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Australia 2009

Through the Kimberleys

Leg details

Date
August 8 - August 30, 2009
Leg
Broome - Derby - Fitzroy Crossing - Geikie Gorge NP - Windjana Gorge NP - Lennard Gorge - Adcock Gorge - Manning Gorge - Mt. Elisabeth Station - Munja Track to Walcott Inlet - Mitchell Falls NP - Pentecost River Crossing - Karunjie Track - Wyndham - Parry Creek Road - Ivanhoe Crossing - Kununurra
PDF




Leg map (click to enlarge in separate window)

On Saturday, August 8, 2009, we leave Broome in direction of Derby.
After a cool night with 13.5°C it looks like it will be another sunny and hot day.

We drive north on the Great Northern Highway, then turn into the Derby Highway and reach Derby around 3 PM.
Quickly we head out to the jetty as the tide will peak at 4 PM.
It is hard to believe that this mass of water rushing in is the ocean and not a river in flood.
Click here to have a look at it in a short movie (file type: .wmv, size: 2'521 KB).

More and more cars arrive and drive out onto the jetty.
We wonder a bit until we see the fishing equipment being unpacked.
One of the keen fishermen explains us that the hour around the highest mark of the tide is the best for fishing.

Even though there is a clear warning sign about saltwater crocodiles some fishermen stand very close to the fast flowing murky waters.
There are even children playing along the shore .....
Let's hope the crocs are not interested in human beings but more in the large fishes that apparently come in with the large tide to feed in the bay!

We decide to have a bit of a break at the information shelter but the sand flies don't make it a pleasure to sit there.
So we leave and finish our shopping for the Kimberley trip (we will only be able to stock up on frozen or dried food in the roadhouses .... and at the appropriate prices!).
We have a bit a look around for a spot for the night and find a nice one at the Derby Wetlands.

On Sunday morning after a cool night with only 9 °C we head into town and out to the jetty to have a look at the low tide.
The difference is dramatic.
What was covered with water yesterday is now all just mud and sand.
Have a look at the differences in the pictures.

Amazing!

For more details on the Derby tides and why they are so high click here.

We stroll along the now deserted pier and have a closer look at the long pillars.

A barge looks like it is sitting on the sand and waiting for the waters to rise again ..... well, there is not much water left in the harbour!

We leave Derby and head south until we reach the Great Northern Highway again, where we turn east towards Fitzroy Crossing.
The drive over to Fitzroy Crossing is all on bitumen and there is not much is to be seen on it.
By now the temperature has reached 34°C.

In Fitzroy Crossing all shops incl. the Tourist Information are closed so we head up to the Geikie Gorge National Park.
The friendly ranger confirms that there is a lot of space left on tomorrow's tours so we leave the park again and find ourselves a nice little spot along the Fitzroy River where we stay for the night.
It has been another rather warm day and we sorely enjoy our shower.

On Monday morning we are woken up by bird songs.
We get up early as we want to be at the Geikie Gorge boat trip tickets sales counter when they open at 7:30 AM.

After receiving the tickets we head down to the boat ramp to be some of the first ones and get good seats.
It does not take long for the sun to rise the temperature up from the 11°C that we had over night.
Luckily there is some shade in the waiting area ... at least in the morning .....

We are lucky and get seats on the first row.
Soon we are off and the ranger gives us all the background info and lots of funny stores as we float past the walls of the gorge.

The gorge has some impressive walls in all colours.
Click here for a short movie on them (file type: .wmv, size: 3'545 KB; with sound please).

Some freshwater crocodiles lie around lazily and don't seem to be bothered too much about the boat.

The tour guide points out some "personalities" that can be seen in the rocks ....

... Richard Nixon .... look how high the water usually gets!
The guide jokes about water gauge = Watergate ....

Too quickly it is time to head back .... one more look along the colourful walls ....

After the tour we head west on the Great Northern Highway then turn into the track that leads to Windjana Gorge past Tunnel Creek.
It is warm and dusty ..... and brings memories back to our first trip to the outback in 1995 together with René and Marianna.
We haven't been on this track since then, but we find the same spot that we had to cross in November 1995 ..... with a wee bit more weather then!

............... 1995 .................................. 2009 .......

Click here to read more about the trip in 1995.

We reach Windjana Gorge and find the "quiet campground" (= no generators) to be already quite full.
But we still find a "free" tree and settle down underneath it.
It still feels very hot because the heat is reflected off the ground.

Later in the afternoon Heidi and Peter join us.
They had come on a different route and stopped at Tunnel Creek.
We skipped it as we had visited it in 2006 with our friends Guido and Judith.
Click here for details of the trip in 2006.

As the sun sets the temperature drops and we enjoy an evening outside with no flies, no mosquitoes, no sand flies ..... just a nice and peaceful evening.
Over night the temperature drops to 12°C;very nice indeed

On Tuesday morning, August 11, we head into Windjana Gorge.
We have been here before but for Heidi and Peter it is the first time.

The first stop is some fossilization, witnesses of the time when this part of Australia was covered by an ocean and Windjana Gorge was part of the reef.

The crocodiles are already out.
One is quite cheeky, swims along the sandbank not worrying at all about the group of tourists on it taking pictures, turns around and comes ashore, just about 5 m away from us.
Click here for a movie on it (file type: .wmv, size: 6'694 KB).

We would never have gone that close to a crocodile and are quite surprised that this one comes so close.
Even though it is a freshwater crocodile we still don't trust it and don't dare getting any closer.

Further along the walk we see a group of Rainbow Bee-eaters having their breakfast on insects.

Then we reach the colony of fruit bats and watch them fighting and squeaking.
The freshies seem to know the behaviour of the bats and know that with this fighting and moving around every so often a bat falls into the water.
A freshie has stationed itself right underneath the tree and just waits .... lies in the water just absolutely relaxed and waits a bit longer .....

Next stop is to watch some Little Corellas grooming each other.
They are so sweet to each other it is a real pleasure to watch them how they clean feather after feather of their partner.

On the way back the freshies are out in force on the sand banks.

Have a look at this cosy group .....

Then it is time to leave Windjana Gorge National Park and head north on the Gibb River Road.
The countryside is dry and most of the creek crossings are dry too.
It looks as dry as it was last time when we were here in 2006, but then it was 3 weeks later .....

Again the thermometer reaches 33.5°C, we are getting used to it and don't find it too hot anymore .... as long as there is a breeze ....

After a stop at Inglis Gap Lookout we leave the Gibb River Road towards Lennard Gorge.
The track leaving towards Millie Windie Station has a "no access" sign so we cannot drive do the bush camp we had wanted to.
We continue on towards Lennard Gorge and find the car park to be under construction and there are no "no camping" signs, so we stay for the night.

A tour operator bus comes and the group leaves towards the gorge in swimmers and with towels.
That sound like a good idea to us.
So we quickly change into our swimmers and follow the group.

The walking trail leads over the old 4WD track.
They must just recently have closed it to the public and have made the new day use area.
Last time we were in the Kimberleys in 2006 we did not attempt to access to Lennard Gorge because it was infamous for its roughness.
No we know what they meant with it .... it is very bumpy and even some rock hopping is involved all at the end.

We reach the gorge and hear the group down there in the gorge ..... how did they get down there?

After a bit of searching we find a section in the rock face that allows us to climb down.
As we reach the bottom of the gorge the group gets ready to leave.
Soon after we have the whole gorge to ourselves.

The water is rather fresh but we all get in and cool down.
It is great!

Then it is time to climb up again.
When we reach the top we would already be ready for another bath ..... it still is close to 33°C ....

We have a quiet evening and enjoy the clear sky, the stars, the satellites and even some shooting stars!

Over night the temperature again drops to 12°C giving us a good night's sleep .... except ...... at 5 AM the fire alarm goes off!
A quick look out the window shows us that there is no smoke so it must be the battery going flat, but we will deal with that later on and for the time being we just turn off the alarm.

On Wednesday, we continue on towards Bell Gorge.
We come past a crossing where in 2006 Judith shot that great photo of the OKA driving through the water.
Of course we have to try the same with the Toyota!

The OKA in 2006 ................. and here the Toyota in 2009 ............

When we reach the Silent Cove Campground we see a sign that the camping spots at Bell Gorge have been closed down.
What a shame!
We had planned to stay there for a day.

So we decide to head up to the gorge and have a nice swim.

Even though the water is fresh we swim in it for a long time.
Ruedi tries his luck with climbing the waterfall on a rope ..... but not with much success .....

We head up to the top pools again and there have another refreshing dip, to cool us down for the walk back to the parking.
It is 31.5°C by now but a nice breeze keeps the temperature very comfortable.

We leave and head back towards Silent Cove.
Suddenly the PC monitor in front of Susi goes black .... no error message, no sound ..... just black.
Hmmm ... let's just hope it is not a disk crash!

We reach the Gibb River Road again and continue on in direction of Adcock Gorge.
On the way we look for a spot for the night, but the station does not allow camping on its ground.

We reach Adcock Gorge in the late afternoon and walk to the pool.

Shortly after being back on the Gibb River Road and just outside of the station boundaries we spot a small track leading to an old cattle loading facility.
We park the vehicles so we are not visible from the road and stay for the night.

Ruedi works on the PC and finds out that there is a fault in the power supply.
As it gets dark he has to stop work for today.
But all the signs are positive and it does not look like a crashed disk!

He also checks the status of the battery in the fire alarm.
As he finds it to be almost full he sees no reason to change it.

Again we enjoy dinner outside but don't stay out there too long.
Somehow we are all a bit tired ... probably not used to the walking / climbing / swimming anymore ..... so we go to bed early.

After a warm night with 16°C we are woken up shortly before 6 AM on Thursday morning by ..... the fire alarm!
It must be the battery that with 30°C shows nice and full but once the temperature drops over night collapses.
This time Ruedi gets a new battery and puts it in.
Let's see tonight if we get a undisturbed night's sleep!

First thing in the morning Ruedi tackles the task of fixing the PC.
It does not take long and the PC starts again.
It takes Ruedi a while to fix all the databases and recover all the files that just went down with the PC without having been saved but no data is lost and we are very relieved.

Then we head off and reach Galvans Gorge shortly after 9 AM.
There are already a few vehicles parked at the gate.

As we walk along the creek we see a monitor.
It is a bit shy but we get a good look of it.
Click here for a movie on it (file type: .wmv, size: 5'748 KB).

We reach the gorge but there are already people swimming in it, so there is no undisturbed enjoyment to be had here.
Another monitor is not disturbed by the humans at all and has its photo taken without running away.

Susi and Heidi climb around the rocks in search for some more Aboriginal Art. A wallaby jumps up into the tree and then into a hole in the rocks.
Then some more people arrive, a tour group, some kids ..... it is time for us to leave .....

We reach Mt. Barnett where we book in at the Campground for 2 days for some swimming, hiking and a bit of work on the PCs.

Swimming in the river is very refreshing and lots of fun with the "noodles", boogie boards and tyres tubes provided for the swimmers.

During the night, at around 3 AM the fire alarm outside of the OKA goes off again ..... Susi is not impressed!
Well, she is the one that has to jump out of bed, remove the toilet, fold the mozzie screen door, unlock the door and then lean out and find the tiny switch on the alarm to turn it off .... and all that preferably before the alarm goes off again and again ..... well, she manages .... We decide that the Alarm is broken.

After another comfortable night with 14.5°C we are out and about shortly after 8 AM to beat the heat on our walk to the Manning Falls.
We decide only to swim through the river on the way back but take a polystyrene box with us for the transport of our belongings.

What we don't know is, that we will have to wade through some water on our way and will be glad to have taken the box along .....

Well, we manage to get lost on the other side of the river but finally find the way to the starting point of the walk cum deposit point of polystyrene boxes.

Even though we leave rather early in the day the sun is out in full strength and it feels hot.

On the way we see an interesting tree that sheds its bark in a most peculiar way .... and of course some flowers ......

After a good hour's walking and a bit of rock hopping we reach the gorge.

It does not take long and we all are in the water.
The water is a fair bit cooler than the one in the pool at the camping.
It is very pretty with the water fall still running down into pool.
The drops hitting the surface of the pool look like little crowns.

On the way back we are happy that the swimmers and the UV-shirts are still wet .... or let's say humid, they dry so fast in the heat and dry air .....
They keep us cool almost until we reach the pool at the camping where we "have" to swim anyway.

We pack our gear into the polystyrene boxes and swim across pushing the box ahead of us.
Ruedi gets up on a rock, trips and as he falls instinctively holds on to the polystyrene box almost tipping it over, but all goes well.

When Heidi and Peter arrive there are not enough boxes left so Peter swims over to fetch one.
Ruedi recons that this is a good opportunity to "swim" some boxes to the other side of the river for the next few weary hikers.

While Peter has to "trans-swim" his gear on his own Heidi gets special treatment from her brother!

Then we have another session of floating around with the various devices ...

... and a bit of a battle.

The water has been warmed by the sun and not too many people have swum in it yet so it feel nice and warm.
Oh what a feeling!

We settle down and watch the people arrive in the campground.
By the end of the afternoon there are 4 tour operator busses in the campground.
One of them is Wilderness Challenge with their OKA.
Ruedi heads over to see who is driving it; it is Tom himself, the owner of the company.

Then a 5th bus arrives.
As soon as they have picked their spot they turn on a generator.
Well, generators are allowed and quite a few people had them running all day .... but this generator is so loud, it would be less loud if the tour operator had just left the engine of his bus running!
After more than an hour of this noise Ruedi is fed up, walks over to the lady in the kitchen and asks her for the email address of the company she works for to complain to their management. The lady does no want to give it but as their web address is written all over the bus and their trailer it will be easy to figure it out.
The driver comes over and adds his part to the discussion too.
Apparently they will turn the generator off at 6:30 PM.
During our dinner one of the crew of Mt. Barnett comes over and confirms that the tour operator has been told to turn the generator off.
6:30 PM arrives and the generator is turned off ... loud cheering and clapping of hands can be heard all around .... especially the other tour operators and their clients really let their feelings show quite freely ..... cooooool!
We hope they learned their lesson.

And then our ear adapts to the quietness of the night, we can hear the animals in the bush again .... that's more to our liking!

The night stays rather warm.
Only once the day starts breaking the temperature drops below 18°C.

On Saturday morning shortly after 5 AM the birds start their concert ... and what a concert they have today! We just lie in bed and listen to them.
We leave Mt. Barnett Station and continue on the Gibb River Road, then turn-off to the Barnett River Gorge.
The track has some bumpy sections and also some tilting ones.
Susi kids around with Heidi if this is some kind of a training section for the Munja Track .....
Then we reach the parking area and what do we see?
2-wheel drives!

Not just one, no, a whole group, all Peugeots, some newer ones, some older ones, even some classic cars!

We feel kind of "deplacé" .....

We have a bit of a talk to one of the drivers.
They do a special trip every year.
Good on you guys!

We hike up the walking track up to the gorge.
The views are nice but it would be hard to reach the water for a swim ..... too hard ...... so we head back to the Gibb River Road.

We reach Mt. Elisabeth Station and get the permit for the Munja Track (costs: 100 $ per vehicle ....), a sheet with the attractions, camping possibilities and the approx. distances and the key for the locked gate.
We also have to register in a book and let them know when we expect to be back out.
Pat, the lady from Mt. Elisabeth Station, asks us to keep our eyes open for a ute from QLD that is now overdue for more than a week and let her know should we find it and its driver.

The Munja Track is 220 km long, is known to be rough and leads to the Walcott Inlet. On the way we expect to see some Aboriginal Art and at the inlet we want to see the large salties.

We head back to the start of the track, past the gate and then along the fence, down to the Hann River and the Old Mt. Elisabeth Station.
As we pass the old station a flock of peacocks comes running towards us.
It seems that they used to being fed by the people on Mt. Elisabeth Station.
We continue on towards the river crossing.
It looks a bit sandy but Ruedi recons that we should be fine.

The crossing is not a problem .... but getting up the sand bank on the other side of the river is!
We don't manage and Ruedi reverses back out onto the sandy river bed.
Susi just has time to say that she does not think that this is a good idea when the OKA already sinks into the sand ....
By now the peacocks have reached us again and are expectantly looking up to us.
But as we still don't have food for them they decide that we are of no interest to them anymore and wander off.
Peter comes past in his Toyota and just manages the sand bank without getting stuck.
Well, neither of us has lowered they tire pressure so this is the next thing Ruedi does ... and out of the sand and up the sand bank the OKA goes, no worries.

The track first follows the fence line and is in very good condition.
Then we leave the fence and we start crossing creeks.
Now the track gets a bit more interesting.

We are following a GPS-track that we had received from Peter and Margaret Wright from OKA 196.
They travelled the Munja Track in 2005.
We soon see differences between their record and the actual track as we find it today, especially in the areas where the creeks flow during the wet.

Together with the track and the notes from Mt. Elisabeth Station we try to find some art sites.
We stop at a remarkable rock where very distinct car tracks lead to.
Somewhere here some art sites are supposed to be ......

.... but instead of art we find a curled up Brown Tree Snake [Boiga irregularis] and a St. Andrwe's spider [Argiope spp.].

Just a bit further down the track we find the first art site, a mixture of Bradshaw pictures and some Aboriginal Art.

The track becomes rougher and rougher.

In one instance we don't pay enough attention and hit a pot hole with the front tyre.
As we try to get our of this rather unpleasant position the back wheel of the OKA slides into a very deep pot hole and now stands still tilting very badly ....
Actually we both think that is must be the worst we ever had the OKA tilting .....!
But very carefully Ruedi gets the OKA (and its passengers) out of their misery and back on track.
After that episode we are a bit more careful and manage the track without any more incidents.

We stop for the night at the Drysdale River Crossing.
By now the temperature has reached 33.5°C and after all this driving we feel a bit hot.
There is just enough water left in the river for a dip but it is better than no dip at all!
Luckily over night the temperature drops down to 17.5°C and we still get a good night's sleep.

On Sunday the tracks gets rougher and rougher, some sections have large rocks that have to be navigated.
At one creek crossing Peter and Heidi even get stuck with their Toyota and have to fill in around the large rock so they can pass over it.

The road building program continues and the moving speed drops to a crawl ....

We start to worry because according to the track notes the really rough section, the Magpie Jump-up, is still 2 km away ...

Due to the higher clearance of the OKA we have no problems in these sections but Ruedi does not like the tilting parts.

Then we reach the area where the Magpie Jump-up should start ..... and the track gets a bit easier again.
They must have confused the km of the starting and ending points in the track sheet.

We reach Turkey Creek and have a look at the snake paintings.
Then we continue on past Fig Tree Jump-up where for once the track is soft and sandy.
Then the rocks great us again.
At Marhuana Creek the tilting of the OKA is so bad that we seriously start worrying about the OKA tipping to the side but we manage without having to correct the angle of the cabin by deflating resp. inflating airbags.

We reach Jamieson Arch and follow the tracks towards it but there is no real walking track to reach it and it is also too hot so we decide to leave the climb for "next time".
Next stop is at the art gallery nearby with its many well maintained Wandjinas.

The track to and from the art gallery leads through high grass and once back on the track we check underneath the vehicles to make sure that there are no accumulations of grass, especially around the muffler, that could catch fire and in the worst case cause the loss of the vehicle through a fire.
But all is clear.

The crossing of Dinner Creek is quite rocky, also Pearson Creek.

Pearson Creek still has a bit of water, just enough to have a pleasant soak in it.
So we decide to stay for the night and cool down from the 33.5°C we had all day today.

On Monday, August 17, we wake up to some new bird songs we haven't heard yet.
Fascinated we just lie in bed and listen to them.
Then we leave the camp and continue on.
He track now leads through very high grass again.

As we drive Susi sees a branch on the track.
But the branch is moving!!!!!!
She is not fast enough with her "Stop!!!!" and we hear a nasty "stump" as the front wheels drive over it.
It must have been a snake .... so Ruedi changes to reverse and we drive back slowly to have a look at what we have run over.
Susi spots a large Python fleeing in the grass.
When Ruedi stops the OKA the Python turns around and starts coming towards the vehicle.
Maybe one meter away from the OKA it changes its mind and slides away along the track's edge.
Now we can also clearly see that we have injured the poor thing just at the end of its tail but there is not much we can do to help it.
Let's hope that it will survive ....

We continue on and reach the Bachsten Jump-up which is again quite rough.
The track then meanders through a valley through some high grass again.
Ruedi does not like the high grass because it makes it very difficult to see the edge of the track.
As the track is driven mainly by narrower vehicles the OKA's track width, which is approx. 10 cm wider, can result in punctures of the side walls of the tyres.

Then we have oncoming traffic.
It is Rick from Bush Track Safaris, the owner of the Bachsten Camp.
He also has an OKA but has not driven it to the camp lately.
After a chat we continue on, reach the Bachsten Camp and decide to stay for the night.
We have a bit of a chat with Allan and Kate and find out all the points of interest of the camp .... and there are plenty!

Then we head back to the camp and start settling in for the night.
When checking the OKA Ruedi realises that the front leaf spring is broken.
Not again!
But luckily Allan and Kate had told us that the chopper is due in two days.
So quickly Ruedi gets the Sat-phone our and starts organising the spares.
OKA will send them by air to Derby to Rick and his wife Ann and from there the chopper will bring them out to the camp.
Then Ruedi will replace the leaf springs while Heidi and Peter visit Walcott Inlet.
By the time they come back the OKA should be fit again so we can join them for the rest of the trip.

After all is organised Ruedi and Peter have a closer look at the damage ..... and realise that the leaf springs are not really broken, they are just in an awkward position for what ever reason!
After double checking all and ensuring that every thing is in proper order Ruedi quickly calls OKA and also Rick's wife Ann to cancel all.
Sorry about the trouble guys and thanks again for the support received by all of you.

After all this hectic activities we are ready for a swim.
Allan and Kate had recommended the walk to the Bachsten Waterfalls.
After a short walk along the river and through some rocky areas we reach the falls.

There is not much water running anymore but the pools till have plenty of water to swim in.

On the way down to the pools we come past some interesting animal tracks, probably goannas.
Amongst the rocks some spiders have put up their webs.

In the water we see some interesting plants.
They are just amazing!

Some pretty flower can also be seen on the way.

With a temperature of 35.5°C in the shade a bit of a soak feels great.
Too soon it is time to leave the pools and head back to the camp, but not without stopping for one last swim in the river!

During the night there is a lot of activity going on outside the camper.
We can hear small feet running around and plenty of fighting going on.
The next morning we hear from Allan and Kate that the Quolls had been active again and had had a fight over some food scraps directly in front of their hut too.

On Tuesday morning, August 18, it gets warm quickly.

A large stick insect has sought refuge in the toilet.

We get going before 8 AM to beat the heat on our walk to the Wren Gorge.

The track leads through some light forest over a short but rocky jump-up.
On the map the GPS-track has reached a skull and crossbones .... is this an omen for today????

But the track improves and now leads through man-high grass.
A bustard walks majestically on the track and is not bothered by Peter and Heidi's Toyota at all.

As we are close to Wren Gorge some water seeps out of the rocks long the track, leaving the track a bit swampy.

Then we spot the nest of a bower bird at the side of the track.
The bird's collection of decorative items is all white and includes quite a variety of things ....

Shortly after we reach the "car park" for Wren Gorge.
After a bit of searching also find a "trail" down to the dry river bed.

According to the track notes there should be lots of art along the river.
Even though we look for it we cannot spot it.

But there are interesting rocks on the way.

Wren Gorge itself is a large and very pretty pool.
Even though the falls have dried up there is still plenty of water in the pool.

When receiving details on this track from Peter and Margaret Wright we had written "swim underneath waterfall for art" on the map .....

... now we can walk to it!

But the swim is great, the water is fresh and clean!

As we swim around the pool we spot some more art on the other side of the pool.
We cannot get out of the water there because of the pandanus and Heidi and Susi decide to have a look at it on foot while the men return to the car park.

We also spot some wasps building their nests.
They are amazing to watch!

On their way back to the car park Susi and Heidi stay on the right side of the dry creek bed and find art site after art site ...

Some of the pictures are obviously older than the other ones but they are well maintained.

We continue on and the track gets rocky and steep.
But after a bit of "road building" we are through and the track gets much easier.

There are few vehicles along the track that did not make it ...

We reach Calder River and walk it before we drive through it.
According to the notes received from Mt. Elisabeth Station this is the last river that we can walk through, afterwards it is saltwater-crocodile-country.

We pass Karl's Lagoon that is famous for its water lilies but we are disappointed, there are almost none there.

At Tim's Creek we find the missing vehicle.
The driver somehow had not realised that Mt. Elisabeth Station would start looking for people when their expected due-back date in the registry book exceeds a certain amount of days. He promises to call Mt. Elisabeth Station on his Sat-phone.

Then we reach a site with arranged rocks.
We had heard of those sites and new that they were sacred sites and a sign confirms it too.

After crossing Red Bull Creek the track becomes rough again with lots of rocks and tilting sections.

The tilting steep descent leading into a swampy area is not to Ruedi's liking so for once we have to start building roads.
Then it is Susi's turn to guide Ruedi and the OKA through safely.
We manage to get through well and Susi gets into the co-driver seat again.
Just a few meters later on we hear a "bang" followed by a "pfffffffffffffffffffffff" ...... hmmmmm .... sounds like a flat tyre!
The tyre is not only flat, it is destroyed!!!
It had been squashed between the rim and a rock and the rim had virtually cut it like a knife.
Didn't we talk about omen a bit before .....?

Changing the tyre takes a bit of time and the sun is already very low.
Even though we only have some 20 km left to Walcott Inlet with an average speed of 10 - 15 km/h we cannot reach it before dark.
And this track is definitely not a track that should be driven in the dark for the first time!
So after changing the tyre we drive down to the Brockman River where we stay for the night.

On Wednesday, August 19, we are proven right with the decision to stay at Brockman River!

We would not have liked this in the dark ......

Then we reach the Calvert River; it is much wider than we had expected.

At the first pretty spot some fisher men have settled down (they had told us at Mt. Elisabeth Station that 2 more vehicles where down at the inlet).
So we continue on still following Peter and Margaret's GPS track.
It should be another 2 - 3 km to the spot where they had camped.

Then suddenly the track just disappears .... washed away .... just nothing, no warning, nothing!
Just imagine we had done the same last night in the dark!
We would have just driven off the dirt and plunged into the river below without even realising what had happened!

We decide that this is the spot to stay, great views, end of track, just perfect.

We park the vehicles some 3 - 4 m away from the edge to get some good views out of the window.
We also pitch the mozzie dome between the vehicles and the river.
While we set up our camp we spot our first saltwater crocodile lazing around on the sandbank ... and it is not too small either.
Finally we have managed to see a saltie out in nature!
We are all excited!

At around 11:15 AM the tide starts coming in.
It looks like a river in flood; the water flows past very quickly and is brown with all the sand that is stirred up.
Click here for a short movie on how quickly the water rises (file type: .wmv, size: 927 KB).
The whole sequence (first scene to last scene) was done in 4 minutes .... and yes, it is a crocodile that lies on that sand bank.

Then we see a large log coming towards us ... no, logs don't just disappear!
We can hardly believe it; large slaties are "floated" past us .... just a few meters away!

We cannot help it but have to watch in amazement all day .... saltie after saltie.
After a few hours the tide reaches its peak .... and then the whole game starts again, but outwards .... saltie after saltie.
This is too good to be true!

On Thursday we wake up rather early.
Even though we have a day "off" we cannot have a sleep-in.
Ruedi wants to fix his tyre before it gets too hot and Susi has some cooking plans.
To avoid heating the camper she wants to use her electric pan and therefore wants it done early, so the solar panels can recharge the batteries during the day.

But even with all this activities going on one eye is always kept on the river and the tide.
All crocodiles that float past are inspected and their size guessed according to the rule of thumb that the length of their body is approx. 7 times the length of the distance between their eyes and the tip of the snout.
We see some large ones floating past ....

Once the tides starts coming in we all agree that it is even faster than yesterday's.
It is a very fast flowing river now.

Have a look at the differences of the tide; it must be at least 6 meters.
At its highest point the difference from the waters surface to the top of where we are parked is not more than 2 meters.
So we are careful and at high tide don't stand too close to the border. Even so it is unlikely, saltiest are known to jump higher than 2 meters to get their prey!

Again and again we hear the sound of the collapsing sand-walls as the tide flows past the river banks.
This is watching erosion live!
Suddenly the trees closest to us start tilting and disappear in the water.
We can not believe it ... and we had though that the banks were held together by the trees!
As the water flows in faster and faster, more and more Ruedi gets an uneasy feeling.
Even though the OKA stands some 3 m away from the bank he does not trust it anymore and wants to re-park a bit further away from the water's edge.
Slashing the high grass is no easy job in the heat of the day.
By now we see 35.5°C on the thermometer in the shade .....
Then the area is cleared and the OKA can be re-parked.
Now all is safe.

We enjoy the afternoon and the changing landscape ... from flat sandy mudflat with wader birds feeding on it and crocodiles having a siesta on its sand-banks to a fast flowing, wide and brown river .... it is just unbelievable.

A walk around the campsite shows that even though it is so hot some flowers seem to like it here!

On Thursday, August 21, the sound of the birds wakes us up again.
Next we hear the sound of sliding material .... the bank is being eroded again .... our tent is still there so it cannot be that bad .....

... but there is not much soil left to support the grass on the surface ......

We pack up and then go for a hike along the bank.
The tide is still flowing out but it is almost low tide.

We see some crocodiles lying on the sand bank.

We count two .... but at a second glance there are more.
How many can you spot?
Click here for the solution.

Soon it gets hot, by 10 AM the thermometer has already reached 30°C.
Then it is time to leave this lovely spot and start heading back.

On the way back we are crossed by 7 vehicles, all of them with dinghies on their roofs and at least 2 men in each of the vehicles.
This place is getting crowded .... time to get out!

We make our way through the high grass, the dry and less dry creek beds.

We continue on until Karl's Lagoon where we stay for the night.

It is a real shame that this still is the Calvert River and swimming is a no-no in its waters, because by now the temperature has reached 35.5°C.
The toilet is a nice feature of the camp ....

in the evening it cools down rather quickly and we have a pleasant night with 15.5°C.

On Saturday as we leave Karl's Lagoon we spot two Brolgas wading along the shores of the lagoon.
Then its back on the track again, high grass and dust, then it get's rocky and a few kilometres before reaching the Wren Pool it gets really rough again.
Peter has to add a couple of rocks in some sections to get through with his Toyota without bottoming out.
For once we don't have a problem.
But there are some pretty nasty tilting sections which get's Ruedi adrenaline going.

Then we reach the Bachsten Camp again and are welcomed by Allan and Kate with a cup of tea and the newest stories:
A tourist had gone missing on the walk to the Honey Comb Caves near the camp and they had to search for him.
Luckily he was found and after a good rest he was ok again.

Allan had been throwing chicken pellets into the Bachsten River to attract Cherabins.
Now Allan and Susi want to go and set traps to see if hey can catch some Cherabins.

We all head out together and the traps are placed in strategic places.

But when Susi checks the traps in the late afternoon they are still empty.
Also the chicken pellets left on the sandbank look untouched.
Allan instructs Susi to check again next morning.

We all gather at Allan and Kate's hut for drinks while their dinner cooks in the camp oven.
As it gets dark the Quolls come out and start rustling in the undergrowth.
One of them even wanders around the BBQ and is not bothered at all by us sitting there and watching.
Then they have a bit of a race around the BBQ area and we can get a good look at them.
Allan and Kate tell us that at the beginning they did not know that quolls are so cheeky.
But during the night there was lots of noise outside their cabin in the kitchen area as the quolls climbed up to the sink and worked their way through what ever was left in the sink, empty beer bottles, cups of coffee, dishes .....

Then dinner is ready and we head down to our camp.
We have the lamp on the table and it attracts some insects.
Suddenly we can see quolls coming closer and get some of the insects.
One of them even comes and sniffs at Susi's shoes!

After a comfortable night with 18.5°C on Sunday morning it is time for Susi to check the domes for Cherabins ....

... and surprise surprise: there is a large Cherabin in Susi's dome!
Quickly she runs up to Allan and shows him her catch.
As she had not been able to check all the traps (could not find them anymore ....) he comes down to the river and checks his traps.
One more Cherabin has found its way into the traps.
Allan and Kate offer to cook the Cherabins so we can take them along when we leave later on.
Thanks guys!

But next we want to head up to the Honey Comb Caves.

Right above the Bachsten Camp we come past an art site.

Then the walking track leads through a small "lost city" with some interesting rock formations.

We also spot some pupae which are well camouflaged.

 

Then we reach the Honey Comb Caves and are impressed by its structure.
If one thinks that this was all done by erosion by wind and water, it is amazing.

And they are quite large and cool too!
No wonder did the Aboriginal People live in here.

Shortly after lunch it is time to say good-bye to Allan and Kate!
Thanks for being such lovely hosts!

Shortly before Pearson Creek we have some more oncoming traffic.
Luckily it is easy to cross here, it would not have been fun later on in the jump-ups.

After crossing Pearson Creek we hear an unusual loud metallic "bang" but don't feel anything unusual.
Ruedi recons that the OKA must have jumped out of gear.

At Marhuana Creek the OKA gets stuck.
it is one of the few times where we actually miss our locking diff ...it would have been the easy way out ..... but now Peter has to snatch it out of its misery.

We decide to camp at a pretty little stream some 6 km out of Turkey Creek (Turkey Creek camp has no water at this time of the year).
And guess what we have for dinner?
Cherabin in Garlic Butter with Noodles on Cream sauce .... yummy!

We are at an altitude of 507 m and the temperatures drops rather fast after sun set.
Over night we even see 13.5°C ... it feels great under the warm blanket!

On Monday morning we wake up to an overcast sky.

This is good because it does not get that hot .... and this is very much appreciated by Peter as he performs his "road-building-exercise" on the way back to Mt. Elisabeth Station.
Moving average is 19.3 km/h ..... total average is 16.3 km/h for the 4 hours it takes us to get over all the jump-ups and other nasty sections.
The Munja-Track is an experience that will be remembered, is absolutely worth the effort, but one has to be very well equipped.
The track should definitely not be driven with rental cars. It is long, rough and demanding.

Then we leave Mt. Elisabeth Station and drive north on the Gibb River Road to the Gibb River Crossing.
It is not really hot (31.5°C) but we know from a previous visit in 2006 that we can swim there and that is exactly what we need today.

During dinner the discussion starts if there are any sweeties in the water or not ....
So we get the lamps and go croc-spotting .... yes, there are sweeties in the water, but only small ones ... at least the ones that we see ... but where there are small ones there must be at least one croc-mum ....
Just don't swim at night in those waters or a freshie might mistake your toes for a fish .... ok?

In the evening when Susi goes to bed she looks up to the ceiling and she sees a large spider up there ... even without her glasses!
"Ruedi !!!! ...."
He manages to get the spider outside in a cup ... but we wonder, how it got into the camper in the first place.
As prevention we spray a bit of Baygon into strategic locations like the shoe cupboard and behind the food boxes in the kitchen.

In the morning we find another spider (this one dead ...) in the kitchen sink .....
Now it is definitively time to give the camper a bit of a "poisonous touch".

On Tuesday, after a cool night with 17°C, we leave the Gibb River Road and take the Kalumburu Road to Drysdale Station.

The dirt road is in pretty good condition except past Theta Station where it is corrugated because of the rocky bands that traverse the road.

We stop at King Leopold River to have a look at the art and of course to have a swim
This must be one of the nicest spots for a swim that we have seen in the Kimberleys.

The track deteriorates from here on.
It is corrugated and the dust makes it almost impossible to keep the windows open, which is a bit of a nuisance when it is 32°C in the shade .....

We reach the Mitchell Plateau and settle down in the Caravan Park.
We have a look at the "plunge pool" but all except Ruedi decide that a shower at the campers will do nicely for today ....

The temperature stays high for a long time; at 8 PM we still see 28°C ...... finally towards the morning it drops to 17°C and we get a good sleep.

On Wednesday, August 26., we get ready for the hike down to the Mitchell Falls.

When we stop at the Mertens Falls lookout we see animals running around on the rocks below.
We have no clue what they are but they look funny with their curly tails.

Pretty black Cockatoos have a feed in the trees and for once allow us to have their picture taken from really close.
At the Lilly Lagoon some brolgas are having a bit of a dance.
It is amazing to see those animals bow and perform dance steps.

We come past the Mertens Gorge and soon after reach the Mitchell Falls.

There is still a bit of water flowing.
They must look stunning when they are in full flow.

The upper part of the Mitchell River still offers a great swimming possibility.
Too soon it is time to walk back past the gorge

We stop at the famous Bradshaw paintings but are a bit disappointed about their sad state.
The ones on the Munja Track had been in better shape.

Then we stop at the Mertens Falls and head down to the pool to have a look at the art.
Again we find it to be in a bad condition.
What a shame.

But the moss gardens and ferns are very pretty and the swim in the pool is not too bad either.

Then it is time to head back to the King Leopold River for a swim
Well, that's what the Kimberleys are all about: swimming in gorges and rivers, isn't it?

As we "dust" along the track we find Peter and Heidi's Toyota on the side of the road with a spiked tyre ....
There are definitely better things in life than changing a tyre with 32.5°C in the shade .....

Luckily we find a great spot at the King Edward River and can wash all the dust away.
We like it so much that we decide to stay an extra day.

On Thursday morning we wake up to fresh 17°C which animates Ruedi to grease the OKA.
Peter wants to have a go at his tyre to see if he can fix the rather large hole in the tread.
Much to our surprise Peter actually manages to get the hole patched and the tyre "lived happily ever after" ....
(Note to the reader:
The tyre actually made it through the Bullita Stock Route, Humbert Track, all of Kakadu and Litchfield, down to Halls Creek and the Bungle Bungles .... and still going strong .... but don't tell the insurance)

During the day we are in and out of the water.
We find it rather refreshing to get in and measure the temperature of it: 29°C!
Well, who would have guessed that!
No more complaints about the water temperature please!

After another fresh night with 17°C it is time to leave this great spot.
We head past Drysdale Station back onto the Gibb River Road and head north-east.

The day is very muggy and we start looking for the next possibility for a swim
But since Jacks Waterhole has been washed away in one of the last floods there are not too many bush camps left in this section of the Gibb River Road.
We find a spot just behind the rest area at Bindoola Creek.

The creek and its waterfall are dry.
We decide that we must come back here when there is still plenty of water flowing.
This waterfall must look very nice.

The pool behind the waterfall still has plenty of water for a bit of a "splash around" .... we don't dare going for a swim but with a bucket and plenty of water to poor over ones head it still feels great!

Here we experience the first night that does not cool down, it stays at 25°C all night.

On Saturday we reach the Pentecost River.

Then we leave the Gibb River Road and turn into the Karunjie Track (King River Road) in directions of Wyndham.

At the beginning the track leads through some stretches of soft sand, then it becomes rockier and has some tilting sections.

We stop at the Pentecost River and hope to see some crocodiles but have no such luck.

Then we reach the Marsh and the countryside starts looking like Africa ... the only thing that is missing is some giraffes ....

The temperature climbs fast and by 10 AM we have already reached 35°C.
There is not much shade around here and the earth is reflecting the heat so much that we can see Fata Morganas of water and floating trees.

The ever changing view of the Cockburn Ranges is impressive.

After lunch we hear a strange noise, as if metal was giving way under a lot of pressure ... but there is no jerking or any other noises so we have no chance to find out what it could have been.
There is not much we can do right now and if it is something serious in due time the problem will make itself noticeable anyway!

After a stop at the Prison Boab Tree we head into Wyndham for some shopping, but the prices are prohibitive expensive and we decide not to support such a rip-off.

We drive to Parry Lagoon (Marlgu).
It is a very pretty place and there are plenty of birds there to be seen.

Ruedi decides not to join us but to replace his tyre.
So the rest of us go for a bit of a look-around.

Large groups of brolgas wander around in the marsh land.
But they are a bit shy and when we get too close they take off.
Click here for a short movie on them (file type: .wmv, size: 2'311 KB).

A nice gentleman arrives at the lagoon shortly after us.
He is a bird expert and gives us all the names of the birds and where they come from and where they go to .......
Wandering Whistling Ducks, some Magpie Geese, Purple Swamphen, Egrets, etc., etc. .....
He counts 62 different birds in 2 hours!

A large saltwater crocodile lies on the edge of the lagoon.
We learn that a crocodile that lies outside of the water is not really a danger ... the Egret seems to know that too!
Normally only crocs that are in the water are hunting and are dangerous.

Mind you, in Parry Lagoon there are at least 4 saltwater crocodiles and they are all rather large ones, so don't even think about going for a swim there!
That probably is also the reason why the viewing platform is fully fenced in and the walkway even has a gate that has to be opened for access.

The viewing platform has another good side:
it has a large well ventilated roof and a cool breeze makes the 37.5°C bearable ....

The birds also don't seem to mind the viewing platform either.

The Comb Crested Jacanas, Jabirus, etc., etc. don't mind us at all and come quite close.

Have a look at the Jacanas and click here for a movie on them (file type: .wmv, size: 3'375 KB).

We decide to stay over night to be able to watch the birds early in the morning.

On Sunday morning even before dawn a car arrives and people head over to the viewing platform.
Shortly after sunrise the nice gentleman arrives again so we will have our walking and talking bird book available again, perfect!

The temperature already reaches 30.5°C at 8:30 AM.
This is going to be another warm day .....

More cars arrive and a man starts talking to Ruedi while the ladies that came with him go to the viewing platform.
He is building a camper on the base of an Isuzu truck.
When we all come back from the viewing platform at least an hour later the two are still talking about building camper and we agree that best would be to visit Will and Britany Roestenburg at their house in Kununurra once we are there.

We leave the lagoon and head towards Kununurra on the Parry Creek Road.

We stop at the Mambi Island boat ramp.
We can actually see a crocodile swimming around in the water .... cool!
Next stops are Buttons Crossing and then Ivanhoe Crossing.

Since we were here in 2006 they have also put up a "no camping" sign on the west side so we have to forget the idea of staying here.
So we head into Kununurra and set up Camp in the Kimberley Holiday Park, which is just along Lake Kununurra.

The next few days are spent with writing journals, watching strange animals like this spider and spotting "old friends" like the Apollo Camper that was used by Guido and Judith on our first trip into the Kimberleys in 2006 ... and of course visiting Will and Britany and having a close look at their Isuzu!
(how could I forget .....)

And this is the end of this journal.

 

 

No liability for timeliness, integrity and correctness of this document is accepted.
Last updated: Tuesday, 22.06.2010 5:16 PM


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