This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels August 13

MONDAY 13 AUGUST     HOME VALLEY

After a fairly early breakfast, I drove with son to Kununurra. He wanted to go for a drive and we couldn’t explore the local property. He also needed to be able to check his emails for work related stuff.

M left Home Valley at the same time as we did. She was going ahead of us, by a day, to El Questro. She had lots she wanted to do there; John and I had previously stayed there and there were some parts we didn’t particularly want to see again. We were hoping she would be able to bag one of their riverside “private” camp spots for all of us, when we joined her tomorrow.

We stopped at the Pentecost, to take photos at the ford, of the vehicles crossing – which had to go back and forth in order to be photographed. It was a bit old hat to me, but a great new experience for the other two.

Pentecost River crossing, on the Gibb River Road

In Kununurra, I directed us to the caravan park, so I could check on the van, while son caught up on his emails. I got a gas bottle filled. And luxury – I bought a newspaper! Yes, the world was still out there!

We did a quick sightsee around town: the spillway, the old Ivanhoe Crossing, the zebra rock gallery and the Argyle diamond shop. It was a pity the lad didn’t have more time than just the one week off work.

As we set off out of town to go back, there was much black smoke coming from the caravan park direction. The area behind the caravan park, close to the van storage area, was on fire!

We went back, in a hurry.

The park staff said that some of the locals had started a fire in the long grass outside the park, but the van would be safe.

To be on the safer side, I went down there and removed the lock out of the Treg coupling, to make it a bit easier, in case the van did have to be moved.

We left when the Fire Brigade was there and things seemed to be under control.

Home Valley Station bush camping area (Zoom)

When we arrived back at camp, son went off to the ramp to fish some more. John and I did some preliminary packing up.

The evening around the camp fire seemed rather strange without M there.


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2007 Travels August 12

SUNDAY 12 AUGUST     HOME VALLEY

John worked on the brakes. M helped by trying to decipher the notes he’d made, from the laptop manual. He seemed to have fixed them and was very pleased with himself.

It looked like, our previous service centre, when they were supposed to have properly fixed the brakes in 2005, had used pins that were the wrong length, and bent them to fit. This was certainly the case in the brake on the other wheel, that was partly coming apart, so he presumed it was the same on the one that fell apart here. That one remaining pin was definitely a different configuration to the one supplied to us now. We’d had trouble with their brake work on a previous trip too. Landrovers were such great vehicles, but it was so hard to get work done properly on them in Melbourne.

Son fished while the brake work was going on. He only managed to catch catfish, which annoyed him no end.

After lunch, when the work was all done, we drove back up the Gibb, to Bindoola Lookout – partly to test the brake work, partly so son could see the outlook from there, to add to his mind-blowing Kimberley collection.

We stopped off at the Reception/bar area and bought ourselves a beer each. Again, this was to allow son to soak in the atmosphere of the place. He used our GoCall card account to phone his estranged wife, to check if all was well. I gathered that he had some concerns about how she was managing her life and the company the children were being exposed to.

We spent a couple of hours round the campfire, after tea. Another great night.

I was really enjoying sharing this special area with son.


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2007 Travels August 11

SATURDAY 11 AUGUST     HOME VALLEY

Another hot day.

We pottered about. Basically, the day was spent waiting for son to arrive. His flight was due in Darwin about 1am and it was his intention to collect his camper from the guy that ran their Darwin branch, who would wait up for him, then head off in this direction.

Pentecost River, looking downstream at low tide

In the morning, we went for a walk along a track that went away from the river, somewhere back in the general direction of the homestead. We said we’d walk for 30 minutes, then retrace our steps. Exercise!

Son – K – arrived a bit later than I’d expected – about 5pm. I was very relieved to see the camper with its attendant cloud of dust, making its way along the track to us. Mothers always worry!

And then there were four….

K had been awestruck by the scenery, from the Victoria River area, onwards. He couldn’t stop commenting on it.

When John had told him, on the phone, that there were big salties sunbaking near our camp, son had scoffed at him. As soon as he got out of his vehicle, there they were, just lying around on the mud. He was totally amazed.

He had also asked if the fishing was any good. He had only been here about 15 minutes, when a couple of aboriginals who had come down from the station area, to fish off the nearby concrete boat ramp, hauled in a really big barramundi. K’s eyes were out on stalks! They kindly let him hold it for a photo.

After that, son was determined to try his own luck. He and John fished for a while, but didn’t catch anything.

Son had brought the brake parts. It hadn’t been easy. The courier service had let them down and he’d ended up having to dash across to South Melbourne to pick them up. But the effort of the Landrover place, to get them to where he could collect them, after hours, was excellent.

K also brought beer with him – great! We had been on strict rations for some time now. And fresh food – bliss! He had put together quite a thoughtful selection in Kununurra, apart from the list I’d given him. He’d included cooked chickens and salads. So we had a real feast for tea, with fresh rockmelon. It made a very nice change from fish!

After tea, we sat round the campfire and talked. K had really wanted to stay somewhere we could have a campfire, so he was happy.

He was amazed by the number and brilliance of the stars, which made us look afresh at the skies. We had begun to take the nightly display for granted.


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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!


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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.