This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2000 Travels August 10

THURSDAY 10 AUGUST  KING EDWARD RIVER TO BARNETT RIVER GORGE  267kms

I woke to spatter sounds on the roof of the tent – heavy dew? Light rain?

There was misty cloud about and morning mist over the river, which was a different scene  again. The sun behind the mist created some interesting light effects. All yet another type of mood for this beautiful area.

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Morning mist over the King Edward River

We were up at 6am and packed and away at 7.45am.

Churned our way back through the river ford and were soon back on the main Kalumburu road, heading south, then the Gibb River road, heading west. The road was variable, from good to very corrugated, with some bull dust patches and places where rocks outcropped from the road. There were several water crossings but nothing that was any issue.

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King Edward River ford – can be a bit tricky

We did not see much private traffic on the road, but did see several safari tour buses.

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Back on the Gibb River Road

After straightforward travel ,we reached the turnoff to Barnett River Gorge at lunchtime. We followed the track, which seemed to divide a few times. It was not really clear where the camp area was – I thought it was a pretty informal camp place. We found a secluded spot beside a little creek, edged with pandanus and cadjeput. There were lots of mozzies, though. It was a pretty spot and John liked it.

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Camp spot at the Barnett River Gorge area

We did the basic set up, then drove further along what appeared to be the main track, for about 3kms. The track ended in what did look like a place for camping – but not as nice as where we were.

We parked there, then walked upstream, across stony country between loops of the river, following a track marked by varied and creative rock cairns. That took us to the gorge rim. We followed along that for a way, then the track took us down into the gorge.

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Cairns marked the route to the Gorge

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The Barnett River down in its gorge

It was a lovely gorge, with red rock walls. It was quite wide, so there was enough light for a variety of vegetation to grow. There were pools and rapids.

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Down in the Barnett River Gorge

After exploring we had a swim/wash in a pool – extremely pleasant!

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Great place for a swim

This is a little off the main tourist itinerary so there were fewer people about.

It was about 4pm when we headed back. Even the walk back was enjoyable, though we did have to climb up onto the gorge rim again. We then drove back to our camp.

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Kimberley Rose by the walk track

Tea was mushroom and garlic pasta, followed by tinned fruit.

There had been some build up of cloud through the day and thus there was a really deep red sunset. There was a ring around the moon tonight – I was not sure of the significance of this, in these parts though.

There were lots of birds around our camp area. We heard a pheasant coucal call.

Today had been out wedding anniversary – great to be spending it in the Kimberley!


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Crossing the Pentecost River

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Looking upstream as we crossed the Pentecost

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Gibb River Road just before Bindoola Creek

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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2000 Travels June 30

FRIDAY 30 JUNE     KUNUNURRA

Woke to a day with some cloud about. We even wondered if it might rain, but it didn’t, and the cloud cleared a bit, later.

The Olympic Torch Relay was coming to town this morning, so we joined the throng going out to the airport, to see its brief stop there. The airport was the only place in town it would be.

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There were many small planes and helicopters bringing people in from outlying areas. There were quite a few small buses – mostly Coasters – from local aboriginal communities in the car park, too.

It seemed to us like rather laid-back event organizing, but it did all come together.

The local fruit and produce growers put on a display stand, complete with some agricultural machinery. We scored some free melons, afterwards! They took around some cut up melon for people to eat, too, in the lead-up to the Torch arrival. A nice touch.

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Display of produce and machinery by local producers

Premier Court of WA was there. There was a small media contingent, and AMP representatives – they were sponsors.

The Torch arrived by Air North commuter jet plane, from Darwin. There were several local Torch-bearers organized to carry it on a little procession, and they had escorts – guess that involved more people. One of the bearers was an old aboriginal lady, with very bad legs, in a wheelchair. A couple of the escorts were from Halls Creek.

Slingair flew in school children from all over the Kimberley – even from Kalumburu.

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People arriving by helicopter for the Olympic Torch Relay visit

We saw the Torch go by, amidst the crowd. Later, John touched the Torch holder that one of the escort runners had.

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The Olympic Torch

We watched the flame-carrying plane depart for its next whistle-stop, but few other people waited round, so the mass exodus happened before we left.

We went back to town, and put the wheel with the bad tyre in for changing – before the coming GST applies!

I put in two more films for processing. We had to do some banking. Refuelled Truck – 96cpl.

Went to the Tourist Information Centre, which is a modern, slick operation, here. Found out that the track to Mitchell Falls is open now. Bought the annual notes on the Gibb River Road and surrounds, produced by the Derby Tourist Bureau. A staff person phoned Mt House Station and found out for us that the Tablelands Track is too wet to use, at the moment. We remain hopeful that, by the time we are looking to go that way, it might be passable. That is the reason we plan to leave the van stored and take to the tent for our trip into those parts – would not be any hope of taking the van on the Tablelands Track.

I picked up my photos and was pleased with them.

I paid for another five nights at the caravan park. The price had risen – because it is July and the onset of GST – to $19.80 a night, after discount.

John went back to the tyre place and collected the wheel with the new tyre on it. The man there did not make any adverse comments about the suitability of our Dunlop tyres for these parts. Since he had what we needed in stock, there must be some demand for others for them, up here.

Tea was savoury mince and bread.

There was a lovely sunset. It was a bit cooler at night.

Today was the last day GST-free! The media was full of GST talk and speculation and dire predictions about its likely impacts.