Karijini National Park-The Pilbara-WA

In Kamalina Gorge...quite a pretty gorge

In Kalamina Gorge…quite a pretty gorge

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At the waterfall at the end of Kamalina Gorge

At the waterfall at the end of Kamalina Gorge

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From a lookout

From a lookout

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Commenced our stay in Karijini NP at the Dales Camp Ground before a walk through Dales Gorge, Fern Pool, Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool. A trip to the visitors’ centre and then the beautiful Kalamina Gorge. A short 4WD to the Karijini Eco Retreat and we experienced the delights of the Weano Gorge, however our highlights were the Hancock and Joffre Gorges. Both are classed as level 4/5 walks, requiring quite a deal of clambering over and around sheer rock faces. Adrenaline was certainly pumping in some spots.

We have been taken by the beauty of the Pilbara, having expected it to be somewhat flat and uninteresting. How wrong we were. The spectacular gorges here, should be experienced by climbing through them, however a sense of their majesty can be gained from the lookouts that are dotted throughout the park. Truly a special experience. Off now to the highest point in WA, Tom Price.

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Dampier Peninsula and C10 in Broome

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We have had the most wonderful couple of weeks exploring the Dampier Peninsula, up to Cape Levique and then to Broome. With sea views at every stop, we were extremely lucky.

Arriving at the Roebuck Bay Caravan Park in Broome, we were delighted to find that the site we had been encouraged to book by fellow travellers a week prior, was as wonderful as they had described. On a little reclaimed peninsula, our site (C10)  was within touching distance of the mangroves and the high tide of City Beach. Whilst in Broome we had lunch with Steve Angoorly, a musician mate of my brother’s, at Matso’s Brewery and of course tried a range of the delicious local brews, the Mango Beer being our favourite. We visited the oldest outdoor picture theatre in the world, the Sun Picture Theatre and explored ‘China Town’ which was the old part of town where  the various  nationalities who came for the pearling industry lived and played. It used to be called Jap Town as the Japanese were heavily involved in the industry. It is now the  centre of town and has been beautified. A  trip aboard a hovercraft at extremely low tide took us out to unique dinosaur footprint fossils. Each of us was able to stand in a fossilized footprint of a Brachiosaur and look down to see the imprints of its young as it would have walked beneath its parent.

Like all tourists to Broome we headed out to Cable Beach to watch the sunset, returning camel trains and the preparations for the Sand Polo that was to occur on the weekend. Stunningly beautiful sunsets could only be matched by equally colourful sunrises that Noelene would rise early to capture. After a big feed from Bluey’s Fish and Chips, we spent the early evening tracking the scores of hermit crabs scrabbling about our feet. Before heading up the Cape Levique road through the Dampier Peninsula, a half day at the auto electricians to sort out an earthing problem with the camper, set our day’s plans back a few hours.

Whalesong Cafe and Camp Ground

With the slight delay in heading off, we were pushing it to arrive in the daylight. The Whalesong Cafe and Camp ground had been recommended to us at the Broome Visitors’ Centre as being a unique and special destination……we were not disappointed. The Cape Levique road was a mixture of corrugations, flat red and half pipes of dust, but in all a pretty reasonable road, the Middle Lagoon turnoff was something else entirely, taking us an hour to sneak along the 35 kms which included 5 kilometres of huge ‘whoop-di-doos’. Arriving at the camp ground in the dark is never ideal……ants have all gone to bed and you only discover your are on their nest in the morning, you all don’t know the direction of the rising and setting suns to ensure you have shade. But with the arrival of the dawn, we were ant free and facing the glorious view of Pender Bay. A reconnoiter of the camp ground was a quick process as there are only 6 sites and we were the third to arrive. The 3 sided, elevated drop dunny allowed uninterrupted views of the bush and wildlife, while the clever design of the mud daubed shower enclosure was an architectural delight. Our first walk along the Pender Bay sands and we were astounded by the number and variety of hermit crabs scuttling before our approach. The second day’s walk and we were accompanied for an hour by a 6 foot shovel nosed shark that swam in the shin deep shallows as we walked northwards along the bay. The welcoming family that managed the camp ground had invited us to a cultural festival at Lombadina an hour further north. We decided to visit the much publicized and awarded Cape Levique, paid our $5 a head to visit their beach! And took a look around. My impressions were that the swimming beach on offer was much too far away from the camping area and was extremely rocky……I felt we had very much made the right choice in staying at Pender Bay. This first ever Lombadina Festival was a celebration of the communities of the Dampier Peninsula, showcasing local musicians, art, handicrafts, skills and food. Our hosts girls were part of an all female dance troupe that performed a number of dances incorporating both traditional and contemporary choreography and music.

Quandong Point and another perfect spot

On our return to Broome we stopped off for a couple of nights of ‘free camping’ and were lucky enough to find the perfect site at Quandong Point. Firewood had been left, there was shade and a beach access track at our site with no-one else around. It was remarkable to head into the delicious, turquoise ocean which was so close to our site and find that by the afternoon the tide had retreated some 200+ metres exposing rocks, corals, sea urchins, sea slugs, crabs, manic hermit crabs, nudibranchs, fish and some sort of mysterious rock ‘snot’ clinging to the rocks! Ugh. Our site was so good, that as we were leaving, a couple from further behind were already bringing their chairs down to claim it!

Back to Broome and C10

We returned to Broome in order to wash, wash and wash some more clothing and have the Navara serviced as we have done 10 000 kms since leaving Mt M. The bonus was that we would be there for the 3 nights of the ‘Stairway to the Moon’. A unique coincidence of extreme low tide and a full moon rising which creates the effect of steps climbing toward the moon. It also gave us the opportunity to see and hear Steve Angoorly performing (as Molly would say: “Do yourself a favour and check his You tube vids”. The ‘Stairway’ is something of an event and the foreshore at City Beach was packed with people who also moved across to the market stalls that offered local products, crafts and food.

Moving onto the Pilbara area now and well and truly leaving the Kimberley region behind. We have loved it…our lasting impressions of the Kimberley area….rock, red, biting bugs, water, vast tides and old blokes with no shirts!!

The end of our Gibb River Road journey.

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From Derby, we went back onto the Gibb to explore the last of the places on our list….Bell Gorge, Windjana Gorge and Tunnel  Creek NP….all well worth the revisit of corrugations and dust!!!

Bell Gorge, in the King Leopold Range, was a walk to the river and the rapids, culminating in a waterfall, after which we clambered down rocks to the deep pool and the base of the waterfall for a few hours of swimming, laying in the sun and exploring the area. A beautiful environment and experience, capped off with a wonderful campsite.

From there we travelled to the Napier Range which in the Devonian Age was a 2km high barrier reef in a vast sea. Earth movements pushed the reef system up and out of the water and wide rivers eventually eroded paths through this reef, which had turned to rock….the Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. 3km long, you walk through Windjana Gorge but you don’t swim in any of the inviting pools as there are sooooo many freshwater crocs that the chances are you would step on one and they do bite when upset… We saw plenty of really big ones too. The walls of the Gorge also contain fossils of wildlife from that sea. Tunnel Creek is the same reef further along but the river has eaten through, creating a tunnel that can be walked through in the dry season. It was an experience we enjoyed, seeing freshies eyes (and spiders too) by torchlight and the bats  letting us know they weren’t happy, the symmetry of the near perfect reflections and wading through the many pools of the tunnel.

Derby and the Horizontal Falls

Continued to the end of the Gibb River Road and entered Derby, a township of approx 4500 and the administrative centre and oldest town of the Kimberley. At first glance it appears to be a spit of land surrounded by mud flats, however it has the world’s second most extreme tidal changes ( Nova Scotia is #1) that can vary by as much as 11-12 metres. This was to be the third of our planned highlights, to experience this massive tidal shift at the Horizontal Falls. Catching a sea plane and landing at Talbot Bay we took several boat trips into the narrow gaps where the tidal surge is at its peak. The boat’s skipper had the engines running at 14 knots just to keep the craft static in the strait between the rocks.

On our return to the pontoons for lunch, we had the opportunity to swim adjacent to several  3 metre Tawny Nurse sharks, a 4 metre Bull shark and a handful of large Batfish which were fed beneath the boat.

After lunch and a couple more rides through the narrows, we headed into Cyclone Creek which is used as a refuge for boats during the cyclone season.

The flights to and from Talbot Bay and the Horizontal Falls were both spectacular and different. The flight there took us over the mud flats, but from the perspective of the aircraft, intricate designs were cast by the water and embroidered by vegetation. The return flight was at just 500 metres and the stunning turquoise water contrasted the sand, rock and mangroves.

Other unique sites we discovered in Derby were the Prison Boab, the Southern Hemisphere’s longest watering trough that could accommodate 500 bullocks. We visited the sad and disturbing site of the old Derby gaol, where indigenous prisoners were incarcerated in appalling conditions. Saw the beautiful sunsets from the Derby jetty.

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Not another Gorge is it?!!

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Travelling back on the Gibb River road after our time up on the Mitchell Plateau, we stayed at Manning Gorge campground and walked, clambered and climbed our way to the Gorge. We enjoyed swimming in the deep pool at the base of the falls  and lying on the rocks, in fact, we had it completely to ourselves for the whole 90 minutes we were there…heaven! Leaving there we dropped into Galvans Gorge to find a lovely place with swimming hole and waterfall topped by a Boab.

Mitchell Plateau, happy anniversary

Some Wandjinas....gods of water, rain and creation. Painting over it when needed meant that rain would come.

Some Wandjinas….gods of water, rain and creation. Painting over it when needed meant that rain would come.

4 tiered Mitchell Falls

4 tiered Mitchell Falls

 

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With the $480 new tyre safely strapped beneath the Navara, we headed along the Kalumbaru Road to Drysdale Station where we decided NOT to spend our 32nd wedding anniversary in a shadeless paddock, but instead booked a converted container (room). The following day we headed out towards the Mitchell River Plateau for the second of our ‘must do’ activities……a heli flight over the plateau and landing at the top of the Mitchell Falls. Before this however, we camped at the beautiful King Edward River camping ground for the night and resolved that it was such a pretty place that we would stay a couple of nights on our return and take the kayak out for its second journey.

Along the track to Mitchell Falls, there are two indigenous art sites before and after the King Edward camping ground. We visited the first on our arrival and spent a couple of hours at the second site before heading into the falls. Unique and very different to anything we had seen previously. The book purchased at Drysdale station was a must in order to find all of the sites and to understand their significance.

The TRACK to Mitchell Falls!

The literature Noelene had read said that this road was ‘unmaintained’, and this definitely proved to be the case. I also discovered after we had returned that campers are advised NOT TO TOW along this road! Heeding the advice of numerous locals, we took our time getting in. As the undulations caused by the giant tour trucks/buses are more like dunes than corrugations, we took 4 hours to travel the 76 kms into the camping ground, dodging rocks, washouts and coping with steep river ascents and descents. To our delight, the truck had survived the journey in as had the camper.

We rose early again as our heli flight was booked for 8:15 and arrived prior to the tour groups for our weigh in and safety briefing (Do not walk into the tail propellor unless you want to,look like Jack Newton. Though the flight lasted just on 10 minutes, the view of the falls and surrounding plateau were magnificent, making the cost and the 8 hour return drive worth it (nearly). A couple of hours exploring around the falls and then a 2.5 hour walk back to the camp ground past more rock art beneath the Big Merten Falls.

Spent a further day swimming and kayaking the King Edward River before returning to Drysdale Station for a Famous Kimberly Burger and then back on to the Gibb River Road and to Manning Gorge.

Along the Gibb River Road

After El Questro we travelled to the Home Valley Cattle Station after crossing the Pentecost River with THAT amazing view.  They also have a tourist sideline….and we decided to camp alongside the River with that view rather than at the homestead……it was basically a cow paddock (cows and bulls wandering through the night around our tent) with the most annoying amount of flies!( fly nets got a workout)…… But goodness, what a view, particularly at sunset!

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Emma Gorge-ous

The 45 minute walk was absolutely worth the effort. A site not to be missed, and words do not do justice to its splendor, we will let the photos talk.

El Questro…….El Magnifico

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Coming Early in the tourist season has paid dividends as there are plenty of good, shaded camping sites and the attractions and places to explore aren’t inundated. Took a deliciously cool walk to El Questro gorge and the swimming hole at its halfway point. A massive Boulder guards the way through to the end of the gorge, and not being quite prepared for chest deep water and scrambling over huge rocks, we remained satisfied with the walk.

Dropped the Navara into low range to climb the steep, rocky track to Saddleback Ridge which gave us uninterrupted views around the entire El Quesro station and beyond. Have had fun negotiating several water crossings the best of which took us to Moonshine Gorge. Unfortunately the walking trail was closed but we resolved to return the following day with the inflatable kayak. Having not tried the kayak before we left home, we crossed our fingers that the recommendation we were given was genuine. So with the Seyvelor strapped to the roof of the Navara, we headed for the gorge. It worked a treat! Spent a lazy few hours paddling to and fro, in and out of the shaded pandanus, through the delicate flowers of the lily pads towards the shallow rapids.

Had another early morning start and headed out to the Zeeberdee thermal springs…….. 30 degrees in magnificent, natural pools, surrounded by large rocks and ferns and pandanus, for a laze and an opportunity to contemplate the important life issues!

Another gorge to explore, Emma Gorge.

Every evening we have been seated at our own campfire, having scrounged wood from within the park. Have to admit that by 9 pm we are well and truly ready for sleep.