At 4:20am the alarm sounded. We were camped at Mitchell Falls Campground, and dingoes had been howling around the gorges throughout the night. The sky of Kimberley stars and dull glow of a campfire were the only light until slowly, one by one, we emerged from the dark with our headlamps lighting the way for our sleepy eyes.
WE ARE HERE
The night before, jokingly, it was suggested we get up early and hike to Mitchell Falls for sunrise. Pretty quickly that joke turned into a gentle tease and then a full on dare! We packed our backpacks and crawled into bed by 8:30pm to get some shut eye.
Punamii-Unpuu trail is a 8.6km return hike to Mitchell Falls, with a suggested walking time of 2.5hrs each way. By those statistics, when we eventually scoffed some breakfast and started hiking by 5am, we weren’t expecting to be at the Falls by sunrise. Hiking in the cool of the dark morning was a good enough payoff for us though. The hauntingly close sound of the dingoes faded with the stars and soon enough dawn was coming.
Just before 6am, as the sun was just about the pop, we’d reached what we thought was Big Merton Falls. Water flowed gently over the exposed rock, which were more visible than usual after a couple of ‘not very’ wet seasons. We marched on for another 15minutes and had suddenly reached the end of the path and the helipad zone. But there were no falls! Reassessing the trail map, we could see the end of the trail didn’t actually lead to the falls. In fact it appeared no tracks did!
The sun rose, so we stopped and enjoyed the moment, even if we couldn’t find the falls. With not another soul around, we snuck a look past the helipad into another deep gorge. As we explored we arrived at a cliff looking back towards what we had passed earlier thinking it was Big Merton Falls. Turns out, it wasn’t Big Merton Falls, but in fact Mitchell Falls! We’d found them!
We spent a good couple of hours enjoying the view, looking around and waiting for the sun to rise higher up, to light up the falls for a photo. By 9am when we finally started heading back to camp, it was hot! The first few other hikers were just reaching the end of the track to the Falls as we left.
In the light of the day we could see the wildflowers and water lilies opened up for the sun. Lizards and birds darted around, as we found some shelter across the river under a shady overhang where Michael spotted an Indigenous Art site. It was incredible. We only wish we could have understood its meaning and the story it told.
On our last stretch back to camp, we took the tiny detour down to Little Merton Falls to wash away the heat and sweat off our bodies. Unbeknown to us, after we’d already taken our dip, we were told that swimming in the pool below Little Merton Falls results in becoming pregnant! But don’t dismay, they are well equipped for the arrival, with a birthing pool above the falls. Hmmm, our next Ausventure could be interesting!
Our next blog will be from: Further North - Kalumburu and Welsh Point
Until our next update - see you on / off the road 😉
Cassie and Micky