We left Charnley River Station on the 4th of June just after 8am, we drove the 50km back to the Gibb River road. The Gibb seemed a bit quieter that morning & we only passed a couple of cars. We planned to stop at Galvans gorge on the way across. Galvans gorge is right on the side of the Gibb & only a short easy walk in. We grabbed the camera & a bottle of water and set off, it was an easy walk along a gorgeous little creek & when we got to the gorge itself it was just beautiful. It had an amazing waterfall & a beautiful pool of water to swim in. We were straight in! It was chilly but so refreshing. There were a few other tourists at the gorge as well, mainly backpackers, with a memorable German tourist that climbed to the top of the waterfall & jumped off, making us cringe, it was at least 15-20 meters high, although he did check its depth with a stick & by dropping a rock off the edge, safety first..... He was blessed with the stupid lucky gene & as he tried to find crazier bits to jump off we decided it was time for us to go.
Back on the road it was only 14km further up to Mt Barnett Roadhouse which is also the entrance to Manning Gorge. We stopped to top up fuel $2.50/L, buy frozen white bread $6 & splurge on a hamburger at $15 each (they were awesome) & pay our camping fees for Manning, again $20 per person per night (our camping budget is definitely going to be blown this month!).
The campground was a further 7km up the road on a pretty average dirt road that was speed limited to 40km an hour. It looked busy as we pulled in, but we drove a bit further along & found a pretty good site away from the crowds & we set up camp. The camp ground has flushing toilets & hot showers although the women's hot water system blew up. It is a large campsite with find your own site amongst the trees, don't be afraid to drive a bit further down the track, everyone seems to congregate around the toilets & camp all over each other, our end of the camp ground, was much less chaotic & also away from the tour group area. As I type this at 3pm in the afternoon I can see 1 tent about 300m away from us, near the toilet block there are about 50 camps....They do allow fires & we even got lucky enough to have a big log of wood at the camp that Mat cut to size with the chainsaw.
All the jobs done, we walked down to the big creek in front of the camp ground for a swim. Wow, we had heard it was the best swimming hole on the Gibb River Road & it is definitely up there. A large expanse of sand & pandanus lined water, it was just beautiful. There are fresh water crocs in it, but they keep away, everyone was swimming, we figured the kids would be more appetising then us, so we jumped in for a swim. It also let us check out the boat that goes across the creek. To get to the walk into Manning gorge you first have to cross the creek, you can swim, but there is also a little tinny on a rope pulley system that allows you to pull yourself across, meaning you don't get wet & can take cameras etc safely. It was a bit of novelty & we watched few people coming across back from their walk. We would tackle it in the morning. It was then back to camp for a couple of beers, dinner & then bed, it had been another great day.
We got up reasonably early & had a quick breakfast of tea & eggs on toast & hit the track. The walk into Manning gorge is supposedly 2.5km each way so 5km return, but we think it's a bit longer. We safely got across the creek in the boat & started the walk at about 8am, we had our lunch with us & planned to stay half a day or so down there. The walk was pretty easy for about 2km, but the last 500m or so, was a bit tougher, still nothing compared to some of the Karijini walks! It was all worth it, as you get down into the gorge you come across a huge water hole, but as you go around a bit further you come to a spectacular waterfall, they just keep getting better! Again it was straight in for a swim as we were hot from our walk. As I swam around in this amazing place, I honestly wondered how you go back to a normal job/life after this? We have been swimming in an amazing gorge by smoko time everyday for days, this was the life, we are very very lucky.
The rest of the day was morning tea, laying around, lunch (we even had Devon/fritz/polony sandwiches for lunch, Mats family have a great story about how they walked into a gorge with their lunch but forgot to take the knife to cut the Devon, I still haven't found out what they actually did to cut it) more swimming, relaxing & then the walk back to camp, with the return boat ride!
It was as a great day. Over a few beers & some corned beef on the campfire for dinner, we reflected on just how beautiful the Kimberley is. We are so glad we started on the Gibb River road out of Broome/Derby, it has just been amazing & there is so much more to come. So the plan now is across to Mt Elizabeth Station for a few days, up to Drysdale river, onto Mitchell Falls & then onto Kulumburu if we can get across the Carson River. So excited.
A couple of facts/info that might be useful for any of our readers that are about to do the Gibb themselves
we have had no phone reception since leaving Derby.
Imjinti has WiFi that you an purchase, Mt Barnett doesn't.
There are pay phones at the roadhouses & also Charnley River
Diesel was $2.36 at Imjinti & $2.50 at Mt Barnett
There are rubbish disposal points at the Windjana turn off, just before Imjinti & at Mt Barnett.
There is water for drinking at Windjana, Silent Grove & Charnley River, none at Manning Gorge campsite.
All paid campsites have had toilets & showers.
It does look like there are a couple of spots for free camping including March Fly creek & Dog Chain creek, but we didn't use these ourselves so can't confirm what they are like. All the information we read said camping was highly regulated on the Gibb now, but the 2 mentioned looked good, there were lots of people camped at March Fly creek.
The road condition is pretty good, rough in spots, but we are travelling at around 60-80km an hour, although there are plenty of places you need to slow right down for. Tyre pressure is important, lots of people are doing tyres because they are still running their tyres at bitumen pressures.
There are way more caravans on the road & at the campgrounds than we expected.
A lot of the information on the Gibb River Road website itself is very out of date, if you have a specific question about any of the places you want to visit, I would give them a ring to check.
Overall it is great & an amazing place, get out there & check it out for yourselves, you won't be disappointed!!