Gibb River Road, Days 4 & 5, Bells Gorge to Mount Elizabeth Station

We had finished breakfast and were packed up at Silent Grove before 7.30am. First stop was Imintji store, where we purchased a much needed small broom and dustpan set, and enquired about camping availability at Mornington Wilderness Camp – all booked out. We should have listened to our advisors in Derby, a realisation that was re-enforced many times when speaking to fellow campers along the way. Everyone who had been fortunate enough to have included it in their itinarary, highly recommended it. Those that hadn’t were like us, oblivious to it until we actually commenced the trip, and then regretted the oversight.We drove on.

Next stop was to tackle the drive in to Adcock Gorge, which we’d heard was a particularly rugged four wheel drive track. It lived up to it’s reputation. ‘Holey Moley’, although a reasonably common expression, isn’t one I usually use. However, on this trip I’ve uttered more ‘Holey Moleys’ than I think I’ve ever uttered. It seemed an appropriate expression somehow for the roads we traversed – interspersed with a host of other expletives. The drive towards Adcock Gorge heralded my use of ‘Holy Moley’, which was to become a common addition to my Gibb River vocabulary. We reached a particularly diabolical part in the track at which two other cars were parked, and from there it seemed to get into the gorge shanks Pony needed to be the form of transport.

However, there was no signage to tell us how far the walk in was to be, and we had a long day ahead of us – so we decided to pass up on Adcock Gorge, and drove back the way we’d come. We later learned we were very close, and we’d missed out on a very pleasant and worthwhile gorge. Disappointment two for this section of our trip.

Next stop was Galvin’s Gorge. Although not one of the most spectacular of the gorges on the trip, Galvin’s ended up being one of our favourites. It’s a nice gentle walk in of less than half an hour, then a small, fresh gorge with a lovely water fall, not too cold – perfect for a refreshing swim, and a perfect waterfall for sitting under. We loved it.

Galvin’s Gorge – one of our favourites.
An exhilarating fresh water shower.

Next stop Mt Barnett roadhouse where we refuelled the ute at $2.05 a litre, and refuelled ourselves with a home made beef and Guinness pie, followed by a magnum icecream, both of which are rarities when driving across what’s touted to be ‘The Final Frontier’. That’s a bit of clever marketing – it’s too well travelled now to be ‘the last frontier’, or in reality to even be considered remote. Perhaps in the wet season, but in the dry, although it was rugged, it was anything but isolated or remote. We were never long without either having to slow for the dust to clear as someone passed us travelling in the opposite direction, or we could see the dust of someone keeping a safe distance behind our dust to our rear.

Rugged I’d agree – but not quite ‘the last frontier’.

We arrived into Mount Elizabeth at around 12.30pm. This time we had a bit of sparse grass in the campground on which to pitch our tent, and  hot, fast flowing showers, along with a washbasin at which to brush our teeth. After brushing our teeth and spitting out at the base of a tree the past few nights, and having showers that were little more than a trickle, this felt like a big step up. Speaking of brushing our teeth, one of the things we missed most on this trip was our electric toothbrushes. We’d forgotten how cumbersome manual toothbrushes can feel.

After we’d set up camp we tackled another ‘bit of a rough track’ down to a river on the station. Now, you’ve all no heard about the Australian ‘country mile’, the one where a stranger in the outback tells you the town you’re looking for is ‘just a few miles up the road’. The few miles ends up being a couple of hundred miles at least. Well, this ‘bit of a rough track’ was comparative. Although much of the track was ok, and Paul could drive at around 50 – 60 KPH, at other times we were reduced to less than walking speed. More ‘Holey Moleys’ and expletives I wouldn’t dare mention here for fear of being censured. It took us around 40 minutes to drive less than 10 kms. Although the river was tranquil and pleasant, it wasn’t deep enough for a swim, and there were no nice banks for walking along, so not worth the trip. Never mind, it gave Paul a good chance to put into practice much of what he’d learned years ago in an extreme 4 wheel drive course, but, up until this trip had never had a chance to practice. He now feels like a seasoned 4 wheel driver.

It gets a lot worse.

Big wash-outs.
Carefully picking our way at walking speed.
Pretty, but not deep enough for a refreshing swim after the ‘holey moley’ drive in.

A good fire at night, and to bed by 8pm. We both slept well until 4.10am when two roosters from opposite sides of the camp grounds decided it was time for an early morning wake up call. They cock-a-doodle-do’ed’ for 15 mins or so, then seemingly hit the snooze button for a further 15 minutes before starting up again. I believe someone had a bounty on their head before daybreak!

$500 reward for capture – dead or alive.

The next day we did some laundry including our towels. Big mistake bringing turquoise coloured towels into red dust country! Note to ourselves – get some dark coloured towels if we ever tackle something like this again. Then a short walk of  a few kilometres crossing three creeks. The middle creek provided a pleasant rock to sit in the middle. We removed our shoes and dangled our feet for a half hour or so, enjoying the tranquility enhanced by the creek babbling over boulders to one side of us.

A place to sit and cool our feet.

We returned to find a snake had taken up residence in the laundry. We gave it space, watching from a safe distance hoping it would retreat into the bushes. However, close to 4pm it looked like it was settling in so Paul advised the manager, who suspected it was a highly venomous juvenile King Brown. Whether it was or not, I don’t know, but the manager wasn’t taking any risks, and with the help of a shovel and a fellow worker the snake was destroyed. Sad really, but then again the snake had a lot of bush in which to play without needing to find it’s way into human habitat.

This poor critter payed the price of invading human territory – with it’s head.

That night we had a roaring fire for entertainment keeping us up well into the night – we lasted out to 8.30pm this time!

So this leg of our journey, what we do differently if we were doing it again:

1. We’d make sure we factored in, and booked Mornington Wilderness Camp before we commenced the trip.

2. We’d get out of the car and check how much further Adcock Gorge was before we gave up and back tracked.

3. We had by-passed Manning campground as we’d been told the prickles there were almost as bad as at Windjana and we didn’t want to risk another punctured air mattress. The prickles though were disputed by other campers we met along the way. Mount Elizabeth was a bit of a disappointment, and from the talk along the way we realised we’d missed something special in by-passing Manning.

4. An additional reason we by-passed Manning was that we’d also been told Manning Gorge was one of the hardest walks on the entire Gibb River Road. While this wasn’t disputed by anyone, people a lot less able bodied than me completed it by taking their time, and being careful. Everyone said the gorge was well and truly worth the difficult walk. Hindsight indicates both Manning campground, and Manning Gorge should have been included in our itinerary, and our visit toMount Elizabeth indicates we should have by-passed it – there wasn’t enough there.

Additionally, there were a group of campers at Mount Elizabeth who were absolute pains in the proverbial. Without them, although Mount Elizabeth was somewhat underwhelming, it would have been more tolerable. These people had taken umbrage because we had our Engel plugged into the power in the ablution block (with management’s permission). As soon as we left for our creek walk they unplugged it, and so when we returned a few hours later the temperature of the Engel had reached an unsafe 11 degrees. Not what one needs in the outback without supplies to replenish. As my late father-in-law would say – “there’s nowt queerer than folk”, and ain’t that just the truth.


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