Western Australia Trip Weeks 8 and 9
Monday morning we went to see the sights of Derby. First up we went out to the Prison Boab Tree
Derby Prison Boab Tree
and Myall Trough.
Myall Trough - it could water 500 head of cattle at the one time.
We drove to the Joonjoo Botanical Gardens but they looked very dry and dusty and as it was very hot we decided to give them a miss. Likewise with the wastewater wetlands. Again it did not look inviting and seemed a bit of a mish mash with little goat track roads going in every direction. We went to see the ‘Dinner Tree’ instead and decided to go back there to watch the sunset.
Phil doing his exercises half way along the walk to the Derby jetty.
The Main Road through Derby.
These little fellows were camped in a tree next to our caravan in the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park, Derby
Tuesday was spent re-organising the back of the truck and packing up our camping gear. Then Wednesday morning we set off from Derby on the Gibb River Road bound for Windjana Gorge. We arrived around lunchtime and after obtaining our camping permit (self-registration) we set up camp and had a relaxing afternoon. I am glad we arrived early as by late afternoon the camp ground was getting packed out. It was interesting watching people pull in and set up camp. The Windjana Gorge Camp Ground with the backdrop of the Napier Ranges is lovely.
View of the Napier Ranges from the camp grounds
The facilities are quite good also but not nearly enough with the number of people staying. It was the first week of the Northern Territory’s school holidays and a few people we spoke to from WA had taken their kids out of school a week early.
First thing next morning we went down to Tunnel Creek – about half an hour’s drive down a rough road. The Gibb River Road was good, even excellent in some parts, but with a few rough patches. However, every side road we took was incredibly rough! Definitely 4WD.
The road to Tunnel Creek
We did the walk through Tunnel Creek which was great. We had to wade through some water but it was not quite up to my knees in the deepest parts – I was expecting it to be deeper. In the first part the water was icy cold and you could feel the wind whistling through the tunnel but in the second part the water was warmer and no wind. In the second part there were quite a few stalactite type of formations so you had to keep stopping and shining your torch around and on the ceiling. We saw a couple of micro-bats and some people claim they saw a fresh water crocodile but we didn’t see it.
Entrance to Tunnel Creek
There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Now we have to go back the way we came.
We were back at camp by lunch time so we then went for a walk down to Windjana Gorge – only about five minutes walk from the camp grounds.
Windjana Gorge is part of the Napier Ranges. 360 Million years ago when this area was part of the ocean the Napier Ranges were a Great Barrier Reef. Since then the ocean has disappeared and erosion has helped create these magnificent high limestone (coral) cliffs. When you stand back and look at the cliffs it is just like looking at a reef. The cliffs are so high that when you walk beneath them they make you feel very small and insignificant.
Entry to Windjana Gorge
Fossil of a seashell in the wall at Windjana Gorge
There was a mud island in the middle of the Lenard River, which cuts through the Napier Range to form Windjana Gorge, and this island was just littered with fresh water crocodiles. We stopped counting when we reach 50.
We were speaking to a ranger later that afternoon who was telling us that they did a count of the number of fresh water crocodiles a couple of weeks earlier and they counted 162 just in this one small area of the river. A bit further on, the water in the river crosses over to the other side and we walked across a sand bank and all along the edge of the water, lying in the sun were more crocodiles. They weren’t scared of people at all. Usually fresh water crocodiles are very timid and disappear as soon as they spot you. These ones didn’t and you could walk up to within about three or four feet from them and they didn’t move. Mind you, no one was game to go swimming!
There were some very dirty cockatoos at Windjana Gorge - I am not sure how they came to be so grubby.
Next morning we did the Savannah Walk which took about half an hour and basically goes from the camp grounds across to the cliffs, then along the bottom of the cliffs and returns to the camp ground via the start of the walk into the gorge. We then did the gorge walk, or all that you could do. Apparently the last west season caused a lot of erosion damage and now they have an infestation of weeds so the walk ends abruptly about one kilometre short of the end of the gorge. The walk was not too bad except it was mostly soft sand. The exercise was good.
I am convinced every bush walk in the Kimberley is through soft sand, scrambling up a mountain or climbing down a cliff, all without a maintained track. And of course, what goes up must come down and vice versa. We have not found one circuit track, so you must come back the way you went. So we have had some interesting experiences and have been keeping fit.
After reluctantly leaving Windjana Gorge our next stop was the camp grounds at Silent Grove(and Bell Gorge). The camp ground at Silent Grove is much the same as the one at Windjana Gorge but without the view. After setting up camp we drove on to Bells Gorge and Falls. The National Parks website says it is an easy walk to the top of the falls – well I would hate to do one of their hard walks!! The first part was down a hill/slope strewn with rocks so you had to watch and be careful every step of the way, then the last part was along a rocky creek. It was very nice at the top of the falls once you got there but to get to the bottom of the falls (where most people were swimming) you had to find a way across the creek then scale a mountain, although not very big one, which is made up of mostly very smooth (and slippery) rock, then find your way down a cliff. I am still debating if the view of the waterfall from the bottom, although very good, was worth the effort to get there.
The walk down to the bottom of the Bell Falls
From Silent Grove we went up to Manning Gorge Camp Ground. This is on aboriginal land and is run by the local community. However, they have a caretaker looking after it. It is quite expensive at $20 per night per person. There are no powered sites and it is just a bush camp. They have a small amenities block of three toilets (septics) and showers for each of the men’s and women’s. There is only a small hot water system (so most people had a cold shower) and when the generator goes off at about nine o’clock at night so does everything else including flushing the toilets. It was totally inadequate for the number of people there the night we stayed. There would have been in excess of 100 people camping as it was school holidays.
As it was late morning when we arrived at the Manning Gorge Camp Ground we decided to leave the walk to the Manning Gorge until next morning when we would get up early and do it in the cool. There were signs up saying it was approximately a three hour walk return and very hot. We then went for a drive up to the Mt Barnett Gorge. Again quite an adventure to successfully complete the walk. From the carpark, where some people were setting up camp, we crossed a dry creek bed then came to another area where people had been camping (illegally??) and there were paths leading off in every direction. We took one which led a short way down to the river/waterhole but you could go no further. So we then retraced our steps and found another path and just as we started off we met some other people who told us to follow the piles of rocks or cairns. So we did this and eventually came to a rocky outcrop where a long way below we could see a beautiful water hole and a bit further up the river you could see where there would have been a waterfall if there had been a proper wet season. There were people below us swimming but as the walk had been difficult and did not look like it was going to get any easier, we decided not to try to find our way down and so returned to the car.
Walk to Mt Barnett Gorge
Mt Barnett Gorge
The walk next morning to the Manning Gorge became quite an adventure. We were told to go on the walk you had to firstly swim across the river. Okay that ruled me out. Then we were told there was a boat on a pully system to get across the river if you did not want to or could not swim. Great. We got up early to go for the walk and as we were about to leave camp the caretaker came along and said if we were going on the walk we would need to swim the river as the boat had or had been sunk (either way it was at the bottom of the river). So we went for a walk down to the river to have a look. By this stage the caretaker had salvaged the boat. However, the weld down the back of the boat had split from people constantly hitting the rock on the opposite bank. It was not going to be back in service that day. We decided to pack up camp and start to make our way back to Derby. Just as we had finished packing up camp the caretaker came along again, very excited, telling us that ‘some old fellow who had been there previously had found a path across the river where you didn’t even have to get your feet wet’. That sounded a much better option to swimming across so off we set following some other people. After about twenty minutes we eventually found the way across the river and back to the start of the track. The walk was about three kilometres up rocky hills/mountains and down again but we eventually came to a beautiful water hole and falls. Then the tricky bit started – getting down the rocks to the falls area. It was not easy especially for people with short legs. Phil enjoyed a swim there – it was a very, very deep hole and quite cold - before we made our way back to camp.
The walk to Manning Gorge
Manning Gorge Waterfall
Walked all this way - may as well have a swim.
As we were running a bit later than expected we called into the Mt Barnett Roadhouse for lunch. We had heard the food was good there and it did not disappoint. Our plan was to stop at Galvan and Adcock Gorges on the way back to Derby. We stopped at Galvan which is only one kilometre off the road. The easiest and shortest walk we have done in a long time. When we reached the end there was only a trickle of water going over the falls and lots of people. On the way back to the car we were speaking with another tourist who said they had just come from Adcock Gorge and it was very similar and no more water going over the falls so after our expedition earlier in the day we gave the Adcock Gorge a miss. We stopped the night at a good free camp at March Fly Glen. It is in the middle of the Leopold Ranges and surrounded by high sand stone cliffs made up of what looks like white and red blocks. Quite spectacular especially at sunset or sunrise.
Water Monitor - found on the way to Galvan Gorge
King Leopold Ranges
Next day it was back to Derby and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. It is so dry and very, very dusty over here. I am starting to long for some lawn or even just green grass. I am not sure if the car and caravan will ever be clean again. It is no use washing them at the moment as they would be just as dirty again in a day or so.
Another sunset from Derby Jetty
Last Wednesday night we had some showers and Thursday morning we awoke to a very overcast day and had some more showers during the morning. It did fine up in the afternoon although it was still quite overcast. The first rain we have seen since before leaving home.
When we returned from the Gibb River Road the Derby Festival was in full swing – not that much was happening but on Thursday evening the Mowanjum Arts Centre were holding their Cultural Dance Festival. We had heard that it was one of the largest aboriginal dance festivals in Australia. In the afternoon they had had some didgeridoo playing and painting workshops but we did not go out that early. The dancing was interesting but I was expecting quite a few more dancers. All the young boys did a few dances but the girls, even though they were all in costumes didn’t do any. Some of the children put on a puppet show rather than dance which was quite interesting. In the other dances they performed there were only one to six dancers. It was a good evening and finished about 7.30 – 8.00p.m. It was very family orientated.
The Mowanjum Cultural Dance Festival
Next morning we said good-bye to Derby for awhile and set off to Broome. We had an overnight stop at a free camp on the way over as we have about 7 days to fill in somewhere before we go on our cruise. It was right on the highway and a bit noisy with trucks going past most of the night.
It was my turn to meet part of the welcoming committee at Nillibubbica Rest Area (overnight stop)
We were lucky enough to get a spot at the Broome Caravan Park. They have an area where the sites are not numbered so they don’t take any bookings for that area - it is ‘first in best dressed’. I had rung all the caravan parks the afternoon before and the Broome Caravan Park advised that if we were here by about 9.30 – 10.00a.m. we should be able to get a site. The only drawback is the park is right next door to the speedway and Motor Cross was on Sunday afternoon. That didn’t worry us as the wind was blowing from the south and took the noise and dust away from us.
Our first glimpse of the Indian Ocean at Broome
We must be the unluckiest people at getting the most rude, unfriendly and unhelpful staff at the Tourism Information Centres (that is putting it very nicely about the woman we encountered at the Broome Tourist Information Centre) or maybe the majority of their staff are rude, unfriendly and unhelpful. The only Information Centre we have been to where all the staff was good was Derby. Everywhere else we have been in Broome so far the staff in the shops have been more than helpful and friendly – even the women in the Chemist shop and we weren’t even buying anything just asking for directions.
Lighthouse at Gantheaume Point
Sunset at Gantheaume Point
We have had a look around Chinatown, Town Beach and watched the sunset from Gantheaume Point and Cable Beach. Gantheaume Point is quite amazing with all the different rock formations and we found our first lighthouse for this trip. It has two sea eagle nests on it – the higher one taking up the whole area. I could not believe the number of 4WD’s and people down on Cable Beach watching the sunset. We have also been to the Luggers’ tour/museum. It was much more interesting than I was expecting. I even got Phil to the Markets this morning! They were not terribly big but quite good.
Pearl Luggers Museum
AND sunset on Cable Beach
We are here in Broome for the next few days before we again head off camping up the Dampier Peninsula and Cape Leveque.
AND of course a Boab Tree for this week is:
A Boab by the Sea