NOW: Ellenbrae Station, Kalumburu to Bell Gorge
Between Home Valley and Ellenbrae Stations we saw three vehicles with flat tyres. So far we’ve kept all our tyres intact so fingers crossed. The road is very rocky and corrugated but we bought six new Cooper ST MAXX tyres in Adelaide so that all of our tyres on the road would be able to survive the road conditions. Luckily we made Ellenbrae without incident and in time for morning tea. There were plenty of roadside signs but we already knew of the legendary scones and cream at Ellenbrae!
After an overnight stop at Drysdale Station we continued to the Mitchell Falls Road. The corrugations had been pretty rugged but the Mitchell Falls Road almost rattled the dashboard into my lap. It even has an official sign that states the road is “unmaintained”. Just as well the camping area was worth the drive!
On the walking track into Mitchell Falls we met a botanist from the Sydney Botanic Gardens who was searching for a rare fig found only in this area. He gave us a description and we kept an eye out as we walked. We crossed Bid Merton Falls and continued across to Mitchell Falls for a swim in our own personal day spa.
On the return walk we took the track to Little Merton Falls and went behind the waterfall. There were several small fig trees here with serrated edges on their leaves. Was this the elusive fig the botanist was searching for? I took a leaf back with me. It wasn’t the tree he was searching for but he had found the rare specimen and my leaf was similar! There were Bradshaw and Wanjina art sights in this valley as well. It was very hot and we had to run the generator all day to keep the freezer cold and charge up our batteries. It is July but the temperature keeps reaching over 30 degrees every day with little relief overnight.
We survived the unmaintained Mitchell Falls Road with our next stop Munurru Conservation Park on the King Edward River. The Aboriginal art sights here included a burial chamber in the rock as well as Bradshaw and Wanjina paintings. It was at one of the art sights that we discovered the four year old rear shocks on our Pajero had had enough and given up on us. I boiled the billy while David got on the sat phone to find a pair of shocks in Kununurra. After a few minutes we’d bought the shocks and Shoal Air were flying them to Kalumburu for us.
Back on the main road north we found the road reasonable until 20 kilometres from Kalumburu when the track just turned to rocks. We actually thought we must have missed a turn but no, this was the road. Our shock absorbers arrived in Kalumburu so with new shocks and fresh vegies from the local store we headed up to Honeymoon Bay and the Arafura Sea. We’ve now travelled from Ceduna on the Southern Ocean all the way to the Arafura Sea in the north and mostly on the dirt! PHEW!
At Honeymoon Bay we took a fishing charter with Les who has lived his whole life here so knows the where the fish are in his backyard. After catching the live bait we all caught our three saddle tail snapper in an hour and a half and cruised back to the beach. THAT’S MY KIND OF FISHING!
We had our fish whole and as crumbed fillets and both were delicious. We just needed some potatoes for chips so back to Kalumburu to meet the barge which arrives on Mondays with supplies, including potatoes. Cash in the teller machine however is a different story and runs out by 9.00am most days. On our drive back down to Drysdale Station I noticed the smell of hot shock absorber oil again. This time the corrugations have had their way with the shocks on the Tvan which surprised us and the guys at Track. We phoned to have new shocks sent to Broome Post Office for when we got down there and so had several other people. This road was certainly giving everyone some problems but all our tyres are still intact. The camp ground stories are all about road conditions, flat tyres, shocks and back doors that won’t open. This is one wild old ride!
At Mount Barnett Roadhouse we went out to Manning Gorge where you haul yourself across the river in a tinny so that you stay dry for the walk into the gorge. Mind you it was a leaky boat so we sat on the side for the crossing! Only in WA does a walking track include cliff climbing. We couldn’t find the track down to the falls and swimming hole until we realised you really did slide down the rock face while holding on with your finger tips.
Once we’d hauled ourselves back across the river at the end of our walk we left the backpacks and boots on the sand and had another swim to cool down again. We haven’t done so much fresh water swimming for a long time. Now our back door on the Pajero won’t open! After some heavy lifting we got it open, hosed out the dirt and realigned the hinges. The biggest challenge was being brave enough to close it in case it got stuck again!
While we were enjoying the warm winter weather we stopped for more fresh water swimming at Galvan and Adcock Gorges. After an ice cream stop at Imitji Store we collected firewood for a campfire at Silent Grove. We had a Track gathering here with three TVans and a Topaz choosing the same spot in the campground.
With the pool noodle attached to my backpack we walked into Bell Gorge on a stairway track into a deep swimming hole. We are really glad we are seeing this part of Australia before we turn 70 because the walking tracks are as interesting and challenging as the roads.
NEXT: WINDJANA GORGE, TUNNEL CREEK AND FITZROY CROSSING
See you on the emu track
Cheryl and David