Thursday, 4 June 2015

Derby to Kununurra

Yellow route: Derby to Kununurra - 1836km
Total so far: 19'866

The Gibb River Road (GRR oder Gibb) is arguably one of the main attractions of Western Australia and we were very excited about this part of our journey. The expectations were quite high because everybody mentioned how much we will like the GRR. 
Retrospectively we are happy to say that we were not disappointed! The GRR is „only“ 660 km long and certainly a worthwhile stretch to drive, but it is the side trips — in our case another 1000 km — off the GRR that make it unforgettable. The icing on the cake was the beautiful weather. Since we have left Broome we don’t have to bother about a weather forecast anymore. It is just sunny everyday. Nice and warm (around 28-35°C) during the days and refreshingly cool during the nights. Another and most certainly the main reason is the incomparable landscape, the abundant bird life and the extraordinary gorges we enjoyed along the road.

 Water reflection - Lennard River at Windjana Gorge

 Rock face - Windjana Gorge

 Freshie taking a sunbath

We started at Windjana Gorge where the Freshwater Crocodiles (Freshies) enjoyed sunbathing on the sandy banks of the Lennard River in significant numbers. The early-morning walk along the bottom of the gorge offered beautiful „bird listening“ and a mystic scenery with the huge rock face (surprisingly they have their origin in corals) reflecting in the calm water.
Tunnel Creek eroded an underground passage in the limestone and allowed us to walk and wade through the Napier Range from one end to the other. Most of the walk was in the dark and we were told that there are crocs living in that water. We didn’t meet any but saw some bats which inhabit the caves. Even though camping was not allowed at the Tunnel Gorge day-use area, we were forced to spend the night there as our radiator had started to leak. Fortunately we were helped by the highly-skilled mechanic and well-experienced traveller Paul from Switzerland. Soldering didn’t work this time but a Locktite Radiator Repair Kit did the job and we haven’t lost any more cooling liquid ever since (please keep fingers crossed). 

 Tunnel Creak

 The end of the Tunnel Creek walk

 Oliver and Paul investigating the radiator

A tiny little whole made them work for several hours

Bell Gorge offered excellent swimming and with some clambering over rocks led to several pools further down the river and to the top of a really nice waterfall. Whilst swimming and crawling we were acquainted with the Water Monitor, a lizard that is a fairly popular species in the Kimberleys. 

 Pool at Bell Gorge 

Water Monitor

One of our personal GRR highlights was the Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary, an approximate 80km side trip (one way). This beautiful area was destocked in 2008 in order to create the fabulous sanctuary. The numerous offers of things to do are not cheap but the money goes into research of wildlife, feral animals as well as into the conservation of endangered species, mostly mammals. Apart from the excellent bird watching (we saw the colourful Gouldian Finch along with many others) we visited two gorges and enjoyed the rough tracks to get there. Dimond Gorge can only be explored from the water and we were happy for the opportunity to inflate our pack-raft for this occasion. The most beautiful sunset so far was put on for us at Sir John Gorge.

 Oliver – enjoying the sunset

Sir John Gorge

On the way to the legendary Mt. Barnett Roadhouse and Manning Gorge, we stopped for a swim at the fabulous Galvans Gorge. A lush pool with a waterfall, surrounded by tropic plants and a rope swing scored some points on the fun-factor scale. 
Manning Gorge was pleasant, we walked to it at sunrise, but the camping there was pretty average.

Waterhole near Manning Gorge

The obvious highlight was to follow with the Mitchell Falls. Although the way in was hard work on us and on our tyres it was definitely worth it. The walk was spectacular with the Mertens Falls, the Aboriginal rock art and the rich birdlife. For the way back to the camping area we took an eight-minute helicopter flight to enjoy the outstanding landscape from above which was jaw-dropping.

 Little Mertens Fall

 Aboriginal rock art

 Mitchell Falls

 Our helicopter taking off – it was just spectacular

Mitchell Falls from above

A long day of driving was made up for by the yummy scones served at Ellenbrae station. After the Pentecost river crossing, which was a piece of cake, the bitumen followed shortly and we decided to head straight to Wyndham and then to the Parry Creek Road where we spent a night with abundant wildlife at the Orde River.

Pentecost river crossing

On Sunday we arrived in Kununurra where we had to stock up and look after Kasbah, which has done a terrific job so far. Thanks to the three rules Peter in Melbourne gave us for the GRR (adjust tyre pressure, don’t drive at more than 80km/h, take a short break — and „kick the tyres“ — every hour) and some luck of course we came through without any puncture or ripped tyre!

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