Day 1: Broome to Windjana and a visit to Tunnel Creek
We started off from Broome nice and early and by lunchtime we were setting up camp at Windjana Gorge, our home for the next two nights. Our first adventure was a walk and wade through Tunnel Creek – an amazing 800 metre-long underground cave that’s been carved through the limestone of the Napier Range. Inside it was cool and dark and we had a really enjoyable walk with our torches lighting the way. Luckily Simon only told us about the crocodile he saw once we had emerged from the cave!
We spent the evening around the campfire, some of us trying to figure out how to tell time by the Southern Cross; others just happy to take in the stars’ abundant beauty.
Day 2: Windjana Gorge
Before heading off on our walk we visited a Bowerbird’s bower and we watched Mr Bowerbird put on a performance for the ladies. He pranced around and flashed a plume of purple feathers on the back of his neck, which are usually hidden. If he didn’t impress the other bowerbirds, he won us over.
After admiring Mr Bowerbird we went on to walk through Windjana Gorge, which has also been carved out of the limestone of the Napier Range but this natural phenomenon is entirely above ground. It was a wonderful relaxed walk between the high straight walls of the gorge. Boabs were hugged, tree ants and wild passionfruit were nibbled on and, for those not into bushtucker, our golden syrup cake hit the spot at morning teatime.
On the way back we took a page from the local croc population (there are more than 70 ‘freshies’ who call Windjana home). We lay on the banks of the river beside Bandingan Rock and enjoyed the afternoon shade looking up at the gorge walls and watching the Rainbow Bee-eaters do loop-de-loops from the trees on the opposite shore. Aahh what a lovely day.
A shower, some book reading and a leisurely stroll along the Savannah walk trail had us well and truly in holiday mode.
Day 3: Windjana to Silent Grove and Bell Gorge
After a short walk in the morning we were off to our next destination. We drove through the beautiful and rugged King Leopold Ranges, and enjoyed the famous mango cake for morning tea. Alexandra Forrest had tried to get his exploration team through here in 1879 but he found the terrain too hard going and was forced back. The Gibb River Rd didn’t seem too bad after reflecting on the trials that Alexander and his team had faced.
By lunchtime we had set up our next camp at Silent Grove and we were soon ready to head off to Bell Gorge for the afternoon. There was no place we would rather have been than that beautiful gorge. After a short but sometimes challenging walk we arrived at a pool below a beautiful waterfall where we spent time swimming and sunbathing. More swims and some white water massages on the way back had us in high spirits as we made our way back to camp.
Day 4: Silent Grove to Manning Creek
Pete whipped up a cooked breaky and then we were off for an excellent swim-filled day. Our first stop was for morning tea at Adcock Gorge where we had the place to ourselves. Some of us swam in the pristine waterhole while others looked on, enjoying coffee and moist chocolate cake in the peaceful gorge.
Before lunch we walked the short way into Galvans Gorge and enjoyed… yep, another swim!
By mid afternoon we had set up camp at Manning Creek and were in for our third swim of the day – a tradition we tried to uphold through the rest of the trip. Manning Creek, with it’s white sand beach and pandanus-lined shore, was idyllic in the late afternoon sun.
Day 5: Manning Gorge and Barnett Gorge
An early start had us eagerly walking the Manning Gorge walk trail – with the promise of another glorious swim at its end. Along the way we admired the many flowering plants and enjoyed finding the Kimberley Rose (Brachychiton viscidulus) among the rocky outcrops. There was a bit of rock scrambling to get down into the gorge but once down, we were greeted by the welcome sight of a large waterfall and picture perfect swimming hole. More swims – hurrah!
A splinter group went off to find Barnett River Gorge in the afternoon. None of us had been there before so it was an adventure for all. And an exercise in perseverance as we spent half an hour or so looking for the walking track! We finally found it and followed the rock cairns until we were high over the Barnett River in the soft glow of the afternoon sun. We watched a freshie glide by in the calm waters below and took some glory shots of our successful mission before a bumpy drive back to the main road on the 4WD track.
Day 6: Manning Creek to ElQuestro
It was mostly a driving day today as we made our way to ElQuestro. We visited the cool and shady Jackaroo’s Waterhole and visited the pub for drinks and nibbles. It was a bit of a shock to the system to be in the midst of a popular camping spot but we all smiled as we watched some young kids from Wyndham bust out some of their favourite tunes on the karaoke machine that night. All was quiet by 10pm (or so I’m told – I was asleep before 9) and we got a good rest for the next day’s adventure.
Day 7: ElQuestro
There’s no better way to start the day than by bathing beneath a canopy of Livistonia palms in the warm waters of Zebidee Springs. We relaxed and bathed until we were prunes. Prunes with a purpose – we were off to Emma Gorge for a hot walk and a refreshing (read freezing) swim in the picturesque swimming hole!
With time for one more adventure, we headed into ElQuestro Gorge for lunch and an afternoon walk. ElQuestro Gorge is one of the most beautiful places I can imagine. Livistonia palms grow among the clear pools of water and the high walls of the narrow gorge are covered in ferns, creating a lush paradise, protected from the heat of the day.
Day 8: ElQuestro
We enjoyed Moonshine Gorge in the morning and had it all to ourselves for our 5 km walk and our swim.
In the afternoon some of us took a tour of ElQuestro Station including a boat trip; while the rest did one more gorge walk. Those who chose the cruise had a marvelous afternoon with a local guide, enjoying his lively commentary and the magical views of ElQuestro in the late afternoon. All returned with happy champagne smiles to tell us their stories.
The five of us who walked Amalia Gorge had a wonderful time too – enjoying the walk on smooth, tilted sandstone rocks, with the occasional balancing act over a narrow ledge. We had Amalia to ourselves for most of our walk and in the peace of the gorge we could have been the only people in the world for all we knew.
Three swims for the day, check!
Day 9: ElQuestro to Kununurra and Parry’s Lagoon
After three nights at ElQuestro it was time to head for the big smoke of Kununurra. We stopped on the way to see the Five Rivers Lookout at Wyndham and then Parry’s Lagoon – a magical place where local and migratory water birds congregate in their thousands. In Perth, we had recently seen two beautiful plumed whistling ducks who (we assume) had been blown south in a storm (they’re not usually found further south than the Kimberley). Up here we saw so many plumed whistling ducks crowded together that there was no way I could tell if there were hundreds of them or thousands! It made me wonder if that couple of ducks in Perth were lonely or if they’re enjoying the peace and quiet away from the flock.
Day 10: Kununurra to Purnululu (the Bungles)
After breaky we were off to our final destination for the tour – the Bungles. It was a long but lovely drive past the Carr Boyd Ranges and stopping off at the Warmun Aboriginal Art Centre along the way. Watching the sun set against the red rock of the Bungle Bungle Range that evening was an amazing treat.
Day 11: Purnululu
Today we spent the day exploring the southern section of Purnululu, starting early to beat the heat. We walked up the Picaninny Creek – dry at this time of year – marveling at the spectacular beehive formations and the sculptured creek bed.
Whipsnake Gorge was being officially opened that day (although no ministers had made the effort to actually walk to the gorge) so as part of our own opening ceremony Diana, Jo and Jill treated us to a private choir performance. The sounds of those lovely voices mingling together and reverberating off the walls of the gorge were delightful and we all felt very special to be part of the real opening of Whipsnake Gorge.
At Cathedral Gorge we were treated to another concert and more of us were made to sing. I’m not sure if my group’s rendition of Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree was quite as moving as our leading ladies’ version of Dona Nobis Pacem was but it was good fun and a memorable experience.
Day 12: Purnululu
Our last day had us exploring the northern end of the Bungle Bungle Range with a walk into the strangely tropical-looking Mini Palms Gorge. It was a lovely shady walk in beneath the towering red walls with clumps of Livistonia palms somehow thriving on rock ledges and hollows. A cuppa and the second-to-last cake was savoured high up in the gorge before we moved on to Echidna Chasm.
Echidna Chasm is a 1 km long narrow chasm which has been carved out of the rock by water over millions of years. As we walked through Echidna Chasm, the sun lit up the high orange walls and we were bathed in a golden glow. It was spectacular and we left feeling very lucky to have visited such a place. But more adventure awaited!
Eight intrepid souls took to the skies in the afternoon for a scenic helicopter flight over the Bungle Bungle Range. It was an exhilarating and fascinating way to round off a visit to this amazing place.
One last sunset in front of the range, one last campfire under the vast Kimberley sky with new friends. Tomorrow we’d be leaving.
Day 13: Purnululu to Kununurra
Three of us snuck out of camp before sunrise in a last attempt to find the elusive Gouldian Finch. We sat by the only waterhole for miles and waited. And waited. And our bums got cold from sitting on the ground.
We didn’t see any Gouldian Finches but we saw a Jabiru take flight and soar above our heads and we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. Oh well, we’ll see that finch next time.
Our drive back to Kununurra was a bit sad as it meant the end of en excellent adventure. But it was with a heart full of wonderful memories and an SD card full of photos that we returned to our accommodations and said goodbye. Thank you to Anne, Darrol, Diana, Deb, Hilary, Jo, Julie, Jill, Richard and Paula for coming with Inspiration Outdoors on our first of many Kimberley adventures. Until next time, cheers.
To see more photos of this amazing trip, visit our Flickr page.