Cape York via Simpson Desert 2 July 2015 – Day 31

Friday, Jul 03, 2015 at 19:18

Peter Beard (WA)

Covering the entire Gibb River Road from Kununurra to Derby in one day is possible. Possibly not desirable. Probably not advisable. Perhaps potentially irresponsible. But there you go. We are sitting in Derby having covered the entire Gibb River Road in one day.

We did the Gibb River Road in 2011 on the way home from Darwin after our Anne Beadell Highway adventure (see That time we took five days and stopped at Emma Gorge, Drysdale River Station, Mitchell Falls and Bell Gorge as well as visited other attractions along the track.

We didn't set out to do the Gibb in one day this trip. Ali's body clock is still on eastern standard time. The front of the brain knows we gained an hour and a half at the border, the back of the brain is a bit dimmer in this respect. So it was an early start. We planned to just get as far as we could today, pull over, set up the tent and stay the night then hit Broome tomorrow. We have a very important engagement at Matso's Brewery with Pete's brother Paul, who is driving up from Port Hedland for the weekend – so "as far as we could get" turned out to be Derby.

The Gibb River Road is sealed all the way to El Questro Station now, the incredible red cliffs and ranges dominating the landscape. The gravel down to the Pentecost River is a bit rough - sharp, grey rocks and an unforgiving stone base underneath. The Pentecost River is very low this year, an easy if bumpy crossing on the rocks - no bow wave, no exhaust burbling under water this time.

The next major river, the Durack, is dry at the crossing with a couple of pools either side. There was quite a queue of cars heading west. We gradually got past them through thick dust clouds on a very well graded track and before we knew it we were at the turn off to Drysdale Station and Kalumburu.

The track down to Mt Barnett Station is a bit corrugated in places but we were there by lunchtime to enjoy a sandwich and a coffee. Being more than halfway by lunchtime and with no real need to sightsee what we’ve already seen, we took to the track with a thought forming that we might actually get to Derby before dark.

Next amazing sight is the King Leopold Ranges, the track weaves through the red rocky ridges, climbing precipitously in and precipitously out again. Many of the steep sections are bitumen, the rest of the track is mostly smooth, recently graded gravel.

Pete had the bit well and truly between his teeth by the time we dropped down to the plain, and the Landcruiser purred over the gravel, happily eating up the kilometres. Fires - looks like someone's burning off, not wild fires - turned the sky orange, reducing the glare from the westering sun.

As always on a marathon run, the last bit is the hardest. The bitumen starts - on and off - around the Windjana Gorge turn off. So did the sun in the eyes, the wandering cows, the random kangaroos and the on again, off again bitumen. After eight hours of thundering across the country that seemed to pass in minutes, the last hour seemed to take eight. A fire truck pulled out of a side road and we followed it into Derby just as the sun set.

Tomorrow a gentle trip to Broome to keep our engagement at Matso's where Ali will sadly leave this adventure and hop on a plane back to Perth - work beckons, time to start saving for the next trip. Pete's task is to get the trusty 80 home safely, taking in the back blocks of the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Mid West on the way. So the next blog is likely to be early next week, from Pete flying solo.


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