Killen Falls

Killen Falls used to be a local’s hideaway until Instagrammer’s revealed its charms to the world at large. What used to be a rough bush track down to the falls has been given a facelift by Ballina council. Away from the hustle and bustle of the coast, Killen Falls is still a lovely place for a short rainforest walk and a rockpool swim despite it’s popularity,.

The falls are quite spectacular after rain, but were still lovely even though it’s been dry lately.

Killen Falls is located between Byron Bay and Ballina and is very easy to find. This website has a very clear link to Google Maps and besides, the way is now very well signposted once you’re on Friday Hut Road.

But what makes this place so special?

Like many of the waterfalls in the Northern Rivers, the track to the falls leads you along a well marked and maintained track which is home to one of the last remaining remnants of the big scrub rainforest. But unlike some tracks, like Minyon Falls, for example, the Killen Falls track is short, relatively flat and can be easily accessed by all ages.

My two grandsons, aged 2 and half and five respectively can navigate the track with ease.
There are two tracks: one to the dam wall and one to the Falls. The longer, the Falls track is only one kilometre return.
Some parts have boardwalks as well
There is something really refreshing about walking beneath tall trees draped in ferns
listening to birdsong and the sound of water cascading and bubbling over rocks and boulders while breathing in that special scent of the Australian bush.

This first part of the track brings you to a viewing platform where you can look at the falls from above.

The water just seems to drift down
to a beautiful green pool below.

The track gets a little rougher after the viewing platform but is still very accessible.

You obviously have to watch your step a little.
And bypass the occasional tree

The only difficult part of the track is the descent to the base of the falls and this has an excellent handrail.

The descent is so worth it. At the bottom, Emigrant creek is bubbling on its way.

And following the creek upstream, you come to the base of the waterfall complete with a rainforest pool you are allowed to swim in.

This is something you cannot do at many of the other waterfall sites such as Protestor’s Falls near the Channon. Even though I understand the necessity of preserving rare frogs and other creatures, there is always a sense of disappointment when you trek through the forest on a hot summer’s day and reach an idyllic waterfall complete with its own pristine swimming hole only to find you can’t take a refreshing dip in the crystal clear water. For that reason, Kenn and I tend to walk these tracks in winter.

At the moment, the water is for those with ice in their veins. Far too cold for me!
But perhaps you don’t need to swim. Just spend time at the base of the falls, listening to the waterfall, taking in the ambiance of the dark, damp, mossy rock walls that surround you, making memories
And wondering what lurks deep in the dark of the caves?

And perhaps most importantly for many, a trip to the falls needn’t take too much time out of precious holiday hours. Killen Falls is located very close to the coast. It took us approximately 15 mins to drive from Byron to the falls along a very pretty road. The one kilometre return walk from the base of the falls is approximately 30 mins at ambling pace. Even factoring a picnic, a couple of hours would see most people done and dusted.

There is one downside to taking a trip to the Falls. The carpark at the Falls has only got a few spaces and in peak holiday season, you could find yourself parking a long way away from the falls. At this time, during Covid, we had no trouble at all but can well imagine the crowds at Christmas time.

Bright and Mount Buffalo Autumn Break

Bright and its surrounding area is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year but Autumn is my favourite time. Not only is there is breathtaking alpine scenery, quaint towns and villages steeped in history, wonderful river walks and easy access to Victoria’s amazing rail trails, at this time of the year, the area is awash with colour.

But would Covid allow us to visit? Well, back in early May, Kenn and I finally made it. And Bright and Mount Buffalo did not disappoint. There were still plenty of beautiful, mature autumn trees decorating the streets and countryside in hues of gold, red and burgundy, even though the trees would have been at their best, a couple of weeks earlier as many of the yellows had fully dropped.

the Ovens river at Bright.

Bright is a long way from Byron Bay, roughly 1800 kms. So we timed our trip to coincide with our grand daughter, Genevieve”s birthday celebrations in Sydney. The trip along the Pacific highway was very enjoyable as the last section of the highway between Ballina and Coffs Harbour has been completed. We stopped for brunch at Cafe Aqua in Coffs. This cafe has won many awards for its coffee and its food is excellent: tasty and reasonably priced. It is opposite the foreshore park, so a great spot to stretch your legs if you so wish. A few hours later, we found ourselves at Hornsby on the outskirts of Sydney. This time, we did not get into the wrong lane and find ourselves heading for the Blue Mountains along the North Connex tunnel! This time, we stayed on the M1 and made our way to the Northern Beaches stress-free.

Genevieve, who started school this year, was turning 6! It seems like yesterday that I was holding her for the first time in Perth! She was so excited about her party and so to were her two little sisters. 20 little friends had been invited and there was going to be a very special guest, a princess who would paint their faces and organise party games .

The party was a huge success. We also made time for a coastal walk to Manly and popped into the Art gallery there.

Early Monday morning found us navigating our way out of Sydney and along the Hume highway to Bright. My sister, Jenny recommended that we stop at Trapper’s Bakery in Goulburn for morning tea. It was a great choice and just opposite the Big Merino so it was easy to find. The rest of the drive passed without incident except for the last 100 or so kms. We didn’t have a road map of Victoria with us and although we did know where Bright was, as we crossed the Murray River at Albury, we decided to ask Google Maps to direct us the rest of the way. It was definitely the scenic route as we navigated various back roads to Bright. Still, we arrived with plenty of time to check into our accommodation, a cabin in a nearby caravan park just a few kilometres from Bright on the Ovens River. This was our first time in this type of accommodation and the cabin exceeded our expectations. It was spacious, quiet, well equipped, very comfortable and even had a wood fire. That evening, snuggled up on the leather sofa watching the flames dancing about in the fire and with a good red wine from Rutherglen in my hand, I felt that our little Victorian tripette had really begun!

Early next morning, we enjoyed an early morning walk to the river before breakfast.

As well as enjoying some of what this region has to offer, we were also reconnecting with a long lost branch of Kenn’s family. The two branches hadn’t met for well over a hundred years following Kenn’s great grandfather’s departure for the green fields of the central west of NSW.

I found it interesting that a couple of these newly found relatives had also had careers in education. They had traveled up from Melbourne to meet us and we enjoyed a lovely time together exploring our respective family histories.

While socialising with others is always wonderful, we were looking forward to exploring more of the haunts of Kenn’s ancestors. His great grandfather James had been raised near Wandiligong, which is just a few kilometres from Bright. As we drove towards the village in the early morning mist, we were treated to a quintessential, Australian bush scene.

So many kangaroos just grazing and gazing at us!
We thought that we were looking at an Australian impressionist painting.’ Aren’t the ghost gums lovely? Maybe McCubbin visited here back in the day?

Wandiligong has a rich mining history and there is an interesting walk on the outskirts of the village that takes you along the creek to the old Chinese diggings.

This was going to be a busy day. The Bright Visitor Centre was our next stop. We found out that we didn’t have enough time this trip to really explore the rail trails so decided to visit Mt Buffalo instead. This is a bush walker’s paradise. Due to time constraints, we chose three of the short walks to tackle: the Eurobin falls Track, the Gorge Catani Track and the Horn Track.

The first walk you come to as you drive up the mountain is the Eurobin Falls Track. Everything is very well signposted.
The track climbs reasonably steeply past the Ladies Bath Falls falls
Water and ferns are a match made in heaven
A little further on you reach the Lower Eurobin Falls. You can see the granite which forms so much a part of the landscape of Mt Buffalo
And then it’s a short climb to the upper falls. And I’m always very partial to going down on the return leg!

Next, we wanted to visit the chalet and the Gorge Day Visitor Centre. We were disappointed to see the chalet still in disrepair. Hopefully, it will be restored to its former beauty sometime soon. It was time for an early lunch. While the picnic facilities were very good all over the mountain, we hoped to support local businesses so hadn’t packed any lunch, only water. However, on on the day we went, no cafes were open, a fact the visitor centre in Bright and the information sheet from National Parks had failed to mention. Since we couldn’t while an hour away over an amazing lunch and linger over a hot latte, we set off for Lake Catani.

This is an easy track which links the Gorge, campground and Lakeside Day Visitor Centre. The track initially winds past granite boulders and stands of mountain ash.
As you get closer to Lake Catani, glimpses of the lake are seen and then you find yourself
walking alongside the water.
And who doesn’t love a jetty and
a canoe? Alas, these weren’t operational or Kenn would have had to venture out on the lake in one.
Walking out to the end of the jetty, wonderful views of the lake presented themselves.
And isn’t this one great? The light lasted only 5 minutes before the clouds gathered and it was gone!

On the return to the Gorge Day Visitor Area, we noticed signs for walks to the Underground river and the Monolith. We were so tempted to do both but knew that we also wanted to go to the horn, the highest point on Mount Buffolo. The Horn is about a 30 minutes drive from the Gorge and the last couple of kms is on an unsealed road. While the walk is only a km long return, it is very steep.

Here at 1723 m, the air was very cold and the wind was bracing but as I plonked myself down to catch my breath, wonderful 360 degrees views of the Australian Alps lay before me.
The Horn is on the southern side of Mount Buffalo and had borne the brunt of the terrible bushfires of 2020.
But I was heartened to see new shoots. Perhaps some of the trees will recover?

It was time to channel our inner hunter gatherer and go in search of food. There were not eateries open at 4pm in Bright so we settled on a ‘gourmet’ pie and a coffee. In this part of the world, a pie is not just a pie! It is gourmet, artisan, vegan or lovingly pummeled into shape by somebody’s nanna and baked to perfection in an ancient wood stove! Accordingly, they are not cheap but starving walkers can’t be choosy! And really, what a wonderful day we had had.

Back at our cabin, there was another treat: a beautiful sunset.

Another action packed day awaited us the following morning. We wanted to fit in the famous “Canyon Walk” at Bright, hightail it to Yakandandah for lunch with Carmel, one of Kenn’s cousins, make it back to Bright for afternoon tea with the Victorian ‘Sealeys’ at their farm and treat ourselves to Dinner at an historic pub. Could we do it?

We thought that the Canyon walk was by far the most spectacular of all these walks.
You cross the main bridge here to begin the walk.
The walk is a circuit which offers two options: we chose to complete the longer walk. The river is so picturesque at every juncture.
As we walked along, it became clear why this is called the Canyon walk.
Having cut through the canyon, the river would open up for little sections like these.
This was the second bridge which would take us back to town. The other side of the river still had the remains of the water sluices used by miners during the Gold Rushes.
But now, peaceful cows dot the countryside
And then we were back where we began. So lovely, even if all the poplars are bare.

Lunch at Yackandandah and afternoon tea did not disappoint. either. It was so good to reconnect and natter away. But after such a busy day, we certainly didn’t want to cook for ourselves. The Happy Valley Pub came highly recommended by the relatives and was on the way home. We had no idea that the place would be so busy on a Thursday night but serendipity, they had a table for two! The pub is well over 100 years old and instead of one large dining area, we found ourselves in one of several smaller dining rooms, which were tastefully decorated in a colonial manner and warmed by open fires. Needless to say, we really enjoyed our meal but would heed the advice we had been given to book ahead next time.

It was overcast and very cold as we packed up next morning. Apparently, it was snowing just up the road and we certainly could believe it. It made leaving a little easier and as well, we were concerned about a covid case that had been found in Melbourne and didn’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the border.

There is just one little highlight I would like to share with you. On our way back to Sydney, my sister Jenny suggested that we meet at the Sir George Pub at Jugiong for lunch. This was a great suggestion. We got to eat a delicious meal, stretch our legs and explore the Long Track Pantry which was right next door. The pantry’s newsletter shared two of their iconic recipes, one of which I have tried and loved.

This trip was not long enough! Next time, hopefully next year, we would like to revisit Omeo, Mount Beauty, Yackandandah and Harrietville. We’re both keen to tackle some of the rail trails that criss cross the area and I know Kenn would like to kayak some of lakes and rivers. And there might be time for a little detour to Rutherglen, one of my favourite wine areas or perhaps to the Grampions? Nothing is very far away in Victoria.

As always, thanks for reading

Autumn Breaks

summit 4
The mountains seem to roll on forever from the top of  Mount Kosciuszko

Autumn is a delightful time of year. Here in Byron Bay, it brings warm sunny days and cool evenings that invite you to snuggle down under a doona. While it is still warm enough to swim in the bay without a wetsuit, it’s the season for beach walking.

autumn beach
Perfect for day dreaming  while digging one’s toes into soft sand or checking out the rockpools at low tide.

Lovely as Byron is at this time of the year, there is something missing. I can’t walk through drifts of red, yellow or orange leaves and breathe in the scent of wood smoke. I can’t see  avenues of claret and golden ash trees or bright yellow poplars  blazing against bright blue skies or taste the tang of  early morning frosty air.

Time for a Road Trip!

And so, a couple of years ago, Kenn and I took to the Pacific highway in search of ‘that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ After a brief stopover in Sydney to catch up with family and friends, we headed south. Our first destination was Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains, where we hoped to climb to the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko. Autumn was all around us as we stopped for brunch at  the Magpie cafe in historic Berrima.

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Fabulous food and coffee in a very picturesque setting. Wished we had more time to spend exploring this delightful little town.

After a  short stop in Jindabyne to gather supplies, we were soon settling into our delightful studio at Snowgoose Apartments in Thredbo. From our balcony we watched as the sun began  to set behind the mountain and the mist started to rise. Yep, we were in “Man from Snowy River” country, ready for some high country adventures.

The following morning dawned as perfectly as one hopes a morning will dawn in the mountains. However, we had been warned that the weather can be very changeable on Mt. Kosciuszko, so we dressed accordingly: walking boots, merino thermals, waterproof jackets, gloves and beanies. And yes we did indeed resemble Yetis out for an afternoon stroll!

Unfortunately the main chairlift, the Kosciuszko express was out for maintenance and we had to take the Snowgum chairlift to the top of the mountain. This meant that our trek to the summit begun with a very, and I mean very, steep 500 metre climb to the beginning of the Kosciuszko walking trail. Bleating like an injured mountain goat, I scrambled over rocks and protruding snow gum roots until I eventually found myself looking up at the Eagle Nest Restaurant, ready to begin the real trek!

To protect the delicate, alpine environment, National Parks have constructed an elevated walkway for the 7 or so kms to the summit. This was a very pleasant, easy climb. We noticed that many of the small streams that meander across the plateau, had frozen over during the night and that there were still tiny delicate flowers and mosses snuggling between the rocks.

summit 5
These little streams become the headwaters of the Snowy River

Soon we had to take off beanies, scarves and coats, it was so warm. And there was hardly another person in sight.  We were alone, just us and the mountains and the sky. Coming to a fork in the track, we saw the sign for Charlotte’s Pass. A trek for another day?

Approaching the summit, the views in every direction were fantastic. Although there was no snow where we were, we could see the snow capped peaks of the Victorian Alps to the south.

panorama summit
It was a symphony in blue

Soon we were at the summit, celebrating with others and enjoying our picnic lunch.

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Very happy

An easy downhill stroll saw us easily meet our rendezvous with the chairlift and we enjoyed our half hour descent. The beautiful weather continued as next morning, we enjoyed the river walk which follows the Thredbo River and Golf Course.

river 1
The river cascades over rocks surrounded by beautiful alpine bush
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A gum tree with character.

Following the call of the road, we resumed our trip, stopping for morning tea at Lake Jindabyne.

jindabyne
There’s a wonderful walking/biking track that follows the lake shore.

Not only was the lake looking wonderful but there were poplars lining the shore.

jandabyne
Although they are nearly finished, they were still beautiful

Our road trip took us along the Snowy Mountains highway to Yarrangabilly Caves where we stopped for lunch and a swim in the thermal pool.  Again, we would have liked to stay longer.  Caves House, which has very competitive rates, looked very inviting. Although we have explored the caves before, we would have liked to do so again.

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Yarrangabilly creek, enhanced by Google Photos. Always a lovely surprise.
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But I like the original, beautiful Australian bush
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Yarrangabilly also has thermal pools and although the water temperature was apparently 27 degrees, I still thought it was chilly. But we did have this beautiful spot all to ourselves!

The beautiful town of Tumut awaited us. I knew that the town had just celebrated ‘The festival of the Falling Leaf’ so was hoping that the autumn colour I had been hankering for would still be on display. It was! As we strolled along the Tumut River Walk in the late afternoon, I couldn’t have asked for more.

sun glows
Starting our walk at Bila Park, the sun glowed through the trees
red trees 2
There were trees of every shade of red and orange, enough to satisfy a pyromaniac
[popular
And then there was the river
golden river
a golden river
river gum
watched over by willows and river gums.
tumut sunset
As we finished our walk, the sun was setting behind the hills.  So pretty.

But our road trip was not finished. From Tumut, we traveled to Cowra via Gundagai and Young. Here we were catching up with family and friends. We enjoyed a memorable lunch at the Cowra Breakout, a lovely coffee shop located in Macquarie St and perused the lovely shops nearby. Cowra, too is full of autumn colour.

cowra breakout
Lovely food and ambience

A visit to the Japanese Gardens is particularly beautiful at this time of year.

JapaneseGardensCowra
Spring too, is a wonderful time to visit: the cherry blossoms are very, very beautiful.

That night, we enjoyed a special country dinner. My sister Jenny cooked the best roast lamb dinner I have tasted for ages. It was so tender and so full of flavour that I wanted to be like Oliver in ‘Oliver Twist’ and ask for more! It was of course, Cowra Lamb, a brand that is finding a lot of fans around Australia and overseas.

But all good things have to come to an end. It was time to return home. Usually the thought of the 1000 km  plus drive would be a trifle daunting. But the countryside, as we drove from Cowra across the Central West and the Liverpool plains of NSW heading north, was just stunning. Full to the brim with mellow fruitfulness; shining with the colours of the fall.

red trees

Do you love Autumn too? We are planning to treat ourselves to another autumn break this year. We are hoping to visit the Southern Highlands or Northern Victoria. Northern Victoria is our preference. As well as having beautiful Autumn scenery in and around historic little towns like Bright and Mt Beauty, this part of the world hosts iconic bush destinations like the high mountain huts and numerous bike trails. But of course, all will depend on Covid restrictions or lack thereof of course. Maybe we’ll see you there.

Lazy lagoon days in Byron Bay

It’s been ages since I last wrote a post. But it’s been such fabulous summer so far in the bay that I felt the urge to write and share . Lovely weather and perfect beach conditions were enhanced by the laughter of family and friends and that special magic that sparkles when five grandchildren: three beautiful girls from Sydney and two gorgeous boys from Byron really connect, as only those aged 5 and under can.

Earlier in the season, it looked as if fun times at the beach wouldn’t happen, given the terrible erosion of the dunes along Main Beach caused by a series of big spring storms. But despite the damage, the storms were wonderful to observe. Observe that is from a distance! Back in November, Kenn and I were walking along a sun drenched Wategoes Beach as dark and menacing clouds massed on the horizon appearing to hold their breath while assessing how quickly to strike.

However the storm threat did not deter surfers from enjoying the swell and chilling out.
And the sky was especially beautiful.
While on the beach all was calm before the storm.

Of course, later that afternoon, the storm did reach us and it was terrible to see the erosion it caused. Trees that had lined the beach were uprooted and the rocks exposed. The beach cafe nearly disappeared into the sea and beach access ramps were destroyed.

But as Summer settled in, Mother Nature began to restore the shoreline and in the process, created a beautiful lagoon at the southern end of the beach. Now this isn’t the first time, a lagoon has appeared here, but this has been the most extensive and beautiful one by far, in my opinion. By Christmas Day, the lagoon was the place to be. Carrying umbrellas, beach chairs, towels, sand toys and morning tea, we made our way from Captain Cook’s lookout down to the beach where we met up with Melissa, Ben and the boys. The beach was not deserted by any means but it was not overcrowded either. It felt great actually to be surrounded by so many families. Covid has made us more appreciative I think, of simple pleasures. Whether it be that first refreshing dive into the water, watching two year old Jude launch himself into the water with squeals of delight or accompanying four year old Huddy on a tour of his rock pools, complete with an informative commentary of life within said pools and the proper method for navigating around them, just being there, sharing, in such a beautiful place, was the best.

The lagoon was refreshed daily by the high tide and was just the right temperature for lazing about in the water. There were also very shallow parts, perfect for babies and toddlers.
Early in the summer, the erosion caused by the storms was still very evident. Slabs of the rock shelf were exposed and parts of the beach cut off at high tide.

While the lagoon was beautiful, I have to admit that we did spend time at beaches like Flat Rock near Ballina as well. There are times when only a long beach wander will do.

Such a beautiful beach. Towards the south there is a large rock platform, hence the name ‘Flat Rock’ which is great to explore at low tide.
And dogs are welcome on a leash. Ninja had a blast.

But when Christian and Kelly and the girls arrived from Sydney, the lagoon was the must do daily activity. The girls from Sydney and the boys from Byron hadn’t had much opportunity to get together before this and definitely made the most of the opportunity.

There were Mermaid tails to be made. GG and Frankie’s were great, but Huddy wasn’t too sure about this mermaid stuff while Aunty Melissa’s sculptors knocked off work early.
Free at last! Now for the water!
Jumps with Dad
Swims with Mum
On watch as works of sand art are created
‘No Harriet, It’s done like this’
And what a great walk it is to the Pass and over to the ocean where the waves are just asking to be jumped over!

Over January, we have watched as the lagoon has begun to shrink. Some of the sand which the spring storms dumped into the bay is being pushed north towards Main Beach. However, at the moment, it still beckons us to spend a lazy hour or so floating around. Change is all part of the ebb and flow of beach life. Looking forward to sharing more of the highlights of our Byron Summer.

Knitting the Moody Blues during Covid Iso.

Stuck in Covid isolation, Kenn and I have found ourselves bingeing on Netflix or Foxtel. Now this is not necessarily a bad way to while away an afternoon or two or three but I’ve found there’s been some unintended consequences.

I think I’m in danger of turning into a social media meme because I couldn’t just sit or lie on the lounge and watch TV for an extended period of time. I obviously needed to build up my stamina for this new endeavour for I found myself taking lots of breaks to peruse the depths of the pantry or the fridge for a little something; preferably something I had just baked that morning, stashed in the darkest recesses of the freezer or opened the night before. All too soon, my jeans seemed a little tight. This had to stop. I had no desire to turn into a puffer fish. I still harboured dreams of being a svelte sardine!

So to stop my hands wandering on their merry way to my mouth and depositing inches on my hips, I opened the door to my craft cupboard where my yarn stash awaited. As I watched the first season of Prodigal Son, Locke and Key, and Ozark, caught up with some old favourites like Anne with an E and movies such as Ride like a Girl and Downton Abbey just to name a few, I’ve knitted and I’ve knitted. And without meaning to, everything I’ve knitted is a different shade of blue.

Happy with earlier efforts knitting with cotton and cotton blend yarns, I firstly finished a summer top for myself in Drops Paris, a cotton linen yarn which I had begun before Christmas and neglected. And I persuaded my daughter Melissa to model the finished project for me.

I particularly like the slubby texture of the linen/cotton blend and the cable and lace detail on the yoke. I purchased this yarn online and the service was great. Drops is a Norwegian wool company. Their yarns are very well priced and mostly spun in the EU.

I was on a roll. Now it was time to knit something for the grand children. Such a joyful thing to do don’t you think?
I decided to try and knit a jumper for Ilyssia who lives in Darwin.

I found the pattern on Lovecrafts. It is called Lil Rascal and is by West Yorkshire Spinners. I particularly like the neckline. There are no buttons etc and so it is very easy for little ones to put on themselves. I also like the easy cable panel of 0’s and X’s or as I like to call it hugs and kisses.

Next came a cardigan for Genevieve. I finished it in time for her birthday a couple of weeks ago. She turned 5! It seems just yesterday that Kenn and I were holding her for the first time in Perth! And she is still as lovely as she was then, a wonderful big sister to Frankie and Harriet. We were a little sad that we couldn’t be there to help blow out her candles but that’s Covid for you.

The birthday girl!

Once again I found the pattern and yarn on Lovecrafts. I knitted it in Willow and Lark’s Nest which is a beautiful blend of merino wool, cashmere and tencel. It is really lovely to knit with.

Well with two knits for two of the girls, it was time for the boys. As many of you know I have two beautiful grandsons who serendipitously live here in Byron Bay. I thought it would be super cute to knit them matching jumpers but in different colourways. But instead of wool, I would knit them in cotton which suits our winter better.

After much deliberation and a long chat with my sister Jenny, I settled on a pattern by Oge Knitwear Designs. Again I purchased this pattern on Lovecrafts and downloaded it.

I began with Huddy, pictured here enjoying a day out with Poppy

And then it was time for Jude’s. What colours do you pick for a Botticelli cherub?

Why white of course! The main section and second contrast is knitted in King Cole’s Bamboo Cotton while the first contrast is knitted in Drops Cotton Light. I think both jumpers look great but I personally prefer the feel of Jude’s jumper. Bamboo Cotton is a great yarn!

Restrictions are now beginning to ease and maybe it’s coincidental or maybe it’s my subconscious at work but my current project intended for Francesca, Genevieve’s sister, is ruby red! The Moody Blues have left the needles.

What have you’ve been crafting in lockdown?

Covid 19 and social distancing in Byron Bay

It’s been an awful few weeks for all of us. There is such a sense of loss pervading the world. It’s hard to grasp the loss of life first in China, then Italy, Iran, Spain and more recently the UK and the United States. While here in Australia, we seem to be doing well in comparison to the rest of the world, Covid 19, with its plethora of social distancing regulations is still affecting all of us in many different ways : some good, some not so good.

For example, I thought that social distancing and social isolation would be a breeze for me. After all, hadn’t I whiled away many an afternoon lost between the pages of a good book? All by myself? And I had made a serious New Year’s resolution; namely to don my Marie Kondo persona and declutter every room in the house – a herculean task that would keep me gainfully employed at home and Vinnies restocked for the foreseeable future! And there was the cupboard full of crafty stuff longing to see the light of day. All I had to do was open it.

But I discovered that it’s one thing to choose to be isolated and busy in your own home and quite another to be forced to isolate and social distance and be busy in your own home. Initially, for me, it changed how I viewed these ‘at home’ activities. They lost some of their appeal because, with the exception of going out for some exercise, they were the only things I could do. I spent too much time dwelling on what I couldn’t do. Whether it was spending precious time with the grandkids, going out for coffee or a meal with friends, enjoying a visit to the cinema or local library, being able to exercise with more than one person or leisurely browse the shops for that perfect but non-essential gift or new pair of shoes, I was resentful that for a time, my connections to the wider world had changed.

However, when I began focusing on what I could do, I found that although much had changed, I had so much for which I was grateful.

Back in early February nearly 24 inches or 600 mls of rain decided to fall on Byron Bay over a couple of days. It was a deluge. So much rain that we were almost flooded!

Despite spending far too many hours sweeping water away dressed for the occasion in my pyjamas and gumboots, or on hold with the SES or bemoaning the lack of sandbags, I am very grateful that the house survived intact and was not awash with mud and slush.

So of course, now that we are confined for the most part, to the house, Kenn and I have been busy repairing the damage. Generally, I’ve watched, admired, made coffee and planted while Kenn did all the hard stuff.

And while the garden continues to be a work in progress, we have taken advantage of the beautiful autumn weather to leave the house and get some exercise. Mindful of social distancing we have generally avoided the walk up to the lighthouse for even in this time of social distancing amid the Corona virus pandemic, there are still lots of dedicated walkers ahead of you and behind you. Instead we have enjoyed the Three Sisters’ Walk at Broken Head and its easy to see why.

The track is only 1.6 kms return and follows the clifftop to a lookout over Kings Beach.

We have also enjoyed daily beach walks. We are lucky that people have obeyed the rules and so our beaches have not been closed.

The water is still so warm and as you can see, hardly another person in sight
And at the moment, the rock platforms are revealed at low tide. Such fun to explore
Loved the colours through the Pass. So much to see and feel! Here, it’s easy to forget Covid for a time.

Kenn has thoughtfully pumped up the tyres on our pushbikes and we have ridden around our local bike track. It hasn’t changed very much since I wrote about a year or so ago. And of course, I’ve been able to go to golf. I really was upset when for two whole days golf was on the taboo list. Byron Bay Golf Course is just beautiful at the moment and I’m enjoying the stroll around the course while I try to curb my wayward driver, over enthusiastic pitching wedge and disobedient putter. It’s great to chat, from a distance with your partner as you complete the course but of course I miss the the fun of the 19th hole. But how good is it that I’m able to play?

View over the 9th hole at Byron Bay Golf Course
Although there is a lot of water around the course, I love the reflections and the ducks.

Now that I can’t go out for dinner or lunch as I used to do, I found myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen. I’ve been cooking some retro recipes such as my sister Jenny’s curried sausages. Haven’t had curried sausages for years but these were delicious. And of course I’ve baked bread! As I kneaded vigorously for the required 10 or so minutes I told myself that I was building muscle that I would be able to utilise for my drive. ( I wonder how many loaves of bread I will have to knead before I notice a change?)

My Marie Kondo persona has also made a tentative reappearance. The great decluttering has begun! Kenn tackled the garage and following quite a few trips to the tip, the floor and walls resurfaced. Inside, the study is once again an inviting space. There’s still so much to do but then Covid 19 isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Now I’ve never been one to linger over housework but Covid has made me more thorough than normal. I actually wipe most surfaces such as floors, benches and door handles with disinfectant everyday where it would have been once every few days or in the case of door handles, once in a blue moon. To make the task more appealing, I’m using a local product that has a wonderful scent of lemon myrtle. It’s like bringing the rainforest into your home.

This local company has a full range of products which do a great job. And I would never have noticed them if not for Covid 19. I found them in my local Mitre 10 store but the products are readily available online.

Nor have my afternoons been idle. There has been time to read or binge on Netflix or Foxtel while knitting a little cardigan here or a little jumper there for the grand children. The craft cupboard is well and truly open for business.

I’m hanging out for an easing of restrictions. While I was sad to say goodbye to our overseas trip to the UK ( we were due to fly out late May) I’m more concerned that I won’t be able to travel to Darwin at the end of July to meet a new grand child. When this little one comes into the world, Kenn and I will have seven little Australian grandchildren. Who would have thought? We were childless nearly 5 years ago! At the very least, it would be lovely to be able to travel intrastate and catch up with family that we haven’t seen for months. While face-time is great, it can’t replace that special hug a little one bestows.

For the moment we have to keep on keeping and focus on those little things that make each day special: the flowers, the blue butterfly that loves visiting the azalea, the breeze in the trees or just that special cup of coffee made for you with love.

How have you been keeping busy during Covid 19?

Cape Leveque: a stunning unspoilt wilderness.

I have a confession to make. I thought I was fairly au fait with my Australian geography until my daughter Lyndsay and her husband Reece traveled across the Kimberley with the express purpose of exploring Cape Leveque,

“Cape Leveque? Is’nt that somewhere in New Zealand,” I asked?

“No Mum, it’s the tip of the Dampier Peninsula which is north of Broome!” Lyndsay replied

“And just what’s so great about the place?” I demanded to know. “I know why people want to explore places like Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland on the East coast. After all, that’s where you’ll find the Daintree rainforest, Mossman Gorge and the Great Barrier Reef. But what’s so special about Cape Leveque?”

” It’s remote, beautiful, serene and unspoilt. You’ll understand when you’re there,” she answered.

So a visit to Cape Leveque became a must do on our Kimberley adventure. We found ourselves driving from the Ramada Eco Resort south of Broome to Kooljaman on the northern tip of Cape Leveque. We wanted to spend a couple of days there before working our way south along the cape towards Broome and Derby where we would begin the trek home to Byron Bay.

Kooljaman at Cape Leveque is a remote wilderness camp owned and run by the Indigenous Bardi Jawi Communities. We opted to stay in a shady powered campsite from which we had a wonderful view of the lighthouse. I would definitely recommend booking in advance. We witnessed many being turned away and we weren’t in the Peak season.

As soon as we had set up camp, it was time for a swim and an exploratory walk .

The safe swimming beach faces north and is very protected. It was an unbelievable colour and so refreshing to wallow about in.
And after our swim we took a walk through a timeless landscape of sea, pindan cliffs and a shell littered white sand beach,

Late afternoon, found us back at the resort, enjoying a sundowner before we made our way down to the western beach to watch the sunset splash the Pindan cliffs with colour.

There were quite a few spots like this around the resort where you could enjoy the view in comfort.
Some people drove their 4WD’s down to the beach but we preferred to walk and watch the sunset turn the cliffs an amazing shade of red.
Even Kenn began to blend in with the landscape.
I loved how even the sand took on sunset colours.
And of course like everywhere in WA, the sunset itself was incredible. Such an expanse of sea and sky.
Sunset viewing done, we returned to our campsite . Dusk was illuminated by the sweeping light from the lighthouse, another unexpected bonus. Just a few steps away was the restaurant and gift shop where bookings for all kinds of adventures could be made.

Travel often brings moments of serendipity and Cape Leveque was to prove no exception. The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we were meandering along the swimming beach, trying to decide if it was hot enough to plunge in, when a voice from the water called out:

“Kenn Sealey, is that you?”

Lo and behold, it was a group of old friends from Condobolin whom we hadn’t seen for over 20 years! They too were exploring the Kimberley but in reverse order to us. We had a lot of catching up to do so agreed to meet that evening for dinner at Kooljaman’s restaurant. But before that happened, we had a pearl farm to explore.

Cygnet Bay Pearl farm is just a few kilometers away from Kooljaman on the eastern side of the cape overlooking King Sound. There are lots of accommodation options here as well. As well as exploring the pearl galleries, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the deck overlooking the horizon pool and a boat tour.

We hadn’t booked anything before going to Cygnet Bay. We weren’t sure what we actually wanted to do besides have lunch. I suspect that as the season got busier, we mightn’t have got a table. However, there was lots of room for us and the food was delicious.
A bit of research would have been helpful as the tour we decided to do was tide dependent. We had to wait around for a couple of hours. And we would have known that we could have had a complementary swim in the pool. We hadn’t brought our swimmers alas.
Do you like how the horizon pool is exactly the colour of the ocean?

However, the tour was fabulous. We witnessed the huge tidal movements that make this part of the world so interesting and explored many of the islands that speckle the sound. It is definitely worth doing your research though. There are so many different tours to take including one that takes you to a waterfall in the sea!

All good things must end and it was time to return to Kooljaman and prepare for dinner with our intrepid friends, who have serious camping and 4WD skills having reached the Kimberley via the Strzelecki Track.

It was a wonderful evening; good food and good company. What more can you ask for? And it so just happened to be my birthday! Like I said earlier, serendipity!

It was time to leave Kooljaman and head south. We were heading for Whalesong Campground, another Lyndsay suggestion. Whalesong campground is located on Pender Bay just around the corner from Middle Lagoon. This has to be one of the most magical places I have ever camped.

We were just one of five campsites situated on a cliff overlooking the bay.

Access to the campsites is via a private track through pristine bushland.

And the open air facilities such as the shower and kitchen were rustic, functional and beautiful.

For a small cost, quality wood was delivered to our campsite.

Who doesn’t love relaxing around a cliff side campfire,. enjoying the simple pleasures of camping in the outdoors as you take in a sunset?

The campsite had the most amazing views over the bay especially in the early morning as the sun came up.

Whalesong also runs a coffee hub every morning where you can also purchase a range of Gubinge ( Kakadu Plum) products which are created on site by this wonderful indigenous family in a sustainable, ethical and wild harvest way. Do take the time to check out their website. We bought some for us and some as gifts for friends back home. A real taste of the Kimberley!

As we were spending a couple of nights here, we decided to check out Middle Lagoon which had also come highly recommended. We packed a picnic lunch, and drove there in about 20 minutes. But while Middle Lagoon has a lovely position around the point from Pendar Bay, it was also very crowded. It is obviously very popular with the caravan and boating set despite the terrible road in! However the beaches weren’t crowded and the swimming was idyllic.

All too soon, it was time to break camp and head south to Derby. On the way, we stopped at Beagle Bay.

This is an Aboriginal community with an amazing church

So as Lyndsay had predicted, I discovered that Cape Leveque is indeed remote, beautiful serene and unspoilt. It generates its own, unique wonder that more than justifies the effort it takes to get there. It is an essential part of a Kimberley adventure, and like so many others, we would love to return.

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Eco Resort, Broome: a Kimberley treasure

View to the north from the pool deck at Eco Beach Resort.

Sometimes serendipity comes into your life and truly memorable experiences occur. This was certainly the case with our stay at Eco Beach Resort or as it’s also known, the Ramada Resort, Eco Beach Broome. Although the resort appealed on so many levels: location, facilities and ethos, a stay seemed out of reach as my initial research placed it well over my accommodation budget. But then, just on a whim, I visited their website and noticed a wonderful deal on their glamping tents for my dates which was well within budget.

This aerial shot from Eco Beach’s website shows the layout of the resort.

Wow, a bit of real luxury in the Kimberley overlooking the Indian Ocean. And it would be my birthday week! What could be better? Although I could have booked online, I rang the resort and booked in and picked up useful tips for getting to the resort which is about 130 kms from Broome.

Although we hadn’t opted for an ocean view tent, we were allocated a glamping tent which was just a few steps away from a wonderfully equipped camp kitchen and overlooked the waterlily lagoon.

The tent was so well equipped! As well as the normal stuff you would expect in a hotel room, there was an esky full of free ice to keep your wine cool and a picnic basket for beach adventures. The bed was very, very comfortable and of course we had our own private ensuite. You could control the tent’s ventilation as well. Each tent was nestled in the bushland for privacy and featured its own deck where one could enjoy a cuppa and listen to birdlife. As an added bonus, they remembered my birthday, so thoughtful .
Watching the birds play in the lagoon in the early morning was special.
But how lovely were the waterlillies! Almost worthy of Monet’s garden.

I have to admit that aside from boiling some water, we didn’t avail ourselves of the camp kitchen. The resort has a wonderful restaurant, Jack’s Bar and Restaurant which overlooks the Indian Ocean. It was simply the most perfect spot for breakfast, happy hour and dinner. And the service was to die for. I will always remember how Justin went and found binoculars at the mere mention that Kenn was whale watching. Everyone was so helpful and genuinely kind especially Rebecca and Katrina on the front desk.

And as for watching the sunset!

We couldn’t get enough of the sunset! There were lots of vantage points from which to take in the spectacle.

I had only booked two nights, so we tried to fit in as much as we could. We absolutely adored spending time by the pool.

We were the only people I saw who actually swam laps in the pool. It was cool, but you soon warmed up after a couple of laps.
We tried to read our books as we relaxed on sun loungers beside the pool, but it was a bit of a lost cause when this view was in front of us.

Then there was the beach and the ocean to explore. Just below the resort, on the beach are a number of beach shelters, complete with hammocks, where you can set up camp for a couple of hours and try your hand at paddle boarding or kayaking which are complimentary activities.

Images like these, from the Eco Beach website, make these activities look so appealing.

So, just for fun, I lugged a kayak to the ocean and took off, keeping to the shallows. I paddled and I paddled and I paddled!. But my kayak was obstinate and wouldn’t go where I told it to go! Eventually, I gave up, returned to shore and watched Kenn show me how its done from the comfort of a hammock. Still I have to say that swimming in the ocean there was beautiful. The water was so clear and a lovely temperature, warmer than the pool and like Cable Beach in Broome, very calm.

However, a highlight for us was the 7km walk to Cape Villaret, the southern most tip of Roebuck Bay. The wonders of the Kimberley coastline surround you as you wander along a pristine beach, spotting wildlife and exploring interesting landforms. The walk is best tackled at low tide if you don’t want to get wet.

And the Ospreys were home when we walked past! Their nest was nestled on the tip of this rock.
The sea caves at Cape Villaret were larger than I expected
And when you looked up, the ocean had created chimneys in the rock.

Walking home, we noticed that the tide was very low and the sand became a mirror for the cliffs that line the coastline.

The play of colours was very special
It felt good to be alive. We nicknamed the landforms behind Kenn, the Sphinxes. What do you think?
And such perfect weather!

We also found time to walk for a couple of hours north along the beach. Even though there were lots of people at the resort, we hardly ever saw anyone else on our walks. I also found time to attend a yoga class. These classes are complimentary. I missed the more active morning class and attended the evening class instead. The resort does have a day spa but I didn’t have enough time to book in, unfortunately. Next time perhaps.

Eco Beach is a very, very special place. Very conscious of its ecological footprint, it is a haven of peace and tranquility and a wonderful place to experience some Kimberley magic. Look up their website, grab yourself a bargain and visit. You won’t be disappointed.

The Western Kimberley: Beautiful Broome

Amazing Roebuck Bay at high tide

We loved our stay in Broome and wished that we could have stayed longer. From Windjana Gorge, the Gibb River Road is mainly bitumen so it only took us a few hours to reach Broome. We did stop for lunch in Derby but had plenty of time to find our Airbnb, Bridges on Jigal, and settle in for the next three nights. Our hosts, Franky and Jon were super helpful and while their home was beautifully styled and full of wonderful artworks, it was still super comfortable and most importantly situated in a central position with easy access to both Cable Beach and Roebuck Bay.

Following up on Frankie’s recommendation, we found ourselves in Chinatown that evening, enjoying a wonderful dinner at Mr Saigon. It was a far cry from what I had served up on the Gibb!

Next morning, saw us do several loads of washing, choose a new camping stove which the man in the camping store assured us would not blow up and purchase some pillows. Essentials sorted, we headed to Cable Beach to laze the afternoon away.

And what a place to laze around in! It was a perfect sunny day. The colour of the ocean and the white, white sand which seems to stretch forever has to be seen to be believed. Parking was easy and initially we strolled along the grassy foreshore to get the feel of the place.
We found the surf club but there was no movement at the station. Still it had that tropical vibe.

The water was lovely, not too cold but still refreshing and there were virtually no waves to speak of. Ideal for swimming. We hired an umbrella as well so that I could a laze around in some shade while Kenn sun baked.

Is there anything nicer than being on a beautiful beach, totally relaxed just listening to the sounds of the ocean and the seagulls? A couple of swims and a nap or two later, it was time for a beach walk.

Towards the north, where the camels hang out, there were beautiful rock pools to explore.
And the beach is so big that even though there were plenty of people around, we didn’t feel crowded in any way.

But the sand is so fine that we found walking a reasonable distance a tad frustrating. Our feet kept sinking even into the hard sand so progress was slow.

The camel rides along the northern part of the beach at sunset are famous but while we watched we didn’t take one. We had had a very memorable camel ride at Uluru in 2015 and didn’t feel the need to repeat the experience.

The afternoon was drawing in and it was time to pack up and make our way to the Sunset Bar and Grill. It had come highly recommended by Kenn’s brother and partner, Wayne and Liz who had spent many an enjoyable evening here, watching the sun set over the Indian ocean on their trip around Australia. We found ourselves a great table, ordered some drinks and snacks and settled in to watch the show.

The foreshore is very nicely grassed along this part of Cable beach and lots of people were out with their picnic baskets waiting for the sunset.
It was simply spectacular. On this particular night, the yellow hues were dominant.
Nearly gone and the bright yellows take on a tinge of orange
And gone. But not forgotten.

Morning found us enjoying a delicious breakfast at the Town Beach cafe which has a wonderful view over Roebuck Bay.

There was plenty of variety on the menu and it was reasonably priced. And what a view to savour over coffee.
The cafe is next to a park and a children’s playground as well as the beach. The Japanese torii gate is a reminder of the important role Japanese pearl divers played in the history of Broome.
As well as the usual playground equipment, there was also a water park. Wouldn’t toddlers love this?
Further along, there were only seagulls and a lone fisherman on the beach.
And as it was high tide, the mangroves were almost covered, but really, we were mesmerized by the colour of the water, so so beautiful.
And right on the horizon there were a couple of yachts.
We noticed a new project close to the Town Beach. A viewing precinct is being constructed from which people can enjoy the ‘Staircase to the Moon’.

Of course, after breakfast, we had to explore Chinatown. It has a lovely ambiance and is very easy to walk around. I love pearls and had been looking forward to wandering through the myriad of pearl shops which showcase Australia’s wonderful South Sea Pearls. And they were wonderful. While I didn’t go crazy at Paspaley, Willie Creek or Cygnet Bay Pearls, I did manage to find something that was beautiful yet in my price bracket: a pair of mother of pearl bangles and a polished pearl shell to display them on.

What I love about these bangles is that they take on a wonderful lustre when worn against the skin. And every time I wear them, I remember beautiful Broome.

There were also a few good souvenir shops and interesting alleyways to explore. Kenn was very patient as I browsed here and traipsed there and sometimes retraced my steps to buy that special little something for one of the grand kids.

After a quick lunch, we wanted to visit the museum to learn a little more about Broome’s history. We were driving round in circles, struggling to find it when we spied two teenage girls in school uniform walking along munching hot chips. Perhaps they could shed some light on our dilemma. We slowed down beside them, unwound the window and Kenn stuck his head out.

‘Excuse me, could you show us which street leads to the Museum?” he asked them.

The girls stared at us as if we were aliens. ‘What’s a museum?” one of the girls asked the other. Her friend replied, .””You know, a place where they keep dinosaurs and stuff, “giving us a hard look! Ah we teach them so well don’t we? The knowledgeable one then turned to us, pointed vaguely and instructed, ” I think it’s two streets down to the right,” and conversation ended, the girls strolled away.

We followed her instructions and there was a semblance of truth to her directions. The museum was two streets away but to the left not right. And it is really worth a visit. There is a significant collection of artefacts from Broome’s colourful pearling past as well as the restored sailmaker’s shed. There are very good video presentations as well. How exciting were the old Pearling days. Opening times vary according to the seasons so it’s useful to check their website.

Even though we had spent a couple of hours at the museum, we still had time to go driving on Cable Beach. You need a 4WD and they’ve make it very easy to access. There is even a designated place where you can deflate and inflate your tyres. We only drove about 10 kilometres or so as the tide was not perfect but it was still a great experience. There is something special about driving on a beach with all the windows down: the smell of the sea, the sounds of the waves and the feel of the wind in your hair.

Our craving for a bit of adventure satisfied, it was time to go back to the town beach to view The Staircase to the Moon. This is a natural phenomenon which occurs when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay. The Staircase to the Moon only happens 2 – 3 days a month between March and October. Although we were in Broome one day early for a perfect viewing, we still got a taste of this natural wonder. Unfortunately, we missed the night markets, which are held at the same time.

Being one day early meant that there was still a fair bit of light as the moon rose, but we still loved it.
And as it got darker, the staircase illusion increased.

Our perfect day in Broome came to a close with an incredible fish and chips at the Wharf restaurant which is located at the very tip of the port of Broome. There at their picnic tables overlooking the moon reflecting on the bay, we feasted.

Even though we had had a wonderful couple of days, we knew that we would like to return as there was still so much more to do and see in this wonderful town beside the Indian Ocean.

But Broome had one special experience waiting for us that I will share with you in my next post. A visit to the Ramada Eco Resort which lies about 100 kms south of the town on the southern most tip of Roebuck Bay. This visit was a real highlight. Hope you will join me.

Gibb River Road Adventure

Let the fun begin. Finally, we would be roughing it: an unforgiving dirt road, an untried tent and campfire meals under the stars. What could be better?

Leaving beautiful El Questro, we turned onto the Gibb and headed for Broome about 800 kms away. Almost immediately, the bitumen gave way to the rough stony surface that the Eastern Gibb is known for and as we bounced our way towards the famous Pentecost River crossing, I wondered what the road held in store for us.

I knew we couldn’t stop at every landmark or experience everything the Gibb had to offer. For example, it was such a poor wet season that the iconic Mitchell Falls were reduced to almost a trickle, so we decided very early on not to tackle the Kalumburu Rd which intersects with the Gibb and which is the only way to the falls. But like everyone else, we had to cross the Pentecost River.

Negotiating this crossing without mishap, was what Kenn was particularly looking forward to. In this photo from Outback WA, notice the width of the crossing and the depth. This is what the crossing generally looks like after a normal wet season. The river can be 60 plus metres wide and flow very quickly. Late in the dry around September, the depth can be less than 50 cm and relatively easy to cross. But we were crossing in early June and adding to the challenge would be the sharp, stony nature of the crossing itself. We knew several people who had come to grief here and found themselves changing a tyre on the other side.
However what we found was virtually a dry, stony river bed. Kenn was so disappointed. On the plus side, we didn’t get a puncture. And as we crossed in the morning, we didn’t capture that iconic picture of the crossing with the Cockburn Ranges, rosy in the afternoon sun, in the background.
Instead, a little further on, close to the turn off to Home Valley, there was a lookout where we stopped. Still beautiful but not THE shot!
It was also here that I reached over the back to grab my pillow only to find that it was not there. Our super comfy latex pillows had gone missing in action! Oh well, every adventure has its challenges. I was sure we could improvise some item of clothing into a suitable head rest!

Our first stop was ‘Ellenbrae’ Station which was only a few kilometres off the Gibb and just over 200 kms from El Questro. We had been on the road for only about three hours, but the Gibb had been so rough in patches, that one of the bolts which hold the driving lights on had broken off. Kenn needed a little time to make repairs. Staying here would also give us heaps of time to explore and set up our new tent for the very first time in a great spot in the campground.

The station is a welcome haven of green and the rustic building you can see in the background was the original homestead complete with an open air kitchen. We found out that there was only Optus reception but the manager kindly rang Emma Gorge for us and we were able to arrange to pick up our pillows on our return journey. Amazing! When we picked them up we discovered that they had even laundered our pillowslips! Outback hospitality!, got to love it!
There were lots of places around the large garden where you could enjoy a cappuccino and a picnic lunch. At this stage of our trip, I hadn’t realised what a luxury Lawn is in the Kimberley.
And they even had a children’s play area.

We were keen to sample their famous scones and they were delicious. Like many places on the Gibb, you can’t book in advance: it’s first in, first serve unless there are special circumstances. . We had hoped to stay at Ringer’s campground which has its own billabong but unfortunately that was taken by a group of bike riders on a charity ride. So we ended up in the Jackaroo’s Campground. This was still a great option. Campsites came with a fire pit and we were allowed to collect wood from the bush. There were hot showers with the water heated by a donkey heater ( I had never seen one of these in action before) and flush toilets. And everything was clean! Soon our tent was up, bed made ( with jumpers as pillows) table and chairs arranged and wood for the evening fire collected. The driving light was safely disconnected and now it was time for fun.

If you camp at Ellenbrae, you get access to Sandy Beach Gorge. This was quite a long gorge and I wished that there was a kayak or two to borrow. But the water was lovely and there were no rocks so you could laze around very easily. It was quite a hot day, and the beach had very little shade. A sun umbrella would have been nice, but you can’t carry everything with you can you?
It was perfectly safe to swim across to the rocks on the other side.
However, the billabong which is accessed from Ringer’s campground was virtually dry. Such a shame as we could see that it would be an idyllic spot with water in it and so accessible.

But our mishaps didn’t end with the loss of a driving light and our pillows. Back at camp, we started preparing dinner. I was planning a tasty Tuna Pasta dish and went to put the water on to boil for the pasta when … our gas stove nearly blew up! We hadn’t realised that when Kenn exchanged our near empty gas bottle for a full one back in Byron, they had given him a bottle with an incompatible fitting. What to do? A friendly couple offered to boil some water for us so I busily chopped shallots and capsicum and grated some cheese. When the water was boiling, I bought the pot over to the table, put in my egg noodle nests and put a lid on. Hardly the orthodox method for cooking pasta but it worked. I drained the water, added the tuna in oil and the vegies, stirred and put the lid on again to heat through. Surprisingly, it was quite tasty. Our new friends from Western Australia invited us to join them for a cuppa around the campfire. Ah, a coffee to soothe the jangled nerves!

And as we watched the flames flicker, they told us how great the campground at Imintji was. Apparently it was relatively new with excellent facilities including free barbeques! We had intended to stay at Manning Gorge the following day, but as Imintji was just another 100 kms further. on, we decided to stay there. Our cooking problem for one night at least would be solved.

So after a healthy breakfast of weetbix and fruit, we packed up and headed for Mt Barnett, Manning Gorge and Imintji Campground. Now we had checked, double checked and triple checked that we had left nothing behind at the campsite at Ellenbrae. But we had scarcely gone any distance when Kenn realised that his iphone was not in his pocket. We knew that it had to be in the vehicle but where? The car was so jam packed with stuff that it would be a serious mission to stop and search for it. Kenn made an executive decision that the search could wait until we set up camp at Imintji later that day.

And so we continued along the Gibb. We passed the Kalumburu turnoff and the road conditions changed. Instead of a rough stony surface the Gibb now presented us with some of the worst corrugations that we have driven over. And the wonderful escarpment scenery that we had driven through to that point had given way to relatively flat savannah as we bumped, bounced and shook our way to the Mt Barnett Roadhouse about halfway along the Gibb. . It was approaching lunchtime and given our cooking situation, we treated ourselves to takeaway. Kenn also topped up our fuel, as we thought that this was the only place on the Gibb where fuel could be purchased.

It is here that you buy the permit to visit Manning Gorge. But the iphone issue hung over our heads and we wanted to press on to Imintji as we had been told there were limited campsites and we didn’t want to miss out. As it turned out there were heaps to choose from which a phone call from the Roadhouse to the Imintji store would have confirmed. Ah you live and learn! As a consequence, we missed our opportunity to visit this beautiful gorge. Our loss!

The waterfalls at upper Manning Gorge, on Mount Barnett Station, off the Gibb River Road. This photo from Red Dirt Rentals gives you an idea of what we missed. I don’t think that there would have been this much water flowing over the falls though.

So we pressed onto Imintji. In the Ngarinyin language, Imintji means “a place to sit down”. The campground is located at the foot of the spectacular King Leopold range and you pay for your campsite at the store. The people at the store were lovely and very quickly we selected a campsite with a sunset view of the range, put up the tent and found the iphone! We were happy campers.

We had this part of the campground entirely to ourselves. Just across the road was a lovely, grassed common area with a very spacious and clean amenities block and a covered camp kitchen complete with free electric barbeques. They also had some glamping tents for those a little short of time.
Certainly not as crowded as most places on the Gibb! A really good hot shower is one of the luxuries of life!

Imintji is relatively close to Bell Gorge and we had the whole afternoon with which to explore it. On the way, we passed Silent Grove, the National Parks campground. It too looked very pleasant. The track to the gorge is not very shaded and we were quite hot by the time we reached the upper gorge. It was beautiful, a series of shallow pools which trickle into each other and eventually form a waterfall which cascades to a pool in the lower gorge.

The upper pools are surrounded by these wonderful rocks
And fringed by wonderful reeds.
The reflections were lovely and the water deep enough to float around in. And there were plenty of accommodating rocks to serve as a picnic table for afternoon tea.

Back at Imintji, we reconnected with a young family who were travelling for a year around Australia. We had first met them at Emma Gorge back at El Questro where their three delightful little girls, (the youngest was just four and a half) had chatted to us, showing us their special discoveries: pet rocks and special pools and giving us helpful hints of where not to walk. The family was spending a couple of days at Imintji before travelling to the Mornington Wilderness Area. And the girls put the time to good use.

They created fairy houses and gardens on rock platforms and in tree nooks and we were treated to a special guided tour. And the fairies left them a little something in the morning! It was so delightful to see little ones so happy in the great outdoors needing nothing but imagination to be happy.

As we checked into the store next morning for cappuccinos , we also realised that we should have bought fuel here as well. We were unaware that the store sold fuel! It was over 30cents per litre cheaper than Mt Barnett! And when you’re filling a thirsty Prado, that can make a considerable difference.

We were now traveling from Imintji to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. To get there we drove through the magnificent King Leopold Ranges. Sometimes the road cut through the ranges and at other times the road opened up to reveal incredible vistas of unspoilt wilderness.

We were surprised at how quickly, we got to Windjana Gorge. It only took a couple of hours from Imintji. One of the things that had determined our itinerary was the booking at Windjana Gorge. According to the WA National Parks website, sites must be pre-booked and paid for online. So of course we did, only to discover that we could have just rocked up and put our payment in a box. But maybe that was only the case for this early part of the season and being locked in to a particular date did enable us to maximise our exploration time..

Windjana Gorge is one of the most spectacular gorges in the Kimberley. The gorge cuts through the Napier Range which part of the ancient Devonian limestone reef which can also be seen at Geikie Gorge and Tunnel Creek. While the Lennard River runs through the gorge in the wet season, in the dry it forms large pools where the freshwater crocodiles lurk.

What to see first? Since we had a whole afternoon at our disposal, we decided to go to Tunnel Creek and then visit the Gorge for the evening spectacle of crocodile bat hunting.

Tunnel Creek is WA’s oldest cave system and it is here that you can walk through a tunnel following the creek as it flows through the Napier Range. We knew we had to wear old sneakers, carry a torch and be prepared to get wet as at certain points in the tunnel you have to wade or swim through pools. I was surprised by how eerie and thrilling I found the whole experience. I led the way, carrying the torch while Kenn took our photos.

You have to walk 750 metres to the other side and return the same way. At the entrance to the tunnel you have to clamber around some boulders before the tunnel opens up. Initially, you are walking on a sandy beach beside the creek but ...
there are residents keeping watch. At least five species of bats also live in the cave, including ghost bats and fruit bats, and every strange sound had me wondering if something nasty was about to drop on my head or snap at my heels.
In a few places, the tunnel roof has collapsed and a little light filters in. But for much of the time you are in complete darkness with only your torch to guide you
And the stalactites cling in strange shapes from the roof.
We did have to wade through some water. Luckily for us, the water was quite low. On the way through it was OK as we were following others but on the return trip, we were on our own and I went to the right instead of the left. The water was getting deeper and deeper and then I heard a suspicious sound. I backed out … very, very quickly. Kenn found the right path and we had no further dramas. I don’t know that I could have swam through the tunnel if the water had been higher.
On the other side, the creek opens up to form a lovely swimming spot. I did get wet but couldn’t get the image of the crocodile back in the tunnel out of my mind so didn’t linger.
Tunnel Creek is also where Jandamarra made his last stand. His story is very well documented here.

Back at Windjana Gorge, we had time for a cuppa before our first walk into the Gorge. It was late afternoon and the reflections on the water were lovely.

As you can see, you can walk all the way through the gorge on sand if you wish. I loved the play of light on the rocks as the sun began to set.
The rock formations were highlighted by sunlight and shadow
But on the opposite side of the large pools, we were amazed by the number of freshwater crocodiles, sunning themselves or seemingly asleep in the water. Obviously we kept our distance.
Many were bigger than I thought they would be. As the sun set, they became more active. They were jostling for a good spot from which to try and catch a bat or two for supper when the bats leave their daytime caves and fly down the gorge to drink and feed. We didn’t get a picture of a bat being taken but in the gloom did witness some crocs find success. Nature at work. While you could feel sorry for the bats, there were thousands of them making their way down the gorge so maybe this was Nature’s way of keeping numbers in balance.

Walking back to our campsite, we were surprised to see that the campground was full to bursting Surprisingly, we hadn’t felt crowded when exploring the gorge and hoped that the crowds would stay away when we walked the Gorge Trail next morning.

We started at about 730 am as we didn’t know how much shade there was on this walk and didn’t want to get too hot. It was a great time as the birds were very active and it was a very pleasant temperature. The trail is not difficult and certainly didn’t take us four hours even though we were strolling along.

There was a lot to see on the trail which follows a track through beautiful bush which fringes the gorge.

And beside us and across the gorge, was the incredible Devonian reef, complete with fossils!

And of course there were Boab trees. But here the Boab was flowering and fruiting.

Just a youngster judging by some of the monster specimens we had encountered.
The dark berry like things are the fruit while the flowers are at the end of the branches. Lovely against the sky.

And so our time at Windjana Gorge came to a close. Even though we had booked an extra night at the gorge, we had experienced the main attractions and some extra time in Broome beckoned. After all, we had a lot ( and I mean a lot: everything was coated in bright red dust at this point) of washing to do, a camping store to visit and some pillows to buy before we continued our camping adventures on Cape Leveque.

This road trip along the Gibb had been amazing despite our minor hiccups. I wouldn’t mind doing it again, but after a really good Wet season and perhaps making it up to Mitchell Falls and down to the Mornington Wilderness Area just to mention a couple of places we didn’t visit.

But the road delivered what I had been hoping to experience: sweeping wilderness vistas full of deep, rich colours and the magical interplay between rock and water that is so symbolic of the Kimberley. And we had a real sense of being on an adventure, of living a little bit on the edge. After all you’re a long way from suburbia on the Gibb.

I hope you can join me as Kenn and I get a taste of Broome, the gateway to the Western Kimberley Coast.