Our plan was to buy fuel at Gemtree at the end of the Plenty Highway then head directly down into the Eastern Macdonnell Ranges via the cattle water pass. Unfortunately, Gemtree was out of diesel so we had to continue on to Alice Springs then head out to the Eastern Macdonnells.

Our first stop was Emily Gap – a small gorge and waterhole cutting through the range. The Aboriginal rock art here is unusual and very spectacular.




Down the end of a rough track are the John Hayes Rock Holes. We were lucky to be the only ones camped here, so enjoyed a quiet walk over the ridge and down through the chain of rock pools. The rough track means this area is much quieter than nearby Trephina Gorge

Traveling to the eastern extremity of the Macdonnells you come to Ruby Gap. The track for the last 40 km is pretty slow going at around 3 hours, but Ruby Gap and the walk up to Glen Annie Gorge make the trek worth while.


Ruby Gap

We managed to find a 4km detour on our way up to Glen Annie Gorge

Glen Annie Gorge

After a 12km walk,  mostly in soft river sand, we were happy to be heading back to our camp.


On our way to Europe we were lucky enough to fly directly over Afghanistan just as the sun was setting. The flight information screen put us half way between Kandahar and Kabul at 30,000 feet. The country was amazing – incredibly rugged with very little vegetation except for a few cropped and settled river valleys.

A military transport plane crossed under us at about four o’clock and, within a few seconds, disappeared out of sight. A cold reminder that, down among the cracks and crevasses of this beautiful landscape, a war is going on.


Tucked under the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains is the little town of Bend in central Oregon. First settled as a logging town in the late 1800’s, today Bend is one of the main mountain bike centers in the US and a headquarters for all kind of outdoor activity including fishing, kayaking, skiing, golf and rock climbing. We felt kind of  wimpy, arriving for the indoor pursuit of watercolor painting!

Mirror Pond – down town Bend

All along the Deschutes River and through much of the town are these beautiful old timber houses.

Evening, down town Bend.

We were lucky enough to arrive the week the “Bite of Bend” was being held. A big food, wine, beer and music festival taking over the main roads in down town Bend.

Stalls selling all kinds of food lined the streets. The numerous boutique brewerys had their wares for sale. Ten bucks bought you a ticket to sample spirits from dozens of distillers dotted throughout the area and the main stage had a non stop variety of awesome bands from all over the country.

Half an hour drive from bend is Smith Rock State Park – an impressive gorge of craggy rock cut through by a small meandering river. A great place for rock climbing, horse and mountain bike riding, walking or just relaxing under the juniper trees.


Over the past couple of weeks I have been busy working on this large (1500×900) acrylic, charcoal and ink painting. It is based on a large sandstone wall, towering over a rock pool in the Umbrawarra Gorge, south of Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory. Apart from the spectacular appearance of the place, the thing that impressed me was the strange silence, broken by occasional disjointed echoes. The sounds of distant birds, insects and breezes all seemed to emanate from the rocks, always punctuated by long periods of silence. Hidden through the rocks was evidence of faded aboriginal rock paintings.

I used colored acrylic glazes over white areas of gesso to get a transparent glow into some of the rock shapes. These are contrasted with solid opaque patches of similar colored acrylic. When the paint was dry I drew over it with charcoal pencil (black and white) and Burnt Sienna pigment ink. The most difficult part of this painting was getting the abstract marks right. It took a lot of looking and adjusting until everything seemed to fall into place. What I like about this process are the intricate, underlying textures that build up. Painting like this really makes me appreciate the work of  Franz Kline. He seems to effortlessly create the most beautiful abstract marks – perfectly balanced and proportioned, right from scratch.



www.johnlovett.com (opens in a new window)


The Karijini landscape is dominated by the Hamersley Ranges. These are probably the oldest mountains on earth, the rocks dating back 2,500 million years. Driving through the Hamersleys is unique and beautiful. The undulating hills are covered with spinifex and broken by exposed weathered faces of deep red rock.





Cutting through the landscape are numerous gorges. Some are accessed by a short walk, others require climbing and scrambling over rocks and ledges, and some can only be reached with ropes and climbing equipment.



Some of the gorges narrow down to passages just wide enough for a person to squeeze through


Others are broad and open with clear pools at the bottom



Looking down into the deeper gorges is an awesome sight. The surrounding country is undulating and fairly unspectacular, but the gorges seem to drop way below the surrounding landscape.


Passing sculptors have installed some impressive structures using just rocks and gravity.




Waterfalls and waterholes are found throughout the gorges


The water is usually freezing cold but, somehow, backpackers seem to be tolerant to near freezing water



Whistling Kite – Pentax K20D 18 -250mm lens


Scattered through the gorges are veins of blue asbestos. The Wittenoom and Yampire gorges have been closed because of the high concentration of asbestos






Architect John Nicholes designed the Karijini Visitors Centre to weather into the landscape. Most of the exterior of the structure is built from heavy welded steel panels. These are acid washed to rust, echoing the iron ore outcrops of the landscape.



It is an impressive building that also hints at the rusted remnants of the areas pastoral history.


Old rusted Pilbra sheepyards, built from flattened oil drums


Power is provided by a large solar array with a thumping big diesel generator, waiting for a rainy day.



windjana map

At the southern end of the Gibb River Road is the Napier Range. It is a big chunk of eroded limestone  left over from a, once submerged, coral Reef.


Napier Range at Windjana Gorge


The limestone walls in the gorge have eroded into unusual shaped caves and caverns. There are fossils of ancient marine creatures embedded in many of the limestone walls.



A permanent water course cuts through the Napier Range to form Windjana Gorge. Large drifts of sand, thick vegetation and sheer sided walls make an early morning walk through the gorge pretty spectacular.


Late afternoon is a good time to spot crocodiles. The waterholes are full of reasonably timid fresh water crocs. Occasionally a salty will find it way there after the wet, so swimming is not a good idea.


This old croc lost part of his top jaw in a fight. A common disability with fresh water crocs. We saw the croc below in Kununurra. He has a large piece of his lower jaw missing.




Helpful, informative sign – Windjana National Park.



The drive from Kununurra to Derby can be done via a thousand kilometre stretch of sealed road through Turkey Creek, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. The other option is the Gibb River Road –  seven hundred kilometres of dust and corrugations that link the bulk of the Kimberley cattle stations. This road also gives access to some incredibly beautiful gorges and waterholes and cuts through some of the most spectacular mountain ranges imaginable.


The spectacular Cockburn Range skirts the northern end of the Gibb River Road.


Catching the late afternoon sun in this area is something  special.


The Pentecost River is the major river crossing along the Gibb River Road and the last to open after the wet. What appears to be a large white rock on the downstream side of the crossing is the roof of one of Home Valley’s Landcruisers.


View towards the coast across the floodplains of the Pentecost River.


Gibb River grader – no wonder the road is so rough!


The Durack River is another of the many river crossings. At the end of the dry season it is reduced to a string of picturesque waterholes.


Another victim of the corrugations. Heavy impact fractured the sidewall plies. Fortunately we spotted it before the tyre blew.


Half way along the Gibb River Road is Mt. Barnett Roadhouse. From here a track leads in to Manning Gorge. A great spot to camp, swim and walk.


Accessing the main Gorge requires swimming across the Manning Creek. White foam boxes are provided to transport clothes, cameras etc.



Manning Gorge is a large clear pool fed by a waterfall and surrounded by tall sandstone cliffs.



Galvans Gorge is another beautiful, clear waterhole surrounded by sandstone walls. Clean water and no crocodiles make it great place to dive in and cool off.


Wandjina paintings can be seen on the walls of the gorge.



Further down the Gibb River Road is the turn off to Adcock Gorge. We camped there 27 years ago and the area was strewn with rubbish. No surprise, the station owners have stopped people camping there now.


Deep, clear water – Adcock Gorge



We found this old blue tongue trying to disguise himself as a rock on the road.



Towards the Southern end of the Gibb River Road is the King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park. There is good camping at Silent Grove and, further up the track, Bell Gorge.


The main pool and falls at Bell Gorge are reached by climbing over the escarpment and following markers down into the gorge.




Bell Gorge was one of the few gorges to still have a fair flow of water over the falls this late (September) in the dry.


The southern end of the Gibb River Road crosses the King Leopold Ranges before cutting through the Napier Range. Beyond the Napier Range is sealed road through to Derby, or turning left leads to Windjana Gorge