The Adventure of a lifetime
by Carol Ryan
Creek crossing on way to Mornington Sanctuary
Photo by SergeEditor's note: Carol has submitted a very detailed and informative report of her whole Kimberley trip (Thank you, Carol!). She has shared so much information that I also split off a shorter article:
Her trip and her driving tips for the Gibb River Road
The Adventure of a lifetime
We returned from our three week journey along the Gibb River Road in August and then back along the Great Northern Highway. We started our journey in Broome. As we couldn't get into the Cable Beach Resort we went to another one just down the road. I think in hindsight I would have preferred to have been in the town itself and gone out to Cable Beach for the superb sunsets and that cold glass of wine. We only had two days in Broome but would have perhaps liked four.
Anyway, we hired a Land Cruiser and left Broome early for breakfast in Derby, a nice easy drive on sealed road of I think around 200 ks or a bit more. The bitumen ended once you turned off onto the Gibb River Road, about 63 ks. in. It was 56 kms on unsealed road to the turn off into Windjana Gorge (20 kms in).
We viewed that and had a walk around, beautiful and lots of crocs, from there we drove to Tunnel Creek another 40 kms of very, very rough road. We then back-tracked over the ground covered to Gibb River Road once again. It would have been possible to travel at this point along the Great Northern Highway and go into Tunnel Creek from there and onto Windjana Gorge and out onto Gibb River Road, but sometimes that road is closed.
From there we travelled another 100 kms or so onto Imintji Safari Camp run by ATP which is used by its tours but also anyone can stay there but is inaccessible during the wet season (08 9192 1036). These Safari Camps are scattered along the road and offer good value for those who are not set up to camp.
The tents have wooden floors, two single beds with sheets and proper bedding. There is a toilet block and shower block separate. They offer dinner, bed and breakfast. The breakfast was great as was the evening meal. We enjoyed the company of our fellow travellers around an open fire - there wasn't a tour bus in that night. We stayed two nights as by the time we got there we were pretty tired.
The distances are vast. You can really only travel at about 60 kms or less depending on the ridges in the road. The next day we enjoyed our walk into Bell Gorge, again a couple of hours to get there. Our next stop was Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary. We left Imitiji (where there is a roadhouse and a fuel stop) and drove an easy 25 kms. to the turn off to Mornington. A mere 80 kms. in but it took us two and three quarter hours to drive in.
There is camping here and again permanent very plush safari tents. These are set up high and overlook Annie Creek where the kangaroos and other wildlife abound. The meals here are in an open style restaurant and were delicious. Again this is dinner, bed and breakfast and lunch comes in a small fridge lunch box. There are two gorges here, Diamond Gorge and Sir John Gorge. You can also hire canoes, no crowds and just so peaceful.
We spent four days here and loved every minute of it. It takes a couple of hours to drive to each Gorge but you can swim in each of them and they are beautiful. Back on the Gibb Road, we refuelled at Mount Barnett Roadhouse. Another 90 kms on (a couple of hours) we took the turn off to Mt. Elizabeth Station - a working cattle station - 30 kms. of very, very rough road.
Our next stop was 150 kms down the road to Ellenbrae. You can stop in for a devonshire tea and be welcomed by two very nice people who seemed to manage dinner that night beautifully.
Sure it wasn't the Ritz but it was a very nice meal with some produce from their garden. This is a permanent mud style tent set up. Very comfortable with double beds, nice clean sheets and a beautiful setting and alot more reasonable than the aforementioned. Galvans Gorge was somewhere here - can't find my notes but don't miss it; a short walk in from the road and very pretty.
From here we drove towards Kununurra, however we by-passed Home Valley but had good feedback from others on the road about it. Also can't talk about El Questro as we couldn't get accommodation there.
We spent five days in Kununurra. It was nice to have a break. We flew over the Argyle Diamond Mine and the Bungle Bungles and did a river cruise of Lake Argyle. Hidden Valley National Park in Kununurra is well worth going to and so accessible.
We left Kununurra early in the morning and travelled 650 kms the next day to Fitzroy Crossing. I was dreading this journey but really it was a breeze.
The vegetation changes so many times and I enjoyed travelling through remote places that I have heard of since I was a child. Such vastness can only be appreciated when you travel them. There are plenty of places to stop and chill out along the road and quite a few free, of course unpowered, camping spots. We stayed at the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge but again in 'tented' accommodation.
The next morning we caught the early morning tour of Geikie Gorge run by an Aboriginal group and it was beautiful. That night we spent in Derby before embarking on a sea safari of the Buccaneer Archipelago. This was for four days, three nights. A sea plane dropped us off near Horizontal Falls and after a quick ride on a small boat through the Falls we ventured off on our next adventure, four days of fishing, looking for oysters, swimming, mudcrabbing and generally having a great time.
We slept on the beach in mozzie dome tents and had huge fires on the beach at night. It was basic and only ten people aboard and three crew. The owner is a local fisherman and knows all the spots. So we came to the end of our journey. We didn't have any mishaps with our vehicle although we saw lots who did. Apparently its important to have low tyre pressure when travelling on these rough unforgiving roads (worth finding out about).
No-one tells you anything and there isn't any information in the vehicles. I felt sorry for overseas visitors who haven't been advised of 1) tyre pressure and 2) speed. When you come from countries that travel a lot faster than us it must seem crazy to have to go slow, but you have to unless you want trouble. Look into it, talk to people, find out what your tyre pressure should be and what speed you should do.
The camaraderie on the road is fantastic, everyone waves to on coming cars and people help one another. It was an amazing trip and one I'm proud I have done. It's pure Australia and I loved it. I hope this is of some help. I found it hard to find information and it would be great if others could post their experiences. We also hired a gas car fridge in Broome which was essential for that cold beer at the end of the day. Carol.
Post Script. I have just found this website (six months after our trip). I think it's excellent. I actually did this report for the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree site.