Sunday, June 28, 2015

Windjana Gorge 24 June

Windjana Gorge is our last stop on the Gibb River Road. We visited here in 2004 but I have always liked it. At home I have a picture of it painted by Mum, so it's a bit special.

Mum's painting, from a photo
My photo, obviously taken at a different time of day

The road to Windjana from Bell Gorge passes through the King Leopold Range and here are some quite steep sections, most of them with sealed road. It's quite rugged country with lots of exposed weathered sandstone. In other areas there are outcrops of black Rock which look almost volcanic. One named feature is a rocky outcrop called Queen Victoria's Head. I must admit there is a resemblance.
King Leopold Ranges

Queen Victoria's Head
This afternoon we took a walk to the Gorge itself, an easy 2km return walk compared with others we have completed recently. It is mostly flat and sandy along the riverbank. The gorge walls are weathered to a dark grey, but in places are the orange-red of the rest of outback Australia. The Lennard River flows through the Gorge and is obviously a favourite place for many freshwater crocodiles. Definitely no swimming here. It's obvious that the water is drying up quite quickly so some will be in difficulty soon, especially if today's hot weather continues. It was 40 degrees today!
Setting off on the walk in the heat of the day
An island of freshwater crocodiles
Peaceful gorge with a croc in the foreground
The far end of the gorge
Remnants of the devonian reef that underlies the Girge

The Gorge walls reflected in the river

There are two other attractions here at Windjana. The sunset on the gorge walls is magnificent, changing from a dull daytime grey to a stunning glowing red.

The other attraction is another Great Bowerbird bower, this time next to the shower block. The two birds have been entertaining any passers by all day with their courting rituals. I also found another rainbow bee eater, a better photo this time.
The female adding a twig to the bower
Inspecting the workmanship
Rainbow bee eater
Our trip along the Gibb, from near Kununurra to Derby, has taken us just over 2 weeks to complete and we have seen some amazing places. The route is marked in purple and we did most of the side roads as well. Although the Gibb is only about 660 kms long we took about 1300km with side trips.

It has been quite a challenge planning enough food and drink to last the distance. We topped up some meat at Drysdale River Station and a few more items at Mount Barnett, but not as much fruit and veges as we would have liked due to the cost. It has been a bonus to have 2 fridges. Alcohol has been much more difficult. Due to restrictions on purchasing in WA, (and in NT and SA) and our poor organisation (we didn't know you can't buy casks of wine) we ran low several days ago and David has been eking out his Scotch like a miser. I suspect many others are in the same position. David helped some women change a tyre the other day, and his hopes for a beer were dashed as they didn't have any.

Fuel hasn't really been a problem as it was available at El Questro,  Drysdale River and Mount Barnett.  So far (touch wood) our mechanical problems have been all electrical ones. Today the 7 pin plug to the trailer broke off so will need to be replaced in Derby. The car is also due for a service now as we have done almost 10 000km since we left home.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bell Gorge 23 June

It's not a very long drive From Charnley Station to Bell Gorge, so we had set up camp by 11am and we're ready for the next adventure. Along the way we stopped at the Imintji Store for a look. It used to be a major stopping point on the Gibb River Road but closed earlier this year. It still looks in reasonable condition though.

Imintji store

Bell Gorge is located in the King Leopold National Park, in the King Leopold Ranges area of the Kimberleys. The campground is called Silent Grove, and is 20 km from the Gibb River Road. It's a further 10 km drive to the beginning of the falls walk, and a 1km walk or rock scramble to Bell Gorge and its multi level falls. 

The King Leopold Ranges

The beginning of the walk, steep and all rocks
A creek crossing at the end
The falls are striking, with pools at the top suitable for swimming. There is also a large pool at the bottom of the falls, requiring a further 200m climb. David felt he hadn't had enough climbing and swimming so climbed over the hill to access to lower pool. It seems the flow was too strong from the falls as he decided against another water massage. It might have drowned him.

Bell Gorge Falls

The large lower gorge

The falls

The upper pool, shallow like a wading pool

David setting off for the lower gorge

He made it

Clinging onto the rock near the falls

Silent Grove is a nice campground with good shade and fairly new amenities.There are solar hot water showers, flushing toilets, water on tap and fire rings forever campfire. It is run by the Parks and Wildlife Service, and costs only $8.80 per person per night.

There is little else to do at Silent Grove after you have been to the falls, except chat and check out other people's rigs. There is certainly a variety here. There are the usual hired vehicles which charge along much too fast, spitting up stones and not slowing down to pass other vehicles. There are all kinds of campertrailers from the basic to the very pricey and quite a collection of tents. There are hardly any caravans in the Kimberley except for the tough off-roaders. They aren't built to cope with the roads.

Galvan's Gorge, Adcock Gorge and Charnley River Station 21-22 June

After leaving Manning Gorge we stopped at Galvan's Gorge and briefly at Adcock Gorge en route to Charnley River Station.

Galvan's Gorge is only a 1 km walk from the main road and we had been there before, so we knew it was a great swimming spot. It's a relatively easy walk, only a few rocks and mostly in shade.

Adcock Gorge had probably the worst road into it, and a walk that disappeared among the rocks. It looked like another lovely spot, but it was several rocks too far.

A long tailed finch

Charnley River Station is 43km off the Gibb River Road, so we were going to give it a miss, but it was recommended to us by someone we met, so we changed our minds. This turned out to be a good idea as Charnley has a lot to offer. It used to be a working cattle station but in recent years it has changed direction and ownership and is now owned and operated by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, a non-government, not for profit organisation with 15 properties around Australia. They are strong advocates for wildlife and habitat preservation and presented an interesting talk about their work on our second night there. They still allow camping, but no fires. We did see more animals at Charnley than we had at other places.

Brahmin cattle are the norm

This big guy posed for us

A rainbow bee eater - not a clear photo though

Magpie larks were plentiful

These large termite mounds are very common
Charnley has 3 gorges and a couple of extra swimming holes as well. Like Manning Gorge it is also very rocky. A feature of the walking/clambering trails in this area is the use of daubs of white paint on rocks to mark a trail. Sometimes a bit of searching is needed to find the next marker. The first place we visited was Donkey Pools (name derivation unknown), but as it was getting late and we didn’t want to lose our way in the dark we cut short our visit and swam in only the middle pool.

The next morning we set out for the three gorges, Lily Pools, Grevillea and Dillie and more rock clambering, appropriate places to be on the anniversary of Mum's death. Lily Pools was 32km from the campground, but a lovely spot, so we had a swim in slightly chillier water than we were used to. There were several beautiful mauve water lilies on the surface.

After drifting around for a while we made our way to the next gorge, Grevillea, which in my opinion is one of the most striking we have visited. It has an upper pool, a middle one in which we swam, and a large drop to the lower level with a big pool.  A Swiss couple we met at the gorges clambered right down to the bottom, with bit of difficulty. We didn’t even consider it. We were going to go to Dillie Gorge but it was another 30 km and we decided to leave it for another visit.

Charnley has a great campground with green grass and new flushing toilets and shower blocks. There is lots of space and a separate area for generators. The road into the station, and also the station roads were in much better condition than many other places. They are quite diligent about people leaving the details of the day’s destination as the area is quite remote and 30km is a long way to drive to look for someone. It’s also the only place where we have been asked whether we have a satphone.