Frogs love the Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 2

About halfway along the Gibb River Road is a turnoff that heads north to Mitchell Falls.  If you are well prepared for the trip, do it – the drive might be long but the hike to the falls is worth it.

 

Mitchell Plateau

Located in the Northern Kimberley, the Mitchell Plateau is home to the Mitchell River National Park, which covers about 115,000 hectares of rugged wilderness.  The road in is more rough than the western end of the Gibb River Road, with lots of sharp, rocky bits, river crossings and muddy tracks with big red puddles.

 

We saw a few dingoes that looked more like wild dogs and passed forests of livistona palms which really added some great character to the landscape.

 

 

Miners Pool

Our first stop along the Gibb River-Kalumburu Road, Miners Pool is a great place to stop and rest.  The camping area is equipped with oil barrel toilets and camping fees are payable at the Drysdale Homestead.

 

Drysdale Homestead

We needed to top up on fuel and water so we pulled into Drysdale H/S.  As expected, fuel prices were through the roof – even more expensive than the Nullarbor – petrol was about $2.40 p/L while diesel was $2.35 p/L.  The store wasn’t much different, with flour going at $6 a kilo and a box of shapes was just over $5.

 

Drinking water was free though, and we filled up every vessel we could.  There is also a beer garden and food outlet, and the people that we met were really friendly.

 

 

Lawley Lookout

In between the King Edward River and the Mitchell Falls National Park is a rest stop that overlooks a valley filled with livistona palms.  It’s a great view and worth stopping to take a look and stretch your legs before you continue on towards Mitchell Falls.

 

Mitchell Falls (Punamii-inpuu)

Located within the Mitchell River National Park.  Entry fees apply but if you have a WA Parks Pass you’re all sorted.

 

The 8km walk to the falls proved to be a great day out.  Some parts of the track were rocky and difficult while other parts are level and easy.  There were heaps of flowers along the way, as well as lizards and frogs.  Make sure you wear your togs because there are heaps of waterholes for a nice swim.  The area is sacred to the Wunambal people, please respect the area and approach waterholes quietly and courteously.

 

 

Little Merten Falls – This was the first water feature of the day, and even though it’s called Little Merten Falls, it’s a long drop down into the waterhole.  We saw a goanna basking in the sun, and climbed down behind the waterfall to check out an Aboriginal art gallery with a few Bradshaw style drawings.  We stopped here on our way back to camp to cool off under the spray.

 

Big Merten Falls When we arrived, we could see why this was called the Big Merten Falls.  The drop down in the gorge was at least 100 metres and it was daunting to look down.  We crossed the river via stepping stones at the top of the waterfall.

 

Big Merten Falls

 

Mitchell Falls – Wow – so much water, power and noise!  The hike was definitely worth the view as the Mitchell River cascades 150 metres down into the gorge.  The water in the river is drinkable so we sat down, had lunch and rehydrated before heading back to camp.

 

 

Camping

It’s $7 per adult per night to camp, and the facilities include Jumanji drop toilets, fire pits and generator/no-generator zones.  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter whether you were camped next to a generator or not, it was bloody noisy all day because of the helicopter operation next to the campsites that flew tourists over the Mitchell Falls.

 

The campfire curfew was between 4pm and 8am, which is just enough time to make dinner and breakfast!  While we were cooking up some faux fried rice, we got some camping neighbours and they turned out to be a great couple.  Andrea and James (aka Fox & Lamb) were holidaying for 2 weeks in their Lambcruiser and were on their way back home.  We sat around the fire, chatted and sucked cans well into the night, shared stories and had some great laughs.  It was totes awesomeballs to meet these guys – absolute tits!

 

The Lamb

 

Surveyor Pool

After spending the night at Mitchell Falls, we headed north to Surveyor Pool in the morning.  Access to the pool is via a 4WD track with 2-3 metre tall grass on either side, plus a short walk to the river.

 

It was like an oasis – the river tumbled down into a beautiful pool surrounded by pandanus and livistona palms.  We only saw one saltwater croc – and that was enough to confirm that we weren’t going to climb down into the gorge.  We stayed on top of the falls and had a refreshing dip in the shallow rapids.

 

 

Eastern Kimberley

The scenery in the east of the Kimberley is really picturesque. In the distance and at the side of the road, there were fantastic rocky outcrops, escarpments and mountains.  Once we got back on the Gibb River Road, the scenery became more striking but the road became shittier.  We were now a few days into our Kimberley adventure and we were definitely grateful for all our recovery gear, but felt silly that we didn’t properly stock up on supplies.

 

Eastern Kimberley

 

Take care of your vehicle

Don’t go during the Wet Season between September and April.  The roads are often closed or impassable and if you get stuck, it’ll cost you big time. The Dry Season is best – and if you go at the start of the season there will be more greenery and water.

 

Check with locals about the road conditions and always be prepared with spare tyres, a tyre repair kit, and even a snorkel to get you over the river crossings.  Petrol vehicles need not apply.

 

Stock up!

We did a shocking job of stocking up before entering the remote Kimberley.  Sure, there are stores within the homesteads where you can buy essential items, but we couldn’t justify playing $6 for a kilo of flour when we could have prepared better and got it for only $1.

 

Good things to stockpile include WATER, crackers, peanut butter, rice, tinned tuna, carrots, potatoes, canned vegetables and meals.  If you want to make damper, you’ll also need flour, butter and milk or milk powder.

 

 

Emma Gorge 

As soon as we got there, we wanted to leave.  Emma Gorge is occupied by a big, fancy pants resort with green grass, a gift shop, restaurant and stylish accommodation.  Plus, we had to pay $10 each just to be there.  We declined and left.

 

The Grotto

When you reach the end of the Gibb River Road, turn north at the Great Northern Highway and head towards Wyndham.  The Grotto is about 15kms up the road and is a shaded waterhole within a gorge.  There are 140 manmade steps down into the gorge and it’s a nice place to cool off.

 

During the Wet Season, there is a gush of water that pours down into the gorge.  It was a little dry when we were there so the water was murky and stagnant, but it was still a nice place to be.  Plus, the water can be up to 175m deep.

 

 

Warmun (Turkey Creek)

The roadhouse is a great place to stop and shop for groceries or a decent steak sandwich, and there is a nifty mechanic in town in case you need any spare parts for your 4WD.  Warmun is one of the Kimberley’s largest communities with a population of over 400.  Please be respectful – Warmun is a closed aboriginal community.

 

The Bungle Bungles

A relatively new discovery in the Kimberley, the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park are definitely worth the 2 hour drive along the 50km dirt road.  Check out our post on the Bungle Bungles here.

 

Reflections - The Bungle Bungles

Fortescue Falls - Karijini National Park

Experience : Karijini National Park

This beautiful and rugged landscape is part of the Hamersley Range and is Western Australia’s second largest national park.  There are three aboriginal tribes that traditionally own the Karijini area – the Banyjima, Yinhawangka and Kurrama people.  They’ve lived in the area for over 30,000 years, telling stories of creation, navigating the landscape without maps and practicing fire stick farming as a form of land management that increased plant diversity in the park.

 

The rock in Karijini was formed from iron-rich sediment over 2,500 million years ago under the ocean.  Horizontal compression caused the rock to buckle and crack before rising up out of the water.  Over millions of years, water erosion cut into the cracks to form the deep gorges that we enjoy and can explore today.  During our time in Karijini, we came across some beautiful flowers, including purple mulla mullas, tiny violets and Karijini wattle.

 

 

The climate in the park can vary from scorching 40 degree temperatures and the occasional thunderstorm in summer to clear days and frosty nights in winter.  We were there in the middle of May and were lucky to complete all the gorge hikes before the rain came, but unlucky that we couldn’t stay longer.  As soon as it starts to rain, you need to be careful of flash flooding and get out of the gorges, or you could have a seriously bad time.

 

Hiking

All walking tracks are graded according to Australian Standards.  Many of the tracks that lead into the gorges are quite steep and the rocks can be very slippery, especially when it’s wet.  Make sure you wear appropriate shoes and carry water with you at all times.

 

Mount Bruce (Punurrunha)

The first hike we did was up towards Mount Bruce.  This is the second tallest peak in Western Australia at 1235 metres tall, and is an important landmark that borders the three aboriginal tribes in the area.

 

As we climbed, we could see the Marandoo Mine Site in the distance, but that was overshadowed by the awe-inspiring view of the mountain rising up before us and the beautifully coloured rocks beneath our boots.  We got about 2.5km in before we turned back – Juz was on day 3 of her hangover and wasn’t feeling 100%.  It goes without saying that she won’t drink that much ever again…

 

 

Joffre Falls & Knox Gorge

The lookout to Joffre Falls was breathtaking and we decided to check out the track into the gorge.  About 300 metres in, we were at the head of the waterfall and were quite happy to not go any further.

 

Knox Gorge Lookout provided some great views of below and reminded us of the Z-Bend Gorge in Kalbarri National Park.  Lunchtime was approaching so we decided to head to Weano Gorge and cook up some bacon.

 

 

Oxer & Junction Pool Lookouts

These lookouts are perfectly placed at the intersection of four gorges – Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Red Gorge and Joffre Gorge.  At the base of this intersection is an isolated pool, and the gate on the handrails gave us the impression that tour groups come here to abseil down into the gorge.

 

 

Kalamina Gorge

In between the Weano Picnic Grounds and Dales Camping Area is the Kalamina Gorge and waterfall.  We descended into the gorge and explored for a few kilometres, marvelling at the layers of colourful rock, steep cliffs and clear waters.  The contrasting layers of psychedelic red and magnetic blue rock throughout the gorge was really special.  We returned to the waterfall for a refreshing dip in the chilly water amongst curious little fish.

 

 

Fern Pool & Fortescue Falls

First thing in the morning, we packed up and headed for the walking trails.  We didn’t know when the rain was going to start so we wanted to make the most of the dry time.

 

Fern Pool was first, and the 300m walk from Fortescue Falls was shaded by giant fig trees growing out of the rock.  Once we arrived at the pool, we instinctively knew to be quiet and respectful.  There was something sacred and supernatural about this place, and when we felt the deep blue green water, it was strangely warm.  Two chicks were in the middle of some sort of morning ritual so we left them in peace in this special place.

 

 

The Fortescue Falls were stunning, both from the lookout and in the gorge.  We moved around the tiered amphitheatre and admired the water falling into the pool below, which would be perfect for a swim on a hot day.

 

Circular Pool

A steep descent into the luscious gorge adorned with little flowers, lush ferns, paperbarks and bare-rooted fig trees.  Circular Pool was so exquisite that Juz refused to leave without getting in for a swim, despite the cool of the morning.  So she got her kit off and jumped in.  The water was eerily warm until she got in the deep end; the bitter cold stung her legs so she came back in to dry off and get dressed.  Dave said that if the weather was nice and hot, it would have been tits, but because it was cold, it was just nipples.

 

 

It was now that the rain began, so we climbed out of the gorge and completed our experience at Karijini National Park.  We drove away, saddened that the weather wasn’t kinder to us. We could have stayed another day if the weather was warm to complete the gorge rim hike and go for another swim in the peculiar-coloured water.

 

Camping

There are two places you can camp in Karijini – the Eco Retreat near Joffre Falls or Dales Camping area.  The Eco Retreat is a privately owned resort with a variety of accommodation options.  Dales camping area is managed by DEC and costs $9 per adult to stay the night.

 

 

Facilities include gas BBQs, picnic benches and drop toilets.  There are seven camping areas at Dales and only one accepts noisy generators.  There are no bins in the area (why would a garbage truck want to drive all the way into Karijini National Park?) so please take your rubbish home with you.