Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

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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