A Travellerspoint blog

Mitchell Falls

King Edward River

sunny 33 °C

Our destination for today was going to be Drysdale River Station to stay for one night before moving on to King Edward River campground but the road was so good that we arrived at Drysdale before 9am. So after filling up with water and fuel and using the pay phone in the fridge to book a helicopter flight into Mitchell Falls for 8:45am the following day we set sail for King Edward River. The Kalumbaru road from Drysdale to the Mitchell Falls Road turnoff was in excellent condition and we made good time, setting up camp in the Munurru campground just past the King Edward River crossing.

You won’t find a better campground than Munurru, the sites are huge and a long way apart in a very large campground beside the King Edward River. The campground has brand new toilets spread throughout the sites, which are grass in amongst trees for shade, each site has a firepit and due to the spacing of the sites there is no noise or dust. The river is close by for swimming or to get water if needed and some areas of the river have steel pool ladders to make entering and exiting the river easy. A 200m walk takes you to the waterfall which was flowing strongly and there is a walking track along the river. The only issue was lots of very small mosquitoes which were active during the day but disappeared late afternoon. They just seemed to like buzzing around your face rather than biting you.

There are two aboriginal rock art sites nearby which have some very good examples of the different styles, all an easy walk from the car parks at the sites. The first site is 2km back towards the Kalumbaru road and the second larger site is 5km down the road toward Mitchell Falls. The larger site is spread over a bigger area and has quite a lot of paintings to see. This site was also a burial site and you could feel the energy here as you walked into a circular rock area with a cave on one side. This was and still is a very special sacred place and respect should be shown when visiting here. It is a privilege to be able to visit places like this so let’s hope visitors show respect and allow these sites to remain open to the public
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Mitchell Falls was very impressive both from the air and from the ground however the road you have to drive to get there was 2 hours of hell. It is 76km from the Munurru campground to the Mitchell Falls car park and the first half of that was the worst. The corrugations were relentless and unavoidable, seemingly shaking the car to pieces interspersed with large rocks, washouts, holes and ditches. The second half of the track had fewer corrugations but instead you had rocks. We left camp at 5:30am to give us plenty of time to get there, we had to be there 30 minutes before our flight time to pay, get weighed and to go through a briefing. The word from other travellers was that it would take 2 hours 30 minutes to drive the road but we did it in 2 hours being careful not to take it too quickly.

About 13km before Mitchell Falls we encountered a large tree which had fallen across the road due to a fire which had burnt out that area. The tree was too large to move so I cleared a path through the surrounding bush and drove around it, just managing to squeeze between trees. The chopper flight was awesome with just the two of us and the pilot so we had open door seats each side which was great for taking photos. Deb was terrified and hanging on for grim death but we landed on top of the falls and disembarked to go and view the falls in all their glory. The flight only lasts 6 minutes but the views over the falls and surrounding area was fantastic. After lots of photos of the huge amount of water cascading over the falls we had to cross over the area above the falls by wading over slippery rocks to reach the track back to the car park.

After crossing over we decided to have a swim in the pool above the falls to cool off and have a snack and a drink. Not far along the return track we came to a beautiful creek area covered in white and purple water lilies and home to a freshwater crocodile which was floating among the lilies. Mertens Falls was next and was also a very impressive waterfall with a huge drop into the narrow gorge below. Little Mertens Falls was our next stop and what a great place this is. It had a double waterfall nowhere near as high as Mertens but the pool below is a beautiful place for a swim or just to sit and admire the beauty that is abundant here. It is lush with vegetation and rocky cliffs either side and the best part is that you can walk around behind the waterfall and look out through the falling water or check out the amazing aboriginal rock art on the walls there. We had lunch and a swim here and also explored the top of the falls where you could see a bushfire that was very close to the falls with thick black smoke and orange flames leaping into the air. There was loud crackling as the bush turned to flames and there were lots of birds circling waiting for the prey to be flushed out by the fire.

After a fantastic day it was back to the car for the ride from hell back to the campground. It was an early night after a big day and the following day was spent relaxing, visiting the waterfall near the campground, catching up on this blog and a swim in the river. At night we sat around the fire and enjoyed our last night in this wonderful part of the world.

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Posted by OzJourney 05:50 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Gibb River Road Part 3

Windjana Gorge, Bell Gorge, Mt Elizabeth Station

sunny 33 °C

WINDJANA GORGE & TUNNEL CREEK

From Mornington we had to back track along the Gibb to the just opened Windjana Gorge campground arriving late morning and getting one of the few available shaded spots. By mid-afternoon the small campground was packed and the dust was horrible. As well as the dust and the cramped camping the ground was littered with thousands of nasty burrs which stuck to the soles of thongs, feet and anything that touched the ground. It took us ages to remove all the burrs from the floor matting when we packed up after 2 nights.

Windjana Gorge is a beautiful place and the walk to the end of the gorge is shaded most of the way with plenty of interesting features to see on the way. We walked the gorge late in the afternoon on the first day and saw an olive python curled up in a tree, a number of freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun, bats and some magnificent boabs growing at the base of the gorge walls. The huge vertical multicoloured gorge walls are a spectacular sight and as the sun is going down they light up with a red glow.

The following day we drove the 35km to Tunnel Creek after breakfast so we could beat the tourist buses and enjoy the experience without the hordes. The entrance to the cave is well concealed and requires climbing over some large boulders to enter the tunnel. With wading shoes and torch in hand we made our way through the tunnel mostly walking on sand or rocks with the occasional walk through shallow water. The tunnel is huge inside and has lots of stalactites hanging from the roof, some are very large. Mid way through you come to the area where the roof has caved in and see bright sunlight again.

There is a beautiful waterfall coming out of the wall in one of the dark sections and lots of fish in the water, some with glowing red eyes. At the end you come out the other side to the lovely tree lined creek and under the rock overhangs on either side of the creek is some aboriginal rock art to view. After some morning tea we made the journey back through the tunnel and just as we were exiting a large tourist bus group was coming in, so it pays to go either early morning or late afternoon to avoid the rush.

In retrospect we should have stayed just the one night at Windjana as the campground wasn’t great and we could have just gone on to our next destination after Tunnel Creek but the mistake was paying for 2 nights up front at the entrance before checking out the campground.

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SILENT GROVE/BELL GORGE

Our next stop was Silent Grove campground which is on the road to Bell Gorge and had just opened 2 days before we got there. The campground here was one of the best we have stayed at on our trip so far. It has lots of trees for shade, grass and is situated beside Bell Creek. There are hot showers, new toilets, water taps, fire pits and the setting is beautiful with a rocky escarpment behind, the creek to the side which you can hear at night and a forested area providing shade and an abundance of birds. Early morning we heard dingoes howling in the distance, the creek burbling and the birdsong chorus greeting a new day.

The walk to Bell Gorge is an easy 1 km walk along the creek over some rocky ground which takes you to the creek above the falls. This area is very beautiful and is good for swimming here and also to view the fall from above. To get to the bottom of the falls and the large swimming hole you have to cross the creek and walk up and over a rock face to a steep track which leads down to a rock platform where people sit and observe the falls or swim in the cool water beneath the falls.

There was a good amount of water coming over the falls and after reaching the bottom pool we enjoyed a swim in the cool water and some sun baking and exploring the gorge further down where there were rapids and more pools to swim in. We spent all afternoon here and really enjoyed it. That night we sat by the camp fire with some friendly camp neighbours and had a nice night swapping stories and information about other places. Silent Grove was a great place to camp and we would have loved to stay longer but the waiting for places to open and the back tracking meant we had to move on.

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MOUNT ELIZABETH STATION

Mount Elizabeth Station had been another of the closed destinations we wanted to visit and the ranger at Silent Grove told us that he had driven past the day before and the closed sign had been removed so as we turned off the Gibb onto the 30km driveway to the station we were glad to find a freshly graded road. Our plan was to stay 3 nights here to give us time to explore the two gorges on the property but on finding out that the main gorge Wunnamurra was closed indefinitely we changed our plans and stayed 2 nights.

Mount Elizabeth Station has changed hands and the new managers had only been there for 3 weeks so this is probably why the campground seemed a bit run down. The campground is very large and the main area has trees for shade, fire pits, wood barbeques, hot showers and flushing toilets. There is no drinking water available and for $22 per night each you would expect that. Considering the main gorge with the waterfall and rock art is not accessible and you have to supply your own water the price is not sustainable compared to other places with more to offer.
Having said that we loved camping here as the camping area was quiet with not many campers and a nice atmosphere. We had cows, horses, chooks, a pheasant and a variety of birds wander through camp and a tame wallaby come and sit next to us by the fire one night.

We did the 3km bird walk which takes you along a farm track through the property crossing the creek a couple of times, but didn’t see many birds, maybe because we did it mid morning rather than dawn or dusk. One afternoon we drove the 17km to Warla Gorge which you get to by following the main road for 7km the turning off along a track which is very rocky and washed out with diversions around the worst bits. You won’t need to engage low range but you need lots of ground clearance and strong tyres with lowered pressures.

At the end of the track you come to the Hann River and a sandy beach with some rapids further along. It is a picturesque spot and you can swim here, but watch out for the slippery rocks. Allow plenty of time for the drive in and out as it is slow going.

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Gibb River Road Part 2

Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary

sunny 29 °C

Mornington Wilderness Camp is owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy which is a non profit organisation that buys properties throughout Australia and turns them into sanctuaries. Their aim is to protect endangered wildlife by protecting their habitat. You need to book ahead to stay here and we had booked for 3 nights which would be the minimum you would need to see what is on offer.

The drive in from the Gibb River road is about 90km one way on what was an excellent road when we visited. The drive in is very scenic with amazing views of the ranges, a number of shallow creek crossings, magnificent boab trees and forested areas. Just beware of the drainage ditches which appear frequently and if you don’t see them coming you could do some damage if going too fast.

The spacious camp area is beside Annie Creek with lots of trees, grass, water taps and gas barbeques scattered throughout in a beautiful setting. The amenities are excellent with hot showers, drinking water, flushing toilets and a rubbish/recycling area. There is a restaurant at the reception area and a library area with plenty of books to read. There is a limit to the number of campers allowed in at one time which makes the camp area very well spread out and private.

There are two gorges here to explore, two waterholes to swim in and a number of walking trails to explore. We walked up Sir John Gorge and enjoyed the remoteness and beautiful scenery followed by a swim in the wide river here in the headwaters of the Fitzroy River. The other gorge to explore involves a 24km scenic drive to reach the car park. From here we canoed up this jaw dropping gorge for 2 or 3 km admiring the 2 billion year old rock formations, a waterfall, and places where you could stop and explore the little pockets of rainforest at the base of the cliffs. The cost to hire the canoe for the day was $70 and worth it to see this stunning gorge.

The wildlife at Mornington is amazing, we saw so many varieties of birds including the beautiful black cockatoos with their bright red plumage, dingoes, bustards, legless lizard, water monitors, green tree frogs and a huge variety of insects including a number of beautiful different coloured dragonflies including red, blue, gold and grey.

Mornington was well worth the 180km round trip in from the Gibb. It was a quiet peaceful place where you could relax and enjoy nature at its best without the crowds that flock to the other attractions in the Kimberley.

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Posted by OzJourney 04:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Gibb River Road Part 1

Manning, Galvan's & Adcock Gorges

sunny 30 °C

We left Kooljaman by 6:30am after foregoing breakfast as we had to head back to Broome to restock food and supplies to last us a month while we travel through the Kimberley. We also needed a new air compressor, as the old one had died as we left Middle Lagoon, and a few other bits and pieces. Leaving Broome by 1pm we arrived at a free camp beside the Fitzroy River about 80km south of Derby called Telegraph Pool at Langi Crossing about 3:30pm.

This was a quiet peaceful spot and popular with fisherman who launch tinnies here to fish for barramundi. I tried some lures from the bank but there were lots of snags so gave up pretty quickly before losing a lure. Next morning we headed to Derby to get fuel and pick up a package we had forwarded on to the post office. We had planned to head to Windjana Gorge from Derby but after calling in to the information centre we were told that Windjana Gorge and Silent Grove were still closed and wouldn’t be opening until 1st June due to the roads being too wet to grade. We had already booked ahead for Mornington Wilderness Camp for 29-31 May so decided to push on to Mt Barnett Roadhouse campground and stay for 3 nights then backtrack to Mornington and hope Windjana and Silent Grove would be open by the time we leave there.

The campground at Mt Barnett is large with lots of trees for shade and you just pick a spot and setup where you like. There are fire pits scattered around but you have to collect wood outside the entrance gate which is 7km before the campground. There is no separate area for generators which is ridiculous as the times they can be used are 7am to 7pm and believe me the idiots run them the whole 12 hours every day. What they are powering to use that much energy all day long is beyond comprehension. This ruins a very nice campground with a great swimming area in the river, large boab trees and hot showers. You pay your camping fees at the roadhouse which stocks a good range of supplies and sells fuel, diesel was $2.05 litre and camp fees were $22.50 pp for the first night and then $14.50pp for further nights. Diesel at the Imintji store was $2.00 litre.

Manning Gorge is a 2.5km walk one way on a very rocky track which has no shade and goes up and down rocky gullies until it emerges at the stunning Manning Gorge. It is a hot punishing walk and requires a reasonable level of fitness but the reward at the end is a cool swim in the deep pool at the bottom of a wide vertical drop waterfall that was flowing well after a good wet season. There are high rock cliff faces on two sides with lush plant life, and rapids leading to a more shallow swimming area below the main pool. We spent a whole day here swimming, lying in the sun and exploring the area above the falls. We also had fun swimming behind the waterfall, sitting on a small rock ledge in the water and looking out through the cascading water. At the beginning of the walk is a dinghy attached to a rope pulley system which you use to cross the river to begin the track to the gorge.

Galvans Gorge is another gorge worth the short walk in from the car park which is right beside the Gibb River Road about 14km south west of Mt Barnett roadhouse. The walk in takes you along a tree lined creek to the small gorge which has a high waterfall falling into a deep pool surrounded by lush vegetation. A large boab tree stands at the top of the waterfall overlooking this very beautiful swimming hole which has a rope swing hanging from a tree to the right of the gorge. Just before you reach the rope swing there is some aboriginal rock art on the rock face underneath an overhang. We had the place all to ourselves for about half an hour and enjoyed just sitting there in the shade watching the birds and insects fly around in the filtered morning light.

Adcock Gorge is another gorge that shouldn’t be missed and is just a short drive in from the Gibb then a short walk to a gorge that is larger than Galvans but smaller than Manning. Like the other two gorges it is great for swimming and is deep and cool. It has a high drop waterfall and high cliffs on three sides with a high ledge to jump off if you are game. Boabs, vines and trees growing out of the cliff walls make this a lush green oasis. Galvans and Adcock gorges are popular with the tourist buses so get there early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowd.

The Gibb River Road so far has been in excellent condition with very few corrugated sections and has obviously been graded recently. On the straight sections we were able to sit on 80km towing the camper trailer without a problem but watch out for the backpackers in hired 4wds that overtake you at ridiculous speed with no hope of seeing any traffic coming the other way due to the huge dust clouds.

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Posted by OzJourney 05:47 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape Leveque

Kooljaman

sunny 32 °C

Kooljaman is a fantastic resort situated right at the tip of the Dampier Peninsula at Cape Leveque. We had pre-booked a powered camp site in the camp ground for 3 nights at $45/night as it is a popular place and doesn’t have many sites. The camp ground is small and the sites are also small and close together with plenty of shade. The amenities are rundown and need some maintenance and the mosquitoes and ants were an issue but despite this Kooljaman was one our favourite destinations on the trip so far.

From the camp ground it is a short walk to either of the two beaches each side of the cape. The western beach is a steep sandy beach with more wave action and currents, so is not recommended for swimming but the sunsets here are stunning, lighting up the red pindan cliffs in a bright red glow. The eastern beach is a beautiful long sandy beach with calm waters and is great for swimming, fishing or snorkeling. You can drive along this beach a long way until you come to a fence which marks the boundary of the off limits area leading around to Hunter Creek.

An operational lighthouse sits above the camp ground and beams it’s light out each night. There is a nice restaurant at the reception building, a pizza/drinks hut and sunset deck/ eating area surrounding a green lawn area and a nice cafe half way down the track to the eastern beach. There are also beach shelters, safari tents and cabins that can be rented.

During our time here we spent a lot of time swimming, collecting shells and walking at the eastern beach. One day we did a tag along tour with Brian Lee where you follow Brian in your own vehicle as he takes you along the eastern beach to the Hunter Creek mouth and then up the creek where you get to fish, catch mud crabs, spearfish and learn about the area and its people. This was a really great day out, leaving the camp ground at 8:30am and returning around 3:30pm. There was just one other couple on the tour with us, we got to eat our catch of fish for lunch grilled on the hot coals at the creek, and also got to take more fish and a mud crab back to camp for dinner. I managed to spear a sweetlip and a mangrove jack in the creek and also catch a mud crab with a length of wire. We can highly recommend this tour if you are staying at Kooljaman.

While staying here we did a trip out to One Arm Point to see the fish hatchery which has saltwater tanks containing local fish species, corals, clams, mud crabs etc and they also turn trochus shells into beautiful jewellery and polished specimens. We had lunch and a swim at Middle Beach while we were here, it was a nice spot. On the way back we called in to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm for a look around. It is situated in a picturesque bay with great views and has nice gardens and a restaurant.

We had booked Kooljaman for 3 nights but ended up staying for 5 nights as we fell in love with the place. There is an energy here and a peacefulness (despite being a busy place) that makes you want to stay. A drive along the eastern beach gets you to a place by yourself with crystal clear, warm water and a different kind of sunlight that makes the ocean sparkle in a unique way. This ends our time on the Dampier Peninsula and we now start our inland adventure through the Kimberley via the Gibb River Road. With no phone or internet service for the next 4 weeks updates to our blog will have to wait until we get back to civilisation. Photos to come when we get to Kununurra.

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Posted by OzJourney 20:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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