After the isolation of our time at Charnley River Station, we headed off to explore some of the more popular places on the Gibb River Road. Having been greeted by the very enthusiastic Barry and Jeanette, I was somewhat disappointed with how tightly we had to squeeze Bruce into the Silent Grove campsite. But a hearty meal by the campfire with yet another spectacular star show sorted me out and got me in the mood for an early morning race to beat the crowds to Bell Gorge.Of course, we failed to beat the crowds. Toasting a loaf of bread on a gas stove takes a surprisingly long time, and one cup of coffee just didn’t seem enough to get us moving. Still, it was only eight o’clock when we left Silent Grove and bounced the 10 km to the start of the Bell Gorge track. And that extra cup of coffee was clearly a good idea as we saw a rare member of the elusive “kangaroo-us-still-alive-icus” foraging for breakfast just outside the campsite. A good omen?
The car park at the start of the gorge trek was about half full by the time we rocked up and crowds of people were pouring onto the track. I feared that it would be like Piccadilly Circus by the time that we arrived and that the coffee and the kangaroo were going to be the best bits about the day.
The track itself was described as being bolder strewn and tough going, with steep ascents and descents, requiring stout footwear and suitable caution. In actual fact, it was a lovely shady stroll by the side of a creek. We arrived at the top of a breathtakingly beautiful gorge with a huge waterfall cascading into it. We took off our stout footwear and waded through the refreshingly chilly pool at the top of the waterfall. Thirty metres below us in the gorge, people were launching themselves into an enormous, sun-lit lagoon, far bigger than Manning Gorge. The scene was just too perfect and could easily have been a movie set or a theme park attraction.
We scrambled down the path to the waters edge, stripped down to our swimmers, and jumped in. After the heat of the sun, the crystal clear water was baltic. It clearly wasn’t actually that cold, but it’s the shock that always gets you. We splashed, drifted, scrambled and swam our way the 250 metres to the far end of the gorge, scoring people on their efforts as they climbed the cliff walls and leapt back into the pool.
At the far end of the gorge was a series of small waterfalls and another amazing waterhole, which Floss and Evan scrambled off to explore. Sam and I beached ourselves on the rocky shore and laid out in the sun to dry off.
A picnic lunch was had in the shadow of the cliff walls and just out of the reach of the spray from the waterfall. Quite possibly, the best lunchtime location we’ve had in the last ten months.
The kids had a post-lunch swim and did some high-diving of their own before we climbed back out of the gorge and marched happily back along the creek to the car park. It truly was the perfect day in an absolutely perfect location. Despite my fears about overcrowding, there was loads of space for us to find a sheltered corner. And as ever, the relaxed and friendly Australians chatted and joked at every opportunity. There’s a reason why Bell Gorge is so highly regarded. It’s because it’s bloody amazing. The small and secluded gorges and pools around Charnley River Station were isolated and magical and made us feel like proper explorers. Bell Gorge is massive and popular and made us feel like holiday makers. I’d find it a tough call to choose a favourite. The kids had no such problem. Bell Gorge wins hands down.
Love exploring. Love holidays. Really loving Australia and all it has to offer.