Hi there,

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Gibb River Road: 3 - Silent Grove / Bell Gorge

Silent Grove / Bell Gorge [Gibb River] (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:


Heading away from Mt Barnet / Manning gorge, we made our way back down the Gibb in a westerly direction. It was a short drive today, as we were only heading 85 kilometres to the Silent Grove campsite at Bell’s gorge. The fact that we could actually make this trip was a small miracle in itself, and we owed a lot to a heap of good fortune. While we had been tootling around Mornington and Mt Barnet earlier in the week, the graders and bulldozers had continued toiling away at repairing the damaged roads along the Gibb. As luck would have it, the road into Bell gorge had been finished and reopened yesterday, just in time for us! (oh, how wonderfully egocentric!)

Even though the journey to Bell gorge was short, we wouldn’t arrive until early afternoon. This was due to us taking a slight detour along the way and stopping to explore Galvan’s gorge first.

Galvans Gorge

The brief trail to Galvan’s gorge was thickly lined with trees, providing a humid umbrella of protection from the hot morning sun. We picked our way along damp soil track, until it opened out into a small glade surrounding a lake that was fed by a small waterfall.  

Galvans Gorge: Peering through the undergrowth

The water in the lake was cool and slightly murky. It plunged down quite a ways in the middle – far deeper than I was willing to duck dive to reach the bottom. But, swimming across the lake, we found that the cascading waters of the waterfall were warm, having been heated up by the sun on the journey over the rocks far above.

While taking in the waters at Galvans gorge, we had a chat with a few other travellers who were also enjoying this hidden gem amongst the tall grasses. In particular, we were still waiting to hear if there was any news as to whether Windjana and Tunnel creek were open to the public yet. The information we received was mixed. Some said it was either already open or soon about to – while others had heard grave news about the tunnel collapsing due to the heavy rains; meaning it would be permanently shut. To be honest, it sometimes doesn’t pay to get all your travelling information from jungle whispers… AS such, wWe decided it would be best to check in with the rangers next time they passed by.  

We left Galvan’s gorge and moved on to Silent Grove campsite at Bell’s gorge. Pulling up, we were happily surprised to find that campsite was a real treat. There were basic, yet well appointed, showers and toilets – all having been refurbished in time for the start of this year’s tourist season. The roads and paths had been well constructed and there seemed to be plenty of room for all the travellers who had been waiting so keenly for the site to open.

Arriving early in the afternoon, the camp site was fairly empty. So, we found a sheltered spot and threw together the frame of our tent to mark our place. We decided not to put up our tent completely, as we wanted to get going as quickly as possible. We figured there was just enough time before the sun went down to make it down to Bell gorge and (with any luck) back again in time for tea.

And so, off we went.

This way to Silent Grove and Bell gorge

The track information signs suggested that the trail takes about two or three hours to complete. But, since we’d been pretty quick footed along many of the other gorges on this trip, we figured we could probably knock it off in an hour, perhaps two, tops (it turns out this was no problem at all… I think the time estimates must account for dawdlers or for people who choose to complete the trail whilst hopping backwards on one foot and juggling).

Rocky forest trail to Bell gorge

While the trail was rocky and a little tricky to navigate in places – after some time, the forested creek track opened out onto a massive plateau. The rocky structure of the plateau had been cut in half by a wide, shallow, yet rapidly flowing river. The river rolled over the plateau, before tumbling down a series of giant steps; crashing into a deep river below.

Bell gorge: Breathtaking views - but icy water!

In order to get to the bottom of the gorge, the trail led up and over a steep rocky mountain before descending through a narrow passage on the other side. However, prior to heading up the hill, it was necessary to follow the trail across the broad, shallow river.

Hopping from stone to stone took us a far way across the breech, but soon we were forced to unshod ourselves and continue through the old knee deep waters to the opposite bank. The smooth rocky floor of the river was slippery underfoot. But, one by one, we were able to traverse the waters and made to the other side.

Continuing to follow the trail, we climbed the rocky hill and down into the gorge. At the base of the narrow trail, we were greeted by a massive waterfall that churned the waters of the deep river like a washing machine. The sun only made its way down here into the gorge for a few hours each day, as such the water was very cold. But, not being put off by a bit of a chill, we jumped in anyway. The flow of the water at the base of the falls was forceful and pushed back anyone swimming in front of it downstream like a jet. It was fun to play in this flow for a while, but with the waters being so cold, we soon returned to the shore and made our way up and out of the gorge.

View from the bottom of Bell gorge

Back at the campsite, it was lovely to be able to have a warm shower to wash away the chill of the lake (as well as the rogue clumps of algae that had been churned up by the water and stuck to us like limpets). However, having returned to the quiet little campsite we had arrived in earlier this afternoon, we found it was a very different beast; now chock-a-block with vans, tents, trailers and people. The little patch of turf we’d staked out earlier in the day had been encroached upon by a line of gargantuan trailers; pushing us further into our little nook under the sprawling tree. It was a little disappointing to see that the nearest trailer had decided we obviously didn’t need any space to peg down our tent. At least, that's what we deduced, as they had parked so close that we had to shift everything a couple of meters away just to get our tent up properly. Still, once the sun went down and dinner was cooked, the massive trailers were soon forgotten as we had a natter about the day and played a few games of cards (in the glow of the rechargeable light we had borrowed from Nat’s mum and dad).

Before heading to bed, the boys played merrily around the campsite for a while: until Daniel got a bit of grit in his eye, then that was the end of that... As we all snuggled down into our sleeping bags for the night, we knew tomorrow we would be heading towards the end of our Gibb River Road adventure. All forty of our fingers were crossed in the hopes that the roads to Tunnel Creek and Windjana would be open by the time we got there.

Tune in next time to find out if they were...

Bye ‘d bye


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