The Kimberley - Down the Kalumburu Road to the Gibb and El Questro

Monday, Aug 02, 2010 at 00:00

Mick O

Monday 2nd August, 2010
El Questro Station (El Q)
The Kimberley WA



The staccato drumming of heavy rain was heard against the roof of the camper on several occasions during the night. I was also forced to get up and secure the awning with a few more ropes as well. It was a very grey morning so we didn’t waste time in packing and heading off. With the toilet blocks a good distance away, we all decided to use the amenities on our departure prompting a rather funny vehicular line-up outside the loos. It appears we were not the only people with that idea! Dare I say a "drive thru dunny"...I'm sure you get the picture!


They’re rough old tracks the Mitchell and Kalumburu roads! The corrugations were fearsome with it taking it’s toll on Johns electricals again. We stopped briefly near the Mitchell turn off to watch a couple of Brolgas grazing before heading south towards Drysdale River. The Kalumburu road was extremely rough and corrugated and I found myself in difficult situations on a couple of occasions. On the first occasions the trailer “fell” off an embankment after vibrating itself to the left on a heavily corrugated corner. Thankfully I had been travelling at low speed and managed to apply some speed while heading for the middle of the road and managed to pull the trailer back onto the road surface before it overtook me. The corrugations are merciless. The second was when a soft verge gave way leaving me no choice but to hold a straight line to the left of the road. Anxious Moments but all ended well.


We sighted a few scrawny dingoes along the roadside before Drysdale and entered the station for Scottie to fuel up. I got myself a replacement Drysdale station tee shirt and a snack while John wrestled with a minor technical issue with their fridge (it had stopped working). John emptied and disassembled their Engel and blew it out with the compressor before reinstalling and restocking. I think we all got to share in some of the goodies that popped out. Hopefully that will have sorted out the issue.



We were off again to complete the rough corrugated 65 km down to the Gibb in what was left of the morning. Along the track we encountered a caravan disconnected and left parked by the side of the road. Around the van were 6 bikes and a canoe. We pulled over and had a chat with a lady and kids left by the van to ensure they were all right. It seems as if they had started the days travels with two canoes and one had seen fit to fly off the roof of the vehicle and clear the caravan unnoticed. Hubby had disconnected and returned to locate it. As it happened we had seen someone attaching a canoe to the top of a Landrover some 20 kilometres back. We thought he had being resecuring it. It appears now that he had in fact recovered it. Unfortunately, that vehicle appeared to be heading north where as the van and its occupants south. I hope they recovered it.


We reached the intersection of the Gibb River Road a fraction before 12 noon and emptied rubbish in the compound built there for the purpose. John found the root of his electrical issue in that has main battery’s earth terminal had cracked and separated. Using my cordless we drilled a couple of holes through what was left of the terminal and reattached it, problem solvered boss! That certainly accounted for why the vehicle battery was not getting any charge!


Entering the Gibb we found a mixture of road conditions but in my considered opinion, I’d have to say it was pretty OK, again relatively speaking and comparing it to what we’d just travelled on. We headed down to Ellinbrae where we headed the 5 km into the rustic station and partook of a toastie and a scone with jam and cream for lunch. On the way out we encountered some new travellers by the roadside. They were panicking because they’d punctured a tyre on their camper trailer. Another tourist in a Wicked Camper was bemoaning the state of the road and that he could take it no longer. Bloody hell!....didn’t you read the brochures and totally ignore the warnings about the Gibb. Suck it up sweetheart and have a couple of cans of harden the hell up! Assistance rendered we were off before the latte sippers moaning got the better of us.


After Ellinbrae it was the familiar jump-ups and downs of the Gibb until we reached the broad and majestic vista of the James Cockburn Range, the rivers twisting their way to the nearby ocean through the time worn valley. Of course there was the obligatory photo stop amongst the spindly yellow Kapok trees and then on and across the broad Pentecost at Bluey O’Malley’s crossing before turning off into El Questro. Here we parted ways with our travel companions as they wanted to head on to reserve near Derby.


The road into ELQ has improved muchly since my last visit four years back. The track still maintains its character though as you forward the river near the station township. We booked in at the store and selected our spot in the black cockatoo campground. Camped nearby were Murray and Toby, the two young blokes from Victoria who had stopped to help with the wheel near Mitchell. It was a shower and then dinner. The skies were still threatening so I put the fly up. We caught up with the lads around the fire for a while before heading to bed. Hopefully the few spits won’t deteriorate into heavy rain.


''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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