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Is this the end of the rain and floods? A mixed bag of Kimberley updates.
April 10, 2011

April 2011, Issue #033

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In this issue:
  • Rain and Floods
  • New Reader Pages
  • The Future of Taffy, Kim and Mt. Hart
  • Mixed Bag
  • News from the Home Front

Hi everyone,

A month has passed since the last newsletter. Had I written any earlier I wouldn't have had anything new to report, only more rain, rain, rain!

As it is, at least I can tell you that currently the sun is out, and we haven't had any huge, widespread deluges, no massive low pressure troughs, for several days. Yahay! It may not seem like much to be enthusiastic about just yet, but after the last three months everybody here is grateful for every single ray of sunshine.

Rain and Floods

March had brought more record breaking rains and floods. You may have seen or heard some of it in the news:

  • Lake Argyle is the fullest it's ever been, reaching a new record high on April 6, flowing down Spillway Creek at a rate of up to 1600 tonnes a second.
  • The community at Warmun was obliterated by a flash flood, which also destroyed or damaged many pictures at the Warmun Art Gallery. (Those that survived were flown to Melbourne for restoration and safe keeping.)
  • Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and several smaller communities were totally isolated by flood waters. (Links go to pictures.)
  • Internet and phone services were interrupted, in some places for over a week.
  • The highway washed away in several places, bridges are damaged and gone...
  • ...and so much water has been running into the Cambridge Gulf, it's pushed out all the salt. Wyndham now sits on a freshwater lake. (I am exaggerating only slightly.)
We thought we might finally see the end of it when we had perfect dry season weather for a few days in late March. (Even the mold stopped growing for a bit!)

But another low pressure trough marched along the Kimberley coast last week, bringing more floods, and cutting the highway again. And it may not have been the last one either...

Having said all that, I have renewed faith that even this wet season will eventually end.

It will, however, still take a long time for things to dry out. Our rivers are in full flood, all roads are in a very sad state, and the whole Kimberley is totally saturated. That water will not disappear over night. The soils on the plateaus and ranges will keep releasing water into the rivers for many weeks to come.

How long will it take exactly until the rivers drop enough to open the roads? Until the roads are dry enough to fix them? I have no idea. It's been an exceptionally wet year, and you are likely looking at exceptionally late road opening dates everywhere.

All Kimberley national parks remain closed (except for Mirima in Kununurra).

Even the access road to Geikie Gorge is currently flooded. As I wrote above, the Fitzroy is in full flood. Boat tours on the gorge will likely not start before May.

Purnululu National Park, often opening in early Arpil, is highly unlikely to open to the general public before Easter. The southern part of the Bungles can be accessed via fly/drive tours with EKT.

At this stage all parks are expected to remain closed up to and including the Easter holiday period!

Things are looking similar in the NT. While many NT parks remain accessible due to the much more weatherproof infrastructure, expect to find middle of wet season conditions.

In Kakadu for example Magella Creek is 1.6m over the road to Ubirr, most walking tracks are under water, and even the Arnhem Highway is flooded (400mm, passable for 4WDs).
Some roads in Kakadu may have to remain closed until July!

In Litchfield the main ring road and most waterfalls and pools along it are open, but only the campground at Wangi is available. All other campgrounds are closed.

At Katherine Gorge the shorter walks are open and the boat tours are operating to the third gorge, but there is no swimming, canoeing or camping.

A comprehensive list of links and phone numbers to get current information about any and all roads and tracks up here is in the appendix of both Destination Kimberley and Destination Top End. If it remains dry from here on, then a few weeks down the track people will be able to give you some estimates. Right now we'll just have to wait and see.

New Reader Pages

Several readers have submitted trip reports in the last weeks, and all of them are rather unusual.

Jean-Pierre proves that, while there are restrictions in where exactly you can go, of course you can "tour the Kimberley" in any vehicle:
"Over The Top" - With Old Bentleys From Perth To Darwin

Andy had previously submitted a wonderfully detailed written trip report. He contacted me again and asked if I would add the video version as well. Of course! Here it is:
Videos Of Our Kimberley/Gibb Adventure In A Rental Troopy

Adrian also made videos of his trip and offers some tips for fellow motorbike riders:
Gibb River Road and Pentecost River by Motorbike

The last page for today is also for bikers. Andrew submitted it on the outback site. It has nothing to do with the Kimberley or Top End, but it's a great report with lots of useful tips. Useful resources for bikers are few and far between, so I figured you'd appreciate it in any way.
Oodnadatta Track Solo on XR400r

The future of Taffy, Kim and Mt. Hart

Taffy and Kim keep publishing not only their (non-)progress with the DEC but also their thoughts and memories, history and hopes. The April 4 and April 6 entries are again must reads.

If you are new here, you can get the whole story by reading this special issue and the initial update.

The more I read, the more I believe that the universe has big plans for Taffy and Kim. I had already suggested to them that Taffy should be writing a book. That wasn't just an offhand comment. I very much meant it. Be it by writing, by painting, or by online publishing, the two have so much to share. I wonder where all this will lead for them...

Many of you are also wondering what will happen to Mt. Hart now that Taffy and Kim are leaving. Apparently Mt. Hart will be open for accommodation, meals and camping next season. However, by the time the season starts, Taffy and Kim will likely be gone. A new manager will be running the place. And that's all we can guess at this point. Nothing is definite, so your best bet is to keep an eye on the page with their updates.

Mixed Bag

This year's Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge is on from May 8 to May 12. That means five days of lots of riders, support vehicles, support staff etc. clogging up the road, and at night, the campgrounds.
(The race starts in Derby and ends at El Questro, with camps at Silent Grove, Mt. Elizabeth, Ellenbrae, Home Valley and El Questro.)

The Kimberley just became a bit easier to reach. You can now fly directly between Brisbane and Broome twice a week (Thu/Sat) on Qantas.

Tom added a 28 day Darwin to Darwin itinerary to the website.

And last but not least, food for thought from Petr of the Czech Republic. (Petr and I were talking about the spirit of Mt. Hart, which we fear will vanish with Taffy. Petr's comment however applies anywhere.)

The future development or whatever you can call it, might be seen by many as the logical progress. We others should keep on searching for the spots with its own spirit such as the ones we had visited thanks to your suggestions. In practice this means either staying home and not ruining foreign environments, or focusing on fewer places during one holiday (one or two sometimes) rather than rushing from one place to another, and avoiding the "top spots" totally. This helps to take in a place's spirit. The pattern should be the less the better. Rapid tourist movement contributes to destroy the places. Or at least to change them into artificial tourist factories.

News from the Home Front

A big thank you to everybody who wrote with encouraging words when I mentioned my upcoming arthroscopic knee surgery in the last newsletter issue. You certainly cheered me up. And did I ever need that!

Because unlike some people seemed to assume, I am not dealing with "the usual" age related joint degeneration that the usual arthroscopic treament would improve in no time flat.

Things are unfortunately still very serious. I don't want to go into detail. It's an unbelievable story, but it would be too depressing.

I just want you to know that once that leg can endure a long haul flight, I will fly to Europe and start the long and arduous task of rebuilding my health and my life.

It's not that I think I can't get help in Australia. Of course I could. But we have a saying up here:
"If you're in pain, get on a plane."

Medical specialists only visit the Kimberley a few times a year. I'd have to go to some big city to get the care and attention I need.
I hate cities at best of times. In addition, the ordeal of the last months has worn me down mentally in a way I never would have thought possible.

The last thing I need is a few lonely months in some strange, freezing city!
I'll have European summer instead, thanks, looking at my beloved Alps and surrounded by friends and family.

Why am I bothering you with this self pity?

Because I want you to know that my own Kimberley/Top End trip this year has been called off. There is no point in keeping an eye out for me on the road. To all those kind folks who invited me to visit and whom I would have loved to meet: Sorry, I can't.

This year I will also really need you to help me out, by telling me about any and all changes you discover, so next year's readers will still be able to get accurate and current advice and information.

I want you to know that there may be fewer newsletters this year (though I'll do my best to keep those coming, and any important updates will also appear on the website).

I will be less available via email. Most of the time when you contact me, it will be my incredibly patient new assistant Amit answering and not I. Amit may take a bit longer to respond than I would (he will get back to you within 24 hrs, though), especially on weekends (maybe 48 hrs). And please don't worry! If Amit is unable to help you, he will forward your issue to me. I won't be hiding!

Most of all I want you to know that my retreating does not mean that I have lost interest in what I'm doing. I wish I could do everything I had planned to do this year, I wish I could spend several months travelling through the Kimberley and NT, as I usually would. But that is not meant to be.

Please understand that regaining my health has priority, and that for most of the upcoming season, my focus will be elsewhere.

I am, however, looking forward to this year's trip reports, probably even more than in previous years.
So get out there and have a great adventure!

Talk to you soon,

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(c) 2005-2011, 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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