The Gibb River Road - Into the Kimberley

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 00:00


July 21st, 2010
Dog-Chain Creek, the Kimberley

Today we commenced our trek into the Kimberley and the many jewels in the Kimberley crown. We completed our outwards journey south along the La Djardarr Road and through a changing landscape. We had to negotiate a few damp areas first (OK lets call them miniature wetlands) before the wooded, flat coastal fringe, faded away to be replaced by the drier rocky hills of the Pilbara and its well fenced beef producing areas. Here and there we spied plenty of fat cattle and some mighty bulls lurking in the shade of roadside trees. In a classic example of how nature can quickly overcome man made obstructions, I had to stop and photograph several ant mounds that had grown along a fence line, integrating the strands of barb wire into their construction as if a perfectly natural phenomena.

We arrived at the bitumen of the Northern Highway at Bedunburra and stopped to stretch the legs and change drivers. The girls took over for us and drove the 50 odd kilometres to the Fitzroy River and the Willare Bridge Roadhouse. Naturally this provided the perfect stop for a morning tea/lunch break on the fly so a pie or two was devoured in the shady green surrounds of the roadhouse. Heading up the Great Northern Highway, we visited the prison boab on the outskirts of Derby. Then it was into Derby for a paper and last minute supplies. In addition to replenishing food and fuel, it was also time to stock the liquor cabinet. Thinking I had the job of procurement, I grabbed a carton of Corona for Vik. As I was stashing it in the vehicle, Vik arrived back with another half dozen bottles of wine…”Well you never know” she says by way of excuse.

From Derby we headed east onto the Gibb River Road. The initial stages of the road (70 km or so) consists of a thin ribbon of bitumen. We had to share this with many a big rig, usually cattle trucks, heading west. Discretion is always the best policy here and pulling right over to a stop to allow the big rigs full use of the tarmac makes not only the trip easier for them, it saves the oncoming traffic, us, from being sprayed by the sharp Kimberley rocks. The grasslands bordering the road were a lush green supporting plenty of fat cattle. We had to slow down on several occasion to avoid mobs wandering along the highway.

In a rare moment of luck, we found that the campsite at Dog Chain Creek was available. Now that’s something I never expected. Being listed in free camps and every other publication about the Kimberley, it’s usually the first to be filled up with a caravanner intent on spending a few days free camping. We investigated the track leading further in along the creek but the rocky track was abysmal causing me to back out. Naturally, firewood was at a premium and it was a long trek for Jaydub and I to find anything suitable for the fire. It wasn’t long before a fire was blazing and John and Suze’s hot water bucket was doing its job at fires edge.

We were pleasantly surprised by the lack of biting insects considering our proximity to such a large pool, of still water. Perhaps the fish take care of the larvae. The stillness of the early evening was shattered by the roar of a heavily loaded 60 series that scorch past in the darkness of early evening and then return for a look to see if any other spots were available for camping. They scorched off again and then we heard the screech of all four wheels locking up some distance down the highway. Seems they had decided to camp in a gravel pit on the opposite side of the road about a kilometer up. Thank god they had the good sense to stop. Travelling at speed at night in this area is asking for trouble.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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