I was temporarily rendered wordless by a recent trip I have just taken in the Western Australian Outback. As I like to write about my travels and share them with you, you can understand why I actually view this as a bit of an issue. The beauty of Western Australia continues to astound me and my adventure across The Kimberley has been no exception.
But, I’ve eventually found my voice and boy, have I got a lot to share with you! I honestly believe this has Trip of A Lifetime written all over it.
So, settle in for one epic ride and prepare for your mind to be blown.
The Kimberley Region
First off, let me set the scene.
I was recently in Darwin in the Northern Territory and keen to make my way overland down to Broome in Western Australia. Due to time constraints and my desire to see everything I possibly could in this area of Australia, it was looking highly likely that a tour was best going to suit my needs.
The Kimberley region in Western Australia is one of the wildest and remotest areas on the planet. In fact, this part of Australia is bigger than 75% of the countries in the world; about three times the size of England.
This ancient, rugged and varied landscape is thought to be one of the earliest settled parts of Australia, with life dating back 41,000 years. The climate is hot with tropical storms delivering 90% of the area’s rain from November to March.
My group covered an epic 2,900 kilometres in nine days. Yes, that is a heck of a lot of driving (and boy, am I glad I wasn’t behind the wheel in some parts), plus a lot of places to explore along the way.
Our itinerary was therefore action packed. This didn’t particularly concern me; there was no way I had come all this way to sit and twiddle my thumbs.
Here’s a taster of what I got up to on those nine days.
We headed out of Darwin to Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park. I loved to learn that the word Nitmiluk means ‘place of the cicada dreaming’ in the local Jawoyn language. We had the opportunity to swim in both the upper and lower plunge pools of the falls. We finished the day over at Katherine Gorge, a series of thirteen deep gorges carved through ancient sandstone rock by the Katherine River.
Today saw us driving through the Gregory National Park, across the mighty Victoria River and into Western Australia. We pitched our tents at the beautiful Lake Argyle campground in the far northwest of WA and headed off for a cruise on this huge man-made lake. The lake was created with a dam to block the Ord River and now provides hydroelectricity for several nearby towns. Impressively, it is the size of 14 Sydney Harbours. We spotted freshwater crocodiles, rock wallabies, golden orb spiders and enjoyed a sunset swim (far away from the crocs!)
After an early morning caffeine stop in Kununurra, which means ‘meeting of big waters’ in the local aboriginal language, we headed out onto the Great Northern Highway to begin our journey deep into the heart of the Kimberley. We turned off the highway onto the road into Purnululu National Park, which is home to the incredible Bungle Bungle Ranges. These distinctive sandstone towers only became widely known about in 1981 when a team of documentary film makers discovered them. We enjoyed an incredible sun set, which got us even more excited about the exploration to come.
The Bungle Bungles are like giant sandstone beehives, formed millions of years ago. In the morning we explored some walking trails that lead from an area called Piccaninny to get a sense of how tall these formations are up close. For a truly humbling experience we then headed to Cathedral Gorge, which wrapped itself around you with an enormous curve of its vast walls in a natural amphitheatre. Sit in silence as you take in this breathtaking wonder. In the afternoon we exchanged the open spaces for a tighter squeeze as we walked through Echidna Chasm, a 200m tall ravine formed by a river that ran in another lifetime.
All too soon we were saying goodbye to Purnululu National Park as we drove back onto the Great Northern Highway, turning towards Wyndham and the beginning of the mighty Gibb River Road. At El Questro Cattle Station, a sprawling million acre wilderness park one-and-a-half times the size of the UK, we laced up our walking boots to hike along Emma Gorge. This involved lots of fun scrambling over rocks along the bottom of the gorge, which ended up in the most beautiful grotto-like waterfall.
We relaxed in the hot springs at Zebedee this morning under a canopy of beautiful palm trees before embarking on the hike along El Questro Gorge. This 6km return hike is well worth the effort as you wade through water and scramble over huge boulders in your path along the narrow gorge. At the end you are rewarded by a refreshing dip under a waterfall.
First full day on the Gibb River Road! This 660km long track runs right through the wild heart of The Kimberley. Watch as the landscape changes colour from light and sandy to a deep ochre, as you rattle over the corrugations on this epic dirt road. There are plenty of places to stop and explore all the way along, from stunning gorges and waterfalls to underground creeks. We ended our day at Mount Barnett Homestead where we pitched our tents under enormous boab trees and a sky littered with a trillion stars.
Our walk this morning started off with a swim across the Barnett River on our way to Manning Gorge. This gorge was a lot more open that the others that were high and narrow, and the waterfall in full flow would curl off the overhang like a giant curtain. Here the plunge pool was wide and deep to enjoy another swim. In the afternoon we enjoyed the gorgeous Bell Gorge, with its upper and lower pools, before driving to Windjana Gorge to arrive at the campsite just before sunset. This was particularly momentous as we witnessed a colony of thousands of fruit bats emerging out from their roost and into the night’s sky.
Back down in Windjana Gorge in the bright light of the morning we were on the crocodile hunt. We weren’t disappointed and spotted at least twenty freshies (freshwater crocs) hanging out. Bidding them a farewell we set off for Tunnel Creek where we paddled through a river bed in – you guessed it – a tunnel gorge carved out of the rock. The rock formations here were gorgeous and the tunnel was also home to more bats and freshwater crocodiles. We finished up the last section on the Gibb River Road, swung by into a town called Derby for lunch, before arriving in Broome in the afternoon. Just enough time for a swim in the Indian Ocean at Cable Beach.
This is a tough one, as literally everything on this trip was a mind-blower. It almost made me laugh how there were no dud days.
Like, come on, really?
But if I had to pick for the purposes of this blog – which, would be kind of useful I suppose! – then here’s my top three not-to-be-missed:
Purnululu National Park (The Bungle Bungles)
The Gibb River Road
The Low Down
You may remember that I was once rather sceptical about the whole guided trip thing. That was until I booked on to a group that travelled for ten days from Perth to Broome, which turned out to be absolutely incredible: snorkelling with manta rays, sleeping under the stars and exploring Karijini National Park.
So it’s safe to say that my opinion on group tours have been changed by the overwhelmingly positive experiences that I have had. But if you’re not sure, then perhaps a look at the pros and cons for guided travel that will help you make up your own mind.
I booked on to a trip with Adventure Tours Australia and would thoroughly recommend them to you. This is my own opinion and I was not paid to say this. I wouldn’t mislead you if I didn’t think the whole thing wasn’t fantastic from start to finish.
So, have I whetted your appetite for adventure? Are you keen to give The Kimberley a go? I truly hope so and would happily go on all day about the many reasons this part of Australia should be added to your Bucket List, pronto.
Over to you: have you ever travelled through The Kimberley? What was your favourite part? Does the thought of exploring the Australian Outback appeal? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.
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