We departed Manning Gorge on the 10th June and pointed the car in the direction of Silent Grove. Along the way we did a quick stopover at Galvins Gorge which is a short 1.5km walk from the road in. It was very peaceful, the water was cool and clear. A swim would have been nice but we didn’t have one, not sure if you can and we wanted to get to Silent Grove. The roads had improved since Ellenbrae much to our pleasure, we had no further problems with the car or trailer.
Silent Grove is run by the National Parks, fees are $12 per night per person and a $12 vehicle fee also has to be paid. The campgrounds are very spacious, plenty of trees, with a generator area separate from the quiet area where we camped. Showers blocks have about four showers in each and toilet cubicles are seperate in single blocks. All were very clean. The water is fresh spring water from a little Spring just near the campgrounds. We still boiled it up before use, just in case. It was hot and a little dusty when we set up but we had some shade. There is no power here at all so solar was very popular. We once again ran into our fellow Albion Park friends, Gaye and Richard, which was lovely, and also Marco and Donna from Mareeba whom we had met at El Q. Small world really. This place had a lovely ambience about it, there were lots of campers both nights we were there but it wasn’t a noisy place. Everyone was generally in bed before 9.30 and up early in the mornings with the sun searing through.
Morris camp at Silent Grove, Murray relaxing.
Bell Gorge is about a 10km drive on a not so rough but dusty road. It is a forty five minute walk into the gorge and to the waterfalls, but it is so well worth it. We began at 7.30 because it was going to be another hot day. A tough walk in places with a water crossing that was a little slipperyin places, we wore our wet shoes through here because there we no stones out of the water so we were bound to get wet feet. There were places along the edges of cliffs where I was hanging on tight with my little fingers. I also had to sit and bum shuffle over some large boulders and squeeze through some more narrow areas but I did it with Murray encouraging me all the way.
When we reached the top of the gorge and climbed down into the swimming area it was absolutley breathtaking. A picturesque place indeed. Once again fresh clear water, it was a little colder that any other hole we had swam in to date. It was only us there for a short time and it was so peaceful away from the world. After a swim, we enjoyed our oranges and a rest, then headed off on the climb back out. What an accomplishment I felt we had achieved. I was pretty proud of myself this day, pushing myself to do something that I wouldn’t normally do as this was harder than other gorges we had done. Murray was impressed with me too because I didn’t back down from the challenge.
In camp later that afternoon we spent a pleasant happy hour with Gaye and Richard and after dinner sat around a campfire with our neighbours enjoying some more company of fellow travellers. We would highly recommend Silent Grove and Bell Gorge.
On we travelled the next day, 12th June, to Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge, located in the heart of the King Leopold Range Conservation Park where the rock formations were now black dolerite, no longer red ranges. The camp here was another bush camp set on the banks of the Barker River, with spacious camp spots, all unpowered, and clean, roomy ammenities. The drive in is fifty kilometres off the main road with about seventeen creek and river crossings of which eight were wet. We stopped along the road to get firewood as we wanted to do our curry in our camp oven for dinner even though it was too hot to enjoy a fire still. Murray got the coals just right and put them in the hole he had dug, we popped our oven on top, covered it in coals and waited. It smelt fantastic and tasted even better when we sat down to enjoy it that evening.
It was a very peaceful camp the first night as there were only six lots of campers, possibly due to the long drive in off the main road. The only annoying thing was the amount of flies which we had not had anywhere else. We finally met a couple we had seen at Silent Grove, Michael and Karen, they were lovely and were travelling our direction after this too. That evening a young couple pulled in just near us. We began to chat and found out they were from Orange. Their names were Brittney and Mitchell, they had a little girl Addy. Turns out they know my cousin Mark’s daughter Liz and also his son Ben. The world just got smaller. Wow, fancy meeting someone who knows my family all the way across the other side of the country.
There are a few swimming holes at Mt Hart such as:- Annie’s Gorge which is only a little plunge pool but quite pretty; Mt Matthew Gorge, a twenty minute walk along a dry rocky creek bed which you follow upstream, a bit of rock climbing till you reach the waterfall and waterhole, this was very pretty; Barker Pools where you can swim and fish, only a fifteen minute drive from camp. We didn’t swim in any of the waterholes as I didn’t find them too inviting, they weren’t as clear as the ones we had been used to.
On the evening of the 13th we had booked dinner at the restaurant up at the homestead. We took the trip across the airstrip and up the hills, about 1.7kms, to the sunset viewing area on Sunset Hill. Another sunset, I know, but it was a lovely spot with a beautiful outlook over the Station. While there we met Kay and Rod, Kevin and Evelyn from Perth and shared happy hour and a stunning part of the day.
At dinner we joined this same group of friendly people and had a scrumptious meal cooked by Chef Brad, served by Roberta and Marcus. Starter was homemade ciabatta with fresh chilli and lime hummus. Entree was pea and ham soup, not usually my fave but I enjoyed it. Main was lamb roast with all the trimmings including fresh mint sauce. Dessert was cinnamon tea cake, stewed pears and vanilla bean egg custard. Mmmmm. We were so full but satisfied. When we returned to our camp we found that the traditional owners of the land had moved in for the night and there were plenty of them, but they didn’t cause us any angst.
Windjana Gorge is about 86kms from Mt Hart turnoff. Our plan was to spend two nights here which we did. As we headed towards Windjana we passed through Queen Victoria’s Head and the Napier Ranges. Wow, what stunning rock formations and colours. the road into Windjana is quite corrugated and unrelenting to some poor people though.
Just when you when think you’ve seen every rock formation there can be, up pops the stunning walls of Windjana. Black, red, orange the colours take your breath away. Massive walls of rock all the way to the sky, almost. The campgrounds here were the same as Silent Grove with the same prices as they’re run also by National Parks. They have two completely separate areas for generators and quiet camping with a day area in between so you don’t even hear the noise from the generator camp. Still warm so it was great to have some shade for at least half a day, need it to top up solar.
Camp at Windjana.
After a cuppa we headed to the gorge for a look as it was only a fifteen minute walk from our campground to the beach within the gorge. The full gorge walk of 3.5kms is not totally open at the moment, not sure why, but we enjoyed the trek in along the Time Walk which takes a look at marine life forms fossilised within the limestone of the gorge walls. We saw some sort of fossilised fish from the Devonian times preserved in the limestone walls as we passed through. It was interesting for children to see. This gorge has been carved by the floodwaters of the Lenard River through the Napier Range. The walls look so smooth but when you feel them they’re rougher than you realise. Freshwater crocodiles are abundant here as are their food the Archer fish. On our first afternoon, around 4ish when we returned from Tunnel Creek we only caught a few freshies lolling in the water. Would have to come back in the morning.
Tunnel Creek was something you could do at anytime of day so we headed out after setting up to tackle it. It was a rough drive out along many corrugations. I wasn’t too sure of this walk as it was in the dark of a tunnel and it was in water. We had bought our wet shoes to do this one so I thought I might as well give it a go. Luckily for me some of the water wasn’t more than knee deep, on me, shins on others, the rest was lucky to be ankle deep mostly. The tunnel is up to 12 metres high and 15 metres wide in parts and at the centre the roof has partially collapsed and is where the fruit bats often take roost. It is not possible to do this walk in the wet season. Murray had his headlamp on and I had my trusty torch, or so I thought. As we found on our walk through there are a few little freshwater crocs but they are more scared of you than the likelihood to bite someone. I wasn’t taking my chances though so I hurried through each section. After walking through the deepest section Murray says to me did I see that little fellow over there and sure enough he got it on camera. I didn’t think it was too little. Then as we looked around we could see many little red eyes in the dark looking back at us. Glad I hadn’t realised earlier. On our return to the beginning, our now exit my torch went dead, which did not impress me at all. I took the headlamp and semi led the way for Murray. When all is said and done I actually did enjoy myself in there, it was a different feeling, I would t say an easy one. I was glad to get back out into the sunlight at the end though and back to the car although it was cooler in the tunnel.
Windjana never ceased to amaze me. Not just because of the colours and look of the rock formations but the serenity of the place. It is just so peaceful. You feel like you are on another planet away from anything with not a care in the world. Just you, the peace and the crocs, which I might say were numerous when we returned the next morning to see them, around nine. They were beginning to surface on top of the water and some on the banks of the river, and as the day went on they came out in their numbers. We returned to the beach at oneish, after lunch, and I counted around 150 then struggled to keep count. They were everywhere along the banks, surfacing all the time from the water. You’d see bubbles then pop another one had appeared. Watching them was so relaxing as they weren’t worried about you and if you keep your distance you haven’t got to worry about them either. We could have stayed the forever watching them. Spectacular. Exhilarating. My heart was pounding being so close to these beasts of time.
Once again we had made friends with new people and met up with others we had already met along our travels, Michael and Karen from Silent Grove, Marcus and Donna from El Q. On our last trek into the gorge we ran into another couple from Orange with three children, who turned out to live at Nashdale and she was Erica from Nashdale Hall, there goes that world again getting smaller everyday lately. Our neighbours, Theresa and Mick, were there the two nights, they were lovely and made our nights more pleasant with our chats and laughs.
After two magical nights and days at Windjana we were heading to Derby where we desperately needed to restock our fridge and pantry, we were out of fruit and veg, without these essentials life isn’t the same. It is an accomplishment to have driven this road and survived, we have evidence of that.
Done and dusted, I should say dusty. Lol
When we reached Derby we got reception and found out our friends Kay and Ian were in Derby too so we met up with them and had a most enjoyable lunch at The Kettle Cafe. As we had a few days to kill before we needed to be back in Derby for our treat on the 21st we decided to head to Broome for a few nights.
Ian was pretty chuffed with the presentation of his sausage roll.