THURSDAY 9 AUGUST MCGOWANS TO HOME VALLEY 480kms
Conscious that we had a long drive – for these parts – ahead of us, we were up before 6am, and ready to go at 7.30. For once, we had to wait for M to be packed and ready!
We had a brief stop about 18kms south of Kalumburu, because John wanted to collect some more of the stones he’d seen there on the way up. He was convinced they were topaz. I thought they were just quartz.
It was a straightforward, but long and tiring day.
We passed through Theda Station, north of the Mitchell Plateau turnoff. It was a pity that the new owners had stopped allowing bush camping on the place – we’d had a great time camped there in 2000, and we still hadn’t gotten to see the really good Bradshaw figure rock art they were supposed to have.
Refuelled at Drysdale River Homestead. Still $1.95cpl. Refuelled ourselves too, with cold drinks and icy poles.
The Kalumburu road was rough in sections, with some bulldust patches south of Drysdale. It did not take long on that road for the grader’s work to deteriorate again. But the Gibb River Road was in good condition.
We ate our biscuit and cheese lunch as we travelled, not wanting to lose time by taking a lunch break.
We stopped at the Bindoola Creek Jumpup lookout – it gave wonderful views of the Cockburn Range and the Pentecost River valley.
Had actually made much better time than we’d anticipated, and it was only about 4pm when we arrived at Home Valley Station, a short distance north of the Gibb, by the Pentecost River.
This was a place John and I had not visited before, although it had offered camping and activities for travellers. In 2000, we had opted to camp at the nearby Jacks Waterhole, on Durack River Station, and that had been excellent. But, in keeping with the way things regularly changed in these parts, Jacks Waterhole now no longer existed for camping after major damage in the 2002 Wet season.
Home Valley had been a pastoral leasehold cattle property, but was now owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation. The little research I’d done suggested that there were some good internal tracks and sights to see – and I was hoping that we might be allowed to go visit the Jacks Waterhole site too, also owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation.
The approach to the Reception area took us by a pleasantly green and grassed formal camping area. It was tempting, but we’d already decided to opt for their “bush camping” area, right by the Pentecost, a few kms from the main area. More “us”.
The bush camp would cost $10 each, per night. As we booked in, the girl at Reception told us that all the usual activities and places on Home Valley were closed to tourist access! Really? This was either due to restrictions by the aboriginal owners, or due to the filming of the TV series “Outback Jack” which was happening somewhere on the place. She couldn’t, or wouldn’t answer my question as to which parts of the place were off limits due to filming and which due to closure by the aboriginal owners. So, there was nothing to do, except camp by the river, and fish.
Having arranged to meet son here, we could not really change plans.
In the event, the unexpected restrictions did not matter. As we were driving to the camp area, approaching the gate to it, the brake on the driver’s side back wheel of truck, died. We would not be going anywhere beyond camp, in the near future.
Under these circumstances, it was pleasing that the camp area had magnificent views to the Cockburn Range, and was right beside the Pentecost river, which was large and tidal here. We noted that the camping area was somewhat elevated above the river, and a bit back from the bank. It would not be impossible for a determined crocodile to reach the camp area, but it would be quite difficult. Anyway, we felt secure enough.
The bush campground had some shelter roofs – to give shade to campers – and a new amenities block with flush toilets and very nice – but cold water only – showers. There was even a washup sink/camp kitchen sort of facility there.
We were able to set up camp by a built shelter – pretty lucky, we felt. It was a bit dusty, though. Probably everywhere in the Kimberley was dusty by August!
We set up our camp, each side of the shelter. It would provide us with a shaded day time sitting area, when there was no tree shade.
John then investigated the Truck brakes, to see why there hadn’t been any as we approached the gate. It was fortunate that we’d been going slowly enough for him to coast to a stop before reaching the gate.
It seemed that pins had come out in one brake, and it had fallen apart. A pin was loose on the other side one. John felt he could probably repair them himself – if he could get the necessary parts. Then, we had an “Aha” moment – son was flying up from Melbourne late on Friday night.
M drove John back up to the homestead Reception/bar area, so he could make phone calls to arrange with son to get the parts from our current Landrover dealer, and bring them with him. It was too late in the east to phone the dealer today.
We were also running very low on beer. Had been having to ration our Happy Hour consumption to one can each! Son was asked to bring some from Kununurra.
I cooked the red emperor we’d been given yesterday. Wrapped it in foil, with some flavourings and cooked it whole on our little metal rack, over the campfire embers. It was excellent.