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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #044

Editorial

In this issue we travel along the western half of the Gibb River Road, arguably the best part, as this is where most of the gorges are located.

Sadly we loose Kevin, our Canadian friend, due to differences of opinion between him and Bradley. The lads have known each other for years and traveled together before, but not for as long, and not sharing the same vehicle and equipment.

It just goes to show how travelling can test a friendship.

So if you're thinking of hitting the road with your better half maybe a few test runs would be in order, because the old joke about retirement (half as much money and twice as much husband) applies tenfold when travelling in a van.

Considering Chris and I worked very long hours and hardly saw each other during our working life, we've done quite well to still be together after five years on the road.

 

Tue 13 Jun 2006

John cuts the damaged radiator core tubes and solders them closed. Now he just needs to reinstall the radiator and test it. "Tomorrow" he says.


A wasp cleaning its antennae.


These corellas live in the area and had decided to spend the night opposite our camp. They are very noisy, however my flash frightened them and they all flew down river to annoy some other campers

Wed 14 Jun



I get up before sunrise to photograph the nearby waterfall and surrounding rock formations.

John finally returns the radiator to its position in the engine bay and goes for a test drive. He doesn't return for a few hours and we start thinking the worst. Then we see him coming down the road. All is well.

Meanwhile we have a visit from two goannas. They swagger around our campsite as if they own the place, which they more or less do I suppose.



We have some visiting goannas in the campground.

Thu 15 Jun

Back on the road. We fuel up at Drysdale station, then head south, cross the Gibb River and a few kilometres later, rejoin the GRR and head west.

Our destination today is the Barnett River gorge. When we get there we ignore the usual campsites, and following some information gleaned from a tour guide the other day, cross a creek and drive along a track.

After some roughish rock-hopping we arrive at the end of the trail, just a few metres from the gorge.

This is obviously the place used by those in the know, as a tour group of cyclists are already in residence. We manage to drive a little further than them though, to a relatively private spot.

The cyclists are with a tour operator called ROC (Remote Outback Cycle Tours), we met them four years ago at the Bungles and in fact the driver remembers us, or at least he remembers Wothahellizat. In fact he says that just today he was telling the group about the truck.

Fri 16 Jun


Looking into the gorge from the rim.


Rock cairns of various shapes and sizes mark the trail along the rim

From the Barnett River gorge it's a quick trip to Adcock gorge. Adcock is more a swimming hole at the bottom of a waterfall than a gorge, it's tiny, but more than makes up for that by being a beautiful quiet spot.


Trees and rocks at the edge of the pool.


I rescue this mantis form the water and am rewarded with some good photos as it dries itself.


I wanted a photo of this goanna in amongst the water lilies, but he climbs onto the bank and hides in the grass.


These planthoppers line up on the palm leaf as though queuing for take off

We spend several hours at the gorge, then drive down a nearby creek to another great campsite on the side of a billabong. We found out about this place from another tour guide.


Two different views of a boab tree next to our camp.


Across the billabong this ghost gum catches the last light.

Sat 17 Jun

Shortly after starting for the day we drop into the Imintji store to fuel up and get an ice cream.

On leaving the store I notice an old Cruiser like mine, and the owner appears to be working on something under the bonnet. Maybe I can help, or at least compare engines.

I walk over to find him trying to wrap some fencing wire around a silver object on top of the manifold. He looks up and says "Do you reckon that'll hold it?"

I comment that it looks reasonably secure, but I don't recognise the device, maybe it's a new type of gas injection system. "What the hell is it?" I ask. "Oh, it's a meat pie" he answers as though it was obvious, "thought I'd be able to keep it warm while I'm driving".

Having established his credentials as a fencing wire bender and installer of meat pies he offers to look at my gas problem. To no avail though, he can't figure it out either.

Next it's Bell Gorge, one of the Kimberley's better-known attractions. They have a peculiar system for allocating campsites here. As you enter the main campground there's a board with up to ten tags hanging from nails, each tag represents a site at the second campground, about ten kilometres away and closer to the gorge.

If you want to stay in a site you grab one of the tags, thereby reserving it. Of course if you haven't been there before you don't know which are the best sites, but the biggest problem I see with this system is this.

Lets say you, like us, intend to spend the night, there's four people in two groups, so you grab the last two tags.

You spend the day in the gorge, but it's still early and you change your mind about staying, so drive the ten kilometres back to the main campground, replace the tags, and leave.

Meanwhile another group has arrived, seen that there were no free spots, and either left, or set up camp in the not-so-nice main campground. They miss out on the secluded bush sites because of the system.

Anyway, Bell gorge is a very pleasant spot, just a short walk from the car park. As I near the gorge I see a goanna hunting in amongst the rocks that border the stream.




This goanna is hunting around the top of the waterfall. Note the ant on its face in the first photo

Then I move on to the scenery.


Bells Gorge, a pretty nice spot with safe swimming.

I am normally interested in different things to the average person and this proves it. People drive thousands of kilometres to see this gorge, as did I, and when I get here I take two quick shots of the waterfall, and 81 of a goanna.

We leave the gorge and drive along the GRR looking for somewhere to camp. After just a few kilometres we find a pleasant rest area.

Sun 18 Jun

Our guide book states that it's a seven-kilometre drive from the GRR to the Lennard River gorge car park, followed by a "short walk" to the gorge itself.

However, when we reach the car park after only a 2-3k drive, and see an new-looking "No cars past this point" sign, we realise that the walk may not be as short as expected.

Sure enough the walk turns out to be a couple of kilometres in length, it's still worth it though.


Two shots of Lennard Gorge, the first is at the top of the waterfall, and the second below.


In the lower part of the gorge can be found hundreds of frogs.


And some nice wildflowers complete with an unusual bug.

The other day John, the broken radiator man, told us of a fantastic spot to camp, "About 30k down the road to Millie Windy station" he said.

As we're interested in exploring some of the country south of the GRR we decide to drive down toward the station.

At about the 5k mark we cross a river and find a nice spot, but we've got our sights set on a supposedly fantastic place at the 30k mark.

At 35k we still haven't found a good camp site, there's been two really nice billabongs, but neither of them had an appropriate flat spot anywhere near.

It's getting late, so we choose the best place we can, then I return to one of the billabongs to photograph some flying foxes in a tree on the bank.

As I approach they make a hell of a racket and become quite agitated. Eventually they settle down though and I manage to get very close. However just as I get in the right position the batteries in my flash die and I have to retreat to get some fresh ones. When I return they accept me straight away.



Flying foxes (or fruit bats) hanging in the trees on the banks of the billabong

Mon 19 Jun

Today it's off to one of the Kimberley's most famous gorges, Windjana. At the turnoff there's a semi-permanent eatery on the banks of the river.

Apparently the fellow that owns it sets things up at the start of the season each year, lives there for six months selling food, then pulls it all down.

We also encounter another traveler with a new Nissan FWD. His engine's computer has decided it knows best and has shut down the turbo. It's not serious, but enough for him to cut short his trip and limp into Broome to have it fixed.

NOTE: I've heard of, and encountered, hundreds of horror stories about high-tech vehicles in the bush. To be fair they are very reliable, but if they do break nobody can fix them until you get to a major town, sometimes even a capital city. I will NEVER have computers controlling a critical function of a vehicle.

We get there late morning and settle in. Some time later Chris decides it's time to explore the gorge, Bradley and I join her. It's 3.5k to the end, but after about 2k us blokes have lost interest. Bradley turns back, I continue but at a reduced rate, while Chris powers ahead, she's determined to see what's at the end of the trail.

After some time she returns, was it worth walking 3.5k?. No, all there is at the end of the trail is a sign saying "End of Trail".

Now we can walk 3.5k back to camp.

We do see a lot of freshwater crocs along the way though, and they are very approachable. I'll have a go at photographing them tomorrow.


The outer wall of the gorge, as seen from the campground

Tue 20 Jun

Today we stay at Windjana. Chris and I pile into Bradley's car and we drive down to Tunnel Creek.

As the name suggests Tunnel Creek is a creek that flows through a tunnel, right underneath the hills of the Napier Range.

It's pitch black for the most part, but if you have a torch you can wade through the 700-metre tunnel. It's well worth it.


Interesting rock formations inside the tunnel.


A collapsed section at the half-way point.



Various views of people in the tunnel

After returning I spend the rest of the afternoon photographing the crocs. They are very placid and I manage to sit within 2-3 metres of them, they are freshies, so there's no real danger, just don't take too many liberties.




It's not often you get to sit this close to crocodiles, so I make the most of the opportunity.

I also take some photos of the gorge, it's a great spot but not hugely photogenic in my view.


The gorge wall and the "spirit rock".

Wed 21 Jun

We leave Windjana and drive into Derby, here ends our Kimberley caper.

We also loose Kevin, our Canadian friend, today. He's been travelling and sharing camping gear with Bradley, and it seems they haven't been getting along that well.

It's been a bit tense around the campfire of late and something had to give. As the vehicle and all the camping equipment belongs to Bradley, I guess the something had to be Kevin.

We organize to meet him at the information centre in Derby, which we do about half an hour after Bradley drops him off.

He's already organized to share a Darwin-bound vehicle with a good-looking woman who has just split with her travelling companions.

Talk about falling in crap and coming up smelling of roses.

We say our goodbyes, then hit the shops, looking to restock our food and buy a new gas hose for the cooker.

And speaking of gas, the Cruiser is duel fuel, petrol and gas, however the gas has been on the fritz for a couple of weeks. In some ways this doesn't matter out here, because you can't buy gas anyway. However a full gas tank extends our range by about 300k, and that will be important when we cross the desert in a few weeks time.

So we go hunting for someone to look at the problem.

No luck, most people who know about duel fuel systems no longer maintain their gas ticket because it's too expensive to do so. And the one person who does have a ticket is booked up until next week.

There is a ray of hope though. In talking to these people I pick up a lot about how the system functions, I think I can hot wire it to get it working.

We plan to camp at Willare bridge as we have done in the past, but it's been fenced off, so we carry on down the highway.

For several kilometres the road is elevated above the flood plains and there's nowhere to pull off. Nowhere that is except these strange elevated tracks that spur off the road at right angles. Most are too short, and won't allow us to get far enough from the road, but when we find one that's about 100m long we pull in.


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