We all woke up very excited this morning as we would be seeing Mitchell Falls, the Holy Grail of the Gibb River Road. To put it in perspective the Gibb is closed through the wet, the Kalumburu rd and Mitchell Plateau Track are closed more than the Gibb and by the end of the dry the falls are barely a trickle. Because of the week of rain up here (last night was the first night not to rain) there is lots of water so the falls are ‘honking’ but as it has overall been a dry wet the road is accessible. Therefore, we are incredibly lucky to be able to drive and walk to see the falls but they look like the middle of the wet when they can only be seen by air.
It is a 3km walk to Mitchell Falls from the campsite, so we decided to walk there and return by helicopter. This would give us a great view of the falls and save us a long hike back. Along the way, we passed Little Merton’s Falls, a lovely waterfall that we could walk behind.
There was also lots of rock art here, as well as some more a little further down the river.
The Gwion (Bradshaw) paintings are 17,000 years old. The Wandjinas also found around this area are more recent and I think have often been retouched during ceremonies at the start of the wet to ensure the rains would come.
Further, along the walk we came to Big Merton’s Falls, which has a massive drop of about 80m. We tested this by throwing a rock off the edge and seeing how long it took to get to the bottom, and using a bit of maths. We then checked it with the guidebook, guess what our physics worked. This falls has the same drop as Mitchell Falls but not the volume of water.
15 minutes more walk and we arrived at Mitchell Falls, we could hear the falls and see the spray coming up before actually seeing the falls. You approach from the top and when it is not flowing as much can walk across to the other side. Not a chance at the moment. Mitchell Falls drop in four tiers, the top three we could see from the side we were on. We could have got a helicopter to hop us across the other side but opted not to as we could see it all from the air on the ride home. The flow was massive and not at all like in the postcards, which show pretty white trickles into blue pools. We preferred the torrent.
After a quick lunch at the top, we headed across to get our helicopter ride home.
This took us on a few fly-bys of both Mitchell Falls and Big Mertons, which can be seen just to the left in some of the photos, and then back to the campsite.
Sorry about the too many photos, but this was unbelievable. And for once, the photos do not do it justice.
We packed up and started on the drive back to the camp at King Edward River, just before the river crossing where we planned to stay that night. The road (track) was a fair bit drier and actually looked like a road with puddles rather than resembling a river. With Craig in the lead, we made it back in quick time, about 1½ hours. He is a rally car driver and I think was channelling a bit of this, not that we ever felt we were going too fast. Also with the aid of the UHFs, we were and had been in constant communication warning of deep dips, and oncoming cars. The warning of the dips did not always mean a soft ride for us as the front car was usually a kilometre or two ahead, and Tom didn’t always judge which one was the bigger dip until too late. Anyway, we made it back to camp by about two and decided to keep going. The river crossing had dropped about a hundred of so mm so no nerves this time. Back onto the Kalumburu road and onto Drysdale River Station along the way stopping at the Drysdale car wash. We did our version of the Boags ad – whatever you throw in comes out better.
We arrived at camp at about five and fortunately dinner for all of us had been stewing all day – Bolognese in the ecopot. This is a slow cooker that does not need to be plugged in. Dinner, hot shower movie for the kids – How to train your dragon, kids in bed and then the adults were off to have a beer or two at the beer garden.
There we met another Kimberley character, Cookie. With little encouragement he regaled us with many of his stories, including first doing the Gibb in a Kombi van, his record drive to Broome is 6½ hours, that is about 700km away with at least two thirds of it on dirt roads. He reckons he could do it in less if it was not for the ‘bloody Fritz in Britz’ as he affectionately refers to the Europeans in hire 4WDS. One of his funniest stories was the time a wedge tail eagle flew through his windscreen. He said apart from smashing the windscreen it made a bloody mess with shit and feathers everywhere before it got out. He was a fair bit quicker getting out as soon as it came in. Funnily enough, the insurance company did not query it at all.
Patrick and I were doing the letter F on the walk therefore music on the drive back was bought to us by the letter; Fun and Foster the People.