Kununurra to Derby

Wyndham caravan park – $38/night powered

We made our way to Kununurra today to top up all food supplies and fuel. Diesel was $1.41/l so with food and fuel we headed to the Wyndham caravan park to meet up with Terri and John. The Wyndham caravan park is certainly very well set up. The owner Sharyn has done a tremendous job setting it up. The best part is behind reception where she has powered and unpowered sites under lovely big trees in a bush setting.

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Wyndam Camping Park

Sharyn has set up the best camp kitchen I’ve seen to date. Completely fully equipped to cook a meal, we even watched a couple of AFL games over the weekend! The best part for me was the cafe with comfy lounge chairs and ice creams.

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Wonderful Camp Kitchen
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Camp Kitchen and seating area

There is free WiFi but it is quite slow but fast enough to video chat the grandies.  The only downside is the mozzies and midges, so many bites. The shire should really be doing more to help the community and reduce the numbers.

You have access to very good drinking water here, we certainly filled up our tanks.

First thing in the morning at sunrise we made our way to Marlgu Lagoon which is located in the Parry Lagoons Nature Reserve.

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Marlgu Lagoon at sunrise

There is a boardwalk and a bird hide, where Chris took some fabulous shots of the large number of waterbirds and migratory waders plus beautiful water Lily’s where we watched birds hop from pad to pad. We even saw a very large salt water crocodile, we suspect he had to be about 5 meters long? Regardless he was massive!

Anton’s landing was very interesting it served as the towns only landing point from 1885 to 1919. The original ‘makeshift’ jetty was replaced in 1894 it included a cattle ramp so live cattle could be shipped to the Fremantle market. Unfortunately it was destroyed in 1944 by fire and in 2012 a fishing jetty was built in its place. As you drive down here you go past many tidal mud flats, so of course doesn’t make it the most attractive place to visit. The Rusty Shed cafe was a welcomed relief and they make the best scones with jam and cream and awesome smoothies. Sharyn’s sister owns the Rusty Shed Cafe, so a lovely family affair going on here. I love supporting small family business.  You must get there right on lunch time to ensure you can taste her world famous sausage rolls.

The Warriu Dreamtime Statues would have to be one of the most amazing things I’ve seen. These giant bronze figures depict an aboriginal family and native animals. It was first set up about 30 years ago and the artist had come back while we were there doing some repairs to them. I could not get over how life like they were, all the muscle tone in the back and arms was amazing.

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Warriu Dreamtime Statues

The five rivers lookout was very interesting. It is the highest point of the Bastion Range (330m). It provides a commanding view over the Cambridge Gulf including the 5 rivers – Durack, Pentecost, King, Forrest and Ord Rivers. There are very well maintained BBQ and picnic shelters available. The sandstone escarpments, expansive mud flats, woodland and boab outcrops make for some amazing photos. These have provided a wonderful backdrop for movies such as ‘Australia’, Mad Bastards’ and ‘Satellite Boy’.

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Five Rivers lookout after sunset
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Wyndam kite with tasty frog for dinner
Start of Gibb River Road

Gibb River Road – Crossing the Pentacost

We are travelling with Terri and John now and we have made a decision not to call into into El Questro due to WA and NT being on school holidays, we were getting reports from travellers that it was horrendous there in the campground, very overcrowded and nowhere to park when visiting Emma Gorge. So camping right next to people and having to wait ages for somewhere to park for entry to Emma Gorge just wasn’t doing it for us. After my phone call to reception at El Questro and being told they have over 800 campers there we decided to give it the flick. There is always next time.

Our first stop was a free camp spot just before the Pentacost River. It was a small area up high with great views of the river, it certainly made for an interesting afternoon watching people crossing the river.

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Pentacost River
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Pentacost River at sunset

In the afternoon we saw a camper trailer with a broken axel and a tow truck arrive to take it away and a car with a flat tyre. When he stopped it wasn’t flat but after a little while someone else said to him look at your front tyre!

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Pentacost River – many breakdowns on this track

He was lucky that the person standing around had all the equipment and know how to fix it. The boys looked like they were going to struggle. Then in the morning a big caravan was pulled across the river and when it came out he dragged it up the hill on the rim!

Home Valley Station – $40/night unpowered

After a pleasant evening, the four of us set off early towards our next stop only 9km away at Home Valley Station. We were getting a little concerned especially seeing the broken down cars and camper trailers. But it was a non event, water level in the Pentacost River very low and with a rocky bottom, we made it through with no problems.

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Pentacost River crossing

We just took our time and drove steady. The road was quite corrugated but not too bad but there certainly is a lot of traffic moving very fast and so much dust. Home Valley Station has a lovely swimming pool and great drinking water. Very basic flushing toilets and showers. It does have a great bar with prices pretty expensive. But what do you expect in the middle of nowhere. We spent most of our time in the pool, it was very hot here and the coolest place to be. Chris and John took some photos of some cute birds around the park.

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Sharon and Terri and Home Valley Station

Oops I meant these birds.

They had some cool stuff at Home Valley so we took the time for a photo of Chris and I. Luckily John was there to point and shoot. He did a good job I think.

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Day out for Chris and Sharon at Home Valley Station

We found some walks and in the early morning and late afternoon we did these walks, way too hot to do them during the day. We found out when you get to the top of the hill you get Telstra service. So time to call the family and check out the news (Facebook news of course)

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Home Valley – Great sunsets from top of range
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Home Valley – Great sunsets from top of range

While resting at Home Valley it was a great time for a cook up so we put together a Banana and salted caramel muffin in the camp oven. It was about as good as it gets and was quickly demolished by the four of us.

3. Home Valley Station - 5289 Banana and salted caramel muffin in the camp stove

Ellenbrae Station – $30/night unpowered

After 3 nights at Home Valley (we were stalling for the school holidays to finish) we set off to Ellenbrae Station. The section to Ellenbrae was terrible for the first half, the rest was ok. We were slipping and sliding with all these corrugations, people going slow with big caravans and us unwilling to slow down. Going too slow was just too painful on the corregations. There is one river crossing which is the Durack River, very shallow with a rocky bottom. The driveway into Ellenbrae is 5km long and what an awful road, luckily they keep you entertained with their signs and promises of scones, jam and cream! They didn’t disappoint and at $4.00 each we certainly enjoyed them.

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Sharon and Terri at Ellenbrae Station gardens
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Ellenbrae Station Homestead
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Ellenbrae Station Homestead
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Ellenbrae Station – lots of finches in the bird feeders while enjoying the scones

We met the grader about halfway, luckily they are working on making the road into the station better. Time to set up camp, were camping at Ringers Campground which is only a 150 meters from the waterhole, which I might say was beautiful. The campsites are spacious with lots of trees and fire pits.

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John and Terri’s camp at Ringers
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Our Camp at Ringers

They provide rubbish bins, a flushing toilet and a hot shower heated by the donkey. Someone comes and lights the donkey at 3 and then checks it at 5. It really is such a friendly place.

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Camp amenities. Note huge donkey in middle

Very few flies and mozzies which was a welcomed relief from Home Valley. With it being so nice here we decided to stay another night, of course our morning started with a serve of scones. We drove out to the next waterhole where we were promised a sandy beach. The road in is about 2-3km in along a narrow, windy and sandy track. Definitely no towing along this one. After walking about 500 meters we found our sandy beach it certainly was lovely.

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Second swimming water hole at end of dirt road
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Second swimming water hole at end of dirt road

We spoke to some people who had recently completed the road to Mitchell Falls from King Edward River. They said they were following the grader and the road was in good condition. So it looks like we are making our way there.

Drysdale Station $32/night unpowered

The road to the turnoff to the Kalumburu Road was really good. Then we turned off, oh my goodness it was just terrible the worst road we’ve seen yet. Until about 10 km before Drysdale when we met the grader, what a sight, we almost wanted to kiss him. The rest of the drive in was like being on a highway. We arrived and parked the car and started talking to people, with a slight nervous twitch you get after being on terrible bumpy roads. We were hearing all the horror stories of broken shockers, shredded tyres and general things like broken suspensions on cars, caravans and camper trailers.

The staff at Drysdale are all wonderful and there are basic facilities, however you can get a shower, fuel, water and do the washing. All you need while on a very dusty road. Diesel is $2.05/litre. Only a handful of powered sites and you will be lucky to get one.

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Drysdale Station – Bar and dining area
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Drysdale Station

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Drysdale Station – camping area

King Edward River (Munurru) $20/night

After speaking with so many people about the road into Mitchell Falls we decided we would take the camper in. Then we got up in the morning and Terri and John had been talking to the campers next to them as they did a day trip to Mitchell Falls and they said the road was terrible! We set off to King Edward River and thought we would assess the situation once there. The Kalumburu Road to King Edward River had been recently graded although it was already deteriorating, however we were feeling lucky about the reasonable condition. We turned onto the Port Warrender Track and into the campground at King Edward River.

This was an amazing campground with very large campsites and well separated from the  other campers. The caretakers are doing a wonderful job of maintaining the grounds, keeping the toilets clean and collecting the fees. Plus they are lovely to have a chat with.

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King Edward River – Terri, John and our campsite
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King Edward River – Swimming etopia
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King Edward River
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King Edward River

After having a swim in the river and chatting to other people who have done the trip to Mitchell Falls we decided we have to do it. We made the decision to leave the camper at King Edward River and just take the car. Terri and John were doing the same thing but they bought a tent with them! We only had our car! Chris borrowed a single air mattress and slept under the car awning, I slept on the back seat of the car!

Mitchell River National Park (Mitchell Plateau and Falls) $12 entry fee (payable first night) plus $32/night

The road in was bad as promised but not terrible. There were several sections of rock that no grader could have fixed so there was a combination of rock and corrugations. Even though the road was rough we wished we hadn’t listened to other people and had taken the camper in. What seems terrible to one person is not necessarily the same view for someone else. It also has a lot to do with your vehicles capability, what you are towing and your experience. As always you just need to drive to the conditions.

This area is extremely remote and is one of the most biologically important areas in the Kimberley. The landscape around the plateau varies from mangroves and wetlands, to woodlands and lush rainforest pockets. The area has a rich diversity of wildlife, with many rare animals, such as the Monjon Australia’s smallest rock wallaby, so small that we didn’t see any and the black grass wren, so rare that we didn’t see any of them either! There are many Aboriginal cultural heritage sites to see as well. The Mitchell Falls are formed by a series of beautiful cascades of a total height of 150 meters. The walking trail that we completed would be considered as moderate but difficult at times, there were only 2 big boulders to negotiate. Along the way you pass Little Mertens Falls, where you can rest and swim.

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Little Mertens Falls – great spot for a cooling dip
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Little Mertens Falls

There was a lovely spot to stop along the walk to Big Mertens which was well worth the stop to cool off. There were also some interesting aboriginal art.

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Great place to rest ond cool off on the track between Little and big Merten Falls
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Aboriginal painting adjacent rest spot

Then onto Big Mertens Falls and Gorge, no swimming there, have no idea how big the drop is but the picture of John standing on the ledge might give you an idea.

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Big Mertens Falls
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Pool at top of Big Mertens Falls
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John on the edge at Big Mertens Falls

Just before you get to Mitchell Falls there is a great swimming spot. You will need to swim here as there is no further place to swim. If you look at the photo below you can see the two posts where you cross to get to the falls.

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Crossing to Michell Falls near swimming hole
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Last Swimming hole before falls

Then onto Mitchell Falls. The hardest part for me was the water crossing just near some falls. Luckily Terri overheard a tour guide tell his group to leave their socks on. Viola it worked, no slipping on the rocks as it gives you lots of grip. Well the best was to come, after scrambling over some rocks we made it to Mitchell Falls. My goodness they are so beautiful, could have sat on the ledge for hours just watching them.

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Mitchell Falls
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Mitchell Falls

The time had come for Terri and myself to take a helicopter ride back to camp. Wow! What can I say, one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. There were no doors on the back. I was so scared and so excited all at the same time such a wonderful feeling. Chris and John decided they preferred to walk back taking more photos. Terri and I couldn’t stop talking about it for ages.

Waiting to take off
Terri, myself and the pilot holding my things after the flight.

Back to King Edward River

After an uncomfortable night in the car, we decided we liked King River so much (and being as we left the camper there) we stayed another couple of nights on the way back from Mitchell Falls. We had a great time here with more swimming and photos.

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King Edward River – Great Egrit
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King Edward River – Great Egrit
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King Edward River – What a beautiful place

All in all the Kalumburu Road was not too bad. With some parts being pretty good after the grader had been through. The worst part was from the Gibb River road to Drysdale station but luckily by the time we made our way back the grader had finished that bit too. So we are glad we made it up there.

Just before you get back onto the Gibb River Road there is a great free camp right next to the river, we would have happily spent a couple of days there. Quite a few nice birds and the river was very pretty.

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Camp spot next to Kulumburu Road river crossing, 3Km from Gibb River Road.
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Kulumburu Road river crossing, 3Km from Gibb River Road. Good camp spot here.

Mt Barnett Roadhouse (Manning Gorge) $45 first night (includes permit) then $29/night

I had seen on WikiCamps that fresh fruit and vegetables are delivered on a Thursday. We arrived on a Saturday but we did manage to stock up. We were pleasantly surprised by the cost of the fresh food. We certainly are running low on supplies now. There just isn’t anywhere to stock up on fresh food. So tin and packet foods are becoming popular as a supplement with our meat and pasta supplies. Once we were stocked up we made the 7km journey out to Manning Gorge Campground. This is owned and run by the aboriginal community, they certainly do a wonderful job.

9. Manning Falls - 6010Although the bathrooms look terrible they certainly get cleaned every day with bleach. A lot better than many stations, which just get a hose down. Our walk to Manning Gorge starts off with getting into a leaking tinny with ropes to enable you to pull yourself across the river. Alternatively you can swim but if you have camera gear, etc the leaky boat is the best option, just pull harder.

9. Manning Falls - 5996It is only a 1.2km walk each way but it certainly feels a lot longer. The first section is ok, just up and down rocky hills into valleys. Then it becomes a lot harder at the end, challenging to say the least. It is most definitely a strenuous walk.

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Manning Falls
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Manning Falls – Chris, Sharon, John and Terri

We chose to camp further down the back, away from the main campground where there are less people. It is much quieter and you had more room to spread out. There are a few sites that are close to the river at the back which although generally only a few inches deep, was handy for collecting clean water and for a quick cool off.

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Manning Falls – Creek behind the quieter campsites where we stayed

Silent Grove Campground (Bell Creek) $12 entry fee (first night) plus $24/night Access to Bell Gorge

We said our goodbyes to Terri and John today after travelling with them for the last 3 weeks. They are such a lovely couple and we have had so much fun. We hope to catch up with them again a bit further up the track. Along the way you go past Galvins Gorge which is a 15 minute walk in on relatively flat ground, some rock climbing is needed but has been the easiest by far.

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Galvans Gorge – Great swimming spot
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Creek on walk to Galvans Gorge

You can’t camp here and is only for day use but it certainly is very beautiful. Made a great spot for morning tea.

Although we didn’t need any fuel or supplies we popped into Imintji, another aboriginal owned and run town. You can get basic supplies and diesel which is cheapest on the Gibb at $2/litre. They also have a caravan park which looked ok but we were heading onto Silent Grove.

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Since doing this trip I have been completely challenged with the walks we have been doing. Rock hopping across water, clambering over boulders coming down steep rocky hills is not something I am confident in doing. But Chris has been guiding me on which foot to use and how to push forward, I know when he says “your other left foot”! I’m challenging him as well. But I’ve completed all the walks so far, which is a huge milestone for me.

Along the road into Silent Grove there are 2 water crossings. One was slightly deeper than the other. When I say deeper, I mean it came up to the step on the Colorado.

The campground here at Silent Grove is very large and has 2 areas one for generators and a quiet area. We chose the generator area as the quiet area was completely packed out. They have excellent drinking water supplied by the spring on the property, flushing toilets and showers. The campground host is very friendly and helpful.

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Generator area at Silent Grove

Bell Gorge is a 10Km drive on a pretty average dirt road. The walk today into Bell Gorge was a huge challenge for me today. The walk is in two sections first section is to Bells Creek which is 1.2km return. This walk was fine, first of all you start walking down a very steep rocky path to a dry creek bed which you follow for a short while. This takes you to the top of the falls, which are spectacular. This is also a great spot for a swim.

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Top of Bell Gorge Falls after first part of walk
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Top of Bell Gorge Falls after first part of walk

At this point you can walk back to the car park or continue on for another 2km return walk. Firstly you have to remove your shoes and rock hop over the water, clamber up very high over the rocks. The hard part is coming down the boulders to get to the pool at the bottom of the falls. My only way to do this was on my bottom. I had almost given up when one of the APT tour guides who was following me, said you can’t give up now your almost there, the rest is easy! Well easier! I made a graceful entry sliding down a massive cliff face on my bottom. I looked behind me and another lady, said that looks like fun, so did the same thing. It felt like going down a slippery dip! It certainly was worth the effort, such a beautiful waterfall.

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Swimming hole at the bottom of the Falls
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Swimming hole at the bottom of the Falls

These were truly beautiful falls and had by far the most water flowing over them. On the way back we stopped at the top of the falls again for a swim and to take some photo of a resident Heron. Chris could not resist the opportunity to sit on the ledge in the water at the top of the falls.

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White Faced Heron at top of falls
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White Faced Heron at top of falls

The walk back to the car was all up hill but was not too bad.

Windjana Gorge National Park $12 entry fee (first night) plus $24/night

The road in is about 20km to the campground from the Gibb on a rather corrugated road. Just at the beginning there is a rubbish tip, which is very helpful as the national parks don’t have rubbish bins. The campground is very large with 2 areas, a generator and quiet area. Once again we are in the generator area as it is standing room only in the quiet area. The campground has flushing toilets, showers and drinking water.

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View from Windjana Gorge Camp Ground – generator section

Oh my goodness this has to be the hottest day yet 38c+. We took off to the gorge to cool off. After seeing 20+ freshwater crocodiles in the water and on the bank we decided that was not a very good idea. I took off looking for shade to cool off and didn’t see the crocodile trying to do the same thing as me. As you guessed it I stayed in the sun.

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Windjana Gorge
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Windjana Gorge – with residents

Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek is a 36 km Drive from Windjana Gorge Campground. There are pit toilets there and places to get changed into your bathers. It is free to enter and you can’t camp there. You most definitely need a torch and shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Firstly you walk about 400 meters to the entrance where you negotiate 2 big boulders, once over that you are in. Now I had to face 2 of my fears, darkness and water. So here I am walking in water going into the dark. Needless to say I lost my confidence and had a panic attack. Chris went on his own and I waited for him. The tunnel is a length of 750 meters. Whilst I was waiting a lovely older group of people came out and were the only ones who asked if I was ok. After I told them what happened the gentleman sat with me and said don’t worry you can try it again, it’s totally understandable. So I had another little cry.

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Sharon at Tunnel Creek Entrance

Chris came back after walking it and said want to give it another go? I’m so glad I did! It was amazing. Mostly you walk in calf deep water and some spots to your knees. However, if you take a wrong path it is much deeper as Chris found out. There is a couple of waterfalls inside that are really cool and in the middle you come to an opening where we took a break and had a snack.

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Sharon in Tunnel Creek
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Tunnel Creek
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Tunnel Creek
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Tunnel Creek

After that, back in the dark until you get to the end where it just opens up and meets Tunnel Creek. The colours in the limestone was so amazing and was such a beautiful temperature down there that we ended up staying in there for quite some time.

We are now in Derby having completed the Gibb River Road. We missed El Questro and Mornington but hey we will need to something different to see when we do it again. All in all the road really was not that bad, yes some parts were worse than others. We certainly had an amazing time and met lots of lovely people along the way.

4 thoughts on “Kununurra to Derby

  1. Absolutely fantastic, Sharon, you sure know how to write a blog, once again it felt like I was right there with you, it was like reading a good book, that you just can’t put it down, loved it, xx❤️


  2. We just completed our 18 day APT tour of most of the places you went. Our guide John Kemp told us to wear our socks when crossing the water! Thanks for sharing,
    You showed a photo in your tunnel creek ones of the white limestone, when we were there , there was a freshwater croc quite large about 2 metres away and I was in water above my knees, can tell you I was petrified .


    1. Hi Sandra, yes when we were looking at the white limestone, I kept saying to Chris I can see eyes over there when I shine the torch. He said “don’t be silly” then a lady walked up to us and said “can you see those eyes blinking” now you have also confirmed there was one there. I knew there was! Yes I was also petrified. Thank you for taking the time to comment on our blog 😊 the Kimberley is certainly a beautiful place!


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