Friday 16 July
In an attempt to bring you up to date with our travels, this post describes some of the highlights since our visit to Charnley River. It seems appropriate to complete the picture so far as we are now at our half way point in our three month trip – yes it is six weeks since we left Victoria. Six weeks since we came out of lockdown and, I am sorry to hear that, yet again, Victoria has been locked down. It seems that we are in the best possible place in Australia at the moment.
Since this is probably one of the most popular gorge along the Gibb River Road and certainly one of the most dramatic, it was one not to be missed.
Our original plan was to stay one night at Imintji, but, on arrival there, we decided to drive on to Silent Grove Campground. This is located half way up the side road that leads to Bell Gorge and saved us a bit of time on our journey the following day.
As you can imagine these gorges get very busy during the day, but we were very fortunate in having the gorge to ourselves for about half an hour. When everyone else at the campground were packing up and then going to the gorge, we did it the other way round. The walk in to the gorge is pretty straightforward, although it starts of like a very stony dry creek bed. The track opens up at the top of the waterfall with the option to wade across the creek and down to the pool below (which is great for swimming). We opted not to do this, but spent some solitude time enjoying the views.
From the top it is very difficult to get a good view of the waterfall itself. So, my solution was to lie on my front, stretch out as far as I dare and extend my camera as far as possible. I did manage to get a reasonable shot. My drone would have done a far better job, but drones are prohibited, much like everywhere else.
On the drive back to pack up the trailer and hit the road, we had to give way to countless cars heading for the gorge. By mid morning we were on the road to Windjana Gorge.
We had pre-booked three nights at Windjana Gorge, but by the time we arrived the campground was very full leaving us little choice about where to set up. Luckily, we found the last remaining shady spot.
The campground is close to the base of the cliff face of the Devonian Reef that used to be under the sea. It is quite spectacular, looking like something out of Lord of the Rings. The overall colour is black punctuated by orange. At sunset, the cliff face dramatically changes to a deep orange colour.
On our first day, we set off quite early to complete the 8 km return gorge walk. The entrance to this is via a short tunnel in the rock face which opens up to a track that runs parallel to the river. This is the place to see fresh water crocodiles – they lie basking in the sun on the opposite shore and sand banks. However, we did come across one on our side, but it was not too close.
The track opens up to a large sandy area before following the course of the river. The few people we met who had been to the end of the walk said there was not much to see. They were not wrong – the end was noted by a sign that read ‘End of gorge walk’!
By the time we returned, we were both very tired, putting this down to the heat.
On the second day we drove to Tunnel Creek, see below, and in the late afternoon completed the Savannah Walk. This took us very close to the base of the cliffs where we spotted a Rock Wallaby that K managed to get a few photos of.
Windjana Gorge is down a 20km gravel road to the south of the Gibb River Road, the junction of which represents the end of the hard driving – bitumen at last! With only a short 9 km stretch of gravel between that and Derby, we were looking forward to putting the constant shaking and rattling behind us. It also meant better phone and internet coverage.
When I was last here in 2017, I declined to tackle the walk in on account of my damaged knee. I was therefore determined to do it this time.
The journey through Tunnel Creek required a lot of wading through water and stumbling over rocks in total darkness, with the occasional croc thrown in. A good torch and bathers are essential for this venture. On this occasion it also involved a short swim. It was at this point that K decided not to proceed.
I made it to the end and back again, so another one ticked off the list.
Our next pre-booked stay was at Birdwood Station, about 20 km from Derby and a short drive from Windjana. We set up camp before lunch and went into Derby to replenish our provisions at Woolies. It was Sunday, so all the other shops were closed, but we did manage to find a small café open for a ‘fish and chips’ lunch. This was our first phone and internet service for a while, so we spent some time catching up with the more mundane. However we did it against the background of the Derby Pier.
The highlight for me was being able to make a return visit to the old Leprosarium at Bungarun. I first visited it on my 2017 trip and was keen to see how the place had deteriorated in the intervening years. I will write a comprehensive article about this in due course, but in the meantime, please read this article on my web site.
Birdwood station was wonderfully quiet with all amenities and campers well spread out. The wildlife wandering around featured two Peacocks, a white Peacock and at least one Peahen. There was only one walk through the savannah which we tackled on our second day, but, at 35 degrees, it was very hot and it took a lot out of us.
High on K’s list of birds to photograph was the Brolga. We pulled into a wetland area for a while, but there was not much to see, as it was the middle of the (hot) afternoon. As we were about to leave, I suggested driving down a rough track that leads to the mud flats. As we turned to corner there were, not one, but three Brolgas. So, we sat for a while watching and photographing. Another on ticked off the list!
Derby was also the opportunity to sort the electrical connection between the car and trailer, to refuel and to finally pump up the tyre to their correct road pressures.
Banana Well, Cape Leveque
We are now at Banana Well campground on the Dampier Peninsula. I will tell you about this in the next post, otherwise I will not get this uploaded this evening. From here we travel to Broome tomorrow for three nights where, at long last, the wagon will get a well-deserved service.