Adelaide to Kimberley - week 6 plus - Gibb River Rd Pt 1

Thursday, Jun 25, 2015 at 10:00

Member - Carolyn & Peter L

Week 6 plus

Thursday 25th June

Sleep in ( I know you’re getting sick of hearing that!) Well to be fair, the trucks starting rolling in to the roadhouse at 6am when it opened, and some of our fellow campers were packing up and on the road shortly after so we just ignored all the activity and had a lie in and a good read of our books!

We heard about the fatality at Karijini from our next door neighbour campers – a 19yo german camper had died at Hancock Gorge when the ledge he was sitting on had collapsed at Hancock Gorge. In another separate incident a female suffered head injuries when she fell at Hamersley Gorge and had to be rescued. Just validates my fears about taking on more than you can physically cope with. Being a wus is good!!!

We spent the morning finalising the shopping list for Broome and trip planning. Then we had a lovely visit from a fellow camper Jim, who was travelling on his own after losing his wife to a terminal illness, supra- nuclear palsy (very similar to Parkinson’s Disease but more rapidly declines). This was Jim's first trip since his wife’s death 12 months ago. They had travelled extensively together so this trip was bittersweet but Jim had a wonderful outlook on life. He actually had travelling companions in their own van, the husband of the couple Jim only met 2 weeks before they left, he was also a regular at the Men’s Shed that Jim went to in Perth. It was great talking to Jim as he shared his many years of experience of caravanning and camping, and truck driving. I think he really enjoyed having someone different to chat to too.

Its funny but up here you almost never miss an opportunity to start a conversation with “how are you, which way are you heading?”. I can see us going shopping at Elizabeth in August and starting a conversation with “some random” as our son Tim calls them – up here we are all travellers and happy to stop and have a chat and share our experiences. At home we are “ too busy” rushing from one thing to the next and forever having our day re-organised by whoever is on the end of our mobile phone! There should be a happy medium somewhere.

Anyway, got the shopping done, revisited the Visitor Centre to get last minute updates on the GRR and refueled before making it back to Roebuck Plains in the dark. I then had to pack away all the groceries for the next 4 weeks. We then traipsed over to the Roadhouse/bar/restaurant for dinner – good truckie nosh and great value. Restaurant meals were very expensive in Broome – one Chinese Restaurant was charging $38 for a serving! Pete had a schnitty burger and I had a steak and salad sandwich with yummy lemon lime and bitters made the traditional way, not out of the tap or a can!

Friday 26th June

Up at sparrow fart – actually some of our feathered friends had done more than fart on the car where it was parked under the tree!! Our fellow campers were gone by 6 when we got up! Packed up – now with two extra diesel jerrycans strapped to the camper – and headed north west to Derby where we topped up with fuel and grabbed a couple of things from Woolies and a coffee from the bakery before finally hitting the GRR!

Bit of an anticlimax tho cause the first 100km is sealed (single lane) and our first stop was Windjana Gorge National Park, only 23 km off the GRR.The campground was pretty packed and we drove around slowly ( to minimise the dust we were kicking up) trying to find a shady spot that wasn’t right on top of fellow campers. None of the spots here are officially marked, its just find your own space. We even checked out the generator area before settling on the quieter generator-free area in what we thought was a space that didn’t encroach on anyone else. Well we got that wrong, our neighbours behind us made a comment (maybe thinly disguised sarcasm) about us “stealing their view” as we set up!! Ok, so no wine and biccies with THEM tonight! ??. No loss. I noted they just moved their chairs a bit further out to the side to view the beautiful view of the Windjana Gorge Escarpment as the sun set, for which we had front row seats in front of our kamper! We actually met two of the four couples from the Barossa 4WD club who are camped behind us and travelling in the same direction, so we aren’t short of nice people to talk to!

Have to add that for dinner we had corn, cheese and bacon fritters with avocado, bacon, rocket and sun-dried tomato salad! I am so proud of my culinary efforts!! If I haven’t mentioned it before, at home we have been living on lite n easy 3 nights a week plus my lunches 5 days a week and I used to hate cooking. Trying to work out what to cook, find where I have stored the recipe, make sure I have shopped for everything, then find the time and energy to cook it. I have been using the “paprika” app for the iPad and it has made such a huge difference! I like to think it will continue when I get home but I guess the proof is in the pudding!!
The app lets you add your own recipes, pictures, or download recipes from the net, then tag them to make them easier to search on. Then you can use the meal planner to add meals to a diary, then in turn add directly to a shopping list which lets you tick off items as you buy them. My goodness I have learnt some new tricks! And, may I say, our tummies (but maybe not our waistlines) are better for it!

Yes, I know that we are “glamping” and not doing it tough like our neighbours who have swags and tents, no fridge or freezer and only a single gas burner, but you don’t get any prizes or discounts for doing it tough so I’m sticking on a good thing!

Saturday 27th June

People wake up early in this campground! A lot of people were up and about by 6am. If we weren’t going walking we would have stayed in bed as it was cold! About 8 degrees and because the sun had to rise up over the top of the gorge it took a while for our campsite to heat up.

We started the walk into the gorge by 8.30. It is very close to the campsite and most of it was easy grade 2 or 3, with only parts Grade 4.7km return walk, most of it in the shade along the side of the gorge floor with some soft sandy bits as well, but very dusty – I walked a few extra steps back behind Peter so I didn’t inhale all his dust. The water holes here are left over from the wet, and shrink as the dry season goes on, trapping the freshwater crocodiles so that there are heaps of them all in the one pool. We counted about 10-15 on the way in, some of them still in the water. By the time we came back, we counted over 30! They look like logs lying on the sandbank in the middle of the waterhole.

On the way in we were directed to a Bower Birds nest off to the right. As we walked in we actually saw both the birds hopping away. The bower was made of twigs, and formed an oval shaped tunnel that you could see right through, and they had decorated it around the outside with white stones. (apparently it’s the satin bower birds that likes blue, not the ones we saw in the park who like white decorations). It looked like there were small dark eggs I side with some white pebbles, but we talked to some bird watchers a bit further along who informed us that bower birds don’t usually lay their eggs in the bowers, but have a nest elsewhere. Something to look up later.

After the walk we stopped back at the kamper for a nice cool drink before we grabbed leftover patties from the night before to take with us for lunch, and headed 35km further south to Tunnel Creek. We really enjoyed Tunnel Creek. You have to do a bit of rock climbing at the start to get in, and you gave to walk through the pools of water as you go. The creek walk is 750m long. Lights or headlamps are a necessity as once you move from the entrance it is pitch black, no lovely commercial lighting to show you the way or make the rock formations more attractive and easier to photograph. It was a bit scary for me, just as I starting worrying about what direction to go in beyond the light of my torch, a set of headlamps showed around the corner from other walkers and we could see which direction to head for. The water was cold at first but soon became quite pleasant. You continued to alternate walking through water then out over rocks the rest of the way. Half way through you can see light again as an old rockfall had caused a cave in of the roof. The deepest the water got to was knee deep – unless you hit a small hole but we did ok even though it was hard to judge the depth of the water. At the end it continues out to the open in a lovely creek, with a beautiful reflections in the water from the trees.

We took a bit longer for the walk than necessary as we met up with another couple, Peter and Linda, who were travelling for 12 months and had just come the other way on the GRR so of course we had lots to talk about. They were also camping at Windjana Campground so we gave them directions on how to find our kamper and in the late afternoon they came round to our campsite and had a few drinks and continued the chat. Dinner was a bit later last night! The menu consisted of rocket salad base with sautéed Sebago potatoes (supposed to be baked but couldn’t be stuffed getting out the weber), chorizo sausage, red onion and sun dried tomatoes.

Sunday 28th June

Went back to sleep so didn’t get up til 7 but still managed to leave by 8.30. Still cold this morning! There was a rubbish collection point at the turn off back on the main rd so we could get rid of our rubbish, and we headed East. We had planned to do the climb into Leonard Gorge, but the Gorge is still closed. Not sure why, but the road in had been pretty crook for a while so that may be the reason. So we continued on, the road in pretty good condition with a couple of shallow water crossings. Corrugations not too bad. Stopped along the way to take a piccie of the rock formation known as Queen Victoria’s Head. The drive was very pretty going through the King Leopold Ranges, and towards the end there were even palm trees growing on the side of the road.

Before long we reached the turn off for Bells Gorge. The campground, Silent Grove, is 19km from the main rd (and some heavily corrugated stretches), with a couple of deeper water crossings but still no drama, similar to the Bungles. Fortunately it was still open – Bells Gorge is very popular and is often closed once the car park is full. We also caught up with the SA Barossa group who were driving out just as we pulled up at 11.30. They had arrived the day before and done the walk into the gorge in the morning before leaving, as the car park for the gorge (10km further on from the campground) was full when they first arrived the day before, and they recommended we do the same thing – save the walk for the morning.

We found a nice spot and set up, settling back for a relaxing afternoon. Before long I became aware that a guy who had arrived after us was not well, lying on his swag and his mate was asking him about whether he wanted him to take him back to Derby to the hospital. He was also vomiting a bit. So of course I did what any nurse would do and went over and offered help. He was quite dehydrated and as it turned out suffering from his first ever attack of BPV – benign positional vertigo. I didn’t know that for sure at the time and he was actually quite dehydrated and started getting muscle cramps, so I went over to the ranger’s office and we phoned through to the RFDS for a phone consult with the doctor on call. Turns out the stations and national parks have these big RFDS medicine chests, and we were able to provide our patient with some Zofran wafers, very powerful anti-nausea drug. The Dr said to wait for an hour and see if the vomiting stopped and get him started on some gastrolyte (which he had in his own first aid chest) and then to call again if necessary.

By the time I got back there was another woman crouching down chatting to him – a GP!!! She and her sister were just setting up their tent on the same spot as his mate Denny had started to pack the car up (we thought he was going to have to drive the 3 hrs back into Derby). Anyway, long story short our patient got worse, then slowly better over the next few hours – great having a GP in camp! At least I didn’t have to make any decisions about whether to try and move him or not, but he certainly needed our help as he went on to develop a panic attack in the middle of it all.

Fortunately he settled down enough – even sat up for a while – so we were able to go back to getting dinner and all the usual stuff, and I didn’t lose any sleep worrying about him with the GP sleeping alongside. Made some more lovely friends!

Monday 29th June

By the morning Richard had gotten crook again so we gave him another wafer. He still wasn’t up to much so he and Denny stayed in camp, and we packed up left the trailer in the camp and drove a further 10km to Bell’s Gorge to do the walk.

The first part of the walk was downhill, and should have been easy, but the “path” was actually a wonderful downhill collection of large rounded loose rocks (some bigger than footballs) surrounded by red bulldust, never seen anything like it, so we had to really watch where we put our feet. Then it settled down into a pleasant walk beside the creek. Before long you arrive at the rock pools at the top of the waterfall. This is where it turns from a grade 4 to grade 5. Pete went ahead with the camera to the top of the steep decline where you can climb down to the base of the waterfall for swimming, as many other people had. I stayed at the top of the falls people watching and enjoying the scenery.

When Peter rejoined me we then headed upstream over another couple of rock pools. They had loose rocks that you could sort of step across, but I actually took my shoes off and just walked through the water – so lovely and cool! Pete then managed to pull/lift me up a big boulder in the middle of one of the pools (just cause he could) that joined on with others like an island. Pretty nice! Was a bit tricky to get down – my legs weren’t long enough soI had to drop part of the way onto another rock perched precariously in the deeper water. I made it ok and enjoyed paddling back out. Soon after another family came back the way we had come, and the dad actually slipped on one of the stepping stones, went down on his knee then his bum in the water! Think he may have hurt a bit more than just his pride unfortunately.

The climb back out was all uphill. Suddenly Pete called to me to stop and stand still and slowly turn around – as I turned round there was a little snake with its head poking up towards Pete to strike. It was only about a foot or so long and I had just walked right over it!. We found out later it would have been a baby python. Not dangerous fortunately. Once I took photos (of course!) Pete got a long stick and managed to shoo it off the path so no-one else would step on it. We continued on the uphill path, getting quite a workout by the time we got back!

We returned the 10km back to camp and hitched up the trailer shortly after 11. The girls were just leaving for the day for a day trip back the way we had come to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek (they had had a slow leak on their tyre and Denny had done some repairs for them). They were staying a second night at Silent Grove as were the guys.

We only had 50 or so km to drive to the turn off for our next stop, Charnley River Station which is then a further 43km off GRR. Charnley Station used to be Beverly Springs Station, and Marion Nixon lived here with her husband. Marion wrote a book called Children in the Sun, about life bringing up her 5 children on the station. There was another one about the illegal trade of birds and wildlife to Asia from the area as well, cant remember the name.

We seemed to have a lot of gates to stop and open and reclose, but I think there were only 4, plus a couple of creek crossings. Each time we stopped we had to wait a few minutes for the bulldust to settle before getting out of the car. Such fun!

Charnley Station was purchased by AWC (Australian Wildlife Conservancy) in December 2013. They are a not-for-profit, non-government group that buys up pastoral leases and manages them to protect a range of tropical ecosystems and threatened wildlife. They also own nearby Mornington Wilderness Sanctuary, a very well established wildlife sanctuary.

After 200km of red dirt and dust since Derby, we drive down over the creek bed to a beautiful lilies growing in the creek to the tall gum trees in front of the Homestead. We were met by Lorrie our host, who gave us a wonderful introduction to staying at Charnley Station. The campground is huge, lots of shady areas and grassed sites. Hot showers (gas powered, YAY no running out when it’s a shady day or too early in the morning) flushing toilets and drinking water.

Tuesday 30th June

Rest day! Sleep in then washing. We thought there was laundry facilities but that was before the AWC took over, but Lorrie was happy for us to use the washing machine on the verandah of the homestead. Only problem it took 1 ½ hrs per load! Still we just walked around with one load then back with the second.

The showers were divine! Beautiful gas hot water and lots of pressure. Aahhhhh! ??

We caught up with the guys from the Barossa 4WD Club again – half of their group had managed to get 2 nights at the Mornington Wilderness Sanctuary, so Deb and Ron and Gary and Estelle waited for them at Charnley. We entertained – had pre dinner drinks and generally made a bit of noise! It was a pity we had to break it up to prepare dinner – at 6.30 which is a lot later than usual for camping but we had fun.

----------------- week 7---------------

Wednesday 1st July

Early start to drive out another 30km to the gorges on Charnley. We started with Lily Pond, but actually due to a misinterpretation of the map, took a detour on one of the cattle tracks for an extra 5km or so and found another Lily Pond, then backtracked to where we should have been. From the look of the tracks quite a few other people had done it too!

Lily Pond was a walk down to the creek bed then around one pond, down past the falls to a y section in the creek to the second and third pools. Beautiful short waterfall at the top. We had the place to ourselves for the first hour or so. We had white painted rocks to head us in the right general direction to the creek and gorges, but once there you found your own track – bit different from the usual National Parks which are pretty well marked tracks all the way. A lot more using our own judgement but by now we were pretty old hands at it – I think by the end of the day we had climbed through over 12 gorges, untold creeks, chasms and pools since we began our travels six weeks ago.

From Lily Pond we drive the car a short distance to the car park for Grevillia Gorge and waterfall. The walk to the first pool was steep, then you had to climb down a 10m ladder to the first pool. There was supposed to be rock art between the first and second pools but we had a lot of trouble finding it at first, but then we found more.

The next bit got a lot trickier, requiring climbing down the side if another set of falls to the last pool, then along a very thin ledge along the side of the pool to find more aboriginal rock art on the cliff walls beyond the pool. I drew the line at this one – there were lots of really big steps/drops to the next rock, too much for me so I sat and waited, looking up the top for the rock art (and found it) while Pete carried on down with the camera. He actually managed to find it, and there was heaps more downstream than up the top. By the time he was coming back, another half dozen or so people had gathered, most of whom stayed at the top with me, altho a young mum and her two young girls managed to get down and see the art – but had left their camera at the top!!!

So the second gorge of the day was ticked off the list. It is recommended to do them all in the same day to save fuel, since there is only one or two places to buy fuel from along the GRR. To get to the next gorge we headed back 15km towards the campground, then turned left for another 15km to get to Dillie Gorge. This really wasn’t a gorge so much as a series of pools and rapids. Absolutely beautiful with lots of Pandanus Palms lining the sides. Lots more rock climbing to negotiate the creeks, we hiked up stream to the furthest pool, clambered over some rocks to find some shade and perched ourselves on the rocks half in the water and ate our gourmet lunch – tuna tempters and jatz crackers. It has become a staple diet for us this trip. Will probably never eat it again, but its great for hiking.

The last stop for the day was nearly back to the campground, then a 7km detour to Donkey Pools or Donkey Springs. We must have saved the best for last! So much easier to walk to, probably only 200m, with a bit of rock climbing at the end to clamber up the side of the rocks to get to the top of the little waterfall. We were so tired and hadn’t been swimming all day, so sat under the waterfall for a very refreshing rinse off! We were the only ones there so enjoyed a quiet sit while we waited to dry off a bit. The sun was going down and it was very peaceful with lots of water lilies in the pond and the trickle of water from the waterfall.

Nearly back at the campground we came across several Rosella plants, also known I think as a native hibiscus. Bright red plant stems and flower/seed heads the plants stand out in the bush. The GP and her sister that we met a few days ago had googled the plant when searching on bush tucker, and had made a sauce with it which we got to taste, quite yummy! So we stopped and I picked a few of my own to cook up.

By the time we got back to the campground I was so tired, I just wanted to shower and go to bed! Once I had the shower tho I felt a bit better and prepared the Rosella by washing it, pulling out the seed pods from the middle then washing it again, then boiling it with a bit of sugar. After dinner I made up a pancake mix so we had pancakes and bush Rosella compote for dessert! Pete took some over to Trevor and Leslie who we me the day before, who were from Yanchep just north of Perth. they hadn't done the last waterfall climb at Grevillia Gorge so Pete also took over the photos to show them, we also made copies for them as well. They loved their taste of pancakes and rosella compote!

Thursday 2nd July

Early start! The plan was to pack up the camper, go for the final walk from the campground to Paradise Pool, then come back and refill our water tanks with the beautiful water from Charnley. However we chatted to Trevor and Leslie who had done the walk the day before and they advised us not to bother – dusty walk just to see a stagnant pond, so we just filled up our tanks and followed them out.

We had planned to stop at Adcock Gorge on the way to Mt Barnett Roadhouse, but we both sort of went – Nah! And kept driving to Galvin Gorge, for which the car park was right on the side of the GRR. It was an easy walk for about a km to where the old campground was – no camping anymore thanks to some people leaving a mess behind them and the private owners got sick of it. After that you walk along the riverbank, over a few rocks and you come to a lovely pool and waterfall, with pandanus palms lining the sides. There were HEAPS of people there, three 4WD tour buses plus another 10 or so private vehicles. Lots of noise and yelling and squealing as the kids – big and little – did running jumps off the rock ledge at the middle of the falls into the swimming hole, or swung out on the rope provided. It was lovely but too crowded. Once we heard the tour directors gathering the group to leave, we headed back out before them, and made it to Mt Barnett Road house just 15 minutes before they arrived!

We filled up with fuel and paid for a nights camping at Manning Gorge campground, 7km behind the roadhouse. We were going to get some groceries but with the tour buses arriving you couldn’t move so we thought we would save that for later.

Once we arrived at Manning Gorge campground we were very lucky to find a camp spot straight away – I think someone must have just pulled out of it. Only 50m from the toilets, correct east-west orientation – best for shade and solar panel set up – so we grabbed it! There were heaps of other rigs and most people looked like they were packed in pretty tight. The downside was that ours was directly across from the tour operator area, but you can’t have everything!

As soon as we reversed the trailer, we went to do the usual and unhitch it from the car – only to find the Anderson plug (power supply for the kamper trailer from the car when driving) had come apart and been worn back to nothing much!!!! Soooo……we set up camp then turned straight back the 7km to the roadhouse who at first were going to send us back 20km to the only tyre repair place on the GRR, but the realised he had what we needed! We were in luck!! So we got the grocery shopping done while we were there, paid for an extra night camping, then back off to the campground where Peter managed to repair/replace the plug. What a legend!

Meanwhile Trevor and Leslie had caught up with us, so we planned to have pre dinner drinks with them a little later, then Deb and Ron from the Barossa club appeared as well – they were staying another night as the two couple who came back from Mornington didn’t arrive till late yesterday so they only did the walk in the morning.

The drinks with Leslie and Trevor were very successful – til 7.30!!! Trevor is a paramedic in Perth and Leslie had only just retired so we had lots to talk about. Luckily I had everything out for dinner and it was just mince and nachos so it didn’t take long to cook but it’s a late dinner when you go to bed at 8.30!!!

Friday 3rd July

Early start, we planned to start our walk into Manning Gorge as early as possible. I actually felt pretty flat the day before, which is not bad considering we have been on the road for 7 weeks. Mostly just tired from the previous day’s marathon, sore muscles and a bit grumpy (OK I was more than a bit grumpy, but I’m keeping it real and being honest here). I just had to drag myself out of bed and keep moving. I knew it would go away sooner or later – and it did!

The foggy head started to lift as soon as we reached the start of the walk at the swimming hole at the edge of the campground – when the adrenaline kicked in as we sized up the little leaking dinghy on a pulley rope that we were to use to drag ourselves the 500m across to the other side – or swim for it! We knew about it beforehand but that wasn’t really much help in navigating the thing. Peter just kept pulling on the rope and I kept bailing the water out – worked well and we got to the other side not particularly gracefully, but dry, which I guess is more important!

The next part was 1.5km up hill and down dale (repeated many times). Hot – even at 8am in the morning – with little shade and lots of rocks to walk/climb over.

But then we reached the cliff half way down to the swimming hole, took a right along the cliff edge, clambered along another 200m around the edge, and it was all worth while!

Cool water pools, crashing waterfalls and orange cliff walls lined with Pandanus Palms. Trickling rapids in between the pools. We sat under the shade and took of our hot and dusty shoes and sox and dangled our feet in the cool water. Within 5 min Pete was standing up – I’m going to have a swim he said! The first time he had been enticed to jump into the water apart from our snorkelling (that’s how good it was). I hadn’t worn my cozzie this time but it was so lovely just dangling the feet I didn’t mind, and I fully planned to swim in the waterhole close to the campground on our return. Whilst he swam over to the other side under the falls and caught up with Leslie and Trevor who were already in the water, I just sat back and soaked it all in.

Once Pete dragged himself out we were watching how people were climbing up to the top of the falls. It looked a bit grade 5 to me, but I encouraged Pete to have a go – I would sit and look after the backpack while he took the camera. We jumped over some rocks where the water course was a bit narrower, and met up with Leslie and Trevor on the other side where they had been sunning on the rocks. After a bit of a group discussion, we decided climbing up the falls was doable, so at the urging of the other 3, I set off first dragging myself up to the next level, clinging onto rock holds and pulling myself up to the top – I felt a little bolstered by the fact that Trevor is a paramedic – at least he could hold me together till my rescue chopper arrived!!! Once up to the top I even took some running jumps across the rapids to get to the other side and we were rewarded with some amazing views. Pete reckons its his favourite Gorge so far – its become the new benchmark! Jury is still out for me, loved Fortescue Falls in Karijini as well.

After a while we started to make our way back – knowing we had 1½ hrs of hot walking and climbing to do. At least we knew there was a cool swim at the other end waiting for us. As it turned out we nearly got the cool swim a bit prematurely! We scrambled into the dinghy to come back across the water after I bailed heaps of water out, then the next minute Pete was trying to jump into the boat and it looked like he was going to get caught in the rope and fall in the water! He seemed to hang in mid air for a few seconds before both of his feet were in the boat. I think there was a guy at the other end “helping” pull the rope (I had my back to the other side and was busy bailing and couldn’t see much) so after our rocky start we made it back across the swimming hole in record time! In the process we both got our shoes and sox saturated, but it didn’t matter with only 200m to walk back to the kamper. The camera and the back pack were mostly dry!

It didn’t take me long to change into my cozzie and head back to the pool. Absolutely delightful! Lovely sandy beach, you can nearly walk out to the rock island in the middle of the swimming hole. I really enjoyed the refreshing swim before returning to camp to do some hand washing, then off to the shower to rinse it all off. Didn’t even have to wait for the shower. Excellent end to a great morning. And yes, the grumpy mood had been left behind hours ago, even before we reached the waterfall. Exercise really does work!!

Quiet relaxing afternoon reading in the shade under the ostrich wing awning, catching up on the blog and planning the next few days. Energy stores gratefully renewed!

While we were having a quiet dinner I noticed that the bicycle tour in the tour operator area had lit a campfire under the giant Boab trees and it was giving off a wonderful glow up into the tree - so quickly pulled out the tripod and went and rook some piccies. A great photo of a Boab is on the bucket list for the trip - still want a sunset one tho!

4th July

Another cool night and we rose early to pack up and head for Mt Elizabeth Station. Pete had noticed a group of Rosella plants near the campground swimming hole and he was keen for some more pancakes! the Barossa mob had left a day earlier and headed to Mt Elizabeth as well, and he was keen to share some pancakes with Deb and Ron, who had actually photographed the ones at Charnley and shown us where to find them. I checked with Glenn, the camp host who was fine with me picking some, in fact one of the tour directors who stop over at Manning had told him that they were actually a weed. Seemed a bit strange as there are not heaps of them around, they just seem to grow in little infrequent pockets. More research when we get the internet!

We drove the 7km back to the roadhouse before heading East on the GRR. i popped in to grab a few more bottles of soft drink and some nibbles for the pre-dinner drinks we seemed to be having regularly. I hadn't bought anything along that line, and had managed with some mettwurst, cheese and crackers so far but the supplies were low. we also decided to purchase an hour of internet for $8, to check on emails and download a travel app that Deb uses that should make publishing my blog a bit easier. The speed was so slow it was so frustrating, but we eventually got it downloaded, checked the emails and even managed to get all 3 kids And Emma through Messenger - quite a feat! While I was on the internet Pete rechecked all the tyre pressures - a couple had been a little too low and the ones on the front were a little too high due to a dodgy tyre pressure gauge.

Back on the road we headed East for Mt Elizabeth Station turnoff 39km from Mt Barnett Roadhouse. From the turnoff there is another 30km to travel on a slightly rougher road with a couple of river crossings - and only 2 gates!! the campground was quite pretty with lots of thin gum saplings to provide shade - and also to navigate around! We spotted Trevor and Leslie's camp - they had set up way away from everyone (but ended up having lots of neighbours anyway). Once got to the main campground to choose a spot Deb saw us and came over to say hello. Spot having been chosen, we went to unhitch - to fond another frayed and undone Anderson Plug!!!!!! It took a few minutes to work out this was due to people error - when putting air in the tyres we had used the Anderson plug for the air compressor, and had forgotten to reattach the kamper plug. Bugga!!!!! Fortunately when stocking up on nibblies we had bought Mt Barnett Roadhouse's last Anderson plug. Oh dear!

Once we were set up we caught up with Trevor and Leslie as well, introduced them to Deb and Ron. Ron had been having a problem with his 12V plug for his fridge in the camper trailer and one of the other 4WD club members had done a temporary soldering job on it. Pete brought out a spare 12V plug and offered to do some repairs for them. we used our small portable inverter, it was enough to run the soldering iron from their camper battery.

We had a nice little supply of firewood that had been left near our tent, so we invited everyone round for after dinner campfire. Then Deb said she'd share a bottle of red with Pete for doing the fix job on the 12V plug - turned out to be a nice shiraz. We had planned to have dinner at 5.30 then campfire, but when I turned on the sat. phone at 5 as we tried to do most nights, it rang within 5 minutes - Pip had managed to call out from her room at Moomba. We had a lovely long chat, the consequence being that dinner was a bit delayed so Pete and Deb got the fire going while I cooked dinner, and Pete and I had our dinner round the campfire as the others arrived. Was a lovely fun night. We all planned to do the "real" 4 WD track the next day to Wunumurra Gorge. It was after 9 before we all turned in - good thing the wood run out and it was getting too cold!

Sunday 5th July

It certainly turned out to be a cold night - it got down to 4 degrees! Trevor and Leslie had gone ahead to Wunumurra, Deb, Ron and Pete and I headed off together at about 9.30, switching to Channel 16 on the UHF so we could communicate between vehicles. We went in the lead, Ron happy for us to take the lead (probably to protect his vehicle). We were a bit nervous about the trip as we were told it was full on low range FWD all the way, with lots of big rocks to negotiate. It was 10km to the Gorge, but we were told to expect to take up to an hour. In fact most people stopped at the 9km mark, then walked the last km of the road, then the 1km of walking track at the. end. As it turned out, a lot of it was nice sandy track, with a few rocks, but there were indeed more than half a dozen rocky "step downs" which we had to negotiate carefully, often with me getting out of the car to check what line Pete should take with his wheels, then I ended up doing the same for Deb and Ron. Ron affectionately (I think) named me Carolyn the Field Marshall. We chose to stop 1km before the end, which was a good choice as the last 3 step downs had lots of scraping marks on them from the chassis of the cars that had mad it through.

Once we made it to the end of the 4WD Track, we still had another 1km of bushwalking to do to get to the gorge. It was pretty warm but we were walking with Deb and Ron so it was nice having someone different to talk to. The walk in was pretty much like the others - up hill and down dale, lots of rocks! before you reach the gorge you come across the creek, lots of rock pools connected by running water going around the rocks - very pretty with gum trees and Pandanus along the edge.

To reach the Gorge you had to navigate two aluminium ladders at two different levels of the upper falls. Not as big as the ladder at Grevillia which was 10m, but these ladders weren't fixed or chained like the one at Grevillia! Stretching the comfort zone again! The Gorge consisted of a waterfall falling into a large swimming hole, then running off further into the creek downstream. We could see the Trevor and Leslie had already made it. Pete was keen for a swim, even to jump off the rocks but walked with Deb and I around to the sandy beach on the other side. Ron (sporting a previous knee replacement) had stayed at the top of the falls. I had decided to go swimming in my shorts and tank top so eventually waded in ( swimming holes are always so cold to get into).

After our swim Pete was keen to go further along the cliff face to find the aboriginal rock art. We chatted to another couple who we had followed out to the Gorge who had just returned from finding the rock art, Claudia and Michele, helping Pete to know what to look for. Claudia also warned Pete about the snake that was curled up between the rocks. I settled down to a shady wait for Pete, Deb had already returned back up to the top to see Ron. Leslie and Trevor had returned to the shade half way up the falls to have their lunch.

Pete returned half an hour later after finding and photographing the rock art. Quite spectacular, it was very different to what we had seen at Grevillia, with amazing haunted/alien faces. We chatted a bit longer to Claudia And Michele, and invited them round for drinks at about 5.30. Claudia was an anaesthetist at Princess Margaret in Perth, and Michele worked in IT.

Once we got back to the cars we found that Deb and Ron had already left to go back to camp on their own. We made it back to camp by 3- quite a nice day of it. After our showers Deb came over to ask about the Rosella and how to cook it, and I suggested we have a pancake night. We had late lunch (tuna tempters again) just before 4, so pancakes would be enough for us for dinner. Deb helped me prepare the Rosella, and Pete studiously retrieved all the seeds from the centre husk, to see if we could grow them at home. Meanwhile Trevor popped over with a USB to get copies of some of my photos, and we invited them back later for pancakes as well.

So we were quite a big group for pancakes, it was lovely sharing our experiences in a bigger group. Claudia and Michele had not had really great encounters with fellow travellers up to this point so they thought we were uncommonly nice! Before long all the sauce and 2 batches of pancakes had been consumed - I had also pulled out some lemon and sugar, honey and tiny marshmellows. Everybody seemed happy, and they all had seconds or thirds so it must have been a success.

Monday 6th July

We didn't have far to drive so we weren't in a big hurry to get up, but then spent some time trying to copy some photos over to Deb's iPad (unsuccessfully), and chatting to Trevor and Leslie and Ron and Deb as we were packing up. Then there was a diversion when a fellow camper backed his Prado into a tree sapling - cracking his spare wheel cover! That took a bit of time for the guys to have a confab and mutually decide what he should do (remove the cover!). Somehow we didn't end up leaving until nearly 11.

We arrived at Drysdale River Station after turning north in the Kalumburu Rd from the Gibb River Rd, for 59km. We were very pleasantly surprised with the road, not the bad condition people were talking about a week ago, but have since found out it was only last week!

Drysdale was a hive of activity when we arrived at about 1. The restaurant (serving their famous Kimberley Burgers) was very busy and the car park was full of vehicles stopped for lunch, buying groceries at the shop, or queuing up for fuel. We had planned to book into Miners Pool, just 3km down the road, but we couldn't come back to use the Laundry and showers, so we chose to stay at the Homestead campground instead. I tried to get washing done after we set up, but after waiting an hour at 3 for my turn at the one of only two washing machines, I realised I still ,had another 30 min to wait, and the sheets and towels wouldn't dry in time so gave up my spot in the line and remade the Kamper trailer bed to have a second attempt at washing the next day.

We spent the afternoon catching up on my blog and photos, and reading. Nice and quiet.

Tuesday 7th July

Lovely sleep in, but ended up getting up at 7 as we had gone to bed in our warm pjs and it was getting a bit warm! We waited til the campground emptied at about 9.30 and only had ro wait a few minutes for a washing machine to become available. One woman had started two loads at 6am ( and was just doing the last of 4 loads) as she had also missed out the day before. Whilst in the laundry we caught up with a family we had met at Manning Gorge. They had just had a nightmare return trip from Mitchell Falls, doing a shock absorber on their Kimberley Kamper on the way in! Then another woman (from Kersbrook at home it turned out) reported they had done a tyre even though they had reduced the pressures and weren't towing their caravan which they had left at Drysdale.

Apparently the Kalumburu road was still in the process of being graded, at the rate of 10km per day and he was currently only 15km north of Drysdale, meaning we still had 90km to the Mitchell Falls turn off to accomplish on a really badly corrugated road, towing the kamper which we planned to leave at King Edward River Camp ground before tackling the even worse unmaintained "track" of 80km plus going into Mitchell Falls (and back out). Once again we were in a quandry - take the risk or take the easy way out as so many others have, and simply fly over the Falls for a mere $400 each - basically the cost of two new tyres!

We pondered in it while we enjoyed our shared Kimberley Burger for lunch at the restaurant. We were planning to go for a swim to Miners Pool that afternoon so just detoured up the track to see how bad it was past the grader - yep,it was crap! Returned to Miners Pool and I had a swim - it was a bit cooler by then and Pete wasn't tempted to swim. We couldn't see Leslie and Trevor who had supposedly arrived during the day for two nights at Miners Pool - they must have found a secluded spot! On the way back we more or less decided we would give it a go. Its almost one of those iconic things that you have to at least try to do, and just hope and pray for the best.
Take me back to my home
To the spirit of the land that calls me
Colours and textures, light and birdsong
There I can breathe, and restore my soul
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