This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels August 24


Managed a reasonably early start, having been able to stay hitched up.

Refuelled – $1.44cpl.

Fitzroy River from bridge at Fitzroy Crossing. Caravan Park on right

Checked out the free camp area at Ellendale as we passed, but of course M was long gone – although we did wonder if her plans had worked out as intended, and she had even been there. Won’t know till we get to Broome…..

Today’s drive was less interesting than that of yesterday – no dramatic scenery of distant and near ranges.

The only points to note, amid the dry and dusty grass and scrubland, were the crossings of the impressive Fitzroy River – at Fitzroy Crossing and again at Willare Bridge, closer to Broome.

Fitzroy River from Willare Bridge

At this time of year, the river was a small flow in the huge river bed. It was hard to believe how high and raging it could become in flood times. In 1993, I’d bought a postcard of the caravan park where we’d stayed last night – with only the elevated amenity block showing amid the floodwaters from the river.

The Willare Bridge was one of the long, single lane bridges that feature in this part of WA. Again, it was hard to credit that, at times, Highway 1 could be closed here by the river in flood.

Willare Bridge (Google)

We reached the Palm Grove Caravan Park, at Cable Beach, Broome, about midday.

M was already there, of course. From her overnight stop at Ellendale, she’d had a good head start on us. She had found Old Halls Creek and its surrounding area, interesting, and worth the visit. But she had driven out to explore some of the area and at Caroline Pool had felt quite intimidated by a group of locals who told her white fellas weren’t welcome there. She didn’t stay round to argue the point.

The caravan park sites were on the small side, gravelled, but adequate. The amenities were reasonably modern, and clean. It was not the most upmarket park we’d stayed in, by any means, and really didn’t justify the $255 we paid for the mandated week’s stay. But, hey, that’s Broome.

M’s site was across the access road from ours, so at least that was convenient.

We heard that two of the Cable Beach caravan parks, including this one, had been sold, to be turned into resort units. That would put the squeeze on caravanners to Broome, even more. It was really hard to find a vacancy in a caravan park here, in the winter months. The overflow area used at this time of the year, at a gun club, was even hard to get into. It is one of those areas that poses real dilemmas for accommodation providers: in the winter months, a few more caravan parks could be easily filled, but for the rest of the year there would be insufficient patronage to be viable.

We set up, then went to the Information Centre in town, to see what we could suss out.

When I say, in town, it is because Cable Beach and the main Broome town were separated by a few kms  of scrub and industrial land. The original town of Broome, and the modern one that has grown up around it, is located on a peninsula that juts into Roebuck Bay. The much more recent development of Cable Beach is located on the other side of this peninsula, facing out into the Indian Ocean.

Broome and Cable Beach (Google)

We drove around the town, looking at the changes since we were last here in 2000. There had been a lot of development and building since then. Broome seemed to be really booming – we thought this might be due to the offshore oil and gas developments. Even Cable Beach seemed to be growing rapidly – and not only tourist resort development, but housing as well.

For our Friday fish and chip dinner, we walked from the caravan park, a few hundred metres, to a van parked overlooking Cable Beach, which did a roaring trade in take away food. The prices were reasonable, the food excellent. It was very pleasant, sitting looking out over the ocean, eating our dinner. Great to be by the sea again!

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2007 Travels August 23


We were away at 7.40am, for what we knew would be a long day of driving.

Rest area at the junction of Highway 1 and the road to Wyndham (Google)

It was, of course, going over the same stretch of road that we had driven a few weeks ago, last year, and a couple of times before that.  But the first part was very scenic, so it was not boring at all.

This time, there was diesel at Halls Creek! We refuelled – $1.45cpl.

We had intended to meet up with M again at the Ellendale free camp area, some 90kms beyond Fitzroy Crossing. But we had both had enough by the time we reached Fitzroy Crossing, so called in to the caravan park there, to see what was available.

They offered us a powered site in an ad hoc section away from their main caravan area. It was shady and reasonably pleasant. They were setting up to host some sort of large safari or rally, tomorrow, and so had been clearing out most of their powered sites for that. We paid $27 for the night.

Caravan park by the wide, sandy bed of the Fitzroy River. We were amid the trees on the upper RHS. (Google)

Just did a basic overnight set up. Because of where we were, we were able to stay hooked up, too.

In the cool of the late afternoon, wandered around the park – quite a pleasant way to stretch the legs after the long driving day.

A beautifully presented bower

Enjoyed a long shower in their good amenity block. Definitely better than the free camp would have been! We slept very well after the tiring day.

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2007 Travels July 12


The time at Fitzroy Crossing did not improve any.

Took my morning mug of coffee, intending to sit in my camp chair with it and watch the departing campers. As I sat down, the seam on the canvas seat split and I dropped right down into the metal framework of the chair. It hurt like hell and I was quite bruised. And I spilt my coffee!

The chair was 14 years old, and had been much used and  exposed to the elements over its lifetime, so I probably should not have been too surprised. Better me than John – an accident like that could really cause him some hip damage.

Morning at Fitzroy Crossing camp

It was 10am before we departed camp. John had to go and refill the spare fuel jerry can, which meant a big repack of back of Truck.

From Fitzroy Crossing, drove 43kms west on the highway, then took the Fairfield-Leopold Downs Road – unsealed – for 124kms, to link us through to the Gibb River Road. This road was quite corrugated and rocky in parts and was fairly slow going.

We did not stop at either of the National Parks along this road – Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge. John and I had camped at Windjana Gorge in ’93 and explored both. M had visited them on her previous only trip to these parts – a short tour from Broome, undertaken on a tour package with her mother, a few years back.

Today’s was a very scenic drive. This western end of the Kimberley is all former Devonian Reef ranges – quite rugged.

Australian Bustard seen along the way

After we turned onto the Gibb River Road and headed east, these ranges were in front of us. It didn’t take long before we passed through the first of several gaps in the ranges – Yammera Gap, with its big rock formation on one side, very aptly named Queen Victoria’s Head.

Approaching Yammera Gap

A couple of the steeper sections through the ranges, like Inglis Gap,  were sealed. There were some good outlooks from some of these, over the wild country ahead.

Through this section, there were several pleasant creeks and we noticed people setting up camps by some of these – even where they were clearly signed “No Camping”.

There was regular traffic along the Gibb. Too much of it was travelling too fast. 4WD’s towing camper trailers seemed to be the worst – even more so than the dreaded overseas drivers of hired 4WD campers. They pass oncoming traffic at great speed, with no thought about the stones and rocks they throw up at others.

At one point, we had slowed right down to go through a small creek ford in a little gully. A 4WD with trailer came up behind and sailed past us – didn’t slow down at all for the creek. I swear his camper trailer got airborne! These are the travellers who later complain about poor quality roads wrecking their vehicles and tyres – we have seen and heard it all before.

It seems to be an unfortunate fact that, these days, any area/road that is designated “remote” ” an adventure” ” challenging” brings out the most moronic of the idiot drivers – a scary number of them. I don’t give a damn if they spoil their own rigs, and holiday plans, but object mightily when their stupidity affects the sensible minority.

Some 95kms along the Gibb, we parted company with M for a couple of days. She took the side road to Silent Grove and Bell Gorge and planned to catch up with us later, at Mornington. John and I had previously camped at Bell Gorge and it was now one of several places along the Gibb that was very popular, and hence often crowded.

Only a few kms after the Bell Gorge turn off, was the Imintji Store. This had not been here the last time we were at this end of the Gibb, and was linked to the nearby little community of the same name.

We’ already done 300kms since filling last at Fitzroy Crossing, so refuelled here – $1.85cpl. Bought an icy pole for John and a cold drink for me. Chatted a bit with the very nice lady behind the counter – she and her husband had been contracted to run the place for this season, on behalf of the community.

Another 25kms brought us to the turnoff we wanted, to the south east. A hundred metres or so down this road (which also went to Mt House Station), was a roofed shelter, housing a two way radio. All prospective visitors had to use this to call the Wilderness Camp, some 90kms distant, to see if there was a vacancy in the campground . This was very sensible of them – it was a long way to go, only to find one was turned away! There was no other legal camping until back on the Gibb. As they strictly limited the number of campers at any one time, to 25 vehicles/50 campers, there was a very real chance of the campground being full.

We were fine, there was room, and we proceeded southwards, on a route that was new to us.

The track was quite reasonable. It took us an hour and a half to do the 90kms. The scenery was really wonderful, particularly when we were running alongside a group of flat topped, mesa like peaks.

There were a number of dry creek channels to be crossed, and occasional ones with a little water in. For the most part, these had been smoothed out by the road grader.

Passed the turnoff to Mt House Station – a cattle operation that did not welcome visitors.

Navigating from a map with a scale of 10km to the cm definitely involved a degree of guess work, given the myriad of station tracks, not marked on the map. I thought I’d identified the turn offs to Moll Gorge and then the Tablelands Track. The latter, in particular, gave me some angst because, if I was wrong, we could have veered right when we should have gone left!

So, I was quite relieved, shortly after, to recognize the site of the old Glenroy Meatworks. We were still on track. This had been the focal point of the Air Beef Scheme, set up after WW2. Cattle from quite a wide radius were brought into the abattoirs/meatworks at Glenroy Station, slaughtered, and the carcasses flown, soon after, to Wyndham, where they were frozen for shipping onwards. So there had been a large airstrip at Glenroy. The making of the Gibb River Road, in the mid-60’s, provided the alternative to cattlemen, of road transport of stock to markets, and so the Air Beef Scheme closed down.

For the final few kms, were winding back and forth across stream tributaries of the Adcock River, an upper tributary of the Fitzroy River. Annie Creek, beside which Mornington Wilderness Camp is located, is one such tributary.

Drove through the campground area and found the main building a bit further on.  There, we booked in for five nights. Sites were $30 a night – no power, of course. Had to pay a $20 entry fee to the property, too.

There were really good, thick, woollen beanies for sale, with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy monogram on. I bought one – $20 – thinking it might help keep my head warm at night, when trying to sleep.

It hadn’t been hard to spend $190 here, in just a few minutes!

We then had to drive back to the camping area, which was strung out along the creek, and pick out our own site from amongst the empty ones. Sites were mostly just clearings in the bush, some of them off an access track that ran parallel to the road in.  Probably about half the sites were occupied – the very best of the secluded, shadiest ones, at the northern end, were taken, but we found a good place to set up in the more southern section.

The Wilderness Camp was within the Mornington Sanctuary – a former pastoral lease owned since 2001 by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. This private conservation group was doing great work on a variety of environmentally significant properties across Australia, underpinning their conservation efforts with really thorough scientific research.

I didn’t mind paying these sorts of fees when any profits went to support the work of such a group.

When we had been travelling in the Kimberley in 2000, I had planned for us to stay at Mornington, where the then station owner had set up a campground, like others that were springing up across the region, in response to growing traveller numbers. The remoteness of the place – being off the usual traveller route – had appealed to me. From there, we were going to try to drive the Tableland Track, back eastwards, to the Bungles area. But the fates intervened and that part of the planned Gibb River Road trek didn’t happen. When I read, the following year, that AWC had bought Mornington, I was sure the chance to explore that area was gone. But, the organization decided to keep a camp operation going – and here we were.

The campground amenities were very good, with flush toilets and warm showers.

There was also some safari tent accommodation in a different section further along the creek. There is only one commercial tour group allowed to access the property – Outback Spirit, and their tours use the safari tents. I believe that policy reflects a positive view about the environmental credentials of Outback Spirit. When we had worked at Adels Grove, that company had brought tour groups through; I always found them the best groups to deal with.

So, with limited numbers, the place never feels over run by people – unlike some places along the Gibb.

It was getting dark by the time we were fully set up. John found a small piece of board in Truck, that he normally used for packing between things. He was able to place that across the framework on my broken camp chair. With the addition of an old cushion – also used for packing – this would do me for the time being. The actual framework of the seat was quite sound, it was just the canvas seat that had weakened. We inspected John’s chair but the canvas showed no signs of tearing. However, he will be very careful when sitting down, to lower himself very gradually. I also had the option of using a little folding stool that occasionally saw use when John was fishing.

John also found that one of the front tyres was going flat – a slow leak.

We’d parked Truck in a way that would ensure there was still room for M’s rig, in case any other campers decided to set up in our little clearing.

It felt rather strange not to have M around camp.


2007 Travels July 11


It took us a couple of hours to pack up. That’s the down side of tent camping.

The trip out to the highway was fine. The access road to the Bungles had a reputation for often being really corrugated, but not this time. Perhaps the rains had smoothed it right out? More likely, there had not yet been enough traffic on it, since it was graded at the start of the tourist season.

The Fletcher Creek crossing – which I had been quietly dreading – still had plenty of water in it, although the level had dropped considerably since a week ago. It was still enough to be a deterrent to some travellers.

The crossing was still too damned rough! A man on the highway side as we crossed, took some photos of us. We talked with him after we got through safely, and he said he would email me copies of the photos of Truck doing the crossing. (He never did).

I took photos of M driving across.

Then it wasn’t far to the highway and the 120kms or so to Halls Creek and diesel. In planning what we did in the Bungles, we had been aware of the need to conserve fuel, within reason. The thinking went like – it was about 160 kms between Turkey Creek, where we’d topped up the tank, and Halls Creek, where we would refuel. The access road, in and out, added about 120kms to that. Although we’d never tested it out, the range of a tank of fuel should have been around 550-600kms. So we had two or three hundred kms of driving in the Park to play with. It hadn’t been hard to accumulate those – a return trip from camp to Piccaninny Creek was 64kms – and we’d done three of those, for starters. Still, as it worked out, John thought we had enough diesel left to get comfortably to Halls Creek, without having to top up the tank with the jerry can.

The best laid plans……..

There was no diesel to be had in Halls Creek! They’d had a lot of multi-vehicle tag-a-long tours come through and the fuel tanker was running late, by a day or two. They “thought” he might be in tomorrow…….or the next day. Now, Halls Creek was not a place we wanted to stay, although it was not as bad there as it used to be. There were a number of very disgruntled travellers already staying there, waiting for fuel.

Also, did not much like the idea of filling up from a freshly filled servo supply that had been depleted – that was the way to finish up with gunk in the fuel.

So, we decided to try to make the 290kms to Fitzroy Crossing. John emptied our 24 litre jerry can into the tank. Whilst he was doing that, I bought a few necessary groceries.

Our plan of attack was that, if we did run out of fuel, M would take the empty jerry can and fetch us some from Fitzroy Crossing. She had no worries – with her dual tanks, she had plenty of fuel herself – but we had no way to access any of hers. It was a bit of a gamble, but John thought we could make it. If not, and we ended up with issues like having to bleed fuel lines, so be it.

I tried to phone the caravan park at Fitzroy Crossing to book sites, to make sure we would not get caught out there – but they didn’t do bookings! This day was rapidly going downhill….

We drove at a more economical speed than usual – about 85kmh. That made for a very long seeming 290kms.

We did seem to be a bit jinxed on this section of highway – in 2000, we “did” a wheel bearing on Truck, along there.

After a rather tense drive, we reached Fitzroy Crossing about 4pm. Immediately refuelled, at the Lodge. The gauge read empty, the odometer read 882kms, and the tank took 72 litres. It was supposed to hold 75 litres, so we’d  been just about running on fumes, I reckon.

The diesel cost $1.44cpl.

Of course, there were no powered sites left at the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge Caravan Park. They charged us $22 for an unpowered site. I really disliked the attitude of the Reception staff – they made it very clear that campers were low on their customer priority order. A pity, because otherwise it is a very nice park – well grassed on the powered sites, with modern amenities, and well set out.

However, the unpowered section that was our lot, was rather unshaded, dry and dusty.

We had planned to treat ourselves to a meal “out” at the Lodge’s motel restaurant, but after the unwelcoming attitude encountered, decided to keep our money and spend it somewhere else, later. M and John did walk up there and bought a bottle of wine, each, though – a treat.

I had just a cup-of-soup for dinner, John had an instant noodle dinner, left over from his hike food. Low cuisine to go with the wine!

It was a bit annoying having to put the tent up for just one night, but the motel units here were too expensive for us to contemplate a night in one of those.

The showers were wonderful! Hair wash was much needed…..

Phoned son. No change on that front – he still miserable.

It was another very cold night. So much for my hopes that being a bit closer to the coast would have a warming effect.

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2006 Travels September 14


We left Kununurra at 6.15 am. The early start was helped by the fact that our systems were still on NT time!

Resize of 09-14-2006 Jabiru

Jabiru flying. Lots of sky, but I’d never sen one in flight before

Refuelled at Halls Creek – $1.65cpl; and at Fitzroy Crossing Lodge – $1.65cpl.

It was about 2.10pm when we reached Fitzroy Crossing, not long after we had stopped at the Mary River rest and camping area for lunch.

We were both ready to stop then, rather than make the next long stage to Broome.  Decided that the company had dicked us around for the past few weeks, so we were not going to kill ourselves getting to the site. We would do reasonable stages, and have some rest, each day.

The countryside between Kununurra and Fitzroy Crossing was seriously superb. As far almost as Halls Creek, it was very hilly and dramatic and stark. It evened out a bit after that, but still had mesas, plateaus and hills in the distance, to keep it interesting.

Resize of 7-7-1993 highway 1 north of warmun

Country around Warmun

We noted several very good free camping areas – with toilets.

There was a new bridge over the Ord River crossing, but were still lots of single vehicle width bridges, with no sides, just low cement edging. I had forgotten about those!

Went into Fitzroy River Lodge – $25.

This was a park where caravanners seemed secondary to the main accommodation business of the hotel and motel sections. They said we could select our own site. There might or might not be a drive-through site left. If we wanted to use two ordinary sites so that we could stay hitched up, we could pay double! We found a drive through one – they were not all that busy.

Guests were allowed to use the motel pool, so we had a long and beautiful swim in that.

Just after dark, it was really pleasant to walk around the park. The lights from the rigs were really pretty. The cooking smells were nice too! It was balmy and warm.

Resize of 6-17-1993 Fitzroy River from new bridge

Fitzroy River at Fitzroy Crossing

I put a bit more effort into tea tonight.

We had noticed that the van wheels, especially on the left side, were feeling quite hot in the afternoons. They seemed better in the mornings. It was a concern, because we were not doing much braking to explain the heat!

M phoned, from Marla. She had detoured into Chambers Pillar on the way south and camped a couple of nights there – loved the place. She was timing her return south to reach our home in time to take over from the outgoing house sitters. She was quite happy to have a place to stay that wasn’t with her mother, for as long as needed. I gave her a free hand in dealing with the garden – pruning, tidying up and so on, as much as she wanted. Being the keen gardener that she was, I imagined the place would soon look better than it did when we were home.

Resize of 09-14-2006 to fc

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2000 Travels August 17


We managed to depart camp before 9am.

Drove back into Halls Creek, where we refuelled, for $1.13cpl.

Then turned west again on the highway.

The scenery was less spectacular between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, but there was still enough variety to be interesting.

In these days of easy travel through the Kimberley, one forgets that the highway was only sealed, between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, in 1986. That was only seven years before we came up this way in 1993. The last frontier….

About an hour out of Halls Creek, we began to notice a strange noise coming from the area of the back left wheel, like a stone caught somewhere in there. It would go away for a while, then come back. John tried stopping and reversing, as one does to try to get rid of a stone, and that seemed to stop it for a while. We stopped several times to check it.

When I looked out my side as we were going along, I thought the wheel might have been wobbling a little, but I wasn’t sure. John was becoming increasingly terse, so I didn’t pursue that line.

We stopped for morning tea at an area of really spectacular cliffs and jump up hills. There were some dramatic hills in the distance too.

The need to get to Karratha was curtailing our ability to slow down and explore some of these interesting parts, but there was always next year.

The noise became worse after we started up again. John wondered if we had a broken axle, but I remembered that, when we broke the axle on the Hilux, in 1993, it didn’t move at all.

He slowed right down and we crawled along. I pointed out the wobbly wheel, which was much worse by now, and John agreed that it really was going from side to side!

The last 100 or so kms to Fitzroy Crossing took us ages, and seemed a really long way.

We talked about possible scenarios. It seemed most unlikely that repairs could be done in Fitzroy Crossing, given what we remembered of the place, from ’93. A tow truck trip to Broome for Truck seemed probable – and I resigned myself to an extended stay at Fitzroy Crossing, with van and no vehicle.

We reached the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge, with its very pleasant campground, and went into the motel reception to book in. The site cost $20.90. John explained our predicament and asked whether – if we had to stay longer here – their weekly rate could be retrospective. The lady was not helpful, and said weekly rates had to be paid up front. We were not prepared to do that until we knew what might happen. That is twice we have stayed here, now, and both times we have felt that the campground patrons are not a staff priority, but the second class citizens.

08-17-2000 camp fitzroy crossing.jpg

At Fitzroy Crossing – we look normal enough, but……

John phoned Landrover Assist and they said to leave it to them to find a solution. Shortly after, while we were setting up camp, a tow truck driver called John. He said he would come from Broome and take Truck and van back there.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that he would take the van too. I really was not looking forward to a solo stay at Fitzroy Crossing.

John said the driver sounded pleased to have the job – a nice long one. He was very obliging – would drive out to here, camp overnight, and hitch us up early in the morning.

I did not envy him a night time drive with the wildlife that is around at night. Guess he got paid extra for being out overnight, though.

We were very impressed with the service from Landrover Assist – one phone call on our part, and all was organized for us. We do not even have to pay for the tow.

Tea was a packet macaroni cheese.

After tea, I walked down to the Fitzroy River which borders the very extensive grounds. It had quite a lot of water in. But it was still hard to envisage the floods that regularly inundate the camp ground where we are.

The sunset was brilliant.

It was a good night to be early to bed! So much tension today. What ever time that repairs take is going to eat into our time available for looking around this northern part of WA. Damn!

08-17-2000 to fc.JPG