Mornington - Thursday 1st September
Back onto the Gibb River Road, where we purchased some fuel at Imintji Store. They make a great cup of coffee here, so whilst Peter finished his, I asked the owner about the current state of the roads. He told us that the main road had been graded very recently, as had the roads to Mornington and the Mitchell Plateau.
So after making a radio call in to Mornington, we drove the 90klms in! The first 50klms were good, but the road became rocky and corrugated after that. Again many creek crossings, filled with water. On the way in, three wild horses were on the road. They bucked and pranced away when our truck came close.
Mornington is a wildlife conservation park, owned and run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), which is an independent, non-profit organization which aims to deliver effective conservation for all Australian animal species. They own 22 sanctuaries and an active program of practical, on-ground land management.
Mornington covers over 322,000 hectares in the central Kimberley, protecting a range of tropical ecosystems and great diversity of wildlife. Threatened species on the property include the Gouldian Finch, the Purple-Crowned Fairy Wren, the Short-Eared Rock-Wallaby and the Northern Quoll. So let's hope we are luck enough to see them!
Well, on the road to Blue Bush Pool, we saw our first Short-Eared Rock-Wallaby! Another two were sighted near the toilets.
Incidentally we went to Blue Bush Pool to swim. A beautiful deep stretch of water at the top end of the Fitzroy River; called Blue Bush because of the blue-leaved paper barks that line the banks. No one was around at all so we jumped in without our clothes and sun dried on the banks before heading off to set up camp.
We dined in the restaurant on wild Barrmundi! Alas it was fairly ordinary. After dinner, a talk was given by one of the resident biologists about Mornington and the work of the AWC. We are very impressed, especially with the new joint venture with Charnley Station. AWC has negotiated a joint management plan with the new owners of Charnley, so that they will manage the Artesian Range. AWC has discovered many species believed to be extinct in these ranges. It is only now, we realise how fortunate we have been with our camping cruise. We have seen animals that AWC thought were extinct! And Sue saw something that is none of the fauna books!! Anyway the joint venture will prove to be very exciting and will allow biologists to study how to prevent future mammal extinction.
An early morning walk along Annie Creek enabled us to see a family of three Purple-Crowned Fairy Wrens and a flock of Crimson Finches. We also startled a very small Short-Eared Wallaby.
We decided to hire a canoe to be able to travel down Dimond Gorge. This was an hour's drive from camp, but still on the same property! This proved to be a very worthwhile exercise. On the drive in, a very large and well-fed looking Olive Python was crossing through a creek crossing. At another crossing we spotted a thin, but long black snake and later a Blue-Tongue Lizard.
The canoe trip was 2klms long and we paddled through one of the most awe inspiring
gorges of all!! Sheer rock faces of 30+ meters channeled the upper reaches of Fitzroy River into this amazing gorge. Fortunately a proposal to dam this part of the river was quashed by public outcry!! On the few sand banks, were remnant forests of tropical palms. Birds abounded, but the shy freshwater crocs stayed away! We took the opportunity to swim several times in the crystal clear swimming holes that were meters and meters deep.
On the return to camp, we decided to detour to Cadejput Pool. It was here that we spotted a dingo. Apparently the dingoes at Mornington are amongst the last pure-bred dingoes in Australia. We also saw a pair of Buzzards, a very large kind of bush turkey. This time we swam at a sandy river bank, not quite as lovely as the Dimond experience!
We left early in the morning to rejoin the Gibb River Road, 90klms away