Guest post:Two weeks on the Gibb River Road

Although I would have liked to go everywhere unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet! I have a habit of jumping on a plane at any chance I get and haven’t taken the time to see all the delightful sights in my own backyard. So, today I am pleased to present a guest post from Rebecca  who has put together her amazing 15 day trek: 

After much anticipation we finally headed off on our great Gibb River Road adventure in April this year. My husband has been working in Darwin so he was up there with the car and I flew into Darwin from Perth. We spent a night out at Corroboree with relatives before heading off. Much to my delight all the work had been done prior to my arrival so I simply put my bag in the car and climbed in the passenger’s seat.For anyone who hasn’t been to Darwin in April it’s hot so be prepared to spend a day or two acclimatising!

Day One: We drove down the Stuart Highway and watched as the scenery changed from lush tropical green to a dried out brown scrub with the occasional bit of green form a tree.

Just after lunch we arrived at Edith falls (3 hours from Darwin city)  and set up camp. I was melting and couldn’t wait to get in the water. We headed up the track to the top of the falls. I saw the sign that said the walk was 1km and stupidly thought great a nice easy walk. Wrong, well maybe not if you’re fit and used to the thousand degree temperature and it wasn’t the middle of the day. Hmm first lesson learnt. It was up hill and there were some pretty special spots to stop and enjoy the view (read between the lines catch your breath and have a drink).

Now you will just have to believe me that the walk was well and truly worth it and it was a stunning waterfall and water hole at the top because our camera decided this was a good time to pack it in so we did not capture the perfect photo but there was plenty of opportunity to do that. The water was that perfect cool but not too cold temperature and despite it being a long weekend and lots of people visiting its vast size meant we had plenty of space to ourselves. The walk back to camp was all down hill and a very pleasant stroll in the much cooler afternoon. We had an early night at a rowdy camp ground  getting ready for our next adventure.

Day Two: We were up bright and early, had breakfast and  packed up leaving Edith falls before 8am. We drove to Katherine for breakfast and a refuel. We didn’t have a look around but I know there are plenty of places to explore around Katherine and we plan to go back. After breakfast it was on to Kununurra. The drive between Katherine and Kununurra is long but the monotony of my singing along the long straight stretches of road was broken up with breathtaking views as you would crest a hill. There was so much different scenery and the red cliffs started appearing making you feel like you were really headed to the Kimberley.

We stopped at the check point to Western Australia and were searched for fruit and vegetables and gained an extra hour and a half thanks to the time difference.

We arrived in Kununurra in the early afternoon and set up camp at the lakeside caravan park. It is a beautiful caravan park and we had a great campsite overlooking the lake. There weren’t many other people in the park as the tourist season hadn’t kicked off yet so we enjoyed uninterrupted views and plenty of space.

We stocked up on fresh food now we were in WA and could safely buy what we needed without putting any industry at risk, we also needed to buy a pillow for Jason who thought sharing a pillow would be okay, he could not have been more mistaken. We had an early dinner at the pool bar before tucking into bed ready for our 3:30am start the next day.

Day Three: We got up well and truly before the sun to get ready and head off to the Dawn

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4WD’s lined up for the Dawn Service

Service. This is held on ANZAC hill in Kununurra and is a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise. It was a nice service and it was a good temperature in the morning but as the sun rose it promised to be another scorching day. There was an impressive turnout for the service and you could tell you had made it to the outback as all of the cars were 4wds.We had a quick breakfast at camp before packing up and heading off to Wyndham.

We had a swift drive through town before heading to Ivanhoe crossing. Jase was pretty devastated to see it was closed but seeing the water rushing across the road I wasn’t too keen on trying to drive across. We got out and had a look around and took some picture before getting back on the road.

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Wyndham Lookout

We got to Wyndham and headed up to 5 Rivers look out for a good birds eye view of the area. There are great views in all directions although there was a thick fog while we were there so I am sure it is even more spectacular when you get a clear day. We went down to the wharf so Jase could show me where he had launched his boat when he headed off on his boys own adventure a couple of years before.

We checked out the giant Crocodile statue and took some pictures and made friends with a couple of the locals who gave us some advice on directions.

We headed to the Karunjie track stopping at the damn on the way for a quick look. We stopped below the damn at the big boab trees for a quick bite to eat and a taste of a boab nut which I am told is the richest source of vitamin C. I believe it because it tastes much like a honeycomb textured vitamin C tablet with a very bitter after taste.

We stopped to look at a local Aboriginal art site although it was scorching hot and there were wasps everywhere we managed to see some of the art and you could tell that it was a very special place.

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Prison Boab

We got back on the track and drove to a prison boab tree. I convinced Jase to get in for a photo but he quickly jumped back out because there were wasps inside. It was a very impressive tree and there would be a significant amount of history to be told if it was able to talk.

We made our way up to the salt pan and Jase and I had very different views of this part of the trip, Jase was in awe of the place and wanted to keep stopping and taking it all in. To me it was huge expanse of parched earth cracking in a heat so hot you could see a mirage, to Jase it was a huge expanse of endless possibility getting to forge his way along trying to guess the right path with no markers. I am fairly certain he was secretly wishing or maybe not even so secretly that he was there with the boys and not me.

We made our way off the salt pan and bush bashed our way down the path until we found a beautiful campsite late in the afternoon. We were exhausted and hot but were treated to a magical view of the sun setting and throwing light across the orange cliffs on the ridge opposite us. We could also see the river which was beautiful in the afternoon light.

Day Four: Another early day waking up before the sun to watch it rise across the ridges and over the river. Well worth the early rise and given I don’t do mornings as a general rule that is saying something.

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Start of the Gibb River Road

We headed off and not far around the corner we started the Gibb River Road, there was lots of excitement and photos and we stopped and watched some other cars cross the river while we took in the view. I can describe it and even show you photos but this really is a must see experience and I hope everyone gets to do it at least once.

We made our way to home valley station which was our planned destination for the night but it was still closed until the 29th of April so we quickly changed plans and pushed on. Not long up the road was a great look out and well worth a stop in and look around, it is really spectacular part of Australia and if the sun wasn’t trying to melt you into a puddle you could spend a lot of time taking in the view.

We stopped at a “waterfall” a little further up the road but after a really short walk down a little track we discovered the water wasn’t running. We knew it had been a dry wet season but I was a little shocked that the waterfall wasn’t running at all and grateful we had decided to make the trip early.

We then headed off the track a little in search of Jacks waterhole, we found a spot where we thought the homestead used to be and had a look around. You could see relics of old sinks and roofing. You could imagine how isolated living out here would be particularly during the wet season.

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Drysdale Station

We made our way to Drysdale River Station and found some beautiful grassy and shady campsites, there weren’t many people around and it was a very pleasant place to stay. This may have been enhanced by the fact that it wasn’t too hot that afternoon and we were treated to another pretty special sunset.

Day Five: It was a coolish night and for the first time I actually needed a blanket instead of an air conditioner. I was pretty excited it was still cool when we got up and had convinced myself it was a cool change. I do kid myself sometimes.

Our first stop of the day was at a cultural site with some Aboriginal art. It was a well cared for area and there were dedicated paths for tourists to explore on. If you are into Aboriginal art there are plenty of great spots to see some art with amazing history. I was lucky enough to get a lot of history of the art from Jase who has an interest in the history of the Kimberley region and has done a bit of research.

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Mununurru Waterhole

We then headed to Munurru falls, this is a stunning spot and we were lucky enough to have it to ourselves. The waterfall was strong and a beautiful sight to see. We explored around and eventually Jase convinced me it was a safe spot for a swim. Signs aren’t enough for me, I am terrified of crocodiles no matter how many times I’m told it’s safe if something brushes me I’m screaming. Jase did very gently point out there is a ladder that gets put in to step into the waterhole so it can hardly be dangerous. We had a very beautiful swim and then enjoyed some lunch by the water.

Next we bumped our way up about 65kms of corrugations to the Mitchell Falls campsite. We came across a dingo on the way out that looked like it needed a good feed and I knew I wasn’t venturing too far from camp on my own at night.

We set up camp and had an early dinner ready for an early start the next day. After being warned about 10 times to be careful of all the bull ants around I managed to stand in a nest while draining water from our cooking. Thinking I was being splashed with some boiling water it took me a little longer than it should have to realise that was actually bull ants biting my legs. I don’t recommend standing in one of their nests although I’m certain the dance I did when I realised what was happening was very entertaining.

Day Six: It was a warm night and an early start for us to get out to the falls. We headed out before sunrise and walked by ourselves along the track as the landscape came alive as the sun kissed the trees and rockery with the first morning rays. The sun was not this romantic to me later in the day when I was certain it was trying to cook me alive.

We made our way to Mertens falls (big, there are two one called big one called little) and had a good look around. It was an impressive waterfall due to the sheer size of the drop but the water was more trickling down than thundering. We were able to climb around and get a really good view back on towards the waterfall.

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Mitchell Falls

 

We kept going towards Mitchell falls and had it all to ourselves as we enjoyed the view from the campground side. The water was thundering down fall after fall and it really is a sight to see.

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Mitchell Falls

We continued making our way around the fall and at the water crossing we came across four young people who had caught the helicopter out the night before and had become lost while trying to make their way back to camp in the dark. They looked hungry, tired and very relieved to see people, we pointed them in the right direction before exploring around the top of the falls.

We made our way carefully through the water to the other side of the falls,  stopping for some morning tea before making our way to the lookout from the other side of the falls. This side of the falls gives a totally different perspective and a better view of more of the falls. We enjoyed taking in the spectacular view before starting to make our way back to camp. There were a  lot of people making their way to the falls on our way back.

It was getting hot as we made our way towards camp and we stopped at Little Mertens fall for a swim. It’s a beautiful spot that we had entirely to ourselves. The water was cool and refreshing and much needed in the heat of the day, most of the waterhole is in shade and it was like our own little tropical paradise. It isn’t hard to imagine how essential these oases must be in the harsh hot climate of the Kimberley.

We finished our swim and finished the rest of the walk back to camp. We were very grateful we had made the walk early as the full heat of the day was scorching. It is a 8.6km return walk to the falls which is a nice easy walk in the cool weather but would be punishing in the full heat of the day.

There were some minor repairs to the car made in the afternoon with some screws having being rattled loose on the trip out and we had another early night after a full on day.

Day Seven: We had an early start which was probably mostly due to the heat driving us out of the ten. We left camp by 7:30am and were already hot and sweaty.

We bashed our way back down the track but our early start meant we saw a lot more on our way, there were two dingoes, a frilled neck lizard right in the middle of the track. Jase got out of the car and tried to make himself big to try and get the lizard to put his frills out but I think I heard him say “stupid tourists” as he ran off the track and behind a tree. We also come across a bull in the middle of the track hanging out in a puddle of water, I could hardly blame it the day was already hot.

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Kalumburu

 

We stopped at Munurru campsite for some breakfast before making our way up to

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Kalumburu terrain

Kalumburu. The road is more like an old track but it wasn’t too bad a drive. We stopped off at the mission when we first got into town. We had a look at their museum which is amazing and well worth a visit. It has a history of the mission, the history of Kalumburu through the war as well as some Aboriginal history and art. They had gorgeous slate etchings that were intricate and beautiful as well as boab carvings and paintings.

 

We were lucky enough to get a tour through the mission bakery where they used to make bread for the whole community. There were still loaf tins rusted and laid out as if ready to be used again. They also had the press that was used to make holy bread. The old ovens, kitchen and bread mixer were also still there. Out the back of the kitchen was a big field that leads down to the river. This used to be full of vegetable gardens and fruit tress but was only grass while we were there.

We looked around the rest of the grounds, the accommodation, the camp ground, where they keep the chickens and where they are trying to grow a new vegetable garden. We also had a quick look through the church, which has some impressive artwork. We couldn’t stay long though as the kids had just come to use the church so we needed to get out of their way.

We headed to the local store which was pretty well stocked and reasonably priced for what we were expecting in such an isolated community. We then headed off to McGowen beach campground. We were the first people to arrive for the season and we set up camp in a clump of trees just below the amenities block and above the beach. It is a beautiful spot but it was extremely hot while we were there. I know I say how hot it is a lot but if you travel early or late in the season you need to be prepared for the extreme heat, particularly if you are coming from down south and aren’t used to the tropical heat.

After a beautiful sunset on the beach we were met back at camp by three little dogs living on the grounds, later five pink pigs came over to say hello. I ran into their Mum and Dad on the way to the toilet and got the fright of my life, they were huge and the pig was sitting right where you needed to go past to get to the toilet so I went back to camp to get myself an escort to the toilet so I wouldn’t get gouged to death by pig (while that was probably unlikely I don’t like to take any chances).

It was a warm night and difficult to sleep with the heat and with the bats in the trees above us and the pigs rooting around on the ground.

Day Eight: We were up before the sun for a spot of fishing and to watch the sunrise. Not much luck with the fish but it was a beautiful sunrise in between me asking Jase to step back further from the waterline for fear he was going to get taken by a crocodile.

We saw the resident croc in the water and his slide marks on the sand. A walk over to the next bay and there were slide marks on that beach too. The slide marks went all the way up the beach and into the bush, if I wasn’t already terrified of crocodiles getting me I definitely was after seeing that.

After a big breakfast we headed off for a day of exploring we saw the local emu before we left camp. This camp ground is definitely a good place to stay if you like seeing animals both tame and wild.

We went for a drive and looked for the WW2 bomber wrecks. After a bit of bush bashing we found the site. It was incredible to imagine how hard the plane must of hit to scatter the wreckage the way it was scattered and sad to think of the impact of that crash.

Next we drove to some beautiful rock formations not far away. Jase went exploring looking for some art while I stayed in the shack and Jase found a little bit of art but the heat and the long thick grass and spinifex made it too hard to have a really good look.

We made our way down to the river and had a look at some beautiful spots. It was stunning scenery and while I enjoyed the view Jase regretted not bringing his fishing rod.

We had a look at the barge landing before heading out to honeymoon bay for a look around. It is a beautiful spot with some lovely huts and one beautiful one down on the beach in a perfect spot that would be amazing with a little bit of TLC. The water was stunning but there was no chance I would be brave enough to have a swim. After the tour around we went back to the office for a cuppa with Les and Joy and their little boy Oliver and baby girl. They are a lovely family and no doubt in my mind this is the place you would want to stay at if you were coming to visit the area with your family or partner.

We headed back to camp and a boys trip had set up camp at one of the other sites. Jase was enviously looking on at their dual cab Landcruiser with a boat hooked up and another boat at their site. After some yahooing they went to launch their boats. From the shade of the campsite I watched as the first boat got into the water with a lot of swimming going on and the car getting bogged. As the only other car they had, had a boat on the back Jase went down and snatched them out of the bog. The audience was very boisterous with a lot of advice for the poor guy who had got bogged. Next the Landcruiser launched its boat and also got bogged and Jase snatched them out again. They were finally on their way and the campground quietened down significantly.

The boys out fishing asked Jase to keep an eye on their campsite for them. While they were away the pigs got into their camp and tore open their bin bags and knocked over their stuff and in general ran amok. We (I) picked up all the rubbish and put it in one of our garbage bags. We kept shooing the pigs away but the campsite was a pig sty to start with from with food and dirty cooking utensils everywhere and the pigs could smell the food and just kept coming back.

A little bit later the local Police came to the campsite and checked the boys camp. They walked though and went and spoke to the ladies in the yard and then went and spoke to Alex (the manager) before coming back down and counting how many cartons of beer were in the cars.During this time we were staying well away from the boys camp and the pigs came back and tore open a bag of dog food and two minute noodles and had a great old time. Alex came down and kept shooing them away.The Police said the boys gave a carton to a local family and they had gone straight into the community and started drinking it. They said if any more of the beer turned up in the community they would seize the car. There were about 20 cartoons of beer in the boys cars and it is a dry community and is an offence to bring in alcohol.

The boys came back from their fishing trip and were a little nervous especially the guy with the LandCruiser the Police threatened to seize.They took it in their stride though and gave us two fish for helping them out and Jase filleted them and we ate them for dinner, they were delicious.

Day Nine: After a stinking hot and noisy night we attempted an early start. After packing up we made our way up to the house for some fuel and to pay for our camping but no one

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The tormentor Emu

was up. I waited in the car while Jase tried to find someone who was awake. The emu came right up to the window of the car and I was too terrified to move. It was so close I could have touched it but I was too scared to do anything at all. Jase found it entertaining and kept yelling out to me don’t be scared it can smell your fear. Of course that did nothing to calm me down. Once the emu moved off and let me breathe we went for a walk around the beach until someone was up. We eventually fuelled up and headed off.

We made our way to the tip to get rid of our rubbish, the tip is a giant pit you drive to off the road and though an open gate and throw your rubbish in. It looks like at some point someone comes along and burns all the rubbish.

We then went searching for a waterhole that Jase had seen on one of the many camping shows he watches. We found a turn off and bumped and bashed our way down a track that most of the time I couldn’t even see and found a little oasis. It is a gorgeous little swimming hole in the middle of a rock formation surrounded by bush. It was beautiful and cool and worth the bumpy trip.

We hit the road back to Drysdale station. We stopped in a Munurru falls for lunch and a swim on the way back. Nice and refreshed we headed into Drysdale. On our way we came across an adult and adolescent emu that played chicken with our car. I was definitely more chicken than they were.

We fuelled up at Drysdale before setting up camp. We did some washing and had a shower ready for when the bar opened at 4pm. We were the first customers at the bar and we met some characters that weren’t far behind us. Paul and Jocelyn from Yarawonga and Anna and Andy who were form the Czech Republic and Mauritius and were on their honeymoon travelling from Kalgoorlie to Melbourne. Both couples had just pulled in and stopped for a quick drink before setting up camp.

They went to set up camp and Jase had to go and get the bushmans and the thermacell as the mozzies were trying to carry me away. We met another couple from Emu Park in Queensland and I was excited I knew exactly where they were talking about and they were excited because I was the first person who knew where they were from. We also met another couple from Perth but he was from Mitchell in Queensland originally and was impressed I knew where that was too.

It was a very entertaining night and we kicked on for a bit with Paul, Jocelyn, Anna and Andy. It was a nice cool night and stayed cool all night which was very enjoyable.

Day Ten: It was a slow start to the day having to get all of the dew off the camping gear. It was already warm when we headed off and we made our way to Mount Elizabeth Station. Everyone we came across were telling us it was closed but Jase kept asking everyone along the way if it was open and one bloke said it was open but everyone else kept saying no it’s closed.

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Gorge at Mount Elizabeth Station

 

There were no signs saying it was closed when we got to the turn off so we decided to head in. We arrived and were very happy to find out it was open. Pat the manager said if we wanted to go to the gorge we needed to go in the next hour.

We set up camp and had a quick lunch before heading off. It was a slow bumpy 10kms of track in the car, it was so rough that the 10kms took us an hour.

We stopped 1km short of the carpark and walked the rest of the way. It wasn’t too long before I wished we had kept driving. The spear grass was shocking and scratching us continuously and it was really hot. We made our way down the path and to Wunnumurru gorge. It was beautiful, the gorge was a stream running into a waterfall and down into a gorgeous big waterhole with a nice sandy shore and a sandy bottom. It was lovely to swim in and we were lucky enough to have the entire place to ourselves.

Jase went exploring and found some Aboriginal art before he joined me for a swim. After

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Aboriginal Artwork

our swim we needed to make our way back to camp to get there before dark. We walked down the track and by the time we got back to the carpark it was overcast with a nice breeze and threatening to rain. We briskly walked back to the car before bumping our way back to the campground. We arrived just after sunset but before it had gotten dark.

 

We had a shower and made some dinner before going to bed. That night it poured with rain. It was a beautiful temperature relief and it was nice to lay in the tent listening to the rain. We managed to stay dry with all the windows open so it was a very pleasant night.

Day Eleven: We had a late start to the day as we waited for the rain to dry off our camping gear. By the time we left camp it was already promising to be a very hot day.

First stop was at the Barnett River gorge on Gibb River Station. A short drive and a nice easy walk down to a little baby water fall and waterhole. Another short walk and a gorgeous big waterhole and a little waterfall were at the end.

Back on the road don to Barnett River Road house for a quick stop and drink and decision on where to head next.

Our next stop was at Galvan’s gorge which is the most accessible from the Gibb. It is a gorgeous little waterhole with a waterfall that was only trickling. There was also some Wanjina rock art. It was quite a popular spot and there were a few people there while we were there.

We got back on the road and headed to Silent Grove campground. We made a very late lunch before deciding 3pm was too late to visit the gorge. We went for a walk around the lake near camp before spending the afternoon relaxing with a few cold beverages.

It was so hot that we set up the portable air conditioner to sleep for the night.

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Bell Gorge (see also the featured image)

Day Twelve: A very early start to the day to visit Bell Gorge. It was a reasonable walk (Jase kept calling it easy although I think easy was an understatement) to a stunning waterfall and waterhole. It was a magic spot and with such an early start we got the place to ourselves.

We explored around and Jase went for a swim. I stayed dry and explored around the waterhole. We didn’t see anyone until we were on our way back out of the gorge. By the time we made it out to the carpark it was already filling up.

Back at the almost deserted camp ground we had some breakfast and packed up.

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Entrance to Windjana

We hit the road again and headed through the ranges into Windjana. It was a great drive and the scenery was stunning. It was ridiculously hot at Windjana and we set up camp before waiting for the day to cool down a bit so we could head off exploring. By early afternoon we gave up waiting for the day to cool down and went for a walk through the gorge. It was gorgeous in the gorge and there were fresh water crocodiles everywhere. We enjoyed the coolness of the gorge the stunning scenery and crocodile spotting before heading back to camp.

Jase cooked us a roast for dinner in the camp oven which was delicious but the fire only added to the heat which was oppressive. It stayed hot all night and I was grateful to have the portable air conditioner. It poured down raining a few times through the night which probably explained the extreme.

 

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Windjana Gorge

 

Day Thirteen: It was a hot pack up the next day before we headed off towards Tunnel Creek. We stopped off and saw the ruins of a Police station before driving into Tunnel Creek.

We had a look through the cave which is interesting and beautiful. We had the place to ourselves for most of the time with another couple in there for part of it but no one else. You walk through the water and as there was no one in front of us you could see and hear the fresh water crocodiles getting in the water as you got close to them so I kept a very good eye on where my feet were going.

We headed off to Fitzroy Crossing and made it in time for lunch. We had lunch at the hotel before setting up camp and having a look around town. We got back to camp and the showers weren’t working. Jase was worried we would miss the bar opening hours so we headed off to dinner without a shower. Luckily by the time we came back the water was fixed and we could have a decent shower before bed.

It poured raining all night and we had a wet pack up the next day.

Day Fourteen: We left Fitzroy crossing and on our way out we had to stop and help a couple of blokes on the side of the road who had gotten bogged. Jase snatched them out and we made our way to a rest stop 100kms out of town.

The rest stop is a great spot on the crest of a hill with good amenities and panoramic views. I even got cold while we were up there which was a nice feeling. We had some breakfast before getting back on the road.

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Lake Argyle

We made our way to Kunnunuru and arrived in the early afternoon. We headed towards Lake Argyle and Jase wanted to try and catch a Barra but after a number of attempts to find the track to where you can fish we gave up and headed to the camp ground. We drove on to Lake Argyle and turned up at a packed camp ground . Turned out we had managed to rock up on the weekend of the Lake Argyle swim. We managed to get a campsite on the edge of the oval overlooking cliffs so although it was packed it was beautiful.

We had a quiet night after a long day of driving.

Day Fifteen: We got up early and went and had a look at the infinity pool which looked magical but it was too early for it to be opened. We went out to the damn wall and had a look at the view from the top. It was an impressive expanse of water.

We got back in the car and spent the rest of the day driving to Darwin with a couple of breaks along the way. We got back late in the afternoon and were exhausted after a very long day of driving.

There were so many other places that you could have stopped and explored and plenty of gorgeous places we didn’t get to discover, if you can handle the heat early in the season is a magical time to go there are minimal tourists and you will get the best of the waterfalls before the start to dry out but regardless of when you go the scenery is amazing and it is truly a beautiful adventure in our very own backyard.

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