Well we’ve just spent a week in the heart of the Kimberley, so have got a far bit to catch up on (i.e. long blog with lots of photos)!
We packed and left Broome at our usual time of 8am after saying goodbye to the Quines who had come into Broome a couple of nights earlier. They gave us some heads up on what to see and what not to see on the Gibb River Road (GRR), although there were a few spots still closed when they came through. Steve said the drive was a bit stressful, but he didn’t have any problems just trying to take it easy to keep their van in one piece. It was a two hour drive to the GRR, so Susan took the highway stint of driving. We got to the GRR thinking of hilly up and down rocky road, but were surprise of flat savannah country and ‘smooth’ dirt roads. We encountered a grader within the first 50 or so kms. So far the road was in good condition, but we assume it could only go downhill from here.
After about an hour on the GRR we came to our first camp site, Windjana Gorge, were the Lennard River cuts through a large sandstone escarpment. We setup camp, had lunch, and drove down the road a bit further to Tunnel Creek. Here it is literally what it is, a creek that has cut its way through a range creating a tunnel. It goes for about 500m through to the other side and you have to wade through some knee deep water a few times and it’s dark requiring torches. It’s quite amazing really the power of flowing water. The tunnel is only accessible during the ‘dry’. We headed to camp capturing some great photos in the twilight hour.
The next morning we packed and then went for a walk into Windjana gorge in the cool of the morning to go croc spotting. We found about a dozen ‘freshies’ in the creek, quite small, only about a metre long. The gorge is very pretty in the early hours of the morning. We headed back to the car and moved onto our next camp spot, Manning Gorge. The night before the park ranger had come around and told us that Bell Gorge road had just been opened. This was on the way so we decided to detour into there. The road was freshly graded and very rocky, more like what we thought the GRR would be like. I swear the every rock had a sharp point on it, something that would cripple your feet if you had to walk on them. The Bell gorge was only 30kms long off the GRR, but it took 45 mins to get into it. It was around lunch time, so we had a quick bite to eat, and debated whether we should walk 750m into the gorge in the middle of the heat of the day. We convinced ourselves that it must be worth it considering the ‘road’ we just came in. We didn’t put on our togs, something we regretted after we got into the gorge (tip, for next gorge, always take your togs)! To say Bell Gorge was spectacular is an understatement. Even for a small wet season there was plenty of water going over the falls. The girls stayed around the top of the falls, paddling their feet in the cool water, while I went for a further walk over the ridge to the base of the falls to get a few more shots. You could spend a whole day here exploring the gorge and its swimming holes, but we had to move on.
We arrived at our planned camp of Manning Gorge by about 4pm. The gorge is on private property about 9km off the road. You camp by the Manning River, and then have to walk in the final 1.5kms. We setup camp in a very average campsite considering the price you pay, had tea and planned to be off early in the morning to the gorge. The early start to walking didn’t go to plan as someone wanted a cook breakfast before we headed off! To start the walk you have to cross the Manning River. You can swim or boat across. We decided to boat. Than after about an hour walking, we found came down into the gorge. It’s another spectacular sight. This time we had our togs on and we quickly jumped into the lovely fresh water. There were quite a few people around, with a tour group making up most of them. They didn’t stay long and we had only a couple of other groups left. Charlie made teamed up with some other kids and were jumping from a rock overhang close to the falls. They jumped in, climbed out, jumped in, climbed out, and on and on it went. They swam under the falls and found a small ledge to watch to rest. After a couple of hours we gave in and trudge back to camp.
Our next planned stop along the GRR was meant to be ‘Ellenbrae’, only 185kms down the road. At our morning tea break at the junction of GRR and the Kalumburu Road, three vehicles stopped to dispose of their rubbish. While chatting, they said they had come down from ‘Drysdale River Station’, only 60kms up the Kalumburu road with positive road conditions and good camping facilities, so we decided to head there instead of Ellenbrae. What a great change of plan because it turned out be a fantastic spot to stay, a 100% improvement on Manning gorge, and even less to stay. They have an airstrip here with 2 hour scenic flights out towards the coast and then back via the Mitchell Falls. Susan was keen to go on the flight considering we had come this far and not going any further, so we booked in for the 9am flight. We even decided to have a meal at the restaurant that night. It was a fantastic meal of roast pork and cheesecake for dessert, washed down with a couple of drinks. Fabulous!
Next morning was a bit of a sleep in as the scenic flight didn’t leave until 9am. The flight was great and took in some fantastic scenery. The Mitchell Falls were spectacular, but the circling around three or four times around the falls didn’t make Susan and Charlotte feel too good. Back on the ground we had some lunch and went down to the Drysdale River for a swim to cool down and relax. The water was crystal clear and lots of small fish swimming around.
Off again next morning bound for El Questro Station. First stop was Ellebrae Station for morning tea – freshly baked scones in their lovely garden. The small, short creek crossing into the station was the roughest we encountered on the GRR. I think I bent some of the plate bracing on the tow-bar the holes were that deep! After filling ourselves up, we moved onto Home Valley Station and by the time we got there it was lunchtime so we bought lunch there. It was very good there. After lunch it was only a short 50km drive to El Questro, but it was the longest 50km we had done on all of the GRR. To say it was rough was a bit of an understatement considering parts had been graded already. I think it took us 90 minutes to do the 50kms! I’m glad the rest of the 650kms GRR dirt wasn’t like it because if would’ve shook the ute and us to pieces! We had to cross the Pentecost River not long after Home Valley Station. Normally this is a difficult crossing as it is tidal as well, but because of the small wet season the water level was well down.
We stayed two nights at El Questro,and with plenty to see and do you could have spent a week there. We got up early next morning and went to Zebedee Springs for a morning bath in the 30 degC water, and then hiked halfway into Amalia Gorge. We stopped at the Orche falls and had the water hole all to ourselves. That afternoon after lunch Charlotte and I went horse riding for a couple of hours while Susan went swimming in the Pentecost River in front of our camp.
Branco’s Lookout, El Questro Station
After 7 days on the GRR we were getting ‘Bush Fever’, so we packed up and headed back to Kununurra and recuperate and re-stock. After leaving El Questro it was another short drive to Emma Gorge for an hour walk into the falls and pool. The water was much cooler here but there is a small hot spring running in from one corner. After an half an hour swim or so, we hiked back out and headed off to Kununurra with a detour to lookout at Wyndham to see five rivers flow into one before heading out to sea.
Five Rivers Lookout, Wyndham
There is so much to see on the GRR and the 7 days we spent on it only touches the surface. You could spend a whole 3 months in the Kimberley and still not see it all, but we glad we chose to do it. We took so many photos and would like to load more, but I think it would use all our credit up!
We’re now in Kununurra trying to work out where we will head next. Lake Argyle Resort might be the go!
Did you know … #9?
The majority of beef grown in the Kimberley is exported to overseas market as they like it because it is tough!
Windjana Gorge NP
Drysdale River Station
El Questro Station