Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

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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