Letho's Blog

Archive for Mai, 2011

Gibb River Road – the other end

by on Mai.31, 2011, under The Kimberleys

Saturday, 28th May – Tuesday, 31st May 2011

After several hundred kilometers of driving and the highest LPG price we have ever seen in all of Australia we arrived in Wyndham where we expected to be able to fuel up and get some nice groceries. Far from it, we shopped at a very small and expensive supermarket and could only get normal fuel being much more expensive for us than LPG. After a quick look at one of the big things (remember the big lobster in Kingston?), a crocodile, and the Five-Rivers-Lookout we were only too happy to leave the area again.

On the way to the Gibb River Road we stopped at the Grotto where we almost couldn’t find the entrance. Have a look at the pictures, can you find it?

And finally we arrived at the entrance of the Gibb River Road and headed towards a yet unknown mekka of 4WDing! But first things first:

Our first stop was Emma Gorge which was part of the El Questro Wilderness Park as we learned later. The first excitement of the day was an encounter with a quite large and quite deadly King Brown snake though on which we almost stepped on…

Here’s a short clip of Emma Gorge:

We learned that the El Questro Wilderness Park had several more gorges, hikes and lookouts as well as camping spots and we decided to have a look and bought a 7 day pass.

We quickly left Emma Gorge in order to take a bath at the hot Zebedee Springs that closed after 12 pm. And what an oasis it was, the water nice and warm and the surroundings amazing:

Since it was still early in the day we decided to do the next walk on the list – the El Questro Gorge! To get there was already a challenge but very exemplary we walked through first to see how deep it was.

See how it went:

No problem at all for SuperLandCruiser!

Should we go 2.6 or 6.8 km return is what we asked ourselves at the beginning of the walk? Being ambitious we decided on the whole walk. The first part was fairly easy walking:

Then we got to half-way point and a huge rock. Two possibilities ahead of us, either through rather shallow water (to your thighs) and trying to climb up the rather steep middle of the rock or follow the markers to the left, swim through the water and climb up there…
Clever us remembered the disastrous shoe crossing at Manning Gorge and just threw our shoes on the rock which was the best thing to do and then into the water and up the rock!

The second part of the walk was very rocky, up and down, over small creeks and up a waterfall until we arrived at the Mac Micking Pool and waterfall:

The only downside to these kinds of walks is that you have to go back the same way you have come and that can be a bit boring.

We headed back and decided to have a look at the El Questro Wilderness Park Station to check out the camping conditions. In order to get there we had to cross another river. There we found a few cars waiting for a motorhome to be pulled out of the creek after unsuccessfully trying to cross it. It got almost up to the end with its 2WD, but still got bogged down, damaged its radiator and was stuck at the crossing for a few days waiting for spare parts!

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The Bungle-Bungles

by on Mai.28, 2011, under The Kimberleys

May 27, 2011

We had camped quite close to the turnoff leading to the Purnululu NP, better known as the Bungle-Bungles. In the night we not only heard some howling dingoes, but a growling and grunting sound very nearby. Very similar to a wild boar or another big animal .. in the next morning it turned out to be most likely one of the countless Brahman cows in the area. πŸ™‚

We had been warned that the road to the Purnululu NP, despite being only 50 kilometers long, would take 2-3 hours to cross, including many floodways. We found this to be true in every sense – we counted more than 40 floodways in all shapes and sizes. The road itself was not too bad, although occasionally curvy and steep.

Finally we entered the gates of the Bungle-Bungles:

Entry to the Purnululu NP

Entry to the Purnululu NP

In the park’s information center we were displeased to hear that the Echidna Chasm in the northern area of the park was still closed due to the late wet season and the resulting road conditions. Another great site barred from us .. πŸ™

After all, the Domes Walk and Cathedral Gorge right in the middle were open. Another 30 kilometers and we arrived at the Domes Walk where we had breakfast and packed our gear, expecting an exhausting walk under the hot sun.

Surprisingly the Domes walk was not very long, maybe just short of an hour. We gathered many views of the beehive-like coloured domes while walking through the ranges. What an impressive site .. even more stunning that this place was almost unknown to the world 30 years ago! It was included in the World Heritage listings several years after being declared an official national park.

Here and there we stumbled upon waterholes:

Here’s one of several panoramas depicting the trail for you:

Bungles-Bungles panorama no. 1

Bungles-Bungles panorama no. 1

We proceeded directly to Cathedral Gorge.

The Cathedral Gorge looked less like a typical gorge, but more than a giant rock ledge hanging over sand patches and a pool. You can clearly see where the water pours into the gorge from the carved rocks above. And it’s big – compare the dimensions of the people to the rock walls.Β  Most noticeably are the acoustic properties which gave this place its name: raising your voice and singing sounds like a in a cathedral as the rocks reflect the echoes as in a natural amphitheatre – this one being inverted and hanging from the roof. πŸ™‚

We did two panoramas from only slightly different angles, starting with the first:

Cathedral Gorge panorama no. 1

Cathedral Gorge panorama no. 1

And here the second one:

Cathedral Gorge panorama no. 2

Cathedral Gorge panorama no. 2

Note the little details like the rounded, blackened shape where the water pours down or the vertical, straight rock wall on the right. With its colour schemes and sheer size it makes up for an amazing scenery!

Returning from Cathedral Gorge we decided to head into Piccaninny Creek. Normally the walk into the creek is declared as an overnight hike, requiring registration at the info center. However, we only peeked into it for less than 2 kilometers or so.

Another panorama from one of the lookouts:

Bungles-Bungles panorama no. 2

Bungles-Bungles panorama no. 2

Almost at the end of the day we headed back to the car …

… and drove to one of the campsites in the park. The warming campfire in the evening was comforting. However, the night was one of the coldest nights we ever experienced. Freezing for hours and being unable to sleep really spoils all the fun even with the days being so warm… πŸ™

May 28, 2011

The next day we stopped shortly at the Walanginjdji Lookout ..

Great view, tiny LandCruiser - Walanginjdji Lookout

Great view, tiny LandCruiser - Walanginjdji Lookout

.. took a panorama ..

Bungles-Bungles panorama no. 3

Bungles-Bungles panorama no. 3

.. and left the Bungle-Bungles. As a fun project we took a picture of every single floodway on the way out, but we’ll spare you the 40 pictures – for now! πŸ˜‰

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From the Gibb River Road to Wolfe Creek

by on Mai.26, 2011, under The Kimberleys

May 24, 2011

From Windjana Gorge we went all the way back on the Leopold Downs Road, returned to the Great Northern Highway and arrived in Fitzroy Crossing again. We could not help it but had to complain at the Tourist Information Center: a lot of the information given in terms of road and roadhouse status was simply wrong. Every traveller we met on the road had acquired a different knowledge from all the visitor centers around. For example, not only were both roadhouses on the way to Mt Barnett Roadhouse actually open, they did have fuel as well. Meaning: our 100$ investment in a jerry can was completely needless. And what’s worse: we heard that the Gibb River Road from Mt Barnett onwards had opened the day before at noon! That was exactly the time we were there and turned around, assuming it was still closed. What a disaster. πŸ™

We had no alternative to pursue as planned, thus we drove all the way to Halls Creek and finally found a free rest area named Carolines Pool 15 km away from the community. After a nice campfire and some tasty hot dogs we called it a day.

May 25, 2011

First thing in the morning was a little tour around the area:

Our exploration of the area was followed by a visit to Sawtooth Gorge with Palm Springs on the way.

Sawtooth Gorge itself was a long drive over a bad road, but not too fascinating:

On the way to China Wall we passed Old Halls Creek, the original settlement location. It’s funny when you see roadsigns still standing – but there are neither roads nor houses. A few ruins here and there, that’s all.

China Wall itself is a unique rock formation created by a very distinct erosion pattern. The Great Wall in China is bigger and longer, though. See this panorama:

Panorama view of China Wall, Halls Creek

Panorama view of China Wall, Halls Creek

Afterwards we decided to be really super-brave: we drove all the long, dusty and corrugated track to the Wolfe Creek crater. There exists a really bad movie named „Wolfe Creek“ about a psychopath tricking backpackers there into a trap and cruelly torturing and killing them. I’m afraid I saw it here in Australia, and it ranked in my „Top 5 Worst Movies“ list. However, it was a bit of a challenge to convince Inka to go there and stay for the night. And she hadn’t even seen this terrible flic! πŸ˜‰

On the way south on the Tanami Road we passed a few cattle stations, e.g. Ruby Down Station. Apart from a few other cars going up and down you won’t see anything else but many, many cows. Particularly on the track itself. Interestingly enough they often wait until you approach them quite close, stare at you and then they suddenly start to panic and run off in a frenzy.

We arrived at Wolfe Creek late in the afternoon and quickly rushed onto the crater rim and down into the crater. The sight was really fascinating:

Although it was getting late we walked along the crater rim all the way round, quite a few kilometers. There is no official trail, and we had better put on proper shoes. We knocked our toes a few times on the rocky ledges and made it back just before sunset.

We shot two panoramas, starting with an overview from the crater rim:

Panorama of the Wolfe Creek crater from the rim

Panorama of the Wolfe Creek crater from the rim

The second one is from inside the crater:

Panorama of the Wolfe Creek crater from inside

Panorama of the Wolfe Creek crater from inside

Last but not least – a video, hooray! Digg it.

We set up camp on the campground nearby. Not too scared, as we weren’t alone, at least 10 other cars where there as well. Had they seen the movie – what do you reckon? πŸ™‚

May 26, 2011

Somehow we woke up incredibly early – this anxious feeling something bad had happened here must have had its influence on us!

Just joking. πŸ™‚ After countless corrugations and an exhausting drive on the Tanami Road back to Halls Creek we couldn’t get LPG at the only station in town. It had been shut down only 10 minutes before our arrival due to a gas leak. Great. Therefore we spent most of the day in town, cleaning up, washing clothes, surfing the Internet where Inka found a power outlet and simply put up our camping chairs. πŸ˜‰ By the way – most likely neither we nor our car has ever been dirtier than after this trip to Wolfe Creek…

At the end of the day we finally could fill up LPG, instantly hit the road and drove almost all the way to the entrance into the Purnululu NP, better known as the Bungle-Bungles.

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The Gibb River Road Pt. I

by on Mai.23, 2011, under The Kimberleys

May 22, 2011

We awoke to the sound of a helicopter – again! Imagine that: you’re in the middle of nowhere, and there’s such a noise that you are literally driven out of your tent. What it was doing there – we have no idea. Hopefully not looking for us. πŸ˜‰ We packed up and after a few minutes we reached the crossing onto the Gibb River Road:

The road conditions were quite good as the road had just been worked on by the graders, apart from lots of floodways that slowed us down every now and then. The floodways looked a lot like this all the time:

Unluckily Lennard Gorge was closed, and so was Bell Gorge. We passed the so-called Victoria’s Head, a rock formation resembling the shape of Queen Victoria’s profile – watch out for the distinctive nose. After an extensive breakfast at March Fly Glen, a swamp-like rest area, we stopped shortly at Imintji Roadhouse.

See this panorama of the Kimberley region:

The Kimberleys

The Kimberleys

Our next stop was Galvans Gorge. We were pleased to see it open and quickly rushed onto the walk.

A little paradise: a beautiful waterfall pouring overΒ  the gorge’s wall supplying fresh water for a waterhole enclosed by trees and bush. We wandered over to the waterfall and took a very refreshing swim in the cold water and beneath the waterfall:

A quick panorama for you, but the stitch is not perfect:

Panorama of Galvans Gorge

Panorama of Galvans Gorge

On our way further down the Gibb River Road we skipped Adcock Gorge to save it for the next day and arrived at Mt Barnett Roadhouse. However, it was closed for the day and would not reopen until the next morning, meaning we were unable to obtain a required permit for the Manning Gorge. After Mt Barnett Roadhouse the Gibb River Road was still closed for all traffic. Thus we opted to take the risk, opened the gate and made our way into Manning Gorge.

Surprisingly we met a Dutch couple at the campground that had done the same. We set up camp for the night and joint for a campfire.

May 23, 2011

The next morning we started the walk into Manning Gorge. The first section already provided for a surprise:

After searching unsuccessfully for an alternative way to cross the water we negotiated the swimthrough at last, helping out each other carrying our belongings. We wandered around quite some time, following the trail markers wherever possible. Since the track was marked very poorly, we eventually lost orientation and reached the rim of the gorge.

A bit frustrated we returned to the swimthrough and this time wandered along the creek into the gorge for a while:

We learned later that somewhere there must be a waterfall. We could not find it, but still had a good hike here. When driving back to the roadhouse we met some locals that were quite anxious and infuriated about us going into the gorge without a permit. The road was supposed to be closed, but someone obviously had removed the road sign stating that.

Fair enough, we returned to the roadhouse and drove back the way we came to Adcock Gorge for our next stop. Shortly before the start of the walking trail there was a big water pool. We decided to avoid it, parked aside and did the last few meters on foot.

Somewhat comparable to Galvans Gorge, Adcock Gorge had a nice waterfall and waterhole surrounded by tight vegetation.

Another small paradise! It the pictures didn’t convince you, check this short clip out. πŸ™‚

We gathered a lot of impressions about the Kimberley region on our way back that are worth sharing with you. Have a look:

Enjoy this fine panorama of the Kimberleys:

Panorama of the Kimberleys

Panorama of the Kimberleys

After it got dark we unluckily experienced another premiere. So far we had accidently killed myriads of insects everywhere, a snake at Cape Tribulation, dozens of frogs in Queensland and probably a few small birds on Outback roads. Not even going particularly fast we suddenly noticed something jumping from the left of the road in front of our car, and straight before the front left tyre. A bump, another bump – in a blink of an eye we had hit the poor thing and killed it instantaneously.

Roadkill - we are guilty! :(

Roadkill - we are guilty! πŸ™

There was no chance preventing it, it happened too fast to even react. That’s obviously the reason why you’re not supposed to drive in the dark. πŸ™ Upset we arrived at Windjana Gorge and settled for the night.

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From Broome to the Gibb River Road

by on Mai.21, 2011, under The Kimberleys

May 13, 2011

After leaving the amazing Karijini NPΒ  and a last stop in Tom Price for a shower and some shopping we returned to the Great Northern Highway and headed north to Broome – a whopping 1000 kilometers away! However, we made about 200 kilometers the first day, passing Mulga Downs and stopped for the night at the Bea Bea Rest Area 45 kilometers north of the Munjina Roadhouse.

May 14, 2011

The next morning we encountered some strange creature:

Caravan of hairy worms

Caravan of hairy worms

Actually it is not a single creature, but multiple single caterpillars one after the other. After a bit of research I reckon it is a so-called „Processionary Caterpillar“, famous for crawling through the scrub in meter-long queues!

We continued to Port Hedland, the biggest tonnage port in Australia. Bad timing – on a Saturday afternoon everything was closed, from the Visitor Information Center to the Harbour Lookout from which a great view over the harbour was promised. We got an idea how many natural resources, e.g. iron ore, are being shipped from here (and most likely from other places in the world as well) to China these days: out of 6 ships departing one was going to Japan and one somewhere else, but 4 of them to China! After a short look at the freighters we continued to the DeCray River Rest Area and camped there.

May 15, 2011

Mostly driving this day we passed not only the Sandfire Roadhouse, but the 80 Mile Beach as well. We stopped only for a short while, since the weather was cloudy and cool.

We managed to arrive in Broome late in the afternoon where the weather finally cleared. Failing to find a sportsbar or something similar in order to watch the MotoGP race we ended up in our car watching a juddery live stream on the Internet. Afterwards we searched for a free campspot. As there was nothing close by we headed up 50 kilometers on a rough dirt track north of Broome on the Dampier Peninsula and finally stopped exhausted at the Quondong Rest Area.

May 16-19, 2011

The camp spot was really nice, but cursed with mosquitoes:

Campspot at Quondong Beach, Dampier Peninsula

Campspot at Quondong Beach, Dampier Peninsula

Being a bit enervated not knowing where to stay close to Broome and having no facilities at all we drove back into the city and decided to check in at Tarangau Caravan Park. We recovered a few days from the previous weeks packed with camping, sightseeing and driving by doing almost nothing at all. πŸ™‚

We went to the well-known „Staircase to the Moon“ event:

The staircase-effect can only be observed when the full moon rises over the exposed mudflats of Roebuck Bay at extremely low tide creating the optical illusion of a staircase reaching for the moon. On our last day we visited Cable Beach, a famous town beach, and Cape Gantheaume. Here and at low tide you can find some petrified dinosaur steps about 80 meters into the sea on a rockbed. We had to be satisfied with a replica of them, otherwise we would have had to wait a few weeks for the next suitable low tide. πŸ™‚

On our way from Broome to Fitzroy Crossing we reached the Boab Rest Area in the dark and settled for the night.

May 20, 2011

The next morning we woke up to an incredible noise. A helicopter above our heads and heavy road construction vehicles on the rest area produced a noise unthinkable of in such a remote and distant place – you would reckon! πŸ™‚ But when we left our cosy shelter we saw a truly amazing thing – and we had pitched up our tent right underneath it:

Huge Boab tree between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing

Huge Boab tree between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing

A really massive Boab tree on a patch of green grass – well worth protecting it with a small fence! We found all sorts of encarvings on the tree, but even more astonishing was its interior. Better, the lack thereof – it was completely hollowed out! These trees were actually used as „prison trees“ in Derby and near Wyndham to lock up convicts temporarily. In this one you could have locked up 10 prisoners at once! Boab trees are typical for this region: they grow in a bottle-like shape and reach an age of more than 1000 years. This example doesn’t reveal a bottle-shape anymore, however, it must be 1000 years or even older.

We made our way to Fitzroy Crossing and spent the afternoon at the nearby Geiki Gorge. The walk along the river was ok, but not spectacular. Still, there are some fine views of the gorge’s unique look. We refused to spend a ridiculous amount of money for a half-hour boat cruise, though.

Finally two nice panorama views for you, starting with this:

Panorama of Geiki Gorge no. 1

Panorama of Geiki Gorge no. 1

The second one is pretty wide:

Panorama of Geiki Gorge no. 2

Panorama of Geiki Gorge no. 2

After taking a brave shower behind one of the visitor huts, forgetting my shampoo and therefore returning we finally left Fitzroy Crossing and entered the Leopold Downs Road already in the dark. Exiting the town we encountered some controlled burnings which looked quite scary in the night (excuse the poor picture quality):

Controlled burnings near Fitzroy Crossing

Controlled burnings near Fitzroy Crossing

Not far into Leopold Downs Road we found the RAAF Boab Quarry Rest Area. Pitching up our tent proved to be a total waste of time – we couldn’t hammer a single peg into the rock-hard ground. Some heavy stones did the job as well. πŸ˜‰

May 21, 2011

After getting up we realized once again how beautiful our camping spot was:

The jerry can mentioned was a regular 15 liter water tank, filled with petrol – really not made for that. You can see how it slowly changes its shape. πŸ™‚

We had learned that all the roadhouses on the Gibb River Road would be either closed or still have no petrol available due to late wet season inducing terrible road conditions, meaning: no petrol could be delivered to the roadhouses. So we had invested a LOT of money in a further jerry can in Fitzroy Crossing to prepare for the long drive, and without a chance to refuel on the way we filled everything we had with petrol and LPG.

Not long after reentering the Leopold Downs Road we encountered the first obstacle: a deep, rutted puddle of mud. It looked pretty uncomforting, and knowing our wheels aren’t performing well in deep mud we tried to cross it from the left side. A few meters later it happened: we were bogged down!

For the first time ever in Australia we could not get out of here without help! Thankfully it was only a matter of minutes until someone with another LandCruiser arrived and pulled us out easily using our snatch-strap. Well invested money. πŸ˜‰

A few more cars arrived, stopping and investigating the puddle. We finally decided to tie our car to our friendly helper and get through the puddle behind them, so they could pull us through in case we did not make it ourselves. Guess what happened: we made it on our own using Low-Range right through the middle. If only we had tried that before instead going sideways .. well, lesson learned.

See this clip how it went:

Nothing stood in our way to make it to Tunnel Creek now, only a couple kilometers further down the road. It is a cave eroded into the Napier Range by a creek, leading through the rock as a tunnel for about 1.7 kilometers. In complete darkness as the tunnel is completely enclosed by the rock. It is also famous as a hideout used late last century by an Aboriginal leader known as Jandamarra. He was killed outside its entrance in 1897. To get through you have to put on some light clothes suitable for wading through the creek and bring a torch. Sounds like good fun? It definitely was! πŸ™‚

The first section of the tunnel after entering the cave meant searching for a way through complete darkness, trying not to step on all the crustaceans and finding the shallow sand sections in the water with the torch. Amazingly we found a small waterfall here – in the dark! Somewhere on the left side of the rock walls the water poured out of big cracks in the walls and over some stalactite-like formations!

In the middle of Tunnel Creek we came to a collapsed part of the cave where the roof had broken down, leaving a large gap in the ceiling.

You can recognize other adventurers here coming from the exit side of the cave using their torches. We departed again into the dark void aiming for the final exit out of Tunnel Creek.

There was even some unexpected Aboriginal rock art near the exit. Finally we waded back through all of Tunnel Creek again and resurfaced at the entrance, very happy with this experience! πŸ˜‰

Having changed our clothes we continued to Windjana Gorge. Among the first things we saw was this:

Eh .. well. Maybe the Aboriginals are allowed to do whatever they want, after all it is their land. πŸ˜‰

We walked into the gorge, preparing for a 3.5 kilometer walk. Not long until the scenery of Windjana Gorge presented its best side:

Only a few hundred meters into the gorge we came to a sandy patch. Guess what happened here:

Finally we found our first crocodile in the wild – a freshwater croc, also called „freshie“. It was only a few meters away, lurking in the waters. That is, until Inka decided to tease it a bit feeding it dead fish found on the beach. As a result we got a good impression how crocodiles eat: don’t fiddle with your food, don’t waste time chewing it – just swallow it in a matter of seconds. *gulp* Luckily for us freshies are scared of humans, so they normally keep their distance unless you really behave stupidly and with a lack of common sense. We went on, leaving the freshie behind, deeper into the gorge.

We encountered another freshie just 2-3 meters down in the water, almost invisible as you can see. At the end the walk became a bit frustrating, we could not detect the trail markers anymore and it all ended in the dense scrub. We returned at last, the crocodiles alone made the walk well worth it.

Some more panoramas for you, starting with this:

Panorama view of Windjana Gorge

Panorama view of Windjana Gorge

And now another one:

Panorama view of Windjana Gorge

Panorama view of Windjana Gorge

At the end of the day we reached the Lennard River Rest Area to stay there for the night, only a stone’s throw away from the entrance to the Gibb River Road.

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