Mornington Wilderness Sanctuary is a 90km drive from the Gibb into quite different country from what we have been used to so far. Wide ranging savannah with distant ranges and plateau’s, criss-crossed by lots of wide, stony creeks. The campsites are unpowered and no generators are allowed. So we had to rely on the solar panels to keep the batteries charged which was not enough over the three days we were there unfortunately. We hope the boys are RedArc come up with an answer to the reason why our panels are not converting enough of the sun to 12 volts pretty darned soon.
Mornington is remote but with enough facilities to ensure you are comfortable. Good toilets and showers to start with and the option to eat out t their restaurant if you want to. It is home to around 160 different bird species but we only saw a few of them and certainly not the Gouldian Finch. Although others saw them bathing in a muddy pool beside the track. Quite an experience we reckon. As well we canoed Dimond Gorge, which from scenery perspective was excellent but our paddling skills were not great so it was something of a wandering path we paddled. Several of the waterholes offered the opportunity to swim but we thought the expanse called Cadjeput was certainly the best. After three nights we headed back out to the GRR and on to Drysdale Station via Mt Barnett where we arrived with less than 3 litres of fuel in the tank, which was a little too close for me but an exercise in seeing how close we could get without getting into trouble. Still had the JC on the roof so fuel itself was not the issue. Had a burger, huge and tasty, did a bit of a restock and refuelled before hitting the traffic again. At the junction of the Kalumbaru road and GRR we checked everything was still tied down and gave the shocks, drivers and passengers a respite from the endless corrugations before hitting some seriously rough road on the way to Drysdale. Arriving we spotted two Ultimates already camped up but our priority was full car and camper checks to ensure all nuts and bolts were tight, roof storage was intact and a check of air cleaners to try and keep ours a bit clean. Note we will be purchasing a snorkel on return to Adelaide.
Next morning we were once again up early to beat the traffic to Elliott Falls. Well if we thought the road was rough yesterday today it is worse and the last 18km into the falls was without doubt the worst track we have drive so far. Tyre pressures were well down which helped a lot but nothing will save you from the corrugations, large rocks in the road and on the apex of corners as well as the endless clouds of red dust. Finally got the campsites and we grabbed generator sites as they were larger and had more shade and we needed that power to keep our batteries topped up. Settled in and did a bit of exploring as well as booking our chopper flight back from the falls the next day. The walk to the falls is quite an easy one in our book but certainly you need good strong walking boots and a decent level of agility and overall fitness. The last 25m was actually a water crossing and we decided to keep the boots on as the rocks were quite slippery. Once across we went to the lookout for the mandatory shots of the falls then went in search of a spot for a cooling dip before the flight back to camp. Once again we flew with HeliSpirit and it was a great opportunity to see more of the surrounding wilderness and the falls from the air. It came as something of a shock when the pilot mentioned you could seel the ocean from 1500m, which we could. Boy was that a subtle way of telling us just how far North we have come!
The following day was another early start to beat the traffic for the 5 hour run back to Drysdale. One plus was meeting the grader on this horror section of track and it was a pleasant surprise to find he had done a great job removing at least some of the bad bits. But this track crosses a plateau so there is no dirt around to fill in holes and bury the rocks so don’t get the idea it made a freeway for us, more lipstick on a pig. Arriving back at Drysdale we did our normal checks, refuelled using the JC as this was almost the last time we would need them, showered and changed as we had booked for the buffet dinner tonight. It was a great feed in good company and something of a change to be surrounded by lots of other humans all chattering away. Particularly after all the quiet we have experienced camping remotely. So ends week six