The Litchfield National Park is the perfect place to visit with the hot weather we're having at the moment. With swimming possible at Florence Falls (see above), Buley Rockhole and Wangi Falls, we spend the afternoon having a swim at each one, before driving on to the next still in our swimmers. Florence Falls is the most scenic out of the three locations, with the waterfalls still gushing towards the end of dry, due to being spring-fed. Buley Rockhole is a series of deep rockpools that the river cascades through, upstream from Florence Falls, whilst Wangi Falls is a very large plunge pool at the bottom of two falls. We also go on the Shady Creek Walk at Florence Falls, which passes through some delightful monsoon forest. We're particularly happy that this is all accessible by sealed roads, without long walks, as we're still not wanting to drive much on unsealed or 4WD roads after the roughness of the Gibb.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
At Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk), we take advantage of the boat cruises on offer and go for a three gorge cruise, rather than going on a walk like we've had no alternative to back in the gorges of the Kimberley. We still do one short walk, up to a lookout early in the morning, but before the day hots up (to about 36C). The second gorge is the most impressive of the three that we visit (the first, second and third gorges - all that are accessible by boat). The high cliffs tower up above us and our guide points out many interesting features, including how torrential the river gets during the wet season (the photos we later see of the gorge during the record 1998 floods are impressive). We stop for a welcome swim on the way back, in a pool between the first and second gorges, and also unexpectedly get to see some Aboriginal rock art, our first on the trip.
Ever since Adelaide, we've been encountering road trains on the highways of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory (even the Gibb River Road - which was a dusty experience!) Early on, whilst crossing the Nullarbor, we eagerly reported any three trailer ones, but I'm sure since then we've seen some four trailer ones. Pulled up at road works on the Victoria Highway across the border into the Northern Territory, we have a road train pull up behind us - normally far closer than I'd like them to be behind us.
Not having a big tough 4WD to tackle the reportedly rough even for a 4WD track into the Bungle Bungles, we instead took the quick and easy (but expensive) option of a scenic flight from Kununurra. After flying south over the Ord Irrigation Area, the massive Lake Argyle and a few cattle stations and ranges, we spent 20 minutes flying over the Bungle Bungle Ranges. The most impressive sight in the range are the distinctive striped beehive domes (which unsurprisingly feature in all photos of the area, although there are also gorges and rock formations other than the domes). Unfortunately, it was all over so quickly, although the sight of the Arygle Diamond Mine on our return trip was also interesting.
El Questro Wilderness Park is probably best known for his homestead, where stars such as the cast of Australia have stayed. (I will have to finally watch that movie after having seen so many of the locations where it was filmed.) However, there is also camping available for us people on smaller budgets. (One warning though, there is an extra "Wilderness Pass" to pay for in addition to the camping, which makes it rather expensive.) The gorges in this part of the Kimberley are different due to the pockets of rainforest growing in many of them. Whilst staying overnight we saw (and swam at) El Questro Gorge, enjoyed Zebedee Springs (see above), and visited the magnificent Emma Gorge (see below), where we swam in a waterfall plunge pool surrounded on three sides by sheer red cliffs.
After having gone camel riding earlier in the week, I felt that I should finally try horseriding. And where else but a station in the Kimberley? Whilst staying at Home Valley Station, partially chosen because of the lovely green grass to camp on (plus the facilities including the pool and bar were brand new), David and I organised to go on a guided horse ride in the morning. My horse was called Vegemite and she was a bit of a stubborn one. After some early troubles getting her walking after the other horses and not stopping to eat grass so much, I seemed to get the hang of it and we both enjoyed our ride, although by the end of the 2 1/2 hours my legs and bum were glad of a rest. David wasn't so lucky with his horse - Dan, who stumbled whilst trying to eat some grass whilst we were waiting for a gate to be closed, and both of them took a minor tumble, but were fine for the rest of the ride.
Manning Gorge is located midway along the Gibb River Road, near the Mt Barnett Roadhouse (the only place with petrol right on the road). This means that unless people are doing the full road, usually with a 4WD, they don't visit it, leaving it uncrowded for those of us that do. Next to the campsite is a lovely waterhole for swimming, complete with inner tubes to float in, a lovely way to end a hot day of driving. By wading or swimming across the waterhole (with belongings floating in a polystyrene box) and walking 45 minutes, you get to the Manning Falls, another beautiful spot. We are the first arrivals early in the morning, and go for a lovely, peaceful swim before more people arrive, some of them jumping into the deep pool from high up on the rocks, which David joins in.
Windjana Gorge was our first stop on the Gibb River Road, an unsealed road that traverses the Kimberley from Derby to near Kununurra. Cut by a river through the Napier Range, an ancient coral reef that means that fossils can be spotted in the sides of the gorge (with close attention), the highlight of the gorge was the proliferation of fresh water crocodiles. Walking along the banks of the river, mainly just large pools with slow flowing water due to it being close to the end of the dry season, we spotted one every few minutes, usually hanging about in the water or sometimes on the banks below us.
Ever since I started planning this trip, I wanted to do a sunset camel ride on Cable Beach in Broome. When we originally arrived in Broome, I was disappointed that the next few sunset rides were already booked out (Broome has been by far the busiest place we've visited), so I booked a ride for when we returned from the Dampier Peninsula. The sunset on the day we had a ride was wonderful - even better than the previous sunsets we had viewed on the beach. Unfortunately, the comfort of camels as steeds wasn't that wonderful, and I was glad that it was only an hour long. However, our camel, Ghan, was a docile old guy, and the ride was a wonderful way to end our time in Broome.
On the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, nearly every little community runs mudcrabbing tours. We ended up going on a tour with Robert from Lombadina. Originally, I wasn't planning on going, being deterred by one description of the possible depth of mud (well, they are mudcrabs). However, luckily I decided to go along! After a bumpy 4WD trip along back tracks, we arrived at Lombadina Point and then spent a few hours traipsing through the mangroves (luckily we were assured there were no saltwater crocodiles about this part of the peninsula), often getting muddy shoes and hooking out mudcrabs with what look like oversized tent pegs. Well, Robert did most of the finding and the hooking (although David hooked one that Robert found, and then found and hooked one all by himself!) Once we had as many mudcrabs as people in the sack, we headed back to the town and had a delicious dinner feasting on the crabs.
In the Pilbara region of WA, inland from the industrial towns of Karratha and Port Hedland, are the gorges of Karijini National Park. Like gashes in the dry landscape, many of them are not visible until you are nearly at their edge. Whilst sections of the gorges are wide and easy to walk in, at times they narrow to only a metre or two, generally with cold pools of water, making walking difficult or limiting access to canyoning trips. Hancock Gorge (above) is one of the most spectacular for its narrow fissure, with Kermit Pool reached via the "Spider Walk".