When I wanted to check out at 6:40 the next morning reception was still closed although it was supposed to open at 6 AM. I didn’t really have time to investigate what was going on and the night manager wouldn´t answer the phone. I was a bit pissed since I wanted my $20 key deposit back, but since I got picked up at 6:50 I had to leave anyway. The truck from Adventure Tours was already there. I told the guide Brenton that I had a problem checking out and he told me that there are anyway a few more people missing, so he would drive another round and pick me up later. I could already put my luggage on the truck and went back to the hostel. From the outside I could see a note that you should come over to the Youth Shack for checking in or out. So I did and learned that someone hadn´t turned up for work and thus brought on this mess. Anyway, I got my $20 back and was happy. When finally everyone arrived we were 12 people with an age range from 28 to 63, only one person being under 30 and 5 above 50. I never had it before that so few young people where on a tour like this before. There were four Swiss, four Germans, two Kiwis, one Irish and one Aussie. Another person was supposed to join us later. First stop was Edith Falls, where we did a little walk to a lookout and the pools. Unfortunately I twisted my ankle bit at the lookout. Not too bad, was not swollen or blue but still hurt for about 3 days. We all enjoyed the swim in the pool and under the waterfall; it was a welcome cool down in the Northern Territory heat.
From there we drove on to Katherine. We could buy some booze here, last option before heading into the national parks with no access to any shops. Katherine Gorge was the next stop. There are millions of flying foxes hanging in the trees, pretty amazing and also a bit smelly. We walked around there for a bit and finally went to the Baruwei Lookout to watch the sunset and the flying foxes taking off and flying through the gorge. That was pretty amazing! We also got a few nibbles while waiting for sunset.
After that we drove to our first camp site. They had pre-installed tents with bunk beds inside, a kitchen hut, shower and toilets.I shared a tent with Theresa, an Australian girl three years younger than me. We had salad and barramundi from the BBQ for dinner. This fish is so tasty, I love it! We even got a desert: Tiramisu. Everyone pretty much went straight to bed after dinner. I was not tired at all, but since nobody was there anymore and I shared a tent, I also went to bed. Secured some pictures and read a bit before going to sleep. Next morning we got up at 5:30 and left camp at about 7 AM, all packed up and after breakfast. I saw a nice sunrise. The second day was mainly a driving day. We only stopped for coffee, lunch and pee. That day we had to eat up or throw out all veggies or fruit we had with us, expect frozen stuff or closed cans since we were crossing the border to Western Australia after lunch and they have really strict quarantine regulations. We also did one small hike in the afternoon in the Judbarra / Gregory National Park (NP). The Nawilbinbin Walk is a 1.7 km loop walk, mainly in the shade with nice views and a bit of Aboriginal Art.
Our campground at Lake Argyle was really nice. They have a pool there, called Infinity pool with a great view over the lake.
There is also a pub and toilets and showers. We only had 45 minutes to enjoy the pool and grab our things after we arrived before we went for a sunset cruise on the lake. This was not included in the price of the trip, you had to pay $30 extra, but all of us joined and it was absolutely worth it. We took our beer esky on the boat and again some nibbles and off we went for about 2 hours. Lake Argyle is a manmade lake, dammed up with the Ord River Dam. It is huge and the biggest lake within the whole of Australia. And it is beautiful! There is also quite some wildlife on the little islands and in the water. We saw short eared rock wallabies,
cat fish, archer fish and freshwater crocodiles. We were allowed to feed the archer fish with some bread. You had to hold a small piece out with your stretched arm and they would shoot it out of your hand with some water. Shortly before sunset we could go for a little swim. Only Corrine, Theresa, Richard, John and me went into the water though. It was very refreshing and super nice.
The sunset was just amazing! Our guide James was very nice and gave us a lot of information about history and facts of the area, the lake and the dam and also about the wildlife. He was a photographer, so he made sure to always turn the boat in the right direction and we all got great shots. I can definitely recommend doing this tour!
Once back to camp we pitched up some tents without the outer shell, so just the fly net basically since there were too many mosquitoes to just sleep in the swag. But you can also see the stars like this. We had mustard chicken with rice for dinner and some of us went to the pub where they had an open mic night. It was nice, but finished very early, so another early night. It got pretty fresh at night and I was freezing even inside my swag with only my inlet without a sleeping bag.
So I didn´t exactly sleep a lot. Next day after the usual morning routine of getting up at 5:30, breakfast and packing up we drove to Kununurra. Brenton got some supplies and we could get some snacks for the bus or make use of the phone reception and/or free WiFi of a bank. Since I didn´t have a sleeping back and the nights got very cold, a bought a blanket for $6 at Target. We also picked up our 13th group member, an Aussie guy named Jack. We stopped quickly at the sandalwood plantation and had a rum tasting at the Hoochery. Was a bit early for that, but well, we were on holiday…
On the parking lot there was a dog running around with a dead bat hanging on its back. It stank horribly and we all felt sorry for the dog. But he was so shy that we couldn´t remove his stinking freight. After that we started another long drive of about 5 hours to the Bungle Bungles with a short lunch break in between.
At about 4 pm we arrived at the Purnululu NP where we did the Echida Chasm Walk and watched the sunset from the Osmand Lookout after. I really enjoyed the walk. The color of the stones is just amazing, especially in the light of the setting sun.
From there we went to the Walardi Camp, our campsite for the next two nights. There are no showers, no drinking water and only an outhouse. You could chose to pitch up a tent or do it the Aussie way and just sleep in a swag. I did the latter. It´s so beautiful to sleep directly under the stars, especially in such a remote area where there is no light pollution and you can see a lot of them! We got a tarp though to sleep on, so not 100% the Aussie way. Only Brenton and Jack did it the real way. Theresa, Andreas and me slept in swags on the tarp and all the others put up tents even with the outer shell. We had Tacos for dinner and again everybody went to bed very early. I would have loved to play some cards or something in the evenings, but that didn´t seem to happen with this group. Pitty! This night got really cold, we had temperatures below 10°C. So the temperature difference between day and night is about 20°C. Even with my blanket I was freezing like crazy and hardly slept. Andreas had the same problem, so for the next night he pitched up a tent. Only Theresa and me stayed on the tarp.
The next day was a lot more of my liking. We didn´t drive so much, but walked a lot. We drove to the Piccaninny Gorge. On the way we stopped at the Elephant Rock for some pictures.
At the gorge we first walked to the Piccaninny Creek Lookout, from there to The Window and from there to Cathedral Gorge. The latter was the only place with shade so we hung out there for a while. In the Gorge it is super hot with the sun burning down and the heat radiating from the stones. It is a dry heat and you cannot really sweat. It is very dangerous and heat shocks are very common. You have to make sure to drink loads of water! If you can, make your T-shirt wet and put it back on and/or put water in your hat before putting it on. You need to keep your core temperature down as good as possible. It is beautiful there and definitely worth walking through that heat. Best to do it in the morning, like we did.
Once back to the truck we drove to HeliSpirit, where eight of us took a 30 minute flight over the Bungle Bungles.
It was also extra costs and $399 for these 30 minutes. I couldn´t afford that so I skipped it. Would have loved to finally fly in a helicopter, but you can´t do everything! I just chilled and wrote my diary, talked to the others, looked at the wild life around and went to the tap to make my T-shirt wet every like 15 minutes.
Once everyone was back we had chicken wings from the BBQ and salad for lunch. We drove to Mini Palm Gorge where we did another walk. You had to climb a little bit over some rocks for a good part of the way and I enjoyed that a lot. The view at the end of the track is pretty amazing too.
In total we walked about 13 km that day. From Mini Palm Gorge we drove to Stonehenge to watch the sunset and had some crackers with cheese.
When we came back to the camp there was another group from Adventure Tours doing the trip the other way round. Their guide was Toby, the guy I did the Perth to Broome tour with 1.5 years ago. What a coincidence. He even still remembered my name (almost correctly) and knew who I was. I was very impressed since he is doing so many tours with heaps of people every year! Was nice seeing him again since his tour was up to now by far the best I ever did. We talked a bit and I also told him that it is getting so cold here at night and I was freezing without a sleeping bag. He had a spare one and gave one to me. I was so happy, he saved my night!!! He went back to his group to get dinner ready and we had our dinner too: lamb curry with rice. Since everybody of my group went to bed shortly after dinner again, I went over to the other group and played cards with them for a while. At about 11 pm I climbed into my new sleeping bag. With the inlet in the sleeping bag, the blanket on top and all of that in the swag I was perfectly warm, I even had to take off my sweater – without which I would have frozen to death the night before. I watched the stars for a bit and then went to sleep soundly, first time on this trip. I even slept through sunrise. Thank you Toby!!!
The next morning we had to pack up again and off we went for another big drive to El Questro.
We stopped in front of the Dun Dun Roadhouse for lunch before continuing to Kununurra. We stayed there for about 1.5 hours while Brenton restocked our supplies and we had time to go to the supermarket, bottle shop, pharmacy and aboriginal art gallery.
From there we went to Emma Gorge. At the beginning of the track there is a Boab Tree with a tap in it where you can refill your water bottle. The swim in the pool at the end of the gorge was just amazing and needed before walking back to bring the body temperature down.
We drove back to El Questro during sun set and set up camp. Apart from the guide and Jack I was the only one sleeping in a swag, all the others put up tents. We had miso soup for dinner and went down to the river to look for freshwater crocodiles. The next day we could sleep in a bit according to Brenton, breakfast was at 6:30. I had slept really well and had a nice view from my swag when the sun rose. Here it was a lot warmer at night, not as cold as in the Bungle Bungles. After breakfast we headed to Zebedee Springs, where we relaxed in the warm water surrounded by palm trees for a bit.
From there we went directly to the El Questro gorge to do the hardest walk of the trip. It is a grade 5 walk, 6.8 km return. Doesn´t sound much, but most of the time you literally have to climb and sometimes even walk through chest high water with your backpack over your head. Corinne and John stayed back in camp in the morning already, Theresa and Gaby joined until Half Way pool and stayed back there waiting for us. The hard part of the trail started there. Claude turned around and joined them shortly after, but the rest of us managed to get to Mac Micking Pool at the end of the gorge. It was strenuous and tiring, several times I had to face my fear of heights, three of us including me were stung by wild wasps, we saw two snakes and most of us got some bruises and scratches, but it was a really nice adventurous walk with nice views and nice swims. Definitely worth it, if you are fit enough! After 4.5 hours we were back to the truck. That was quite good. They state the time with 4 to 5 hours excluding the swim.
We drove back to camp,
had lunch and the rest of the afternoon off. This was really needed we were all pretty knackered. I spent the time doing some hand wash laundry, reading, dozing and writing my diary. We had Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner and went to the bar after, where they had live music.
The next morning we were back to the usual 6 AM breakfast and 6:30 leaving camp.
All packed up since we left El Questro for good. We hit the Gibb River Road with a few photo stops and an Aboriginal Site. At the Ellenbrae Station we had fresh scones and tea or coffee
and later the sandwiches we had prepared in the morning for lunch somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
We collected some fire wood on the way and had a short stop at the Mt Barnett roadhouse. In the late afternoon we arrived at the Manning Gorge campground. We started a fire, put up camp and as usual cut the veggies and stuff for dinner before hopping into the river. For sunset we climbed the rocks close to camp while Brenton prepared some lamb roast, damper and veggies on the fire. A quick shower fitted in before lunch as well.
After lunch for the first time in 7 days some people wanted to play cards and we played Rommé for a while before going to bed. On day eight we walked through the Manning Gorge after breakfast. It was very hot and the Manning Falls were almost completely dried out, but the pool was still really nice and cool.
Back to camp we had another quick swim in the river to cool down and then had burgers for lunch. We had another petrol and ice cream stop at the Mt Barnett Roadhouse and drove on for another 30 minutes to Galvans Gorge. That was a rather short walk (20 min one way) and the pool at the end didn´t look very inviting. Only four people got in. I just put my feet inside.
From there we drove for a couple of hours in a hot truck over a very bumpy road to the Silent Grove Campground. Most of the roads up here are gravel roads with river crossings and stuff. Hardly any road is a bitumen road. So most of the time it is very bumpy and dusty. Makes it difficult to do anything while driving. We arrived quite early so we had time to read, shower and write journal before dinner. We played another round of Rommé this evening. It got very windy this evening and the night was very turbulent. I had the feeling I would get blown away with my swag. Almost none of the group slept well that night. Day nine started rive to Bell Gorge after breakfast. After about 20 minutes walk we reached the top of the water fall where you can swim in the pool. It´s not very deep though and the stones are very slippery. When you continue from there, you can walk to the bottom of the falls and swim in the much bigger and deeper pool down there. I swam in both and walked just in bikinis and hiking shoes to the lower pool and back.
Back to the truck we drove for about 3 hours with a few photo stops in between until we got to Tunnel Creek.
We first had lunch at the parking space there and then went into the cave. I had finished the book Bill had given me in Brisbane (Marching Powder by Rusty Young) just before that and gave it to Corinne to read it next. Tunnel Creek is pretty amazing with gorgeous stone formations, freshies and bats. You have to walk most parts in water, but maximum knee deep. At one point the people who wanted could do a bit of an adventures detour climbing into a side cave. You need flashlights in there; it is a natural cave with no light.
We drove on to the Windjana Gorge campground and Brenton sent us off into the gorge to watch sunset.
My motivation started to fade a bit which also was caused through Jack. Nobody liked him and he really got on our nerves. He was constantly drunk, had no manners at all, rotten teeth and an attitude like he would be the king of the world. He stank, farted and burped all the time, he would stare at the woman, especially when they changed or something like that. This guy really had a problem and belonged in therapy. So far he was kind of harmless, just annoying but that evening things started to get a bit out of hand with this guy. When we had dinner – steaks with mashed potatoes and veggies – he was nowhere to be seen. One hour later he was still not there. At one point Brenton started to get worried and went into the gorge to look for him. While Brenton was looking for him, Jack came back totally drunk again. When we told him that Brenton was looking for him he wanted to get after him, but we told him to better stay here since they already missed each other once and that could go on forever. Unfortunately it was Theresa who told him to better stay back and he got super aggressive by being told by a woman what to do. He shouted at her and got this crazy look in his eyes. Brenton came back about one hour later since he walked all the way to the end of the gorge and back looking for him. No word of excuse or anything from Jack. Since the atmosphere was pretty strange around the fire I went to bed, meaning my swag quite early, read a bit and watched the stars before sleeping.
Jack was rummaging around close to the fire. But I slept quite well anyway. The next morning Jack was gone including his swag. He knew what time we would leave, but he didn´t show up during neither breakfast nor half an hour later. We send out a few people looking for him, first all over the campground then into the gorge. There they finally found him, fast asleep in his swag and stinking like a distillery. He was very aggressive when he finally came back. He made all of us wait for him for more than one hour and he was the one behaving like we did something wrong. He even physically threatened Theresa and threw his stuff around. We got into the truck and drove off finally. He made a game out of it by coming to the back trying to scare us. Crazy idiot, he should really get some help! During the drive I found out that I had booked the same hostel as he had. Me being the only one staying there with him. I didn´t want to risk that since he really was crazy and aggressive and I didn´t want to run into him alone during the next two days. Corinne and John continued this tour down to Perth together with three others of this group and they had a bed in a dorm in another hostel in Broome included in the price of the trip. They preferred to have a few nights to themselves though and had booked a more expensive place with a double room somewhere else in the city. So we tried to convince the Kimberley Travelers Lodge that I could take over one of their beds since it was already paid for anyway. It was not so easy, but in the end we managed and I didn´t have to go to the same place as Jack. I canceled my booking at the Kimberly Club YHA using Theresa´s phone since I didn´t have any reception. Up north Telstra is basically the only provider with coverage, I had no chance with my vodaphone. The YHA was very understanding and cancelled my booking from their side without me needing to pay anything. But since I had booked over booking.com I had to cancel there as well and they charged one night. Anyway I got away cheaper like that and was away from Jack. Yeah!
We had a quick stop in Derby where we looked at the pier and went to the Prison Tree. This is a huge boab tree were they used to put up to 12 Aborigines inside while transporting them from A to B for having a break, back in the days when they still used those poor people as slaves. Not a very nice chapter of the Australian history.
We had lunch in front of another roadhouse and after covered the last 166 km to Broome. Brenton drove us around to show the city and the best places to see and do things and also for food and drinks and then dropped us off at our individual accommodations. We had done 3500 km in the last 10 days and we have seen a lot. Loads of gorgeous gorges! If you are interested in having a similar experience you can use this discount code when you book directly and receive 10% off. Andreas, Nicole and Manuela were in the same hostel and they put us all together in the same room. I had a long shower to finally get the dust off and did my laundry. After that it was already time to head to the Mangrove Hotel where I was meeting Theresa and Richard for drinks and watching the sunset. We ended up also having dinner there and Gaby and Claude showed up too later. They were quite surprised to see us. We had a nice relaxed evening enjoying being in civilization again.
Shortly after 8 pm I was back to the hostel and got on my computer for blogging, while talking to Brenton and his friends who showed up at the hostel bar. It was nice sleeping in a bed for a change again and not to get up before 6 am for once. The breakfast in the hostel is included and pretty much the same as on tour. Once I had put away my laundry and gave up doing anything online since the WiFi was not really working I took the bus to cable beach. I met Theresa in the Blue Seas Resort where she was staying and we hung out a bit in her room and at the pool. She had loads of data left for that months and created a hotspot for me so that I could finally check in for my flight the next day and get some blog work done. Later we walked to the beach where we had a nice swim and chilled. Shortly before sunset we went to the Zanders bar where we finally had a Matso´s Mango beer.
We couldn´t take the beer outside the bar and there were more and more people standing in our view, so we drank up and went to the barrier overlooking the beach and the ocean ourselves.
The last bus is going shortly before 7 pm, so we had to leave. I had left my laptop and valuables at Theresa´s place. So we walked back, I got my stuff and took the second to last bus back (they only go every half hour). I got off at the shopping center which was already closed, but Coles was still open. I bought some pasta, sauce and veggies and walked back to the hostel to prepare some dinner. The pasta and sauce I didn´t use I handed over to Andreas. He invited me for a beer instead. I played Cards against Humanity with some people of the hostel and tried again to go online without success. So I went to bed and read a little. The next morning I packed up my things and checked out, then went to the shopping center again to top up my phone for the last couple of days. I ran into Richard who showed me pictures and told me about his tour to the vertical falls the last day. It is very expensive, but according to him definitely worth it. Back to the hostel the internet finally worked. It was still very slow, but I could get some block work done for about half an hour. Then it was time to walk over to the airport in order to catch my flight to Perth. Check in and security was very easy at this tiny open air airport and Virgin also didn´t make such a fuss about the carry-ons. They even serve a little snack on the 2h45 flight. I think it´s the only cheap airline in Australia doing that. The adventurous part in Australia was thus over. I really enjoyed it, but I have to say that neither the Northern Territory nor the northern parts of Western Australia are places where I could imagine living. They are nice for traveling and you get to see fantastic landscapes. But it is way too hot and dusty in the dry season and even hotter, flooded and humid in the wet season. In most places you can´t swim due to crocodiles and/or stingers. Everything is pretty secluded, the distances you have to drive are enormous,… It´s pretty much a very remote lifestyle. Not so much my thing. But I definitely recommend experiencing this at least once in your life. In general I really like the west coast of Australia for traveling.