Monday, 16 September 2013

Mornington Wildlife Camp 11/9/2013

The bed was probably one of the most comfortable I have slept in away from home, we awoke to the sounds of birds singing and Corella’s screeching – gotta love them. Breakfast was part of the accommodation deal, so at 7.30 we went down to the restaurant. I was very excited to find fresh fruit salad. The breakfast was lovely, starting with continental then bacon, scrambled eggs and mushrooms. 

We thought that another day paddling a gorge was in order, we booked a canoe for one of the other gorges, there were not very many people staying at the centre so we knew it would be another quiet day. We went back to the tent to get ourselves ready, when we booked in we had been told that there were snakes about, particularly a Mulga snake had been seen in the vicinity of our tent in the last couple of weeks. Iain was at the car and I walked back to the tent to get something , when I was about 3m away from the stairs I heard rustling in front of me. I stopped and what was disappearing under the stairs right in front of – a snake of course. I calmly turned around and bolted for the car, Iain intrigued grabbed his camera to take a photo. Of course I had to go with him to show him where the snake was; luckily it was nowhere to be seen. That is 3 snakes in as many weeks! When I described to one of the staff later she informed me it was a black whip snake I had seen, not a Mulga, looking at pictures I am sure it was a Mulga - extremely venomous!

We got down to the gorge and got ourselves organised in a canoe, it was not nearly as impressive as Sir John the day before, but we had expected that. We weren’t even 100m from shore when Iain pulled a sarong out of the camera bag, we heard a plop. Iain immediately realised it was the car keys! We looked over the side into the water and knew straight away there was no chance of finding them – it was way too deep. Iain was really upset, and the more I tried to convince him to just let it go and get on with the day, the more upset he got. We continued paddling and then out of the blue a headwind blew straight up the gorge. We were paddling like mad just to keep moving, very tough going. We eventually got to the end, parked up on some rocks and went for a bit of an explore.

It was blazing hot, and we weren’t having fun, so we paddled back to the beginning and went back to the car. We now had to get the car open so we could get the spare keys out. Luckily we had left the rear pop up windows unlocked. The first order of business was an ice cream – We buy 4 packs and put 2 in our freezer. You should have seen everyone else’s faces when we pulled them out. We explained to the other people in the car park what had happened and prepared to open the door – the alarm is rather loud. That accomplished we headed back to camp.
We both lay on the bed to read, and fell asleep. It was extremely hot and I woke up having a hot flush bathed in sweat. Luckily the mini bar was stocked with cold drinks – a ginger beer went down very well. I woke Iain up and we went down to the restaurant for another cake and coffee. We got chatting to another couple that had just done the Sir John Gorge, before we knew it, it was getting dark and we didn’t have a torch. I tell you I was stomping my feet very hard so that we didn’t surprise any snakes!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Gibb River Road / Mornington Wildlife Camp 10/9/2013

We woke up to another flat tyre, the same one as the first puncture. Somehow we had managed to pick up a screw somewhere on the road, we strongly suspect the Mount Barnett Roadhouse. It was a slow puncture so Iain pumped up the tyre and put a plug in the hole. That done we set off for Mornington Wilderness camp.

It was a fantastic road – better than the Gibb, the last part was a little rough, but nothing too bad. We arrived just after 9, and as we had heard that they had really nice safari tents for hire we asked to have a look at them. They were expensive, but absolutely fantastic, so we decided to give ourselves a treat and splash out. 

We had also found out that there was a very special gorge on the property that only had one canoe for hire on it – only 2 people a day allowed onto the water. Now  and paid for the day. We had a coffee and a piece of the most delicious almond cake I have ever had, and drove down to the gorge to spend the day.

Wow what a treat, there was something absolutely magical about the place, hard to describe but we both felt very humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to experience this. There was a series of 3 pools with a canoe in each, a climb over rocks was necessary to get to each subsequent canoe. We spent the day, rowing, just sitting still in silence taking it all in, taking photos and exploring.

 The staff had said it was worth waiting for the sunset, so at around 3 we started to paddle back to the beginning. As we got closer to the beginning we saw a few people sitting on the rocks drinking wine.
We hauled the canoe back up and climbed to the top of a large flat rock overlooking the gorge, and watched the sun slowly sinking until the sky was ablaze, so special, one of those I can’t believe it’s real moments. 

No-one else had thought to bring a torch, so they left before it got dark, once again we were left to savour the magnificence of the place. When the sun was well and truly down, we went back to camp, had a shower and then went to a talk they were having about Mornington and the work the Society is doing. I must say I was very impressed, for a non-profit organisation they are having a massive impact on saving and preserving native animals all throughout Australia.

Mitchell Falls / Gibb River Road 9/9/2013

The bandits were back again! This time we were well prepared, everything put away and the dustbin bag hung on a pole out of reach. The resourceful little critters spent the night launching themselves at the dustbin bag, alternating between the awning and the spare wheel cover. Our defences held, but not much sleep was had.

We packed up and left Mitchell Falls, stopping for a break at the Drysdale roadhouse. We sat under the shade of a tree, having a cold drink and chatting to the elderly gentleman manning the shop. It is really interesting talking to the people that actually live out here, so much to learn, and if you are polite and friendly they tell you lots of secret places to visit in the area.

We stopped for a snack at the Gibb River, where we had met Susanna and Pieter. We had hoped to park in the spot they had been in right on the river, but it was occupied by a not too friendly bull! We moved on and went to the other side of the river, we had just poured coffee when I saw horns on the other side of the bank we were parked in front of. I climbed onto the bumper and there were 4 not to friendly bulls all looking in our direction. Needless to say I sat in the front seat of the car drinking my coffee as they one by one walked past to check us out.

Our next stop for a break was the Mt Barnett roadhouse to get some fuel and have some lunch.We sat outside at their picnic tables and got the map out. We decided our next destination was Mornington Wilderness Camp about 90km off the Gibb River road, we had heard it was well worth seeing, so decided to make the effort. All the information books said it was best to call ahead to make sure they had space. I tried the sat phone, but after 3 attempts, gave it to Iain in frustration. They said they were very quiet and they had loads of vacancies. By now it was getting late, so we decided to push on further and bush camp for the night. The lady at Mt Barnett had said that we needed to be cautious as there were a lot of bush fires around. She wasn’t wrong, there were spot fires all over the place. We found a gravel pit near the Mornington turn off and thought that it would be the safest option as hey are big open areas with no vegetation.

We got ourselves set up, and as we had filled up with water at Mt Barnett, we decided to have a nice long bush shower, and give ourselves a good scrub. It was fantastic, we went straight up to bed feeling all fresh and clean.

Mitchell Falls 8/9/2013

We were raided by bandits last night! Iain was up a few times during the night to move things they were trying to get into. Every time he got down the ladder and walked to the side of the car, I would hear the patter of little feet running around the other side. In the morning we gathered the evidence.

And it all pointed to these little critters – Bandicoots!

By 6.30 the sun was well up as were we, the trek to Mitchell Falls is a pretty long hot one, so best done early. By 7.30 we were already walking. It was only 800m to the first swimming hole. We stopped for a look, but it wasn’t hot enough for a swim yet. The next part of the walk was 3.5km, ranging from sandy track to climbing rocks. We came to a caution cliff sign and there in front of us we were looking down into a massive gorge.

We thought at first we had come to the falls and were a little disappointed that there was no water – we remembered Pieter and Susanna saying the same, and realised we had to carry on. We walked about another km and came across another gorge, and a swimming hole and knew we were getting close.

 The scenery was just getting better and better, we found the helipad and met another couple that pointed us in the right direction. As we rounded the corner we saw the falls side on.

Now this is where you benefit from talking to people, this was the end of the official trail, but if you walked a little further around the rocks and did a bit of climbing you can see the falls front on. We were told the trail was hard to find, we eventually found a way around – absolutely terrifying. We climbed big rocks, through gaps in rocks and at one stage had to leopard crawl under a ledge with an enormous drop off to the side. We made it! For the first time in my life I actually saw Iain afraid of heights, it was so scary but well worth the effort. We sat on the rocks taking pictures and enjoying the view for about an hour.

Luckily going back we found the trail, which was a little easier than our way and made our way back to the helipad. It was by now blazing hot and the rocks had started to warm up and reflect heat. We got to the first swimming hole and went in with all our clothes – this is a great tip, keeps you cool while you are walking – for about 10 mins and then they are dry again. 

We then started the long hot trek back to camp, we now realised why people pay to get the helicopter back to camp, unfortunately we hadn’t organised it so were stuck with walking. We stopped a few times along the way to take photos; Iain was able to reach into some of the water holes with his hat t get water to cool us down. By the time we got to the last water hole we couldn’t get our shoes off quick enough, unfortunately it was very shallow and muddy, so we just sat in the flowing water and cooled off. 

By the time we got back to camp we were exhausted, we spent the rest of the day lying in the shade, alternately reading and sleeping. 

Iain made up a batch of henna and in the evening after having a bush shower, he practiced some of his henna art on me.

Gibb River Crossing / Mitchell Falls 7/9/2013

We discovered that the sun rises much earlier and sets earlier in WA, we got up and packed the car, then Susanna and Pieter came over for another coffee. They invited us back to their truck to have a look inside and see what they had done. They had done almost exactly what Iain has done, building the truck from scratch. It was smaller than the Unimog, but we were really happy to see that a lot of the things we have in our truck really work well. It was such a treat, to meet them. At around 8 they left on their next adventure – the Canning Stock Route. 

We finished the last few things and set off for Mitchell Falls. The road was pretty rough at times with a lot of corrugations, Iains hands  get really sore from all the vibrations, so we have to stop often for breaks. Our next stop was Drysdale Station for a cup of coffee and toilet break.  This was our last taste of ‘civilisation’ for a few days. Around 80km later was the turnoff to Mitchell Falls, another dirt track with lots of corrugations and surprises along the way; the 84km took us 2 hours. Just after the turnoff we came across a river crossing, we decided this was a great time for another rest stop and photo shoot.
We got some shots, then disaster; Iain slipped on some slippery rocks and fell into the water, apart from a sore knee and shoulder, his camera and lens got a dunking. He raced back to the car took it apart and dried it as much as possible, the lens seems to be buggered and the camera looks like it could be too. He got the other camera out to finish the pictures and then disaster; I slipped on rocks and fell onto my hands and knees. We had both had enough and got back in the car and did most of the rest of the trip in silence!

We arrived at Mitchell Falls campground at around 2.30 and headed for the quiet, generator free area – to find 4 helicopters parked right next to the campground ready to take sightseers to the falls. So much for quiet area. We spent the afternoon just relaxing after such an exciting morning.