Tuesday 19 May 2015

Derby to Drysdale

We packed up and left Broome, promising ourselves we would go back again one day soon. We headed up to Derby to refuel and to look at the Boab Tree. It is so heartbreaking to read about the past treatment of Indigenous Australians who in the early 1900’s were kept prisoners in the hollow trunk of the tree.
Boab Prison Tree, Derby Western Australia
Derby itself is a small town with a pub, a roadhouse, a woolworths and not much else. Although I did see a sign stating they were building a KFC soon which I think is totally sad.  We ended up having a pub lunch in Derby as we were all hot and hungry and needed a toilet stop before we hit the Gibb River Road. 

The Gibb River road was formally a cattle track used for moving livestock. It still has several stations on it but is mainly used as a tourist track to see the many stunning rivers and gorges along the road. It can be accessed by 4 wheel drive only and is open in the dry season (May-October). 


Windjana Gorge 
We arrived late afternoon to find an already half full camping ground.  We found a spot then set up camp. Craig cooked us all a jaffle  on some guy’s fire that was already lit and roaring. The kids were early to bed and Craig and I sat alone and watched the stars for a while. They were so bright and easy to see with no interfering lights from buildings or roads or cars. It was beautiful. I tried to take some pics but couldn’t get the settings right on the camera. So all I have are memories of that. That night I was thinking of my good friend Kerry with her good camera and her ability to take lovely photos. Wish you were there Kez!

The next morning we woke early and did the walk of Windjana Gorge. It was a 2km trail through the middle of two gorge walls, a sandy path alongside a river that was filled with fresh water crocodiles. We saw the crocs sunning themselves on the other side of the river bank and also floating in the water looking very much like bits of stick and logs. 

We happened to be there at the same time as a guided adventure tour full of oldies, and they all stopped to chat with the kids and point out crocodiles to them.  After our walk we packed up the camper then ate vegemite sandwiches as we headed to our next stop on the Gibb River road.

Windjana Gorge 

Fresh water crocodile, Windjana Gorge
Sun rising over the gorge


The gorge walls

Bell Gorge/silent grove

The campsite was 10km from the gorge. We set up at lunchtime then changed into our bathers and drove down to the car park to start the walk. With back packs full of drinks and towels and swimming vests and cameras I totally forgot to pack the kids a mid afternoon snack. An oversight I regretted later when they were all complaining to me! The walk itself was challenging in parts with loose rocks and step descents. I was thankful for the hiking boots that Craig had bought us all months ago. He had bought them just after Christmas last year, getting the kids a size too big so they would fit for this trip. Some people choose to do the walks in thongs or bare feet which is bloody stupid (a park rangers words) considering the long grass, warm temperatures and the fact we were in the Kimberley. Plus a rolled ankle or a stick through the bottom of a thong would have been hard to deal with an hour from the car. 

We met up with the same tour group and did the walk down with them. Old ladies constantly commenting on how well the kids were managing with the rough ground. Some of them were unsteady on their feet and it made me thankful to still be ‘young’ enough to do this trip with ease. Another moment I was glad we had decided to do this trip now and not wait till we were old and arthritic!

The walk was well worth it. Once we reached the gorge we were able to swim in rock pools that sat high above the huge waterfall. The kids floated around and although the rocks were slippery, we stayed for ages paddling in the water. Craig did the walk to the top of a cliff to look over the edge of the waterfall alone and then I did it after him, just so the kids weren’t up that high (yes I am a paranoid mother!).

Galvins Gorge
We came across this gorge, a short walk off the actual Gibb River Road. Again, we met up with the tour group at the waterfall and they were kind enough to point out two SNAKES curled up on the rock wall. I started having a panic and had a good cry and dispite the beautiful scenery Craig thought he had better get me out of there pronto. The actual walk itself was on a tiny track through very high grass either side and I was already in a heightened sense of panic. Again, loving the ankle high hiking boots!! There was some interesting Aboriginal art works painted on the side of one of the rocks. I chose not to take photos out of respect for the traditional owners of this land, so again that is something we just have in our memories. It was a fantastic spot, a little eden in the middle of nowhere. If I wasn’t such a bloody freak with the slithery reptiles it would have been a beautiful spot to swim, relax and enjoy the day.

Galvins Gorge

Mount Barnett/Manning Gorge
This is a station owned and run by an indigenous community. It was our first stop for fuel along the Gibb and was a good place for an ice cream and toilet stop. We paid our entry to the Manning Gorge campsite at the roadhouse and then made our way the 9 kilometres down the track to set up camp.

When we got there it was early afternoon and we were greeted by the park ranger. We picked a shady spot and did a quick set up then went down to the waterhole where there was already our bus tour friends swimming. By now we were on first name basis and they chatted to Abi and Charlotte and complemented Matilda on her swimming. I felt bad because they were all reading books when we got there and the kids were loud but they all said how lovely it was to have some entertainment! I got in the water and had a cool off too. Then a fellow camper came down and said ‘hey look at the crocs over there’. The park ranger walked down and informed us they only were fresh crocodiles and would be scared of the splashing and stay away, however, the sighting ended mine and the kids swim! 

Drysdale Station
This one is 60km off the Gibb River Road heading towards Kalumbaru. We decided to head up and see if we should tackle Mitchell Falls and maybe be ambitious and go to kalambaru. When we got here we heard that they are still grading the roads to kalaumarbu and Mitchell Falls roads are not in a condition to tow the camper. With no tents or swags to do it in the car alone we decided it would have to be on the list for ‘next time’.

Drysdale has a little shop, fuel bowser, camp ground and a bar that serves beer and burgers. It is a working cattle station on 1,000,000 acres of land and this early in the season is very quiet, meaning we only shared the campgrounds with a few other people. You can actually camp at a second spot here, 5km from the homestead is a spot on the river called Miners Pool where you can swim and fish. We took a drive out there and it looked stunning but we chose to stay at the campsite with toilets and showers and a washing machine! The first one since we left Broome! I also made a quick phone call to Mum off the satellite phone which cost me $1.50 a minute! So it was a quick two-minute conversation to report that we were all alive!

The country here seems more rugged than anywhere I’ve ever been. The roads are rough, and are more like tracks. Apart from the one generator that runs the homestead it is so quiet. The stars are so bright they light up the sky, there are thousands of them. I am actually sitting outside under them now as I type and its easy to feel like you are in a completely different world.

Drysdale Station camp ground

Amenities block at Drysdale, very clean and there was a washing machine!!

At the turn off to Kalumburu road

Miners Pool 
We are on a road to nowhere! the road to Drysdale

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