Day 30 to 35 Mornington to Broome
2 September to 7 September
We left the Mornington Wilderness Centre early and headed out to the Gibb River Road without incident and headed towards Bell Gorge. We had planned to spend a night or 2 at Charnley River Station which is also run by the Wilderness Society. However we had been told that it was more of the same unless you were into Kayaking, so we gave it a miss and headed down the road to Silent grove camping area and Bell Gorge. On the way we stopped in at Imitji Aboriginal settlement to refuel. They were reputed to have the cheapest fuel on the Gibb and they didn't disappoint… $2.00 a litre wow 5cents off. we filled up and headed on our way arriving at Silent Grove about lunch time. Our plan was to walk Bell Gorge first thing next morning. Again we had an early night up again up early, breakfast and then headed off to the Gorge. To us this Gorge was the best we had visited to date. A love rly shady walk in and then a spectacular waterfall and pools at the end. (Would love to see the waterfall in the wet season.) We spent a few hours there photographing the surrounds. And then headed back to camp to pack up and move on.
Our next stop was to be Mount Hart Station. This was a property acquired by the WA Park Service some years ago. They gave a lease to a couple who really built up the tourist side, putting in facilities etc at their own expense. Once successful the Minister terminated their lease with no compensation and gave it to someone else. As a result of reading the story we decided on principle to not go there. So we headed off to Windjana Gorge.
We arrived at Windjana in the early afternoon. On the way we stopped at Marsh Fly Glen for a cuppa and very quickly found out how it got its name, so quickly drank to tea and headed on. Once at Windjana we did a late walk up the Gorge just before sunset. It was spectacular. There were fresh water crocs aplenty as it is a popular place for them during the dry. We had our tripods so took heaps of photos until after the sun had set.
Next morning we were up early and headed to Tunnel Creek.. This is a cave that the river has carved through the limestone. Unfortunately they have had a massive rock fall at the entrance and the spectacular entrance opening is no more. We went into the cave, walking through water, but had to turn back when our torch batteries gave out. You are able to walk right through the cave and out the other side but we were not able to do the full walk. Once back at the vehicle we headed off to Fitzroy Crossing and Gieke Gorge. The drive was some 150 on dirt corrugated road and the bitumen into Fitzroy. Once we got to the bitumen we pulled up to pump up out tyres to find that we had the first casualty of the trip. The Anderson plugs that carry power from the truck to the tVan had come apart and one Anderson plug was no more. Also a lead that powered the fridge had also failed. Amazing 600 Klms on one of the worst roads and everything Holds until the last 100klms. We got a camping spot in Fitzroy with power so we could keep the fridge running while I did running repairs. The park was part of a resort with a bar so we adjourned there for a few coldies. They had Little Creatures Pale Ale on tap which was delicious. We did a trip out to Gieke Gorge and walked some trails but it was nothing spectacular.
Next morning we were on the road again to Derby arriving there about lunch time.
We went straight to the Information Centre to book the Horizontal Falls trip as we heard on the road that it was fully booked out and it might take a week to get a booking. We went straight to the counter and made enquiries. “When do you want to go the girl asked and then added if you want to go tomorrow let me know quick as they have just opened another trip for 8 people.” We will take two spots we replied. She got on the computer and then rang them and we got the last 2 spots. Wow was it our lucky day. At the caravan park there were people who were there for a week as the only bookings they could get were 5 or 7 days away.
We had a look around Derby and again next morning and then were picked up from the park at 2.15 and taken to our 12 seater amphibious plane. The trip took 30 minutes and finished withe two passes over the falls. spectacular. We landed next to the pontoon connected to the two house boats which were our quarters for the night. Funny enough one of the couples on the plane we met at Silent Grove when we camped next to them. First thing on the agenda was feeding the sharks and fish and then a swim amongst them. (With a cage between the swimmers and the sharks of course). Next we were on the super fast ( 4 x 300hp engines) for a trip up to the falls and through them. There are two gaps, one 20 metres wide and the second only 8 metres wide. We sped up to the first and stopped while the captain surveyed the rushing currents, then picked his line and off he took. Wow the adrenalin started pumping and it was an ultimate experience. The tide was rushing out and the water inside the falls was about 1 metre higher than outside. The ride back was even better as as we fell off the wave he cut the engines and we came down with an almighty bang. Wow again. I looked over at Louise and she was grinning from ear to ear. On the plane when we hit bumps like that her look was a bit different… fear.
He took us through the wider gap 3 more times I think to soften us up for the smaller gap. We then took off to the smaller gap and as we approached we could see that it was a lot more turbulent than the wider gap. He had a look at it while the discussion around the boat was will he or won't he? The difference in the two water levels was about 3 metres and the turbulence huge. He then announced that it was far too rough and we would give it a miss today and try again in the morning. So we went back to the wider gap and did 3 more passes through before a tour up Cyclone Creek, which is a bay where they store the boats over the cyclone season. It use during cyclones goes right back to the pearlers who used to shelter their boats there when cyclones hit. It has high cliffs around it on all sides and the shape of the bay totally protects the boats moored there from the rough seas and high winds. Once back on the boat it was coldies time (BYO) and chin wagging about our adventure we have all done together. Then dinner was served, wild barramundi bbq’d withe salad and then sweets of brownies, berries and cream. Yum. We then sat around over our wines and passed the time chin wagging until about ten. Our latest night on our trip and it was the same for all the others that have been camping.
We were up early next morning at 5.30am and breakfast, cereal and bacon and eggs, and then another trip through the falls before our sea plane returns to take us back at 8.15am. We again went through the big gap but still couldn't go through the small gAp it was running between 3 to 4 metres. Because of this he did extra passes through the big gap and then took us back to the barge to await the plane. At 8.30am they announced that the plane had been delayed in Broome because of fog and would not arrive till about 9.45am. To help fill the time he would take us for “another burn in the jet boat” in the hope of being able to do the smaller gap. This time we were lucky and we got to do 3 or 4 passes through both openings. Back to the barge to await the plane only to find out it still had not left Broome yet and might not arrive to about 10.30. So morning tea and cake was hastily arranged and then another trip to the falls and another journey up Cyclone Creek to see it in different light and a different tide. This time we saw a salt water croc as well as dolphins.
What luck did we have getting on this trip. Finally the plane arrived and we headed back to Derby on a different route than the day before that took us over the whole archipelago. We finally arrived back in Derby 3.5 hours late but no complaints. It was an experience of a life time and the high light of the trip so far.
Back at camp we had lunch and then headed out to the Prison boab tree and the Mowanjum Arts and Cultural Centre. It is where three main aborigine language groups have come together to protect their culture and language and traditional ways.
The Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre is a creative hub for the Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunumbal tribes, who make up the Mowanjum community outside Derby, Western Australia.
These three language groups are united by their belief in the Wandjina as a sacred spiritual force and the creators of the land. They are the custodians of Wandjina law and iconography.
The centre hosts exhibitions, workshops and community projects, as well as the annual Mowanjum Festival, one of Australia's longest running indigenous cultural festivals.
It was well worth the visit and to view the extensive art work of each artists interpretation on their Wandjina.
Friday we he'd to Broome to get fully restocked and fix a few electrical issues before heading off up in the Dampier Peninsula to do some bush camping. Our next post will be around the 13 September, so till then, au revoir.