WA Camping

Farewell To WA

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I think I have been subconscioulsly delaying finishing off the posts about our trip because I really don’t want to believe that it is all over.  I love looking back at our trip photos, it truly was the most amazing time of our lives!!  This post will I think be the third last post recounting our adventures, nooooooooooo!

Anyway, ‘get on with it’, I hear you say!

We left Emma Gorge after a well earned ice-cream from the resort shop and a sandwich in the car park.  The kids slept off the exhaustion of our morning’s walk into the gorge and Matt and I nervously counted the kilometres in to Kununurra as we were seriously in need of fuel (being frugal and not wanting to spend the $2.10 per litre to fill up at El Questro Station!).IMG_2411

At this point in our trip we only had 7 days left in order to get back to Cairns for Matt to catch a plane to the Gold Coast for his cousin’s wedding, so our plan for the next week was just to drive, drive and drive.  After arriving in Kununurra and immediately filling up the car and getting a new tyre to replace the one we blew on the Gibb River Road, we decided to have a quick stop at ‘The Hoochery’ rum distillery.  Matt did the taste tasting and we choose a bottle to take home for my Dad to try – the consensus being that the rum was not bad, but not in the same league as the favourite Bundaberg Rum.

Taste testing at 'The Hoochery' rum distillery in Kununurra

Taste testing at ‘The Hoochery’ rum distillery in Kununurra

Just a cute pic of Tobes in Dad's hat at the distillery

Just a cute pic of Tobes in Dad’s hat at the distillery

From here I took a stint at the wheel while Matt snoozed off the afternoon’s taste tests and drove us back across the border into the Northern Territory!  I did make several stops along the way though, still trying to get that elusive ‘sunset boab tree’ shot.  Matt did pretty well with this one I think!

Farewell WA!

Farewell WA!

That night we pulled up stumps at Timber Creek.  We had a quick overnight stop in what was a really lovely and cheap caravan park!  Nice shady sites, old but clean amenities and they do free crocodile feedings at the creek behind the campground in the afternoons (we arrived too late unfortunately).

Lovely caravan park at Timber Creek

Lovely caravan park at Timber Creek

Our overnight set up

Our overnight set up

Great little kids playground and pool at the caravan park too

Great little kids playground and pool at the caravan park too

After a very slow pack up the next morning (yes we definitely dragged the feet towards home!) we arrived in to Katherine for lunch, a grocery supply stock up and to pick up a belated birthday parcel which was waiting at the Post Office for Toby.

Tobes very excited to open his birthday parcel - thanks Grandma and Grandad Bill!

Tobes very excited to open his birthday parcel – thanks Grandma and Grandad Bill!

Lunch in Katherine.  We also videoed our 'Time Capsule' messages here!

Lunch in Katherine. We also videoed our ‘Time Capsule’ messages here!

The other amazing thing that happened in Katherine was that we had our first ‘blog spotting’ moment!  The kids and I were in Woolies getting some supplies when a voice politely asked ‘are you Jess, from Are We There Yet?’.  I was so surprised it took me a second to answer, but it was so lovely to meet Simone and her family who were also travelling and had been following our blog!  You can check out the Laing Family Road trip adventures here – there are some great photos of their time in Western Australia!

From Katherine we put a few more kilometres under our belts and decided to have a night at Mataranka, this time staying at the Territory Manor Caravan Park so we were close enough for one last swim at Bitter Springs.

We loved Bitter Springs!

We loved Bitter Springs!

Jack amusing himself in the campground.

Jack amusing himself in the campground – Mataranka

Last swim in the lovely warm Bitter Springs.

Last swim in the lovely warm Bitter Springs.

Next post, the Savannah Way – probably the roughest road on our whole trip, but the best free camp spot along the way, can’t wait to show you the rodeo photos too!

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Emma Gorge

DSC_0773As I gathered the photos for this blog post, I realised that there is less then a week of trip travels left to blog about!  This combined with the fact that Karen Camper was driven away by somebody else last week, (she sold only 2 days after we listed her on Gumtree!) means I am feeling a little sad that our trip really is coming to a very ‘official’ end.  I am reminding myself though, that as my mum-in-law Gayel said to me last week, “if you hold on to one adventure too long, you will never have another”, and she is exactly right.

Ok, so now just a little entry about the beautiful Emma Gorge.  After we packed up and followed the grader out of El Questro Station

Following the grader out of El Questro Station - very dusty!

Following the grader out of El Questro Station – very dusty!

we headed about half an hour down the road to Emma Gorge, which is also still a part of the El Questro Wilderness Park.  There is no camping at Emma Gorge, but there is a lovely resort with tented cabins, a restaurant and big swimming pool.  We arrived there at about 8am and quickly headed off to walk in to the Gorge to try and beat the heat.  It was a pretty tough walk in and seemed to take us forever, but it was probably only a bit over an hour in.  The kids did really well again, managing the rocky path and the boulder hopping/scrambling that is required just before you get to the waterfall at the end of the gorge.

The view of the gorge at the start of the walk in

The view of the gorge at the start of the walk in

A nice cool spot to rest about half way in

A nice cool spot to rest about half way in

Kids were pretty tired here

Kids were pretty tired here

Off we go again!

Off we go again!

The beautiful swimming hole and waterfall at the end was worth the walk in!  We all were hot and sweaty so stripped right off, jumped in and got the biggest shock – the water was FREEZING cold!!  We had been given the hot tip however, to head over to the rocks on the right where a lovely warm spring was so we all huddled in there.  We were even lucky enough to have the place to ourselves for a little while!

We made it!

We made it!  Not a lot of water coming over the falls but still really pretty!

Really beautiful - water cascading over the rocks

Really beautiful

Me having a swim - I had to force myself because it was very cold!

Me having a swim – I had to force myself because it was very cold!

It was very rocky (sharp rocks) at the waterhole - we would have been better to wear our reef shoes for the walk in.

It was very rocky (sharp rocks) at the waterhole – we would have been better to wear our reef shoes for the walk in.

Fealy Family at Emma Gorge

Fealy Family at Emma Gorge

This was our final stop along the Gibb River Road and definitely one we wouldn’t have missed!!  Has anybody else visited Emma Gorge on their travels?  Did you like it?

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El Questro Station

DSC_0733Right, back to the trip!  Our last post saw us travelling along the Gibb River Road, where after a long day on the road we eventually arrived at El Questro Station.  I had been leaving this post for Matt to write as El Questro Station was his favourite stop on our whole trip, but the Farmer Boy just doesn’t have time at the moment and he is usually asleep in the chair in the lounge by 8pm, so if you want some more ‘blokey’ details about El Questro just yell them out in the comments and Matt will get back to you!

We arrived into El Questro (after a nervous creek crossing in the dark!  Very difficult to see how deep it is at night!) after the sun had set so we once again had to chose a site and set up in the dark!  Luckily the park wasn’t very busy so there were plenty of nice shady spots in the campground.  After a quick set up we treated ourselves to dinner at ‘The Swinging Arm Bar’.  The food was yum and the entertainment was great! The kids loved the whip cracking and jokes, and Matt and I thought the guy on the guitar was really good. Toby once again fell asleep at the table and everywhere we went around the station after that other campers would say ‘oh you’re the family who had the little fella asleep at the table’!

We were up early the next day to do the free walking tour of the immediate station grounds.  It was nice to orientate ourselves and gain a little bit of the history of the station, but our tour guide wasn’t much of a talker so it was a little bit of a waste of time we thought.

The creek crossing in to El Questro - not very deep when we went through

The creek crossing in to El Questro – not very deep when we went through

Lovely swimming spot at the campground

Lovely swimming spot at the campground

Trail riders heading out

Trail riders heading out – lovely shady campground behind them

We loved the amenities at El Questro - great little toilet/shower huts that you could have all to yourself!

We loved the amenities at El Questro – great little toilet/shower huts that you could have all to yourself!

As we only had two nights at El Questro, that meant a jam packed day of sightseeing for us, but boy was it awesome!

We started the day with a swim at Zebedee Springs.  They were the most amazing hot springs ever!  The springs are an easy, short walk from the car park and are set in amongst the rainforest and beautifully warm – we all could have stayed there all day!!  Unfortunately the springs are only open to campers/visitors in the morning and then closed off for the rest of the day as the station is trying to restrict the human impact on the springs and also allows it’s very high fee paying ‘Homestead’ guests exclusive use in the afternoons.  Our tip is to get there as early as you can, before all the tour buses arrive!  We loved that the springs are still in a very natural state, no concrete paths or walls – it really was beautiful in there – a real oasis!!

Fealy Family at Zebedee Springs

Fealy Family at Zebedee Springs

We all had so much fun paddling around!

We all had so much fun paddling around!

Can you see how clear the water is!

Can you see how clear the water is!

Relaxed much!  So beautiful and warm and heaps of little spots to find your own private waterfall!

Relaxed much! So beautiful and warm and heaps of little spots to find your own private waterfall!

Fun!

Fun!

Our three little ewoks walking back to the car from Zebedee Springs

Our three little ewoks walking back to the car from Zebedee Springs

From the springs, we decided to have a go at walking some of the El Questro Gorge trail.  We easily walked in to the halfway pool of the gorge (1.3km’s) in a bit under an hour with the kids, but once we reached this point some other walkers advised that it would be really tough going for the kids to go much further as there was lots of climbing and rock hopping involved.  So, we enjoyed a refreshing swim in the small swimming hole and then walked out again.  It was a really lovely walk, nice and shady so we were out of the sun for the hottest part of the day, but we definitely want to go back again and trek all the way in to the top pool of the Gorge as the photos of it looked quite beautiful – next time!

The walk in to El Questro Gorge

The walk in to El Questro Gorge

Really pretty walk - Tobes loved it!

Really pretty walk – Tobes loved it!

Lex having a swim in the water hole at the half way point - beautiful clear water but pretty cold!

Lex having a swim in the water hole at the half way point – beautiful clear water but pretty cold!

El Questro Gorge walk

El Questro Gorge walk

The road in to El Questro Gorge is 4wd only and Matt loved having a bit of fun in the mud and creek crossings in Peter Prado!!

Huge mud puddle before the creek crossing into the El Questro Gorge Trail

Huge mud puddle before the creek crossing into the El Questro Gorge Trail

Matt having fun!

Matt having fun!

Creek crossing

Creek crossing

Rocky and muddy!

Rocky and muddy!

Probably the deepest creek crossing Peter Prado got to do on our trip

Probably the deepest creek crossing Peter Prado got to do on our trip

We did a little bit of driving around the station and checked out Moonshine Creek and a little picnic area that I have forgotten the name of now!

Moonshine Gorge

Moonshine Gorge – there was a family painting and swimming here but we didn’t think it looked that inviting!

Gotta have another Boab Tree photo in there before we leave Western Australia!

Gotta have another Boab Tree photo in there before we leave Western Australia!

We decided for our lunch stop (albeit a very late one!) that we would tackle the 4wd track up to Saddleback Ridge.  I was a bit nervous about this as the station information pamphlet for this drive said ‘recommended for experienced 4 x 4 drivers only. This very steep, narrow and challenging 4WD track really highlights that getting there is an adventure in itself’ – eeeek!  But off we went and we were fine!  I wouldn’t have liked to have met another car on the track – it was VERY steep and VERY narrow but the view at the top for lunch was amazing!

Creek crossing at the start of the Saddleback Ridge track

Creek crossing at the start of the Saddleback Ridge track

Well done Peter Prado getting us to the top!

Well done Peter Prado getting us to the top!

Great views at the top and the spunky husband ain't bad either!!

Great views at the top and the spunky husband ain’t bad either!!

We finished off the day with a spectacular sunset picnic at Branco’s lookout.  It was a bit of a drive to get to Branco’s lookout, not difficult 4wding though, and we were disappointed that there wasn’t much water in the Pentecost River crossing (it would be spectacular with water in it) but it was a great spot to watch the sun go down over El Questro and such a good way to end what was really an awesome day of adventuring and exploring!

Crossing the Pentecost River on El Questro Station to get to Branco's Lookout

Crossing the Pentecost River on El Questro Station to get to Branco’s Lookout

Dad & Son - Blanco's Lookout

Dad & Son – Branco’s Lookout

Sunset at Blanco's lookout - amazing views of the Pentecost River and Cockburn Ranges

Sunset at Branco’s lookout – amazing views of the Pentecost River and Cockburn Ranges

Fealy Family - El Questro Station

Fealy Family – El Questro Station

We missed out on doing heaps of other great things at El Questro Station, such as the Chamberlain Gorge cruise, Champagne Springs hike, Explosion Gorge 4wd track, Pigeon Hole 4wd track, Amalia Gorge trail and heaps of other bits and pieces.  We hadn’t done any research on El Questro Station before we arrived there and had no idea how much there really is to do and see!  I think you would need at least a week there – if not more so you can enjoy some relaxing time in a pretty spectacular spot!  And we would definitely, definitely chose one of the private campsites along the Pentecost River at the station.  There are no amenities on these sites but they looked beautiful and it is only a short drive back to the station if you really wanted a hot shower!!  If you are a 4wd enthusiast and camper then be sure to add El Questro Station to your list of places you must visit!!

PS. You can get to El Questro Station from Kununurra in about an hour and a half, and the road is all sealed to the Station turn off.  From the turn off it is 16km’s of gravel and there is a water crossing to consider, but the road wasn’t too bad at all!

PPS. I forgot to mention that along with your camping fees at El Questro, you must also purchase an El Questro Wilderness Park Permit.  The prices when we went through were (yes expensive, but worth it!):

  • Adult – $20 per person (valid for seven days)
  • Adult – $12 per person (Day Pass)
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Gibb River Road

DSC_0201From Manning Gorge we decided to push for El Questro Station to spend the final two nights of our travels along the Gibb River Road.  That turned out to be a very long day on the road!  This section of road was the worst stretch we travelled on the Gibb.  We blew a tyre on the camper and pretty much averaged between 20 to 60km’s per hour for the whole day.  A few photos of this stretch of the road to begin;

Peter Prado on the Gibb River Road

Peter Prado on the Gibb River Road

Very dusty and lots of quite large sharp rocks and heaps of corrugations!

Very dusty and lots of quite large sharp rocks and heaps of corrugations!

Peter Prado & Karen Camper

Peter Prado & Karen Camper

Sooooo much dust

Sooooo much dust

Only about five minutes after we had done this little photo shoot we were pulled over again to change a very shredded camper tyre!!  We were running all of our tyres at about 28PSI prior to this stretch of road as the track had been recently graded, but after changing this tyre we dropped everything down to about 25PSI.  We felt very grateful to have a second spare tyre still on board after blowing this one and knowing that we still had about 200 kilometres of the Gibb River Road to travel.  We never once regretted carrying two spare tyres at all times – just eased the worry a little!

Aaaargh!

Aaaargh!

Lucky we carry two spares!

Lucky we carry two spares!

It was stinking hot work changing this tyre so we were soooo grateful when half an hour after we were back on the road we saw the sign for Ellenbrae Station.  We had heard great things about the scones at Ellenbrae so we decided to stop in for a quick scone/lunch break.DSC_0064The homestead for Ellenbrae Station was only 5km’s in off the Gibb River Road and it was a lovely cool oasis!!  There were lots of turn off’s to camp sites on the road in which we would have loved to check out but alas – only time for scones on this trip and the scones were sooooooooooo good!  The kids enjoyed exploring the bits and pieces around the gardens at the Ellenbrae Homestead and Matt and I got a chance to cool off after the hot and dusty morning changing the tyre and concentrating on the rough road.

Such a lovely green, shady and cool spot for scones and a cold drink!

Such a lovely green, shady and cool spot for scones and a cold drink!

Ellenbrae Station Scones - yum!

Ellenbrae Station Scones – yum!

The shower facilities at the homestead - neat!

The shower facilities at the homestead – neat!

A little tree snake that the kids spotted in the garden at Ellenbrae

A little tree snake that the kids spotted in the garden at Ellenbrae

From Ellenbrae Station we headed to Home Valley Station.  The scenary as we got closer to Home Valley Station was just spectacular!  By this stage of the drive though we were just hanging out for the rough road to be over!  It was really rattling the car and camper around and we were getting very worried about what damage might be happening to the camper, not to mention wondering how much dust was now onboard!

The scenary approaching Home Valley Station

The scenary approaching Home Valley Station

Hooray - we can see water!  A welcome sight after a hot and dusty day driving!

Hooray – we can see water! A welcome sight after a hot and dusty day driving!

View from the lookout before heading down to Home Valley Station

View from the lookout before heading down to Home Valley Station

We had a quick stop for a drink and to have a sticky beak at Home Valley Station campground.  We very nearly stopped and stayed the night here as it looked so nice!  There was a great bar/restaurant area, a swimming pool, a playground at the campground and lovely green grass to set up camp on!  So tempting after a week on the dry, dusty Gibb!  But we really wanted to be able to only have one pack up/set up left on the Gibb so we had a quick drink at the bar and then headed off again for the last 80km’s or so to El Questro Station.

The entrance to Home Valley Station

The entrance to Home Valley Station

Home Valley Station

Home Valley Station

Cool giant chess set on the grounds at Home Valley Station

Cool giant chess set on the grounds at Home Valley Station

The bar/restaurant area at Home Valley Station was really, really nice - would loved to have had a meal here!

The bar/restaurant area at Home Valley Station was really, really nice – would loved to have had a meal here!

Just down the road from Home Valley Station and we came to probably the most ‘iconic photo shoot’ on the whole Gibb River Road, the Pentecost River crossing.  We were sooooo excited to finally reach it although we did have to drive across to check the sign on the other side to make sure it actually was the Pentecost River!  Unfortunately there was not a lot of water at the time we crossed so we are a little disappointed with our photos but it still feels nice to say we have done it!!  We did a few trips over and back on the river crossing trying to get a perfect shot for the wall, but just couldn’t quite capture it – one to get next time!

Crossing the Pentecost River on the Gibb River Road

Crossing the Pentecost River on the Gibb River Road

Peter Prado & Karen Camper crossing the Pentecost River

Peter Prado & Karen Camper crossing the Pentecost River

Pentecost River

Pentecost River

Matt pretty happy that we got to do this crossing on our trip.  It had been something he really wanted to see when we started planning this trip two long years ago!

Matt pretty happy that we got to do this crossing on our trip. It had been something he really wanted to see when we started planning this trip two long years ago!

As you can see from the light in these photos – the sun was starting to set which made for really pretty driving in to El Questro Station.  The Cockburn Ranges looked spectacular at this time of day!

The Cockburn Ranges

The Cockburn Ranges

Photographer out the car window

Photographer out the car window

Beautiful

Beautiful

This shot was just before the turn off to El Questro Station

This shot of the Cockburn Ranges was just before the turn off to El Questro Station

A post about El Questro Station coming up next.  This stop was Matt’s favourite part of the whole trip so don’t miss reading out on what we got up to here!

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Manning Gorge

DSC_0006So, getting back to the Gibb River Road now – we are only about half way along it and there are some beautiful places we still want to share with you!  After stopping at Bell Gorge, we set up camp for two nights at Manning Gorge.  This was a really nice place to camp with heaps of campsites and the campground was quite big so if you didn’t mind a walk to the amenities you could find a campsite away from everybody else. The amenities were generator operated hot water showers – so you could only get hot showers for an hour or so in the morning and two hours at night.  The generator was a little noisy but the toilets and showers were nice and clean.  It was a little smelly though so I was glad we didn’t camp near the amenities.  Most of the sites were quite shady which was nice but they were all very dry and dusty when we were there.

The best thing about the manning gorge campground was the river and sandy river bed right near the campsite which you could swim in – it was lovely!  A great spot that was cool and shady and the water was so nice for swimming.

Swimming spot at Manning Gorge campground

Swimming spot at Manning Gorge campground

Trying to capture the perfect reflections on the water.

Trying to capture the perfect reflections on the water.

These photos were taken just after a pre sunset swim

These photos were taken just after a pre sunset swim

Lovely

Lovely

Reflections

Reflections

Sun set photo

Sun set photo

Matt & I having a swim

Matt & I having a swim

After arriving fairly late in the afternoon we only had time to have a quick swim and set up camp, so the next morning we headed off to tackle the walk to Manning Gorge.  This walk was probably one of the toughest we have done.  It was only about a 3km walk in (so 6km’s return) but it is a very open walk, so very hot and dusty!!  We all found this walk a pretty long one and agree we should have started earlier in the day (we headed off at about 10am).  To start the walk you must cross the swimming hole at the river and to help keep your feet dry you can use a little ‘pull -along’ tinnie.  The kids loved it and we had several creek crossing in the boat during our couple of days here!

The little 'pull-a-long' tinnie which you can use to cross the river to the other side without getting your shoes wet before your hike!

The little ‘pull-a-long’ tinnie which you can use to cross the river to the other side without getting your shoes wet before your hike!

Pulling the tinnie across the river.

Pulling the tinnie across the river.

Heading off to walk in to Manning Gorge

Heading off to walk in to Manning Gorge

The long, hot, dusty walk to Manning Gorge

The long, hot, dusty walk to Manning Gorge

Pretty nice 'Gibb River Road' scenery on our walk into the gorge

Pretty nice ‘Gibb River Road’ scenery on our walk into the gorge

We were all pretty happy to finally reach the gorge after about an hour and a half of walking!  It was worth the walk though and we were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves for some of the time we were there.  We spent a couple of hours down there and I had packed enough snack food to keep us all happy, so it was a very relaxing way to spend the hottest part of the day before we tackled the long walk back!

Hooray - Manning Gorge at last!

Hooray – Manning Gorge at last!

Manning Gorge - lots of people jump into the water off the top of the waterfall but we weren't game enough to have a go!

Manning Gorge – lots of people jump into the water off the top of the waterfall but we weren’t game enough to have a go!

Swim time!

Swim time!

The water was cold but very refreshing after the hot walk in!

The water was cold but very refreshing after the hot walk in!

Looking out from under the waterfall

Looking out from under the waterfall 

Easy way to spend the day

Easy way to spend the day

We found a nice shallow swimming spot for the kids

We found a nice shallow swimming spot for the kids

The kids wrestling in the water!

The kids wrestling in the water!

Washing the sand off our feet to get our shoes on for the long walk back

Washing the sand off our feet to get our shoes on for the long walk back

Manning Gorge is about the half way point along the Gibb River Road and we could easily have spent a few more days relaxing and swimming here if we had longer – we’d definitely recommend a couple of nights stay here and the Barnett River Roadhouse was just up the road so you could grab some essential supplies, fuel and ice creams very easily! Aaargh – I just want to go back now!DSC_0223

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Bell Gorge

DSC_0091Right, back to a post about the trip!  At the rate we are going you guys will all be still reading posts about our trip twelve months after we finished it!

After two nights camping at Windjana Gorge and checking out Tunnel Creek we headed off to get a few kilometres of the Gibb River Road under our tyres.  We were a bit nervous about what the road conditions would be like, but we were pleasantly surprised to find this stretch of road – about 1oo kilometres from Windjana Gorge to Bell Gorge – was pretty good.  Corrugated and mostly dirt but it looked like it had been very recently graded so we travelled along with no problems.  It was hard to bypass Lennard Gorge and the Mt Hart Homestead, but as we only had a week we had to be selective with where we stopped on the Gibb. We had decided that this was just to be a ‘practice run’ Gibb River Road trip and we will come back and do it properly one day!!

This stretch of the Gibb was quite scenic – with some lovely spots to stop and check out the views.

Lookout view Gibb River Road

Lookout view Gibb River Road

Peter Prado and Karen Camper on the Gibb River Road

Peter Prado and Karen Camper on the Gibb River Road

We had decided that Bell Gorge would be our lunch time stop, but we didn’t realise that it was actually 39km in to the Gorge along the access road off the Gibb River Road.  This road was actually pretty rough and there are a couple of creek crossings along the way which we didn’t know about either.  They were quite shallow when we went through so no problems and a bit of excitement for us as they were Karen Camper’s first water crossings!

Creek Crossing on Access Road into Bell Gorge

Creek Crossing on Access Road into Bell Gorge

Peter Prado and Karen Camper handled them too easy!

Peter Prado and Karen Camper handled them too easy!

We unhitched Karen Camper at the entrance to the Bell Gorge Campsite (called Silent Grove) as we thought the road was getting quite rough and we weren’t sure what parking there would be at the Gorge entrance. We were really glad we did this as the road did get more corrugated (it was another 10km’s from the campsite to the gorge) and the car park at the Gorge is really quite small – it would have been difficult to park the camper down there.  The Silent Grove campsite looked quite nice – very dry and dusty but some shade and amenities so you could easily have a few nights there.  We then had a quick bite of lunch and headed off for the short 3km return walk into the gorge – yes dragging a few reluctant kids again for another walk!

Back of the car lunch preparation

Back of the car lunch preparation

Off to walk in to Bell Gorge

Off to walk in to Bell Gorge

It was an easy walk in to the Gorge although it was quite hot walking in the middle of the day!  We were glad to have a swim when we got there!  The water in the swimming hole at the bottom of the water falls was freezing!!  But we did all get in eventually – even me!  Be warned though – the edge going in to the water is very slippery and slimy – we all had big slips going in!!  The pools at the top of the gorge are really lovely and not as cold as the bottom pool – they would make a great spot to waste away a few hours soaking in the sun and water.  The climb down to the water fall pool is very steep but our kids made it no problems – their walking skills have definitely improved heaps over the duration of the trip!

Jack, Tobes and Lex at the top of Bell Gorge

Jack, Tobes and Lex at the top of Bell Gorge

Looking over the edge at Bell Gorge

Looking over the edge at Bell Gorge

Walking down to the waterfall pool Bell Gorge

Walking down to the waterfall pool Bell Gorge

The lovely top pools at Bell Gorge

The lovely top pools at Bell Gorge

Having a swim in the freezing water at Bell Gorge

Having a swim in the freezing water at Bell Gorge

When we first arrived at the waterfall pool at Bell Gorge there was a tour bus of people there but they left shortly after we arrived (I’m sure we didn’t scare them off – we didn’t smell that bad!) and we had the place pretty much to ourselves – it was heaven!  We were definitely glad that we got to see this spot!  After about an hour swimming and relaxing we headed back to pick up the camper and push on to our campsite for the night at Manning Gorge which was about another 80km’s along the Gibb River Road once we had got back out off the 40km stretch of the Bell Gorge access road.  Once again we had to reluctantly drive right past Adcock Gorge and Charnley River Station, with a promise of ‘next time’.  We stopped at the Barnett Roadhouse and purchased our camping permit for the next two nights camping at Manning Gorge.  It was of course ‘ice-cream o’clock’ and we thought we all deserved one so we bought those and a souvenir stubby cooler too!

Barnett Roadhouse

Barnett Roadhouse

Yum - Icecreams!

Yum – Icecreams!

Our time at Manning Gorge will be our next post.  So, who has stopped at the places we missed along the way from Windjana Gorge to Manning Gorge?  C’mon then, make us jealous, tell us what did we miss out on???

 

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Tunnel Creek

DSC_0189Tunnel Creek was really cool!  I know I sound like a big kid when I say that but it was just really fun and quite amazing!  We had read lots about it but I wasn’t really that excited about walking through a dark tunnel filled with bats and freezing water and if rumour had it correctly – fresh water crocodiles!  But after being strongly encouraged to visit by a follower on our Facebook Page (thanks Tracy!) we decided to check it out and boy are we glad we did!

Tunnel Creek is Western Australias oldest cave system, in Tunnel Creek National Park, and is famous as a hideout used late last century by an Aboriginal leader known as Jandamarra. He was killed outside its entrance in 1897.

The entrance is actually a little tricky to find which adds to the experience  – the kids were so excited running off ahead of us along the path to the cave entrance that they totally missed it and had run off up a hill and we all had to turn around and come back!

Can you spot the entrance?

Can you spot the entrance?

Off we go!

Off we go!

The cave is about 750metres long and quite dark in places so taking a torch is a must.  You have to wade through quite a few permanent water pools which were mostly only ankle deep when we were there – except for the last one which was about waist deep.  I think if you are there after the wet season there is quite a bit more water around and you may even have to swim in parts.  There are a colony of bats living in there and some beautiful stalactites that descend from the roof in many places.  It was really quite fascinating.

The boys loved it!  Lex wasn't quite as keen!

The boys loved it! Lex wasn’t quite as keen!

Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek

Exploring

Exploring

Opening where the tunnel has caved in and where most of the bats can be found

Opening where the tunnel has caved in and where most of the bats can be found

Adventurers

Adventurers

Hard to capture the stalactites - they were beautiful!

Hard to capture the stalactites – they were beautiful!

We finished with a quick dip in the water hole at the other end of the tunnel which the backpackers swimming there assured us was croc-free!  It is really quite a quick sightseeing trip – we spent about an hour there and felt like that was heaps of time and tunnel creek is only about a 45 minute drive from the Windjana Gorge campground where we had based ourselves for two nights.  There is also some Aboriginal Artwork on the cliff face at the end of the tunnel which was quite easy to spot and something else interesting to see.

Having a dip in the water hole at the end of the tunnel - a little chilly!

Having a dip in the water hole at the end of the tunnel – a little chilly!

The whole family enjoyed our afternoon out at Tunnel Creek, although be warned – all that time in a dark cave can make you go a little crazy!

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Derby & Windjana Gorge

DSC_0046Ok – now for the last two weeks of our trip on the road!  After a great week at Middle Lagoon we reluctantly packed up reasonably early and were on the road out and headed for Derby by about 8am.  We were all feeling a bit grumpy and sad as we left Middle Lagoon as we were now heading ‘back’ to the East and commencing the journey towards home.  Up until now we had always been travelling ‘away’ – this was the first day heading back, signalling that our trip which had been almost two years in the planning was just about over!!!

At least we had the fact that we were heading into new territory again and the excitement of getting to tackle the Gibb River Road ahead of us.  We had ummmed and aaahed all week at Middle Lagoon as to whether we head home via the infamous Gibb River Road or back the same way we had come across to Western Australia, via the Great Northern Highway.  We were keen to not travel the same road again, but also a little worried that we wouldn’t be doing the Gibb the justice it deserved by trying to cram it all in to a week – before our trip plans were changed, we had planned to spend about a month exploring the Gibb!  It was also worrying us that by having to travel quite hard to get across the Gibb in a fairly short amount of time, we might put a lot of strain on the car and camper and given that the Gibb has a name for being quite a rough stretch of road, we were not keen at all to have something major breakdown only 2 weeks out from home.  However, after talking to other campers at Middle Lagoon who had done the Gibb in their caravans not to many weeks before us and said that the road was pretty good, we decided to give it a go.

So after a quick stop to check out the Church at Beagle Bay (pics in our Cape Leveque post) and a last longing look at the turnoff back in to Broome (if we had still been travelling we definitely would have spent another few weeks in Broome after exploring the Cape!), we headed to Derby (it took us about 4 hours from Middle Lagoon) for a quick look around, a late lunch and some grocery shopping to stock up on supplies before we headed off on the Gibb for a week.

We checked out the prison boab tree on our way in to Derby (it is about 7km’s outside of town on the Broome side), it is huge!

Prison Boab Tree - Derby

Prison Boab Tree – Derby

The kids were really interested!

The kids were really interested!

We splashed out and had some lovely fish and chips for lunch down at the famous Derby Jetty.  The tides in Derby are the highest in Australia and we were there at just about high tide which was lucky!  The jetty in Derby used to be used for live export but is now mainly used for barges exporting lead and zinc from a mine at Fitzroy Crossing.  We all thought it was pretty interesting as we had never seen a big commercial wharf before.

Lunch at the Jetty in Derby

Lunch at the Jetty in Derby

Yummy treat lunch!

Yummy treat lunch!

We stocked up on groceries from Wollies and had to wait in line for half an hour at the bottle shop to buy a carton of beer as it was rodeo weekend in town so everybody was out buying their alcohol!  Then it was off to start the Gibb River Road!!  It was late by the time we started the Gibb which had the bonus that we got to witness a beautiful sunset, but once again it meant we arrived in to our campsite in the dark!

Airing down at the start of the dirt on the Gibb.

Airing down at the start of the dirt on the Gibb.

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

I had Matt taking photos of Boab Trees all over WA for me - I think this one is the pick of them!

I had Matt taking photos of Boab Trees all over WA for me – I think this one is the pick of them!

We had decided that our first stop on the Gibb River Road would be Windjana Gorge.  The road to get in to Windjana was very corrugated and we again lost a headlight – not ideal when you are driving in to a new campground at dark!  Lucky for us when we arrived at the campground a lovely couple saw us come in and pointed out a great campsite for us right near the shower block and then also offered to mind our tired and grumpy kids while we set up.  The funny thing about arriving at a camp site in the dark is that you really don’t know what to expect when the sun comes up in the morning and you can see where you are.  We were so surprised to wake up and see that this was the view that greeted us;

Windjana Gorge

Windjana Gorge

As we had heard that the best time to see the crocodiles at Windjana was early in the morning, we had a quick breakfast and then walked over from the campground to the Gorge to have a look around.  We thought we were ‘gorged’ out after all the gorges we had seen in the Northern Territory but Windjana was definitely worth the stop!

The 'tunnel' entrance into Windjana

The ‘tunnel’ entrance into Windjana

Time to find some crocodiles

Time to find some crocodiles

Can you see any?

Can you see any?

Heaps, and heaps of Freshwater Crocodiles!

Heaps, and heaps of Freshwater Crocodiles!

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Really beautiful

Really beautiful

Time for a walk

Time for a walk

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Someone before us had built this 'sand crocodile' very clever!

Someone before us had built this ‘sand crocodile’ very clever!

We spent the morning at Windjana, but didn’t do the whole gorge walk as it was very hot and other campers had suggested that the best part of the gorge was just the first couple of kilometres so we were happy to just do that and then headed to Tunnel Creek for the afternoon.  You will hear all about that in our next blog entry!

We camped for two nights at Windjana Gorge and it was a nice spot!  The showers were hot and free – pretty good for a National Park Campground!  The only downside to our time at Windjana was that after a week at Middle Lagoon without power, and then some very hot weather at Windjana – the fridge in our camper just didn’t seem to cope!  Which made us very grumpy as we have struggled all along to get the camper fridge to run well on gas.  Anyway – we decided for the rest of the trip to just turn it off and run with our car fridge only which worked out fine!  Stay tuned for Tunnel Creek details next – it was one of my favourite stops on the whole trip!

Relaxing afternoon at camp - Windjana Gorge

Relaxing afternoon at camp – Windjana Gorge

Fun with play dough - Windjana Gorge

Fun with play dough – Windjana Gorge

 

Categories: WA Camping | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cape Leveque & Surrounds

While we spent a week camped at Middle Lagoon, we had time to check out some of the lovely spots along the road to Cape Leveque.  First a few photos of the road.  It was long, corrugated and very dusty!  We dropped our tyre pressures to 28 PSI and travelled along ok – no damage to the camper on arrival – just lots and lots of dust inside – we probably should have taped up our fridge vents!!  From Broome the road to Cape Leveque is unsealed until about 80km from Cape Leveque where it is then sealed all the way up to One Arm Point.  20130821-202002.jpg 20130821-202058.jpg 20130821-202023.jpg 20130821-202040.jpgOn our way up to Middle Lagoon we stopped in to check out the Quondong Point free camp areas.  These were only about 30minutes out of Broome and there were three camp areas off Manari Road.  It looked like a lovely spot but was quite busy when we checked it out so we decided not to leave Middle Lagoon early to come back here.  The track to the last Quondong Point camp spot was quite narrow so we copped quite a lot of scratches to the camper going along here and it was a little tricky to turn around at the end.  We think you would have to pick a quiet time at Quondong Point to nab a nice shady campsite as most of the sites were in full sun which would make it pretty hot in the middle of the day.

The first campsite at Quondong Point

The first campsite at Quondong Point

One afternoon at Middle Lagoon we headed out in search of icecreams to the nearby Whalesong Cafe & Campground.  It was only about 15 minutes drive from Middle Lagoon and it was a lovely spot (and it had full internet reception – if I had of known this earlier I would have taken the laptop up one morning on my own and enjoyed a cake and smoothie and gotten a couple of blog posts done – would have been lovely)!  The Whalesong Campground was only small and quite basic with its amenities but there were some nice sites with lovely views over the water.  The beach there was closed when we were there because a crocodile had been sighted so that was a bit of a bummer.

Lovely spot at the Whalsong Cafe and the yummiest mango smoothies!

Lovely spot at the Whalsong Cafe and the yummiest mango smoothies!

Looking out over the beach from Whalesong Cafe

Looking out over the beach from Whalesong Cafe

The very cool outdoor shower at the Whalesong Campground - looked like it was cold water only though!

The very cool outdoor shower at the Whalesong Campground – looked like it was cold water only though!

We took a full day trip away from Middle Lagoon and decided to check out the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, One Arm Point and the Kooljaman Campground at Cape Leveque.  It was a big day out – we left about 9am and didn’t get home until after 7pm!  It was a little bit of a pain having to air our tyres up again when we hit the bitumen after the Middle Lagoon Road and then air down again when we came back in that night but a small thing to whinge about really!!  If we had more time I would definitely have liked to try out one of the beach camping shelters right on the beach front at Kooljaman – something to go back for!

Our first stop was the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.  This is a family owned and operated farm and it was really pretty – a great cafe on site with little sandpit for the kids to play in and the meals and drinks looked delicious!  We did the Pearl Farm tour which was something I had wanted to do in Broome and although the tour was good and really interesting – it was very expenisve ($140 for our family) and we didn’t really get to see a lot.  I was a bit disappointed too that we didn’t get to go out on the water to check out the oyster shells but that was a different tour that you had to pay extra for and was just too expensive for us.  It was a beautiful spot though!

Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm

Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm

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Family Shot at the Pearl Farm

Family Shot at the Pearl Farm

I love pearls!  This necklace was only $16,000!!

I love pearls! This necklace was only $16,000!!

The boys with the old pearl diving suit

The boys with the old pearl diving suit

From here we headed up to One Arm Point where you are required to obtain a permit ($10 per adult) from the local general store to enter the community.  One Arm Point had the most crystal clear water I have ever seen!  Again – if we had more time I would have loved to have come back and spent a day snorkelling and swimming here!  Another family said they saw some whale sharks here so we would probably have to be a little careful about where we swam!  There is also an aquaculture centre at One Arm Point that does tours for $10 an adult which looked quite interesting.

One Arm Point

One Arm Point

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Crystal clear water

Crystal clear water

Watching the amazing fast flowing current at the end of One Arm Point near the Trochus Hatchery

Watching the amazing fast flowing current at the end of One Arm Point near the Trochus Hatchery

We finished off the day with a late lunch and a swim at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque.  It was a lovely spot – a bit more commercial than Middle Lagoon but lots of different types of accommodation here which looked awesome.  The kids found themselves with a few scrapes on them after their swim as there were quite a few submerged rocks in the water – we might have been swimming at low tide I think!  Matt got some lovely shots of the kids here!

A swim at Cape Leveque

A swim at Cape Leveque

Lunch under the picnic shelter

Lunch under the picnic shelter

On the beach at Cape Leveque

On the beach at Cape Leveque

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Fealy Kids - Cape Leveque 2013

Fealy Kids – Cape Leveque 2013

And of course we had to stay and watch the sunset and have an icecream on the deck of the newly built restaurant – beautiful spot!  And the woodfired pizzas they were cooking there looked pretty good too!

Newly built resaurant at Kooljaman

Newly built resaurant at Kooljaman

Sunset - Cape Leveque

Sunset – Cape Leveque

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Nothing better than an ice-cream at sunset - ok maybe and icecream and a cocktail would be perfect!

Nothing better than an ice-cream at sunset – ok maybe an icecream and a cocktail would be perfect!

On our way out after our wonderful seven nights at Middle Lagoon, we stopped in at Beagle Bay and checked out the lovely little church there.  Inside it is beautifully decorated with local shells and definitely worth a stop to see it – I had never seen anything like it!

Beagle Bay Church

Beagle Bay Church

20130821-202135.jpg 20130821-201925.jpg 20130821-202116.jpg 20130821-201908.jpgCape Leveque and surrounds is a really beautiful part of Australia and definitely worth the long and dusty, bumpy road in!

Categories: Camping, WA Camping | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Middle Lagoon

20130821-202412.jpgFrom Broome we headed north to the top of the Western Australian coastline and spent a glorious week relaxing and ‘taking a break from our holiday’ at Middle Lagoon.

Our week went a little something like this ……………………………………

Swimming

Swimming

Kayaking

Kayaking

The mission to build the biggest and best sandcastle we have ever made!

The mission to build the biggest and best sandcastle we have ever made!

Hard Work!

Hard Work!

Getting There

Getting There

Family effort with the help of some ringins!

Family effort with the help of some ringins!

The finished product - not a bad effort!

The finished product – not a bad effort!

Sunsets

Sunsets

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And lots of campfires!

And lots of campfires!

What it is all about!

What it is all about!

Middle Lagoon is a two and a half hour drive from Broome along a pretty rough, red sand and dirt, corrugated road, but it is worth the drive.  We did get a bit of a surprise when we reached the Middle Lagoon turn off the Cape Leveque Road and then realised we still had just over 30kms still to go!  And the road in to Middle Lagoon was rougher than what we had already travelled on the Cape Leveque Road so it was a very long drive!

The road in to Middle Lagoon

The road in to Middle Lagoon

Red sand and corrugations all the way

Red sand and corrugations all the way

We stayed at Nature’s Hideaway Campground at Middle Lagoon on an excellent site called site 5 on the Terraces (or Snob Hill as Trice and Geoff called it hehehe!).  Although it wasn’t directly overlooking the water like you can see in this picture (and those sites were spectacular!)

Beautiful ocean front sites!

Beautiful ocean front sites!

we really liked our site because we could still see the water but we had lots of shade too which the ocean front ones didn’t.  The shade was really nice to have in the afternoon when it was too hot at the beach and we just wanted to be chilling out around camp.

Our lovely shady spot - still with water views - the kids had lots of friends come to visit and play lego with them!

Our lovely shady spot – still with water views – the kids had lots of friends come to visit and play lego with them!

Relaxing watching a movie in the camper one afternoon.

Relaxing watching a movie in the camper one afternoon.

We did lots of relaxing at Middle Lagoon but we also had lots of fun as it just worked out that also here at the same time were the family we had meet at Lake Argyle (Geoff & Trice and the kids), plus the Rollason family we met at Cable Beach and another family we had met in the caravan park in Broome!  The kids had a ball having lots of friends to play with and Matt and I enjoyed some friends to talk to as well!  We were lucky enough to be given one night, a dinner’s worth of freshly caught spanish mackeral from a lovely couple at a neighbouring campsite.  This fish came to us filleted and all so all we had to do was cook it over the fire – it was so delicious!!!

Getting our hot plate ready to cook our fish

Getting our hot plate ready to cook our fish

Fish and Chips Middle Lagoon Style

Fish and Chips Middle Lagoon Style

Our delicious dinner - best fish we have ever tasted!

Our delicious dinner – best fish we have ever tasted!

The next day Matt and the boys were lucky enough to go out with Geoff in his tinnie and try a bit of fishing themselves!  Even though they came home empty handed they were so lucky having got to see whales, dolphins, a big sea turtle and lots of different types of fish!  The boys had a great time and Geoff we are so grateful to you for taking them all out!

Off fishing in Geoff's boat!

Off fishing in Geoff’s boat!

We really didn’t do much at Middle Lagoon – we spent a big day trip out exploring Cape Leveque and surrounds but other than that we just ‘stopped’ and although it was a little hard to make ourselves do it when there is so much to do and see – we’re really glad we did as it was a great rest.

An easy place to slow down for a week!

An easy place to slow down for a week!

Campfires every night.

Campfires every night.

On our last night at Middle Lagoon we decided to head off and explore some of the 4wd tracks around the lagoon – we ended up on our own private little beach to watch the sun set – it was beautiful!

Our own little beach all to ourselves!

Our own little beach all to ourselves!

Come and see .........

Come and see ………

A sunset picnic

A sunset picnic

Seen enough photos of this ugly mob yet???

Seen enough photos of this ugly mob yet???

Sunset

Sunset

20130821-203249.jpg 20130821-202859.jpg 20130821-203324.jpgMiddle Lagoon was probably my favourite place of the whole trip – it was worth leaving Broome for!

 

 

Categories: Camping, Travel, WA Camping | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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