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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Gibb River Road: 2 - Mt Barnet / Manning Gorge

31/05/2017 – 01/06/2017
Mt Barnett/Manning Gorge [Gibb River] (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
150 km (4 hours or so…)

days of awesomeness

Now these few days were a lot of fun!

Getting up early, we had breakfast and set about packing up the tent. With the car stuffed to the gunnels once again, we made our way back down the arduous driveway of Mornington Wilderness Camp and onto the Gibb River Road. Continuing further east, we headed towards Mt Barnett and Manning gorge. Along the way, however, we decided to stop at Adcock Gorge for a bit of an explore and a swim.

The turn off to Adcock gorge

This place was famed for being harder than hell to drive into. However, the gorge at the end was meant to be a nice treat for those who made it. Fortunately, for those of us with a weaker disposition (but still manly enough to admit it), there was also a carpark about 5kms off the main road. Here we could park up and walk the last and hardest part of the journey. And that is exactly what we did!

Pulling up nearby a host of other 4x4 wannabes, we grabbed our stuff and headed towards the gorge. Fording the river on foot and navigating rocks that would have given the mars rover a run for its money (and, by all accounts, that’s a LOT of money!) we pressed onwards towards our destination.

The fateful road to Adcock gorge... No sir, I don't like it!

It should be said though that there were a handful of intrepid adventurers who had decided to take on the full journey into the gorge. But, as we reached the other end of the track, I noted there was also a litter of broken car parts strewn across the car park/camp site. Amidst these was an off-road trailer whose owner was changing a tyre that had blown on the way in. At one point, we had to step aside to watch a car driving in along the last stretch of the trail. Their tyres must have been little more than barely inflated, as they were squashed into nothing as they drove over the massive boulders and rocks (I really wish I’d taken some video of this – but unfortunately, I was too gobsmacked to remember to do it!). Of course, these guys were kitted up for such and adventure. They had a couple of spare tyres on board, each with extra thick walls to take the punishment of the road. Still, it was less than a 20 minute walk from the main car park – so, who could really be so lazy that they couldn’t just walk (Ok, ok, I know, it’s a challenge and I understand that some people like to do that kind of thing… but c’mon, really!?!).

Cars, rocks and roads aside; Adcock gorge was lovely. A shady forest path took us alongside a river for most of the short walk. There were a few bits of rock and a couple of boulders to scramble over. But, at the end of the trail was a sheltered pool, where we all stripped off and took a dip in the cool waters.

Adcock gorge: a wonderful place for a dip

There was an abundance of plant and animals to look at along with way. In particular, the dragonflies out in force at this time of year.

 Adcock gorge: Wild life!

But, as the sun moved across the sky, it was time for a final push onwards to Mt Barnet Station; the gateway to Manning Gorge. The further along the Gibb we travelled, the deeper the corrugations started to become. Luckily (or possibly by design…) the worst of this bumpy road happened to be located just outside a tyre repair shop situated half way up the Gibb (Over The Range Tyre Repairs).

Oh my, the corrugations!

Pulling into Mt Barnet Roadhouse, it wasn’t much to look at; being designed for function over form. Just another road house, with a small shop and a few petrol bowsers outside. But, just behind the roadhouse was a roadway that led down to the Manning Gorge campsite. The track had been carved out of the finest red sand you could ever imagine. And, since graders and a small fleet of bulldozers had been through recently, this was a delight of only small corrugations to drive down. The directions we received from the roadhouse on how to get to the campsite had been a bit sketchy, so when we arrived at a Y-junction, without much guidance as to which tine of the fork to take, we pretty much flipped a coin and continued on our way.

As luck would have it, we must have chosen wisely; as we soon arrived at the campsite. This was one of those pick-a-spot-and-set-up-your-gear type of places. No allocations here, just pick whatever patch of ground you could find. So, we drove around for a while, until we found a little nook under a copse of trees.

This way to Manning gorge

Quickly setting up our tent, we wandered down to the river at the bottom of the campsite. This river marked the start of the Manning Gorge walk and would have to be crossed to reach the trail. Talking to other travellers who had been here before, in years gone by early morning walkers (i.e., practically everybody who set their mind to tackling Manning Gorge) either have to carry their belonging across (as sure footedly as they could), or place them in a polystyrene box to float alongside themselves as they swam. More recently, the stack of polystyrene boxes had been replaced by a small boat, which you could use to pull yourself across the river (although, for those wanting to go old school, floating and swimming options were still available Nat and the boys chose his option on the way home from the gorge the next day!).

Having just arrived at Manning Gorge, we weren’t set to take on the walk until tomorrow. So, as the sun went down, Nat and I sat merrily in our camp chairs, watching the boys playing and swimming in the slow flowing (yet exceptionally clear) river. As most of the foot traffic from the gorge had died down for the day, the boys spent the next hour or so messing about on the dingy – taking turns pulling it back and forth across the river.

River crossing at the start/end of the trek to Manning gorge

After a good night’s sleep, we were up early the next day. We quickly ate breakfast and made sandwiches for a picnic lunch, then made our way back to the river and little dinghy; where we pulled our way across the river.

The trail made its way up a hill and travelled across rocky terrain. With only patchy trees, there was little cover and the path was pretty exposed to the sun. Fortunately, being early, the sun hadn’t yet made its way too high into the sky, so the walk was rather pleasant.

On the track to Manning gorge

After an hour or so, we came to the top of a steep cliff. Peering over the edge, we spied a path picking its way down to the gorge floor, far below. From this vantage point, the view was filled with flowing blue water, large expanses of grey rocks and swathes of lush vegetation. Lowering ourselves down the cliff face, we four little mountain goats slowly arrived at the base of the gorge. Wandering to the right and scrambling over more rocks, the gorge opened into a wide expanse filled to the brim with a magnificent waterfall filled lake. The waterfall itself was a mass of rushing water cascading down the cliffs on the opposite bank. To avoid the crowds, we pressed on a little further and made our way along the rocks to a secluded patch away from anyone else.

Manning gorge, in all her beauty!

The rest of the day was spent swimming in the lake of Manning Gorge, jumping off the cliffs, and drying out in the warm sunlight.

Manning gorge - Soaking up the rays and diving from great heights
(Oh, and when I found that Nat had taken a burst of 'action shots', I couldn't resist cobbling together an animated gif of the plunge - a nod to early 1990's webpages, everywhere!)

We watched the gorge fill up with people, then empty out again. It seemed to do this throughout the day, like a tide of bodies ebbing and flowing in the gorge. Every few hours we had the gorge almost exclusively to ourselves, and we were quite happy to spend as much time as possible in this beautiful watery playground. But, eventually, we too had to pack and pick our way back through the gorge to our campsite.

Getting a bit fancy with the photos now...

Popping down the road to pick up a few supplies from the roadhouse, I stopped along the way to pick up some firewood from the side of the road. Back at camp once more, we set up a small bonfire and sat around it eating our dinner in the cool evening air.

Nothing beats a nice fire to really send tired souls off to sleep

The next day we would be heading back west along the Gibb, on the start of our return journey to Derby. But, for tonight, we’re just enjoying watching the stars; so I’ll leave the next leg of our journey for another post.

Bye ‘d bye,


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