Kimberley Capers Take Two - A taste of the Gibb

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 15, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We managed to get away from Lake Argyle relatively early and made a point of really absorbing our picturesque surroundings on the drive back out to the highway. We were heading west and wanted to put some miles behind us which was easy with the road in good condition and stunning landscapes to occupy us.  Mesmerised by the rugged terracotta escarpments that regularly dominated our view the day soon escaped us and we pulled into an area just out of Halls Creek known as Mary Pool to camp for the night, along with a couple of hundred others.  There were caravans, camper trailers and tents tucked away in every nook and cranny, whilst not ideal it was a convenient place to stop. 

From Mary Pool it was once again a pretty drive through to Fitzroy Crossing and on to Derby where we had checked in and set up by lunch time.  Our timing could not have been better as it was race day in Derby….for the local fishing club just happened to be holding mud crab races this very afternoon, we couldn't miss those!

So here we are sat around the circle that is the race track (arena), a thick rope marking the outside boundary.   As mud crabs were purchased and named by people from the crowd, they were marked and then placed into a large bucket.  Just prior to each race the commentator built the excitement as the swelling crowd moved to the edge of their seats in anticipation.  The crabs would be awoken with a quick splash of water as the bucket was upturned in the middle of the arena and the race to the rope was on, race after race, with each winning crab going into the final.  As the crowd grew hoarse from screaming the final was run and won, then the crabs were all got cooked off and served up for dinner!   Despite the end result it really was a fabulous afternoon at the races!

After a day of local Derby activities and preparation for our camping trip we finished in style with a glass of bubbles as we watched the sun set over the Derby Wharf. The following day with the van safely tucked away in storage we headed out along the Gibb River Road for yet another taste of this most amazing section of the Kimberley, our destination; Bell Gorge.  With the first hundred or so kilometers being bitumen we were keen to get those under our belt and hit the gravel.  Soon the dust was trailing behind us as we wound our way up and down through stunning ranges.  Spotting a pretty little billabong we pulled in for lunch.  Here we were entertained by pelicans, jabirus and a family of brown ducks as they floated around the waterhole no doubt enjoying the sunshine as much as we were.

Having passed through a couple of water crossings and traversed several ranges we were soon turning off toward Bell Gorge.  Whilst it was a pretty drive, the road was heavily corrugated making for a jaw jarring ride.  The deep water crossings actually came as a brief respite from the constant shake rattle and roll we were enduring.    

Having reached Silent Grove Campground we were delighted to find a site with a large fire pit and quickly set about making camp.  We enjoyed a stroll along Silent Creek, disturbing a black footed rock wallaby as we did so before spending the evening around the campfire watching the flames dance back and forth along the logs as the night sky evolved into a twinkling theatre.

It seemed that everyone was up and about at the crack of dawn and so we joined them.  Rod cooked up his traditional camp breakfast of pancakes before we jumped back in the Navara to visit Bell Gorge. The road deteriorated even further having left the campground, adding ruts and another couple of water crossings to the consistent corrugation; well we did want to get back off the bitumen didn’t we!

Glad to arrive at Bell Gorge with the car still intact we set off on the walk into the gorge.  Whilst it was a scenic walk it required a high level of concentration to navigate along the track which was a bed of uneven red rocks.  Our perseverance was well worth it for the track opened out to a vast expanse of rock and a large waterhole.  The scene was simply breathtaking, a tall red rocky outcrop dominating the skyline to the right, reflecting like a mirror image in the dark pools before us.  To the left the water dropped out of sight flowing smoothly over the rock ledge like an infinity pool. 

Having made our way over to the edge of the drop off we were presented with the most gorgeous waterfall.  The water cascaded down a tiered set of rock ledges into another large waterhole at the base.  Taking a seat atop the smooth red rocks we were captivated by the sight and sounds of this spectacular water feature.  Of course we would not have been at an Australian gorge had someone not decided to throw themselves off the high cliff top into the bottom pool.  Thankfully he resurfaced below to a collective sigh of relief from all those gathered to witness it.  It really was a picture perfect location and we felt so very lucky to be there to experience it. 

Wanting to make the most of our time up in this area we set off to explore more gorges.  We shook our way back out onto the Gibb River Road and continued east.  We stopped at Adcock Gorge and whilst it was confusing to find, when we got there it was well worth it.  We were greeted by huge flocks of birds up in the trees by the waterhole, full of activity and squawking away they were almost deafening in chorus.  As with the drive in, there really was no marked trail it was just a case of following your instincts.  We walked along the edge of a lovely waterhole topped with lilies and surrounded by grey boulders before scampering over more of the same at the end of the waterhole.  Across the other side, up and over more boulders we were rewarded with yet another waterhole.  We didn’t expect to find such a large body of water; it really took us by surprise.  There was a freshwater crocodile tucked away under a shelf at the base of the sheer gorge wall just to remind us of where we were.  The orange walls soared high into the sky forming a semi circle as cascading water fed into the deep emerald green pool at our feet.  It was simply stunning.

We then continued on to Galvans Gorge, here we were thrilled when we spotted a tawny frogmouth sitting in a boab tree along the path.  So well camouflaged it would have been easy to miss.  At the base of Galvan Gorge we were once again greeted by an inviting waterhole.  Here a large boab tree sat imposingly on the towering gorge rim above us, a waterfall staggered its way down over several ledges before finding its way into the pool below.  Here we were rewarded with stunning reflections along the left hand side of the waterhole and with no crocodiles in sight the right hand side looked perfect for a quick dip.

With the sun descending and our shadows stretching further across the landscape we turned around at the Mount Barnett Roadhouse and started our journey back to camp.  The odd bustard, roo and cattle kept us interested as did the stunning scenery as the colours changed with the slowly setting sun.  The road surfaces and conditions varied, unfortunately some inconsiderate people failed to adjust their driving to the conditions leaving us with a massive crack in our windscreen.  Thanks!

Turning off the Gibb, the drive back into Silent Grove was challenging as the dust from previous vehicles was lingering, hanging stagnant in the air like a thick fog.  We were driving directly into the sun and over heavily corrugated roads, it was hard work and far from pleasant.

Exhausted and yet exhilarated after a day of scenic splendor our neighbours joined us around the bush tele for a couple of quiet drinks as we exchanged yarns until the flames had ceased dancing and we were merely left with a bed of coals.

It was another early start to the day and before long we were packed up and heading back to Derby, with a few detours along the way.  We drank in the scenery at several lookouts before driving into Lennard Gorge.  As it evolved this was the hardest of the walks over our two days.  The track started off extremely rocky then followed along the path of the creek which was a base of rocks, not nice little pebbles or stones, but rocks!  Despite having to navigate a way over or around these it really was a gorgeous setting with dark charcoal rocks lining the waterway and pretty soft green foliage sprouting up through crevices.

Continuing up and over a hill on a track of uneven red rocks flanked by tall blonde grasses, we finally made it down the other side and were greeted with an amazing vista.  A massive gorge with a large waterfall to one end thundering down the rock face, the bold gorge wall opposite was throwing out rich orange hues interspersed with chunks of dark charcoal, it really was such a sight and well worth the walk.  Having been at the base of most gorges the previous day it was nice to be looking down into Lennard Gorge and gaining another perspective.

We’re not sure if it was the thought of the trek back or the magic scenery that kept us enthralled above this gorge for so long, however eventually we had to take one last taste of the sights and get on our way. 

Before we knew it we were back on the bitumen, the stunning King Leopold Ranges etched in our memories forever.  The Gibb really is about all the breathtaking gorges, not just the stunning drive, it is the side trips that truly make this one of Australia’s must do drives… We can’t wait to come back and do the little middle section we have missed and venture up to the Mitchell Plateau…

Still on such a high from our little camping trip in the wilderness we couldn’t resist driving out onto the Derby Wharf to take in the views one last time before heading back to collect our van and set up for another night.  We slept well knowing that tomorrow was just a short relocation into Broome.

Highlights of the Gibb:

-          Mary Island Fishing Club – Mud Crab Races

-          Sunset over Derby Wharf

-          Bell Gorge

-          Galvans Gorge

-          Lennard Gorge

-          Adcock Gorge

-          The drive itself – excluding the rednecks that rip along tossing up stones!

-          Sitting by the camp fire each night watching the sky come alive with sparkling stars
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Val S. on

still following you!!!

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