Burton's Perth to Cape York - Bell Gorge 4 July 2012 Day 96

Saturday, Sep 01, 2012 at 12:35

Mike & Amanda

Reinvigorated from a coolish early morning swim at Manning Gorge we headed back down the Gibb towards Bell Gorge and the Silent Grove Campground. What a morning! It was warming up nicely with bright blue skies, nary a cloud in sight, no wind and that faint earthy taste of Kimberley gritty red dust in the air.

We drove the quite rough, corrugated 19km into Silent Grove, through two fairly deep and pretty water crossings to be met by a jovial DEC camp host at the booking station. Flashing our WA Annual Pass only left us shelling out $11 per adult and $2 per child. This is our second visit here so with Jeff and Pat following we headed straight down to the generator area and ended up in exactly the same campsite as last time. The campground was unusually full for this early and we were lucky to score this site. We circled wagons around a nice fire ring nestled in the golden cut grass and Kimberley dirt. Behind us was a low range dotted with pretty gums which also thankfully provided us with some welcome shade. The campground is the site of the old Silent Grove Homestead. It's a large open area, with good facilities, including tables and seats, shade, bins, flush toilets, showers, water, barbecues, and a phone. Unless you are particularly lucky don’t expect a hot shower as demand far out ways supply. The toilets however are superb, clean, flushing with plenty of toilet paper. The old Bell Creek riverside campgrounds are no longer in use.

After lunch we drove the 10kms to the Bell Gorge carpark, again battling to pass a couple of old slowpokes who feel that peaking at 20km/hr is driving to conditions…..the dust and frustration cause the heart rate to rise, which is not a good thing when on holiday…chill! At the carpark we searched for the old boab carved with the bell from which the gorge is named. The walk down only takes 20 to 30 minutes however the path is very uneven, made up of large rocks. Care needs to be taken here not to roll ankles and fall. The walk leads through some cool, lush bush alongside a creek bed and finishes at a rock platform at the top of the falls. Signposting could be better – head left and you end up at the top of the falls looking down. To get to the bottom it is necessary to cross the creek. There are a couple of places for this, one close to the top of the falls which depending on water levels is a little tricky and slippery. Baring right takes you to a crossing further away, still tricky but slightly easier.

Our group crossed somewhat precariously and climbed up the steep rocks to find the entrance to the climb down to the bottom. This was a very steep climb and required some care by the older members of the party. The children seemed to bound down, although one mistake and it would be curtains!

At the bottom, the famous Bell Falls vistas could be properly seen and appreciated with the stepped falls front and centre! We all dived in the icy water only to discover two more hazards! One was the potential for hypothermia and the second was trying to get out of the water. The rocky bottom right along the edge was covered with a thin layer of slime - just enough to make it extremely slippery and difficult to maintain balance! Quite a few people were seen to go ‘A over teakettle’. The water was cold, however with the lack of hot water back at camp, this served as our wash for the day. The current was also a fun challenge – trying to get close to the Falls was a matter of brains not brawn. Sliding in sideways seemed to give the best option for accessing the rocky falls. Even Grandma went in. Kate was determined to swim over to the base of the waterfall, but the current was just too strong for her. She wasn't giving up easily though.

Back at camp, I tried the Sat phone to try and contact Broome Toyota as well as our own local home experts TLC in O’Connor. Our location close to the ranges gave intermittent and very frustrating connection so we gave up and used the Telstra Card phone in the campgrounds. Toyota Broome was booked up for weeks and TLC didn’t like the idea of us continuing to drive the Cruiser lest we do permanent damage….not much option really. A great night around the campfire quaffing some NZ Sauvignon Blanc saw us getting a great night’s sleep. The campsite was busy, although most people kept to themselves. There was a smattering of large caravans all parked in a rectangle to keep the campertrailer ruffians out (LOL) and a few cars and tents, the rest of us camper trailer jockeys.
Mike & Amanda
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