North Kimberley Day 33 - Saddler Springs to Bells Gorge

Tuesday, Jul 24, 2001 at 00:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Day 33 - Tuesday 24/7/01
Start - Saddler Springs
Stop - Bells Gorge
Trip Odometer - 198.km
Stopped time - 2.14hrs
Moving average - 53.5km/hr
Moving time - 3.43hrs
Max speed - 5.58hrs

With a very early start this morning we timed it nicely to Bells Gorge. Our camp was only 9km from the Bell Gorge turnoff, with another 19km into Silent Grove or 29km to the Bell Gorge car park.

We passed many cars leaving, so had we wanted to, we were in the ideal position to pick up a tag for one of the beautiful Bell’s Creek campsites. I will update our GRR trek with more details of these camps, but the idea is first-in gets the camps. We found that at 9am there were 5 camps available but by 11.30 when we left they had all been taken again. If you miss one of these camps, there is still ample camping at Silent Grove – both areas cost the same but you are more secluded if you get the creek spots.

We drove past all the camps and parked under the shady trees in the car park at the start of the gorge walk. There were probably 30 cars here by the time we set off.

There are no distances marked for the walk and the trail is not clearly marked however it takes about half and hour to reach the bottom – which is actually the top of the waterfall. Some people end their walk here – you can get a good view of the falls and can wet your feet in the rock pools above the falls however the more adventurous will want to get right down into the main pool below the falls.

You can either walk directly across the rock pools at the head of the falls (it is slippery and up to knees in some spots) or traverse right around the back of the top pool, although you will still need to get your shoes off to make it across the 2 wet crossings.

We scrambled across the head of the falls, baby and all, which is far quicker and then followed the stony cairns up and over the rocky ridge for a few hundred metres until the track starts to point to the left where you can scramble down to the water level.

The water was too cold for Leah but David, Colin and I had a lovely swim. Only a few other people were down at the water but none of us were as brave as they 2 young guys who jumped from the top of the falls into the pool where we swam. It didn’t surprise us either when we recognised them from the 2WD VW Kombi van we’d passed on our way in. The pommie and the Israel were still working out who was madder than the other!

We could’ve stayed all day, but it was just another gorge and there were plenty more of them to come. David and I had decided we’d make the diversion out to Lennard Gorge on our way to Windjana Gorge today, whilst the Jacka’s would mowsie on at their own pace and meet us at camp.

Somehow, we had missed visiting Lennard Gorge on our last visit to the Kimberly so although we were rather tired already we persisted on. We had heard that the track into Lennard Gorge was rough but the gorge was worth it. Colin didn’t think it was worth pushing his car though and Sandy said she wasn’t walking to any more gorges anyway.

The turnoff to Lennard Gorge is signposted on the LHS of the road after the bitumen hill climbs through the Lennard Range. Almost immediately after turning left off the GRR take the next right-hand turn (straight ahead is Mt House Station) and here you start the 8km track down to the gorge.

The first part of the track was in a mess but on our way back out a road-building crew were setting up. There had been some recent rains and lots of traffic that had chopped up the track, but generally you could see that this was just another dirt track. However the final 1-2km requires a high clearance 4WD and we even used low range to negotiate the rock steps. The car park at the end is just a very small turning circle with little shade so if possible it would probably be best to drop a trailer off at the top, although we found a few in there.

The walk down to the gorge is quite overgrown, steep, rocky and unmarked. Getting down to the water is quite an effort but it is certainly a specie gorge – a mighty river that has forged and polished a narrow gorge through ancient stone.

We scrambled and explored and thoroughly tired ourselves out so it was a relief to make it back to the comfort of our car, however on the way out we hit a boulder with the front passenger side wheel and dented the rim (GXL rim is steel not alloy so it survived). Amazingly, so did the tyre! We have decided we rather like these Coopers Tyres now that we’ve got the tyre pressures right. As Terry from Coopers advises, these tyres are designed to be run 4-8psi lower on dirt than you use on bitumen. Since doing just that we’ve not lost a single tyre, over the Tanami, Kalumburu, Mitchell Falls and Gibb River Roads, whereas those in our convoy have lost 3 tyres on the same roads. But we’ve a long way to go just yet!

We pulled into Windjana Gorge close to sunset and again found masses of campers. There are now 3 camp grounds - quiet camping, generator camping and tour camping. We had a good chat to the rangers about ExplorOz this afternoon and also spoke with some tourism researchers from UWA, who believe we doing the governments work in providing a national reference on 4WD travel and would probably qualify for a government grant to continue operating.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
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