16th July, 2015 Durack River Camp
While at Miners Pool we had a couple of texts on the satellite phone from Kay telling us where they were camping so we knew they were getting closer to us. We packed up camp on Thursday morning to head back down the Kalumburu Road and onto the GRR to continue our journey. Our loose plan was to camp at Ellenbrae Station unless a better option came along.
In the three days we spent at Miners Pool the road back to the GRR had deteriorated even more. It had been graded only two weeks ago but you would never have known that from the state of the road now. The last 15kms to the intersection with the GRR were appalling!! We came up behind a Pajero towing an Eco Tourer limping along at about 15kph. He waved us past and we just assumed he was being very cautious.
As we approached the intersection, we intended to pull into the rest area to check the fillings in our teeth and saw a van approaching from the West along the GRR. It took us a minute or two to recognise Kay & Bruce and I called them up on the UHF at the same time that they recognised us. We both parked and caught up with what we have been up to since we last saw each other in Broome. They planned to camp at a free camp at Durack River that was listed on Wikicamps so we decided to accompany them. While we were chatting, the limping Pajero pulled in and told us they had broken a shock absorber on the Pajero on their way up to Mitchell Falls and were nursing the vehicle back to somewhere for repairs. We had been told that vehicle recovery costs $2.50 per kilometer and the kilometers start from Broome!! Another bit of trivia: the Ranger at Silent Grove told us he had 17 people stranded at the camp last August after rain closed the GRR. The fine for driving on the GRR when it is closed is $1000 per wheel on the vehicle including spares. That would have cost us $11000! Not something to be taken lightly.
The Durack River crossing was dry but quite rocky so we had to slow right down and then pull up a quite steep climb to where the entrance to the campsite was on top of the hill opposite a truck parking area. Kay and Bruce were ahead of us so they ventured in to check it out while we waited for the all clear on the UHF. It turned out to be a lovely spot with a couple of cleared areas high above the river. A bit of maneuvering and we had a great spot for the night.
We knew there were saltwater crocs in the river and hoped for our first sighting in the wild. Despite scouring the banks for telltale slip marks, we could see nothing except the carcass of a recently deceased croc floating belly up just beside the bank. However, the river was lovely to look at from our perch up on the hill.
As always, Erich was out and about with his camera and got a little too close to the water on the riverbank for my liking!
Lots of birds here too.
A Jacky Winter?
A Rainbow Bee Eater with his feathers ruffled in the wind.
Maybe a White-bellied Sea Eagle.
Kay thinks this may be a wild tomato.
17th July, 2015 Cockburn Ranges Lookout
Having had no mobile phone or internet coverage since leaving Derby almost two weeks ago, we were keen to get to a rest area marked on Wikicamps as having reception from Wyndham; Cockburn Ranges Lookout. What a glorious view! And Telstra reception was the icing on the cake. There was room for our two vans to tuck in out of the way of anyone else wanting to stop there.
The views were magnificent, changing colours as the light changed.
The Pentecost River
18th July, 2015
Sunrise the next morning.
What we had to look forward to driving down to the Pentecost River Crossing.
Crossing the Pentecost River is one of those iconic outback experiences. The best crossing photos are from east to west with the Cockburn Ranges in the background. Unfortunately, we were travelling west to east. The only way to get the iconic photo for us would have been to do the river crossing three times and that wasn’t going to happen!! So I gave my camera to Kay and asked her to take some photos of our crossing.
It all looks rather tame as we were in low range and taking it very slowly across the rocky bottom. The deepest part was not more than 500mm.
These photos were taken from inside our vehicle.
Looking back across to Kay and Bruce where they waited for sun to shine on the ranges to get a good photo.
As Kay and Bruce were going to wait for a couple of hours for the sun to get into the right position, we arranged to meet them at the Cockburn Rest Area at the intersection of the Victoria and Great Northern Highways.
The last of the dirt was ahead of us and it was really rough. We were travelling at only 40-50kph on this section and when we finally reached the sealed road at El Questro Station, I felt like getting out and kissing the bitumen.
While waiting for Kay and Bruce, Erich pumped up all 8 tyres and checked the wheel nuts as it will be a while before we venture onto dirt roads again (I hope!). Once the chores were complete, he couldn’t resist a photo of these lovely boabs.
Once reunited with Kay and Bruce and after lunch at the rest area, we set off for the easy run to Kununurra.
So what did we think of the Gibb River Road trip? We really enjoyed it apart from the very rough sections towards the end. The gorges were beautiful and we were happy that we took our time seeing as much as possible. In hindsight, it would have been advisable to have completed the trip prior to the school holidays as it was that additional traffic that really wrecked the road.
The Landcruiser and van really stood up to the punishment well. So far since leaving home almost 4 months ago we have not had to change a tyre. The only casualty on the GRR was one of the D shackles which attach the chains of the van to the vehicle. On the second last day we pulled into a parking area to talk to a couple with a camper trailer heading west and as we moved off I could hear a tinkling noise. On investigation, we found one of the D shackles completely missing and a chain dragging on the ground. The pin in the shackle must have unwound itself and the whole thing fell off somewhere. Fortunately we had a spare.
Bucket List: Gibb River Road – tick!