Millie and I woke early when it was still dark and went over to the toilets. It was 4.50am, which to our body clocks was 6.20, so I didn’t bother trying to get back to sleep. Millie went back in the tent and played on the iPad, I had a cuppa and caught up on the blog.
The campground got busy as the sun rose and it was soon a warm, sunny morning. Tony cooked pancakes for breakfast and we ate them in the shade of the trees next to our tent. I had a shower – the best shower I’ve had for weeks, and the first since we left Darwin, so it was great to get all that dirt off my skin and out of my hair. Caitlin and Tony headed over to the pool for a swim, and the other kids joined them once they’d finished playing their game. I spent most of the morning sorting out washing and trying to get the red dirt, and paint spills, out of our clothes – it was also great to have the time to really give everything a good scrub. Once I’d finished the washing I had a quick swim as well, and we went back to the tent to have sandwiches for lunch and get ready to go out.
Without a 4WD we aren’t going to be able to do much of the Kimberleys or the Gibb River Road, which is slightly disappointing (although there is so much else to see, it doesn’t really matter). We had heard that the Gibb River Rd is sealed as far as Emma Gorge, so we decided to go out and check that out. We usually do our walks in the morning, but as the sunrise and sunset are so early at the moment, and the walk was an hour each way (with a swim in the middle) we figured it was better to walk in during the heat of the afternoon, have a swim, and walk out in the cool of the late afternoon. Working backwards from sunset we figured we needed to leave around 1pm – by the time we got going and got petrol and headed out of town it was probably closer to 1.30.
Driving out of town we crossed a bridge that we soon realised was a dam wall – the water was much higher on the left hand side than the right, and the edge of the bridge was lined with the operating machinery for the gates to control the water. It was pretty impressive looking.
The drive out to Emma Gorge was interesting, lots of hills and escarpments, very sparse vegetation. It was exciting to turn on to the Gibb River Rd, even though this is not the really exciting part of it. The road in to Emma Gorge was 2km of dirt, and quite manageable in our car. There was a creek crossing right near the end – as we approached it we saw a small car coming the other way and figured if he had got in we’d have no trouble, and it was fine, the water was shallow and the bottom firm. We packed our bag with everything we’d need for our walk, got our shoes on etc, bought a permit to enter the gorge, and set off at about 2.45. They don’t let people start the walk after 3pm because it gets too dark to get out safely, so we were just in time.
The walk started off along a rocky track next to the creek, then had an easy section of flat dirt track, then for most of the rest of the gorge it made its way over rocks. At first they were small and just like steps, with stepping stones over the creek a couple of times. As we went further in to the gorge the rocks became bigger, and there were a few sections where we had to use our hands as well as feet to clamber over the rocks. Tony went ahead with LiAM and Caitlin, and Millie and I made our way at her pace. The sun dropped over the western edge of the gorge not long into our walk, so we mainly walked in shade which made it much easier. The eastern gorge wall was still in sunlight and looked pretty amazing, very red and tall. Millie was tired and usually has a lot of rests when she walks, but because of the time of day we needed to keep walking. She did really well, and had bursts of energy from time to time and kept plodding along. She’s really good on the big rocks and can easily find the best way to move through them, so I followed her for a lot of the time. We walked near the creek for most of the time and there were some lovely little waterfalls and ponds, and great views of the gorge walls, interesting trees and plants, which got greener and more rainforesty the further we walked, and a fascinating walk all the way in.
We finally reached the end of the gorge where the others were already swimming. The gorge became very narrow at the end, and there was a pool maybe 20m in diameter, with the gorge walls sheer on one side and at the narrower end, and overhanging the water on the other side. The overhanging wall was covered with moss and ferns and water was dripping down from the rocks into the water. On the sheer side and at the very end of the gorge there was water falling in a straight stream from the top of the gorge – not a large waterfall, but a constant stream of water. It was so beautiful and lush looking, definitely worth the walk in to see it.
Millie and I got ready and went in the water – it was too cold for her so Tony got out and sat near the edge with her so I could have a swim. I wanted to go over to where the water was falling in from the rocks – Caitlin wanted to come with me but was nervous about the deep water and wanted to go to a bit near the edge that was still shallow, but that was way in the dark part of the overhang and I was nervous about going in there. We compromised and stayed in the shallow part until we could swim straight out to where the water was falling. LiAM came with us too and the 3 of us swam under the large falling droplets and were surprised at how warm the water was in that part of the pool. Lying on our backs looking up at the rocks and ferns and moss, and water drops, was incredible, like nothing else we’ve done so far. From there we swam to a large rock in the middle of the pool and sat on that for a while, looking at the fish swimming around it. There had been some boys climbing up near the waterfall on the side and jumping in – LiAM wanted to try it but I wasn’t sure how safe it was. He and I swam over there and I said he could try to climb to the first ledge (only 20cm or so out of the water). The rocks were wet and sheer and slippery and he wasn’t able to reach up to get a good enough handhold to climb, so he was happy just swimming under the waterfall. We swam back and under the water at the back of the pool then the 3 of us went back to the shore.
We had a snack and got ready to walk out. We were the 3rd last group to leave, and one of the other groups passed us not long into the return walk. I stopped to take more photos on the way out as I had more idea of how much time we had available. Tony and LiAM went ahead, and the girls and I walked at Millie’s pace – again, she managed well on the big rocks, and I did too. Normally sloped rocks freak me out, and these were quite slippery, but I felt confident and walked fairly easily. My knees didn’t hurt either, even though there was a lot of stepping up and down off and on to rocks. I guess we’re all getting fitter and stronger the more walking and swimming we do.
We really enjoyed the walk out and it was still light all the way. As we left the end of the gorge the air temperature increased noticeably, it was amazing. It was dark by the time we got to the car but the walk had been done safely and with good vision (one couple we saw panicked a bit that we’d come out so late). We ate sandwiches and had a drink at the car, then drove back to Kununurra. We all loved our walk and our swim - LiAM and Millie had been reluctant but enjoyed what they saw and did, and for Caitlin it was her favourite place so far. Tony and I were thrilled that we'd been able to experience a little bit of what the Kimberleys are like, even if we can't do all of it.
Millie was asleep by the time we got back. We put her into bed, did the dishes and got ready for bed ourselves. Caitlin did some Episode writing/programming on the computer and LiAM played on the iPad until they were ready to go to bed, and everyone was asleep quite quickly.