West MacDonnell Ranges

Natural Wonders : West MacDonnell Ranges

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

Extending about 161km west from Alice Springs, the West MacDonnell Ranges are a sight to be seen.  The sacred region is also known as Tyurretye by the traditional owners, who believe that ancestral beings live in the landscape.

 

For the avid hiker, the Larapinta Trail offers 223km of track that starts at Alice Springs and finishes at the summit of Mount Sonder.  The trail is broken into 12 sections, and we completed two of those sections – Standley Chasm and Mount Sonder.

 

Simpson Gap

About 15km from Alice Springs, this is the first feature you’ll come across as you head west.  As you walk along the path into the gorge, keep an eye out for rock wallabies amongst the rocks.  If you stop and wait, you’ll see them jumping around.

 

West MacDonnell RangesWest MacDonnell Ranges

 

Standley Chasm

We visited Standley Chasm a few weeks before leaving Alice Springs and had the pleasure of joining the Friends of the Larapinta Trail for a lovely morning walk along Section 3 of the track.  There were some challenging ups and steeps downs along the way but we had a great view of the chasm and valley.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

We also did the Chasm walk, which is best to do when the sun is high in the sky.  The light floods into the chasm and turns the rock walls a luminescent orange.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

Ellery Creek Big Hole

This was one of our favourite spots and we saw the potential for a great weekend of summer camping.  There are BBQ facilities near the campground and the swimming hole would be the perfect spot to cool off in the summer heat.  The surrounding cliffs and leaning gums reflected beautifully off the still water.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

Serpentine Gorge

It’s a short 1km walk to the gorge, where you can sit quietly and listen to the nearby birdlife.  If we had time, we would have done the lookout walk as well but the sun was hanging low in the sky and there were more places to visit before camp.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

Ochre Pits

We arrived at dusk with just enough light to appreciate the coloured ochre.  We know that if the sun was up, it would have made the colours more amazing than what they already were.  Each colour has its own use and meanings for the local Arrernte people and was mainly mixed with water or animal fat to be used as cosmetics or medicine.  It was the men’s job to collect the ochre and ensure that the women had enough of it for medicine and ceremony.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

These days, while the traditional owners still use the Ochre Pits as their source, it is illegal for visitors to take ochre, or they’ll be painfully slapped with a $5000 fine.

 

We were also fascinated with the way that the curved ochre pits were formed.  Of course, layers of sediment had formed millions of years ago and during a massive episode of mountain building about 300 million years ago, the earth heaved and pushed the horizontal layers to their current vertical location.

 

By the time we got back to the car, the sun had set so we made our way to 2 Mile Creek in the dark and set up camp.  In the morning, there was mist all round and we watched a great sunrise to the sound of budgies in the dry creek bed.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

Ormiston Gorge

We started our day with the Ghost Gum Walk that ascended to a great lookout before leading us into the gorge.  As the sun rose, the rock glowed and revealed so many layers, swirls and colours.  We saw finches and cooing Spinifex pigeons as we made our way back to the car park.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

Redbank Gorge & Mount Sonder

Our plan was to complete the Mount Sonder climb and if we had the energy, we’d venture into Redbank Gorge.  Mount Sonder is the fourth highest peak in NT at 1380 metres and the total return journey from the summit is approximately 15.8km.  It’s also the final leg of the Larapinta Trail.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

We started at around 10am and while it was initially steep and strenuous, once we hit the Saddle, the trail varied from easy plateaus to challenging undulations.  We admired the colours of the rocks and occasionally stopped to catch our breath and take in the views around us.  There were moments of wanting to give up and turn back, and the occasional burst of energy that kept us going (snacks!).

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

We made it to the summit in 2 hours 45 minutes and soaked up the 360° views of the West Macs.  We ate some high energy peanut butter and cheese wraps, took some photos, wrote in the visitor book, basked in feelings of accomplishment before making our way back to the Troopy.  We got back to the car park in 2 hours.

 

While we didn’t exactly have the energy to do Redbank Gorge, we did it anyway.  Dave almost had to drag Juz along the 1.2km path into the gorge.  While swimming was allowed, there was no way we were going into that water.  Apart from being freezing cold, it had an eery, oily residue, so we simply gazed at the surrounding cliffs before heading back to the car.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

We slept at a location that was apparently called Banana Bend River camp, a spot that Juz found on WikiCamps.  The turn off is approximately 5km west from Redback Gorge, and we drove about 1km from the road to camp on a dry river bed.

 

Gosse Bluff (Tnorala)

While it’s not technically part of the West MacDonnell Ranges, Gosse Bluff is pretty much around the corner.  It’s a crater that was created about 130 million years ago when a comet plunged into the earth.  The inner crater is 5km across and the outer crater is 20km in diameter and visible from space.  Half of the crater is considered sacred and is restricted from visitors.

 

 

After travelling along 6km of bumpy and corrugated dirt road, we entered the crater and made our way to the lookout to the east.  We were rewarded with great panoramic views of the crater and listened to the extensive variety of birds.  Juz went absolutely nuts when she saw a male Splendid Wren courting a few females.  They are usually shy and hardly ever seen.

 

To the north is Tyler Pass Lookout, which gives a nice view of Gosse Bluff from a distance.

 

West MacDonnell Ranges

 

After checking out Gosse Bluff, we headed east towards Hermannsburg to sample some of their famous strudel.

 

 

Binns Track

4WDing : Binns Track

Binns Track

 

After over 800km of tarmac along the Stuart Highway, we turned onto the Plenty Highway to smash out a leg of Binns Track.

 

It’s a relatively new 4WD track that was named after Bill Binns, a ranger who worked with NT Parks and Wildlife for 32 years.  His dream was to get tourists off the beaten track to explore the lesser known beauties of Central Australia.  The track is 2,191km long and starts at Mount Dare on the SA/NT border.  It then goes through Alice Springs, winds north passed Devils Marbles and finishes at Timber Creek, just beyond Gregory National Park.

 

Our portion of the track is about 300km and runs through the East Macdonnell Ranges, an area rich with history, before finally rolling into Alice Springs.

 

Gemtree

This was our first stop before hitting the dirt.  There is a little food store where you can peruse a small selection of groceries or take away hot food.  The lady behind the counter was super friendly and tipped us off about the road closure along Cattlewater Pass, which ended up saving us both time and petrol.

 

Next door is a gem shop and Juz took the opportunity to show the guy behind the counter a rock she found in the Kimberley.  She was happy to learn that it’s a smoky quartz, just as she suspected, and also learnt what to look for when we go fossicking.

 

Binns Track

 

We put some fuel in the tank at $2.30 a litre before moving on.  Once we hit the dirt track, about 7km down is a turn off for a fossicking area.  We stopped in, picked at the gravel for a while and realised we had no idea what we were doing so we continued to Artlunga Historical Reserve.

 

Binns Track 2014-05-31 007

 

Arltunga Historical Reserve

The road was a combination of bumps and corrugations, and smooth, winding roads with peaks and valleys and it took an hour or so to get to Artlunga.  It is said that Artlunga was central Australia’s first town, born from a gold rush that started in 1887.  People came from all over the country, often on foot, to get a piece of the action, and the settlement once supported around 300 people.

 

We checked out the opening of an old mine at Joker Gorge and even climbed down into some old mines that were along the Historical Mine Walks.  The Old Police Station was cool to check out, and it was interesting to learn that it was rebuilt in the 1980s because it was torn down by people who believed gold was hidden in the walls.

 

Binns Track

 

On our way out, we sussed out the historical exhibit in the Visitor Centre, which had interactive displays and a rusty ute out back, before continuing along the track to Ruby Gap.  It was slow going but the scenery was gorgeous and we even saw some brumbies!

 

Binns Track

 

Ruby Gap Nature Park

There is absolutely no way you will get to Ruby Gap Nature Park without a high clearance 4WD.  The road is chronic and rain can make it virtually impassable.

 

Ruby Gap got its name when a guy was exploring the region in 1886 and found  what he thought was a ruby in the dry bed of the Hale River.  People rushed to the area to find some rubies and after they flooded the market, their quality was questioned.  In 1888, they were found to be garnets, not rubies, so all the miners picked up their gear and moved over to Arltunga to look for gold.

 

Binns Track

 

Camping in Ruby Gap is $3.30 per person per night and you can camp anywhere along the river.  On our first night, we camped along the sandy creek bed and we were absolutely shocked at how cold it was.  We built a fire, pulled out the blanket, and had a cooked dinner with lots of warming spices.  We stayed up a little longer than usual because there were no mozzies and eventually went to sleep huddled together for warmth.

 

 

The morning chill was debilitating and the sand sucked any warmth out of our feet.  We revived the fire and worked on warming up our numb toes while we waited for the sun to rise over the escarpment.  When it was finally warm enough to change out of our pyjamas, we went further up the river bed to explore Glen Annie Gorge.

 

Binns Track

 

The walk through the gorge was slow going because of the sandy river bed, and getting distracted by the shiny red stuff between the rocks didn’t help.  It took us about three hours to walk 2km to Glen Annie Gorge because we spent so much time trying to find a garnet bigger than a grain of sand.  The waters at Glen Annie were bitingly cold so we had a quick refresh before heading back along the walking path.

 

Binns Track

 

We spent another night at Ruby Gap, but this time on dirt instead of sand.  We built a great fire and tended it throughout the night as we told stories, listened to music and sipped on Boston Bay Riesling Mistelle.

 

N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park

After a few crossings over the Ross River, we got to N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park at around lunchtime.  This area is an important site for the Arrernte people, as it contains over 5,000 rock engravings, art sites and shelters.  The east 1.5km walk into the gorge exhibits the old petroglyphs that tell of the Caterpillar Dreaming story.

 

Camping is available at the park but there are minimal spaces, facilities and shade.

 

Binns Track

 

Trephina Gorge National Park

Located in the East MacDonnell Ranges about 85km east of Alice Springs, Trephina Gorge is not only a great spot for travellers but for the locals as well.  Camping is at $3.30 per person per night, and there are three campgrounds to choose from.

 

Binns Track

 

We stayed at the Trephina Bluff Campground, and once we rolled in, we were approached by Jess from A Girl and Her Troopy http://agirlandhertroopy.com/.  We had a good chat about our Troopies and our travels as the sun set and cast an orange glow over the bluff.  The night turned out to be very chilly so we went to bed not long after dark.

 

We woke up at the crack of dawn to attempt the gorge walks.  To warm ourselves up, we did the Panoramic walk first, which started off with a steep incline up to the top of a hill that provided fantastic views of the gorge and the bluff.  The Trephina Gorge walk was a little milder and we stopped at the top of the gorge to have breakfast.

 

Binns Track

 

Corroboree Rock

We were originally going to skip Corroboree Rock but in the last minute, we pulled in to check it out.  As we approached, a huge dome of grey dolomite rock appeared over the trees, and while we were doing the short walk around the rock, we soon realised that it wasn’t a dome, but more like a giant coin half-buried in the ground.  Cool!

 

Corroboree Rock is an outcrop of dolomite from the Bitter Springs Formation, which began as the bottom of a salty late about 800 million years ago.  Dolomite is a soft, grainy rock, similar in texture to limestone, but it’s made mostly of magnesium carbonate instead of calcium carbonate.

 

Binns Track

 

Emily & Jessie Gaps Nature Park

Emily and Jessie Gaps are found along the Heavitree Range, and they are a short 10km drive from Alice Springs along the Ross Highway.  They exhibit more rock art that tells the Caterpillar Dreamtime story, and if you’re lucky, you can spot some wild budgies chirping in the trees.

 

Binns Track

 

Katherine Gorge

Experience : Nitmiluk National Park

Katherine Gorge

 

Nitmiluk National Park got its name from the Dreamtime story about Nabilil, a creation being.  Nabilil was travelling across the land and camped at the entrance of Katherine Gorge and all he could hear was the song of the cicadas, “nit nit nitnit”.  Nabilil thus named the area Nitmiluk.

 

Camping at Nitmiluk National Park is a bit steep – $19 per person per night – but it does have its perks.  The toilets and showers are clean and relatively bug-free, there is a poolside bar that serves good-looking food and a fabulous range of alcoholic beverages, and friendly wallaroos can be seen grazing in the park.

 

 

 

After a couple of sneaky beers at the bar, we hit the hay fairly early so that we could get started on the hikes at dawn.  We started with the first half of the Baruwei Loop, which starts off with a steep climb to a lookout over Katherine River.  We were there at sunrise but it would have been even better at sunset.  We then continued along the path to find the beginning of the southern walks.

 

 

 

The first southern walk we completed was Butterfly Gorge, a challenging 12km return hike into a gorge filled with monsoonal rainforest.  There was a small, flowing creek and the population of butterflies grew as we got deeper into the gorge.  Katherine River is there to greet you at the end of the path, but we didn’t dare to get into the water to refresh ourselves out of fear of crocodiles.  We climbed the cliffs and found a nice perch to eat breakfast before heading back.

 

Katherine Gorge

 

We found the crossroad for Windolf Walk and took the turn, knowing there was a reward of a swim at the end.  It was a pleasant walk along a dried creek bed to a great lookout over the gorge.  We continue on to descend into the gorge and at the bottom is the Southern Pool that still had a trickle of water from above.  We got in for a swim with the fishes and met a few fellow travellers.  The steep climb out of the gorge called for another dip in a pool at the top of the gorge before heading back to the Troopy.

 

 

 

One of the best things about the Katherine Gorge walks are the water tanks that are dotted along the way.  The water is drinkable so you can refill your drink bottle and wash the sweat from your face.  We decided to only do the first three walks on offer at Nitmiluk, but if you’re a keen hiker, there are several longer tracks available, even overnight hikes.  There’s even one that goes all the way up to Edith Falls!

 

We really enjoyed our time at Nitmiluk. The hikes were great exercise and it always feels good to finish a long walk with a swim in a natural swimming hole.  You can also grab a canoe and paddle your way through the gorge, hop on a guided cruise or get to da chopper and hit the skies.

 

Katherine Gorge

 

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

Boab sunset - The Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 1

The Kimberley is a huge savannah plain in the north of Western Australia.  It stretches from Broome in the West to Kununurra in the East, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek in the south to the coastline in the north.  The area is bigger than Tasmania and Victoria combined.

 

 

Some areas of the Kimberley have been settled by Europeans since the 1800s, while other parts are only newly discovered, like the Bungle Bungles.  It is considered to be one of the last remaining wilderness areas on earth and if you’re game enough to explore it, the Kimberley will give you the ultimate outback experience.

 

The land was first explored in 1837 by George Grey, and the area boomed during the 1860s due to pearling, sheep and cattle farms, mining for diamonds, gold and iron, and cotton picking.  It is believed that the Kimberley coastline was possibly the original landing spot of the first aboriginals who came from South East Asia thousands and thousands of years ago.

 

The natural attractions are plentiful – gorges, waterfalls, palm forests, rocky outcrops and swimming holes – and you will find yourself surrounded by wildlife like crocodiles, birds, frogs, lizards, kangaroos and dingoes.  Cattle stations are scattered throughout the Kimberley and you will see their stock grazing at the side of the road.

 

Aboriginal Art Styles

We saw lots of aboriginal art galleries in the Kimberley containing drawings of crocodiles, kangaroos, people and handprints.  There were two distinct aboriginal art styles that we saw – Bradshaw and Wandjina – and it was really interesting to see the difference between the two styles.

 

Bradshaw Art depicts people like fat stick figures.  Sometimes they hold weapons or wear ceremonial clothing.  Most of these are painted in red and they are believed to be at least 17,000 years old.

 

The Wandjina Style is represented by ancestral beings surrounded with halos and sun rays, with big eyes and a nose but no mouth.  It is believed that this is a more recent style of art from about 1000 years ago.

 

When we departed from Derby, we promised ourselves one thing – no laptop activity until we finished the Gibb River Road.

 

Gibb River Road

Considered to be the artery that travels through the heart of the Kimberley, the Gibb River Road is a 660km stretch of dirt road that was constructed in the 1960s to transport cattle from the stations to the ports of Derby and Wyndham.

 

There was heaps of wildlife to spy as we drove along – brolgas, bustards and the occasional cow – but the real attractions were the gorges.

 

Windjana Gorge

Located within the Windjana National Park, the entrance to the gorge is equipped with a picnic area and toilets that actually flush!  There is an entry fee into the national park but if you have a WA Parks Pass then you’re all sorted.  Camping is permitted in designated areas and the 7km walking track into the gorge starts at the Day Picnic Area.

 

Windjana Gorge - The Kimberley

 

The first thing we noticed as we entered the gorge was the towering cliffs overhead.  As we passed through a narrow corridor of rock, we followed a trail alongside the Lennard River through lush vegetation and trees wrapped by vines.  The path led us down on the banks, where about a dozen freshwater crocodiles were sunning themselves.  When Juz saw the first one, only 10 metres away, she jumped up and grabbed Dave, but the crocodile didn’t budge.  They were all perfectly content with lazing about in the morning sun like statues.  We hung around taking photos of the crocs and waited for a bit of action, secretly half-hoping that a bird (or a tourist!) would get just that little bit too close…

 

The birdlife was incredible, with lots of little finches, rainbow bee-eaters and birds of prey.  We also found a tree laden with noisy fruit bats.

 

 

Lennard Gorge

A decent hike from the car park along a dry creek bed brings you to a lookout that provides great views of a waterfall and the gorge below.  On the way back, we found ourselves sweaty and stinky so we deviated from the path and found a little creek under the shade of a tree and had a refreshing dip amongst the frogs and lilies.

 

 

Bell Gorge

This gorge is a clear favourite.  The hike from the car park was nice and easy and brings you out to the top of the waterfall.  We were spewing that we forgot our togs because it was a great spot for swimming.

 

 

If you cross the river, you can follow another path to a great viewpoint that overlooks the waterfall.  You can even scale down the rock cliff into the gorge for a quick swim.  Watch out for crocs though.

 

Adcock Gorge

After a short, tight and rough track leading to this gorge, we were very well rewarded. Adcock Gorge is a great location for a dip, but watch out for all the St Andrews Cross spiders!   Juz kept screaming ‘Jumanji’ and desperately avoided their webs out of fear of wearing a spider silk mask.

 

The calm pool leading up to the waterfall was full of flowering lilies and as we navigated the stepping stones, Dave stumbled upon what he first thought was a snake but later realised it was a legless lizard wiggling about on the rocks!  The waterhole itself is lush and full of moss and overhanging roots from rock fig trees.  Despite being a little bit murky, the water was cool and refreshing and Juz had a quick swim.  There is also some Aboriginal art on the rocks next to the waterhole.

 

 

Galvan Gorge

A short walk from the car park will bring you to another waterhole with a water fall that you can swim in.  There is another aboriginal art gallery to the right of the waterhole.

 

Barnett River Gorge

Not the most picturesque gorge in the Kimberley but a great place to camp out for a few days.  When you enter the gorge car park and camping areas, you’ll pass a house that says ‘”Trespassers shot on sight” – not exactly the warmest of welcomes so leave them alone and keep moving.

 

 

We found a nice patch to set up camp that was relatively shaded and private, and close to a shallow creek and the path towards the gorge.  While we couldn’t find the actual gorge at first, we found a series of shallow falls that turned out to be the perfect place to cool off and wash the sweat off your back.

 

We later found a trail along a dry river bed that led us into the gorge.  There was a tour group already there, with a few members having a swim in the river.  Juz was about to jump in with them but found out that there were some freshwater crocs inhabiting the water less than 50 metres away.  She wussed out, the tour group had a bit of a laugh and we returned to the shallow falls back near camp.

 

Burnett River Gorge - The Kimberley

 

Stay tuned for The Kimberley – Part 2!

 

 

Nature's Window - Kalbarri National Park

Experience : Kalbarri National Park

Kalbarri National Park is about 500km north of Perth and covers over 180,000 hectares from the coast to the North West Coastal Highway.  The sandstone plain is marked by the Murchison River, which winds for 150km through the national park, creating beautiful gorges and providing the surrounding plants and wildlife with much needed water.  The park is home to a variety of animals like emus, kangaroos, lizards and wedge-tail eagles.  We may have also seen a thorny devil trying to cross the dusty road on our way to the Loop.

 

 

The weather can be quite extreme, with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees at the height of summer.  Make sure you have enough water with you before you go for any hikes in the park, with the best time to go exploring being the early morning or late afternoon.  It’s a good idea to wear sunscreen and a great bush hat like our Barmah Hats to protect you from the sun.

 

Inland Features

The gorges of the Murchison River are easily accessible by road and a quick walk will either lead you to a breathtaking lookout or along a walking trail down into the gorge.  We sussed out all of the landmarks at Kalbarri National Park and were blown away by the beautiful isolation.

 

Hawk’s Head Lookout & Ross Graham Lookout

It was really windy when we arrived, but that didn’t deter us from enjoying the view.  We were amazed at how clear the water was and afterwards, we walked down into the gorge.  The water was refreshing as we waded through it with little fish swimming around our feet.

 

 

Natures Window and the Loop

This location was fantastic and provides a variety of lookouts and a long, 8km hike down into the Loop.  We arrived at around midday and while we would have loved to spend a few hours hiking, it was way too hot and we didn’t want to risk having a bad time.

 

 

We did explore a little bit and were fascinated by the colourful layering of Tumblagooda sandstone, with clear representations of an ancient rippled sea bed.  We got some photos in Nature’s Window, a natural arched rock that perfectly frames the Murchison River below (although the river was a bit dry).

 

 

Z Bend Gorge

Even though this was the last gorge we looked at, it was our favourite!  The narrow waterway drops down 150m with high, rugged cliffs on both sides and a few river gums to break through the red, earthy colour of the sandstone.  We could have sat and gazed into the gorge all day.

 

 

Coastal Features

A short drive south of the town of Kalbarri are the coastal gorges.  Red Bluff is the first rock feature outside of town.  You can actually drive out onto the red rock before going for a walk along the cliffs.  We also checked out the Shellhouse and Grandstand, as well as Island Rock and Natural Bridge.

 

 

Mushroom Rock can be found on the walk through Rainbow Alley, which is a great 3km exploration of a rocky landscape that makes you think you’re walking on Mars!  Some rocks are smooth and knobbly while others are sharp and layered.  Once we got to Mushroom Rock, which is a flat rock perched on a large boulder, we explored the rock pools and crevices and found lots of crabs – brown ones, purple ones, yellow ones – funny little critters…