Once called Edith Falls, but known to the Jawoyne people as Leliyn, this is one walk I’d encourage everyone to do.
Situated about 1 hour from Katherine, it is part of Nitmiluk National Park. You can get a campsite if you’re very, very lucky, by asking at the kiosk, first thing.
There is a relatively short and easy walk from the start of the carpark, by which you can return or a longer return, 2.6km, affording views of the falls and the gorge, giving a ‘bigger’ view of the whole.
The top falls provide a refreshing swimming opportunity that is usually less crowded, as many don’t take the walk. You can sit under that short (4m?) fall, or swim nearby, and there are several access points, not all being slimy!
The different return trip, while providing views, can be slippery in parts, with dusty rocks or rubble.
Once you’re at the base, you cross the bridge that looks out onto the major gorge, with the 12m falls in the distance.
A few people had noodles to assist them in the swim there, but it’s less than a km, with little current.
Be aware of water pythons, as my husband had one swim against his legs as he was approaching the ladder to get out. I don’t think they have us on the menu, and it was pretty small, but it can be a trifle unexpected.
Enjoy a relaxing stretch in the sun or shade while you have lunch, buy something from the kiosk, or walk back to the carpark, reading the information boards as you go.
On the notorious Gibb River Road, near the Kununurra end, is a place called El Questro. It is a resort and was once only accessible by a rough dirt track, that is now a bitumen road. However, places that lead off from here are via dirt roads, that may be corrugated if the grader hasn’t been through. Emma Gorge is one such place and it is a jewel worth risking the bumpy 2km track.
Once at the carpark, there is a magnificent information bay, with restaurant, accommodation, toilets and permits to visit the park. We had bought a park pass, that gives us access to WA parks for a month, as we thought it could be more convenient than having correct change, getting permits printed, etc., so we went directly to the start.
This was a mixture of terrain, with rocky bits, smooth path, climbing sections and a couple of creek crossings, where the water as very low. Birds and butterflies flit across your path and the sound of gurgling water comes from somewhere near, either seen as a brook, or hidden by reeds.
It is such a beautiful sight that greets you after about 40 minutes, I don’t know where to begin. The gorge rises ahead of you and up maybe 100m. The walls are orange and laced with ferns or marked with patterns of erosion.
Water cascades down from a point on the left and bounces off rock ledges to splash into the centre pool of water. The pool is maybe 40m in diameter and on the right a rock ledge hangs over the water, dripping onto those who venture there, and the water there is warm, as I think it is thermal.
The edges to the pool are sandy and you can see the bottom, which becomes rocky and pebbly. Towards the centre it is very dark and you cannot make out what is down there. The temperature is pretty cool, but not quite cold. As you float towards the rock lip, looking up, you see an oval of blue sky, lined with a garland of ferns and rocks. It is so tranquil and beautiful.
This is a long way from anywhere, any time. It is ancient and unspoilt and majestic, like everything in the Kimberley. See it, breathe it, feel it and carry some of its magic away with you.
But take water, hat and sunscreen so that you live to tell the tale.
Professing to be the oldest pub in the Northern Territory, the Daly Waters Pub gained some iconic status for travelers at least 40 years ago. Strewn across a line above the front bar is a wide selection of bras, with messages on them. Out the back are collections of thongs (the footwear) and hats and other paraphernalia, also with messages. But this hotel started life as a trading post and played a significant role in WWII.
Explorer, John McDouall Stuart, named the area Daly Waters in 1861, on one of his many expeditions from South to North. Ten years later, the overland telegraph made its way following the same path and connected Australia to the rest of the world. The Pearce family, in 1920, opened up a Drover’s Store, which forms part of the current pub. The indigenous people in the area helped to build the store, but are no longer in the area.
The Pearce family fed passengers and refuelled aircraft when the Daly Waters Airfield opened up to the England to Australia Air Race. The same airfield was the rear guard base in WWII when the Japanese bombed Darwin from Feb 1942 to Nov 1943.
Now, its quirky and a place to get a cool drink and a bite to eat, with great entertainment on offer most nights. When we were there, Lou Bradley and Phil were playing and they were well-received.
There is a park behind the pub, with amenities, and one across the road for unpowered sites. Cabins are also available if you’re looking to break the long drive from Alice to Katherine.
Quirky planes, helicopters and animals are also in residence.
We pressed on to Karumba, from Croydon, which took about 2 hours. At one time we had considered stopping in Normanton, which is a much bigger town that we passed through, but as we talked about the overall path, we thought it made more sense to go to the farthest extreme and work back the next day, than the alternative. As it’s almost exclusively Telstra out here, access to the internet and phone coverage is difficult so we’d had no internet for two days. Sometimes, we’d be driving along and hear our phones going off, or sitting outside and hear our phones, on the inside, suddenly get a wave of wifi. I know, third world problems.
Karumba Point is lovely. It was about 32C when we arrived at 4 and were desperate to get to the pool. It was fabulous and the warm breeze in the evening, like a piece of soft silk brushing my skin, was so refreshing. A poolside conversation led to us quickly leaving the pool, grabbing our crackers and hummus and heading for the point.
Here, just outside the hotel, we planted ourselves on a bench, as people sat on the beach, held up their glasses and watched a beautiful sunset. We took great photos and had a drink, along with our dip. It was very special and felt like the Broome sunset routine.
Alan said that, apparently, this place can have some extraordinary rolls of cloud in the morning, so we planned that. We were contemplating staying an extra night, as it was really nice to have warmth and a great caravan park with clean, substantial amenities. Even the Cane toads liked it.
But with tips about Gregory Downs, Lawn Hill and Cloncurry after that, we decided to decline the advice about visiting the Barramundi Discovery Centre, Museum or Normanton’s town walk, and after a beautiful sunrise, we headed for the point and walked along the beach, scabbing shells and feeling the sun start to heat up.
No cloud rolls. Constantly spying for crocs or turning at rustling, I thought we’d best go, and the slithers in the sand didn’t help, either. We went to the coffee shop that heralded itself as the best in the area and managed to get a tomato ($1.80) and half a lettuce ($2.90), which was an improvement on yesterday, where, in Croydon, lettuces were $8.30 each.
Then off we went. We passed groups of birds at the water’s edge of ponds and swamps, and they were grey, with red bands on their heads that covered their eyes. They were tall and leggy and ran from us when we stopped the car to take a picture. A lunch stop was by the side of the road and we met a couple on their way to Cloncurry, who had traveled this area 30 years ago, when it was dirt! Off we went to Burke and Wills roadhouse and then on to Gregory Downs and after experiencing single road use for some kilometers, we were there by 4.
North of Alice Springs and South of Tennant Creek is Karlu Karlu, which means round boulders in the language of the first nation’s people of the area. They’re my entry to Becky’s squares.
Once anglicized as Devil’s marbles, most people are changing to the traditional name.
Despite their appearance of having been dropped or hurled there, the boulders have been formed by wind, heat and water erosion over millions of years.
It is believed that a large granite mass, of which they are a part, was formed by volcanic activity, 1700 million years ago. Fissures in the mass allowed the erosion and the rounding of the blocks occurred.
Stunning at sunrise and sunset, I’ve tried to select photos that are not culturally sensitive to the Arrernte people. If you come this way, do stay overnight for a small fee (it was $3.30pp) and do walks, enjoy the vibe, learn some stuff.
Recommendations are constantly made, when you are on the road, about good, cheap places to stay. One such suggestion we received was for Cape Palmerston. We were told it was beautiful and, as part of Queensland’s national parks, the rate to camp is $6.50pp/night. It was unforgettable.
How hard could it be? The road to Palmerston was dirt off the highway, which was now sugar cane country, but reviews were good and nothing to indicate any special skills or vans, apart from ‘recommended with a 4WD’. So off the highway we ventured and tentatively followed signs until the final turn-off, where we saw two people inflating their tyres. Uh-oh. We stopped and had a conversation, during which they advised driving over the hill, keeping well to the left, following in others’ tracks, unless we could ride their rise, stay well away from the water, watch the tide so we did’t get caught in quicksand (did she say ‘quicksand’?) and we should make it to the first camp. Stay there.
It would be accurate to say we had some reservations and the woman suggested some sand driving would stand us in good stead. Over the rise we drove and saw some other cars, to either side, well back from the beach. We decided to have lunch and then head back where we had come, then forward in our journey, but when one couple came over and said they were moving on and we could have their spot for a camp…well, we moved in.
I’m still uncertain that Queensland Parks intended this spot for a camp, but I got online and paid our fee, and soon we were exploring the beach.
The tide was about 40 m out from our camp and receding. We had taken maybe 30 steps when a movement on the sand caught my eye. Crabs! But no ordinary crabs; these were travelling forward (not sideways) and carrying bulbous blue heads/bodies .
If we approached them, they stopped and spun themselves under the sand in a second. They travelled in groups, alone, in a line and in any direction. The sand was alive!
The entertainment having lasted a good hour, we explored some more and found very unusual jellyfish nested in the sand (waiting for unsuspecting tucker?)
then tucked into dinner. As the sun set, our neighbours fished at the water’s edge, our cameras s clicked and we noticed the waters beginning to return towards us. No cause for alarm, the signs of last night’s high tide were at least a metre from our door. And the others were in a tent, further forward, so any cries of alarm would alert us in time.
Sunrise was lovely and, although we had both spent some of the night listening to waves lap near our door, we awoke high and dry. A little trouble with midgies, which were also new to us.
Plenty of cars had taken to the sand trail the day before, during the late afternoon and early evening, speeding off in other people’s tracks or on their rise, way off to the point, where we hoped they avoided the quicksand and made it around to the first campsite.
An unforgettable experience, nonetheless. Sorry Queensland National Parks if we took a liberty. Cape Palmerston is for the more adventurous and experienced and by all accounts is excellent for fishing and beaching.
When travelling in Australia, you can find free or cheap ‘side of the road’ overnight stops. Some people use Wiki Camps, Camp10, tourist atlases, or a mixture.
Generally, we have found the amenities (if they are present) are very clean, but most people carry toilet paper to be on the safe side. If water is provided, you can’t assume it is safe to drink, and many have signs saying boil first, or not for drinking. A portable toilet gives you more options but some sites in Qld that say you must be self contained, mean you must have a fixed and permanent toilet and shower.
If you are right beside the road, you will possibly not get a good night’s sleep, as trucks travel 24 hours a day and sometimes train lines are close. We use reviews to guide us and try to have planned the stop before we begin the day’s journey.
Some of the best ones look like this and provide a lot of choice about where to set up your ‘rig’.
Unspoken rule – don’t crowd others, or have a generator. Most people are asleep early and depart near sunrise, unless they like the spot enough to stay more than one night. Don’t park in a truck stop!
If you park in a national park, pay the fee online and display your details as directed.
Safe travels! Take enough water with you. Carry a rubbish bag.
It’s hard to describe the region from Mt Isa to Rockhampton in an all-encompassing way, as it ranges from grazing to politics to the mining industry. Driving through Cloncurry and Winton, which are decent-sized, pretty towns, we made it about 20km from Longreach before setting up in the bush for the night.
Longreach is quite large and we admired the heritage train station before moving on. I would have liked to enjoyed some of their pioneer adventures and do the stagecoach ride, but due to Covid-19 it was not running. Another year!
An unexpected find this day was Ilfracombe. There is a substantial display along the main road, of old cars, tractors and machinery. Called the Lynn Cameron Machinery Mile, in recognition of his contribution which made the town what it is, the historical facts are recorded and it is fascinating. For example, there is a disused army tank from WWII that was converted to farm machinery.
Barcaldine was our lunch stop and what a beautiful place, buzzing with grey nomads on the move. Apart from some welcoming craft shops and eateries, the town is known for The Tree of Knowledge.
You can’t miss this structure and once inside it is hard to capture the dimensions.
In 1891, under the tree of knowledge, next to the train station, an organisation was formed that later became the Australian Labour Party. There is a statue, by Mylinda Rogers, to commemorate the shearer’s strike
The original tree was a ghost gum, that dies in 2006 so a monument was built by the Barcaldine Regional Council and a plaque explains that “the tree of knowledge monument, signifying protruding shear blades, is in recognition of the stalwart men and women of the west, who, through their courage, determination and dedication to the principles, ideals and objectives of the Union Movement, played a leading role in the formation of Australia’s Labour and Political Movement which emerged from beneath this Tree of Knowledge in 1891, and spearheaded the many reforms which were to result in a vastly improved way of life for Australians generally.”
There are other historical buildings in the town and a huge xylophone (?) that you can play.
We moved on and found a park in Emerald, which was much bigger than we had expected. Emerald is considered the richest coal and mineral centre of Australia so there’s plenty of work, people are on the move early in the morning and supermarkets are full. We visited the Botanic Gardens which are small but very pretty and used by many for fitness it seems.
Ezmerald was chosen as our base to explore Blackdown National park, but I think there was a spot closer to the NP, Bluff, that we could have chosen, but didn’t know until passing it.
From Blackdown we went to Yeppoon, via Rockhampton. The latter has an unusual amount of bull statues! It looks substantial and attractive but we pressed on.