Mataranka, in the Northern Territory, is famous for it’s hot springs. Bitter Springs is just down the road at the north east end of Mataranka township, and much less commercial and therefore more appealing to people like us. The headwaters of the Roper River inside Elsey National Park (where crocodiles are managed) are popular for bushwalking, birdwatching, canoeing, swimming and fishing. These pools flow at a constant 32 degrees C. and are still very much in their natural state. Swimmers can glide with the current downstream to view the beautiful riparian vegetation and birdlife along the way. With a mask and snorkel, small fish and turtles can be seen as the water is fantastically clear. I don’t have too many photos from Bitter Springs, as we were too busy swimming and enjoying the warm waters while we were there.
The first glimpse of the stream as you approach Bitter Springs doesn’t give away the secrets awaiting when you arrive at the swimming area of the springs.
The warm, crystal clear blue tinted waters are ideal for a relaxing swim…or just float down the stream and enjoy the weightless sensation of floating in warm gently flowing water.
Native growing tall palm trees add a tropical touch.
It is easy to spend hours relaxing in the warm, clear water.
Mataranka thermal springs are definitely not to be missed if you are travelling in the Northern Territory. In fact, we visited twice on this trip, both on our way up to Katherine and when we began our trip back down south. It is a very special place and not a crocodile in sight!
It would be east to drive straight through Halls Creek and keep going. That would be a pity, because there are lots of things to do and see in the area. Plus a couple of delightful free camps tucked away just down the road.
China Wall is only 6km from Halls Creek. It is a naturally formed 6 metre high quartz ‘wall’ that is believed to be part of the longest formation of its type in the world.
Old Halls Creek (yes, the town was moved at some stage) has vestiges of some of the original buildings, and the original cemetery which has some sad stories to tell.
There are a couple of nice free camps down Duncan Road, such as Palm Spring and Sawpit Gorge.
We chose to camp at Palm Springs, which was like a little oasis in the desert and yes, it did have palm trees!
Unfortunately for us, it rained most of the day we were there which meant sitting around the fire under umbrellas. Although it was wet, it wasn’t really cold and luckily we had enough wood to keep the fire going.
This old truck at an abandoned house would have an interesting story to tell.
I think these are Black Kites. There were many of them circling above the street in Halls Creek.
This egret and cormorants were at Sawpit Gorge, which was another popular free camping spot down Duncan Road.
Grass at Sawpit Gorge
Kites over Halls Creek.
There is definitely more to Halls Creek than meets the eye!
After traveling more than a thousand kilometres along the dirt road that is the Gibb River Road, today we turned off into Leopold Downs Road and headed towards the famous Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek.
We arrived late in the afternoon, just as the light was getting interesting. It was too late in the day to go into the gorge itself, so we walked along the outside which is very interesting as well.
The moon was rising over the gorge, and peeped through the branches of this tree.
Shortly the colours of the rocks changed to a deep rich orange. It is a privilege to be able to visit such a lovely spot.
Early the following morning, we began our walk into the gorge. I quite liked the sun shining through the dust stirred up by the walkers’ shoes.
Once you enter the gorge through a narrow rock opening, it opens up into a wide sandy area with the river running between the rocks walls. There are abundant fresh water crocodiles living in and around the river, and they are quite easy to spot as you walk along the gorge.
This big white rock is a sacred aboriginal place, so visitors are not permitted on it.
I loved the reflection of the gorge walls in the still waters of the river.
This magnificent boab is set against the gorge wall. It is huge and must be very old.
My final photo for the day is another bower bird who was busily building his bower within about six feet of our tent. He didn’t seem at all perturbed that we were so close.
Windjana Gorge is a very special place, and is well deserving of its reputation. Tomorrow we will visit Tunnel Creek and explore that area. It is amazing that all the gorges we have visited are unique and have their own special features.
Lennard River Gorge is yet another nice place to visit from the Gibb River Road.
It was quite warm the day we visited, and unfortunately you can’t swim there as you don’t get right down to the water. It would be spectacular in the wet with water cascading over the rock walls.
This remarkable rock formation is at the Napier Range. I thought it looked like a dragon with folded wings, but found out later it is meant to look like Queen Victoria!
Perhaps I was on the wrong angle, but that doesn’t seem very complimentary to Queen Victoria!
The Napier Range, where the Gibb River Road crosses it, is quite rocky and spectacular with lots of wonderful boab trees.
There is something about boab trees that I really love. They lose their leaves in the dry, and the shape of the trunk with the twisted branches look amazing. Often they will still have their hard brown furry nuts still clinging to the branches.
Bells Gorge is another gorgeous gorge.
You need to cross the water if you want to climb down to swim below the falls.
The people sitting along the rocks at the top of the waterfall show the scale of this gorge.
It is a steep and rocky climb down, but the bottom pool is great for a swim.
Unfortunately by the time you climb back up the cliff and trek back to the car, you are hot again!
From Bells Gorge we moved on to yet another free camp, March Fly Glen. Happily there were no march flies, and it was quite a lovely spot with water lilies, pandanus and a crystal clear creek.
Nev cooking his toast on the morning camp fire, waiting for the billy to boil.
Kay departing March Fly Glen free camp. Kay is a very interesting person we met several times at various places along the Gibb River road.
As a very special birthday present to herself, for a very special birthday, she is undertaking a solo bicycle trip from Katherine, to Kununurra, then right along almost the entire Gibb River Road, then down Leopold Downs Road to the Great Northern Highway. From there she will ride to Halls Creek, and turn into Duncan Road (also a dirt road) for its full length, and from there return to Katherine. What a marathon effort. She carries everything she needs on her bike or single-wheeled trailer.
We have been to some very remote places on this trip, and often the GPS doesn’t even know where we are.
This is what the middle of nowhere looks like on the GPS.
And this is what it looks like through the windscreen.
One particularly beautiful place we visited was Galvans Gorge, which is not far from the Mt. Barnett Roadhouse.
It is lovely to swim in, and quite easy to climb up and sit below the waterfall.
We all enjoyed a cooling swim in the clean waters.
The walk in to Galvans Gorge runs alongside this water lily filled creek.
This water monitor was unperturbed by people passing his rock perch.
Later in the afternoon, we also visited Adcock gorge, but didn’t swim there as the water was in shadow and quite cold.
There are so many gorgeous gorges on the Gibb River Road, and we are doing our best to visit most of them.
Still loving the Free camps. We stayed another night on the banks of the Gibb River when we reached the end of the Kalumbaru Road. The boys decided to check out a problem with the rear wheel on the car, and learned the hard way why you don’t jack up a car on the sand…
This was not as bad as it looks! With a bit of help, all was soon back together.
While all that was going on, I was waiting for this Bower bird to come back to his bower. He has been very busy making it all pretty for the girls.
The next morning saw us back on the road, and our next stop was Mt. Barnett Station to stock up on food and fuel. We decided on the free camp option yet again, and travelled on to Barnett River Gorge where we found a lovely shady spot next to the creek.
Barnett River camp. Not much water in the creek here, but it was still very clean and clear.
There is a rocky walk in to view the gorge. You need to follow the stone cairns to find your way.
Once we climbed down the steep rocks to the river, there were lots of shallow places to cool off in the clear water.
We spied this euro kangaroo on our way back to camp.
Later in the afternoon we discovered this lovely pool quite close to where we were camping. Not as spectacular as the gorge, but much easier to get to!
Surveyors Pool is in a remote area of the Kimberley, W.A. From Mitchell Falls, you continue on Port Warrender Road, which is really more of a track than a road, until you come to Surveyors Pool.
The track to Surveyors Pool is pretty rough and rocky in some places, but also beautiful in others.
There is a bit of a walk to get to the main pool below the waterfall.
The main pool is lovely, with another waterfall entering from the far side, but as it is a sacred place for the Aboriginals, swimming is not permitted in the main pool.
However there are several pools and cascades above the falls.
And these make a very nice place to cool off after your walk.
Further along Port Warrender Road, there is a look out which has a view right out over Admiralty Gulf in the Indian Ocean.
Lookout on Port Warrender Road with promontories and islands stretching into the distance.
It is a little out of the way to visit Surveyors Pool, but well worth the effort. From this lookout, we turned back and retraced our steps to Mitchell Falls to prepare for our return journey down Kalumbaru Road to the Gibb River Road.
In my last post, I talked about Little Mertens Falls, which is a short walk from the Mitchell Falls camping area. This is a great place for a cooling swim, but the main walk from the camp ground is the track to Mitchell Falls and it takes about an hour and a half each way. It is quite a long way, and also involves some steep rocky climbs, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Waterlilies along the way.
Once you have passed Little Mertens Falls, you trek alongside Mertens Creek, which is lined with pandanus and a haven for waterlilies. You next come to Big Mertens Falls which is much higher and more spectacular than Little Mertens, however you cannot swim here, so it is best to take your photos and move on.
Big Mertens Falls
Big Mertens is a very deep gorge, and quite spectacular in it’s own right.
Big Mertens gorge
To take good photos, you need to be a bit of a mountain goat and get right out on the rocks lining the gorge.
Holly framing the perfect waterfall shot. You can’t actually tell from this how high she is standing on the rock wall.
A bit more hiking and exertion brings you to your first glimpse of Mitchell Falls itself and you don’t at first realise that there are four layers of waterfall.
As you climb down and around, more is revealed. You need to take off your shoes and socks and cross to the other side of the water to get the best views.
We ended up spending several hours at the falls, exploring and swimming.
From the top of the falls you can see right down the river below the falls.
Mitchell Falls is definitely worth the effort to visit. It is a truly beautiful part of Australia.
We arrived at Mitchell Falls camping area about lunchtime, so in the afternoon went for a short walk to Mertens Falls where we planned to have a swim.
Little Mertens Falls is the closest falls and pool to the Mitchell Falls camp ground.
The falls look very inviting as you approach the top pool.
When you climb down the steep rocky slope, you come across a lovely still pool, which was absolutely freezing to swim in. Nobody stayed in for too long.
Especially when Peter spied a fresh water crocodile sunning himself near these rocks. Unfortunately I couldn’t capture him in the photo because he was behind the rocks on the far side of the pool.
After our swim we climbed in behind the waterfall.
It was magical being behind the curtain of water.
I liked the spotty bark on this tree next to our tent, and almost missed the spider hiding in full view.
In the evening, Holly inspired us with another fantastic camp oven meal of savoury scrolls, cooked in the coals of the camp fire.
Life is good! A beautiful swim and a good meal. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The morning saw us packing up the tents and heading off once again, towards the Mitchell Plateau. We had a couple more nights camping along the way before we got to Mitchell Falls, and it was time for a shower so we stopped for the night at Drysdale River Station.
Drysdale River Station is huge, about a million acres in size.
Close by is Miner’s Pool, which is a great place for a swim.
In the morning we set off again, and found a great camping spot at King Edward River. After setting up our tents, we went exploring. There is a lovely walk along the rocks beside the river.
A small waterfall is a nice surprise a little way further along.
Close to the waterfall were deep holes where round stones had gradually worn away the rock over the years.
This was a serene and beautiful place to stay. It would be difficult to say which is the nicest camping spot we have found so far.
Our third day saw us back on the track. Our first stop for the day was Ellenbrae Station, where we obviously had to try their famous scones with jam and cream.
Ellenbrae Station entrance.
Everyone tucking into delicious scones.
The bathroom at Ellenbrae has a lovely outlook…
But it is not very private!
Just past the turnoff to head up to the Mitchell Plateau, you come across the Gibb River crossing.
Which seemed to be a perfect place to camp for the night, right on the banks of the river. We lit the campfire and headed off on a walk.
This bull was also out for an evening stroll. He was bellowing and crashing through the trees.
But it turned out all he wanted was a drink from the river.
The river was also a popular place to cool off and clean up after another warm day.
The banks of the Gibb River was a beautiful and peaceful place to camp for the night. It doesn’t get much better than this. Every night after a beautiful sunset, the sky is clear, with millions of stars glowing in the darkness.
We are re-visiting some of the areas in the Northern Territory that we first travelled to three years ago. Kings Canyon is one place we didn’t want to miss, but I didn’t think I would take many photos this time. I was wrong. It is impossible not to be impressed by the majesty of the whole area. It is approximately a 6km walk around the top of the gorge, with a steep climb at the start. It is worth every step of the way. I hope you enjoy the photos.
We thought a four hour walk around the gorge and pound was energetic. These people had hiked over several days all the way through the ranges from Ellery Creek Big Hole to Ormiston Gorge. And they were still smiling!
The pound track was quite a climb, but very beautiful.
We climbed to the lookout at the top of this hill, which gave a magnificent of the pound below with the creek running through it.
The view from the bottom of the pound…
This dingo was hiding in the rocks beyond Ormiston creek that runs through the pound.
The sandy ‘beach’ on the creek. The dingo was in the rocks you can see on the left hand side.
The track certainly had it’s ups and downs.
Peter liked the sound of the trumpet echoing around the gorge.
This spinifex pigeon was pecking around at the side of the track.
If you look closely there are all sorts of bugs and insects camouflaged amongst the rocks and plants.
From Alice Springs, we turned left into Larapinta Drive to explore the West MacDonnell Ranges. The drive west of Alice is glorious with glowing red rocky mountain ranges lining both sides of the road.
Rock formation along the road.
Ellery Creek Big Hole is serene and beautiful, and way too cold for swimming at this time of the year.
The clear waters of Ellery Creek.
Ormiston Gorge waterhole is another superb and peaceful spot.
There were flocks of zebra finches and these were frolicking in the waterhole. This one is for you, Mel!
Rock wallabies sunning themselves on a rocky ledge.
The rugged ranges around Ormiston Gorge. The tiny blue-green speck on the left is the camp-ground.
Sometimes the nicest places are ones you hear about from fellow travelers. We were chatting with a couple of backpackers who mentioned Josephine Fall was worth a visit so we decided to take the detour and check it out.
This is the top pool at Josephine Falls. There must be huge volumes of water passing through this point during the wet season. I have never seen so many signs warning of danger, no swimming, strong currents, slippery rocks, etc. although it didn’t look too vicious the day we were there.
This is where the water from the top pool continues on it’s way downstream. Below this were huge boulders, which I imagine is where the danger would come in, if you were swept off your feet on the slippery rocks and sucked underneath when there was a huge current running.
Beside the stream was a cool place for this couple to escape the heat of the day.
This mossy stairway led up to….nothing at all. Well, not anymore. I am not sure what it’s original purpose would have been. It was at the far end of the pathway going up to the top pool of the waterfall.
Looking up the hill you can see how rocky the river bed is, and the large smooth rocks make for a very slippery surface.
This family were having a ball sliding down the mossy rock in the lower pool.
They say the best things in life are free, and this fantastic spot was absolutely free to camp. There are limited sites, only 10, but the camping area is beautifully looked after with clean toilets and cold showers. And as an amazing bonus, there were hundreds of colourful butterflies fluttering around the flowering plants in the gardens.
When we were in Cairns, we visited the butterfly sanctuary in Kuranda. I think there were at least as many butterflies fluttering around in the wild at the Boulders campground.
The butterflies were attracted to the flowering bushes surrounding the campsites. All these photos were taken on our site.
So many butterflies…
There were so many beautiful butterflies fluttering about, however it was difficult to try to capture the feeling of being surrounded by them.
Butterflies weren’t the only bonus at Babinda. This pineapple was growing in the garden surrounding our free campsite. I believe there was a pawpaw tree growing in the garden as well, but I couldn’t find it.
But the real reason we came to this area was to visit the part of the river known as The Boulders. It consists of a very rocky river with a walk up to several waterfalls, however you can only swim in the lower pool. The water wasn’t very deep, but was still refreshing on a hot afternoon.
The water worn rocks are quite sculptural and beautiful. It seems amazing when the river is so placid to think of the raging torrent that must pass through during the wet season.
The river flows through a series of waterfalls over the smooth granite rocks. It is easy to see why it is called The Boulders.
‘Kalbarri, you’ll love it!’ the sign promised as we approached town. And yes, that was pretty accurate, we did love it. We also loved the wild flowers that line both sides of the road for miles and miles in this part of Western Australia. This photo was taken from a moving vehicle so it’s a bit blurry.
Western Australian wildflowers - taken from a moving vehicle.
The National Park is split between coastal sites and gorges within the park. The first day we visited the coastal areas, marvelling at the view from several lookouts and climbed down into Pot Alley, a place we had been to several years ago.
The surf is huge here, with great waves swamping the narrow gap between the rock walls.
Pot Alley rollers.
A little further along the coastline, there is a natural rock arch as well as a rock known as castle rock that was formed from a natural arch when the top collapsed from the wave action, leaving the rocky island separate from the cliffs.
In this picture, Peter is at the lookout, which has a marvellous view over the ocean and back to the town of Kalbarri.
Peter at Kalbarri lookout.
The following day we ventured into the National Park to visit the gorges. Z Bend is named for the shape of the gorge gouged out of the rock by the Murchison River. It was quite a challenging climb to get down to the river, but worth the effort.
Z Bend gorge at Kalbarri National Park
Nature’s Window is probably the most recognisable landmark of Kalbarri National Park.
Rhonda sitting in Nature's Window at Kalbarri National Park
Karijini National Park in the Pilbara is one of the most spectacular places we have visited. This was one of our first views of the Pilbara as we entered the area on our way to Karijini. On the winding road you can see a huge road train, which dwarfs the bus and car sharing the road. The sides of the roads were carpeted with purple and white wildflowers.
Our introduction to the Pilbara
The many precipitous gorges of Karijini take your breath away when you peer into them for the first time, with their sheer rock walls, cascading waterfalls and clear rock pools. In this picture you can see a man standing at the bottom of the gorge and if you look carefully, near the top you will see a woman on a rock ledge that is half way up the sheer wall. She is on the track you use to descend to the gorge floor.
Can you see the two people in this photo?
We camped in the National Park for a few days and explored many of the gorges. Dales Gorge was lovely, with a walk up to Fortescue Falls, where this serene pool lies at the top of the waterfall.
Rock pool above Fortescue Falls, Karijini
Further on into Dales Gorge you come across Fern Pool where we swam in the clear emerald water across to the twin waterfalls on the far side of the pool.
Fern Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijni
We enjoyed the many walks in the Park. The photo of us was taken near the waterfall that flows into Joffre Gorge. But I think our favourite gorge was Hancock Gorge where we climbed down rocks and ladders to reach the gorge floor, then made our way along narrow rock ledges and waded and swam through various pools until we could go no further, then made our way back again, the way we came. Unfortunately I couldn’t take the camera with me on this trek, so no photos to share, but we highly recommend the adventure if you get to Karijini National Park.
Peter & Rhonda at Joffre Falls, Karijini
This last photo is a view of Joffre Gorge from part way down the climb. It gives you some idea of how steep the walls are, but if you are careful you can get all the way to the bottom.
Joffre Gorge, Karijini National Park
Well, we didn’t really go all that far down the Gibb River Road, but we loved the day we spent at Emma Gorge with our Phillip Island friends, Lyn and Jeff.
Crystal clear pool at Emma Gorge
Lower pool at Emma Gorge
Lyn told me this was her favourite place, and I can see why. It is absolutely stunning, very beautiful and so peaceful. And the water is an amazing turquoise blue colour.
The other side of the rock pool is a pebbly shallow. Very inviting, but the water was quite cold.
Waterfall at Emma Gorge. Very hard to photograph!
Road home from Wyndham
The roads might be long in the Kimberley, but there is so much to see and so many amazing vistas that it is never boring.
Grass fire near Wyndham
We drove through this grass fire on the way to Wyndham and on the return trip as well, by which time it was burning on both sides of the road. It is very common up here to see burnt out sections of bush and grass land. Most of the fires only burn the grass, leaving the small trees, and ‘cleaning up’ the country, as the aboriginals say.