On the Road to "No Where" and lovin it - Darren & Janet's Outback Adventure - Broome to Kununurra

Sunday, Jul 22, 2012 at 10:00

Member - Darren M (VIC)

We packed up camp at cable beach caravan park and headed for the servo to fuel up the car and fill all the Jerry cans, the 10 day the Gibb River road expedition was our practice run with a fully laiden vehicle before the Simpson Desert crossing in another month or so. We stopped at the butchers to pick up our Vacuum sealed meat for the next 10 days and were off heading for Windjanna Gorge via Derby and the start of the Gibb River road (now called the Gibb). Stopping along the way at the Boab prison tree and at Derby for lunch. The start of the Gibb is bitumen (approximately 90Km), single lane with wide bits of rough red dirt either side, you soon learn this is for any vehicle that is smaller than a four trailer road train (Us) and it is a good idea to pull over and stop as they go flying past. The first part of the dirt and corrugations on the Gibb appear at first very rough, however based on the roads yet to travel this is like a bitumen highway. Arriving at WindJanna Gorge camp a little rattled (ha ha) we set up camp, meet and chat to other travellers about the rigors of the Gibb that we have yet to travel and donated our small stock of wood to the community fire where weary travellers gather to share stories, have a few frothies and watch the kids cook popcorn and toast marshmallows.

The next morning we were up and off on the hike into Windjanna Gorge which was now 1km shorter due to some damage in the recent wet season. Walking along above the river bed we were able to see plenty of freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun on the other side of the river, however on our return the sun was higher and the freshies were basking in the sun on our side. Being the adventurous types and knowing the freshies only bite and not eat you we ventured closer to the water for some pictures, only one freshie opened his eye to see what we were doing and the rest continued to sun themselves on the land or in the water. After returning to camp and having lunch we headed off for the 35Km one way bone shaking journey to Tunnel Creek, the drive was certainly worth it. The creek was only thigh deep (if you knew where to walk) and after our eyes adjusting worked out that our LED head torches weren’t that great and why didn’t we bring the big Dolphin torch. It wasn’t till after the walk that I told Janet that the Travelling Thompsons 9 months earlier had seen a freshie and felt an eel swim past in the water. We picked up some wood on our return to camp ready for another night of a communal fire and some different people and their stories.

Silent Grove National park was our next camp which provided access to Bell Gorge only 10Km drive from the camp. The walk to Bell Gorge was only 750metres which gave you access to the 1st swimming area above the falls, crossing this area and heading down some step steps gave access to swimming at the bottom of the falls, we decided the water at the top was plentiful with some nice shady spots and a great view and photos of the falls. Both the solar showers and flushing toilets at Windjanna Gorge and Silent Grove were luxuries we didn’t expect. The W.A National Parks to date have the best facilities we have seen in National Parks in our travels, maybe N.T will be as good or better.

Heading on from Bell gorge we originally planned to stop at Mt Barnett / Manning Gorge for the night, however driving on heavily corrugated roads takes it toll on concentration and energy, so we decided to press onto Drysdale station and spend more time getting into and out ofMitchell Falls as we had been told the Kalumbaru road was really bad in sections, the extra night allowed a stop at King Edward river camp (8km up the Mitchell Falls road) if required. We did stop at Mt Barnett for Fuel ULP $2.05/L, a cuppa tea and a chat to the staff at the roadhouse, who work there during the dry season to fund their travels in the wet season, a trend emerging among the 50 to 100 year olds wanting to escape the cold, kids, grandkids etc. The road from the turn off to Drysdale station was terrible in spots with corrugations that you almost got lost in, 1 Km in you cross the Gibb river which was flowing, from here you do several more river crossings along the journey. Arriving at Drysdale Station a little shaken but not stirred, camp was set, the washing machine fired up and it was off to Miners Pool for a swim in the river with the freshies, we didn’t see any so it was ok, anyway their was some youngin’s swimming and they would have tasted nicer than us. Drysdale Station has a mechanics workshop and it’s here we witnessed some broken and battered vehicles and so called “Off Road Campers” that had succumbed to the Gibb / Kalambaru roads, this was a warning to take it easy and keep up the daily vehicle checks, after this we needed a drink so it was off to the bar for some frothies and a chat. We crossed the paths once again of Craig, Susan, John and Jane, who we had met at Windjanna Gorge and were on their way, home via the long way to QLD, AYE. We would cross their paths a few more times before saying farewell at Home Valley Station, after assisting with some repairs to their caravans water tank that had been attacked by a boulder. Plastic welding using cable ties as a filler rod with a butane pencil torch for heat worked a treat; of course no repair is final without the application of silicone as glue, the side out a plastic water container and some duct tape.

We left Drysdale station early the next morning with the hope of being able to reach Mitchell Falls, the journey is 180Km, 100km from Drysdale station to the turn off and 80Km to Mitchell Falls National Park Campground, most people saying it was 2 to 3 hours to the turn off and 3 hours to the camp ground which after driving on corrugated roads meant a certain stop at King Edward River. Arriving at King Edward River after 2 hours and yes the road was bloody rough in places; we made a cuppa and decided to press on. The Mitchell Falls road seemed more like a 4wd track which would be more enjoyable and although rough in spots for an unmaintained road was better than the Kalumbaru road. The camp ground had toilets but no showers but running water was not far away. We hiked to Little Merten falls (500m) and spent the afternoon swimming in the rock pools above the falls and being massaged by the little water falls. Later in the afternoon we booked our Helicopter taxi ride from Mitchell Falls which we would hike to the next day.
Weather report: Blue skies, Sunshine, warm nights, no rain for a couple of months, much like the weather for the past couple of weeks and the next couple to come.

We wandered oops hiked into the Mitchell Falls (4.3Km) that morning and as our taxi wasn’t due til 2.00pm our time was spent swimming, playing in the rock pools and lazing in the fast flowing waters of the small water falls. The tour group’s entertainment was watching their fellow party cross the knee deep river without slipping off the rocks and falling in. The helicopter taxi was back and forth all day, we were fortunate that no one else had booked the 2pm spot which meant we had a door less window each, The helicopter did circles over Mitchell and Big Mertens falls before dropping us back at the campground, seeing the world from a helicopter is peaceful and much better than flying in a light plane. As the afternoon heat was still warm we found a small swimming hole where the creek widened out and sat in it to keep refreshed. Homemade Pizza in the Cobb was on the menu for dinner which once again turned out perfect.

Packed up early we were ready for the trip back to Drysdale station; however we were prepared to stop at King Edward River for the night if the trek became too rough on us, fortunately it wasn’t and we arrived back at Drysdale station for a refreshing Shower and a Nana Nap. The mechanics workshop was not as full, but a camper trailer with two logs inserted and wired up with fencing wire between the trailer base and axle (refer photo) appeared to be in need of some new springs and had been dragged back from Kalumbaru in this configuration.

Our destination today was Home Valley Station via Ellenbrae station for morning tea of homemade scones which the Gibb travellers all rave about. About 50Km along the Gibb from the Kalumbaru turn off we were be sieged by a fleet (about 40) of single cab Amarock (VW) utes on an Amarock adventure, apparently its some reward for their sales team to drive the Gibb and thrash the cars, they must be good sales people because they can’t bloody drive, idiots. The scones at Ellenbrae were magnificent and the surrounds were beautiful, it was great as we had passed the last of the Amarock idiots as we drove in, the manager was free to have a chat and tell us about the place, we left about 45mins later. It was onto Home Valley station from here for 3 days of rest, relaxation and Janet’s horse muster which unfortunately due to a lack of staff turned into a trail ride on the Saturday morning. The next couple of days at Home Valley we spent sleeping in till the sun came up 6.30am and staying up late 8.30pm, swimming in the pool, doing a couple of walks, having a few frothies at the bar, reading and just relaxing. The camp ground had green grass which had been sparse at many of our previous camping locations.

Our last day on the Gibb was from Home Valley Station to Kununurra via Wyndham. Apart from being told about cheap fuel at Wyndham which being a Sunday meant they were shut, was the 5 rivers lookout and the Grotto. The 5 rivers lookout was fantastic as it was where you could view the rivers coming together and heading out to sea, being that we had crossed most of them at some point along the Gibb it had some significance and finality. Lakeview Caravan Park is where we stayed in Kununurra, although we had a lovely site beside the lake we were attacked by mozzies and you had to plan your next toilet stop when you had your last as we were that far away from them, I didn’t think they would like me (Darren) bleep in the lake. In the afternoon we headed into town to restock food & fuel (still had some) and grog (run out) only to find out that food and fuel were available but bottle shops were not opened til 12 the next day. We got the food and fuel and went to the pub for a few frothies to work out a strategy for the next day, do we stay and wait or go to the Bungles when we arise and dry out for 3 days. After much thought 2 Schooners to be exact we decided that we should wait, take in some of the local attractions, grab the grog at 12 and run.

We were awake at normal time around 6am and stuffed around packing up and left the caravan park around 9am only 3 hours to fill in, we visited the Zebra Rock gallery and provided a much needed Gibb River road update to a lady that was umming and Arrghing on whether she should travel along and to Mitchell Falls, happy for our advice it was game on and she would set off in a day or so, letting her husband back at home in NSW know of her intentions, apparently he doesn’t like caravanning so she takes off with friends. Now only 2 hours to fill in, the aboriginal art gallery was the next stop which was very interesting although pricey, the biography on all the artists made for some fascinating reading. Now only 1 hour to go, the suspense was too much so it was time for coffee and a scone then a lap around Coles and a postcard to the yougin’s. The bottle shop opened right on 12, we waited 5 minutes as we didn’t want to appear desperate, as we headed for the wine shelf the attendant advised that only light and mid strength beer was available and that anything heavier was available only between 2pm and 8pm, with this knowledge we left Kununurra empty handed and headed for Purnululu (the Bungle Bungles).

Footnote: Cane Toads are on the charge from QLD, west through N.T to W.A, it appears they have "AYE" tattooed in their backs, as we have heard some Western Australians also tagging on "AYE" to the end of each sentence. Thanks Marty for the insight.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”

J. R. R. Tolkien
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