Shake, Rattle and Roll

The Gibb River Road was always going to be one of the biggest challenges on our trip. With over 750 km of unsealed roads after the wettest wet in history, preparation was the key. Finally we had the chance to truly test our off-road caravan.

Gibb River RoadOur friends, the O’Callaghan’s, and we decided to do the Gibb River Road together. Besides the great company, we could get each other out of trouble in case we came a cropper with river crossings, mechanical issues or punctures. As Chris and Jayne use to work on tours in the Kimberly, we were able to draw on their knowledge of the area to plan our days.

First stop, Windjana Gorge camp ground and Tunnel Creek. Tunnel Creek was definitely a great first adventure. We armed the kids with head torches to find their way in the dark, but it took some coaxing to get them to walk through the water. We didn’t even tell them about the freshwater crocs that were known to inhabit the creek. But they all made it in the end; even though the three youngest kids had to be carried through the last section as the water was thigh deep for the adults.

Windjana Gorge FreshieThat evening, Chris took Mike and me into Windjana for our first night time croc spotting. We managed to find one young adult, under a log close to shore, but we spooked him and he moved on pretty quick.

The Windjana Gorge walk the next morning was perhaps one of the easiest walks for the kids, with level sandy banks on shaded paths. They had fun doing their own croc spotting, and in total we tallied up around 15 freshies.

We bush camped that night a place called March Fly Glen. Fortunately, it didn’t live up to its name. Jayne cooked us a wonderful dinner over an open fire, and made some delicious damper for dessert. It was a lovely, quiet evening under the stars.

The second gorge walk was Leonard Gorge, a moderate walk that was bit trickier for the kids. The view of the waterfall was gorgeous, but the younger kids were already tiring from two days of heavy activity. So when we got to Silent Grove, we played tag team for doing Bells Gorge and looking after the littlies. Daniel loved it so much; he did the walk twice with both sets of parents.Bell Gorge

Manning Gorge was our first stay at a cattle station on the Gibb. I loved the set up here, as there was a swimming spot right next to the campground. The owners provided pool noodles and tyre inner tubes for the kids to play with while swimming. Again we played tag team doing the gorge walk, which suited the littlies fine as they just had fun splashing around at camp.

It was Mike and my turn to do Manning Gorge the morning of our second day. We got up at first light to get an early start. Not early enough, as there was a tour group there when we arrived. But they soon left and we had the place to ourselves for almost an hour.

I have to say, Manning Gorge was one of my favourites. We could swim right up to the waterfall, and sit on a ledge behind it, watching the world through a waterfall. The water was so clean and fresh, and the surroundings so beautiful that I could have happily stayed there all day. But we were planning a diversion trip up to Mitchell Falls, and had to move on after lunch.

After a quick refuel and power up, we dropped off the caravans at Drysdale Station, and met up with another family, the Catterall’s, to do the Mitchell Falls trip. We had heard very different reports about the condition of the Kalumburu Road to the Mitchell Falls Track. It had been open for around four weeks, with the heaviest traffic it had ever seen, so we expected the worst.

Turns out, it was a challenging trip. It took us 6 hours to travel the 185 km to the campground, stopping for morning tea and lunch. Chris was having some issues with his fuel filter (we later found out that he had some bad fuel), so we had to take it extra easy. But we made it. After setting up the tents, we went to Little Merton Falls for a refreshing dip.

The walk out to Mitchell Falls was an 8.5 km round trip, with a couple of side trips to see Aboriginal Rock Art and other waterfalls. The trail involved a lot of clambering over rocks, and walking across unshaded savannah. Between the three families, we had eight children including three 3 year-olds. It was always going to be a big day.

Mitchell FallsKids are tired after swimming at top of Mitchell FallsWe made it to the famous falls for morning tea, and it definitely one of the most beautiful and spectacular natural wonders I have ever set eyes on. It is a four tiered waterfall surrounded by a magnificent gorge and untouched flora. After spending some time taking it all in, and posing for photos, the kids were rewarded for their tremendous effort with a swim in the whirlpool. This was a swimming hole just around from the top of the falls where the rock formation caused a little whirlpool that was so much more fun than any manmade water park. We must have spent two hours there, having a great time swimming with the kids. It took a lot of effort to drag the kids away for the long walk back.

The day ended with another swim at Little Merton, before heading back to camp for a rest.

The drive back to Drysdale took over 4.5 hours, and upon return, the Catterall’s discovered their camper trailer had a crack in the chassis. Luckily, there was a welder at the station for such jobs (people get all sorts of issues travelling on this road). But we managed to do the trip without any punctures or major breakdowns.

Coby's Pony RideThe next big stop was Home Valley Station, a working cattle station that has had a recent upgrade to its camping facilities. It was a welcome oasis after roughing it for the better part of the last two weeks. The lawns were green and lush, and they had the first playground and swimming pool the kids had seen since the start of the Gibb. We also had the opportunity to do some horse-riding. The mums took in a morning ride, seeing just a small fraction of this enormous station. The older kids, including Coby, got to have a half hour pony ride around the campground. Nothing could take the smile off Coby’s face, as she was led around on a pony called ‘Chocolate’ by one of the trainees.

Pentecost River CrossingOur final stop was the famous El Questro. From here we did our final gorge walk at Emma Gorge, which is in my top three. The station also has Zebedee Springs, a thermal spring in a luscious palm forest that is at a permanent 31°C. Loved it.

So we made it to the end of the Gibb River Road. But we weren’t about to stop yet. A quick shop and refuel in Kununurra, and we headed to the Bungle Bungle Ranges. It was such a long drive, that it was dark by the time we entered the park, and found our camping ground. We covered 24 water crossings to get there from the main highway.

Bungles ranges - Purnululu NPEchidna chasm - Purnululu NPBy this stage the kids were really over all the walks, and the word gorge was enough to get them winging double time. Chocolate and icy poles were used as bribes for the Cathedral gorge walk, but we tricked them into doing Echidna Chasm, because it wasn’t called a gorge. But they actually loved this walk, charging ahead once we reached the sheltered chasm. Some areas of this gorge you had to walk single file, it was so tight.

I’m actually really proud of how well the kids did during the past couple of weeks. Long walks in hot weather, and we rarely had any rest time during the entire Gibb trip. In total, we did over 1000 km of heavily corrugated and sometimes very bumpy road. Everyone was feeling pretty exhausted by the time we set up back in Kununarra.

It took Mike and I more than a full day to clean the truck, caravan and finish all the washing. I think we will be finding piles of Kimberly dirt for some time to come. But was it worth all that effort. I would definitely say YES.

So this week marks our halfway point, five months down and five months to go. Tomorrow we are finally leaving WA after more than four months, and heading into the Territory.


2 Responses

  1. once again totally amazing! Glad that all went well, stay safe, miss youse, love youse – take care xoxoxo

  2. You walked through crocodile infested waters…and took the children through ;-O Cant wait to hear the whole story on that one!! The falls do look amazing, I would also like to see them. Wow, half way through, I expect it is flying by. Miss you all!

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