4 June—5 June 2002
Yesterday I got up early and started packing up the camp. We bought some ice and drove into Kununurra. Susie posted some letters and then we went to the tele-centre to check our email and send a fax to the manager of Curtin Detention Centre. The fax number was wrong, so we sent it to my parents with an email asking them to investigate further and send it on for us if they could. Susie bought some tapes for the video camera and we were advised by the El Questro office located in Kununurra that driving into El Questro Station was not recommended due to the condition of the road. Susie was very disappointed. We decided that we’d try and drive as far as Emma Gorge, so we filled the petrol tank and drove to a camping spot listed in Priceless Camping Spots.
Our destination proved to be a little difficult to find as it was off the Victoria Highway, supposedly 2.7 km north of the turnoff into the Gibb River Road. Our trip meter placed it somewhat further, but we found the track. It was in poorer condition than the guide book suggested, so we navigated it very slowly, with Susie guiding me over the worst patches as she walked ahead of the rig.
The camping spot turned out to be lovely. It was a flat area next to a waterhole skirted by a wall of what I think was pink quartzite. Best of all, there were no other people there, and it was a good 1.5 km off the highway. We built a big fire and Suz made beans spiced with pepperoni, with a nice big damper all done in the camp oven. We sat up writing postcards and playing the guitar. We were wary of the waterhole due to the possible presence of crocodiles. From time to time some pretty weird sounds emanated from it.
In the morning Susan made pikelets in the campfire and we packed up for the trip to Emma Gorge. We stopped for a photo at the top of the Gibb River Road and drove very slowly over the 25 km to the gorge turnoff. The road was dusty, very corrugated, and it had a lot of loose gravel on it. I drove slowly, which in retrospect was not the best approach. There was one shallow creek crossing near the gorge, but we handled it without any drama.
At the resort reception where we paid our entry fee, we met a couple with two children and then walked to the mouth of the gorge. The woodland surrounds gave way to rainforests as the tall, pink cliffs closed in on either side of the trail. There were a couple of lovely pools, but we kept going until we reached the falls. This was a magic spot. There was a tall waterfall that dropped into a deep pool about 50m in diameter. The water was extremely cold though, as the waterfall acted like a cooling tower. I managed to swim over to the waterfall and back. Suz and the kids found a nice sunny spot where the water ran over some rocks into a small crevice. We chatted with the couple we had met earlier. They were from south of Perth, and were travelling around Australia for nine months.
We had a picnic lunch and then walked back to the car. The return journey down the Gibb River Road back to Victoria Highway was much better than the drive in, due to some good advice from the Western Australian travellers. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the corrugations were much more bearable when taken at 60-70 km/h rather than 30-40 km/h.
Our journey along the Great Northern Highway to Warmun was absolutely breathtaking. At times it looked like the surface of Mars: there were rugged outcrops with flat tops and sheer cliffs turning pink to orange to fiery red in the afternoon light.
We arrived in Warmun just on dark. We set up and had gourmet sausages for dinner. It’s as cold as charity here at night, just as it was at the waterholes the night before, only here we have no fire.
We’ll be here in Warmun for a few nights. I’m not sure what it will be like. It looks like a pretty rough spot, but it’s a dry community and it seems a lot more peaceful at night than Tennant Creek. We’ve set up in the only camp ground, out the back of the roadhouse.