Sunday, 8 July 2012

Journey across the Kimberleys WA

One of Australia's amazing journeys is to travel across the Kimberleys on the Gibb River Road. The trek naturally starts from Kununurra,  which is in East Kimberley just inside Western Australia's border with the Northern Territory. Its a lovely outback town with a range of facilities making it a natural base to travel to the Ord River Region, Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park) or stock up before heading onto the journey across the Kimberleys to Broome.

Aboriginal rock art located west of Kununurru 
courtesy Tourism Western Australia

The first humans to inhabit the East Kimberley area were the Mirriwung Gajjerong people with signs of their habitation dating back 40-60,000 years ago.  Early European settlers took more than 3.5 years and suffered severe hardship to establish cattle stations in the area. They were lured by the belief that the area was fertile,no doubt due to the massive Ord River which is 320 kilometres long and has a catchment area of 46,100 square kilometres. 

Aboriginal rock art located west of Kununurru 
courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Damming the Ord created one of the main attractions of the area,  Lake Argyle, which is the largest man made lake in Australia. The Lake provides a range of activities including fishing, boating and the chance to see a range of birds and animals.  Another option is to take a scenic flight over the Lake often part of a scenic flight to the Bungle Bungles.

Ord River courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We then headed down the Great Northern Highway and then off-road  to Purnululu National Park where we camped for a number of days.  The Bungle Bungles were truly amazing from the ground and also from the air. We took a 20 minute helicopter flight from the NP and seeing them from the air provided a totally different insight into the beauty of these amazing sandstone structures.  Cathedral Gorge, took my breath away, the colours of Echinda Chasm and Piccaninny walk were also hightlights of our short stay. 

Bungle Bungles Purnululu National Park
 courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We returned to Kununurra for a night to stock up before heading west across the Kimberleys. Route choice will depend on the type of vehicle and whether you're towing a trailer or caravan with full off road capability. We were well equipped and towing a 4WD camper trailer so headed to the Gibb River Road as it enables you to experience a much larger range of gorges. Before heading out you should check the latest road conditions as they change regularly and the road is closed at times during the year.

We spent a number of nights at El Questro Wilderness Park which was a lovely spot to explore the many natural jewels the Park has to offer. We camped in the campgrounds so didn't experience the Homestead but I understand it is an amazing experience, but very expensive.

El Questro Homestead 
courtesy Tourism Western Australia

My favourite walk was the El Questro Trail a walk that  takes about 3 hours along a narrow creek, through fern clad escapements, at points wading through water and easy rock climbs to end at a stunning waterfall where we swam and relaxed before heading back to camp for the night. 

View from the Cockburn Range located on El Questro
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Another great activity is visiting Zebedee Springs which are natural thermal springs located after a short walk through dense tropical vegetation. Relaxing in the pools surrounded by sheer cliffs and palms was an refreshing experience.  Its a good idea to time your visit between the tour groups so you have a chance for quiet relaxation.

Zebedee Springs
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Taking a boat cruise of Chamberlain Gorge was another highlight of our visit. Surrounded by dramatic towering escarpments the Gorge can only be accessed by boat. Besides the natural beauty of the Gorge we saw a diverse range of wildlife including rock wallabies. Another great day making it difficult to leave El Questro Wilderness Park but the rest of the Kimberleys beckoned. 

Termite mounds courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We headed to Drysdale River Station on the Mitchell Plateau bound for Mitchell Falls. The Station was a big surprise, not only did it have a camp ground and showers but the pub served the most amazing burger. The Kimberley Burger made with Kimberley beef was served with the lot including beetroot, pineapple, lettuce, tomato and so much more that it needed a skewer to hold it in place.  

We headed from Drydale River Station to King Edward River to camp overnight before heading the next morning to Mitchell Falls. The road to the Falls was very slow going but the trip was worthwhile as the falls were stunning. We walked to the falls and then took a short helicopter flight back to the base which meant we enjoyed the falls from both perspectives.

The Mitchell River area is important for the Wunambal people who have lived there for thousands of years. The area is also rich in rock art sites many which have remained untouched for thousands of years.    We continued north on the Mitchell Plateau to Kalumburu the northern most aboriginal settlement in Australia. When we arrived at the general store the local children flocked around us, very friendly and wanting to know what footy team we barracked for!

Courtesy Tourism WA

We camped at a remote beach camp-site run by one of the Kalumburu families. Camping facilities were basic but it was amazing camping so close to the Timor Sea. Crocodiles could be seen swimming in the water just off shore so it certainly wasn't the type of beach where you would jump in for a swim! The traditional owner took us on a boat ride to obtain local oysters which were huge and delicious.

From the Mitchell Plateau we headed back to the Gibb River Road and spent a number of days visiting a range of Gorges including Barnett River Gorge (great waterhole for swimming),  Bells Gorge (our favourite), Tunnel Creek (make sure you have a good torch), Windjana Gorge (where dozens of fresh water crocodiles basked in the sun as we strolled alongside) before heading to Fitzroy Crossing and civilisation.

Windjana Gorge National Park
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

At Fitzroy Crossing we had a chance to restock and take a boat tour of Geikie Gorge. Our guide was a local aboriginal man who provided great insights into the area. The lands and valleys surrounding Fitzroy Crossing were home to the Bunuba, Gooiyandi, Nyigina and Walamakarri people.  The limestone was originally a reef formed by algae and lime secreting organism which are now extinct. The volume of water that flows through the Fitzroy River during the wet season must be amazing as indicated by the colour variations on the walls of the Gorge.

Geikie Gorge
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

From Fitzroy Crossing we headed along the highway to Derby which is located on tidal flats on the edge of King Sound.  A long jetty was constructed in 1885 to service the growing needs of nearby the farmers.  Due to the tidal flats the jetty extends a long way from the land. Fishing is popular and we purchased fish and chips from a shop located at the start of the jetty.

Boab Tree
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

The boab tree is a major attraction to the area. They are huge, interesting and at times have been used to house various things, the most famous being a prison boab used in the 1890's to lockup aboriginal prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing. 

From Derby we headed to the most western point of our journey Broome known for its  beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets.

Staircase to the Moon Roebuck Bay
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We camped at Roebuck Bay which is the only caravan park in Broome located on the beach.  Roebuck Bay is also famous for the staircase to the moon, which is a natural phenomenon that occurs between March and October when the full moon rises over exposed mud flats. We weren't lucky enough to see it but understand its a spectacular sight.

Camel ride at sunset Broome
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Cable Beach at sunset is the place to be, whether you're relaxing at the Sunset Bar at Cable Beach Resort, riding a camel or just sitting on the beach the sunsets are stunning. An amazing end to any day.

Gantheaume Point is also an spectacular spot to visit where the red cliffs meet the ocean and more than 120 million years ago dinosaurs roamed. Dinosaur footprints can been seen at very low tide, the reef area is fragile so care needs to be taken. Also at the Point is Anastasia's Pool a round pool built by a former lighthouse keeper who built it for his wife who was crippled by arthritis.

Broome has a rich pearling history you can buy pearls in various shops, or take a historic journey on a pearling lugger. Broome has many other attractions including fishing, diving and a Japanese cemetery.  Its an amazing town to spend a week or so relaxing after such an amazing journey.

1 comment:

  1. I really love the sites in there. The one that I really love in Broome is the fact that I really appreciate the view in there.