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Kimberley and NT News: Wet season update, free video documentary, and a mixed bag of news and reader
March 09, 2018
9 March 2018, Issue #063
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In this issue:
Before we get to today's newsletter topics I need to quickly address something:
In the last weeks and months I have come across more and more instances where people copy and paste long passages from this newsletter, post them in public forums and on Facebook, without any mention where the information comes from.
You are welcome to share these newsletters AS A WHOLE, and in the last issue I explained several ways you can do so.
But once you start taking parts of it and distributing them like that, you are violating copyright laws.
You can copy parts of a newsletter and share them online, but you MUST say where the information comes from, including a link to the original.
(You can find those links here. Just bookmark the page.)
Wet Season Update
So what has been happening since you last heard from me?
Well, it has continued to rain. It's only March after all.
Broome had another big rain on the 28th, just in time to also break the all time February rain record. (As I reported, they had already broken January's.)
Overall the water has been going down though.
Mind you, down doesn't mean away. There is still a lot of water on the highway (gorgeous drone pictures) and there is still a lot of work to do to patch up all the damage that was done to the roads.
The same is true for the Top End, where there is still water over several main roads, including the Arnhem Highway, which was closed for almost two weeks.
By contrast, in the East Kimberley the wet season so far has been a normal one, with average, in southern parts even lower than average rains. For now there is no reason to expect anything over there to open late.
How long the West Kimberley and the coastal areas will take to dry out is a bit hard to predict at this stage.
Andrew has been up to the King Gorge River and Falls and sent me some pictures:
The clouds you see aren't clouds or fog but the spray drift from the falls filling the whole bay!
For comparison, this is what the King George Falls usually look like:
On other parts of the river waterfalls are thundering where usually no waterfalls exist:
In Andrew's words:
"The Kimberley has more water running than anyone can remember. Great here in the wet. Lots of water and no tourists."
I also don't want you to miss out on the most viral video from this wet season.
It was taken at Anna Plains just north of Sandfire Roadhouse. 300km south of Broome, about 20-30km inland.
(By the way, Tyson was parked on the shoulder of the road, there was enough room left for two road trains passing each other.)
Today it looks nothing like that any more. The water level has fallen a fair bit.
We can't say yet if this was it, there could be more to come.
But at least for now no big tropical low or potential cyclone is imminent.
Outstanding Free Kimberley / Gibb River Road Video Documentary
In the last newsletter issue I highlighted this lovely trip report from Valerie.
It described an early season trip by someone who had never done any 4WDing before and prefers to stay in accommodation rather than camping.
What I have for you today is the exact opposite in every respect:
A 2017 peak season trip report by a very experienced 4WDriver who, just like me, prefers the remoter tracks, the quieter bush campsites, and is always on a mission to get away from people.
A reader put me onto the fantastic video series by Gavin Gillet.
Gavin combines dash cam and drone footage with great commentary and helpful tips regarding 4WDriving in the region.
The video quality is exceptional, the material is edited and cut expertly, yet the series has none of the commercial brochure feel that you get from the usual promotional videos from the region.
Rather it gives you a very authentic look at what you can expect during a visit to our part of the world.
A must watch if there's ever been one.
I totally fell in love with Gavin's work and hope so will you.
Here are all nine of Gavin's Kimberley Videos.
Mixed Bag of News
Cane Toads at Imintji, Mitchell Plateau and Kalumburu
This is the downside of the wet season, especially a good wet season: the cane toad front advances its march across the Kimberley.
A moving cane toad front is lead by particularly large toads, nick named "soldier toads", that are able to intrude into and colonise new territory, ahead of the main population front.
In the last weeks dozens of these soldier toads have been caught around Imintji community.
(Imintji is on the Gibb River Road, near Bell Gorge, about 200km east of Derby.)
Soldier toads have also been reported on the Mitchell Plateau near Kandiwal community and at Kalumburu.
For many years we have known that nothing will be able to stop the toads. Yet still it is always sad to hear about them reaching another iconic destination.
Naturally the residents of those communities are very concerned about what will happen to the wildlife in the area, especially the goannas, not least because those are still an important bush food source for local people.
It is what it is. The toads are there now and will make themselves at home at all of the waterholes in the Leopold Ranges and on the Mitchell Plateau.
Beware of Saltwater Crocodiles
Not only the cane toads move in a big wet season but so do saltwater crocodiles.
During and after a big wet season you can find them in many unusual places where they do not usually hang out.
Recent saltwater crocodile sightings have occurred near beaches in Broome and Darwin and one was trapped and removed from Lake Kununurra for example.
While it's still warm, crocodiles are still active and aggressive, and with large parts of the region still under water they are still moving around a lot.
If you are travelling in the next couple of months, please be particularly careful.
A heads up for people who are able to be in Kalumburu around mid-August:
On August 15 a traditional Corroboree will be held at Kalumburu Mission.
I want to emphasize that this is a traditional Corroboree. It is NOT a show that's put on for tourists. It is held for the benefit of the local indigenous people. And that is something you do not often get a chance to see, if at all.
So if you have the opportunity, don't miss it!
The Corroboree starts around 5pm in the park outside the mission, beforehand will be a mass celebrating the feast of the assumption and a free dinner put on by the missionaries.
Tourists are welcome, the event is free, bring your camping chairs and drinks, NO ALCOHOL!
Gibb River Road Bike Challenge
A heads up for people travelling on the Gibb between the 13th and 17th of May:
Those are the dates for the yearly Gibb River Road Bike Challenge.
What that means is that a huge number of mountain bikes plus support vehicles will be travelling along the road from Derby to Kununurra and piling into the campgrounds at night.
You can view it as a fun spectacle you'd like to watch or a nuisance you'd like to avoid.
Either way, here are the dates:
Sun 13th: Start from Derby, overnight at Imintji.
Mon 14th: Imintji to Mount Elizabeth.
Tue 15th: Mount Elizabeth to Ellenbrae
Wed 16th: Ellenbrae to Home Valley Station
Thu 17th: Home Valley Station to finish at El Questro
For more details of when the bikes are expected to pass where, see this document.
Reader Feedback Regarding Driving On Unsealed Roads
John and Kay wrote in with their concerns about irresponsible drivers on unsealed roads:
We found Destination Kimberleyyour book very helpful and extremely informative for our trip to the Kimberly and Pilbara last year. We allowed seven weeks in the area and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.
One thing we could not get our heads around was how people, including tour operators, drove on the unsealed roads.
I virtually learnt to drive on unsealed roads. I was taught there were two driving methods to tackle them. One was to take it easy and the other was to drive like a bat out of hell and hopefully skip across the top of the corrugations.
It was pointed out that each wheel on a vehicle only covers the area of a hand print on the road and on trying to skip across the corrugations that hand print shrinks by more than half. I was also taught when driving at speed, it was impossible to see changes in the road surface.
We were astounded by the risks and lack of respect to other drivers, let alone damage to their own or hired vehicle, as to how most people tackled the dirt roads. Many of the overseas tourists have probably not seen a dirt road let alone driven on one.
Below are examples of thoughtless and reckless driving we experienced. Unfortunately it included the drivers of some tour operators.
Birgit we don’t know if you have access to the various hire companies and tour operators, but it would be handy to have them give a flyer to each driver on how they should drive and how to show respect to others on the unsealed roads.
The information could help save someone’s life.
Keep up the good work.
John & Kay Bills
Thank you, John and Kay, you raise very good points.
I like to think that my readers do take my own warnings to heart and all drive very responsibly. After all, I go on and on and on about this in my guides books, as does Monica in hers.
I don't have access to the tour operators or hire companies (I have forwarded your concerns to the guys I work with) but I have access to a huge base of newsletter subscribers, so there you go.
Terry is also concerned about tourists in hired four wheel drives:
My concern is about hire 4wd. The concern is about the choice between automatic and manual.
My strongest possible recommendation for tourists who HAVE NOT driven IN SIMILAR RUGGED CONDITIONS as you may find in the Kimberley is that they only be supplied with manual cars.
I have noticed on my many journeys throughout the Kimberley that the vast majority of roll-overs and crashes are in automatics. There is only one way to slow down in an auto... the brake. Applied badly (on a curving, rocky, gravelly Gibb River Road) and you have a disaster.
A manual car gives an additional control over speed and slowing down is by gear first, then by brake. Automatics are like guided missiles. You don't have to actually DRIVE them. Too many first timers learn the very hard way that driving is not just sitting in the drivers seat.
Interesting topic that I never thought about.
As above, as long as you take my advice on board and don't speed in the first place but always drive to the conditions, you will be fine in any vehicle.
But I do think it is good to highlight repeatedly just how many ways speeding can get you into trouble. Thanks, Terry!
Guide Book Prices Increasing
It has been 10 years since I first published Destination Kimberley. Over those 10 years the prices of the Destination guides have remained the same while all prices around me and with that my costs kept steadily increasing.
For that reason I have to finally increase my prices, too.
To soften the blow, I will at the same time offer new packages that also incorporate Monica's guide Destination Red Centre.
I haven't worked out the details yet but aim to structure those packages so that if you purchase all three guides together it will cost you about the same as now.
However, if you only need Destination Kimberley and/or Destination Top End, or are missing one of the three guides, definitely get them before April 1.
Keep in mind, once you own a Destination guide, you can always request a fresh download link. Download an up to date version when you actually need it, even if that's in a few years time, at no extra cost.
Also, if you know others to whom the guides might be of interest, let them know.
I'd hate for someone to have to pay more just because they weren't aware of the price increase.
(No, this is not an April Fool's joke.
It has to be April 1 or I will have a nightmare on my hands come tax time.)
Thanks for understanding!
And that's it for today.
To keep with the tradition, I'll close with something to hopefully make you smile.
Watch this video of snakes, lizards and frogs, crowding together and on top of each other into trees, to peacefully wait out the floods together.
Talk again soon!
Destination Kimberley, Destination Top End and Destination Red Centre have all the information you need to put together your dream trip.
To sign up for this newsletter and receive the free Kimberley Pocket Guide go here.
Feedback? Found some out of date info in one of my guides? Let me know via http://www.kimberleyaustralia.com/contact.html
(c) 2005-2018, Birgit Bradtke. All rights reserved.
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