Friday, 3 August 2018

Purnululu National Park

We set off on our first walk at 8:30am at the north end of the park.  It gets pretty warm here quickly so an early start was welcomed.  Our aim was to explore Echidna Chasm a short 1.4 km walk which starts with some open air walking before you enter into the chasm, the shade was much appreciated by the walkers and the plants as it became quite lush with palms adorning everywhere.  

We noticed the there were some really impressive termite mounds perched on the incredibly step cliff faces.  They were clearly the over achieving termites but we not really sure why they built them where they did, clearly competition wasn’t an issue.  

The chasm itself was really impressive narrowing to the point you could touch both sides at once, with walls 180m high on either.  The light coming through and bouncing off the red rock walls just can’t be captured with a camera.  Hopefully some of these pictures below give you some idea, but don’t really do it justice.

<photos of echidna >

A quick rest and then we headed off to the second walk of the day into Mini Palms (2.2km each way).  Similar start to the first walk but the temps were up into at least the high 20’s, if not more by now.  The shade couldn’t come fast enough.  The gorge itself took a few steps to get to but it was just an amazing spectacle.  Photos once again just don’t convey the size of it.  

<photos of mini palms>

We got home by 1:30pm to the relief of all.  The kids had done a great job, being the first walks of the trip.  It was a lovely 30’ish degrees by now and fairly warm.  We soaked up the warmth whilst chilling the afternoon away.  We had a lovely dinner of roast lamb and veggies shared amongst the RossPots (our communal group name) that evening.

One thing the north side of the park doesn’t have is the signature beehive shape rocks, this we found out, was the south side of the park’s speciality.  We also have decided against doing the helicopter rides over the Bungles Bungles opting to focus our big dollar adventures on the Horizontal Falls as the boys have seen most of what the park can offer where they won’t be able to see any of the falls if we didn’t do a tour.  

Day 2 of the walks shifted our focus to the South side of the parks with the beehives coming into view pretty early.  it was a 28km drive from our camp at Kurrajong so leaving early to get the walk done out of the heat was a good idea.  We were in the car before 8am and walking by 8:30am.  Making our way through The Domes before heading into the simply mind blowing Cathedral Gorge.  An amazing place and words struggle to convey.

<pictures off domes and Cathedral gorge>

The final stop for the morning was the Piccaninny Gorge Lookout.  Maybe we should have done this walk first as it was getting fairly warm by this stage.  There was a lovely view at the end overlooking the domed landscape, the heat possibly meant that not everyone appreciated it.  We got back to camp around 12:30pm and retreated to the shade offered by the campers for the afternoon to knock off some journal work and that’s where this is typed up.

<pictures from piccaninny gorge>

We head off tomorrow making our way north to Kunnanurra.  Hopefully on the way we get to do the tour of the largest diamond mind in the world, the Argyle Diamond Mine.  Don’t have tickets so lets see how we go.

Other than that, two things are calling rather loudly in Kunnanurra:
1) the need to sort out the Philpot’s trailer that has an amazing ability to drain batteries and 
2) the call for shampoo and conditioner and cleaner bodies.  After 6 days away on the road a nice shower is more than welcome.  We will also stock up with groceries and goodies for the next few days before we head towards the Lake Argyle Resort.  Yes you heard right, the Ross Family are staying a resort!  Stay tuned.

Onwards to Bell Gorge

Well after such a relaxing day just chilling at Manning Gorge it should be easy to pack and move on. Well three days in a place and you tend to settle in, so apart from a sleep in for all of us (very unusual) there seemed to be a lot to collect and pack up. Nevertheless we moved off to our next destination around 8:30 after a quick top up of jerry cans at the roadhouse at $2.05 a litre!

We were heading for Silent Gorge the National park camping spot closest to Bell Gorge. On the way though we popped into to see Galvins Gorge. A pretty little spot that surprisingly had somewhat to ourselves with only a few others around. 

Also had our first rock art site for the trip

As no one was too keen to swim just yet as the pool was pretty but for some reason didn’t oose “jump in” we headed back to the car park. By this stage the car park was full so we wouldn’t have had the gorge to ourselves for long. Not sure where they all came from but it was a theme we would reencounter through out the day. 

Between Galvins Gorge and advice we struck some issue with stones in brake shoes. Made a hell of a squeal so a road side stop was needed. After some banging around it seemed to clear itself and we were back on the road. 

Advice Gorge was next on the list, not one with a lot of info availabile and the road in seemed to indicate why. Passed a few other travellers that had opted to walk it in as the track was getting a bit gnarly for them. But we pushed on. Charlie and Ernie did great!  Rocking up at the empty car park we made the 100m walk to the dry falls to find it to ourselves. 

Once again couldn’t convince a swim out of the kids so had to wait till we be of the walkers took the plunge.

Had some nice rick art as well. 

Onwards we went returning to a now full car park again. Made for some tricky exits as we were the only trailers in there. 

Back in the road we cruised down to Silent Grove and setup camp around 1:30. Had a somewhat shady spot so we could hide from the heat of the day. 

Had an interesting time trying to find the cash camping fee needed but we scraped $64 together and placed it in the self registration box. Something that we will need to remember for next time. 

We couldn’t convince a third walk out of the kids so we chilled the afternoon and would tackle Bell Gorge in the morning. 

Bright and early the next morning we woke to sunrise through the tent windows. It had been open most of the night as it was a little warmer than normal. Had some muchkins arrive in our bed before the allotted time of 6am. 

We set off for the gorge after breakup with a packed lunch, a 10km drive then a 2km walk. 

Well the walk was pretty easy, you arrive at the start of the gorge at the top of the largest falls. The views are stunning. 

Walking a bit further to reach to bottom pool the view of the falls was gorgeous.  With plenty of swimming participants we explored the lower pools as well before popping back up the top for a bite to eat. 

We got back to camp just after 1pm.  It felt a lot later!  In fact it seems that the days are really long with lazy afternoons chilling away lazy in chairs, chatting with the kids switching between colouring in, homework and mucking about the camp. 

Some tom foolery at the dinner table. 

Gibb River Road - Manning Gorge Chill

So we set off for the Manning Gorge walk around 7:45am. 

It started with a little more excitement than usual with a boat needed to cross the river. 

The benefit of this is that there is a swim at both ends of the walk. 

The walk was pretty simple with the sun pretty warm even so early in the morning. 

We arrived about an hour later at the falls with a glorious view greeting us of waterfalls and a big swimming pool. 

We spent a few hours there before returning to camp with the obligatory swim to cool off. Only Andi and I swam back but it wasn’t long before the kids migrated back to water after getting back. 

We had a lazy afternoon with kids playing with the boat back and forth across the river. We caught up with other travellers whilst they relaxed in the cool water. Found out details of the road upcoming as well as some intel about places further down the road. 

The next day we had a lazy day where we promised not to go anywhere or do any walks etc. It was a day where once journals, maths and other schooling was over they were free to swim, run around and enjoy themselves as they see fit. Well when a swim is on the line it’s amazing what the kids can push though. By 9am they had ticked most things and were hot to trot for the river. 

Unsurprisingly the fresh water croc that was spotted early in the morning had moved off pretty quickly when the kids arrived. We spotted him just on the left of this picture. On spotting us he quickly moved further away, clearly not keen on people. 

It was a lovely day just relaxing, moving the chairs round the shady bits of the campers. 

Gibb River Road continues

We returned to the station in the morning for Ellenbrae’s signature dish - Scones with cream and jam.

The boys have decided that they are the best oven cooked scones they have tasted. 

Jamie got the tyre repaired and some welding sorted to get things back up to scratch mechanically. Reasonably priced as well given the location and isolation. 

The kids also had fun with Evie the dog playing catch with her chew toy. I think she was looking forward to us moving on, she looked pretty tuckered out as we left. 

We turned right back into the GRR heading for Mount Barnett roadhouse,180km down the road. 

It was an interesting section of road with some lovely sections adveraging 80-90km/h, some tar sections as well. And then there was the sections that shook everything no matter what speed you did. They say you can hide beer cans in the corrugations, and they weren’t far off. Will post some video of that one when we download it. 

We did a quick stop into the Barnett Gorge for a look see but made the decision that walking at this time of day wouldn’t be a good idea. The heat of the day can be quite intense. It seems to have some bite in it from about 9am through to 4pm and can be quite oppressive. 

We pushed on down to nicer section of road to the Mount Barnett Roadhouse to book into the campsite for Manning Gorge. It was said to be a longer walk of 6 km return so we would tackle that in the morning. 

Found a lovely camping spot not too far from amenities and still somewhat isolated.  We chilled in the heat of the day with cards, reading and general lounging about. 

World wind few days - Elquestro wilderness park

Well it’s a been a whirlwind few days since leaving Lake Argyle. We made our way back to Kunnanurra to do quite a list of jobs including future bookings for places further on, shopping for food, gas and other repairs etc. All in all took us till after lunch before we left to kick off our Gibb River Road (GRR) adventure. 

A quick stop off at the Ivanhoe Crossing (cause you got to see it) and we thought it was too high to safely cross with the trailers. It was between 0.2 and 0.4 but moving quite fast. 

So after a few pics we moved on past the Sandlewood plantations that are irrigated by Lake Argyle.

The start of the GRR was a little underwhelming with the first kms all tar now and not bone jarring corrugations. No complaints and we made our way to El Questro Wilderness Park 

Now although El Questro is on most travellers must do list the owners know this and charge accordingly. We were hearing some pretty horrid things about dust in the main campground and so opted for a private river bush camp. Take the word private out and it looses its gloss somewhat. The downside is that cost $30 per person over the age of 12. Our private site saw us  somewhat away from the facilities (3.3km)  and 1km from a loo.   We were however in our own spot and couldn’t see or hear anyone around. This arrangement however suited some of us more than others.  Will let your mind wonder as to who. We did have river frontage but unfortunately you couldn’t swim in it. Overall, a very expensive camp with minimal services. Provision of water or firewood supply would have helped justify the high price. The cost limited us to two nights there. 

Note in the picture above the no swimming sign. Another downside. But it was a very picturesque location. 

But we move on and the next morning we got organised to hit the Zebedee Hot Springs  first before doing the El Questro gorge after that. 

The springs were fantastic, reminded us of the ones in Mataranka. However had a few more rocks that made for some private little spots to just chill and relax. 

We had a lovely hour and a half soaking in the water pools. It was time to use the relaxed muscles on a walk up the Elquestro gorge after a quick lunch. 

The gorge was pretty easy going with a series of stream crossings by car and on foot to negotiate before reaching the tall plant lined walls of the gorge. We only went to mid point this time but with a lovely swim there before returning. It was the perfect length for all participants. 

After the walk back out of the gorge we thought we would pop round to Moonshine Gorge as the swimming hole was a short walk from the car park.

It was a lovely spot but it seemed memory of the water temperature of the springs remained strong and we couldn’t tempt many into the water. The threat of fresh water crocs didn’t offer much encouragement. Lovely spot though. 

However on return from Moonshine Gorge we were met with near disaster for our holiday as we received news, somewhat casually from staff, that a bushfire has broken out around our camp whilst we were out enjoying the surrounding gorges and swimming holes.  She told us everything was safe, that the shower tent was nearly burnt and the fire fighters removed the gas and fuel bottles from the trailer etc. 

So even though driving back into the site we were everything was fine, it was still a shock to see the landscape around the site - literally everything apart from the dirt track in and a small buffer around the site was black, with trees still either alight or smouldering. Fire got within centimetres in some cases. We think though that some of that was due to the firefighters taking the initiative and back burning etc as there was evidence of raking. Arriving at the site we were greeted by two firefighters, Louie and Kev. They looked buggered but pretty pleased with themselves that they managed to save the campers - the impression we got from the colourful language used that there were moments that they might of been a bit worried! 

Louie seemed to think the fire started at the next camp along from us from an unattended fire left to burn. It was also not in the designated fire pit. The fire was spotted by one of the helicopter tour pilots. 

On the upside we enjoyed a dinner at the station house as moving and setting up within the space of a hour, meant very tired, hungry and some what worried children.  The boys were fantastic - they were a little taken back by the devastation and weren’t big fans of the smell but they buckled down and got Ernie packed up very quickly.  It wasn’t until we arrived at the main campground that the adrenaline had worn off and shock crept in, with the what if discussions started. Teddies were hugged extra tight that night! (Although it did take a while to get them actually into bed as Ernie was full of critters! Lots of spiders and bugs had taken refuge inside Ernie during the fire. The smoke smell was also a constant reminder for them. 

We left Elquestro at 7:45am the next day morning making a quick stop at the previous camp to pick up some pegs we had left behind. Just amazing how close it got to us. The predators were out and about collecting all the frizzled little creatures with brown kites and even a borolga around the site picking up some toasty bugs. 

We headed off to Emma Gorge which is back out on the highway. While we kicked off around 8:30am, it already felt like a hot day. 

The walk was tricky with lots of boulder climbing required but the pools along the way and at the end were just stunning, cool but stunning. The kids found a spot in the pool where a warm spring came into the pool and hovered there for most of their swim. 

We returned back to cars around 11:30amband with only 100 kms to go till our next overnight stop we thought that we get a few kilometres of dirt under our belt before lunch. 

We didn’t get far down the road maybe 10 or 15 minutes before we got a radio  call from the Philpots that they had a puncture. It was the understatement of the century,  as you can see in the picture below.

On a hot dusty afternoon it was a bit of a challenge getting the tyre changed but we were heading to a place that did tyre repair or replacement in this case. 

On the way we passed some fantastic views of the Cockburn ranges and crossed the iconic Pentacost River. 

Katie drove us across the Pentacost whilst I videoed the event. 

We gingerly headed in that direction with minimal issues till the the water pipe on Jamie’s trailer
coped a random stone to knock off a connection leaving a dark line on the road. Lucky this was at the entrance to the station so a quick repair with gaffa tape and all was good. 

The staff at the station were just fantastic, with a lovely warm welcome to their place with green lawns and shaded areas. It was a classic country outback homestead. It was great to get off the corrugations for a while too.

Griff was immediately attracted to the chooks roaming around and had a few cuddles before we headed off to our camp for the night. 

The donkey showers and loos were the highlight, with only three groups using this campsite we had the place pretty much to ourselves.  They lit the fire at 3pm and then restocked it at 5pm. Perfect for the end of the day relax.