Burton's Perth to Cape York - Barnett River Gorge to Manning River Gorge 2-3 July 2012 Day 94-95

Sunday, Aug 26, 2012 at 21:48

Red Dirt Australia

Overnight, our little deserted turning circle campsite next to the Barnett River was very cold! Our huge environmentally unfriendly bonfire threw a warming glow most of the night, crackling quietly, the scent of wood smoke making sleep come easy. Jeff the wood-whisperer had worked his magic locating huge old deadfall logs that burnt all night long…ah the pleasure!

Braving the cold morning, carefully climbing down on to the hard floor from the surprisingly comfortable queen bed, locating trackies, tee shirt and Mountain Design Windstopper, the stiff body performing a strange dance in the confined space, trying to dress without standing on the still sleeping kids or stubbing toes on the portapotty.

Bare feet on the still freezing river sand whilst optimistically feeding the coals with brush and kindling, hoping the warming flames will erupt. The Oddy’s slide-out kitchen requires unlatching until it is locked, the gas hose connected and a billy put on for the first heart starting cuppa English Breakfast. That’s one big plus for the Australian Off Road Odyssey - everything is close at hand; tea, cups, gas, sink, electrically pumped water, and stove. The only real drama is unlocking the Cruiser and pulling out the Engel on its slide to retrieve the unleaded milk. The well worn shockies tend to groan a little now at any movement – the sound suggests someone is awake. Amanda’s waking up face at the huge window silently communicates that two cuppas will be required! That is one of my early morning jobs, two cuppas in bed for the Boss! Soon the camp was moving and it continued to warm up quickly – off with the trackies and back in the familiar red dust stained shorts, now a little threadbare and faded from rough washes and a long trip.

To our amazement, the iPad Hema map informed us that we only have to travel a grand distance of 30km – hardly seems worth the effort of packing up! At least we should arrive early enough to get a good camp spot! Mount Barnett Roadhouse is one of those places that you must go to…if you want fuel that is. It is one of the only two real roadhouses on the Gibb proper, and the only one selling unleaded! Besides, the last trip we missed out visiting Manning River Gorge and watching CamperTrailer Australia’s video of Carlisle Rogers swim across using foam boxes convinced us it’s a must-do!

Exiting Barnett Gorge was challenging and exciting. It was rough! Once again we sat behind an oxygen thief on the way out travelling at a very slow 15kph. What was annoying was he wouldn’t pull over and let the faster traffic pass. In fact we suspected they didn’t even know we were behind them. Due to my low patience threshold we performed an un-neighbourly overtaking manoeuvre, by the gestures and blue face I guess the old guy needed a portable defibrillator! Come on tourist, check your mirrors, get a real off-road vehicle or stay at home and watch Getaway with Rowena!

Barnett Roadhouse was a little busy, requiring some of that legendary patience (chuckle) to queue up for unleaded. Chatting to other travellers, checking out their different set-ups with interest made the time pass a tiny bit faster…..the nice lady at the check-out bumped us up the long queue realising some idiot (shame) was driving a petrol 4WD and had clocked up a $200 fuel debt…she didn’t want us to get impatient and leave without paying no doubt! We booked into the Manning Gorge camp ground; 7km behind the roadhouse, listening to her inform us of the strict rules…no wood to be chopped around the camp, although it can be collected on the 7km drive in. No gennies after 8pm and a strict speed limit of 40km in and 15km around the camp. All sounded fair and reasonable. Pat and Jeff scammed pensioner’s rates the old buggers (LOL), whilst the rest of us paid $16/person per night (kids were free). The toilets and showers were only operational when the main camp/station genny was running for 2 hours AM and PM. Jeff and I collected some huge dead logs on the way in, decorating the hard floor top with disgusting slimy white ants and anchoring the whole pile with occy straps. The little $8 Fiskars bow saw from Bunnings not only comfortably fits into the trailer toolbox, it is a sharp and handy little bugger, perfect for this sort of trip. Hauling the heavy, trimmed logs saw us collecting our share of cuts and scrapes but we were determined to be self sufficient during our stay and enjoy a warm fire able to cope with this particularly cold Kimberley dry.

Arriving early we staked out a nice free area not too far from the river crossing and went into mechanical set up mode. After nearly four months on the road we really were getting quite good at this. The strategic placing of trailer, Cruiser, Jack’s little tent and Pat and Jeff’s stuff meant we had a decent sport without being too greedy. Besides we were so early no one else was nearby! Amanda did her magic with the frypan and ham and cheese toasties whilst I unpleasantly unloaded and arranged the squirming firewood pile, hoping that no one would pinch it whilst we were out. The white ants wriggled every which way wondering what evil god had unleashed this cataclysm upon their universe. The black and white mudlarks cautiously gorged themselves with this unsuspected food source.

After lunch we zoomed out back to the Gibb River Road and headed west for 14km to find Galvans Gorge. The carpark stands right on the edge of the GRR with a 1km pretty easy walk into the Gorge. No camping signs everywhere!

The walk in was warm, pleasant and uncrowded. We passed a few people coming out all with encouraging words and smiles on their faces. What a delightful, unexpected find! Colourful, cool looking billabongs resplendent with water lilies, overgrown pandanus and huge old boabs. The pool was crystal clear, cool with a fantastic shaded waterfall. Most of all there weren’t the usual crowds. The water in the pool was quite cool and deep, but the waterfall was noticeably warmer. Even Granddad stripped off and had a swim, enjoying ther the waterfall, although it wasn’t enticing enough to lure Grandma into the water.On the back wall of the gorge on the far side of the pool we spotted a delightful Wandjina rock art painting. Much refreshed (and thinking that we had probably had a better wash than we were likely to manage under the showers tonight going by recent experiences) we headed back to camp, relieved to find that no one had "moved in" on us. The fire was eagerly lit with our hard earned collected wood. The white ants found our that the evil gods had returned, scurrying into the flames like lemmings off a cliff. It was a lazy, pleasant evening around the comfortable campsite, chatting to neighbours, reading and diary writing. The sun slowly dropped, highlighting the beautiful old boab behind us, it luring many amateur photographers.

All sorts of different travellers amble in quite late, from a solo self sufficient European motorcyclist, tricked up obviously experienced long distance outback travellers, Britz temporary Australians, to others who should know better and stay at home. We spotted some of these clambering through the bush trying to find last minute firewood, even cutting down green stuff. It is these idiots that will ruin campfires for the rest of us! One lot even came over to our fire and asked if they could have some of our wood! For a brief moment my neighbourly, Christian values caused me to hesitate and consider their plight nicely, but only for about 5 seconds before I told them a firm No! The bloody freeloaders, for God’s sake - plan ahead!

Quite a noisy night with the now fullish campground. We braved the river crossing about 9AM. It was only a little walk to the crossing where a tinny resides connected to both banks by pulleys and a rope. Jeff and Pat tired the boat whilst the rest of us swam across. What a way to wake up, it was delightful! The path from this crossingWAS fairly challenging, rocky underfoot and a couple of steep up and downs as well as plenty of scratchy Spinifex grass.

Took about an hour (after messing around crossing the water) to reach the gorge. The falls were in full-flow and lovely to look at. There is a large pool at the bottom which we all jumped into for a cooling swim. It was cool, but once you got in it was lovely. Even Grandma had a go. All the boys did bombies off the rocks near the edge of the falls. We then lazed on the warm rocks and had some lunch before heading back to camp. Recrossing the river, this time only Grandma took the boat option, the rest of us having our wash as we swam across. The ablution situation here is terrible. There is a shower block with three showers and three flushing toilets for each male and female. But the water only runs while the generator is going, which is two hours, morning and night. In between times there is no water flowing, which by late afternoon or early morning makes the flushing toilets (which people continue to use) quite disgusting and unhygienic. Even when the water is running (7.30-9.30am, 5.30-7.30pm) the water heater can't keep up with demand, so the showers are lukewarm at best.
Mike & Amanda
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