Saturday 26 to Friday 1 September
We were up early, on Saturday morning, and took off for our next stop which is Mt Elizabeth Station about 160 Klms down the road. On the way we stopped into an aboriginal settlement to get some fuel at believe or not Gibb River Station. We met the storekeeper who gave us a run down of the place… 1 million acres and about 8,000 head of cattle when fully stocked but they were only running about 6000 head at the moment. He told us that the roads up here are the worst he has seen in 25 years and he had been told by someone in the know that it was due to state govt budget cuts due to the GST cuts. What gets me about that is it is another example of a state govt blaming everyone but the real culprits… themselves. What happened to the 10 years of windfall gains from the mining boom. It seems to me that it is not good economics to starve the area of a profitable industry that that brings in the most of the states tourist income.
Anyway we filled up at $2.05 a litre and headed off to Mt Elizabeth Station. Another 1 million acre property with tourist facilities. Of all the places we have stayed so far this was the most forgettable. We went out to one of their Gorges for a swim. No one was there so I decided to have a skinny dip. No sooner had I dived in two car loads of people turned up, much to Louise’s mirth. She chucked me my togs and laughed as I struggled to get them on under water without sinking to the bottom.
We were up early next morning and moved on to Mount Barnett Roadhouse, which is the only store with a range of supplies on the Gibb River Road. We desperately needed to restock especially on fresh food. It is also gateway to Manning Gorge where we camped for 2 nights.
At the camp ground we set up and next morning made the 2.5 kilometre walk over rough rocky ground to the gorge. The walk was difficult but the reward at the end was a magnificent gorge full of water. We swam and took in the scenery and watched a bunch of kids jump off the water fall into the pool below. Great fun. There are also some aboriginal paintings in the gorge which were a delight to find as they are not mentioned in any of the brochures.
One of the travellers we met told us a man on an APT tour had died at Mitchell Falls the previous day when he fell while exploring. Evidently it is a reasonably common occurrence.
In the afternoon we decided to make some bread as the bread in the Roadhouse was frozen sunblest bread. Not the most delicious I have eaten and turns stale as soon as it comes out of the packet. A photo of the finished loaf heads up this post and it was more delicious than it looks. We cooked it in a wood fire using our spun Steel camp oven with hot coals on top. Beats the bought stuff.
After two nights we pulled out to head to Mornington Wilderness Camp and Wilderness Sanctuary. First we stopped at the store and stocked up on fruit, vegetables and other necessary supplies like biscuits, bread and fuel as it will be about a week before we hit civilisation at Fitzroy Crossing and then Derby.
We passed two gorges on the way. One Galvins Gorge is right next to the GRR. The car park was chockers, so we gave it a miss. The second Adcock Gorge we also gave a miss as the road in was very rough.
We arrived at the wilderness lodge turnoff and checked in by radio before the 90 Klms Trek in. They had room for three nights camping so after giving all our details over the two way headed in for the 2 hour drive up there front driveway. The country is quite different to what we had been driving through, flat open grassy plains giving away to long jump ups (mountains) in the distance.
The wilderness park is managed and run by the Australian Conservation Society. This one is about 300,000 hectares which was purchased in 2001. There are some endangered species here as well of remnants of habitat no longer found in the Kimberly's. On the way in, while going through a long stony Creek crossing I sensed someone behind me to see an idiot trying to pass me. He must have a licence he found in a corn flakes packet. What really got my goat was we were only about 10 Klms from our destination. Anyway just as we came out of the crossing we came to a locked gate. Louise jumped out and opened it. As I looked in the rear vision mirror there were two vehicles that accelerated past me and left Louise in a dust storm. I thought I was mad until Louise got in the car and she was more hyped up than me.. we got to the reception counter and the two inconsiderate bastards were at the counter checking in. Louise went straight up and asked who was in the last truck and didn't they know the etiquette of the last through shutting the gate. Oh well he replied “ you were already out so why did we need to get out and get dusty.” That was a bit much for me so I commented that manners mattered in the bush. He then made some comment of trying to pass me for 50 Klms. I gave him the death stare and commented that I didn't know it was a race. Another inconsiderate European. His companion was Aussie and she suggested he quit and let us book in first. I think they may have got the message. This is not the first time someone has tried to pass me on a water crossing, which beAks all the rules in the book. You don’t enter water until you have checked it out and until it is completely clear. Simple survival strategy but seemingly ignored by overseas visitors, who from my observation drive far to fast for the conditions.
In the after noon we drove out to Sir Johns Gorge for a look. The rehabilitation work they are doing here allows you to see what the Kimberley's looked like before the introduction of cattle.
Wednesday night we decided to shout ourselves out for dinner at the restaurant. Scotch fillet with an assortment of veggies and sweets for $60 a head. It was very nice with a nice WA cab sav from the bar. We finished dinner at about 7.30 to find that our early to bed and early to rise regime was catching up with us, so we walked back to our camp to be ready for an early morning (5.30am) bird watching tour with guide.
The alarm went off at 4.45am and we got up and walked to reception to head off on the bird watching tour. There were four of us plus the guide so we headed off to a secret spot to see how many different species we could spot with the guide naming them for us. It was a terrific morning and left an impression on us. I think Louise has become a twitcher, as no sooner we were back at camp, had breakfast, that we were off again looking for birds on one of the many walking trails around the park. One walking trail was through termite mounds that goes for about 500 metres and tells the story of the mounds, there formation and the life cycle of termites. Very interesting. Some of the mounds are about 100 years old, with the queen living up to 100. When the queen dies, so does the mound. Wow.
They are also a critical part of the ecology up here, aerating the soil and helping it to absorb moisture.
Back to camp for the afternoon before a few pre dinner drinks at the bar. When we saw Thursday nights menu we may have jumped the gun having dinner on Wednesday night. Salt water barramundi for mains and individual pavlovas for sweets. Oh well. We were joined by the couple that came on the bird watching morning tour. We traded stories of our adventures so far as the sun slowly set before heading back to camp for dinner and an early night.
This morning (Friday) we took the track out to Diamond Gorge. It was a 28 Klms drive over rough terrain but well worth it. On the way out at one of the many Creek crossing Louise spotted a White ne led heron standing in the water. We didn't have our cameras ready but the sighting was terrific. On the way back we did a detour to another water hole on the Fitzroy River. It was beautiful and we spotted the birds as they darted amongst the trees. As well a male rainbow bee eater settled in the tree above me and I was able to get a few photos of this lovely little bird. We then drove back to camp for a quiet afternoon with time to get this blog up to date.
We have promised ourselves that if we ever come back to northern WA we will definitely come back to the wilderness camp and stay again. It is a wonderfull Facility and is doing a lot to restore natural habitat and protect threatened species. The bird life here is prolific and diverse. You could never get tired of this place. The staff are all enthusiastic and love their work.
One of the services they provide here is usable wi fi for a few hours a day so I can upload the blog. I will up load this tonight when we go to the bar for a coldie or two. Gee life is Tomorrow we will head off to Bell Gorge then onto Windjana Gorge, Tunnell Creek and then Fitzroy Crossing and finally Derby, arriving there next Thursday or Friday (7 or 8 September) when I should be able to upload some photos to the web site. So till then.