Time: 3.5 hours
Author: Mrs A
We departed from Manning Gorge early and filled up the Landcruiser with $2.05 a litre diesel at the Mount Barnett Roadhouse as soon as they opened at 8am, plus topped up with water. Our intention for the day was to try to get into Mornington Wilderness Camp, but failing that, head to Silent Grove, near Bell Gorge.
We had low hopes for Mornington, given we had originally booked for three nights and then changed our minds – the new dates being already fully booked. Everyone we spoke to along the Gibb told us it was constantly full and they had given up hope of getting in. Ironically, our punctured tyre and flight over Mitchell Falls rather than driving up had gained us a few days, and we called in to Mornington on the radio at the top of the road just one day past our original arrival. They looked up our records and it seems an error in communications on their part meant they still had our booking – we were in, and they were willing to shift our dates by one day to allow us the three nights we origianally paid for – great!
We drove the 80km down to the camp elated, and enjoying the fabulous scenery, quite different from our standard Gibb-Kimberley views. Two hours and three or so river crossings later and we were checking in. The Mornington Wilderness Camp is owned and operated by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. They only allow 25 vehicles/50 people to stay here in total, meaning it is a pretty exclusive location.
We immediately signed up to a birdwatching walk tomorrow morning (meet at the office at 5.45am!) as they have several threatened species here, including the Gouldian Finch (which we failed to see at El Questro) and the Purple-Crowned Fairy Wren. The research they do here is groundbreaking – a few years ago they discovered a frog completely new to science.
A short walk along the creek close to our camp allowed us to see our first Buff Robin (also endangered), Crimson Finches and a Pheasant Coucal. We truly feel we are in the Kimberley now. After birdwatching in the morning, we plan to take our pack rafts onto the Fitzroy River down into Diamond Gorge, one of the key stunning attractions here. We’re really looking forward to that.
A couple of mobile apartment casualties today – we opened up the van to find one of our speakers had fallen off the wall – the screws which held it up having rattled undone – fortunately no damage and easily fixed. Less easily fixed is one of the rear caravan legs which seems to have cracked and will not come down – possibly a rock flying out of the rear wheels (other caravanners tell us it’s a fairly common occurrence) – makes for a squeaky caravan when moving around now.
Cooking roast chicken and sweet potatoes on the Weber BabyQ tonight accompanied by peas and broccoli. Should set us up for a good sleep and prepare us for the alarm clock in the morning!