About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gibb River Rambles


From the Bungle Bungle bungles in Purnululu Nat'l Park (shown on the right on the map above) we headed north to Kununurra, to provision for the traverse of the Gibb River Road, a 660 km gravel road through the heart of the Kimberly region (shown in red on the map).  The Kimberly is Western Australia's remote northern region, home of huge (1,000,000+ acres) cattle stations, beautiful gorges and national parks, terrific Aboriginal rock art, great coastlines, and some of the best swimming holes anywhere!  The road, though gravel, is mostly in fairly good shape, and hardly required 4 wheel drive.  Some of the side excursions, well, a bit of a different story!

One of many stream crossings.....no drama, mate!

Leaving Kununurra, our first stop was El Questro Wilderness Park.  We found this "theme park" wilderness experience to be a bloody bore, charging high fees for everything from tours, camping, and restaurants and beer, to trashy Chinese-made "genuine Outback souvenirs".  We called the highly overrated tourist park "El Cost-o", and, especially after our terrific wilderness experiences on the Canning Stock Route and Bungle Bungles, was a big disappointment.

The entire Gibb River Road trip itself required quite a mental adjustment.  The Kimberly, and the GRR, is a huge tourist destination for hordes of Australians.  They come from all over the country for this major trip, sort of like Yellowstone National Park in the US.  We had gotten spoiled by the deep wilderness and day after day of no human contact as we drove the Canning.  We were now on a primary tourist circuit, and camping was mostly restricted to private campgrounds.  The Gibb used to be a rugged 4x4 adventure, but today it is fairly accessible to camper trailers towed by a moderate 4wd family car.  Though the areas were beautiful and perhaps somewhat remote, it really took a while to get used to the people all around us.

The gorges and waterfalls are a primary feature, and they were indeed beautiful.  We hiked in to many, and swam wherever we could.

Leaving the Gibb River Road we headed 270 km north on a more rugged side road toward the Aboriginal settlement of Kalumburu, the most northernmost settlement in Western Australia (14 degrees S. latitude).  The Aboriginal corporation charges a $50 permit fee to visit their area, but we had heard that "Honeymoon Beach" offered great camping, and were eager to put our feet into the crocodile infested Indian Ocean for the first time.  Unfortunately, Honeymoon Beach was anything but, at least for those without their own boat.  Though on a beautiful beach site, the run down, $30/night campground is mostly a fishing camp, and without a boat, there was little else to do.

View from our tent site, our first of the Indian Ocean

Cindi holds court with Tasmanian friends Merve and Trudy under the shade of a Boab tree.
We did tap a toe into the Indian Ocean, our first time seeing this next ocean on our Bravo itinerary for next year.  But there are indeed saltwater crocodiles lurking around here, and absolutely no one goes swimming in the beautiful blue waters.  Bummer!!!







Mitchell River National Park

From Kalumburu we headed for Mitchell River National Park, located up another 4wd track branching off from the Gibb/Kalumburu road.  The main attraction, Mitchell Falls, is an easy 3 km hike from the campground.

On the way we passed Mertens Falls and couldn't resist a swim.  Perfect!!!













Mitchell Falls (Punamii-unpuu) itself is a beautiful 4 tiered waterfall, having great cultural and spiritual significance to the original inhabitants of the area, the Wunambal people.  Though quite spectacular now, our visit to this area is during the dry season, and we can imagine what the falls must be like during "the wet".


1-meter long monitor lizard passed on the trail up to the falls.








After exploring the upper areas of the falls, we decided to take a $60 flight back to the campsite.  The pilot gave us some great views of the falls on the 6 minute flight.  Well worth it!!!




Our chariot awaits!


4 tiers of the falls as seen from the air.

Aboriginal Rock Art

The entire Kimberly region, and the Mitchell River Plateau in particular, is rich in early Aboriginal rock painting.  Some of the art is quite accessible showing up in a guidebook to the area, other "galleries" require a bit of an Indiana Jones approach to explore, hiking and poking around likely rock outcroppings.  We got into the hunt, and over a few days found many of the ochre paintings, some of them amazingly well preserved.  While it has been difficult to accurately date the Aboriginal artwork (evidence shows that the Aborigines first appeared in Australia nearly 50,000 years ago), one rock painting was shown to be at least 17,500 years old.  It was dated by carbon dating a wasp nest which had grown over part of the painting, which was found to be of that age.

Here are some of the better samples we found throughout the area.


















Painters from later eras often painted over previous works.....as though they didn't have enough rocks!!!




Cindi goes Indy Jones looking for the ancient bones we knew were in the area.....

And here they are, in an ancient burial crypt.




A painting of an echidna anteater is on the left

Cindi again in true Indy style!







Wanjina paintings, representing ancestral beings or spirits

Friend Merve and Cindi looking for more artwork

Ancient painter with a sense of humor.....note the hand print painted up the nose!!!

Manning Gorge

From the Mitchell Plateau we headed back south to rejoin the Gibb River Road and on to Manning Gorge to camp and swim.















After a small river crossing (via tin boat tied to a rope on pulleys on each shore), a few km hike leads to a fantastic swimming hole and waterfall to swim beneath.  Sweet as, as the temps were in the 30's C. (90's F.)  on the day we went in.




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Bell Gorge

After Manning we decided to skip a few of the next gorges, and head on down the Gibb to Bell Gorge, reputed to be one of the best swimming holes on the GRR.  It didn't disappoint!












Windjana Gorge National Park

After all of this gorging out on swimming holes for several days, we were ready for something a bit different.  People told us about yet another gorge, called Windjana Gorge National Park.  Supposedly the swimming was no good, because the river was inhabited by hundreds of freshwater crocodiles!!!  Now we're talking!!!


Crocs waiting for their next meal to swim by.....













The other wildlife we found at Windjana was bats......literally millions of fruit bats.  When we first hiked up the canyon in mid afternoon the rascals were hanging in the trees, some starting to wake up, squabbling with their neighbors, and getting ready for the big evening ahead.























People we met told us not to miss the show, when they all take to the air at once.  They then fly down to the river to drink, dipping in as they fly low, then licking the water off their chests (so we're told!!!).  Now, the crocs in the water aren't exactly dumb, after all, the species have survived for the past 50 million years or so.  So they all get in the water just before sunset, when the bats fly for the water.  With the steady stream of bats dipping into the river, the crocs just keep opening and closing their snouts, hoping for a feed.  We saw a couple strike paydirt, but have no idea how many bats run into "death from below" each night.  













Here's a bit of video from the show.....
https://vimeo.com/181015448





Tunnel Creek

Just up the road from Windjana was Tunnel Creek National Park.  Part of an ancient barrier reef, the park contains a fantastic 750 meter natural tunnel/cave.  It involves a bit of sloshing through the underground stream, sharing it with the resident freshwater crocs.  Though they were said to all be babies, it's still spooky when your headlamp hits two beady red eyes staring back at you.  "No worries, mate!!!"  (Gotta wonder where mom and dad crocs were lurking!!!)  What could possibly go wrong???











Finally we finished up the Gibb River Road at Derby.  In the past, the GRR was considered very remote, just a gravel connector linking these huge cattle stations and a couple of Aboriginal communities to the outside world.  Though still a gravel road, the trip now is one of the main highlights of the northern Australian tourist and gray nomad migration routes.  Even with all of the camper trailers and caravans, it was still a fine tour, with all of the ties to the indigenous culture of the region, not to mention the fantastic swimming holes.  We had a great time!!!

Next up.....Broome and Cape Leveque.......

2 comments:

  1. You two are certainly seeing Australia like many have not. Good on ya. Great adventures for you, and fantastic journaling with photos to boot! Thanks.

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  2. Love the tour your having, wish I could have met you there, 12 years ago I was in the south of Australia and got to see many sites also, want to go back and spend 3 or 4 months there just poking around, started on the great ocean road and would like to complete it.
    73,s thanks for the memorys Ken Williamson VA7IR

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