Dusty tracks and mud holes

Trip Start Dec 29, 2010
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Trip End Dec 05, 2011


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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 1 on the Gibb River Road, one of Australia's most iconic off road tracks. The road winds through the Kimberley for about 700 km but closer to 1,500 km when you account for the necessary detours. The roads are generally rough graded rocks or sand with plenty of river crossings, gorges and the odd mud hole, that joins Derby and Kununarra, two old cattle shipping ports.

We left Broome after a hearty breakfast and one last dash to the supermarket with our sights set on Bell Gorge and the Bell Gorge Wilderness lodge for our first night. A quick refuel at Derby reinforced a growing feeling that if we lived anywhere up here, in any of the towns, we would definitely be heading to Broome on a regular basis. The place was dusty and devoid of character but does provide for a key refuelling point so the petrol station was a literal traffic jam of dirty 4x4’s geared up to the nines.

The GRR really starts 5 km outside Derby where there is a handy sign board, a bit like a ski slope board, with red and green lights indicating which roads are open and which are closed. Bell Gorge was shut, as were many of the roads that run North off the GRR and lead to either gorges or working stations. So a change of plan for our sightseeing was required.

After much hype about how bad it would be we found driving on the GRR to be really pretty easy although there were some very "corrugated" sections. Given Bell Gorge was closed we stopped off at Windjana Gorge, about 23km south of the GRR. I had to back up about 500 metres having flown past the run off and having not been that convinced that we were going to both going to the gorge anyway. Glad however, that we did. Its one of the most famous and most spectacular of the gorges and full of crocs if we had walked just a little bit further.   The cliffs at the gorge are, in fact, an old reef, exposed now that the sea levels have dropped significantly, and Zach was delighted to spot a fossil in the rock of an ancient squid-like creature. Although not spectacular like the great ocean road or a drive through Monument Valley, the GRR really does pass through some pretty awesome landscape and a great day of driving.

We arrived bang on schedule at about 4.30, plenty of time to get the kids settled before dinner. I only had to drive in about 400 metres to the lodge, through a small mud hole. My lack of experience made itself more than apparent when I grounded our high clearance land cruiser almost immediately. Forward, reverse, all four wheels locked, low range, high range, what ever – pretty stuck fast. Time for a tow out and it was only our first day!  We were so close to the camp that they could hear – and more embarrassingly  - see us stuck in the mud hole, so were quickly on their way out with  another 4x4 to pull us out. So in a very undignified manner we ended our first day being dragged out backwards from a mud hole. But otherwise a pretty good day!

Next stop Mornington. Just around the corner really in Aussie terms at 200 km or so and a good few river crossings to get everyone excited. We had pre booked some nice safari style family tents here so the accommodation was good, if lacking in the interior styling and staff that you would associate with an African style safari tent. Again due to the incredible rain, Diamond gorge, one of the main gorges in the area was closed, so we headed to a great swimming hole on the Fitzroy River.  Thankfully when we got there, there was already a group in the water so I felt a bit happier that the “freshies” would have been scared away – do not worry, apparently at about 2 – 3 metres they are not really much of a threat to a human but can snap at you if disturbed and Benji might still be a bit of a nice bite size for them. The water was warm – if a little murky (great for the confidence) and there was a rope swing so we all had a great time and even had Ben in the water.

When it comes to bush toilets even men have to put the toilet seat down. If you fail to do this, the toilet bowl is rapidly populated by frogs! At one point we had 3 making themselves cosy in the toilet, a thought that Katherine did not find comforting, especially when one jumped out at her in the middle of the night. So much as with the Porta-Potty, the job of removing the wildlife from the toilet was immediately designated a dad job, a function I had to perform a number of times. Later we also learnt that not just somewhat unsightly in the toilet bowl but actually a little hazardous as no one likes a frog for tea more than a good sized snake, and while a frog or two in the toilet bowl might be a bit amusing, a snake at home in there is quite a different matter.

The next day was pretty relaxed. We started with an educational walk along the “termite trails”, a 1 km track through open grass lands and between hundreds of massive termite mounds with handy information panels dotted around which provided for the days schooling.  We drove on to Sir John gorge, a hot and rocky open gorge – slightly less impressive, but still set in amazing country. However, no one already in the water to scare away the crocs and lots of very slipping rocks plunging into deep water to we gave swimming a miss and let the boys jump around on the dry rocks instead.
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Comments

laterallife
laterallife on

Hiya Brad and Katherine - well reading this not only makes me feel proud of what we have achieved for you but also brings back all sorts of great memories. Loved the bit about you getting stuck!! fabulous photos!! Very well done and having seen the size of your vehicle i now know why you were so stressed!! Mine was a land cruiser but had a huge extended roof with a double bed in the roof area!! Cheers Nick

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