Letho's Blog

The Kimberleys

Gibb River Road – the other end II

by on Jun.01, 2011, under The Kimberleys

Monday, 30 May 2011

The next day we decided to master another long walk, 9,6 km return to the Champagne Springs. It started off along the banks of the Pentecoste River Crossing that was the entrance to the Station and led over the stony river bank, 3 small creek crossings and a long hot walk over a stony hill. All in all it was not particularly difficult in terms of climbing but with the sun beating down and given the total length of it, it was quite exhausting. At the end of the walk awaited us a beautiful waterfall and a refreshing waterhole surrounded by cliffs but the springs themselves were neither warm (which was my hope after the amazing Zebedee Springs) nor well visible. But still it was good exercise. El Questro Park says about the walk: „Moderate to difficult trail, only physically fit and able individuals should attempt this walk. The longer walk is difficult and exposed and must not attempted after 11!“ The cliffs you can see on the pictures rise up to 375m and are mostly made up of ancient sandstone.

After such a physical morning the afternoon was reserved for some serious 4WDing when we had a look at El Questro’s Lookouts.
First was Chamberlain Gorge Jetty where you could take a boat cruise into the Gorge but we only had a look at the river hoping to spot some crocodiles:

Next was Pidgeon Hole with some steep hills to tackle:

Followed by Saddleback Ridge Lookout that had it all, river crossing, sand and steep hills:

The 7km round trip is supposed to take 40 min and only for experienced 4×4 drivers only! Yeeha!!

And finally up to Branco’s Lookout that had the worse river crossing ever and I think our flat tyre later was caused here. Nevertheless, a true 4WD adventure!

Enough of adventure for the day, after some nice dinner and two presentations from the Wilderness Park ranger and Australian Geographics and a chat with the Dutch couple we had met several times before we spent a last night at El Questro Wilderness Park.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

On our way out we saw the Caravan again that got stuck when we first arrived at the Station. It seemed that somebody from El Questro’s staff had told him he would be able to make the crossing (bad advise) although it is quite obvious that most of the tracks are only suited for 4WDs and his radiator was damaged. He got pulled out but since he couldn’t move his car he couldn’t return and kind of camped in front of the crossing waiting for his new radiator to arrive. He got stuck on a Sunday and when we left on Tuesday we was still there. Poor bugger!
Happy to have our LandCruiser (as we usually are) we made our way to the last gorge on our list, Amalia Gorge, a 3.4 km return walk with moderate difficulty, that had one exciting (caution) point where one had to squeeze along a rock with a 4m drop but the rest was quite easy:

And a quick look to the Pentecoste Crossing along the Gibb River Road, one of the two rivers that were quite high the last couple of weeks and made the Gibb impassable.

Now it was time to leave the Gibb River Road and El Questro Wilderness Park and head towards the next bigger city which was Kununnura to fill up petrol and groceries and look for spare parts which were again not to be found.

When we were about to drive to our campsite only to fill up petrol before it happened – a flat tyre! Not a happy sight especially since it seemed to be difficult to lift the car high enough to be able to change the tyre. Luckily enough two Australian with racing car equipment had stopped behind us at the petrol station and were able to help us out.

Thanks again guys, that was awesome! But what disaster because although we had our spare tyre on we wouldn’t be able to continue our travels without buying another spare tyre. This area being remote and having lots of gravel roads it is actually recommended to have two spare tyres on board just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, 01 June 2011

First thing the next morning was to repair the intermediate exhaust again (since we couldn’t find any used part) and to organize a new tyre without spending a fortune (which you can on tyres) and fortunately we were lucky and could buy a used tyre.

One famous and often seen picture in Western Australia’s brochures is the Ivanhoe Crossing. Well, usually the pictures show less water and the road is passable. Not today, have a look yourself:

From these few pictures you get a picture of what we encountered throughout Western Australia: In contrast to normal years a very very long wet season and therefore many things were flooded and not passable. Roads damaged or waters infested with crocodiles that normally would have long been gone…

Nevertheless, we continued our trip and had lunch at Lake Argyle, a man made reservoir for the Ord River irrigation scheme.

This is what it’s like driving along there:

And finally with one sad and one smiling eye we left Western Australia that had so many great places to offer. Interesting enough, there was no border control from WA to Northern Territory, from what we heard they have all the Australian pests (e.g. cane toads) already so not need for checking ; )

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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. 🙂

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 .. 🙁

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.  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. 🙂

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… 🙁

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! 😉

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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. 🙁

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! 😉

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? 🙂

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. 🙂 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. 😉 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. 😉 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 over  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. 🙂

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! 🙁

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. 🙁 Upset we arrived at Windjana Gorge and settled for the night.

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