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Gibb River Road 2011 Trip Diary



DAY ONE
After leaving Derby, we had lunch at Lennard River Crossing, before making our way to Windjana Gorge - arrived in the middle of the afternoon, and did the walk. The shape of the stream has changed, and the banks on the opposite side as you enter the gorge are gone - as a result the crocs sleep on the near side bank - and really arenít all that concerned about the tourista as they gather around to take their photos. It is interesting to be able to study them up ďcloseĒ. The napier Range is a Devonian Reef, and rises straight out of the ground - itís an unusual phenomenon. Windjana Gorge features Hot and cold showers and flushing toilets.

DAY TWO
We moved on to Tunnel Creek, taking in the Lillimilura Police Station ruins on the way. I wasnít expecting the caverns that we moved through, wading through waist deep water on a couple of occasions. This is a truly wondrous experience, and one not to be missed. A bemused Freshie sat under a small waterfall on the opposite side of the tunnel watching as these crazy tourists invaded his space. And then you emerge into an almost tropical creek at the other end - then itís time to return. In all. the tunnel is about 750m long. Itís an amazing place.

We returned to the Lennard River Crossing for lunch, before driving up to Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge. We set up camp, Hot and cold showers and flushing toilets.

DAY THREE
We went out to have a look at the Boab Tree which has a strangler Fig growing in the middle of it, and then onto Annies Gorge. From the carpark, a short walk to a delightful little pool. Then we headed to Mt Matthew Gorge, which entailed crawling over rocks along the creek bed - the further you went, the tougher it got, and so we abandoned the effort, and returned to camp, calling into the Secret Fishing Hole on the way. The Mount Hart site has just been taken over again in somewhat cobntroversial circumstances by the DEC. It has well set up accomodation, which is run by APT tours. there is a restaurant and a bar.

Leaving Mt Hart, we called into Lennard River Gorge. The walk to the gorge is a rocky trail up the side of a hill, and then a steep descennt to the viewing platform, from where you can see the waterfall. You are unable to proceed any further into the gorge from this point, and the track back to the car was rathert arduous. I managed to snap a sandle, which forced me to abandon the journey 2/3 of the way through. Barbara completed the course, and took the video. On the way back, my sandle snapped completely, which made things interesting, and the journey even more arduous.

We then set sail for Silent Grove, which is the designated camp site for Bells Gorge. As luck would have it, we drove through the pass that runs through the King Leoplod Range as the sun was going down, giving us a spectacular vision of the range at sundown. We arrived at Silent Grove right on dark, set up, missed out on the hot showers - and retired for the night.

DAY FOUR
Up early, and then drove the 10km to the Bell Gorge parking area. The walk down is a rocky path, and this levels out to an easy walk along the river bed. You emerge at the top of the falls, which drop down over four levels to the pool below. It is possible to cross the river, and descend to the pool below. Because we hadnít come prepared for that, we took our photos and video from the top of the gorge, and returned to camp, where we packed up, and made our way towards Mornington Wilderness Camp. We called into the Imintji Roadhouse for fuel, and a hit of junk food (pies and sausage rolls) before turning off onto 88kms of the best road we had been on since leaving the bitumen. We stopped and had a look at the old Glenroy Abattoir, which is now a broken down shed, and some stock yards. This was a scheme set up in the 60ís to kill and export beef from the Kimberleys direct. An airfield was built to airfreight the meat - a great idea, but too expensiovbe, and doomed to failure.

We arrived at Mornington, found a camp site, and set up camp. No generators, and no fishing down here, however, Hot and Cold showers, fresh water taps near most camp sites and gas fired barbecues if you wanted to use them.

DAY FIVE
We headed out to have a look at Dimond Gorge. On the way, you pass the majestic Fitzroy Bluff, and a small track taking you to a lookout allows you a 360 look at some amazing countryside.

Dimond Gorge is a long waterway, best explored by canoe. There is a sandy beach which ios readily accesible. The route to where the canoes are moored is rocky, poorly marked, and for $65 to hire a canoe for the day, you should have a more easily accesible route, especially as you need to carry the paddles as well as your personal gear over fairly ordinary terrain.

We called into Cadjeput watrehole on the return journey, and sat beside the ter having morning tea. This pool is the most accessible, and in my view, the pick of the Mornington Experience.

We then travelled to Sir John Gorgr, which required Low 4WD to cross Roy Creek - the obstacle being the rock climb on the opposite creek bank. Sir John Gorge features a Boab Tree which for some reason doesnít shed itís leaves in the dry season. The way to the sandy beach is marked - poorly - and the designated spot for entering the water just couldnít be found. It appears that people were told at the office, that they could enter the water from anywhere.......

We finally returned to Cadjeput Waterhole for lunch, and Barbara took the opportunity to inadvertantly swim with a fresh water croc which entered the water over her head as she approached the opposite bank of the river. Croc wasnít seen again. barnara broke a world record in returning to her side of the river.

Finally, back to camp. Tomorrow we leave, the wetlands access being too wet to open roads required to get to the wetlands.

DAY SIX
We left Mornington, hoping to call in and have a look at Moll Gorge. This is on land owned by Mt House, and the road sign indicated that it was a private road and keep out. We found a worker, who led us to the Homestead, where we were informed that the roads to Moll Gorge were still flooded, and that access was impossible. And so we headed back to the GRR, and Charnley River Station - to find a note on the gate that they were closed until Friday. We didnít want to go there anyway.

And so we called into Adcock Gorge. The road in was fine until the last few hundred metres, but we found it. Then a walk and some rock climbing took us into a beautiful grotto, with waterfalls, and a beautiful swimming hole. No camping here, and so onto Galvans Gorge, which has the carpark on the main road, and a walk of about 1km to the gorge. I recall calling in here in 2005, but somehow didnít get to the end of the walk. This time we completed the trail, and found just the most beautiful grotto, very accessible pool, lovely waterfall, and a bit of Aboriginal Art. Just beautiful. Weíd had lunch just before the walk, and so we set sail for Manning Gorge.

The Manning River Campsite is situated on the shore of the Lower Manning Gorge, a delightful pool, which needs to be crossed to access the Upper reaches of the river gorges. You can do this by swimming accross, using a leaking dinghy, or by swimming whilst pushing your belongings in a foam box which is provided, OR you can walk around.

We found ourselves a campsite, and settled down for the night.

DAY SEVEN

Up early, and on track by 7.30. I had a camera which I didnít want to risk losing in the river, and so chose to walk around the lake - wrong move. The walk is not well sign posted, and involves crossing the river at a couple of points over tree branches/logs - and my stability ainít up to it. I ended up shucking shoes and wading over submerged rocks, and again found myself doing my best to fall on my arse - fortunately without success.

Finally catching up with Barbara on the main track, we then commenced the relatively easy walk up to the Upper Gorge - THEN, they smack you behind the ears with a rocky descent/ascent/descent, which I have had described to me by a couple of adults and a young person as extremely testing. Once at the gorge, the swimming is excellent, and well deserved after the last 200m. Then, it is back to the rock climb (and it is a rock climb - NOT a rocky path) and the return to the camp ground. Back at the lower gorge, I didnít give a stuff about the camera anymore, and Barbara swam with the Foam Box, whilst I just wallowed in the water, enjoying the cool change, and the fact that the Japanese whaling fllet was not in the same waters. I also didnít worry a couple of freshies sitting on a bank watching apparently.

the afternoon was spent resting, having a snooze and generally recovering ..... and as it seems getting a bit sunburnt.

Manning Gorge is on land at the Barnett River Roadhouse, and the hot water doesnít work - tradies being 300kms away - and according to an added note, has been the case for nearly three years (at the time of the notation being added).

DAY EIGHT
We fuelled up, another junk food fix (pie and Chiko Roll), and we were on our way again. We drove into Barnett River Gorge, which has a slow drive in, and a number of riverside camping spots available as you drive in. At the carpark you can continue to drive in, or walk. Once you pass the big Boab Tree at the Final carpark, it is a walk up the sandy riverbed of a couple of hundred metres to a beautiful stretch of water, with a waterfall at the far end. But more rock climbing to access the gorge, and we had had our fill for a while, and so returned to the car to continue our journey.

We were now headed towards Drysdale River when we stopped at the turnoff to Mt Elizabeth Station, and said ďwhy not?Ē. And so we rolled into the homestead, booked in for the night, got a couple of mud maps to attractions on the property, and made ouyr way into the delightful camp ground, set up, had lunch, and then set off to discover the Hann River Gorge. The road is not well defined unless you know what you are looking for, and is a slow 10 km journey to the waterhole - over some rough rocky road at the end of the trail. The waterhole is a sandy beach, and is not deep, with a mix of sand and rock underfoot. But oh so pleasant to swim in. Then the trek back to the camp site. Lovely gas fired hot showers, flushing toilets, fresh water ........ beautiful surroundings.

We chose to have tea at the homestead, and a delightful buffet meal was served up along with soup and dessert - all for $40 head. A great night.

DAY NINE
Up early, packed, and then out to have a look at Wunnamurra Gorge. We had been warned that it would take us an hour to do the 10km track. The first 7km were done in about 20 minutes. The next three were done mainly in Low 4wd, and were definitely a test of vehicle, skill and courage, and took a good 40mins over basically rocks and stones, botrh flat and descending.

Once reached, the gorge was really nice, with the upper river descending via waterfall to to lower pool. The property owners had supplied ladders for campers to climb down into the lower gorge, but these are not fixed in any way, and resulted almost in disaster, after the first ladder (after being tested by Barbara) slidd on the rock surface, and Barbara disappeared from view, fortunately landing on her back on the first ledge - had she missed that, it coulkd have been very serious. As it was, she received a nasty crack on the haed and lacerations to her leg.

Predictably, the office responded that hundreds of people had scrambled up and down these ladders without incident - but as I pointed out - that they knew about, and that an incident had now occurred, and had we been of a litigious nature, could have held them responsible for the lack of safety on the equipment provided. They would be better off not providing the ladders.

And so the drive back to the camp needed to be made over that same stretch of road, and I have to say that I am so proud of my old 1999 100 series Landcruiser, that just crawled over the rocks as required, and having used Goodrich tyres for the last few years, and not being able to procure them before this trip, I am impressed with my first set of Bridgestone Tyres. We are running them at 28-30 psi on corrugated roads and the rock track this morning - and they have performed beautifully. And the Cruiser is approaching 400,000 clicks.

It was time to move on, and after a stop for lunch at the Hann River Crossing, we finally made it to Drysdale River Station at about 3pm, and settled in, whilst Barbara did some washing - despite the crack on the head and the leg wounds.

DAY TEN
Basically, a lay day. We had put our name down for a plane trip, which we hoped would have enough passengers to have to part with only $355 each. Morning came, with no trip, and so we just sat around relaxing, taking photos, recharging batteries and stuff. We then took a drive down to Miners Pool, which is another camping spot down by the Drysdale River.
Then to the bar for a Kimberley Burger - costs $15, and is a BIG burger. I decided to see if the guys here could service the car, and it being fairly slack, they fitted me straight in, just as we got news that the plane ride was on at 2pm, but with only 4 passengers - $440 each thank you. But we were going to be in the air for a couple of hours, and seemed like a reasonable deal - 2 way chopper ride at Mitchell Falls is $210 for 12 minutes.

And so we squeezed into this sardine tin with wings, and I took my small video camera as well as the pro camera - just in case .... And as it turned out, there was not enough room to manouvre in the plane, and so the smaller cam was the workhorse. Lesson number two - gotta get a polarizing filter for the cameras. Hopefully we can edit the picture in the production process.

From Drysdale, we headed out over the Prince Regent Range, followed the Prince Regent River to the ocean, flew over St George Basin, Mt Trafalgar, Prince Frederick Harbour, before flying back over Mitchell Plateau Falls, and then back to Drysdale. These planes are definitely built for midgets, not us normal 186 cm overweight types. Two hours was really stretching the friendship - and I thought Qantas was bad with its leg room - however, it was a pleasant flight, and really brings home how hostile and inhospitable the country up here really is.

Returning to Drysdale, I paid another $205 for the car service - which I thought was reasonable considering charges at Mornington for a tyre repair (for someone else remember). And so we are fueled up, serviced, and ready to head towards Kalumbaru tomorrow.

DAY ELEVEN
Surprise, the road to Kalumburu wasnít bad, at least until you got to the northern end of it. The road had only been re-opened a week or so, and so we got the best of it. Towards the top, you run through a range of hills, where the road is fairly rocky, but ok. Then as you approach Kalumburu, itís back to a two wheel track for a small distance, before you cross a creek, and you are in town. Prior to this, you have to cross the Carson River, which at this time of year is a doddle. You can stop here and maybe camp, but it is Croc country.

Meanwhile, we found ourselves on bitumen as we entered the town, the police station on the right, and a modern covered basketball court, which doubles as the reception area for the towns internet wi-fi hotspot. Amazing, the only internet facility that we came across on the trip.

It being Sunday, everything was closed, except for a ceremony on the village green, which we found out later was a memorial service for an American Pilot who was killed in a crash landing here some 64 years ago. His widow and some dignitaries from the USA had flown out for the ceremony, which explained the big fancy chopper sitting at the airport.

meanwhile, we trundled out of town, heading further north, the major gravel road becoming a minor dirt road, which became 4wd tracks as you accessed the camping areas along the coast. We called into McGowans Island camp area, and were impressed by the facilities and layout, and the access to the beach for fishing and boating. However, we moved on up to Honeymoon Bay, which was a little more bush camp, basic amenities, a bit more difficult to beach access, but very friendly. We set up camp.

DAY TWELVE
Our host Geoff, gave us directions to Timbales, An area just around the point where Indonesian fishermen used to collect Sea Cucumber in days gone by. There was also a natural oyster beach in the area. We ended up driving beyond the directed point, and found ourselves on Point Tait, with Honeymoon Bay on one side, and Mission Bay and MIsiion Cove on the other. Mission Bay was so named, because it was the entry point to the site of the original mission at Pago, now just ruins.

We decided having looked at the road, that we would give Pago a miss, and would return to town, pay our $50 entrance fee, and stock up on a few needed supplies. We also made a couple of phone calls, and did a quick check of the internet for emails, bill paying, and sorting out a bit of business.

Then we went looking for the attractions that were listed on the expensive attractive brochure that was supplied when we paid our fee. the problem is, the attractions werenít sign posted, the tracks very quickly deteriorated to nothing, and we got disinterested. We did have a look at the remains of some old bomber wrecks around the airport, before deciding to head back toward Drysdale. WE didnít check out the mission, or the museum, as we would have had to arrange viewing times, and I was ready to go.

Originally, I had decided that we wouldnít go into Mitchell Plateau - I had been there before, I had file footage at home, and we had aerial footage from the plane trip a couple of days ago. HGowever, barbara seemed disappointed, and I recalled that there was a fair bit of water flowing when we flew over it, and so dreading the atrocious road in, we headed for the King Edward River Campsite on the Mitchell Plateau Road.

The King Edward River crossing was vastly improved over what I remembered, and the road to the campsites had changed. DEC have taken over the area, and so now it was pay to camp. We found a spot set up camp and retired for the night.

DAY THIRTEEN
We decided to leave the camp set up, and do a day trip into the falls, some 80 kms away. First surprise, the road was good. It had been 3 times worse than the current conditions on the Kalumburu road 6 years ago. Also, some of the road had been re-routed. Apart from negotiating a vehicle parked in the middle of the road just around a corner, with his front LH wheel and suspension torn out (he must have collected a fairly big rock at speed), we had a good trip to the Mitchell camp ground. Having done the 4 km walk a few years ago, I decided to chopper in and out, and have two shots at getting the aerial footage that I wanted. Barbara took the walking option in, and did the walk in 2 1/2 hours, and then took the chopper out.

After scrambling around the waterfall site for a couple of hours, we returned to the camp site, and took the opportunity to swim in the pleasant waters of the King Edward River.

DAY FOURTEEN
We packed up, and headed back to Drysdale, where we made some more phone calls, fuelled up, had showers, grabbed some supplies, and headed for Ellenbrae Station, which is famous for its scones. After partaking of such a luxury, we set up camp in the Ringers camp ground, which has very basic but quaint facilities. The other available (but unsused that night) camp site as it turned out had excellent facilities. So much for the recommendations of Ron Moon - which it seems everybody was using as their bible.

DAY FIFTEEN
We left Ellenbrae, and made for the Aboriginal Land Corporation owned Home Valley Station. Wow, what a set up. There was camping on the lawns at the main reception area, or bush camping on the banks of the Pentecost River, which was the option we chose. We did a 4wd trail out to a lookout, and then continued on an increasingly challenging 4wd journey until it was too late to turn around, and finbally found ourselves back on the Gibb River Road. We took a run down to the crossing to have a look at the river, to see what lay ahead of us tomorrow when we had to cross the river. Then back to camp, where we got softly blasted by sand and wind - altho the view was wonderful. The big disappointment was, the Cockburn Range, which would have looked absolutely marvellous in the afternoon sun, was shrouded in smog from distant bushfires ........ you canít win them all.

DAY SIXTEEN
Up camp, and a few kms down the road to El Questro. A totally different set up to Home Valley, not as impressive at first look, but as we were to find out, well organised. ELQ has the luxury of being in the mountains, and has a wealth of gorges, waterways, trails and great 4wd country, and the tourist has his/her choice of favoured activity.

Having set up camp in the camp ground, and being totally gorged out by now, we decided to take a 4wd option and have a look around some of the property. The tracks on ELQ are a 4wd enthusiasts dream. We encountered deep sand, extreme rocks, steep climbs, lots of low range stuff, all in the one track on a couple of the attractions. And standing on Brancos lookout viewing the broad winding river plain below us was magic, as was spotting the 4-5 metre croc lying in the shallows far below us.

back to camp and an early night.

DAY SEVENTEEN
We called into Moonshine gorge for a quick look - great waterhole at the beginning of the walk - and the Zebedee Springs, a natural thermal spring which oozes out of the mountainside at a lovely 25-30 degrees. Just amazing.

Then across the road to Emma Gorge, which we again only travelled part way up to have a look at a waterfall that wasnít running, and having by now now being totally over scrambling over rocks, more rocks and even more rocks to get anywhere, we bought an icecream and set sail for Kununurra, where we arrived about 2pm. We settled into the Hidden Valley Caravan Park, and spent the afternoon and evening catching up with phone calls and internet and what has been happening in the world the past 2 1/2 weeks.

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Updated 25-8-2011

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