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More about driving on the Gibb (readers weigh in), great trip reports, videos, photos and more.
November 10, 2010

11 Novber 2010, Issue #028

In this issue:
  • Readers Weigh In
  • Reader Photos and Trip Reports
  • Mixed Bag

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October was just lovely. The temperatures on my back veranda never exceeded 35°C, we had some good rains, mostly overcast days, but no annoying humidity and a few surprisingly fresh nights. The mercury dropped below 20°C and I was seen wearing a jumper in the morning. In October!

It was wonderful but I knew it couldn't last forever...

November is upon us and the temperatures have caught up.

This newsletter was supposed to go out Monday. However, for some reason my wireless internet connection has deteriorated very badly. Telstra, as usual, denies there is a problem, offers no help, just keeps sending bills.

My only resolve was to move the laptop outside. So now I'm standing at the bar under a hot tin roof in close to 40°C. As you can imagine, my productivity soared. (Not!)

Nevermind. Standing desks are good for your back I hear. I sincerely hope the rest of this newsletter won't sound too cranky...

Readers Weigh In

The last newsletter issue generated a huge amount of feedback and I'd like to share some of that with you.

First off is a comment made on a reader page I had highlighted in the last issue.

In the original submission Adam suggests that people should not complain about the prices up here. This is what Bec had to add:

"I think all businesses up there earn every penny, considering how short their 'season' can be and the cost of making these beautiful destinations 'tourist' ready in time for the next season must be huge sometimes."

Bec, you are spot on. Both the cost as well as the amount of work involved can be huge. Thank you for pointing it out.

Bec had a bit more to say, but this was a point I wanted to emphasize.

The vast majority of tourism businesses up here is small, family or privately operated, working very hard to make ends meet, and doing a lot of what they do for the love of the Kimberley and the joy of being able to share it with you. Please support and appreciate them for what they do.

In the last issue I wrote about safe driving on the Gibb River Road. In response I received several emails from readers who had a bit more to say about that.

I thought it might be a good thing if you hear it from other sides as well, so here are two of those emails, with additional food for thought:

"I followed your advice and reduced our tyre pressures substantially. We only had one puncture - and that was when I didn't bother to reduce pressure because we were 'only' going about 100kph along the unsealed Boreline road on the way home - served me right."

"The other couple do not believe in reducing tyre pressures and had two punctures and destroyed two brand new trailer bearings. Fortunately for them Drysdale Station keeps spares!"

"The Gibb River Road was in excellent condition and would have been a great pleasure EXCEPT for the drongoes that drive too fast. The Gibb River Road was ruined for us by the thoughtless idiots that flew past us coming the other way showering us with rocks. Fortunately we didn't lose a windscreen, but we did lose a headlight and a rear side window. A total cost of about $1000."

"Although you often ask people to slow down, you give other reasons, but you don't mention the agro caused to oncoming traffic. You may care to mention this in future letters and publications. Just imagine the number of broken windscreens, and unhappy trips, that are left in the wake of these thoughtless drongoes."

Cliff is of course correct. Thanks for writing, Cliff.

The second email came from Steve:

"Your comments on tyre pressures and speed are spot on Birgit!!! I am an off road motorcyclist and have just spent 12 weeks going Wollongong to Perth anti-clockwise. This time also included 3 weeks in a hired Troopie going from Darwin to Broome via the Gibb, then a second trip through on my bike, filling in the gaps, including Mitchell Falls and Purnululu."

"I found my hired Troopie, plus several (5+) others from a well known hire company, all had tyres inflated at close to 50psi. I have written to the hire company (Britz) regarding this and have had no response. I don't believe the Toyota tyre pressure spec is this high, I think Britz just do it to try and make the tyres last longer by keeping heat down."

"This is VERY dangerous, particularly when inexperienced drivers drive in 2WD mode, often just to conserve fuel. The car will not brake or turn in an emergency, as the front end skitters across the road due to the high tyre pressures."

"Also punctures straight through the tread are much more common. People think they can 'hammer' thru the Gibb at 100kph plus and get upset when they pick up flats!!"

"Use of 4WD full time even at the expense of a bit of fuel economy is MUCH safer for those unexpected brainfade moments which WILL sometimes happen!! Just remember to select 2WD when you get on the tar jump ups and in town."

"I was at the site of the bad double roll over, which involved the 2 pushbike riders near the Kalumburu turnoff around the end of July. The wrecked hired Troopie, on its roof, had 52psi all round and the front hubs were unlocked. A recipe for disaster, even with 'experienced' drivers."

"The roadhouse at Drysdale River has a great sign outside the door, all on the dangers of driving in the area. They see the wreckage too much, and are sick off it because most of it is simply avoidable with better driver EDUCATION.

The Australian Geographic mag recently ran a checklist for city slickers on Outback Driving tips WITH NO MENTION OF TYRE PRESSURES!!!

I saw a Pommie guy at El Questro in a rolled Land Rover, heading back in a very bent car and a head ache after his accident. He said he 'hit a patch of sand, going too fast...'"

"Just a few simple things could keep the tourists safer and a lot happier, if only they were told BY THE HIRE COMPANIES. But, unfortunately, there are too many lawyers in Australia, and too few cases..."

"There's a way to overtake cars that won't damage or upset them OR you can really screw it by just blasting on by."

"You're very often going to see that car at the next refuel anyway, so you really should look after them. And besides, you could very well need their HELP when you least expect it!!

I especially liked that last sentence. Truer words were never spoken.

Thanks for writing, Steve, and also for the emphasis on engaging 4WD to improve vehicle handling. It's a point I make in Destination Kimberley, but not strongly enough.

I want to add a warning to avoid misunderstandings: reducing tyre pressures does not prevent all rollovers. The increased traction makes it easier to brake, stay in control and make the car turn, that's correct.

Just also keep in mind that soft tyres make a car more likely to roll while actually turning or swerving at high speed, especially if you have a loaded roof rack as well.

Look people, there is no way around it. You have to slow down. End of story.

Both Cliff and Steve also mentioned that in their desperation they took to playing chicken with the "drongoes" (Cliff's words) or "road hogs" (Steve's words). By staying in the middle of the road until the last moment they forced the oncoming vehicle to slow down. A potentially dangerous pursuit, which just goes to show the amount of frustration that drivers experience.

Please, let's all look after each other out there. Looking after each other has always been an essential part of life in such remote regions.

Re-read Steve's last sentence to remind yourself why.

Reader Photos and Trip Reports

I dislike getting all gloomy like this, so let's get on with something more cheerful.

Trip reports, photos, videos... I never get sick of watching and reading them. Never mind some thoughtless drivers, this place is too beautiful to let them spoil it for us.

Pat wrote the most enthusiastic report in a long time, pointing out that you are never too old for such an adventure. (Pat and her husband are 73 and 75!)
Kimberley Trip, September 2010

Hot on the heels of Pat's report came Scott's, proving the same point. (The group included three drivers over 70.)
A Kimberley Experience Worth Relating

For Sarah and Gerard their short week on the Gibb was the most impressive part of their whole Australia trip:
A Short Trip - A Fantastic Experience

Karla had a bit more time, she even managed to make the detour down to Port Warrender and loved it.
Gibb River Road Is A Must Do!!

Peter has put a lot of effort into producing two high definition videos of his Kimberley trip:
Two Kimberley Videos

Lin, a talented photographer, sent me the link to her Flickr photostream which includes some stunning pictures of that "unremarkable bit of coast" at Price's Point. (If that comment confuses you, see the last newsletter issue from October 12.)

Here are Lin's Kimberley Photos

And do you remember Martin and the excellent discussion thread about packing for his trip with kids? Well, I was thrilled to see he returned to the discussion. Not only does Martin share his experiences, he also shares many excellent tips for people with children.
Scroll right down to the bottom of the comments to find them:
Gibb River Road With Minimal Baggage

Thank you very much, everyone! I much appreciate the time you put into your reports and comments, and so do all other readers and newsletter subscribers.

Your pages have become a fantastic source of information and inspiration.

Mixed bag

Last but not least today I wanted to share a great comment I read the other day, regarding the James Price Point/Kimberley Marine Park epic. While the topic is certainly not a cheerful one, reading Bluey's take on it did cheer me up. Thanks, Browney, for sending me the link.

Concise, to the point, and at times hilarious. The man sure has a way with words :-). Wish I could express myself half as succinctly.

("Bluey", by the way, is Robert Vaughan from One Tree Beach fishing camp on the Admiralty Gulf, which is north west of the Mitchell Plateau. )

A must read. And a good link to pass on to help spread awareness.

More from the Kimberley soon!


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(c) 2005-2010, Birgit Bradtke. All rights reserved. The Kimberley Guide is published by Birgit Bradtke in Kununurra, WA 6743, Australia. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.
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