Gibb River Road

Trip Leader: Ivan

When:  Saturday 23rd April 2rd  –  20th May 2005

Location: Kimberleys WA

Day 1 Saturday 23/4/2005 (Martin and Karen)
We all met at Gingers Roadhouse at 07:00am with vehicles fully laden with supplies for a 4 week trip. The trip commenced with a slow winding drive through the hills behind several semi-trailers. Arriving at Wubin at 10:30 for morning tea and a re-fuel for those who needed it.  From there on it was open highway and the convoy soon built up speed to make good time stopping for lunch and re-fueling at Meekatharra.
We headed on further until late afternoon when a camping location was sought out for the evening’s rest. A quarry was discovered located well off the road and our first camp site was established. It was a beautiful moonlit night with the odd aircraft leaving spectacular vapour trails across the sky.
Day 2 Sunday 24/4/05 (Martin and Karen)
We were all packed up and ready to move by 07:00 am. Arriving at Newman mid-morning we all re-fuelled and headed to a shady park for morning tea. It was then on the road again, this time taking the gravel road turnoff towards Marble Bar.
We arrived at Nullagine just after 1:00PM and stopped at a local park for lunch. The town appeared very quiet with everything closed including the only service station.
15 minutes on leaving Nullagine the convoy came to a halt as Mike discovered a puncture of one his tyres.  With the aid of a puncture repair kit, the tyre was eventually plugged and re-inflated and the convoy moved off again. Once again another quarry was discovered hidden behind hills off the road were we set up camp for another night.
Day 3 Monday 25/4/05 (Anzac Day) (Martin and Karen)
Again a 7:00am start saw everyone on the road heading towards Marble Bar. Reaching Marble Bar early morning (before the local fuel facilities had opened), the guys  went for a refreshing swim in Marble Bar Pool, a natural water hole in the Coongan River. After which we drove a little further on to Chinaman’s Pool for morning tea. On returning to the townsite to look at the some historic buildings it was soon discovered that the bowsers at a caravan park were now open for business. After a quick re-fuel we were once again heading north on gravel roads.
Before reaching Shay Gap, Mike discovered another two punctures. Once again the  tyre plug kits came out and the tyres were soon re-inflated and we were on our way again.
The convoy soon met the bitumen of the Great Northern Highway once again and with a short lunch break at Sandfire Roadhouse we headed for a planned overnight stop near Willare Bridge. However the sun began to set in the evening sky before we reached Roebuck where some vehicles were re-fueled. In the mean time Chris and Jan went ahead of the group to find a suitable camping area for the night. Upon the remaining convoy resuming the drive north, Mike thought he heard a problem with his engine. We pulled over to a roadside parking area were his vehicle was inspected. It was at this point that Mike and Judy decided to leave the trip and head for Broome to re-assess their vehicle problems.
It was a cautious drive in the dark for the remaining three vehicles along the highway until we re-established contact with Chris and Jan who had established a camp fire in an overnight camp area just off the highway.

Day 4 Tuesday 26/4/05
Left our overnight camp at 6.50 after a hot night and just as the flies were becoming interested in us. We were en route to Derby and a stay in Ivan’s friend’s block. We arrived at midday after a non eventful drive except for seeing our first boab tree’s in leaf and in some cases, in flower. The block was shaded by mango tree’s and blissfully we were able to do our washing in his machine, plug in our fridge’s, fill up with water and enjoy his shower and bathroom. Next it was off to the supermarket and bottle shop to get the necessities for the next day’s take off up the Gibb River Road.
Day 5 Wednesday 27/4/05
Left 8 am – destination Myroondah Station (500,000 acres) on the Fitzroy River. This was only a couple of hours drive and instructions were given to us by the Managers, again friends of Ivan’s, on how to reach a good barramundi fishing and camping spot. This was somewhat trickier than we had anticipated and we had to resort to the satellite phone to ring in again for instructions. Approx 4 hours later, having negotiated some rather challenging gullies and tracks, we set up camp by the side of the river. Dinghies were launched and barramundi greatly enjoyed around the campfire that night.
Day 6 Thursday 28/4/05
Next morning early fishermen landed 4 barramudi, but only kept 3. Two of the remaining were 70 cm in length – some very happy fishermen indeed! Boats were then taken to a nearby sandbar for a picnic lunch, and afternoon wallowing in the river.

Day 7 Friday 29/4/04
We’re spending another day camped by the Fitzroy River.  Ivan and Chris returned mid-morning with a Barramundi each.  Karen tried out the camp oven and treated everyone to scones for morning tea.  After packing a picnic lunch we all headed up the river in our dinghies to a safer area from the crocs for a swim to cool off.  We estimated the temperature to be around the high 30’s each day so far.

Day 8 Saturday 30/4/05
Everyone was up early and ready to leave this beautiful spot by 7.15.  We headed back to Derby to stock up on supplies (including Barra lures) as it would be some time before we would see another supermarket.  By 12.30 we were on our way and heading along the Gibb River Road.  Our destination was Adcock Gorge.  The scenery through the King Leopold Ranges was spectacular.  Some of us enjoyed listening to the Dockers beating Melbourne.  Roger & Jan blew a tyre, which was quickly repaired, and we arrived at our camp site near Adcock Gorge about 5pm, set up camp along side the river, then enjoyed a happy hour.

Day 9 Sunday 1/5/05
Our departure time was 8am today and everyone was ready on time.  A short drive down a track we arrived at Adcock Gorge for a swim.  Soon we were back on the Gibb River Road with our destination 300 kilometers to King Edward River.  The road conditions are very good.  We stopped for morning tea at Mt Barnett roadhouse and chatted with the local kids.  Although the road conditions deteriorated as we drove further north along the Kalumbaroo road, the forests of Livingstonia Palms were very impressive.  We arrived at King Edward River around 4, set up camp and then went swimming.  The night time temperature was a little cooler, but still too warm to sit around the camp fire. 

Day 10 Monday 2/5/05
We were up and packed early so some travellers could have a swim before we started on what turned out to be a slow rough trip into Mitchell Falls. We set up camp and at 11.30 the men started the strenuous walk to the falls while the ladies went by helicopter. (And they say it is a man’s world) A swim at the falls, lunch, a bit of sight seeing and another swim had us on the hot trek to camp. 

Happy Hour started early with marinated spare ribs and the odd drink before an early dinner.

Day 11 Tuesday 3/5/05
All up bright eyed and bushy trailed ready for a new adventure. This morning we headed for Port Warrender on a track they say is not the best which turned out to be a complete under statement. The last part of this track was the roughest I have ever driven on however, when we arrived at Point Walsh which was to be our camp site, the road was only a memory. It was a beautiful isolated spot and you could see the fish jumping in the water.We set up camp and by mid afternoon we had our boats in the water but only caught one fish today.

Day 12 Wednesday 4/5/05
This was a good day for fishing, tides were right, time was correct, enthusiasm was spot on but the fish didn’t know all this!!!  however we did catch one which tasted divine. We set six crab pots in a mangrove creek using plastic milk bottles for floats and when we came to check them the first time a large crocodile had one of the floats in his mouth so we decided to let him play and we would come back later.

Day 13 Thursday 5/5/05 (Martin and Karen)

Ivan and Chris were up early and out in their dinghy checking the crab nets set the previous day. The first net was discovered in amongst the mangroves. The next had been pulled apart and then another was found to be resisting their attempts at recovery, as though there was something pulling it back.  Upon checking the final net, they were confronted by a large croc blocking their path to the net. They decided that discretion was best option and left the crab nets for their new owner.
After packing up camp, the slow arduous journey back out of the point began. Just after passing the Mitchell Falls turnoff, we came across a bush fire that appeared to be blocking our track out of the area. Roger used his satellite phone to call the local CALM office to see if they were aware of the fire.  We then decided to continue, eventually finding a fire control vehicle monitoring the fire further down the track. We eventually arrived back at King Edward River about 2:00pm where we set up camp and spent the rest of the afternoon washing clothes and swimming.
Day 14 Friday 6/5/05 (Martin and Karen)
Ivan discovered a punctured tyre first thing in the morning. Departure was not planned until 9:00 am (to let the washing dry) so the time was spent repairing the puncture. However, on attempting to use the spike of a plug repair kit, it was found that the tyre had a tube. Repairs to the tyre required internal patching, which was carried out with the aid of Chris’s generator and angle grinder to smooth out the protruding steel belt inside the tyre.
A short swim in the river was undertaken to refresh before departing for Drysdale Station at 9:00am. However prior to making Drysdale, the repaired tyre on Ivan’s car failed and deflated. By this time, the guys had mastered the wheel change procedure and had the show on the road without much fuss. Lunch and re-fuel at Drysdale before continuing on to Mount Elizabeth Station. Arriving about 3:00pm. Ivan arranged the delivery of two new tyres from Derby to the station which he would collect on our return from the Walcott Inlet.
Each couple paid $50 to the station owners for the use of the Munja Track into the Walcott Inlet, although we were advised that the track had not yet been completely cleared. We then set off for the 200km drive on the Munja Track to the Walcott Inlet.  The surrounding country was magnificent and upon finding the Drysdale River crossing we decided to make camp for the night and take a bath in the clear running water.
Day 15 Saturday 7/5/05 (Martin and Karen)
Another 7 am start saw us navigating some pretty rough terrain, particularly the Magpie Jump-up which once again put the vehicles, trailers and drivers through the ultimate 4WD ability test.  It was about mid-day when we came across the crew who were clearing the track for the beginning of the dry season. 
They were on a lunch break so we did the same thing. Ivan discussed the track ahead with the boss of the clearing team. It was decided that we would go on ahead of the clearers as they were going to take several days to finish.
The track clearers asked if we could drive one of their vehicles up to their next camp site to save them doubling back for it later. So Ivan drove their Landcruiser tray back with a trailer attached ahead of our convoy. Martin and Chris road “shotgun” on the rear tray of the Landcruiser, frequently jumping off to remove fallen branches from the track. Roger drove the F250 and the girls drove the other vehicles. A short while later, a hissing noise emanated from Ivan’s own vehicle indicating yet another puncture. We then replaced it with the last spare tyre that matched his car.
Eventually we came across a creek crossing blocked by a very large fallen tree. Ivan began cutting into it with his own chain saw until the track clearers caught up with us. They then set about using their own chain saws and tractor to remove the tree. The operation was hampered by a wasp nest in the tree causing some comic scenes amongst the workers. It took an hour or so to remove the tree and damaging their tractor in doing so making it inoperable. This was also near the beginning of another jump-up, so Ivan and Chris decided to take a drive ahead to check the conditions before the rest of the convoy set out. It was only instinct that Ivan came to a stop upon losing sight of the track. He got out of his vehicle and found that he was about to head into a sudden drop into a wash out. Much to our disappointment, particular Ivan, it was at this point, he decided that we should turn around and abandon the Walcott Inlet part of the trip.
So we headed back to Pearson Creek crossing (were we had stopped for lunch) to set up camp for the night.
Day 16 Sunday 8/5/05
Mothers Day started with a gift for the ladies from Ivan. Left camp at 7 am. At 8 am the satellite phone rang – it was the first of 2 mothers day calls for our leaders wife who leapt from her still moving vehicle and charged through shoulder high grass like a young gazelle to take the calls from tail end Charlie. Next we investigated some Aboriginal art found on a rock not far from our track. Its authenticity was queried by one or two of our party who felt that they had possibly been touched up recently. We lunched, paddled and swam by the Drysdale River and arrived at Mt. Elizabeth Station around 2.30 for a 2 night stay. We all helped to provide a communal mothers day roast that evening which we ate on a long table under the stars. This was followed by a splendid date and walnut cake also cooked in the camp oven, and washed down with Baileys and Port. A great end to our special day.
Day 17 Monday 9/5/05
The next morning the ladies did laundry and cleaning, and the men did repairs to trailers, cleaned air filters and removed grass from under the vehicles. Some very interesting tyre fitting techniques were applied which will no doubt be the subject of some discussion at a later date. After lunch the ladies settled down to a crossword under the tree’s, and the men had a hard contested game of golf over and under wire fencing and entry gates. An evening shower sent everybody to their trailers for an early night.
Day 18 Tuesday 10/5/05
We left Mt. Elizabeth Station at 7 am and arrived at Mt. Barnett Roadhouse for fuel, etc at 8.30. It was then off down the Gibb River Rd. until we turned off left and headed towards the Mornington Wilderness Camp (1 puncture at this stage). It was then left again onto Tablelands Road en route to the Bungle Bungles. After half an hour one vehicle sustained simultaneous back wheel punctures, and while stopped another tyre on another vehicle deflated. It was decided that discretion is the greater point of valour and although the road looked very good the small flints were more than our All Terrain tyres could cope with so we turned around back onto the Gibb River Road and lunched at Mt. Barnett Roadhouse while various casings were put onto hubs and punctures repaired. The combination of all these things put us back nearly a day, but with punctures repaired we set off mid afternoon to camp just off the Gibb River Rd. in a disused quarry.
Day 19 Wednesday 11/5/05
Everyone rose early and we were packed up before the heat and on the Gibb River Road heading towards Kununurra by 7am.  Casualty 17 struck at 9am.  Another puncture.  The guys are getting very proficient at changing tyres and it wasn’t long before we were on our way again.  Graders were working on the next stretch of the Gibb River Road so it was pretty good.  As we approached the end of the Gibb, the view from the Pentecost Range was quite spectacular.  The Tippings and the Smiths decided to do a detour to Wyndham for a bit of sightseeing and fishing.  The Archers and Freeguards headed for Tyre Power in Kununurra.  After visiting the tourist spots of Wyndham the two couples found a lovely camp spot about 30 kilometers south of Wyndham along the King River.  The other party booked into a caravan park, set up and then visited some of the sights around Kununurra.  Although the sunset was missed at 5pm, the view from Kelly’s Knob was quite spectacular with bush fires burning on the mountain ranges.  They then treated themselves to a Chinese meal for dinner.
Day 20 Thursday 12/5/05
The fishing party waited for the 7.5 metre tide to arrive about 11am, then began fishing.  Quite an interesting site to see a river empty of water and then all of a sudden it comes pouring in.  The boys earlier used their cast nets to get some mullet for bait, but didn’t have any luck converting them into Barramundi.  A slow pack up took place in the 37˚c heat and it was then off to Kununurra.  Jan, Roger & Karen went on a boat cruise up the Ord River which they found very interesting and informative.  No camp fire tonight because we’re in the Kimberleyland Caravan Park, but we still congregated for a happy hour and chat about everyone’s adventures.
Day 21 Friday 13/5/05
It’s 8am on Friday the 13th (Black Friday) as we head out of Kununurra towards Purnululu (Bungle Bungles).  The drive down the Great Northern Highway was very scenic through the Saw, Carr and Durack Ranges.  The 53 kilometer drive through Mabel Downs Station to the Bungle Bungles National Park was very windy and picturesque as we traveled up hill and down dale.  After setting up camp, we went for a drive to Walanginjdji lookout and watched the shadow of the sun setting on the rocks.  The evening meal was a buffet with Satay Pork, Chicken Chasseur, Japanese Curry and Tuna Pasta Bake, complimented with red and white wine and topped off with a port.  Very enjoyable and in no way was today a black Friday.
Day 22 Saturday 14/5/05
Today was our day to see the Bungle Bungles and as it was going to be a hot day we left camp at 5.30am and drove to Picaninny Creek car park. We spent two hours walking to Cathedral Gorge which was worth the walk. On the way back we followed the domes trail which took us amongst a section that is called the Bee Hives; this was also worth the walk.  10.00 am saw us back at camp for a cuppa and pancakes.  After lunch we went to Echidna Gorge which was a two hour walk along a canyon that became narrower and more difficult as you walked, until we could touch the sides without extending our arms. I must congratulate our four ladies for completing this very difficult walk. We returned to camp around for a happy hour plus a quiz on the trip so far which was won by Chris Smith.

Day 23 Sunday 15/5/05
This was a day of travel. We left camp at 7.00 am and headed for somewhere near Willare . First major stop was lunch and fuel at Halls Creek and as it was Sunday morning not much was open so we were soon on our way to Fitzroy Crossing. Fuel again for some then half hour checking nothing and we were once again on our way. We arrived at a campsite south of Willare about 5.00 pm and soon had dinner on and happy hour on the way.

Day 24 Monday 16/5/05
This day started with a flat battery in one of the vehicles but jumper leads soon fixed this little problem and our first stop was Roebuck Roadhouse for fuel and phone calls. We decided to stay at Barnhill for a couple of days R & R before heading home. 
Arriving at 11.00am   we had plenty of time to set up camp prior to lunch. After lunch we all hit the beach to get some of the Kimberley dust out of our system and it was most welcome.  Fishing for bait was next on the agenda as tomorrow was to be our last chance to nail that big one.
Day 25  Tuesday 17/5/05 (Martin and Karen)

The guys were up at the crack of dawn to do some fishing. A bit of shore fishing to begin with to catch bait fish in the form of gardies. 
Success was had by Roger and Chris. 

A planned 8:00 o’clock launch of the boats was organised so that we could accompany some of the regular fishermen of the area in a convoy of dinghies (safety in numbers and to learn from their knowledge of the area). However the surf proved a problem for one boat owner who gave up after his boat was swamped by a wave. Ivan and Chris decided to brave the waves and loaded their boat into the water. An attempt to out pace an in-coming wave saw Ivan launch his boat over the crest of the breaking  wave with Chris hanging on with white knuckles. It was a spectacle that could only be appreciated by being there. Martin and Roger decided not to launch their boat until about an hour later when the surf subsided  a little.  Once again, it was Roger and Chris having the success at fishing. Chris catching 2 spotted cod and Roger a pair of buggered-if-I-know fish.

A relaxing afternoon playing scrabble (Ivan and Chris went wood cutting…they never rest those two). Chris suggested having an evening by the fire on the beach, so we all gathered our stuff and drove down to the shoreline for a sunset BBQ. A very pleasant evening was had by all sitting around a warm fire listening to the crashing waves and music supplied by Chris.
Day 26 Wednesday 18/5/05 (Martin and Karen)
After jump-starting Roger’s car, which had been plagued by battery trouble for days, we headed for the highway home. Arriving in Port Hedland for lunch, Roger sought out a battery centre where he discovered that his battery had actually cracked and was leaking battery acid. Upon replacing it with a new one, the car bounced back to life.
It was then back on the highway for the afternoon leg of the return home journey. Ivan found a river bed to make camp for the night, however, upon navigating the ground made up of very fine bull dust and sand, he became bogged. After some digging and reduction of tyre pressure he soon recovered and reversed out. We set up camp on firmer ground nearby.
Day 27 Thursday 19/5/05 (Martin and Karen)
An uneventful days drive through the centre of the Pilbara. The scenery around Auski and Newman was magnificent. We lunched at the Capricorn roadhouse before heading on towards Meekatharra. The evening camp was made in a clearing off the road about 60 kilometres south of Meeka.
Day 28 Friday 20/5/05 (Martin and Karen)
The final leg home. It was the end of a fantastic adventure, and although we were all eager to get home there was a sadness that it was all over. We diverted off the Great Northern Highway just south of Wubin and headed home via Wongan Hills and Northam. The change of scenery made for an enjoyable end to the 4 week Kimberley Trek.
Martin & Karen  



    The roadhouse has been closed as a result of a dispute over lease conditions
    between the Aboriginal community and those contracted to run the shop. The
    community hopes that another company will eventually re-open the shop, but
    for now the roadhouse is closed indefinitely.

    If you are travelling from Derby, make sure you have enough fuel and
    supplies to last you to Mt. Barnett Roadhouse.

    If you are travelling from the Kununurra/Wyndham/El Questro side, make sure
    you fuel up and stock up at Mt. Barnett to last you to Derby.

    This is a huge loss. Imintji Roadhouse is an icon on the Gibb River Road and
    a lovely place to stop at, not to mention the convenience of having two
    places along the road where travellers can get supplies. Let’s hope that
    things will eventually be worked out. And until they are, throw in another
    jerry can or two and some extra food, and enjoy the trip regardless. One way
    to look at it is that this adventure trip just became a bit more adventurous
    again :-).

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