Lake Argyle

Our next destination was Lake Argyle – only 76kms from Kununurra.  We had flown over it a few days before on our day trip to the Bungle Bungles and now we were planning on seeing it from the ground and from the water. The camp site is regularly voted one of the best in WA – so I was expecting big things. Only the price didn’t disappoint. However one lovely part of being here was another chance to catch up with the Lonerghans and Whitemans again, this time with all of us at the same CP.

After setting up, we walked down to Durak House with the Whitemans – the homestead of one of the founding early grazier settlers which was relocated when the Ord River was dammed in 1970 to create the colossal expanse that is Lake Argyle. The homestead only gets 4/10 from me, as most rooms are pretty bare, with painted outlines on the floor saying ‘chair’ or ‘bed’ rather than having many actual items. They did however, have a video showing the construction of the dam, which brought out the inner civil engineer in Kris, I think.
The next morning was spent helping Darren change worn van suspension components and attending our friends daughter’s 4th Birthday party complete with musical statues and pass the parcel (when there are no other 4 year olds to join in you have to take what you can get so all the adults joined in as well) . Then it was off for a quick walk up to a local lookout before jumping on board ‘Lake Argyle Cruises’ boat for a sunset cruise around the lake. The owner/operator, Greg, is a 20 year veteran local, and is a wealth of knowledge on the flora, fauna, Ord river damming and Durak family history. We saw rock wallabies, cobbler, fresh water crocs and archer fish that spit water up to a meter in the hope of catching flying insects!

DSC_4816Only a little fellow – but one of approximately 35,000 in the lake.

After the wildlife and history lessons, it was off to a deep part of the lake to watch the sunset, have a swim in the dam and then float around on a pool noodle (freshies don’t come out to the middle??), complete with beer (or two) in hand.

P1050957Only James and I were brave enough to enjoy the warm (25 C) water.


Seeing the moon rise over the glassy lake after the spectacular sunset was amazingly beautiful. This was really worthwhile, especially as I was initially the doubting Thomas.

Next morning, the 1st of July, we met Darren down by the lake, fishing gear in hand, to try our luck catching Cobbler – the resident cat fish. Using only cheese as bait, we managed about a dozen or so that were well above the 43cm size limit (I was feeling pretty good about a 53 cm fish, until a deckhand later told me he regularly catches Cobbler over a meter long, and they can grow to twice that length – up to 40 kg!). Apart from avoiding the poisonous spines, we all had a great fun. You can now guess what we had for dinner!
This was our last stay in WA and I think we are all a little wistful to be moving on from this great state – our temporary home since February. There is so much to see over here with a full gamut of landscapes and climates. We have all really enjoyed it.  It is obvious now that a large chunk of our 12 month journey is over – almost, but not quite half! We both feel a little doubtful that the east can top the west but I guess only time will tell.



Finally leaving the Gibb behind we headed into Kununurra and peak holiday season for the north.  Our choice of parks was very limited and we finally settled on one where we wouldn’t have to move sites during our planned 3 night stay here.  Hidden Valley CP was at the base of some impressive rocky outcrops (we backed onto Mirima NP) and we happily settled into the unpowered site they could offer us.

DSC_4649An impressive backdrop.

We have finally managed to coincide locations, not only with the Lonerghans but also the Whitemans (whom we first met at Port Lincoln CP) – so it was decided that an evening meal and catch-up at their CP was in order. We shared fish and chips and a bottle of champagne to celebrate finishing the Gibb in one piece.

DSC_4664Happy travelling families!

We also watched over a million fruit bats heading out at dusk to ravage the local mango plantations. Friday was spent doing the various odd jobs that coming into town requires, shopping, collecting information, etc.

DSC_4655Kununurra goes batty!

We had decided in Derby to bail out of driving down to the Bungles and opted instead for a fly – walk – fly day trip adventure. So the next morning we waited for the very civilized 8:15 pick up and we were in the air by 9:10 heading south over Lake Kununurra and then Lake Argyle.


Lake Argyle from the air.


There were 13 passengers crammed into the Cessna Grand Caravan for the flight down. The Bungle Bungles were certainly impressive from the air and we really enjoyed the flight.


The famed sandstone domes of Purnululu NP – otherwise known as the Bungle Bungles.


After landing we were herded into a 4WD minibus and carted to the beginning of Cathedral gorge walk which meanders through the stripped domes.



With the kids up the front asking questions of our guide Julian and I enjoyed the leisurely walk into the gorge. Here we enjoyed lunch – gourmet salad boxes, while not to the kids tastes were pleasant enough.


Cathedral gorge.



It was strange to be in the tour group as usually we try to avoid them, we settled instead for hanging at the back of the group to escape the constant chatter and of course for Julian to take photos. Then it was back for some afternoon tea before the return flight.




We awoke on Sunday to realize that we hadn’t actually seen much of Kununurra so decided to spend another day mooching around town, visiting Art galleries, including the famed Zebra rock gallery and walking in the local Mirima NP.


Feeding Catfish at Zebra Rock Gallery.

El Questro

This is our last stop along the Gibb. It has icon status amongst Kimberley landmarks, and therefore El Questro had a lot to live up to. Firstly, a note on the Gibb River Road condition. The first 60 or so kilometers were mildly corrugated, but the middle 400 kilometers were smooth and uncorrugated, making for easy trouble-free driving. Only the last 100 – 150 kilometers or so were rough and corrugated. Apparently the improved condition is because the Gibb is now part of WA Department of Main Roads, rather than being part of the Kimberley shire, hence the road is now a designated transport route and as such, a grader works to regularly finish the roads from each end, and it really shows. Only the side roads to some the gorges we visited were horribly corrugated and rough. The Pentacost too was no trouble, being just under knee-deep, the benefit of a very mild wet season.

DSC_4537Pentacost River crossing.

At all national parks in WA you pay a $13 vehicle entrance fee (with camping fees on top of this) or like us pay $88 for an annual Parks Pass. El Questro by contrast is a private “Wilderness Park” where again you pay not only camp fees, but also a $20 per adult ‘Wilderness Park’ fee. After visting many National Parks, it is interesting to note the differences in where your money goes. National Parks have good facilities, are clean and typically sport new loos, and in most cases, have free BBQ and covered picnic facilities. Most importantly, on walks that have difficult or unsafe access, Parks and Wildlife have installed ladders, handrails or other aids over the most difficult areas, whereas El Questro has relatively poor facilities and on the more difficult walks no “help” with any of the tricky parts which limits some of the walks to only the most adventurous and agile (K – luckily that included us!).

DSC_4596El Questro Gorge

It is disappointing that El Questro is now owned by an American resort conglomerate (it has in fact, changed hands four times in the last ten years), and you get the feeling that you are being fleeced at every turn. However, it seems to be exceptionally well run and well serviced and the staff were excellent, bordering on obsequious. We of course, slummed it in the campsite, whilst those paying $2000 a night flew over us no doubt with imperious superiority.

After setting up camp, we wandered up to the swimming hole, which was muddy and underwhelming compared to the crystal clear pools we were used to along the Gibb, then it was up to Saddleback Ridge to watch the sunset. A steep second gear low range crawl to share a local summit with about twenty or so other cars, most complete with bickies, cheese and happy hour drinks.

DSC_4545Saddleback Ridge wildlife.

DSC_4550View from Saddleback lookout at sunset.

The next morning, with an ambitious two gorge itinerary, we packed lunch, water and snacks and headed to El Questro gorge. This had a water crossing described as ‘deep’. It was about half a metre, and apparently swallows front number plates from those that favour excess pace over caution. We only managed El Questro gorge, a nine kilometre six hour walk that was a real treat. Narrow walls, a crystal clear creek broken up with pretty pools, one of which has a monster boulder blocking progress to the less agile or faint hearted.

DSC_4568El Questro falls – the top of the gorge walk.

 Livistona Palms run along the length, providing constant shade and a tropical feel. The gorge ends at a very pretty plunge pool complete with picture a perfect cascading water fall. It was here that we met our first Novocastrians for the whole trip (sorry but Nelson Bay and Singleton just doesn’t count). A family with kids about the same age as Sam and James. As these things usually go they live only two blocks from us in Turnbull St! Although they looked familiar we established we didn’t have any direct contact with each other at home – kids at different schools, soccer – yes but different age groups etc, dad’s both keen mountain bikers and regulars at Glenrock.

DSC_4563On the way back down the El Questro gorge.

The walk back down the gorge was as scenic as the trip up, perhaps even more so as the sun was higher overhead and the gorge was now in dappled sunlight. Kris reckoned that she had never walked anywhere prettier (hard to capture the true beauty in photos) and it was well worth the wade and boulder climb. It was 3pm before we got back to the truck so the second walk was canned much to the kids relief.

El Questro Gorge walkRunKeeper’s log of the walk  (K- yes, almost every walk is logged!)

As a treat after dinner, we popped in to the local restaurant for dessert. Next morning we visited Zebedee Springs, which, apart from someone nicking my beloved Leatherman whilst I was lounging in the 31 degree springs, was pleasant enough.


After a quick 30km drive, we picnicked on the lawns at the Emma Gorge Resort complex, also part of the El Questro complex. Emma gorge proper is a two kilometre walk to a huge deep pool with a lovely droplet waterfall. The water here was only 20 C, about 5 degrees cooler than every other gorge we’d swum in along the Gibb.


Flanked by Livistona Palms along the gorge walk.

DSC_4623Emma Gorge.

That night was our last, and we joined in with a table at the pub for a trivia night with some campers we met at Emma Gorge also doing ‘The Lap’. It was hosted by the local muso, who was a Novacastrian – which flavoured at least one question. Unfortunately we were pipped at the post after a “who am I” was needed to split the three teams tied in first place! The answer of Bert Newton clearly favoured our Grey Nomad competitors!

And with that the Gibb was finished for us – a big “tick” of our bucket list, and not one flat tyre!

Cockburn Ranges

To make sure we arrived at our next stop at El Questro nice and early, and to cross the mighty Pentacost River in the morning when the tide was lowest, we stayed at a free camp high on an escarpment overlooking the spectacular Cockburn Ranges. The other benefit was that this has the only mobile reception in the 800 odd kilometers between Derby and Kununurra – it has line of sight to Wyndham, with excellent signal for mobiles and internet. After watching the distant ranges light up with every colour of the sunset, we sat around the fire and watched the stars slowly emerge before we turned in.


Manning Gorge – Mt Barnett Roadhouse

We are pretty much half way along the GRR and are staying at Mt Barnett Station (Manning river/gorge/falls – campsite).  The campsite is along the river near a large clear swimming hole, complete with a lounging rock boulder in the middle and a four-seater dingy attached to ropes to ferry people across the river to the start of the gorge walk proper.  Every boys dream location. Oh and only a couple a small crocs (freshies) that kept to themselves far away down stream.

DSC_4480Playing on the ferry.

We snagged a site close to the water hole and spent the first afternoon just playing in the river.  The weather has been warm (about 31-33 degrees) so swimming is very enjoyable.  Luckily the water is not cold – sitting at a pleasant 25 degrees.

P1050790Camp JKSJ by night.


DSC_4388Waterhole at dawn.

After a quiet night we did the 7 kilometre return gorge walk the next morning trying to head out early to beat the heat because it is an hours walk across the plateau from the river to the falls.  We made it away by 8 am following the haphazard markers along the way.  It was a long hot walk but we were rewarded with beautiful falls and more swimming at the end of a steep climb down. Both Julian and James were eyeing off some keen rock jumpers and before too long James had done his first “jump” (after watching Dad). Needless to say it was not his last. Sam and I also enjoyed the water but without the thrills.

DCIM108GOPROJames never backs away from excitement even if it was “a bit scary”.

DSC_4414Manning Falls.



The Gibb is a funny place – so remote but there are just so many people either on their own traveling or in tour groups.  Luckily the tour groups seem to be on a pretty tight schedule so they are never allowed to stay very long and once they clear out it is a lot quieter again (apart from our noisy boys!).

It is spectacular scenery up here but it doesn’t call to me in the way I thought it might.  I think I am more a forest type of girl rather than Savannah. The walk back was not too bad thanks to a light breeze and wet gear from swimming.  It is not often you get to do a bush walk with swimming at both ends.  The afternoon was spent in the river with the boys “helping” everyone with the ferry crossing.

P1050791The beautiful swimming hole just 30m from our campsite.

It was another early start the next morning to drive to Adcock and Galvin Gorges before it got too hot.  Unfortunately we missed a turn off on the way in to Adcock Gorge and spent about an hour looking for the gorge before heading back out. The only benefit of this detour were meeting some grey nomads who’d lived in Kakadu for 12 years. They followed us on our exploratory walk at the end of the wrong turn and returned with spear heads and scraper stones from an aboriginal camp they’d spotted. They gave these to the boys – very cool. It was only on the way back to the main road that we spotted a rather faded wooden sign stuck up a tree saying “gorge left”, so off we went.  It turned out to be a short and scenic walk in with a deep waterhole surrounded by high cliffs, very peaceful and filled with beautiful birdsong.

DSC_4445Adcock Gorge.


The boys spotted some aboriginal artwork on the walls as well. Next stop was Galvin’s Gorge – much easier to find.  We passed a tour group heading out and luckily had it to ourselves for a while.  More artwork was spotted and this time we all enjoyed a shower under the falls before heading back to camp for a very late lunch and more afternoon swimming.

DSC_4456DSC_4466DSC_4460Views at Galvin’s Gorge (note the rock art in the bottom picture on the left).

The river/waterhole was so amazing we decided to spend another night to have a day relaxing (well catching up on jobs) without any excursions.  We can’t imagine many other places that would be as beautiful as this.

P1050781Further upstream of the “ferry” crossing.

Jules and I are so glad we have done this section of the Gibb. The roads have not been as rough as we thought they might be and the spectacular swimming holes have been beautiful.