Oz and the Big Lap travel blog

11 May - Day 9

Yet another early start, up at 5 and away by 7, we were well practised by now at striking camp. No need to set the alarm here, there must have been several hundred corellas, all squawking at each other, flying around, landing on a tree, flying off and so on. What a noise! We walked out to the gate of the Station, while the bus topped up water . The gate was made of iron it was a silhouette of a boab tree, made by some of the workers on the Station for their boss. We rejoined the Gibb River Road and headed south again. First stop the Bindoola Creek waterfalls. A short walk across an ancient lava flow to the falls, there was plenty of water over the falls. In the huge pool below we saw quite a large freshie, just resting at the surface. A wonderful location, large expanses of the old lava flows.

Back on the bus and along the road and across the Bindoola Creek ford, a very pretty ford, not very deep with purple water lilies in the pool above the crossing. It had a concrete roadbed which made for a smooth crossing. Along the road Mark pointed out Scarlet Gums which were in flower, beautiful. Cane grass all along the road and now dried out and golden. We drove up a couple of 'Jump ups', steep rises, paved to enable the road trains climb the hills. One, 'Rollie's Jump Up' was apparently named after the first car to drive the Gibb, a Rolls Royce. We stopped, overlooking the Durack river for morning tea. The river had large sandbanks/beaches, and there by the waters edge was a large 'Freshie', sunbathing. Mark pointed out a 'quinine bush' with little orange fruits, about the size of a walnut.

Back on the road we encountered the Durack River crossing. A long crossing, about 75m wide with water axle deep, but the riverbed was over 200 m wide, must have been amazing when the riverbed was full! This would have been one of the crossings that prevented us from driving the Gibb. We noticed several truckloads of road materials at rough parts of the road as we drove along and at one point a grader plus heavy rollers were repairing the surface, and the heaps a material we saw must have been dropped ready for the repairs to be effected. We swung off on the Kalumburu Road to the Gibb River crossing where we pulled in for lunch. Mark commented that he felt it odd that the Gibb River Road never actually crossed the Gibb River. (It just followed the Gibb River valley for some time)

We drove on for some time before stopping at the Hahn River crossing so we could stretch our legs. Another very pretty river crossing. The Barnett Ranges stretched along the road for a whilet, with beautiful red/orange sandstone cliffs. We came past an actual bush fire alongside the road, it was starting to peter out as we approached but it was all smoky and the trees scorched. A bustard (aka bush turkey) walked across the road in front of us and disappeared into the bush before I could get a photo. Another river crossing, this time the Barnett River, not much water here but still a pretty crossing, and we swung into the Barnett River Roadhouse to refuel before arriving at our campsite for the night at Manning Gorge. The Manning River had large pools right by the campsite and hey, very refreshing to have a swim before dark and dinner. It was decidedly cooler after sunset, so was great to sit around the campfire, having a chat and trying to catch up with the blog.

12 May - Day 10

Our usual rise at just after 5 this morning, the sun was just below the horizon and all the birds knew it and were greeting the day and each other, very loudly! We needed to get going this morning as we were to walk into Manning Gorge before the day got too hot. But first we had to ford the river! It was about waist deep for the most part but a swim in the middle. We put our gear cameras, etc into large plastic boxes to float them across to the other side. A lot of fun really and a nice cool way to start the walk. The walk was across open bush with very little shade with a bit of scrambling over rocks. We saw the Kimberley Rose (aka sticky karajong) which only flowers after the wet and once its leaves have fallen off. A very pretty deep rose-coloured flower. There were many acacia bushes, different to others we had seen, these had small round button sized flowers. Mark pointed out the Rock Spinifex a clump grass with shiny leaves that the aboriginals used to make glue and very pretty wild cotton flowers. We clambered up and down rocky slopes and into the Gorge, more scrambling over some huge boulders until we reached large pools in the river and then sighted the waterfall. It fell into a large pool and stripping of (again!) we swam across the pool, it was deep, to the waterfall and round behind the falls. The noise was tremendous, but it was a beautiful sight with the sun shining through the falls. Swam back to the side and explored. Found some aboriginal art on the rocks near the falls. Long walk back, it was hotter now, and whilst we started on the return nicely cooled we arrived back at the fording point pretty hot and sticky. Fortunately we had to ford the river again to get to the campsite so did arrive back suitable refreshed and very ready for lunch.

After lunch we boarded the bus for a short drive to Galvin Gorge. Another gorge, another swim! It was a pretty walk in following the stream up to waterfall with pool and, of course, we all jumped in. There was a piece of aboriginal art on the rockface overlooking the pool, this was a 'windjana', which is the aboriginal equivalent of God. It is a face without a mouth as the windjana does not pass judgement. (We discovered all of this on a visit to an aboriginal art centre on the way back to Broome). As we were leaving the carpark another bus driver came over. His bus had broken down and as he knew one of the owners of our tour had agreed that we lend him our bus to get his passengers to their campsite 200km away. So we picked him up, drove to the nearby Barnett Roadhouse where we grabbed an ice-cream and he filled up with fuel (diesel was $2.15 per litre!) then drove back to our campsite. He then took the bus back to collect his passengers. It was getting near sunset so he would have had to drive well into the night to drop his passengers and then return our bus. An hour later he returned; his bus had been fixed. No drama!

After arriving back at the campsite we went for a walk down by the river and out on their own rocks were two freshwater crocodiles, basking in the late afternoon sunshine. Dinner, long chat around the campfire, everyone wearing extra layers as it was now quite cool.

13 May - Day 11

Another 5am start, all breakfasted, packed away and on the road by 06.45. Amazing! We passed through areas of recent fires, deliberately set to reduce the amount of material available to a full blown bushfire. We turned off on the Adcock Gorge road. This was across private property and the owner wasnt very keen on having tourist drive across his land so he paid little attention to the track, it was pretty rough, so we dropped the trailer and drove on, but only so far. We parked and walked the rest of the way. Not a bad walk but some of the ruts were deep, so driving would have been difficult, even with 4WD. It was an easy walk to start with but became rockier and rockier and we had to scramble over large boulders to get to waterfall and pool. Not many swimmers today. We spent some time building a series of stepping stones around one huge boulder to give easier access. It was still very pretty, lots of vegetation.

So we drove back to the Gibb River Road and on to Imintji Roadhouse. It was part of the aboriginal settlement and had an art gallery, but it was closed! We drove on, the King Leopold Ranges soaring high on our left, very dramatic. Past the Bell Gorge turnoff - which was closed due to flood damage. Through Bell Creek Crossing and on to a lookout at the top of a pass through the King Leopold Ranges with great views down the ensuing valley. We stopped for lunch at Dog Chain Creek. A very pretty but shallow crossing, lots of trees. On down the road and there in the distance was a rock shaped like Queen Victoria's head! On again and through the Napier Ranges, when someone shouted out 'brolgas'. And there were half a dozen of these fairly rare birds. The brolga is a crane, silver grey with a bright red band around its neck just below the head, a good spot. They didnt hang around for long and disappeared into the bush. Very soon we reached the 1st 20km of tarmac, then back to gravel and back to tarmac, then gravel and finally tarmac. The road to Derby.

Several people had booked a sunset cruise, so we made straight for the dock as the sun was getting low in the sky. They all duly boarded the boat and set off, we went to the campsite and set it all up. This time, for the first time, we had to pitch tents! We were in the same campsite that we had stayed just before the trip so we knew our way around. The sunsetters returned and we had dinner, then bed. Everyone was, by now, exhausted.

14 May - Day 12

We were allowed a later start as the tour guides didn't really know what to do with us. Anyway we struck camp, packed the bus and set off, not to Broome, but back to the jetty so everyone could look at the mudflats; such excitement! Eventually we drove to Mowanjum Art Gallery, out by the start of the Gibb River Road. Lots of pieces in the local tradition, plus some with a modern take. We were shown a short movie, principally about the enforced move of mobs of aboriginal peoples from their traditional homelands and their belief on their 'god' Windjana. WIndjana is depicted as a face without a mouth as Windjana does not pass judgement. It is seen as benevolent. An interesting interlude and the movie did put some of the aboriginal problems into some sort of perspective. Interesting art, but Windjana predominated. Nothing we liked.

Heading now towards Broome we stopped at the 'famous' Prison Boab Tree. This is a very large boab that is hollow and it is alleged it was used to imprison captured aboriginals on their way to Derby for trial. Another story is that it was used to hold captured aboriginals destined for the slave trade by the 'blackbirders'. We did hear an interview on the radio some days ago where the researcher cast huge doubts on these stories, but as it is a tourist attraction....... A little further down the road is the longest cattle trough in the world at 130 metres long. Allegedly built by station owners to water 500 cattle whilst on the drive to Derby port.

Now back on the Great Northern Highway, definitely heading south to Broome. We stopped at Willare Roadhouse for lunch but drove across the Fitzroy River bridge without stopping (we had walked the bridge on the way out) and carried on to Broome. We were the first to be dropped off. Walked to our campsite and discovered the car wouldn't start. It had been left for 12 days and the battery was completely flat. Called in the roadside assistance who came within 20 minutes - is this a record? Anyway a charming man called Grant assessed the connected his power-pack and the car started straightaway, what a relief. We left the engine running to charge the battery, washed clothes, went food shopping, then dinner at Matso's. Nice piece of Spanish Mackerel, not mackerel as we know it, but a firm, white fleshed fish. Back to camp, bed, we were absolutely zonked out.

So, Adventure Wild. Overall we were not impressed, the trip was good but most of the gorge walks were beyond Ruth, too steep and rugged. Some of the people were difficult and uncaring. Food was generous, but it was the sleeping arrangements that caused us the most problem. The swags were just so uncomfortable we didn't get a good night's sleep for the whole twelve nights. We dozed on the bus, especially in the window seat in the sun. Wouldn't recommend this outfit, but there are some spectacular sights along the way, Bungle Bungle and the gorges, the ranges, and the river crossings, all were worth experiencing, so not all bad.

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