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Kimberley and NT News: The wet season is here! Liquor restrictions tightened in the East Kimberley.
January 18, 2018

18 January 2018, Issue #060

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In this issue:
  • Wet Season Update
  • A Short Reminder Regarding Bookings For 2018
  • Liquor Restrictions Tightened in East Kimberley
  • Red Centre Update from Monica
  • Reader Question: The Perfect Itinerary
  • Reader Feedback
  • Camp Oven Recipe from Monica


A Happy New Year to you!

The wet season proper has arrived, and it started off with a bang...

Wet Season Update

The end of 2017 and the start of 2018 both turned out wetter than expected for many in the West Kimberley, courtesy of cyclones Hilda and Joyce.

Hilda came through just after Christmas. Over those days Cygnet Bay recorded a whopping 429 mm of rain in 48 hours, breaking a 55 year record! Broome received over 100 mm over two days, which is enough as it is. The winds also did a fair bit of damage around the place.

As soon as the aftermath was cleaned up, Joyce came along an January 11. Joyce was originally predicted to grow into a category 3 cyclone with winds up to 180 km/h, which thankfully didn't happen. Like Hilda it remained category 1. It also didn't pass quite as close to Broome, which means it caused less wind damage but brought similar amounts of rain to the area. (For example Mt. Hart recorded 118 mm on Jan. 11.)

Derby demonstrated that you don't need cyclones to sustain wind damage. The thunderstorm that hit on January 7 brought winds reaching over 170 km/h, damaged a house and flipped over a light aircraft.

The East Kimberley and the Top End have not yet seen any big events like that, but it's been raining there as well.

I occasionally receive questions from readers who want to travel in the Kimberley during the wet season, asking whether roads or tracks will be open or not. Nobody can predict that, because nobody can predict where and when these cyclones and thunderstorms will occur. A cyclone on the west coast does not affect the East Kimberley, a thunderstorm near Kununurra does not affect tracks near Broome or Derby, and so on.

Cyclones and tropical lows can cause widespread flooding, but those events can be predicted days ahead, so do keep an eye on the cyclone alerts.

Even without a cyclone you may have to deal with flooding!
The weather may be hot and dry all over, with only isolated scattered thunderstorms around. Yet still, one of those storms can easily flood the roads right beneath it.

A picture says more than thousand words: Here is a great photo of a track on the Mitchell Plateau, taken at the end of November.

(Not my photo. Leonie and Neville from Over the Range Tyre & Mechanical Repairs were up there. Thanks for letting me show the photo to my readers! )

It only takes one storm to do that, so if you travel during the wet, be flexible with your plans!

A Short Reminder Regarding Bookings For 2018

Not only the wet season is now in full swing but so is the planning and booking season!

I wrote about the need to book early enough in newsletter issue 58. (See the item "2018 Trip Planning and Booking".)

You can also find my recommendations in the last pages of the free Kimberley Pocket Guide, starting from page 49.

So this is just a short reminder: If you want to travel during peak season, if you want to visit popular destinations and stay in accommodation with limited capacity, the time to book is ASAP.

The same goes for car hire!

Last year I had quite a few readers write to me for help because they were not able to find a suitable 4WD to hire, everything was booked out already.

I am working with Bill from Bluey Travel to better be able to help those of you who do not have their own vehicles and who are on a somewhat limited schedule.
He has the same experience every year: People writing in wanting to book their cars and accommodation for peak season, only a few weeks beforehand.

While for campervan hires that can still work out, if you are looking at hiring a normal 4WD for the peak season and staying in accommodation, the time to get organised is now.
The sooner you get things booked, the smaller the chance that you have to adjust your itinerary because of limited availabilites.
We strongly recommend you have everything booked by end of March the VERY LATEST.

Find out more about Bill's service here. I can't recommend it enough for fly-in visitors.

Liquor Restrictions Tightened in East Kimberley

The liquor restrictions in place in the Kimberley have been a nuisance for travellers for quite some time, and those in the East Kimberley have recently been tightened even more.

Alcohol purchases in Wyndham and Kununurra will be cut to one carton of full-strength beer, three bottles of wine or a bottle of spirits per day.
(The previous daily per person quota was six bottles of wine, two cartons of beer or a bottle of spirits.)

This page by the Kununurra Visitor Centre explains it in more detail.

Remember the little trip report from Vicky in the last newsletter?

That's why she "clanked up the road with our 21 bottles of wine!" and was irritated at not being able to buy casks. Yes, it is irritating, especially given the quality of the roads and tracks.

Sadly, even though the Kimberley Accomodation Group requested an exemption for tourists (after all, the alcohol-related violence that this restriction is trying to curb does not originate from tourists), this exemption has not been granted.

You also can not evade the restrictions by buying from several shops or in several towns: Upon purchase your ID is scanned to register how much an individual has purchased. This information is shared across liquor outlets in the East Kimberley.

So, stock up before you leave home, especially wine in casks if you like your wine. Five casks are easier to manage in a Gibb River Road bound car than twenty bottles of wine!

Red Centre Update from Monica

Monica has only one small update for Destination Red Centre, and again it is from Uluru:

Field of Light
After a sell-out success in 2016, the award-winning Field of Light experience has been extended until the end of 2020. Under an outback sky brilliant with stars, pathways draw you in as 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres gently light up Australia’s spiritual heartland.

Follow the link to find out more and see the pictures. I am not usually into these artificial experiences, but that installation does look stunning.

Keep in mind my warnings above: This is an event with limited availability, and if it's the kind of thing you enjoy you should probably book it rather sooner than later.

Reader Question: The Perfect Itinerary

Mitch wrote in with a question that I think is representative for what many of you might be struggling with right now.

You only have a limited time to see the Kimberley, Top End and/or Red Centre.

You can't see it all, so which are the places you should see, what would be a good itinerary for you?

Here is Mitch's question and my answer:

Hi B,
First of all thank-you for providing such an informative and well written book! I purchased both the Kimberley and Top End E-Books yesterday and have really enjoyed reading them so far :) Fantastic value for money and saves me trawling through hundreds of web sites whilst planning our trip!

Just a real quick question, I'm planning a trip to the Kimberleys in May for 3 weeks (as from what I've read this is the best time to see waterfalls, enjoying swimming holes etc.) and was after your opinion of which would be the best trip from Broome to Broome. We have a very well equipped 4WD capable of tackling most off road tracks. We'd love to try and see some of your favourite spots during our 3 week trip, and just wanted to know which itinerary you'd recommend? We love photography, waterfalls, swimming, hiking etc. But I guess with only having 3 weeks we can't see it all, but would love to see the really special places worth getting to :) Any advice would be great! Thanks again,

Kind Regards,

Hi Mitch,
Thanks for the purchase and the enthusiastic feedback!
I appreciate the kind words.

There are many example itineraries on my site and also in the bonus download.
Even though you likely won't be able to use any of them "off the shelf", and they are not intended to be used that way, they will help you to put your own together.
As will reading the books in detail.
I give so much information about the individual destinations that you will be able to decide what your priorities are.

You would need about 6 weeks to see all the highlights in the Kimberley and Top End area, so dropping stuff will be a hard decision and one that I can not make for you.
Some of the dropping might also be done for you because some of the tracks might not be open in May.
If that will indeed be the case, and which tracks that might be, nobody can predict.

So all I can recommend is to study the guides, older newsletters and the reader pages on my site as well as time allows, keeping flexibility in your schedule, and, most of all, not trying to cram in too much.
You will get more out of the trip if you can really enjoy the individual destinations in depth than when it becomes a mad rush to "tick off" as much as possible.

Best regards,

I believe that you really will be able to make those hard decisions yourself after reading the guide books in detail. Please understand that it is not possible for me to work with people individually on putting their itinerary together. People have offered to pay me well to do so, but I simply do not have the time for it.

(However, if you do not have your own vehicle but are hiring one, then you can get this exact kind of help through the above mentioned Trip Planning Service.)

Reader Feedback

The last two newsletters let you know about the future closure of the Uluru climb as well as the newly implemented permit required to visit the Mitchell Plateau.

Both triggered a lot of reader mail. While the closure of the Uluru climb was met with mostly positive comments (only one reader was not happy at all), the opinions on the Ngauwudu Road Zone pass are more divided.

Here is a small but representative selection of comments to show you the variety of opinions.

  "We really enjoy and have used your communications; they are a great guide. I was saddened to see the massive prices imposed for Ngauwudu Road Zone passes. I wrote them a polite note saying that we had intended to visit there but will not do so at those prices."

  "Our trip to the Mitchell Plateau before the wet season was spellbinding, and had the new pass system been in operation, we would gladly have paid the fees."

  "And what we get for our Permit to drive to Mitchell Plateau?
  Sounds like a money grab to me. Similar to the Jardine River crossing. The government (our money) bought the local traditional owners a new barge many years ago and straight away the price to cost went from $20 to $80 now up to $120. And no, nil, nothing consists of the maintenance carried since.
  Just thinking..."

  Will any of the money collected be used to improve the road conditions?

The road conditions that this reader asked about have also led to divided opinions over the last season. You could read those in the two older newsletter issues that were linked above. (Or here and here.)

As with all other tracks up here, this is in part due to the track being fine some times and atrocious at others. It all depends on when it was last graded!
Another factor that leads to very different opinions is that people arrive with different expectations. I write about that and give examples in Destination Kimberley on page 43.

Here is another note about the Mitchell Falls road, from Philip and Elizabeth, who did that track last season:

  "I note the comments on the road to Mitchell Falls in the Newsletter.  We nearly 70-year-olds from tarmacked England did the trip in September, after reading your guide.  The road is not good,  but taken slowly is fine in a 4WD.  Makes a wonderful few days side trip from the Gibb!  Thanks for your input via Destination Kimberley, a huge trip enhancer."

Rough road conditions lead to wear and tear on vehicles, even more so when driving faster and with higher tyre pressures. Mishaps of course can happen any time and to anyone. Dave writes:

  "Thought you might be interested. We just did the Kimberley. Broke down outside Wolfe Creek. $11500 tow fee. Disgrace. I've set up a Facebook called "Carnage in the Kimberley" to let people share their bad experiences..."

Here is that Facebook page.

I am always reluctant to share things like that because a page with nothing but bogged, rolled or burnt out cars, even a sensible and well managed page like Dave's, does give a totally wrong impression of how difficult or hazardous driving in the Kimberley really is. Just ask Philip and Elizabeth from tarmacked England.

If you scroll through the Facebook feed you will find that the vast majority of drivers who got into trouble did so because they did things like ignoring road closed signs, driving into fast flowing currents, driving too fast and similar.

Of course, not everybody made mistakes. Sometimes it was plain bad luck. Shit can happen. (Dave's breakdown for example was due to contaminated fuel.)
You still need to keep this in perspective and view it against the number of people who do drive across the Kimberley in a season.

And do compare it to the carnage you see on all other roads in Australia. Or Europe. Or elsewhere. Shit can happen anywhere.

So please, please, don't let it spook you, okay?
Getting into trouble without you first making a major mistake is very rare.
Yes, bad luck is a real thing, but it is something that can strike anywhere, not just in the Kimberley.
Read all my advice in Destination Kimberley and take it to heart and you'll be as safe as you can possibly be.

One thing not to be overlooked however is the astronomical cost involved in breaking down that far away from civilization. Make sure you have the best possible insurance cover you can get.

Thanks for the reminder, Dave.

Camp Oven Recipe From Monica

As she promised in Destination Red Centre, Monica sent another camp oven recipe. Here it is:

Quick & easy crispy pork belly in a camp oven

I'll bet you think that's impossible. Well, if you do a little preparation at home you'll only need about 30 minutes of hot coals and dinner will be ready.

At home, cut the pork belly into serving sized pieces and score the fat. Salt the meat and place, uncovered, on a plate in the fridge for at least 12 hours (overnight works fine).
Bake in a very hot 220 degree oven (pre-heated) for 30 minutes then lower the heat to about 120 degrees and continue cooking for another 2-3 hours.
The meat will be cooked through but the crackling will need finishing off in the bush.
Cryovac the meat and freeze till required.
(In a fridge or on ice cryovaced meat should last for two weeks.)

Thaw it out, place on a trivet in your camp oven and cover with lots of hot coals. You don't need any coals underneath. The crackling should be nice and crisp in about 30 minutes. Yum!


And that's it for today.

I had started going through the guide books with a fine combed tooth to make sure everything is up to date, but realised, as every year, that it is still a bit early to do so. Many businesses have not yet updated or made decisions regarding prices and offerings for the next season.

So while most event calendars, national park prices and a few other things have info for 2018 it will still be another couple of months or so until you can expect the same from most accommodation and tour information in the guides.

Make sure you do your budgeting accordingly!

This is a very quiet time of the year, so unless something important comes up that can affect your planning, you might not be hearing from me again until mid to late February.

Until then, enjoy the summer and happy planning!

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

(c) 2005-2018, Birgit Bradtke. All rights reserved.
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