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Kimberley and NT News: Gibb River Road very busy, travelling with dogs, Duncan Road
June 20, 2018


20 June 2018, Issue #068


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In this issue:
  • Roads/Parks/Campgrounds Updates
  • The Kimberley Is Changing
  • Travelling The Kimberley With Dogs
  • Car Hire Company Australian 4WD Hire In the Spotlight



Hi everyone!

Usually there is no need for me to send out road updates this time of the year, unless of course it rained in the middle of the dry season, which sometimes happens.

But today's "roads update" is of a different nature...




Roads/Parks/Campgrounds Updates



Wow, the Gibb has been busy! And not just the Gibb, the whole Kimberley has been busy. I mean, crazy busy for this time of the year.

It used to be that early June was the perfect time for travel, with the country still lush and green, plenty of water coming down the waterfalls, but not too many tourists around yet. Tourist numbers usually started to noticeably increase over the second half of June.

But this year the madness started in late May! By the beginning of June the Argyle Resort was booked solid, you could not get on tours and cruises unless you pre-booked, all the usual popular campgrounds on the Gibb River Road (i.e. Windjana Gorge, Silent Grove at Bell Gorge, Manning Gorge, HVS, ELQ...) were packed to the rafters every night. Even Ellenbrae!

Ferg was on the road in early June and this is his description:


  "We've tried to visit some of the stations and decided to try Ellenbrae one afternoon.
We got there and paid our money for one night then drove to the campground....Well it was tiny & just totally packed with caravans.
We found a spot and decided that we'd take a walk to see if there was a better spot as the van next to us had a generator running.
There were a couple of spots but each had a neighbour running a generator. At 1.30pm!
We packed up and left for Home Valley which too was packed but you can put up with it for that view of the Pentecost with the Cockburn Range backdrop!
I emailed Ellenbrae and told them our story, suggested they do as many places do in separating generators from the rest. They took the suggestion on board and gave us a refund."



A great and professional response from Ellenbrae!

Well, the packed campgrounds are not the only issue. The traffic on the Gibb has been crazy, too.
I've never seen so many reports and complaints about the irresponsible behaviour of other drivers as I have this season. Some of them I already shared in previous newsletters.

With the roads being so well maintained and smooth these days, many people seem to make the most of it and speed from one place on their tick list to the next with total disregard for others, kicking up dust and lobbing rocks at others left, right and centre.


Ferg writes:
  "I've just finished cleaning my Landcruiser after returning from our trip and even though I knew there would be stone chips I was surprised by the large number, including cracked lenses to my day time running lights. One chip is on the drivers side at bottom of windscreen. I guess I'm lucky the screen didn't break; it probably would have had the rock that did this damage hit it. The windscreen too has probably 7 or 8 chips; it had none prior to the GRR."


Ferg is right that he was lucky. Cracked windscreens are not uncommon these days...
(To protect your windscreen you might want to look into Malcolm's suggestion in newsletter issue #65.)

And, as one person put it, "with so much dust from other vehicles it's almost impossible to see anything between 9am and 5pm".

From Ferg:
  "The main issue I have is oncoming vehicles travelling extremely quickly, I estimate over 100kph, they don't slow down at all as they approach another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. The result is the other driver encounters almost total whiteout conditions from the dust."

And Colin asked:
  "Finally please remind travellers of the importance of head lights and slowing down when passing oncoming vehicles to reduce thickness of dust cloud, as the dust clouds create dangerous situations where you are totally blinded and unable to see the road or potential obstacles!"


In fact, many people asked me to please remind my readers to slow down, take their time and be considerate of other travellers on the road.

I have been preaching that for well over 10 years now so I am sure you are already aware of those concerns and drive accordingly, right?

Please don't let me find a comment online where someone says,
"And there was this maniac overtaking us, he was in a hire car with Birgit's guide book on the dash..." ;)


Having said all that, I want to emphasize that all those who wrote, while bemoaning their breakages, the dust and the overflowing campgrounds, still absolutely loved their trips and would do it all over again in a heart beat!

I don't want to put you off, I just want you to be prepared. And, depending on what kind of experience you are looking for, be able to make good decisions in your planning.




The Kimberley Is Changing



  "If you could encourage people to slow down and enjoy the Kimberley it would be a start... I'd personally love to see a campaign regarding driving on Kimberley roads undertaken jointly by the various shire councils and even information centres.
Clearly something needs to be done with such huge numbers now visiting."


I agree. In my opinion the region will soon be receiving more visitors than it can currently sustain.
Remember Gavin's segment about the overflowing rubbish disposal cage in his video? (It's towards the end of the third video.)

Of course, a campaign alone won't be enough. We also need the infrastructure to support those numbers.
And just as the sealing of the Cape Leveque Road will change the Dampier Peninsula (see last newsletter), that infrastructure will change the Gibb River Road.

More infrastructure will bring in more and a different type of travellers, those travellers and their expectations and demands will necessitate more infrastructure, and on and on it goes.

I can't remember how many years ago I started to warn my readers:
The Kimberley is changing, it's changing fast, if you think of going, go soon.

It might be time to start rethinking travel in the Kimberley. Rethink when we go and rethink where we go.

Bachsten Bushhcamp and Walcott Inlet anyone? They are now covered in more detail in Destination Kimberley. If you think you are up to the driving (not a track for novices!) then that is certainly a place where you can still experience the Kimberley of the good old days.
The Duncan Road is another option, one that does not require any 4WDriving experience.
And there are many other out of the way places that the masses bypass.

Remember, the masses are in a hurry, so any place that takes a long time to get to is a good bet.
Anything that requires a long, hot walk is a good bet, too.
Or do what Gavin did at many places: Start walking at the crack of dawn!

Another topic that I see gaining popularity in the future is shoulder season and wet season travel.
In the past the inconveniences associated with that time of year (heat, humidity, unpredictable weather and road conditions, closed parks and campgrounds) were to be avoided.
These days I think anything that is viewed as "inconvenient" can actually improve a trip. Because the vast majority of people will still avoid it.

Of course, that all depends on your expectations and perceptions.
Remember what I said above:
Despite the packed campgrounds, the dust and whatever annoyances people mentioned, they still loved their trips!
And that is one thing that I do not expect to change in the future.


I will certainly continue to think about the topic and keep adjusting my materials and recommendations, to make sure you can make informed decisions and get the most out of your own trip.




Travelling The Kimberley With Dogs



I never mentioned or advertised it anywhere, but years ago I put together a little guide book specifically for dog owners...


Cover photo © Sue Hincks


It has always been included, as a free supplement, with every purchase of my popular main guide book, Destination Kimberley

I recently overhauled and updated that little guide, and while I was at it, I also put a summary of the information on my website.
You can find it here: Travelling the Kimberley with Dogs.

If you have any corrections or additions, please let me know!




Car Hire Company Australian 4WD Hire In the Spotlight



The Queensland based car hire company Australian 4WD Hire operates extensively throughout the Kimberley and NT with offices in Darwin, Broome and Alice Springs.

Australian 4WD Hire was recently highlighted in the Queensland parliament.
ABC published the story here and it was the second item on Tuesday's ABC news in Queensland.

In the past years several of my readers have contacted me about their experience with Australian 4WD Hire.
I also had a dispute myself with one of the company's lawyers over reviews that had been posted on my website.

I would like to know if more of my readers have had to do with this company.

If you have hired a vehicle from Australian 4WD Hire, please get in touch with me.
If you know someone else who has concerns about Australian 4WD Hire, please get them to contact me.

You can also send your concerns to Tim Nicholls MP who brought this matter to public attention:
E-mail: clayfield AT parliament.qld.gov.au

Thank you!


(If on the other hand you are planning on hiring a vehicle, be it for this season or next, please make sure you read my recommendations here.
I can guarantee you will be getting great service and an excellent deal!)





I didn't know where to put it, so it ended up here. A little tip for those currently getting ready for their trips:

I've seen a few questions online from people wondering what clothes to pack, being concerned about just how cold the nights get.

Mt. Elizabeth has started to record daily weather observations again.
You can check the daily details and averages here.





And to wrap things up I have a great video for you.
Mike and Amanda from Red Dirt Australia wrote:

  "Hi Birgit - thanks for your wonderful guide and email updates. You do a fantastic job!
We just returned from the Pilbara, Kimberley mainly with the objective of travelling the Duncan Track.
We have completed a couple of videos..."


The video below is the second in Mike and Amanda's series of three (with the third not being ready yet).
Let's call it a teaser. :)
It covers the Duncan Road, which I recommended to you above as one of the destinations in the Kimberley where you can get away from the peak season madness.

Thanks, Mike and Amanda!
I look forward to reading and seeing more about your trip!

The Duncan Track, April 2018





Safe travels and talk again soon!
Birgit


Destination Kimberley, Destination Top End and Destination Red Centre have all the information you need to put together your dream trip.

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