Manning Gorge – Sun 7th Jun
The gorge itself is an easy few km from the campground. To get to the head of the trail you have to cross the river, with a tinny on a rope pulley providing endless entertainment.
Heading to the walk we bumped into another family travelling with SDEPS. Chris and Rachel, with their girls Rhiannon, Esther and Felicity. Hailing from the UK and shortly to return there, what better way to say goodbye to Australia than with a lap around.
The falls are a great swimming spot; wonderfully clear water with falls you can swim right under, for us this was arguably the pick of the swimmable gorges in the region.
The rocks to the side of the gorge are ideal for jumping, although we weren’t up for jumping off the top like the crazy French guys.
That night saw the first camp oven loaf of bread, cooked over the fire. Unfortunately no pictures, with our girls waiting to devour, plus Chris and Rachel’s alongside, it would have taken a very brave man to say “stop, I need a photo”
King Edward River – Mon 8th Jun
So far the road conditions had been pretty benign. Indeed, the crazy French guys were travelling in company with a Barina, although perhaps a little more slowly. The Kalumburu road saw the end of all that, being the worst road we have driven on so far. In places it was impossible to get above 15km/hr, in others you could do 70 through clenched teeth and hope the wing mirrors wouldn’t fall off.
The above was a moderate section just after Drysdale; unfortunately no photos of the roughest bits, I was concentrating on keeping my fillings in place.
Stopping briefly at Drysdale to refuel and get some laundry done it was interesting to hear the horror stories – pick of the bunch was a jeep needing 4 new shocks and a new axle, yes he bought a jeep…..
The landscape up here is best described as interesting places separated by long distances filled with grass and trees (and palm trees on the Mitchell Plateau). There are no grand sweeping vistas visible from the road, but it is special all the same.
The King Edward River campground is on the Mitchell Falls road a few km after the river crossing and boasts some of the newest toilets we have seen. Although somewhat perplexing was the disabled toilet at the head of a flight of steps.
With Rachel and Chris joining us, having dropped their Jayco at Drysdale, it was a great spot for a night around the fire.
Mitchell Falls – Tue 9th to Wed 10th Jun
We had always been concerned about this road. Dubbed the “worst road he had ever driven’’ by Daniel (Mission Trailers); we had imagined some terrible rock strewn, axle snapping stretch of corrugations. In the end it depends on where the grader is – in this case it hadn’t been anywhere near the Kalumburu road, but had just finished Mitchell so it was actually a relief to drive this stretch. In a few more weeks it could the opposite; luck of the draw.
The camp site is a mix of smaller side areas and larger areas taking multiple vehicles, with trees providing partial shade. Chris and Rachel, enjoying the extra speed not towing gave them, had arrived first and picked out a great little side area just big enough for 2 groups to set up next to the fire ring.
Also time for us to try out the second of the canvas panels we had had made up; this one provides extra shade across the back of the kitchen area.
As the name of the site implies there is only one reason to be here, Mitchell Falls, although the walk to them is also rather fun in its own right with several things to see along the way.
First up is Little Mertens Falls, whilst not huge there is a great view from the top plus you can walk behind the fall itself.
To the side of the fall is an overhang with a great example of Aboriginal rock art.
The walk then winds its way through the bush before descending into a river valley where it scrambles over boulders before you reach another overhang. Here there is a much greater concentration of rock art.
Shortly after this the trail crosses the top of Big Mertens Fall, where the river cascades into a narrow gorge. Its vertigo inducing just walking to the edge of the falls; the crazy French guys were back though, sitting on a rock ledge over a sheer precipice.
Finally you reach the main piece, Mitchell Falls. With water levels low it was possible to splash across the top of the falls to the other side, allowing a shortcut to the viewpoint where all 3 pools are visible. Even with low water (and there is talk the falls will run dry by the end of the season), the falls are spectacular.
Above the top fall is a scenic little swimming hole. Swimming in the lower pools is discouraged, fierce snake ancestors inhabit the middle pool and if you make it past those the lower pool is full of salties.
Drysdale Station – Thu 11th Jun
Time to face the Kalumburu road corrugations for a second time. Testing the theory that speed floats over the bumps was an Apollo hire van, impressive given their hire terms forbid taking them up this way.
At King Edward on the way out are more Aboriginal art sites, one with rather eerie alien like faces
Drysdale is the main station on the Kalumburu Road providing camping, fuel, basic supplies and a restaurant / bar. They do need to work on their curry though, it was rather a decent lamb stew. Sadly they don’t provide mechanical assistance, as Chris and Rachel were having problems with their car. Apparently the station stopped helping when someone threw it back in their face as a lawsuit, there are some real losers out there.
Home Valley Station – Fri 12th to Sat 13th Jun
It was a relief to get back onto the Gibb River Road and some semblance of a smooth surface. Actually the road was very good, the main risk being the twisty bends in various places, marked on a few occasions with burnt out toyotas
First stop along the way is Ellenbrae, home to both scones and a donkey heater shower. The scones were great, we didn’t stay so can’t comment on the shower – from comments on wikicamps it seems like it catches out many people.
Home Valley is also known as HV8 after its cattle brand, the 8 being harder to change than an S. Driving over the last rise on the way the countryside opens up with the Pentecost glistening in the valley and the Cockburn Range running along the eastern side
The station boats the best gate yet seen on this trip, looks like someone had a fair bit of time one wet and put it to good use
Aside from a pool the station also offers horse riding, fishing and walking. Camping is either at the homestead or down on the banks of the river. Charlotte was happy to get a ride in, and we were fortunate to watch a stock whip performance plus Polly the donkey.
Baldy’s Hill, a couple of km from the homestead, provides a decent view of the ranges; plus a local showing off on the rocks along the path. Thanks to Chris and Rachel for taking the photo, having arrived the day before in a shiny hire Pajero, complete with mine markings and orange light, whilst their car was taken to Kununurra for repair.
An added attraction was the Sandridge Band, an indigenous group which sets its songs to a rock & roll / reggae theme. Shame they thought loud meant better, although it made for an interesting night at the restaurant. Pick of the menu has to be the full rack of ribs, which at HV8 means both sides of the pig; it took an hour to consume, no bacon sandwiches required the next morning.