I’m getting behind in my blogging do this will be a picture diary of our day.
I have made packing up after each stop easy . The secret is not too many clothes and keep everything handy on the top of the bag in the same position!
Our last day on the Gibb River Rd and we want to fit as much in as possible.
Talking to other travellers we decided we must detour and visit Windjana Gorge to see the crocodiles and to Dimalurru to visit Tunnel Creek.
Breakfast included making a simple sandwich for lunch as there is nothing between here and Derby. Not a shop or petrol station. Nothing.
As we are packing the car I got chatting to a lady filling her water containers. We compare trips and I told her we are disappointed to be missing our house boat stay at Horizontal Falls because of the jet boat accident.
She shocked me by telling me they were there and her husband was on the boat.
She went on to describe the horrific scene as the boat with many injured people limited back to the pontoon. Many women with fractures in their lower limbs. It sounded awful. No wonder they are not ready to reopen. The staff are all traumatised and needing time off.
We are thankful it wasn’t us on board & the woman I spoke with was always very grateful she didn’t want a jet boat experience that morning.
So off we went – an hour drive back to the Gibb Rd turned toward Derby and the half an hour later turned left to Windjana.
The park is beautiful. The limestone walls so impressive.
The approach to the Gorge is through a small tunnel of limestone walls. it’s like entering a magical world.
Out the other side and a peaceful walk along the river bank keeping an eye on the opposite bank. The crocodiles are lazing and sunning themselves. Lots of them.
We walked along for about 15 mins. Such beautiful scenes.
Next stop Tunnel Creek. This place I remember being talked about because of a boy called Jandamarra. He was with his mob when they were captured. He escaped into the tunnel where the creek flows under the limestone hills. It was written as a children’s book years ago.
To get to the tunnels you need to climb and clamber over rocks. They are the most amazing colours: pinks, grey, blue even a greenish look.
Then a wade through water into the tunnels. Quite creepy. We looked out for the red eyes of the resident croc.
Lunch was a simple sandwich outside under the trees. We are so lucky with the weather warm but not too hot.
From here it was a short but fairly boring straight drive into Derby. We were told that it’s not the most exciting place to be and to be sure to lock up well. Didn’t sound too good!
We arrived in time to see the town in the afternoon light. Everything looks good bathed in a glowing sky. Then to our hotel the Derby Lodge. Not a lot of good things to say about this hotel. Except pretty ordinary.
We crossed the road to the Spinifex Hotel for dinner and made an early night of it. It was a big day of driving.
In the morning we walked to the local CWA markets, an oasis and spent a very happy hour. Such nice people and the Boab nut coffee was great as were the donuts and the home made slices.
There was music provided by the Rusty Nails, and sitting under the shade of a tree chatting to other travellers was as usual very interesting.
We walked back to get the car and of course we two retired children librarians popped into the library .
We’d been told to visit Norval Gallery and we are so glad we did. What an interesting story behind Mark Norval the owner. He and wife Mary went to Derby as young teachers and never left. He now has this wonderful art space where local aboriginal people are welcome to come and paint. He travelled to many of the communities along the Gibb River area and taught painting and encouraged painting and it’s really taken off. There are some wonderful people doing great work. Edna Dale and her daughter Petrina Bedord. I bought one I couldn’t resist.
We spent a long time chatting to Mark about his life & work in Derby. He is so kind. So understanding of the problems facing the indigenous youth.
He has mentored Edna Dale mother of 7 and her daughter Petrina an up and coming contemporary indigenous artist. Her grandfathers Jack Dale and Paddy Bedford were famous in their field of art. Watch out for her. She paints in a style to reflect stories of Windjana passed down to her.
Petrina was painting in the art shed while we were there. Lovely to watch.
We also bought some decorated boab seed pods – such beautiful work.
We left the gallery and continued on our way to the prison Boab tree. A very sad story about indigenous peoples imprisoned in the tree.
Onto Broome. We have an extra night here as our planned night in a houseboat at Horizontal Falls was cancelled.
Sunsets are spoken about here more than anywhere else – except maybe Santorini! So we set out to find it. After checking into the Oaks at Cable Beach we drove along the coast to the port.
Broome is also famous for its dinosaur footprints. We went dinosaur hunting. It took us to Roebuck Bay.
We decided to head to the fishing club for a sundowner. It not well known to tourists. It’s where the locals head. I’d read about it and it turned out to be perfect. Casual and a beautiful setting. One glass of Prosecco led to another led to fish and chips.
And so a perfect start to Broome has begun.
We left Mt Elizabeth and headed to Mt Hart but we decided to refuel at Barnett Roadhouse. Coffee. So hard to get on the Gibb River Road!
While there we got chatting to some travellers – so easy to do on these travels. It’s like everyone bonds over their shared experiences on this amazing Road running through remote areas.
We decided to follow their advice and buy a $10 permit to visit the Manning River Gorge and swim in the river.
It was only a 10km drive to the river and what a surprise. It was just lovely.
The campground is right at the river and the banks are sandy not all rocky like others. To do the gorge walk to the waterfall you cross the river. It’s quite deep so to help walkers get across dry they provide a boat and a line. You put your gear or yourself in the boat and pull yourself across the river. Simple.
We spend a good hour swimming around this beautiful river, chatting to people crossing it.
We pull ourselves out , change and head back to the roadhouse for lunch.
The turn off to Mt Hart is further down the Gibb River.
We continue on looking forward to a night under canvas.
Sleeping under canvas is a great experience especially when it’s glamping and everything is set up.
Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge is an hour off the GRR. Lots of creeks to cross as we bump along. Chris prefers to drive as it helps his back to be holding onto the string wheel. At least that’s what he tells us!
Steve sits as co driver and sometimes in the afternoon sleeps on the job.
Breakfast was in the screened dinner area. Very rustic. Cereals and toast. No big fry up!
The chef had prepared a picnic lunch for us to take to Bells Gorge.
Back along the bumpy one hour drive turn back toward Mt Leopold Range. Half an hour later we turn left and head towards Bells Gorge. We pass Silent Grove and keep going.
The car park at Bells is full of dusty 4 wheel drives, vans, small tour buses. One caught our attention yesterday Manning River. It’s a big duel cab full of gear, a motorbike , a generator, various bits of equipment & it’s decorated with finger drawings in the dust. Very carefully done. Today the van is missing. Must be in the caravan park.
We start the track and it didn’t take long to get rocky. We’ve talked to other travelers about Bells. It sounds wonderful but it is described as tricky to get into.
We walked for about 2km into the gorge over rocks with about three water crossings. Little stepping stones across small creeks. We arrive at a series of ponds all swirling towards a ledge which becomes the waterfall. Stunning.
We walk across the sloping rock shelf up the side towards the top to look down on the water fall.
Decision time. Continue on over the pond up a steep set of rocks then over the top and down down down to the sloping rocks leading to the water.
I decided I would risk a slip and damage my arm – recovering from a bad break last Dec. I couldn’t go back to an arm in a sling.
So the others pressed on and I got into the pool closest to the edge if the waterfall. Careful not to go over the edge!
They took it slowly and arrived safely and we waved and took photos and I watched as they swam in the big pool of water towards the waterfall.
I know they were having fun. But so was I, pottering in the pools and watching people crossing over, slipping, helping each other and those returning from the bottom of the falls.
A satisfying afternoon. The others arrived back full of smiles and we walked back through the rocks to the top.
We sat under the trees eating our picnic lunch before heading back to the lodge two hours away.
Washing on, showers, bed rest and finally the bar opened. We were very dry and ready for a game of cards before dinner.
The gong called us and tonight the dinner was chicken and sticky date pudding. Beautifully presented and so tasty. We met the chef. He used to cook for miners but has been here at Mt Hart for seven years. It’s a feature for this place. I hope he stays on.
Our canvas tent called and we headed to bed. It’s slightly cooler tonight so sleeping will be easy.
And it was!
The morning was still and quiet. The horse riders had left for their jog through the countryside as we were having tea and planning our day.
Today we continue along the road everyone talks about. We’ve heard about the corrugations, the dust, the river crossing.
I think the our drivers Leyland Brothers are excited to get going
We leave and immediately get stuck behind a bus. Oh no more dust. But at the end of the 16 km into El Questro he turned right towards Kunanurra and we turned left towards Derby.
Todays drive us about 5 hours. Not that the distance is great. It’s the dusty bumpy road!
We planned a stop at Ellenbrae Station. The people here have cleverly put on a Devonshire Tea. Yes …….scones, jam and cream on the Gibb River Rd.
The turn off to their property is 5km. Yes 5km of anticipation along a very rough rough road. But then. There it is.
A green oasis is surrounded by red dusty grassy scrub.
The sign welcomes us and we make our way to the shed / cafe open to the lush green gardens scattered with tables and chairs under the trees.
There is plenty to look at as we wait for our Devonshire tea.
We’d love our grandsons here with us on this trip. So many things to do. Crocodile huntings, swimming in gorges, fishing, sandpits, rocks, machinery! Boy heaven.
We bumped along the GRR for another hour or two. Dust, mud holes, river crossings.
The Pentecost River was rocky and the tide was down. The Durack River was small and rocky.
The road into our overnight stay at Mt Elizabeth was both surprising and fun.
Our ensuite cabin was actually old miners donga’s now fitted with air con! Small and stuffy when we entered the aircon went in so we headed to the lush garden to enjoy the last of the afternoon We stayed there while drama unfolded. Jill wanted wifi internet. Not possible unless you pay. That still didn’t work so as Jill claimed she had something she needed to do had been so nice to the hostess Chantelle she whispered’ you can use the owner’s internet but don’t tell anyone and only for a few minutes!’
As it turned out it was lucky. We had an urgent email from our travel agent. Our Horizontal Falls trip and overnight stay on the houseboat is cancelled! There was a bad jet boat accident about a week ago. All trips were cancelled until 10. We were to go on the 11th but now it’s been put off until further We have been offered an extra night in Broome and flight up to Cape Leveque with a visit to the Pearl farm for lunch and a flight over the falls. We’ve taken that but we’re sad as we miss the night on the boat. We didn’t really mind missing the jet boat.
With drama over it’s time for a drink. Lucky we brought some as there is no alcohol on sale here. Time for dinner. It’s a shared table which gave us a chance to meet other travellers. Always a good idea as you meet some interesting people and get some great tips.
Next to us were two men marine engineers from Perth. They had worked in many interesting places overseas. They were on a big trip from aperture across the Nullarbor and then straight up the centre of Australia
Dinner was prepared by Patrice. Home style cooking. A big rissole with a green pepper sauce and a bowl of veggies. Delicious. First night I haven’t had fish. Dessert as well. Cream caramel. Needless to say the new managers of Mt Elizabeth Station are former restaurant owners. They are busy preparing the rooms. There are 8 with ensuite and the same with shared bathrooms. The rest is camping.
We went back to our donga to find a frog in the toilet, and the aircon didn’t work. Lucky there was a large window with screens as it would have been too cold with air con on in this small bedroom!
We were initially disappointed but it was clean, friendly with a good meal provided. A fine overnight stay on the Gibb RR. But not a place with waterholes and great walks.
We decided to give ourselves a slow morning after our walk yesterday. So it was a sleep in , breakfast and a little reading on the grass outside our cabin. The early morning horse riders were returning as I sat enjoying my book.
Yesterday Emma Gorge. Today Zebedee Springs. Located an easy 10 mins drive from The Station at EL Questro we headed off at around 10. The early birds go at 7. We’d heard that as it closes at 12 we should go a little later as people start to leave.
Good decision. Apparently there were two tour group buses there this morning.
Zebedee is made up of a series of thermal pools. After parking it’s a short 1.5km walk into the springs passing through very tropical Livistona forests.
The rocky pools are a little oasis at the end of the walking trail. A series of pools they are surrounded by palms and vines.
We slipped gently into the pools and made our way to a spot where we’d enjoy a soak in the warm water. It was very shaded and tranquil.
I lay back into the water running over some rocks from a higher pool. It was bubbly. Putting my ears under I could hear the water bubbling and running.
After 45 minutes of soaking we emerged feeling rested and a little covered in the fibres of the plant life edging the pool. A cold shower would be good but a bottle of cool water poured over my head prepared me for our lunch at the Emma Gorge resort about another 20 minutes away.
Emma Gorge is part of El Questro and although the accommodation is glamping it’s lovely. Everything is just a bit more upmarket than the campgrounds and The Station cabins where we are staying.
Where we are is much more family oriented.
Lunch was delicious and we headed back to The Station for our afternoon naps before another swim in the waterhole just near our cabin.
We just have to do Amelia Gorge and we’ll have covered the A to Z of Gorges.
I have to admit to feeling just a little apprehensive about the Emma Gorge walk. We’ve heard all kinds of reports about it.
My sister did it a few years ago and said it was challenging. Other people we’ve met on our travels made comments ranging from ‘its very difficult’ to ‘take your time and you can do it. ‘
I was only worried about my arm that I broke back in Dec and is still recovering and wouldn’t handle a fall and Steve’s new knee 6 months ago.
But we did it! Nice and slow with lots of scrambling up and over rocks, rock hopping over creeks, and a steady climb.
We left the Emma Gorge resort around 8.30 with plenty of water , a muesli bar and a bag of lollies. We walked through grasslands, started to gently climb and then got to the scrambling stage.
We passed the turquoise waterhole.
The reward was a swim at the falls. It was magnificent. Beautiful clear water, a waterfall that massaged your back if you positioned yourself underneath it correctly and the perfect temperature for cooling.
The walk back wasn’t as bad as we thought. All downhill and hard in the knees but we were quicker than going up.
We went straight to the cafe for a delicious iced coffee!
We got back to The Station at El Questro which is about a 25 min drive away and had another swim in the waterhole just near our cabin.
The afternoon was spent relaxing and reading before our pre dinner gin, a bbq dinner, music and a game of cards before an early night.
Steve and I started the day with a swim. This really is a magic spot. Our little villa was wonderful so feeling rested we walked up the green grassy hill to the pool
On a hill nearby a group of 20 were gently chanting and doing yoga.
Feeling cool and just a little sad to be leaving this beautiful place we headed off towards Argyle Homestead.
This homestead has been rebuilt. It’s the home of the famous Durack family. It’s 5 minutes from Lake Argyle and was relocated because the original site is now underwater. It is now Lake Argyle.
It’s made of stone and is really quite big for a home built on an isolated property so many years ago.
The history of the Durack family is told and what a history it is. Patrick or ‘Patsy’ drove cattle from Queensland taking two and a half years before settling in land in the Ird River area.
We decided we had time to go to Wyndham the very big port right at top of Australia. It became the port all cattle exports left from. We expected a bigger town but it was small with not too much happening.
We started with a view of the town from Five river lockout. S sweeping view of the area showing the effect of an 8 metre tide rise and fall.
W got a few more supplies at the only supermarket in town and a few beers at the bottle shop.
We’d been told the bakery was a must so stopped and had a laugh at the roof decorations.
The woman who owns the bakery is a little pocket rocket who loves a chat as she rushes around clearing plates from those of us who sit inside to enjoy our pies! she’s also a joker teller as he two signs outside the shop declare ‘two wifi engineers got married. The reception was fantastic.
Jill and I shared a crocodile pie and a lemon pepper barramundi pie. Quite delicious and filling.
Two more stops , the first at the huge bronze statues the next at the Afghan cemetery.
These statues are huge and wonderful – the hair is curly wire.
Arriving at El Questro was full of anticipation. It’s 16 from Gibb Rd and crosses several creeks. It’s bumpy, it’s dusty and excitement outside.
It looks like tent city circling around reception, a bar, a few cabins, a cantina food truck and a big grassy relaxing area leading down to some creek ponds. Our swimming pool.
Our station room is next to the restaurant which made me think ‘oh no it will be noisy’. There’s no worry about that. Because
1. Everyone I’m camping areas go to bed early 2. The restaurant is closed. They can’t get enough staff. If anyone reading this can cook I’ve found a job for you.
Enjoyed a grilled Barra a game of 500 and a good sleep.
Today we had an easy drive of about 80km to Lake Argyle. If you are planning on coming to Kunanurra you must plan a night or two at this beautiful relaxed place. There’s a big campground and a number of cabins. We’re in a cabin. It’s modern well equipped and views to the lake.
There’s a beautiful infinity pool, restaurant bar and lots of lawn and picnic areas.
We arrived in time to do the Ord River Bush Tucker morning tea with Josh, a former New Zealander. He greeted us and we headed off in his orange safari van. We made about four stops and each time Josh pointed out some of the plant life. First up was the pink Turkey bush we saw at Litchfield. A natural repellent it smells lovely when crushed and rubbed on. Throw a bush on your campfire and you have no mosquitoes.
He then pulled up a piece of spinufex grass and rubbed in the roots. It was so sticky. The aboriginal people used it as a glue. Now it can be used in making condoms. Hygienic and environmentally friendly. Not sure how it would feel!
The brightly coloured yellow flower of the kapok trees has caught my attention. Turns out it’s an edible flower a bit like butter lettuce & so perfect in salads. It also is a great indicator of the life cycle of the fresh water crocodile. When it flowers the soft fluffy kapok can be plucked off. Used in pillows and stuffed in blankets perfect for use by Aboriginal people and the early settlers.
The Boab tree is very eye catching up here. It’s different to the bottle tree. The boab is native to Madagascar but found its way to the northern part of Australia. Found between Broome and Timber Creek it has a very hard nut & when broken open has a yellow spongy fruit than can be eaten. A little bit of orange sherbet flavour but spongy. Like styrofoam Josh told us. He was right.
Last stop was the bower birds bachelor pad. So cute. He knows how to attract the ladies. He has all silver, white and green things in his nest. So attractive!
By now we were ready for morning tea! Delivered by his mother we found it set up in a little park. Made with local ingredients – it was delicious. We hadn’t had breakfast so were ready for it.
Back to the resort and ready for a swim. What a pool. It makes you feel like a movie star!
A little sit on the verandah of our cabin looking at the view before heading off at 2pm for a cruise which would last until sunset!
Cameron our skipper took us over about 20% of the total area of the lake. It’s that big. We were in the boat for 3.5 hrs! and didn’t nearly cover it all.
We saw a few wallabies. But I was hanging out for the star of the show. The freshwater crocodile. Or freshies as they are called. With 30,000 in the lake surely we’d see one up close.
We weren’t disappointed. We saw several freshies. Sunning themselves! Looking very relaxed. Not at all menacing.
One freshie came up close. We fed bread to some spotted archer fish. Or spitting fish. They spit on their prey. We explored the lake. and as the sun was getting ready to set we stopped……. got into the water and had some fun. We swam, bobbed on noodles and watched as the scarlet sun disappeared. Topped off with a glass of bubbles!
It’s so good to share this experience with friends. It was wonderful.
We reboarded the boat and watched the last of the sun.
Such a great sky.
We motored back to the dock in the dark. We were all on a high.
When we got back to the resort we passed some very happy fishermen. They’d had a successful fishing trip. They offered us some silver cobbler fish to cook but we headed to the very lovely casual beer garden and had a BBQ.
A game of 500 completed a beautiful day.
Aviair picked us up this morning at 8.15 for the short ride to the airport. It was busy. There were 3 flights going to the Bungle Bungle today. Some staying to hike, some to stay at Savannah Lodge. Next time I thought!
The pilots all seemed to be young women. So we felt we were in safe hands. Alice our pilot was tiny and was capable, friendly and gave us great commentary during the flight.
After the weigh in, the safety plan and an outline of our two hour flight we were allocated seats and away we went. Steve and I were directly behind the pilot. A view out both sides and to the front.
The pilot offered Steve the co pilot seat and as tempted as he was he decided he’d see better in the next row. Or he might want to take over flying!
The flight was amazing. Down over Lake Argyle the scale of which is unbelievable. It was built as the finishing part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.
It’s freshwater is clear blue, pristine and several times bigger than Sydney Harbour. It’s dotted with 75 islands and is a great breeding ground for fresh water crocodiles.
We heard stories about the huge beef cattle properties including the famous Lisadell Station which was bought by Argyle Diamonds in 2003.
Patrick Durack emigrated from Ireland to Queensland, then drove a vast mob of cattle 4828 kilometres overland. It was the longest overland trek undertaken by Australian drovers up to that time, taking two and half years to reach their Kimberley destination.
I happen to know a great granddaughter of Michael Durack and now I’ve flown over it I’m looking forward to hearing some more stories about it.
I’ll also have to re read ‘Kings in Grass Castles’. Written by Dame Mary Durack it outlines life on the properties in those prosperous times.
We continued the flight due south over the Bungle Bungles.
These dome shaped sandstone towers and deep gorges were formed over 360 million years ago when sand and gravel were deposited by rivers flowing from the north east. With the winds from the SE much of the year dunes began to form. Originally only known to the aboriginal people they were discovered by a pastoralist flying his helicopter over.
In 1987 the area was declared a national park named Purnululu.
We landed at Bungle Bungle land strip just briefly to let those staying overnight off. Then it was along the stone runway and up up and away over the amazing Bungle Bungle.
We flew towards the Argyle Diamond mine. It’s is a huge diamond mine. Argyle was at times the largest diamond producer in the world by volume. It’s now closed.
The increasing operation cost and a stagnant diamond market, forced Argyle mines to close in 2020. Another reason for the closure is that the mines are so deep now that further excavation is unviable.
We continued on towards Kunanurra flying over the vast cattle properties. As we neared Kunanurra the fruit trees particularly the mango and sandalwood trees came into view.
Sandalwood is a big industry here. It’s expensive to grow and produce. Quintis grow sustainable Indian sandalwood trees and the shop is a good place to find out about the production and the variety of products available.
We popped into the small art gallery in the Main Street of Kunanurra.
Also the Diamond shop where the lady there was very generous with her time allowing Jill and I to try on lots of rings while she talked about the beautiful pink argyle diamonds. They are so very valuable. My favourite was a simple band with 5 diamonds and an offset pink diamond.
She told us the diamonds are selling well and the value is increasing as the mine has closed. she modelled her own ring.
We decided to visit Chikshed Gallery. It’s a pottery glass gallery about 15 minutes out of town. What a place. It’s owned by Janine in a gallery built by her husband on their mango farm in the most beautiful settle by the lake opposite the sleeping Buddha rock formation.
She also did mosaic pots and flowers.
Last stop today was The Hoochery. The Hoochery is in the Ord Valley and is W.A.’s oldest legal still. It produces rum, gin and other liqueurs
We chose our tastings. The mojito one for Jill and I and the classic one for Steve. He liked the spiced rum so much he bought a bottle. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and today with the rainstorm that came through it was great.