Thursday, 18 July 2013

Halls Creek

Halls Creek

Isobel told the lady filling up our car (no self service in these parts) that we owned this town because we were Halls. The lady thought this was really funny (thankfully).  We’ve got the obligatory photo of the four Halls in front of ‘their’ town sign!

We got to Halls Creek by lunch and went straight to the art gallery where we knew they were having an open day with a  free lunch!  Lunch was a choice of BBQ roo tail, kangaroo kebabs and kangaroo stew with rice. I had the stew and it was delicious.  I didn’t really like the roo tail but Simon enjoyed it. 

In our short visit, we even managed to catch up with Lew Morris (Uncle Stu’s dad) which was lovely.  We got to see photos of Hamish and swap stories. He’s in Halls Creek for 6 weeks doing some GP locum work.

Some of the local kids were painting on canvases and I asked about it.  Yes, our kids to join in too because it’s all about sharing culture and stories. Our kids had a great afternoon painting on canvas and boab nuts. Fortunately we’d only just decided when we arrived in town rather than hurtling through to get to the Bungle Bungle that afternoon we thought we’d freecamp out of town to give the kids a chance to make some craft for the Kununurra Show.  And because of this decision, we were free to be able to make the most of being at Halls Creek, during NAIDOC week, and joining in such a great day.  

It's a nice little town - it even has a bakery!  I was amazed to see one of supermarkets (it had more than one!) sold squid ink linguine.  Extraordinary.  Most people say to avoid it if you can, but we enjoyed our visit here.  

We camped about 100 km north of Halls Creek beside a dry creek next to the highway.  The scenery around here is just beautiful. And we had mobile reception which was bizarre.  We stayed here two nights and that’s where Simon began to feel unwell.  Packing up this tent is hard work on your own and I can’t do it all on my own either. I convinced Simon to stay in bed and did as much as I  could but need him to help actually fold the roof over and lock it in.  It’s a big, heavy thing and this is it’s biggest drawback.

I drove to Lake Argyle, the other side of Kununurra and I reckon it’s one of the best drives we’ve done on this trip. The scenery and the ranges were just breathtaking.  This East Kimberley, for me at least, is much more stunning than the West Kimberley.  The King Leopold Ranges might be part of a conservation park but the Carr Boyd Ranges and others were just staggering.  My opinion of the Kimberley is changing because of this area – it’s now on a par with the Pilbara! 

Wolfe Creek

Wolfe Creek

Our itinerary keeps changing on a daily sometimes hourly basis.  Because we’re running short of time I kept trying to persuade Hugo NOT to see Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater.  But he was steadfast he wanted to see it.  So late in the afternoon we headed down the Tanami Road and didn’t reach the campground till long after dark.  Shame because what we saw in the setting sun was magnificent country.

It was cold that night and early in the morning  - freezing in fact.  We all needed our jumpers on to go exploring the crater.  You could see the crater wall easily from our tent and it’s a reasonably gentle slope. So I was amazed when we reached the rim to see how steep it was down the inside of the crater. 

Wow.  This was impressive and well worth seeing! We loved it.  A meteorite hit the earth a long time ago and it really does look like something big has whacked into it.  It’s the second largest meteorite crater in the world.  The Walmajarri people have known about it for a long time and one of their creation stories is based on this.  We clambered down the side and into the centre of the crater and looked all around us.  Such a site! Thanks for taking us there Hugo. 

PS Now that we've been there it's now probably OK for Simon and I to watch the movie. We've never seen it. 

Life is a highway – Fitzroy Crossing

3 July for 5 nights

“I like sealed roads,” Hugo said when we were travelling on the sealed highway from Derby to Fitzroy Crossing. We all do!  We’ll never take them for granted again – until we’ve been back in the burbs for at least a month that is.

We decided to take the longer, but quicker route to Kununurra via the Great Northern Highway.  So we popped back in at Fitzroy Crossing to do our washing, see our friends and have a much needed rest.  Our two night stop became longer when we found out the rodeo and campdraft was on over the weekend.  How could we move on and miss out on something like that?

It turned out to be a big blessing in disguise. I didn’t realize how much R&R the family needed after our weeks of sickness along the Gibb River Road and Otto’s misadventure including a flying doc trip and another hospital stay. One day I can’t even recall what I did, so I must’ve just sat and rested.

The rodeo was fantastic fun.  We got there late on a Saturday afternoon and saw the finals of the campdraft (a bit underwhelming) and the first round of the open bull-riding.  Most of the crowd were Aboriginal with just a handful of white people. This is why we love Fitzroy Crossing.  All the locals knew to bring their cars around to the rodeo ring and to sit on the roof, in the boot, wherever to get a decent view. 

The kids started playing ‘gun gun’ with some local boys who had bought a show bag full of machine guns, grenades and other types of warfare.  So they were running around out the back having a ball while we watched the rodeo.

We found a gorgeous cowgirl hat for Isobel at a reasonable price so she was super happy.  We missed the final few bullrides as the sun had set and it immediately turns cold now and we didn’t have jumpers. But it was a real hoot!

Sunday morning was the start of NAIDOC week. The Crossing Inn had a market on and a flag raising ceremony set for 10am. The market was tiny so we went around the back to have a family pancake breakfast - $35 for all of us to get a stack of pancakes with berries and maple syrup while sitting next to a banana tree. Fitzroy Crossing was full of surprises! 

We caught up with Tom and Emma again and then again at the rodeo later that day.  There were lots more white people at the rodeo on Sunday (bit disappointing really) and this time they’d dragged two grandstands in so there were some seating options. 

I was sitting among a group of older and middle-aged Aboriginal women and felt so lucky to be sitting right next to a wonderfully fun woman called Cissy. I think she’s a Goondiyandi woman – at least she lives in their country at Mindi Caves.  She was a great spectator and oohed and ahhed at everything and would grab my hand or arm and laugh when the men jumped off their horse and completely missed the cow they were meant to be wrestling to the ground.  Her nephew was out their bull-riding too.  It was a perfect spot for me to sit! 

Behind Hugo and Simon sat a man with a real presence.  Our friend Tom told us he was Mervyn Street a well-known community leader and artist in Fitzroy Crossing.  I’ve got a book that includes some of his artwork and he was the chair of Mangkaja at the time they celebrated their 21st; and another book that shares some of his stories and shows an amazing mural he’d made that adorned the supermarket until it burnt down. 

Melko, Hugo’s new friend, found him quickly and asked if he wanted to play ‘gun gun’ again so off all three kids went with knives, guns and grenades.  Geez.

We saw bronc riding, more bull riding and steer wrestling.  It was a great day but marred when one of the clowns got injured.  We farewelled our friends Em and Tom as they were leaving town that afternoon to continue travelling, and we had an early night to head off the next morning.

Again, Fitzroy Crossing was a great experience because of the people we talked with and saw, our friends, the events on and just its very friendly community.  I wrote down all the paintings I love so I wouldn’t mind flying in to Broome just to go and buy some paintings from there when I’m working again.  I love them!

A flight out at night

1 July 2013

As we’ve been travelling we regularly read Alison Lester’s fantastic children’s book about a family travelling around Australia called “Are we there yet?”.  When we were in Streaky Bay the kids HAD to stick their head in the jaws of the shark because that’s what the kids do in the book.  We went snorkeling at Turquoise Bay and Isobel has been nagging us for a cowgirl hat for ages and I’m pretty sure it’s because Gracie got one. 

Well there’s a page where they see an RFDS plane flying off and they make up stories about what happened.  I think we’ve been following the book too closely as we didn’t need to invent a story – we got to experience it for real.  Not an adventure we really needed.

The Kalumburu Road down to Gibb River is probably only 300km but it’s possibly one of the worst corrugated roads we’ve travelled on this trip.  The nurse had said Otto needed rest and plenty of water so in my head, I was thinking he could rest in the car – not really taking into account the road.  He did sleep but I think the corrugations were probably the reason we had to use the sat phone to call the RFDS (thankfully HEMA map of the Kimberley had their phone number printed on it). In hindsight, I think those bumps caused Otto’s seat belts to rub on his swollen glands and resulted in a stiff neck. But we weren’t to know that at the time.

They rang around stations and found that the Gibb River Station only 30-40km away could light up their runway to do a night landing. We did our first night drive in ages to get there and were surprised to see a really big Aboriginal community complete with their own community nurse AND street lights.  Talk about surprising! 

She was lovely, we went to her clinic, pulled all the fleeces and warm clothes down from the roof as our t-shirt and shorts couldn’t cope with this kind of night-time cold. Before we knew it we were being shown to the airstrip where two community members had laid out all the lights for the plane to land safely.

Here we were, under an enormous dark, twinkling sky shivering in the cold waiting for a plane to land.  When we heard the plane and saw its lights in the distance it felt really surreal to think they were coming  to help our little Otto – a pilot, nurse and doctor and three lovely people on the ground all helping too.

The plane landed in quite a dramatic way!  It pulled up in less than 100 m in a cloud of dust which we could see although it was pitch black.  Thankfully the take off wasn’t that exciting nor the landing on the tarmac at Broome.  The plane was tiny.  They had about 3 single seats, and a stretcher down the length of one whole side.  I sat down on it (they brought the seat up for me so I was semi-reclined) and strapped me in with a big sash belt.  Then they put a harness thing over my belly and then really strapped Otto into that.  Over our lap were lots of machines that went ping but thankfully we didn’t need any of them.

The nurse sat across from us and facing us so she could do all of Otto’s obs while we were on the flight.  The doctor sat right behind us (facing forward though) behind the pilot and there really wasn’t room for much else.  We all got weighed including our backpacks and water before we hopped on the helicopter a few days earlier so that was helpful as I could tell the doctor on the phone before they took off exactly how much Otto and I weighed.  This is crucial for them to know given how small the plane is and how much stuff they already have in it.

As the plane took off I could see three 4WDs beside the runway and felt so sad to be leaving behind my rock, Simon, and Hugo and Isobel.  We haven’t been separated much on this trip and when we have, I really feel it. The nurse and I talked for some of the way but then I collapsed into sleep. The plane took off at 10 pm and it was a 75 minute flight to Broome.  We are usually in bed around 7pm, and 8pm is a late one so I was exhausted.

The community nurse had offered for Simon and the kids to stay there the night which was really generous but Simon drove back to camp. Must’ve been a hard drive. I think he got home around the same time we touched down in Broome. 

A volunteer ambulance driver met us on the runway with a paid paramedic.  Volunteers are so important in non-metropolitan areas – everything would collapse without them.  They did a handover from the RFDS staff and took us to the hospital. By this time I’d heard the flying doc on the phone to the hospital when we touched down to say there was no need to call the pediatricians out of bed as Otto’s obs were all good.  The best indicator that he didn’t have meningitis is that he didn’t have any light sensitivity or rashes on his stomach, bottom or feet.

A lovely nurse and doctor looked after us in Emergency and poor Otto got woken again for about the third or fourth time that night for their examinations!  He then take ages to go to sleep.  Finally at about 2pm we got onto the ward and 45 minutes my bed was made, lights went off and we could both collapse into sleep.

We had a single room, much bigger than the room at PMH in Perth. The paediatric ward in Broome is only 12 months old and is beautiful, functional and designed really well.  I LOVED the shower the next morning and the convenience of having it as an ensuite. What a treat!

They looked after us beautifully. Unlike at PMH I was given a meal along with Otto which was a relief as I discovered during the day I couldn’t buy anything at the hospital – no little kiosk even and a bit of a walk to the nearest shops.  I had taken only $50 cash and some phone cards to make calls; but no credit card. What a mistake!  I couldn’t add more credit on the phone cards without a credit card, couldn’t book a bus ticket – nothing.

Two lovely, young female paediatricians came into examine Otto just when Playschool began!  What bad time. It’s the only show he loves to watch, he hadn’t seen it for months and wasn’t very compliant with them because all he wanted to do was watch tele.  Poor thing. 

He was really bright by now, he hadn’t had a temperature since I’d phoned the RFDS the night before and after a pretty thorough physical examination they ruled out meningitis and said it was probably a virus causing problems in the upper respiratory tract and he had some slightly swollen glands. He had been complaining of a sore neck over the weekend but I thought that as his language skills are still developing, he was actually referring to a sore throat. This was similar to the symptoms Hugo had had so I didn’t think for a minute it was a sore neck until on the Monday night he wouldn’t turn his neck left or right and lay down in a way that didn’t require his neck to strain at all. 

Anyway, they said we could be discharged immediately.  Best outcome we could’ve had really – except that Simon and the kids were about 700 km away from us! 

I had told Simon I’d leave him a message at the Imintji Store that morning.  But as I had quite a lot to share, I had to resort to writing it all down and sending a fax!  How old fashioned!  We then had a few phone conversations, always so happy to hear Simon’s voice on the phone, and we decided the best thing for the whole family was for Simon and the kids to get to Derby and set up there.  Otto and I would catch the Greyhound bus that night from Broome and meet them there saving Simon an extra 200km of driving that day PLUS the stress of trying to find a campsite in Broome in peak season.

Otto and I had a yummy lunch and I felt so exhausted I lay down on his bed while he sat up and watched television and I fell asleep.  At some point I remember him snuggling down and sleeping too.  I think I was asleep for more than 1 hour and when I woke felt so amazed with the staff there.  They needed our room but didn’t want to disturb me so waited until we both woke up naturally.  Amazing!

We read lots of books together and Otto enjoyed playing in the lovely play space they had – both an inside and outside space. The parents lounge was lovely and spacious and looked out over the outdoor play space – so different to PMH in Perth! 

The nurse even ordered an early dinner for us both, and the Aboriginal Liaison Officer drove us from the hospital to the bus stop. We were so well cared for at the Broome Hospital – and not just clinically!  So important.

Otto fell asleep in his bus seat with his lap sash on before we even left the town limits of Broome. So I sat him on my lap and cuddled him all the way to Derby – about 2.5 hours away by bus.  I was never so happy to see Simon when he boarded the bus to help me off…we all had so much to talk about even though we’d been apart for less than 24 hours! 

While the others were still talking I climbed into bed and fell asleep.  What a journey! 

And that was the rather abrupt end to us travelling down the Gibb River Road. 

PS Seems Otto picks his days for major drama.  On my Mum's birthday he got burnt and on my sister's birthday he got flown out by the RFDS. 

Kalumburu – on the coast again

 28 June – 1 July

Simon used our sat phone a few times the day we left Mitchell Falls to try to talk to his mum for her 70th birthday. But she was never home! 

We got to Kalumburu before the shops closed on a Friday afternoon so we could re-stock and buy the necessary permit. 

We met a lovely gentleman outside the community store and chatted to him for about 5 minutes. As he talked and told us about growing up in the mission with his mother because his father had died in an aeroplane crash I realised I’d read about his dad in one of the Magabala books I was reading.  To confirm it all, I introduced myself and he told us he was Clement.  A ha.  It was the same story.  We felt really privileged to have met him, heard some of his stories, and been greeted so warmly and openly by him.  Thanks Clement.

We’re used to these little sandy tracks that take us to our next home and tend to take them for granted when we shouldn’t. We found Honeymoon Bay and it was so lovely to see the coast again.  Such a beautiful part of the world.

Honeymoon is also one of the highlights of our trips thanks largely to Lancho and his lovely family.  Lancho is the most relaxed and patient person we’ve met on the trip we reckon. On Sunday Hugo and Simon (and Isobel to begin with) made spears. It took them a good solid 6 hours from the time they went into the bush to get some decent saplings, to the time they were finished. I had no idea it would take that long. 

Hugo’s instructions for spear-making:

1.     Cut down a good-sized sapling.
2.     Hammer the bark off the sapling.
3.     Chop off all the bad bits such as dead wood and little knobbly bits.
4.     Straighten it in the fire.
5.     Place a metal rod in the fire for a few minutes.
6.     Cut the end of the spear to make a point but make sure it’s not sharp.
7.     Burn a groove into the end of the spear with the hot metal rod, use a hammer to press it into the wood as it will be HOT.
8.     Let the rod cool down.
9.     Do some kind of fancy knot to tie the rod into the groove you’ve made so the rod becomes part of your spear.
10. File the end of the metal rod so it’s sharp and pointy.

After tea Simon and Hugo went out with Lancho and 6 kids to the beach to go mud-crabbing.  They speared two good-sized mud crabs – we cooked up one and they cooked up the other. 

Unfortunately Otto got sick while here and he had temperatures on and off all weekend.  We could’ve stayed there much, much longer but we were running short on supplies and with Otto not well we decided to high-tail it to Kununurra after a brief stop at yet another health clinic!  Both Otto and Isobel went to see nurses at the Kalumburu Health Clinic – Otto for his temps and Isobel for her eye after some dust got in it and irritated it. Feels like we're doing a full inspection of all of WA's health services.

Mitchell Plateau and Falls

Around 25 June for 3 nights

I was over being sick, having a sick family and being in a remote place.  At lunch (Drysdale river Station does the best burgers!) I said, “hands up if you want to just head to Kununurra, (just me), hands up if you want to go to Mitchell Falls.” I was out-voted.  So glad I was as this part of the trip was the highlight!

We camped beside the King Edward River which was a beautiful campsite next to a beautiful stretch of river.  We contemplated staying here and doing a day trip to Mitchell Falls but we’re glad we pushed on. Although the campground at Mitchell Falls wasn’t as nice as King Edward River it was lovely to rush our walk to the Mitchell Falls.

While lots of people told us how great the Mitchell Falls were, we hadn’t heard anything about the drive there.  So we were staggered when we were on the Mitchell Plateau that we drove through at least 50km of palm forest.  Not rainforest, palm forest where the only tree you see was the livastonia palms.  It was a magnificent forest; one I’ll always remember.

As Hugo had been so sick, and as people had told us the walk was long and hard, we decided to fork out money and come back in a helicopter from the falls.  This decision meant we wouldn’t be taking to the air for the 6 minute flight above the famous bee-shaped domes at Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle).

The walk was just beautiful, easy and thoroughly enjoyable. Just 20 minutes into the walk (for us, with a recalcitrant 3 yo) were the beautiful Little Mertens Falls.  Anywhere else along the Gibb, this would be a place to stop in its own right.  The falls dropped down into a big water hole but the best bit was that Isobel got to realize her dream.  There’s a path half way down the hill that takes you over and under rocks to get in behind the waterfall and in a cave.  AND the cave is filled with amazing Aboriginal art!!  How special was this place.

Maiden hair ferns grew in the cave, you could get the cooling mist of the water fall and I took a really special photo of Isobel.  She went out further than anyone else, drank in the view and experience and then did a naturally big sigh, “I’m here.”  It was beautiful to watch her have this moment of accomplishment and joy without her knowing she was being observed.

Of course the perfect moment was shattered less than a minute later!  A misunderstanding between Simon and Isobel ended in shouting and tears.  Oh well.

Just downstream was another picturesque swimming hole and across the river was more Aboriginal rock art.  We should’ve rockhopped across the river rather than just being content with seeing it from the opposite bank.  There was a painting of a thylacine there!  Fortunately someone has told us we’ll see a thylacine painted at Ubirr at Kakadu too. Phew.

From here Big Mertens Falls dropped into a mouth-dropping gorge.  A “Mothers -hold –your- kids- hands, kind of drop.  It was simply spectacular.  We sat down on a rock, ate our mandarines and apples and just enjoyed the site.  It looked ancient and you could just see the Mitchell River at the mouth of the gorge. 

Before we knew it we were at the ‘big’ one!  Simon went exploring to get a view of the top of the Mitchell Falls and called us over when he realised it was all safe and easy.  We were there in late June but the power of the water was still something to behold.  There was a swollen, dead kangaroo in the second pool just doing circles because of the white water and currents – it wasn’t going over the edge any time soon.

We crossed the river carefully as it’s a pretty strong current, and then checked out some more vantage points of the falls. Spectacular. 

Before we knew it, it was 1.30pm and we were lined up watching our helicopter land. How exciting was this!  We handed all our bags, hankies, hats, camera lenses, everything to the pilot to be stowed away so absolutely nothing could accidentally fall out of the helicopter and interfere with its ability to fly.  I sat in the front as I wanted a door (!) and Hugo and Simon sat at the open doors with Otto and Isobel sitting between them.  What an adventure.  Would you believe our camera ran out of batteries before we even left the ground?

Hugo used the microphone to let us know ‘This is the most awesome experience of my life.” The pilot got a chuckle from that.  We flew over the falls so all of us got another great view of them, and then we followed the Mitchell River down to the Little Mitchell Falls which is where the river becomes tidal.  From the air we still couldn’t see where the national park ended in the west, we could see where the Mitchell entered the sea up near Admiralty Gulf and then the helicopter took us up the Western Gorge to another little waterfall. We skipped over Mitchell Falls again, rounded a hill and landed back at camp.  We couldn’t believe how close the campground was to the falls! 

The whole day is one of the highlights of the trip – the three falls, amazing scenery, rock art and then a helicopter ride!  Who could ask for more. 

But there was!  I’d asked the ranger the day before whether he was going to do a slide show so he did one that night.  He is incredibly knowledgeable about Aboriginal Rock Art and has worked with Graeme Welsh and archeologists from UNE. He said one day they found a grinding stone but because it was so heavy they put it above the floodline and left it on a rock ledge.  Months later he got a phone call from the university who had finished doing their lengthy analysis of the other objects they’d collected and a sample from the grinding stone. They asked him to collect it and send it to them as it turned out to be much, much older than they’d expected!  I guess they’re not talking about the age of the rock, but how long ago it was used as a grinding stone.  It was a fascinating and insightful talk that covered rock art and then plenty of photos of the area in the wet season.  Awesome! 

The next morning we were talking to the ranger (again).  Simon said he hadn't seen this much helicopter activity in a national park since an episode of Skippy.  One ranger laughed, the other one didn't!  

Gibb River Road

Around 11 June to 21 June or so

When we were planning our trip it was the Gibb River Road area of the Kimberley we were really keen to explore. We decided we wouldn’t put ourselves under any time pressures and take as long as we needed to explore it.  The Gibb River Road was made in the 60s for the cattle trains to carry the stock from the stations to market much quicker than by droving. It’s about 700km along the Gibb from Derby through to Kununurra – the first 80km are sealed near Derby and the rest is dirt.

Well it’s turned out to be the hardest part of the trip and possibly even the part we’ve least enjoyed.  Just a combination of travel fatigue, sickness going through every member of the family and the crowds of tourists everywhere we went!

So the Gibb River Road…

We pitched our tent by the light of the setting sun on the banks of the Lennard River on our first night.  Nice place to camp for a quick overnighter.  We set off the next morning through the Inglis Gap and into the King Leopold Ranges and some amazing country. We drove down much of the road to Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge and it was scenic – but it’s landscape we’re familiar with – it could’ve been in NSW somewhere. 

We then heeded the advice in our guidebook and other travellers who said the track into Lennard Gorge was really rough.  So we pitched our tent a few kilometres away on the banks of the picturesque Dog Chain Creek and went back to do the walk at Lennard Gorge. It just felt hot and long and hard and none of us enjoyed it – not even Simon or I.  Yes, it was beautiful, but you couldn’t really get a good view of the gorge, the waterfall was pretty but we were questioning whether we really needed to see it on such a hot day! We were comparing it with what we’d seen in Karijini and well…

What we didn’t realize was that this was probably the first symptom that Simon and I were getting sick! 

Fortunately we loved our little camp beside a crystal clear creek complete with water lilies and some paperbarks and river pandanus. Little did we realize that these gorgeous creeks punctuate the entire Kimberley landscape.  It’s one of our favourite campsites so far in the Kimberly.

We decided it was unfair to Hugo to be travelling on his birthday so we skipped Bell Gorge and drove onto Mornington Wilderness Camp which is owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. We knew it was going to be one of the most expensive places we were going to camp so we were disappointed with the choices of campsites.  Fortunately the 90km drive south of the Gibb River Road was spectacular, as were the two swimming holes on the Fitzroy River (less than 100km up river from Geike Gorge but it had taken us a good couple of days to travel via the roads to get here!).

Hugo’s birthday was a beautiful, sunny day. Simon made a chocolate cheesecake and then collapsed in bed feeling very unwell.  Hugo played all day long with his Lego Star Wars A-wing star fighter – he loved it. I took the kids swimming at Cajeput later in the afternoon and it was beautiful – a nice sandy bank, easy sandy entry, not very deep – ideal for Otto but he was asleep!

Next day I was sick!  But we still went canoeing down the Dimond Gorge which was pretty spectacular. We even saw a rare rock wallaby. We took the short walk to see a little waterfall, had lunch on the little beach and then canoed back.  We didn’t even take our camera we were both feeling so unwell! Simon got the hammock out at Cajeput swimming hole and I lay down on the grass and the kids entertained themselves.  It was perfect (other than feeling unwell). 

The drive to Silent Grove/Bell Gorge was quicker than we were expecting.  Bell Gorge was really beautiful. Simon took Hugo and Isobel to swim under the waterfall and I went down stream to another little waterfall. It was warmer downstream as the water wasn’t so deep!  We met a family from Perth, originally from the UK, who are on an 18 month trip around the world. They plan to spend a few months here in Australia, then head to North and South America and then to Europe. We are reasonably jealous and it’s got us thinking…

I was still feeling completely exhausted so we had another day at Silent Grove and just hung out.  We skipped Charnley River station as we were beginning to run short of time, skipped Manning Gorge because I was still feeling exhausted from the virus and couldn’t contemplate the walk, missed Adcock Gorge as a bunch of travellers we met on the track in convinced us that it was pointless – they couldn’t find the gorge, the track was terrible and they thought they’d just wasted 90 minutes.  Oh dear.  Your beginning to get the picture.

Fortunately we stopped at Galvans Gorge and it was simply beautiful. If only we knew it was going to be so beautiful and such a delightfully easy stroll to reach it, we would’ve taken our lunch and spent a few hours there. 

Simon and Hugo swam, Isobel didn’t as we were trying to get her infected mossie bites and scabs under control, and there was even some Aboriginal rock art beside the beautiful water hole. Magic.

At Mt Elizabeth Station the skies were overcast and it rained and the temperature dropped.  It’s here that Hugo began to get sick.  We’d taken our first proper 4WD track to reach Wanumurra Gorge and by the time we got there, Hugo had a temperature.  The poor boy. We gave him some panadol and then walked slowly to the gorge – but he’d perked up and didn’t mind the walk.  Plus we were walking with our new friends Mike and Cathy who we’d met on the station tour the day earlier. There’s one ladder to help you get up and down the layers of the gorge and it was pretty lovely.  Even had a little sandy beach!  Shame it was overcast and Hugo wasn’t very well as it was the perfect gorge for Otto to swim in. 

Mt Elizabeth Station has some rather amazing Aboriginal rock art – Gwion Gwion paintings aged at about 16-17,000 years old (!) and Wandjina art which can be up to 6000 years old to 100 years old.  We drove through forests of ironbark, forests of silky oaks, and forests of bloodwood.  It was a really beautiful place and the tour was worthwhile (and reasonably priced for the Kimberley!).  We all enjoyed the home-made cakes and slices! We also went to a lovely sacred waterfall and waterhole that was a burial site.  We could see the skull and bones in the crevice of the rock wall. 

We realised that the Munja Track was something we could tackle on our own, but didn’t want to do it with the trailer (you really need not to be towing anything), with a broken UHF aerial, and a child who wasn’t well.  Good decision.  We moved to Drysdale River Station on the Kalumburu Road and stayed 3 nights because Hugo didn’t get out of bed!  High temperatures, a bit of vomiting, then just when I thought he was getting better he got a roaring red, very sore throat. 

On the journey to Drysdale River We crossed the Hann River again, this time on the Gibb River Road, and it was still sandy-banked and beautiful. This would be a great place to spend a night or two. Beautiful river.

While here we got to see a grim reminder about the need to respect the roads we were on.  At Drysdale River Station we met some blokes whose long-range fuel tank (newly installed) just dropped out of their ute!  A woman rolled her ute and injured her mother-in-law slightly and the worst accident were two Swiss women we’d met completely wrote-off their hired Troopie.  They had minor injuries but were shocked and just coming to terms with facing an enormous bill as they’d signed a waiver to say if they caused the accident then the insurance wouldn’t cover them!!!!