Travelling the Gibb River Road – Mitchell Falls to Manning Gorge

Its a couple of driving days to get to Mitchell Falls from El Questro.  We stopped at Ellenbrae Station, famous for their scones, and had the GF vanilla muffins with cream and jam, almost as good!  Shared the gravel road driving to Drysdale River Station (off the Gibb River Road) where we camped for the night.  Then it was four hours of corrugated and rocky roads to the Mitchell Falls campground.  Saw two dingoes, one in a picnic area and one crossing the road.  Stopped at Munurru Campground (aka King Edward River Camp) to check it out and have lunch.  Interesting that all the ‘traditional’ English names in these areas are being replaced by the original aboriginal names and most areas are under joint management between the government and the traditional owners.  We pulled in behind an APT tour bus and some people from the tour came over and offerred us their leftover lunch as it was only going to be thrown out.  So we had tandoori chicken and roasted vegetable salad courtesy of APT.  We also later gave away another bag of their vegetables to a fellow camper.  At that lunch stop on the King Edward River I had a quick swim in a beautiful spot on the river and no one else was there. Magic place! It took 2 hours for Dick to drive 78 k’s into Mitchell Falls campground as the road was pretty rough.  I did 109 k’s in 2 hours, also on gravel and corrugations, so we had a dusty, juddery day and it was too much for the fridge door shelf (gaffer tape to the rescue)!  About 40 k’s before Mitchell Falls we encountered a slide-on campervan being loaded onto a tow truck for the long drive to Kununurra (estimated to cost $5-$6,000 for the tow truck).  A somewhat sobering sight!

Mitchell Falls day (aka Punamii-unpuu) started with a 6 minute helicopter taxi ride to the falls at 10am (and we both figured it was a good way to spend $250).  That gave us lots of time to look around at the top of the falls, have a swim and lunch before walking 5 k’s back to camp in the hot afternoon sun.  The falls were spectacular (four tiers and all had water even though its getting late in the season) and also quite a special place to be in.  We were allowed to swim in the pools at the top of the falls but not at the bottom as it would be disrespectful to the local people since it is a sacred place inhabited by powerful dreamtime serpents; as well as saltwater crocodiles.  We did see two quolls chattering and scrambling over rocks on our walk back.  We did not see the aboriginal artwork under Little Mertens Falls which we walked by.

Started the day by doing the River View walk and then walking back to Little Mertens Falls to see the aboriginal artwork we missed yesterday.  Again we struggled to find the way to get down under the falls but fortunately a tour guide with three clients came along so we followed them down under the falls.  We saw quite a lot of interesting aboriginal artwork, some Bradshaw(Gwion Gwion) and some Wandjinas, and then we found the swimming hole under the falls.  It was lovely and again I had a nice swim.  Dick even got a bit further into the water this time. Another hot, sunny day with clear blue skies and we managed to get in a 5 km walk before we did the two hour, rough road drive back to the Munurru campground.  Stopped at a lookout and another aboriginal art site on the way.

Ongoing maintenance and repair jobs are keeping the IT support/handyman quite busy, especially after those rocky, corrugated roads when cupboards stop closing, spice bottles empty, sinks get loose, and things under the vehicle need refastening (the magic crawler for getting under the vehicle is proving useful). We checked out the King Edward River which is very lovely but decided against a morning swim before we left the camp.  Stopped at another aboriginal art site; almost got lost in the rocks a la ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ and did see some interesting aboriginal art.  I drove back to Drysdale River Station where we decided to stay as they have laundry facilities.  We finished the day with the famous Drysdale hamburgers for dinner and chats with fellow travellers in the beer garden.  Drove to Mt Barnett Roadhouse/Manning Gorge so back on the Gibb River Road the next day.  One unplanned stop when the CB aerial broke (no wonder considering the corrugations we had been on!).  All passers by stopped to check if we were ok while Dick checked out the damage.  Its a nice feeling that people are looking out for each other, although it is hard to take a pee at the side of the road.

Another hot and sunny day for our walk to Manning Gorge (6k return).  The walk started by crossing the Manning River in a boat that you pull yourself across via ropes connected to pulleys at both ends.  The walk started out flat and easy but the last 500 meters was climbing over and down large boulders.  We spent a pleasant few hours on the rocks opposite the falls, and I had a swim, Dick had a sit in the water.  Managed another swim in the river near the camp when we got back – very relaxing day.

Corrugations and dust!


My river crossing for the day



A lunch stop on the beautiful King Edward River


A private swimming hole in the river


The view from the helicopter 


Mitchell Falls from the lookout


Standing on the edge


Swimming above the falls


Lovely pools and water lilies on the walk back


Aboriginal artwork under Little Mertens Falls in Mitchell River NP
Dick getting into the pool at Little Mertens Falls


Pat having another swim, under the waterfall


Leaving the King Edward River without a final swim


Aboriginal art in the caves
The rocks where we found the aboriginal art (nothing is well signposted!)
Red corrugations on the road to Drysdale River Stn


Dick checking out the broken CB aerial


Crossing the Manning River via the rope/pulley system


Manning Gorge


Swimming near the waterfall at Manning Gorge


Dick almost swimming at Manning Gorge


Tripod photo as no one was near us


Climbing out of Manning Gorge