May we went for a farewell dinner (roast and yummy ice cream for dessert) to Sue, Clive and Jens and determined we would meet for Christmas in a couple of years. It has been wonderful to catch up with the Bolvig side of my family again. The boys especially liked the dessert and playing with Molly the cat. JoJo the bird was not impressed.
We left Kununurra on 16th
May with our new windscreen in place and headed west towards the beginning of the Gibb River Road. The first thing we came across was the dam wall blocked off by a work crew and we had to wait to be able to cross. The actual wall is not very wide at all which surprised us.
Once across we drove to the beginning of the Gibb and were amazed to find that it was bitumized all the way to El Questro Station. El Questro has control of everything from the beginning of the road and the first place you can really do anything is at Home Valley Station. Once we left the tar the actual surface was okay but not as good as expected considering the graders had been
out for weeks.
Our first challenge was to cross the Pentacost River, our first real live water cross. Graham was very apprehensive. As we approached the top of the bank we could see there were 5 various types of 4X4’s waiting to cross from the opposite side. We watched them all get through, the water was not too high at all and when they were done we approached for our crossing. We figured we did not need to walk it because we knew of 5 vehicles which had just gotten through. We bounced our way across and Graham just wouldn’t stop at the far edge to let me get a photo to prove we did it. He said he was too nervous.
Very fine looking fat cows wander across the road looking at us as if we are curiosities and best of all we came across a pair of bustards wandering across the road. We also saw a flock of red tailed black cockatoos and amongst them were several white tailed black cockatoos who are not supposed to be up here according to our bird books. We continued to see the mixed flocks across the whole Gibb.
We headed into Home Valley Station for the night because we did not find any free camping opportunities. They have a wonderful dining / bar area all nestled amongst lovely gardens and trees. The trees were loaded with little correllas. We did not partake for food and drink because I had put our meal in the ecopot before we left Kununurra. The camping area was also very nice and not too crowded but cost $17 each for an unpowered site.
We have discovered that if you communicate with one couple rather than a group of travellers, generally there are no issues. We spent some time talking to Rick and Nancy (Nancy was born in Clare, SA) and they were very nice. Graham and Rick talked all sorts of boy things and we are now looking at a new type of jockey wheel called a “sidewinder” and air suspension for the back of the car. All to be done when we get home. Rick is looking for a tyre dog and one of the rubbish bags which hangs off the back of the spare wheel. He is also ultra impressed with the awning of the non-door side of the van
and tells everyone about it.
Close to sunset the little Correllas and a few crows swooped down into the horse yard next to the camp site when the horses get their feed and all share. Obviously the horses are getting oaten hay.
We came into the Kimberley in the dry to do the remote thing and guess what it rains! It seems the dry is late and there was practically no wet at all, we are having what seems to be mini build-ups two days of overcast threatening weather, some showers and then it clears. Temperatures and humidity are above normal for this time of year. Hopefully it will all come good soon.
All night there were good soaking showers so we knew the road next morning would be greasy. It wasn’t too bad at all. Rick and Nancy were following along behind us. We were all planning to stay overnight at Russ Creek Camp Site.
The Bolarks stopped for a short break so Rick and Nancy got in front. We were about 10 minutes only but when we went forward we were at the top of the slope to cross the Durack River and Rick
and Nancy were only just pulling away from the other side. Off we went across the Durack, this one was a mud approach and considerably bumpier than the Pentacost, but we got over and GMan stopped with the van wheels in the water for me so I could get a photo. Nice, he was much more relaxed this time. By the time we get to the Calvert River he will be a professional.
Not too far down the road we came across Rick and Nancy off to the side with their hazard lights on. His alternator light was on and nothing was charging. He was ropable because he had replaced it in December in preparation for the trip. We said we would hang in behind them to Ellenbrae Station. Off we went again. About 5 kms down the road we all stopped again, the light had gone off, but nothing was charging. We followed them to the Ellenbrae turnoff and they headed in to get help and we headed off down the road towards Russ Creek. We carefully calculated what the odometer should read when we got to the site.
Got to the correct odometer reading and no
Russ Creek, no creeks had name posts. We continued on and came out at the turnoff to Durack Station (North) Broom (West). Hmm we had missed Russ Creek. We went back to our Camps 7 and discovered the distance from Ellenbrae to the turn off is 70 kms and the distances quoted from the west and east to Russ Creek added up to 87 kms! As we proceeded over the next few days we discovered that most people had been unable to find Russ Creek either.
We decided to head off north to Drysdale Station and hence on to Mitchell Falls. 3.5 km’s from the turnoff we came across the Gibb River which we crossed as easy as pie. He is getting to be an old hand at this. OMG, the road was appalling. We got about 10 kms down the track and turned back. It was muddy and the corrugations under the mud were the size of small hills. There was no way to get away from them as they extended beyond the side of the road. On our way back we pulled off at the Gibb River day stay area 3.5 kms north of the turnoff and
had lunch and put everything back into their places. Once that was done we headed off across the Gibb River crossing (4 now) towards Broome and decided to set up camp at the Hann River free camp site. We started looking for signs 10kms before we were due to just in case.
We parked on a level piece of ground right next to the river and planned to stay for 3 to 4 days as we were well in front of our scheduled plan. It was lovely there, big trees, water, sandy area in the river bed as well as a small billabong and lots of birds.
We have set up our camp and are cooking on the Baby Q and an external gas cooker we bought because the van gets so hot when you cook in this heat and humidity. Of course we had to break everything up and put away on 17th
– you guessed it - rain again. Not too bad, enough to ensure the humidity at 5:30 am on 18th
was 85% and at 9:54 am it is down to 71%.
Whilst we were sitting the grader came past. He appears to be
doing a section from west to here at Hann River. After last night’s rain and the amount of traffic which had passed by so far it will be well churned up by the time we leave in a couple of days.
Late that afternoon there was a dreadful screeching bird call to the east of us. We rushed off and discovered a pair of beautiful Brolgas prancing across the area above our van, we are down in a hollow. My gosh they were gorgeous to see, so graceful. So far today we have made a positive sighting of two blue winged kookaburras and a pair of rainbow birds. We have been visited by a bull who bellows his heart out at sunset and dawn probably looking for the rest of the herd.
There is a beautiful bush below our van in the riverbank. It has a red flower bud which opens to a small pink flower. I have seen it in gardens before, but so nice to see these in the wild. Once more further down the road I have discovered this is called a Rosella bush. Apparently you can make jam from the buds or seeds.
We have been surprised by the low number of boab trees we have seen along the GRR, we expected more. Also very few wallabies (you can’t call them roos up here they are far too small). No bunny rabbits either.
I have seen lots of birds which I simply cannot identify because they are just too fast so I can’t get enough detail or a photograph.
today. Last night it poured from 6pm to 2am. I mean poured. When we got up this morning we can see how the water has been draining down the hill above us and into the Hann River whose level has risen considerably. Our camp site is surprisingly firm, stable and all the water has drained into the river bed 8 feet away. So far we have discovered there is a leak into the corner of the boot and my pot drawer. Thank heavens all the water was contained in one saucepan on my side.
It is a beautiful morning with a clear sky and hopefully we will get a few days like that. We will need it to dry out the road surface before we attempt to move on again.
We are hoping that traffic will be banned for a few days to assist with keeping the road intact. We need to be at Willare Bridge on 31st
May to meet Dave and Shirley so we have time.
We have plenty of water, food and reading material. GMan’s beer is getting down. Our solar panels are keeping things fine in the van but the engel needs power from the secondary battery in the car. We have lots of fuel in the car and can run the engine to boost that as well as run the generator and plug the engel into the mains.
One really good thing is all the dehydrated vegetables I packed. I currently have a big pot of soup beginning with a left over ham bone, red lentils and dehydrated potato, beans, corn and carrot. That will go into the ecopot in about an hour. We have enough meat for another 10 days and canned food for another 7 days after that.
I made bread, when Laucke said multigrain they meant it, it was packed with grain and I added some pumpkin seeds. It turned out well, but I must add some oil next
we broke camp and headed off down the road towards Mt Barnett Roadhouse. The road was boggy in some places but mostly okay. All but one river/floodway/creek proved to be a wet crossing. We got to Mt Barnett and discovered that there was no caravan park there as expected only 7 kms away at Manning Gorge. We had been speaking with other travellers who had told us the road was boggy. We paid our money, filled up with water (left the ground mat behind as a consequence) and proceeded down the road about 3.5 kms and a car came towards us and stopped it was Rick and Nancy. They were off sightseeing and they warned us about the boggy road and the tips on getting through etc. Off we went. GMan has now mastered mud driving albeit bathed in sweat at the end. At times the car was sliding sideways and the van we don’t know. We didn’t hit anything but came close several times. Thank heavens for the DO35 tow hitch it worked a treat but we got through okay and ended up parked next to Rick and Nancy.
We wandered off down to
the billabong area and discovered an entrancing place. Beach sand, beautiful waterhole to swim in and a boat moored with a pulley system to get yourself to the other side to walk to the gorge itself and the falls. Magnificent. We discovered another Stuart Desert Rose, pink this time and much bigger I guess that is because it is near water. Also lots of rosellas (the bush not bird).
Facilities are excellent and upon producing my seniors card it cost $10 each per night. At last a powerful reason to accept old age – half price!
Last night it rained a little again and we woke and watched people leaving the camp site. Those going east were fine, those going west (the way we are) came back – the road to Derby is closed and we have to wait for information via the caretakers each day to know when we can move off again - The prediction at the moment is next Monday!.
Graham, Rick and I were sitting and talking one evening and I caught sight of a bird out of the corner of my eye so got the camera and managed to get reasonable photos
and was able to itentify a Northern Rosella.
Each time we put on our walking shoes and pack the back pack to go on the walk to see the waterfall it starts to drizzle. Rick and Graham have been talking and we have decided to stick together until we get to Derby. If possible that will include a couple of days at Silent Grove on the way through.
Back to Rick and Nancy. They rang RACV from Ellenbrae and because they have something called RACV total care a tow truck came out and collected their car and van and took them back to Kununurra. There the alternator was replaced and Rick discovered despite paying for a new part the person who did the work in Victoria had put in a reconditioned part. He has rung and told the fellow that the alternator has failed and he will be in to see him when he gets back to Victoria with the bill. I wouldn’t like to be around the day he goes into complain.
Apparently we missed a great place at Ellenbrae, not as commercialised as El Questro or Home Valley, oh well next time.
up being at Manning Gorge three days and unexpectedly the road was opened so we decided to move on, pity but Graham and I had not managed to get to walk to the waterfall and rock paintings – next time.
The road was great, just a couple of rough patches where trucks had been bogged and apparently rather than have the whole surface damaged the powers that be closed the road down until there had been no heavy rain for three days and the day times had given good drying weather.
We came across a work crew who were working on a 7 km section and the base they were laying was so superb we figure that the work to bitumise the rest of the road has commenced. Proceeded through at 40 kms an hour. When we came to where the grader was working there was an amazing sight. A huge flock of raptors Wedgies, Black and Brown Kites and other species I have not identified all milling around all over the place, flying, sitting in trees and on the ground, close on 100 we think. GMan picked up the issue immediately. The grader was disturbing the ground
and at the same time the small animals these birds prey on. I guess it was a raptor smorgasbord. Amazing sight.
The side roads into all the places of interest are still all closed. They do not have the solid base of the actual Gibb River Road so we had to drive straight past them, next time once more. Even the road to Silent Grove was impassable because the creeks were too high.
We then entered the Leopold Ranges Conservation Park and the scenery was absolutely magnificent. I find that a camera just doesn’t do justice to the scene before me. The Leopold Ranges morphed into the Napier Ranges and more interesting rock formations. Check through the photographs to see the one of Queen Victoria’s Head. About the photos, a tip. If you click on the first photo in the blog you will get a slide show open of all the photos attached to each blog, and there will be a lot attached to this one.
As we neared the end of the first leg we planned to do this day we came across the Lennard River. There is a single lane bridge which crosses the river
itself and we pulled off to get out and take photos. Fabulous place. We were 500 metres from the turnoff to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek.
Nancy and Rick noticed a camper van parked off the road a little and realised it was a Dutch couple they had met previously so they walked in to see them. When they came back they had discovered a hidden bush camp area a little further in about 500 metres from the highway, so we walked in and decided to stay rather than continue into Derby. We cannot see the river from where we are, but 4 steps up a rise and we have a magnificent vista.
There is one camper trailer close to the road and Rick and Nancy only stayed the one night but we decided to linger. We still have water, food and reading material, but Graham’s beer is getting low, we think we will go on to Broome in three or four days.
I went up our little slope to check out a bird call and discovered a single fresh water crocodile sunning itself on the opposite side of the creek.
On the second afternoon we
walked across the bridge and down onto the beautiful white sand which is actually the river bed when it fills up. We did not see any crocs, but we did notice lots of their footprints about then noticed a couple of egg mounds. We think they are breeding at the present time, so we beat a hasty retreat. Need to get near a town with communications so we can research the breeding cycles of the fresh water crocodile.
Only one other camper pulled in for the second night. It was a Jayco outback pulled by a truck which had an all terrain bike, and large lockable checker plate boxes on the back. They came to speak to us and we discovered this is how they travel. The boxes contain three fridges, their camp kitchen, clothing, etc. Very bush wise couple and they wandered off to try and catch their dinner, no success. We were joined by a couple with three boys in tow the next night – why aren’t they in school I ask. Both left this morning and a Bushtracker has just pulled in. By the time we were eating dinner there were 9 separate campsites in our
area and one near the road, too crowded.
The combination I put together for breakfast this morning has been voted our worst meal so far. Baked beans and eggs all whisked together and heated, YUK.
We are so close to the end of the Gibb and have come to the conclusion it is not the adventure we expected. Having said that we wish we had done it 23 years ago when we first came up this way. The first third of the attractions from the Kununurra side are so commercialised we were not impressed, but the further west we came the better we found it. Just past the entrance of Home Valley Station free camping sites began to appear and not just those listed in Camps 7. Manning Gorge was a fabulous place, though diesel at $2.40 a litre from Mt Barnett was a but steep. We missed out on so many places towards the end simply because of the rain and there was no indication when the side roads would reopen.
We really cannot complain about the fuel consumption we are getting 17.46 litres per hundred kms at an average cost of $1.88 per litre.
And what about the boys. Well you can see from the photos they have gobbled ice cream for dessert, played with a beautiful cat, blown raspberries at a cat, refused to get out of bed because of the rain, played in the mud and consequently had to have a bath and sat on a road sign at the Lennard River. What was not recorded visually was trying to nick Jens' tobacco, kicking sand at each other, sulking because we were stuck in one place for too long and quite a few other things. They are delightful when asleep.
We will stay tonight but must head off tomorrow first thing and get to Derby.Food is very low and we desperately need a washing machine and I can get the latest blog out. There will be an excessive amount of photos attached to this one.
Chris and Graham
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