Daily Archives: 13/08/2013

10 and 11 August

At this westerly end of the Gibb River “Road”, the gorge turn offs are closer in distance so we were setting up camp around lunchtime.  It was one of the hottest days we’ve had so far hitting 36 degrees around 1pm and not dropping from that until after three.

The Windjana Gorge campsite is a short walk from the gorge.  In the afternoon, you lose about 10 degrees temperature inside the gorge and it’s a relatively easy tramp in.

The pools along the gorge, not very deep in this driest of dry seasons, are home to freshwater crocodiles and a wide variety of birds, including a white faced heron, a night heron nestled in the brush across the water and a couple of black-fronted dotterels.

fish fossil - Windjana Gorge

Windjana Gorge reflectionsWindjana Gorge rockscape reflectionsfreshwater croc - Windjana Gorge

black-fronted dotterell 1Corella - Windjana GorgeNankeen Night Heron - Windjana GorgeWhite faced heron - Windjana Gorgedouble barred finch - Windjana GorgeWedgetail Eagle - Windjana GorgeFreshwater croc out of water - Windjana GorgeThese pics represent our two days at this site.  We drove up to Tunnel Creek Gorge on the second day.  It was also very cool as most of it is in a cave system, hence the name.  You need torches and wet walking gear.  My aversion to running into even harmless crocs as you walk through water in the dark had me stopping half way at the opening. This gorge is also home to many species of vociferous bats.

In other news, don’t ever think you can disappear into the wilderness and not run into people you know. It was fun to run into Charles and Ashley from my local hairdressing salon back home.  We’d spoken of our respective trips some months ago, but never expected to run into each other at Windjana Gorge. Courtesy of Charles and Ashley we are now in possession of a red claw trap for use in freshwater creeks AND the honeydew melon to go with it. Charles was very impressed with our support system for the strut on the van, particularly the fallback position of the portable toilet sitting on top of the wardrobe. You use what you have, don’t you.

9 August – Mornington to Silent Creek / Bell Gorge

We managed to decamp in a manner better than expected given that it now involves removing varying supports as the crank is wound down.

We had a fleeting interaction with the outside world at Imintji Roadhouse where we stopped for an hour for tea and raspberry muffins and shared a roo pie.

As we arrived at Silent Creek, wondering how the assembly of the van would go, Ross from Mornington (who is travelling in the same direction as us) appeared out of nowhere and stood by until he knew he was needed to raise the roof and then quietly disappeared. Sweet!

The evening fare is starting to get a big hit and miss (or adventurous if you prefer) as creative combinations of remaining food stores are put into play.  Tonight it was chorizo, spinach, fresh tomatoes (from the Imintji store), a slosh of passata with fusilli pasta.

What? Let me tell you simple successes are a bonus at the moment !

There will be no mention of Bell Gorge from me as I opted out when I read about steep slippery rocks on the last leg.  So I got as far as the first creek and waited for birds to turn up within range of the camera.

Thursday 8 August

Nothing like a good night’s sleep and a new day to clear the bad vibes.  Besides which, we had a canoe waiting to be paddled on Dimond Gorge.

This Crimson Finch was one of many flitting and feeding around the grasses near our camp around breakfast time.

Crimson Finch 1 - Mornington camp ground

Here are some of the highlights all of which, except for the dragon fly shots, were taken from the front of the yellow canoe in the company of a bottle of water and a waterproof picnic hamper for lunch. I dread to think how I would have navigated my way around this body of water if I’d gone solo. The master of the craft at the helm kept minds and bodies on course.

Dimond Gorge canoe trip 1Dimond Gorge canoe trip 2

Egret - Dimond Gorge, Morningtondragon fly 2 - Dimond Gorge, Morningtondragon fly - Dimond Gorge, Mornington

Wednesday 7 August

When you’re living out of car fridges and cooking with a gas stove, stopping in at a roadhouse around breakfast time can be a treat, toasted sandwiches being a case in point. We stocked up on yoghurt as well and the day was feeling pretty good.

Mid-morning, we took off (via Galvins Gorge) for Mornington Wilderness Reserve run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

At check-in, we booked in for a canoe paddle on Dimond Gorge the next day, then went to find a camp spot. We settled between two other couples and proceeded with the usual routine.  It was all going well until another unwelcome ping was heard as the roof was being cranked up.

I insert this small painting of the beautiful blue-winged kookaburra to ensure that you are not exposed to the unseemly thoughts and sometimes expressed words that manifested themselves on or just after this winged kookaburra water colour and pencil

It was a similar problem to the last time. As they say in some parts of the world, same-same but different. In the heat of the afternoon, when we should have been relaxing with a beer, Himself was inside the cupboards again after another unpacking of the van contents to discover the problem.

Here’s where the kind strangers came in. The two fellows either side of us pitched in with willing heads, hands, spare parts and soldering irons to work out a way to get the problem strut up and playing its part again.  They must have put 2 hours in before the official test took place.  It worked …. Yay! ….. until it didn’t.

So a temporary fix was put in place, using a steel pole (supplied by Ross) and a breadboard.  We faced the next couple of hours needing to repack and redistribute things.  The preparation of dinner was going to be a long way off and just another chore to complete in the night.

So it’s a big thank you to Ross, and to Peter and Vicki who invited us over to join them in a splendid curry dinner. “Just bring your chairs”. Turns out these seasoned campers live a couple of suburbs away from us, which is a good thing as we’ll  be able to return the kindness later this year.  It was a most welcome gesture that softened the edges of a tiring afternoon.

5-6 August

A visit to the Museum ended our time in Kalumburu then it was on the road again back to Drysdale Station to repack the van and get ready for more of the Gibb River Road and Manning Gorge.

We had another good quality buffet meal at Drysdale and met lots of interesting people around the fire after dinner.

On the way to Manning Gorge we stopped for a detour and lunch at Barnett Gorge via a narrow and bumpy track.

Manning Gorge is just behind Mt Barnett Roadhouse.  You have to cross a creek by small boat and rope pulleys to get to the track.

Tuesday night was a quiet one spent playing with the watercolours.

On Wednesday morning, I parked a chair down near the creek and had fun with the pencils on this rock face.

Manning Gorge camp site

Early morning on McGowan Island Beach is quiet and cool before the heat of the day kicks in around 8 am.

4 Aug - early morning McGowan's 24 Aug - early morning McGowan's4 Aug - morning Masked Lapwing - McGowan's

We went into Kulumburu to catch the short opening hours of the store and purchase our visitor’s pass. No fuel is available in town on Saturday or Sunday so we left that until Monday morning, putting off payment of $2.99 per litre for diesel.

Before heading back to camp we checked out the fuselage of an old Mitchell Bomber, the history of which is available in the Catholic Mission’s Museum which we visited the following day. Kulumburu and other parts west of Darwin were bombed during World War Two.

I spent a little while with the brushes in the afternoon and later on tramped across the rocks to watch Rob wet the fishing line and be on self-appointed croc watch. I may have been a little too good at that job, identifying a croc-shaped rock as a threat to the mission.

It was a successful wetting of the line. Nothing more than that. You need to get out on a boat with some heavy line if you’re seriously wanting a nibble on the lure.

The new fridge we bought to replace the dead one in the van was working so well, we drank frozen beers before a dinner of tortellini. No fish were harmed in the production of the meal.

McGowan Island pandanus

Saturday 3 August

It was a noisy night in camp.  There were screeches, shrieks, howls and honks through the night and rattlings around the saucepans under the camp stove.  If you were up early enough you could see the small paw tracks before the campers headed towards the facilities.

We all took off after breakfast down the road to the junction (a 2 hour drive).  Our companions headed south and we took the road north to Kulumburu, an isolated and very beautiful part of the world on the northern coastline.

It was all about the road for most of the day. We had a short sojourn at King Edward River. By the time we arrived at Kulumburu, all the services were shut and there was nowhere for us to buy our tourist permit for access into the community.  Another 20 or so kilometres north is McGowan Island Beach, a campground with showers, grassy spots to pitch the tent and big waters for boat fishing. That took a bit of finding as the sign that leans on the tree at the fork in the road keeps blowing over. I guess most people eventually find their way.

On first impression, the guy who runs the campground is a very balanced person. When I say balanced, I mean 50% laconic and 50% “I don’t give a %#*%”.  According to campers who had been there for 5 days, he does warm to you after three or four days. Unfortunately we were only there for 2 nights, but we did get a smile when I handed over our camp fees as we were leaving and static electricity sparks flew.

Speaking of warming up, there is a very fair system of ensuring that the hot water is shared equitably among all campers.  There is none.  The afternoon temperature was warm enough for it not to be a problem.

Nothing more to do after pitching up than to catch a few sunset shots along the beach front and keep a watchful eye out for crocodiles the closer you got to the water. There are apparently four resident salties.

The sketch is the view from the tent site across the water.

McGowan's Island at sunset - 3 Aug

3 Aug - pandanus on the estuary - McGowan's

An early rise at camp today to ensure we had a place on a helicopter flight back from the top of Mitchell Falls after the walk up.

This youngster observed the breakfast procedures with interest.

2 Aug - young wedgetail eagle
The walk up to the falls began with this possum (?) siting. He/she refused to face the camera for many walkers. I think this look might have been to ensure we were on our way.

2 Aug - quoll - Mitchell Falls Walk

Further up the track and closer to the top of the falls were these Aboriginal rock carvings openly visible from the path.

2 Aug - rock art Mitchell Falls walk

2 Aug - double barred finches - Mitchell Falls Walk

It’s a bit of a slippery walk in parts and a water crossing requires some care, but once at the top the walk proved its worth.  The last shot is from the helicopter that took 6 mins to get us back to camp.

2 Aug Mitchell Falls2 Aug Mitchell Falls from helicopterLater in the afternoon, we had a soak in the nearest water hole. My soak came prematurely as I slipped nearing the destination.  I was glad I didn’t have the camera in tow, and who needs a dry towel anyway?

Back at camp, it was clear that we had not been as vigilent with putting one of the items of food out of reach of the clever crows. Who knew they liked macadamia nuts and could cut their way through vacuum-pack plastic?

Drysdale River Station to the Mitchell Plateau

Wednesday 31 July – no photographs taken, much washing done, car packing.

Thursday 1 August

The van started its little holiday at Drysdale Station (rent free) while we looked forward to some more days in the tent.  The Kulumburu Road north to Mitchell Falls has occasional reminders of what the road can do to rubber.  The morning included some firewood collection along the road. Assigned areas are marked before the National Park begins.

1 Aug - ripped tyre

1 August wildflower
Camp set up went relatively well and there was enough light to do a partial trek down the Falls Walk to Little Merten Falls, underneath which are some of the more ancient examples of aboriginal rock art that we’ve seen thus far.

The pools at the top of the falls provided cool pre-dinner soap-free bathing as there are no showers at this site.

1 Aug Mitchell Falls camp1 Aug - behind Little Merten Falls

Tuesday 30 July

It was a relatively early start from last night’s camp.  The cloud was low in the valley making a very pretty start to what was a dry, dusty and rough day on the road – up the Gibb River Road and then north on the Kulumburu Road. The Durack River provided a rest stop from the corrugations.

Durack Creek coffee stop 30 July Kalumburu Road corrugations

Ellen Brae Station is a grassy and cool spot where we had a sandwich lunch and enjoyed the garden and the double-barred finches.

Poinsettia flower centre

Double banded finch

We pushed on to Drysdale Station. I will remember this evening for the excellent shower facilities, the sunset and the 5 Seeds Cider on ice in the Station bar after we set up camp. Something about not having to cook dinner and enjoying a fine country buffet also helped shift the mood upwards.

Sunset reflections - Drysdale StationSunset - Drysdale Station