This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


Leave a comment

2007 Travels August 10

FRIDAY 10 AUGUST     HOME VALLEY

The river here was very tidal!

High tide in the Pentecost River at Home Valley

As the water receded and muddy banks were exposed, lots of crocodiles became evident, sunning themselves on the mud. They were of varied sizes, including some rather large ones.

Tide going out – two large sun baking salties

After seeing what lives in this river, here, there is no way I would ever be camping anywhere down near the river level. I knew that some travellers, intent on getting a free camp, pitched camp beside the Pentecost, just a bit upstream from here, near the Gibb River Road ford. I don’t reckon they would be doing so if they came here first, and saw what we can see, every day!

Another large croc across the river

The cattle that appeared and grazed by the river did not appear to be alert for crocs.

I wondered if any of these cows ever ended up as croc dinner?

It was a hot day.

John fired up his laptop and checked the Defender manual he had on a CD. Very useful that. He was almost certain he could do the repairs here.

M drove John back to the homestead so he could phone the Landrover people, to arrange for the parts we needed. They told him that component “never comes out”. Well, we had news for them. It was not a very helpful comment. They would courier the parts to son’s workplace at Tullamarine.

After all that was sorted, John tried some fishing – keeping a very careful eye out around him!

M and I did some washing. heated water on the campfire, washed the clothes in our plastic basin, then trudged up to the amenities block to use the sink there and the cold water tap to rinse same. We hung them on a line strung across between the uprights of the shelter.

Then I sat in the shade from a tree, admiring the views and the sunbaking salties, and doing some sewing.

Today was our wedding anniversary. We decided to live dangerously and drink the last of our beer – two cans each! M had bought a block of chocolate up at the homestead, while John was phoning, and presented it to us, so we had something to celebrate with! Chocolate was a real luxury in the context of our rather basic catering of the past few weeks.

Sunset on the Range was glorious!


Leave a comment

2007 Travels August 9

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.

Gibb River Road ahead

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.

Cockburn Range and Pentecost River valley from Bindoola Lookout
Pentecost River from Lookout

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.

Gibb River Road near Home Valley Station

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”.

Home Valley on Bindoola Creek. Bush camp at junction of this with Pentecost River (Zoom)

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.

Pentecost River and Cockburn Range at dusk, from our camp

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.

Home Valley camp

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.


Leave a comment

2000 Travels July 14

FRIDAY 14 JULY   WYNDHAM TO JACKS WATERHOLE   193kms

We got up before dawn to drive back up The Bastion and look at the sun rise over the Gulf. It was alright, but not stunning.

07-13-2000 sunrise bastion lo.jpg

Sunrise from The Bastion

We seemed to take ages to pack up and did not get away until 9.30. It was a very hot and sweaty job too.

Refuelled at Wyndham – diesel here was 2.8cpl cheaper than in Kununurra, at 98cpl.

I felt fine about leaving the van at the caravan park.

Drove back down the highway again, for 52kms, to the junction with the Gibb River Road, and turned west onto this.

07-14-2000 01 cnr gibb river rd.jpg

Corner of the Gibb River Road and the highway

The Gibb River Road evolved over some time. It has become one of the classic dirt road drives of Australia. It closes in the Wet season and for much of the Dry can have wet stream crossings. Depending on when it was graded, it can be quite rough. A number of the cattle properties along its length have set up camp areas for travellers.

The route of the road follows the explorer Frank Hann’s 1898 route from the west, as far as where Mt Elizabeth now is. In 1901, the Brockman expedition came from the Wyndham end as far as Mt Elizabeth, then went north. They named the Pentecost and Durack Rivers.

From 1914, on, the pastoral settlement occurred and leases were taken up. Until the Beef Roads scheme of the 1960’s, the road was a rough track between Derby and Mt House, then it was improved for cattle trucks, and named the Gibb River Road, because it reached as far as the Gibb River. In the 1970’s, it was pushed through to the Wyndham end and also a road was formed north to the Kalumburu Mission.

It felt great to be on the Gibb again – finally! We drove this in ’93, from the other direction, and without a great deal of time to linger at its attractions.

It was a pity that it was so hazy from all the dry season burning in the region – it would affect the quality of my photos.

07-14-2000 02 Cockburn Range from GRR

The Cockburn Range from the Gibb River Road

There was quite a bit of traffic on the road, until we passed the turnoffs to Emma Gorge and El Questro – obviously, people go that far and no further, even day tripping from Kununurra.

We kept encountering a tour group in a 4WD – a nice group. We saw them at Wyndham yesterday, and at the Gibb River Road turnoff this morning. John had flagged him down, just out of Wyndham, to tell him that one of his back wheels was very wobbly – he said he’d had it checked and it was ok. The group members are paying $1600 each, for an 8 day trip from Darwin to Broome!

Almost 60kms along from the highway, we came to the main obstacle to travellers on the Gibb – the crossing of the Pentecost River. As one would expect, after a generous Wet season, it was quite wide. Our last time here, in ’93, it had been dry and there was a mustering camp in the river bed!

07-14-2000 04 approach to pentecost r.jpg

Approaching the Pentecost River crossing

This is one river crossing one does not walk to check depths first. There are very large saltie crocs live in the Pentecost – lots of them. It is also a place where I would never camp on the banks downstream from the crossing – though some do. El Questro is some distance upstream from here, by the river; we were camped there in ’93, in late June, when a good sized saltie was caught in the river pool below the main guest house.

We sat and watched some other vehicles do it – the route is clearly marked by rocks at the sides. It looked straightforward, although obviously a bit rocky, as vehicles crossing jiggled around a bit. It only looked to be about 45cms deep. We ploughed on through – yes, it was a bit rocky, but nothing major.

07-14-2000 07 crossing the Pentecost.jpg

Crossing the Pentecost River

07-14-2000 08 upstream view Pentecost ford.jpg

Looking upstream as we crossed the Pentecost

07-14-2000 06 downstream Pentecost R at crossing

The Pentecost River downstream of the crossing. Home Valley Station land on the far bank

We stopped on the far side, to photo the crossing and the view back the way we’d come. The outlook back to the Cockburn Range was superb.

There was water draining out of the underside of Truck as John sat waiting for me!

07-14-2000 09 through pentecost r.jpg

Looking back across the Pentecost to the Cockburn Range

After the crossing, the road climbed up a ridge and we stopped at the Cockburn lookout at the top, to look at the way we’d come. There was a vast panorama across the wide Pentecost valley, to the Cockburn Range behind. This section of the Gibb is undoubtedly really scenic.

07-14-2000 10 pentecost valley LHS.jpg

Pentecost River valley and Cockburn Range from Cockburn Lookout

A little further along the road, on a gentle corner, an oncoming rental 4WD that was going too fast, startled an eagle by the road side. it did not fly clear in time and was hit. It was horrible – feathers and pieces of eagle went everywhere. The bird was killed. It must have given the people a real fright, as it plastered across their windscreen. We certainly hoped so – it might have made them slow down after that. This incident highlighted what is actually the greatest hazard of the Gibb – other travellers going too fast. Overseas hirers of 4WD vehicles are the worst offenders.

After the Pentecost, the few stream crossings that we encountered were really just puddles, although the Bindoola Creek crossing was maybe 30cms deep, and edged with rock – presumably to keep travellers on a safe track through it, as there was a bit of a downstream drop off. The name of Bluey O’Malley’s crossing commemorates one of the pioneering drovers of the area.

07-14-2000 12 gibb nr bindoola ck.jpg

Gibb River Road just before Bindoola Creek

07-14-2000 13 Bindoola Ck ford.jpg

Bindoola Creek ford

We stopped by the road side just after Bindoola Creek, for lunch.

Then we continued on, to Jacks Waterhole, or Durack River Station.

The Sinnamon family held the Karunjie and Home Valley pastoral leases, until last year, when they sold to the Indigenous Land Corporation. In the 1970’s, when the Gibb River Road was realigned to pass close to the Durack River in one section, Sinnamon set up a tourist operation at a large waterhole on the river, calling it Durack River Station.

Although the buildings at Jacks Waterhole look like they were once a station homestead complex, there was never one here.

At the office/store structure, we booked in. It had a cement floor and corrugated iron walls – these had marks on which recorded the levels reached in the ’97 and 2000 Wet season floods – about a metre up the walls! Apparently, the ’97 flood was a bit higher, but came up and went down fast, whereas this year’s lasted longer. The German lady – half of the couple managing the camp area – said that it had not been fun to come back after the floods to clean out all the mud. I bet! The location might be a great one from a tourist viewpoint, but it is very prone to flooding.

The waterhole was a lovely place – a long, tree fringed pool of the Durack River.

07-14-2000 14 afternoon Durack River.jpg

Jacks Waterhole on the Durack River

We paid $14 a night to camp here – no power or formal sites, of course, but a newish corrugated iron amenity block with flush toilets and hot showers – if one wanted hot, in this weather!

We cruised around the tracks in the camping area – all quite informal – and found ourselves a lovely spot to camp. There was no shade, but rocky outcrops and wet season erosion channels ensured no one else would be able to set up near to anti-social us! We had a brilliant view down over the waterhole, and it was not too far to walk up to the amenity block, on a bit of a terrace above us.

It was early afternoon when we’d reached Jacks Waterhole, so we were able to take our time, setting up camp with the big tent. Hoped that the occasional cow grazing nearby would not come too close to the tent!

07-14-2000 15 camp jacks wh.jpg

Setting up camp at Jacks Waterhole – and watching the cow!

 

Then we sat and relaxed, looking out over the view. It was really peaceful and pleasant.

07-14-2000 16 camp and home jacks

Lilo almost inflated. The “homestead” buildings in the background

The 4WD tour group we’d been encountering, were camped here too, and its members were swimming in the waterhole. I was not sure that I’d trust it to be saltie free! The camp manager had said there were barramundi in there – I’ve always believed that where there are barra, there can also be salties!

There were few other campers when we arrived, but there was a steady stream of arrivals through the afternoon. We were later surprised that three lots came in after dark, including one 4WD, towing a popup Jayco camper – at 9pm! Travelling the GRR in the dark seems rather silly to me – missing all of the wonderful scenery. That late lot had much difficulty finding somewhere to set up, in the dark, and in the end gave up and parked on a track. They then seemed to have much difficulty getting the top of the camper to wind up – not really built for these roads!

Later in the afternoon, John radphoned sister H. When he’d finished, I checked in with the VKS Base at Alice Springs, to let them know our location and intentions.

Tea was curried leftover sausages, rice, followed by melon.

The evening was pleasantly cool. We needed the doona.

During the night, there were lots of curlew calls in the distance – nice.

07-14-2000 to jacks.JPG