Saving the best to last.
The tide waits for no man so we needed to get going by 8am to catch the last of the incoming tide and get over the sand bar at the river mouth. The tides were neaps – high was only 1.9m so there wasn’t a great deal of water to play with. We got down to 2.4m as we crossed the highest part of the bar. A mono – Second Mate- followed us in and they said they did some “farming” as they ploughed their way in.
It was a 7nm journey through magnificent gorges towering up either side of us as we made our way to the waterfalls at the end of the navigable part of the river. From there it is up 100m to the Mitchell Plateau where the river continues.
As we meandered our way down river at 4-5 knots we were quite often in the shade of the vertical cliff faces. Cameras were chewing up memory cards like they were going out of fashion.
As we got near the falls we passed a couple of catamarans – we hadn’t seen so many cruising yachts in one place all trip. One catamaran was a 24 year old James Wharram – beautifully kept.
We took Camelot up to both sets of falls, which were still running but not with a great amount of water coming over the top. We got Camelot within 20m of the second set – not quite as close as Royce did in 2008 – but I had a bit of breeze to contend with and I’ve not anywhere as good as Royce is when it comes to maneuvering a catamaran at close quarters. After yet more memory cards were consumed it was time to anchor up a couple of hundred metres from the falls, with the other boats. By this stage, second mate made it so we had a nice little group of 4 yachts.
After anchoring up, it was time for a fresh water shower from 80m above. With shampoo in hand, we hopped in the dingy and headed back to the waterfalls. Elaine made some strange comment about seeing how cold it was first, but she wasn’t driving the dingy so she soon found out how cold it was anyway! It was very fresh at first but soon became very refreshing once we got used to it. The only problem was that the dingy was rapidly filling up so after our last shot at getting all the shampoo out of our hair we headed back to Camelot.
After lunch, it was time for a bit of climbing. We headed over to the right hand bank where the path lead up to the top. We should have had a look at where the path actually went from the dingy before we landed because we burnt 20 minutes looking for the start of it when we got there. It wasn’t until Michael and Elaine went back out in the dingy that we easily found it. By that stage, Michael, Elaine and Kaz decided to pull the plug on the somewhat steep walk so that left Dale and I to lead the assent.
It took us 15 minutes of reasonable exertion, clambering over rocks at times, to get to the top. Once there, we took in the absolutely incredible views, passing for the obligatory photos with Camelot far, far below us nestled against a towering gorge.
We continued walking until we got to the swimming pools behind the waterfall. We tried quite a few but they were all shallow nearly coming passed our knees. Still the fresh water was good, even if we ended up just sitting there relaxing.
Back down, we passed a bit of a cave and walked straight past (so we found out later) a treasure chest that someone had left there with a note pad to write in.
We’d been round to all the other boats and invited them around for 4 o’clockers (Perth time, not Darwin time we clarified). Two cruising couples from Second Mate and Electric Dreams both took up the offer and joined us on the back deck of Camelot. We hadn’t had much of an opportunity to have people over for drinks as we hadn’t seen a lot of other yachties in our travels.
Both yachts were from Darwin – its an easy hop for them to come across to this part of the Kimberley’s. Lot easier than from Perth. Interestingly they like the Berkeley River better than the King George. Personally I don’t see how it could be any better than this but I suppose one day I’ll have to decide for myself.
We also talked a bit about going the wrong way around the top. Their advice, having done it was to wait it out in Gove until after the full moon in mid-October when the winds drop off to 15’s and you get afternoon sea breezes from Cape York down from November onwards to help get south. One of them used to have a boat in Gove and saw a lot of boats turn back. Mmm. Nothing like a challenge.
After dinner, we wandered out the back of the boat and watched the luminescence in the water – little balls of light darting all over the place. Quite enthralling.
And did I mention – dale caught a Trevelly.
Waking up with gorges towering over you was a wonderful experience. We had a leisurely breakfast and up’ed the anchor at 8 to catch the high tide out again at 9.22am. On the way, we were inundated by swarms of ribs off the Orion. Scanning the AIS we saw that both the Orion and the Coral Princess were parked up outside the river mouth. Orion’s helicopter was also buzzing overhead.
The high tide was again pretty low and we followed our inward track out – the depth getting down to 2.2m at one stage (our draft is 1.15m).
Up went the sails and we pointed off to Darwin 228nm away.