This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels July 28

SATURDAY 28 JULY   MITCHELL PLATEAU TO HONEYMOON BEACH   220kms

We were up at 6am and away at 7.45.

Came across the mangled vehicle, still beside the track. He’d made a fair old mess of it. Judging by the big skid marks on the track, it had been on its way into the campground and Falls. It had been pushed to the side of the road, awaiting collection.

We stopped at the aboriginal art site by the King Edward River.

The grass around these had been burnt, so the various rocks and outcrops where the paintings occurred, were more obvious. It made wandering around the area really pleasant. The galleries now had board walks constructed around them, to protect the sites.

I thought that the “paint” had deteriorated since we first saw these, in 2000.

The Wandjina figures here are so powerful. They really do seem to be watching you.

As we approached the crossing of the King Edward River, a recovery tilt try truck was coming from the other side – presumably on the way to collect the accident vehicle. He mangled the crossing quite badly and had to reverse out to change direction. Definitely harder than it looks!

Recovery truck crossing the King Edward River

I think the river here had gotten deeper! We got water in the back of Truck, and on the back seat floor. I took photos of M doing the crossing.

Passenger’s view of the crossing
Truck fording the King Edward River

The road north to Kalumburu was rough – corrugated, still with some erosion channels, rocky in places. The Carson River Crossing, about 20kms before Kalumburu, had water in, but was straightforward.

We went straight through Kalumburu, noting that there seemed to be a number of new houses there. Continued on out past the airstrip, on the road to the barge landing, McGowans beach, Honeymoon Beach and the Pago Mission ruins. Whilst it was still rough, the track to Honeymoon did not have the deep sandy sections of before. It was usually somewhat re-routed every season, and they seemed to have found some firmer ground. There were none of the direction signs John had made on old tyres, in 2000, but the way was now better sign posted, with proper painted signs. However, we noted they had retained John’s star rating system – only now up to  seven stars! Ha!

Kalumburu localities

There did not seem to have been too much change at Honeymoon, and little for the better. The family now had a proper, high-set house, near the entrance, but all the old sheds were still there. They had survived the 2006 Category 5 cyclone, but it was noticeable that there was a lot less vegetation. Whole trees were gone, and the tops were out of most others. So the view was more open – and the camp area less shaded. The tank had gone off its stand – and was way down by the beach. The campground water was now very discoloured – a dark brown –  and was not drinkable – presumably the rather shallow bore had bottomed out. Campers had to have their own water with them – and replenish same if needed, in Kalumburu.

Les had not added any more to the partly built ablutions block to be, since 2000!

There were a lot more people here than we had expected. It was hard to find a spot to set up camp! In the end we had to opt for a place in full sun, but we did have a small view to the bay.

There were two large Bushtracker vans parked where we had camped in 2000, where there was still a little shade. On the other side of us was a camp of six men, here for the fishing. They were rather noisy – mostly just through sheer numbers.

There were sandflies in evidence now – and mosquitoes. Hadn’t had those here last time.

The showers – the same old two – were cold ones; what else could we have expected? There was no toilet paper provided – BYO! We found out soon enough that the campers from the Bushtrackers were cleaning the amenities each day, and emptying the rubbish bins. Relying on the paying guests to keep the place usable had not changed since 2000, it seemed.

Rather unwisely as it turned out, we’d already decided to stay a week here, before we had a good look round. We were charged $12 per person, per night, to stay here. Theoretically, we could pay $5 a night more for power, which we opted not to do. Good thing too, because the camp genset turned out to be off for most of each day – they were having problems with it.

Les’ wife Ruth was at the main shed, where they used to live, when we arrived. There were 13 puppies there too, including a kelpie-looking female pup that was absolutely gorgeous, and that I’d loved to have “rescued” and taken home with me. Unfortunately, not feasible.

It was very hot here.

Les remembered John, from 2000, when we had spent about three weeks here. We hoped he didn’t think John was going to do lots of free maintenance work around the place, like last time.

There was a community phone box here now – a steel box, 12 keys, no slots, no lights; it worked on punching in pre-paid card numbers only. I guessed it was about as vandal proof as they could make it.

We set up camp, then wandered about, looking.

The old camping shed was still down by the beach – it had survived, somehow.

The bay – Napier Broome Bay – was as beautiful as ever.

Napier Broome Bay from Honeymoon Beach

There was an area in front of our tents where there had previously been campfires, so we tidied that up, with a decent rock circle to contain it. Had loaded up some firewood onto the roof rack on the way here, so unloaded that. Here, it would be easy to go out into the bush and get more, as needed. In these parts, given the paucity and cost of gas refills, we tried, whenever possible to use a campfire for at least heating water, if not for cooking too. Even when it was hot, sitting round the embers of a campfire, into the evening, was pleasurable.

In this place, there was another practical reason for a fire – to burn as much rubbish as possible, given that the only collection of same from the campground, was done by fellow campers.

I think we both felt  sense of let down. We’d been prepared for this place to be pretty much like it was before, but to find it actually somewhat worse was a disappointment. Clearly, Les’ plans of 2000 had not really materialized; neither it seemed, had his hopes that some of his family would join him in the venture. There seemed to be a number of them living or spending time out here, but we did not see any of them contributing to the running of the place at all – apart from collecting the fees from the visitors.


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2007 Travels July 25

WEDNESDAY 25 JULY   MANNING GORGE CAMP TO MITCHELL PLATEAU CAMPGROUND   365kms

We were up early and away a bit before 9am.

The tedious chore of packing up camp…..
Burning the last of the rubbish

We made good time to the junction of the Gibb River and Kalumburu Roads – the Gibb was in really good condition along there.  Passed the turnoff into Gibb River Station – not sure whether the road was originally named for the station, or the river, further on.

As before, encountered a couple of impatient drivers, towing camper trailers, who seemed to think that anything less than 100kmh was too slow! One of these took the opportunity of us slowing to cross a running stream, to race past us, showering us with stones. I could only hope that this creek was one with a big hole, or a big rock under the water…..Not this time, but his turn would come, nothing surer.

On the Gibb River Road – this is where sensible drivers should slow down!
Hann River crossing – maybe?

The Kalumburu Road junction was what passes for a major intersection on the Gibb. Since we had been here last, a rest area had been constructed – complete with advertising boards for attractions along the roads.

Corner rest area
Kalumburu Road ahead….

Took the Kalumburu Road north.

After only about 3kms, crossed the shallow ford of the Gibb River. As usual, there was water in the river. Just beyond the channel were piles of sand that had been cleared from the crossing after the Wet Season. Unfortunately, as usual, there were a couple of groups of people camped just downstream of the ford – despite clear No Camping signs.

Approaching the Gibb River ford
Gibb River upstream from the crossing

It was the same story again, at the Plain Creek crossing – more illegal campers.

Once over the Gibb River ford, the road became more corrugated, to the point where I described it as really badly corrugated for a section of about 20kms, south of Drysdale River Station. A grader was working on it. This was not necessarily all good, because past experience had shown that graders could bring really sharp stones to the surface – bad for tyres.

Originally, we’d thought we might camp at Drysdale River Homestead, or at the King Edward River, for tonight. But because we’d done the 170kms to Drysdale River in good time, John decided we would try to make it to the Mitchell Plateau instead.

Refuelled at Drysdale River Homestead – $1.95cpl. Bought some cool drinks and icy poles.

The corrugations were even worse, north of Drysdale. This Kalumburu Road is not as intensively maintained as the Gibb, and seems to deteriorate more quickly after grading, too.

About 100lms north of Drysdale, turned onto the Port Warrender/Mitchell Plateau track. Shortly after the corner, came to the deceptively easy looking crossing of the King Edward River.

King Edward River crossing (Zoom)

It is not very wide, here, but can be deep and rocky. It is actually this little-seeming crossing that usually determines whether the track to the Mitchell Plateau is opened. It is also in this area that there is very pleasant camping along the King Edward River.

King Edward River crossing

M went first, for a change, because she wanted me to take photos of her driving through the crossing. She took a fairly straight line and really rocked about, once dipping her nose under the water. For us, the water in the crossing was up to the door sills, and it was a bit rocky. John took a curving line to the left, for no other reason than the crossing seemed to have been graded that way. It was not as bumpy or deep as the line M had taken.

M crossing the river

We parked in shade near the campground here, to eat our packed lunches.

Further along the track – some 71kms – was another track junction. Straight ahead continued on to the turnoff to Surveyors Pool, and to  Port Warrender. (The latter part of this track was often washed out and impassable). We turned left, just beyond the airstrip that services the local aboriginal community, and the camps of commercial operators, onto the final 14kms to the Mitchell Plateau campground.

The track from the King Edward River was actually better than we had expected. There were some rough, corrugated and rocky sections, and lots of badly cambered corners, but we had seen it worse. The track was narrow, but the scenery quite varied. At times, it runs along ridge tops, and there were distant views through the trees. There were sections of the Livistona Palm species that were special to this area. There were lots of eucalypts in blossom.

We stopped in an area along the track that was signed as a designated wood collection area, and gathered firewood, tossing it up onto our roof racks.

Reached the campground at 3.30pm. It has taken us nearly two hours to drive the section from King Edward River.

RHS green dot is corner by airstrip; LHS green dot is campground. Track appears faintly between them.

It was a (brief) financial relief to be back in a National Parks campground. With our Seniors Concession Cards, it cost us $4.50 per night, per person. We could have a campfire in the cement fire rings provided; fires were only allowed between 4pm and 8am, and had to be properly extinguished outside of those times. This was, in the Dry Season, a very fire-prone area, and a long way from any fire fighting assistance.

Mitchell Falls camp

There were composting pit toilets, and a specified water collection point, in the creek near the campground. This point was fairly well upstream from the camping area. After we had set up camp, M and I walked across to check this out, and bring back a couple of containers of water to use for things like washing up.

I remembered from last time here, that the noise from the joy flight helicopters was very intrusive, but was pleased to find now that they seemed to be on some sort of curfew – no really early morning start ups.

We were all very weary after the long, rough trip in.

John was still fiddling with the kerosene lamp. He was now fairly sure he’d put something back, wrongly, last time he had it apart. In the messing about, he managed to drop it. The glass broke, and now there was definitely no functioning lamp!

Due to tiredness, and lack of light, we had a really early night.


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2000 Travels August 9

WEDNESDAY 9 AUGUST     KING EDWARD RIVER

Another hot and sunny morning, but some cloud came in, during the afternoon. There was still considerable smoke haze around.

John used the radio to call some family members. He found out that Melbourne is still cold and wet! His artist sister asked him to try to get some photos that have the sun’s rays coming through clouds – that might be a bit hard, up here, at the moment!

After breakfast, we went for a walk following the river downstream, and were away for about three hours.

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King Edward River

We found some lovely rapids and little sets of falls.

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The river upstream from the camping area

Mostly, we were walking on slabs of rock.

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Rock slabs bordered much of the river

The river was extremely picturesque with varying views and “moods”.

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At one point, we spotted what was either a brown goshawk or a collared sparrowhawk, flying low over a big puddle;  it then settled on a rock in the water.

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We couldn’t quite tell if this was a brown goshawk

We also encountered a local resident – a dark red young shorthorn type bull or steer. He did not seem unfriendly, but we did not go too close. He seemed to be all by himself.

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Had lunch back at camp.

I made bread in the camp oven. Then we went swimming again.

We emptied the 25 litre jerry can of fuel into Truck.

Talked briefly with the tourist camp cook. She loves the area and the work and also does some guiding, too. Their guests come in for a night, go up to the Falls for a night or two, then come back here, and  on out. So she has quite a lot of time alone, and only groups of 7 or 8 to do for, anyway.

There are more people in the camp area, tonight.

Tea was bread, soup, fire-baked potatoes  and cheese – all very filling.

Phoned K. He has sent mail to Kununurra. He is about to become Australian Sales Manager for a big hotel chain. I am pleased he is doing well.

There was not so much red fire glow tonight. There was a pleasant, cooling breeze in the evening.

It had been a most enjoyable couple of days here. Have loved being able to swim so easily – and thus feel so clean. We are accumulating some very grotty dirty clothes though!


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2000 Travels August 7

MONDAY 7 AUGUST    MITCHELL PLATEAU TO KING EDWARD RIVER   140kms

It was a very early start, as we were woken at 5.45am by a helicopter taking off. A bit early we thought. They do not seem to operate to many rules, up here.

We breakfasted, then packed up and were away at 8am.

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The Mitchell Plateau track – unburned section

We drove the 15kms back to the Port Warrender track, then turned left. After another 20kms, we turned left again, onto the 6km track to the Surveyors Pool car park area. It was all quite rough. There were some minor washaways on the track in.

We passed through much burnt out country – some of the tree stumps were still smoking. It was quite hazy.

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On the track to Surveyors Pool

We set off on the 4km walk to Surveyors Pool at 10am. We had no trouble finding where the walking track started – there were arrows and the foot pad was obvious. When we’d talked with D and R about this walk, they told us how they’d walked through grass taller than themselves, and hadn’t always been sure of the way to go. That was before they’d gone on to Honeymoon to camp.

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As far as the road goes – starting point for the walk to Surveyors Pool

Since they were here, a few weeks ago, the fire had come through and made a big difference. Most of where we walked today was burnt.

It took us 80 minutes to reach Surveyors Pool.

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Surveyors Pool falls from a distance

 It was much bigger than I’d expected – a very large pool on a large creek that flows into the inlet of the Mitchell River.

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Surveyors Pool

There was a good waterfall coming into the Pool, which was in a low gorge cut into white sandstone, with sets of little rapids, too.

The approach from the walk track was very attractive, with the creek rapids first, then the view of the falls and the big pool, which was quite a long way down from the ledge where the track finished up.

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It was certainly worth the effort of walking, in the heat, to get there.

We explored around the pool area for a while, then sat enjoying the wilderness and watching the falls. Not knowing what barriers the terrain offered between the pool and the sea inlet not too far away, we were not prepared to risk swimming in the pool.

At midday, we left to walk out again. John tried to use the GPS to locate the start of the track out but couldn’t find it. We argued over which was the right way to strike out to intersect with it. I think I’d gotten disoriented, following the creek around on the way in – if we’d gone out the way I thought we should go, we would probably still be walking!

John decided that we would not keep looking for the track at its start, but would go cross country to a further waypoint on his GPS. We did find the track there, but it was not pleasant walking through the burnt stuff, in the heat.

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Burnt country by the track to Surveyors Pool

The final part of the track was quite steeply uphill, for a distance – very hard work in the heat.

I eventually dragged myself to Truck, parked in its clearing, feeling ill and giddy. John had been a way ahead and had the air con going for me by the time I got there. I soon cooled off and felt better.

It had taken us nearly two hours to walk the 4kms back!

It had been very enjoyable, being the only people on the walk and at the pool.

We retraced our route to the Port Warrender track, and thence back to the King Edward River. We stopped briefly for a late lunch where the track skirted close to the edge of the plateau, and gave us an outlook whilst eating.

08-07-2000 10 the main Mitchell Plateau road

Back on the Mitchell Plateau track. Most traffic does not go beyond the turn off to Mitchell Falls.

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A boggy section of the road at Camp Creek

We reached the camp area at 5pm.

D and R were still there, so we set up camp at a little distance from them. It was a very quick and efficient set up of the small tent.

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Camp at the King Edward River

This was such a pretty place, though shade was a bit scarce.

For tea, John had bacon, eggs and baked beans. I had a quick packet pasta meal. We followed with tinned fruit.

We talked with D and R for a while, but were both tired, so went off early to do the nightly battle with trying to sleep on the deflating lilo.

After dark, there was a very obvious red glow from a burning fire, somewhere over the river, not too far away.

I was pleased we’d made the effort to come on here. It might have been easier to leave the camp set up at the Mitchell Plateau and do Surveyors Pool as a day trip from there, but this is just such a nicer place to be. And there will be no early morning helicopters!


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2000 Travels August 5

SATURDAY 5 AUGUST   HONEYMOON BEACH TO MITCHELL PLATEAU   229kms

We were woken early by campground noises and so were up at 6.15am.

There was water, so I was able to have a shower and wash my hair, which made me feel much better.

We worked steadily on the pack up and left about 8.40, after stopping off at the shed/office to say goodbye. Les and R had already gone out on the boat with a fishing party, so we only saw his wife and daughter.

Today’s was another mass exodus. By the time we left, there was only one remaining group.

After yesterday, it felt good to be going. Apparently, there was to be a corroboree and a celebration for the Sisters – some sort of anniversary – in town tonight, and we could have gone to that. It might have been interesting.  But we hadn’t found out about it until we were packed up, and by then we were very focussed on going.

The driving was alright – it seemed ages since we had done that!

Not far from town, drove past burning bush, not far from the road. We assumed it was the normal dry season burning, done by the locals, to deter fierce fires later in the season, by reducing fuel availability, in an ad hoc sort of pattern.

The road condition was rather varied. THE problem creek crossing had been worked on and partly filled in. A pile of earth covered where the rock had been, and a big stick marked the way. Road repairs Kalumburu style!

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Road repairs! The problem rock dealt with, and much less water.

We called in at Theda Station, briefly. I bought grapefruit, some used books that were for sale, and a postcard.

Next stop was at the King Edward River, for lunch. We had to ford the river to reach the camp ground and stopping place beside the river. The ford was 40-50cms deep and quite rough, though not all that wide.

The area was most picturesque and we would both really like to spend some time camped there, so we decided to do that after we’d been to the Mitchell Plateau.

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King Edward River near the camping area

After lunch, found where D and R were camped, and exchanged home addresses, which we’d forgotten to do at Honeymoon.

It took us two hours to drive from the King Edward River to the Mitchell Falls camp area – 85kms. The track was corrugated, stony, rough, winding, and needed much concentration. Hazards such as sharp corners were not signposted. The road camber was wrong in parts too.

For some of the way, the track followed a ridge line, and there were some distant views out across the scrubland. After some 60kms, we came to the small, but boggy crossing of Camp Creek. On our ’93 trip, we’d camped a little distance from the Mitchell Plateau track, beside Camp Creek. The area looked different from what we remembered, and I thought the track route may have slightly changed. Back then ,there was a rather confusing maze of tracks around here. From there, we’d gone to Crystal Creek, the most northerly spot on the Plateau able to be reached by vehicle. We had not turned off the Port Warrender track to go to Mitchell Falls, which were hardly flowing that year. This time, only a couple of kms beyond Camp Creek, we turned left for the Falls. So, the 15kms of the track to the Falls camp are was new for us.

There had recently been a big fire through some of that country – it was quite desolate in parts.

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Burnt Livistona Palms by the track to the Mitchell Plateau

It was just after 3pm when we reached the campground. It was a hot day, but the travel had created a bit of a breeze through the windows.

The camp area was bigger than I expected and not as crowded as I’d feared. However, it was rather barren, rocky and hot, but would do for our purpose of a place to camp whilst visiting the Falls. There were a few composting toilets. At least, it was free to stay here.

We had passed a number of vehicles going out as we were coming in – obviously some people do it as a day trip from King Edward River. It would be a hard day, driving that road twice, not to mention the walk to the Falls – 3kms each way.

We set up the small tent, easily enough.

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Camp at the Mitchell Falls campground

After setting up, we walked to the creek to get water and then up to the pilots’ base to enquire about helicopter flight options and costs. Found out that there are currently three helicopters based here. We decided to buy a 12 minute flight from the Falls back to camp, as an anniversary present to ourselves. It would cost $100 each, or $60 if they get another two passengers.

Three years ago, to this day, John went into hospital for his hip operation. That was one anniversary. The other is our wedding one, coming up in five days.

Tea was tinned ham, potato, some salad.

At night, there was a feeling of some coolness in the air.

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