believe they were so beautiful and loud!  You could actually walk on top of the falls but the view wouldn’t have been as amazing as it was from the sides.  I walked on a bit further and edged out onto a cliff edge to try and get some better photos, more front on. Those heights were amazingly high and scary but the photos were great.  We walked back to the top of the falls where we swam and body surfed down some deep rapids. Stopped for a lunch of wraps, cold roast beef and cheese, sultanas and muesli bars.  Joel and Wade found a great falls area just past where we had crossed the river to the falls.  The rocks underneath were so smooth and there was a rock above the falls where you could jump off into the turbulence and the current would take you downstream and then it swirled at the bottom to take you into the bank. It was fantastic and the kids and us stayed there for a few hours.  Daniel and Wade met another boy who, surprisingly was from Karratha also, but he went to Tambrey school.  Even though they didn’t go to school with him they sort of recognised him and he might even be in Chris’ class.  I’ll get the kids to try and remember his name and let you know on fb. (Think his name was Jake?)  We finally left the Mitchell Falls at 3pm and stopped at Big and Little Mertens Falls and saw some amazing aboriginal artwork as well.  Joel and Wade went for a wander on a path that leads underneath the waterfall at Little Mertens Falls.  We stopped for a quick dip then back to camp as we were all a bit sunburnt and tired.  Made a bread mix that i had bought at Drysdale but it was gluten free and smelt gross while i was making it and it was like a batter instead of a dough. Ah well, just have to see how it goes. Spag bol for tea ‘cos it was quick and easy and we were lights out by 8.30pm – That is unheard of for me usually not in bed till 11pm or so but was absolutely shattered. What a glorious day we had.

Magnificent Mitchell Falls

Top of the Mitchell Falls whrilpool

Daniel, Wade and Joel in whirlpool falls

Daniel sitting in the falls

Next day was our helicopter ride at 1000am.  We’d already decided that Daniel would sit in the back between Joel and myself and Wade could sit in the front, which is enclosed.  The seat in the middle of the back is a bit smaller and has less head room but don’t think Daniel minded as he’s a bit freaked at heights.  I was a bit freaked as well as the rear of the chopper does not have any doors.  Nothing to hold onto just the harness holding us in. Joel was on one side with the video camera and i was on the other with the digital camera.  Took heaps of photos but when the pilot decided to go and have a few extra looks at some crocs and put the chopper sideways with me looking out thinking holy shit i hope these harnesses are good, i just held on to the outside of the chopper and took in the views.  They were spectacular.  The water was so blue/green and there were beautiful sandy beaches but no swimming ‘cos of the crocs and we saw a few!  Nathan, our pilot, took us up to Port Warrender and Crystal Creek and then back along the Mitchelle River, showing us the lower Mitchell Falls which you can only see by helicopter.  We felt pretty special seeing all this beautiful part of the country.  I took some more photos of the Mitchell Falls as we flew over them a few times.  They like to make sure you get lots of good views so they go back and around a couple of times to make sure everyone gets good shots!  The kids thought it was AWESOME and so did we.  We landed back and off went the chopper again to do more runs. They certainly work their butts off there!  We packed some lunch and headed off in the car then to Surveyor’s Pool.  The road took us back to the Kalumbaru Rd for about 19kms the turn off west for another 15 or so kms.  Joel loved the rrack ‘cos it wasn’t corrugated like the rest of the roads but more like a 4WD track should be! We stopped for lunch at the lookout then on to the pool.  Surveyor’s Pool is quite beautiful but not for swimming.  There are supposed to have been sightings of a salt water croc there but i think it’s more out of deference to the Aboriginals and their beliefs that people don’t swim there.  Shame, it looked like a beautiful place to swim.  We walked to the falls area and cooled off under the waterfall instead.  After the hot walks, it’s always refreshing to have a cool dip or splash in some nice, cool water.  Back to camp for a quick wash in the creek.  Made some more bread, from scratch this time and i had managed to get some plain flour too so it should turn out a bit better than last time.  We had some yummy marinated steak, with potatoes, peas and corn.  There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread when it’s cooking in a camp oven on the coals. I had  the guy next to us come and ask me what i was doing as i prove the bread in a staineless steel bowl, in a plastic shopping bag, under the bonnet of the car.  Works a treat as the engine stays quite warm for quite some time, well enough for me to prove the dough twice anyway.  He was quite impressed with my makeshift “bakery” and thought he might suggest it to his wife – good luck!  Early to bed again tonight, think we are still getting over all the walks we have done. We’re off to Drysdale River Station again tomorrow.

Chopper ride

Port Warrender by chopper

Crystal Creek by chopper

Lower Mitchell Falls

Mitchell Falls by chopper

Mitchell Falls top and bottom

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21 days on the Gibb River Rd – Week 1 of 3

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on July 17, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Well here we are at Kununurra and finished the Gibb River Rd.  21 days in a tent on an air mattress with a slow leak……..and we have survived!  I hate to think just how many kms we have walked these past few weeks but we were well rewarded with breathtaking views, some fantastic swimming holes. and some wonderful new friends.

Looking nice and clean.

SOSE/Science lesson in Tunnel Creek

Snake skin in Tunnel Creek

We started our adventure from Fitzroy Crossing, where we had left the van for storage.  We were told that you can have fires at Windjana Gorge but must bring your own firewood, so yesterday we went collecting firewood, just out of Fitzroy Crossing.  The boys have learnt how to use a saw, without losing and any limbs or digits!! The first stop, after 107kms, was Tunnel Creek.  It was AWESOME.  We all wore our reef shoes and had headlamps, which made it really easy to see.  We had been given a heads up from Trevor, back in Broome, that when  you enter the tunnel/cave to take the RHS as it is not as deep as the LHS.  He was right, so we took the RHS, thanks Trevor.  The tunnel is awesome; there are lots of stalagtites in the tunnel and it’s not small, the tunnel is quite wide (10 – 15m).  We also saw some bats in a darker section of the tunnel too.  The central section of the tunnel has collapsed so the tunnel is reasonable well lit.  The water was cool initially, especially for the boys, (hee hee) but one section we took was up to our waists and Wade’s neck!  I’m sure i felt a few whooshes along my legs, but decided not to look into the water too closely as it was a bit murky and didn’t really want to know if it was a small freshy (croc) or not.  Daniel was already a bit on edge so decided to put on a brave front – and I tried not to jump when i felt it -the things we do for our kids!  Wade found a shed snake skin as well, thank god it was toward the end of the tunnel and it was fairly small or else i’d have been checking the water every step we took! We dried off, packed back into the car and headed to Windjana Gorge.  After lunch and setting up we did the small/short walk down to see the fresh water crocodiles along the banks of the river.  They seem pretty used to people but i still don’t think i’d trust them to much.  They let you get quite close to them without any movement, which one idiot took to mean he should stand about 1 ft away and swing his camera over the crocs head and almost hit it, to see how it would react; secretly i was hoping the croc would go him, not to bite him but to scare the crap out of him! but it didn’t move.  We headed back to camp to start the camp fire as we were having roast beef, potatoes, pumpkin and peas for tea! Yummo!  We realised, as we were lighting the fire, that another 2 couples who were camped close by, also wanted to cook on the fire.  We all ‘donated’ wood and got to know our new ‘fire-side’ companions, while we waited for the coals to form.  We had the absolute pleasure of meeting David and Merri and Greg and Marge, who were travelling together.  They too were having a roast and Marge was going to cook a birthday cake for Merri, for dessert.  After a few hours it felt like we’d found old friends (nothing to do with your ages guys!) but that conversations were easy and plentiful!  David was the more outlandish of the crew and took every opportunity to show Wade and Daniel new birds, snakes, insects and the like.  They loved it, especially Wade, who has now several bird identifying books and other animals books that we have picked up along the road.  We put all our tables together and had a roast banquet followed by a delicious iced sponge birthday cake – Mmmm it was yummy! Finished the night with toasted marshamallows and more intersting stories from the crew!

Big perente

Windjana Crocs, Daniel and Wade

Close up of the Croc

The next day saw us with packs with water and snacks for walking the Windjana Gorge track.  It was 7km return and one of the hotest walks we have done!  Unfortunately we couldn’t swim here because of the crocs and after that walk we really needed one.  We did see 2 very large perentes on the tracks. Daniel screamed as he was leading the walk and as he rounded a large rock it was sitting right in the middle of the narrow track.  We had to go into the scrub to get around it as it wouldn’t move off the track.  I took the lead then and did the same as Dan, not quite as loud but more “Oh S**T”, there was another bloody perente on the track.  After going bush again we kept going along the track only to find it end at a fallen tree across the track and a sigh saying “The End”.  Very disapointing!  We managed to find butterflies, spitfire caterpillars and a heap of crocs and bats along the track too.  We also visited Lillimooloora Station (well ruins of) and read about the history or legend of Jandamarra (Pigeon). We were running out of bread so i made some for tomorrow’s lunch, from a bread mix, in the camp oven.  Bit burnt on top but have learnt how many coals we actually need on top now!  We had said goodbye to our new friends this morning but may see them again as we are heading to Silent Grove tomorrow as well.  The campground at Windjana Gorge has flushing toilets and showers – i was gobbed smacked that there was flushing toilets! I would think there would be eco or drop toilets but there they were!

Lenard Gorge a taste of things to come...

Joel, boys and Ron Moon

Bell Gorge - gorgeous

Daniel climbing the waterfall

Next day saw us camping at Silent Grove Camping area which is still National Park (and fees). We left Windjana and stopped in at Lenard Gorge for a quick walk, which turned into a longer walk, by 40 mins after we decided to follow the survey marker tapes, then back-tracked to original track and back out again.  Gorge was very nice but books all said no swimming so on we went.  We were setting up at Silent Grove when we met a guy taking pictures. Didn’t really think much of it at first as i was up on top of the car, ready to unpack the rooftop when I realised that Joel was quite taken with this gentleman and not too keen to stop talking.  Turns out to be none other than Mr Ron Moon of the 4×4 Magazine, which Joel has read for years.  He was out and about taking pictures to update his new edition of his book, ‘The Kimberley’.  Joel was so stoked and asked if he could have a photo with him – i think more to prove to Frank that he actually did meet him! Ron asked about the kids and told Wade that his best friend’s name was Wade too, then he signed a copy of his book for Joel as well. Our first celebrity sighting and photo-how exciting!  After setting up, we headed off to Bell Gorge for a swim.  It’s about 10kms from the campground and then a 2.5km return walk from the carpark to the bottom of the falls.  We got there about 3.30pm and had the place to ourselves. It was magnificent! The rocks on entry to the water were slimey and slippery so we kept our reef shoes on to get in and out. It was so refreshing and we vowed to return again the next day.  We also met up with our friends Merri and David and Greg and Marge round the campfire again and exchanged stories of the day. Spent the next day entirely at Bell Gorge.  We hiked down to the falls then proceeded down the gorge to the last waterfall, then hiked back, got into the water and swam down the river to the last gorge and back again.  We basked in the sun like the Mertens Perentes we saw and wondered what the poor people were doing today!  Daniel tried to climb up the waterfall several times and got close a few times.  Lots of sun and water and a good hike in made for a great night’s sleep! Back to camp and met up with our friends again around the campfire after dinner. Decided to stay an extra night at Silent grove as we were loving it so much.  We spent the day ‘housekeeping’ and realised the butcher in Broome had stooged us out of some meat.  We were now 4 meals down on what we had planned for but we’d just see how things go.  Back to Bell Gorge for anther swim and a movie night on the laptop!

Imintji Store

Mornington Wilderness Camp radio shack

Sir John Gorge.....beautiful

MWC drinks, Joel, Merri, David, Greg, Marge, Daniel and Wade

Left Silent Grove and stopped in at the IMINTJI Store. Quite an icon on the Gibb River Rd and a welcome stop to stock up on some goods.  They were very well stocked with frozen meat, bread and vegies as well as camping equipment and they do capuccinos too. Staff were so friendly and helpful even when they were so busy.  Headed off to Mornington Wilderness Camp. We had to stop at a small shed on the way in to radio in to see if there were sites available.  Great little set up as it’s along way in to find out there would be no sites.  It is about 83kms off the main Gibb River Rd and is independently and privately owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, who protect Australia’s Wildlife.  They also have the only genteics lab in the Kimberley, which i was hoping to get in and see but we were there over a very busy weekend with lots of tours so it couldn’t be arranged. There are two gorges, the Dimond Gorge and the Sir John Gorge.  We tried to organise a canoe trip down the Dimond Gorge, as that is the only way you can see it but they were all booked out for the entire 3 days we had planned to stay there, much to Wade’s dismay.  So we decided to just stay 2 nights instead of 3.  Our friends Merri, David, Greg and Marge were here too and after assuring them we weren’t stalking them, we met up for drinks and a catch up on goss.  There was a partial eclipse of the moon this night and i tried to get some photos of it. I was really excited about going here but after the disappointment of the canoes the shine had gone from the place a little.  We went to Dimond Gorge for a look and see if we could walk some of it. It was the least impressive Gorge we had been to.  It was hot and there was little to no shade and the water was murky and cloudy from the clay at the bottom of the water.  All in all not one of our favourites.  On the way we stopped at the lookout and noticed water coming down onto the windscreen on the way back down.  Turns out we had lost the tap off the water tank on the roof but spookily when we stopped to check out the water i looked out onto the road and saw the white and blue tap right there!  Still not believing we found it, we taped it on with gaffa tape (fixes just about anything that stuff) and off we went. We stopped at Sir John on the way back and this was by far the more lovely of the gorges.  We met another couple and their son who were travelling around in a camper and sat in the water on some rocks until we had goosebumps.  Back for showers and washing hair so we didn’t look and smell like ferals! We ate in the restaurant tonight with Merri, David, Greg and Marge and had Barramundi with rice and green vegies with rhubarb cake for dessert.  Now i didn’t think the kids would eat the cake but they loved it.  Even Joel, who does not eat cooked fruit, ate the cake as well. This place had some bush booklets (about 100 pages) with Common Birds, Snakes, Hazardous Animals and Birds of Prey to start us off.  Wade is voraciously reading these which is good seeing as he has finished his other books and had nothing to read.  With David’s influence, Wade is becoming our resident David Attenborough!  He gets the binocculars out whenever we see any birds or animals and quickly whips out the books so he can identify the birds or snakes.  It’s great to see.  We all are becoming bird watchers too.  We have decided to change our plans and not stop in at Charnley Station and leave it for another time.  We will be heading off to Manning Gorge tomorrow where we’ll be meeting up with our friends from the Gibb.

Partial Eclipse

Wade and Joel in the Bluebush swimming hole

MWC water crossing

Little fella we nearly stepped on while walking

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