Having missed out on the Mitchell Plateau and resulting in us spending a night at Drysdale Station, we decided on Manning Campground as our next two-night stop before going to our pre-booked four nights stay at Charnley River. Located about 6 km on a track at the side of Mount Barnett Roadhouse, the campground is the access point to the 1.5 hour track to Manning Gorge. On all our bushwalks we have never started a walk like this!
Mount Barnett Roadhouse is a popular stopping point along the Gibb River Road as it provides fuel, provisions and permits for a day visits to the gorge and overnights stays in the campground. Although it was only mid morning (for us almost lunchtime) when we arrived, hot home made pies were on offer. Tempted, we had one each – very enjoyable.
Arriving at the campground, the campground layout, amenities and walk to the gorge was explained to us by the camp caretaker. The campground is quite large with pockets of separated sites of varying sizes. The amenities are located close to the campground entrance, as are the permanent tour group tents. We found a shady spot close to both and set up there.
As it was early afternoon, we set out to find the start of the walk and discover what we had been told, which was that it starts with wading through chest high water to a rock island and then a short swim! Any dry clothes, hiking gear and cameras are transported by towing half plastic barrels.
Of course, this posed a serious problem for our planned walk to the gorge the next day. If you have read previous posts, you will know that K cannot swim. We spent a good part of the afternoon working out how to get her across to start the walk.
Manning Gorge Walk
The solution was for me to do two trips – one with our gear in a barrel and one towing her holding on to the barrel supported by her flotation device (AKA noodle). We successfully completed a dummy run and ready for the next day.
We left our campsite at 7 o’clock the next day to try to beat the crowds and within half an hour our gear and both of us had successfully made the water crossing.
The walk was very interesting with varied surfaces and landscapes to cross. The first 80% of the walk was very easy, but the last section was clambering across rocks up ridges, down into gullies and eventually down to the gorge. The last section took a bit of working out, but we got there. I enjoyed a swim, with K managing a short wade along one of the ledges.
By then time we decided to make the journey back, it was starting to get busy with a constant flow of people going towards the gorge. It was clear that this would only get worse, judging by the stream of people walking towards us.
We negotiated the water crossing once more and got back to the trailer in time for lunch and an early afternoon well deserved rest.
Milky Way Manning Campground
In the meantime, we enjoyed the stretch of water which we had to cross, the water was very warm and ideal for swimming. I also thought that this would be as good location for a night shot of the milky way – using the water in the foreground to get a reflection. This meant wading to the rock in the dark. So, after dinner we set off with my tripod and camera in a water tight bag, just in case the barrel capsized. With my assistant staying on the bank armed with a torch to show me the way, I managed to get to the rock without incident and take a few shots as planned. I must say it was a bit scary with the occasional sound of water lapping – although we were assured that there were no crocs, one’s imagination can play tricks, in the dark, on a rock, in the middle of a body of water. Anyway, mission accomplished!
Because we were leaving the next morning, we paid the water hole one more visit in the late afternoon to cool off before dinner.
We would certainly recommend this campground: sites were well spread out, toilet amenities were clean, but inadequate in numbers and there was a personal welcome by the camp caretaker.
On leaving the next day we filled up with diesel, topped up our water and bought some fresh fruit and bread to keep us going, knowing the remoteness of our next stop, Charnley River.