Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Gibb River Gorge OR Mt Barnett Gorge.. Whichever takes your fancy.

Kimberley scenery with Cow.
We dusted ourselves off after the Mitchell Falls and hot footed it back down to the Gibb River Road, trusting that our bad luck and tough driving times were behind us. Low and behold, the second part of the Kalumbaru Rd down to the Gibb was freshly graded, giving the grader-driver a hero’s salute as we sped past. And the GRR itself was like a bitumen highway- honestly, it was a dream. We’d heard rumours that the Great Dirt Highway was getting ready to be sealed (gasp shock horror), and when we came upon some suspicious looking roadworks we asked whether this was the case. But no, dear reader, when you come to drive the GRR, most likely the only things that will be bitumened will be the jumpups, just like they are now.

Stone cairns mark the walking track at Barnett River Gorge- all placed by fellow travellers.
Big Boab tree.

Manning Gorge was our next big stop, but we’d decided to do a free camp on the way and had read in Lonely Planet that Barnett River Gorge was an awesome p;ace to do just that. We turned off the GRR and true to form the road deteriorated spectacularly. We bumped our way to the end, and found a peaceful little campground, already sporting a few campers, picked our spot, set up and decided to make our way up to the Barnett River Gorge (or Gibb River Gorge depending on which hand painted sign you wanted to go with).

Ill fated is probably putting it mildly when trying to label this little expedition. Caesar fell a metre down into the creek and scarred his clothes forever with red mud and other unidentifiable bits of crap. Speaking of poo, Marguerite decided that now, now, NOW was the time to do a bush toilet stop, and so I spent a frustrating 15 minutes trying to dig a hole to dispose of it. Finally, shoes on, kids ‘clean’ we took off, not really looking where we were going and followed about three cattle tracks in the wrong direction before turning around and finding the actual walking track, identifiable by the sign, clear footprints and car tracks(?!). The walk up to the gorge lookout was quite stunning in the afternoon light, but any thoughts of making it down for an actual swim were out of the question with Marguerite throwing a huge “I’m not walking” moment, the sun going down and then Caesar (followed closely by the rest of us) losing his shit altogether since it was 5pm. Goodness me!

Beautiful sunset over the Gibb/Barnett River Gorge.

Back at the Uys Huis, fire going, food in bellies, we looked up at the stars and sighed. Life was pretty good, despite all the tribulations which we look back on and laugh about. But with the tribulations and trials, comes also triumph, which we experienced in bucketfuls the next day.

Underneath all that dirt is my daughter.

The plan was to pack up the camper completely, walk up to the gorge, have a swim, maybe some lunch, then head back and drive down to the Barnett River Roadhouse (where rumour had it, there was fresh milk and vegetables) and the Manning River Campground.

Camp Uys Huis.
Solid advice.
Up we walked (45 minutes of rock hopping with a revived Marguerite) into the loveliest formation of rocks and water I’d ever seen. Objectively, it wasn’t a patch on the prettiness of Emma Gorge or Zebedee Springs, or the majesty of the Cockburn Ranges or the Mitchell Falls. But it was a gorge having one major positive feature that none of the others had thus far- it was devoid of people. Here was our Kimberley moment, the quiet of an ancient land, the colours of its rocks and flora, the essence of what travelling through this lauded Australian region is all about: here it was.
Gibb River Gorge from the lookout.

We swam in the cool waters, talked to the water goannas, marvelled at bonsai like figs growing out of the rock walls and fell in love. There were other people about, but only one family ventured in to the gorge, the rest walked to the lookout above us then turned around back to the car park. We even saw a bus of APT tourers swimming at the far end of the gorge, too lazy or time poor to walk any further.

Water goanna.
Looking up the Gibb River Gorge.

The Gibb River Gorge restored our faith in the route we’d chosen through the Kimberley. And I think it reinforces the position that quite often what you experience when you travel is 20% the place you’re in and 80% the attitude you have when you’re in it. Having learnt our lesson at Mitchell Falls, we’d given ourselves more leniencies in our itinerary and time to experience the incredible destinations we’d travelled all this way to. And our attitude shift had been rewarded instantly with the Kimberley revealing one of its shy jewels, a gorgeous gorge (sorry) just for us.

Here are the rest of the photos...
Our spot for the day.

Looking down the gorge.

Marguerite's cubby for the day.

Harassed water goanna.

An infinity rock pool we found up the gorge.

A little tree fairy.

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