That iconic droving track - the Gibb River Road

We are now at Home Valley Station - about three quarters of the way along the Gibb River Road and pleased to avail of the services of 'Roaming wifi" after a week of no inter-planetary contact.

On returning from Cape Leveque we spent two relaxed nights at Cable Beach. Sitting here in a balmy 30 degrees with a gentle ocean breeze tickling the shade giving gums I could see how folks spend three to five months a year here. We took a sunset picnic and appropriate beverages and sat on the sand as the golden orb once again slid down and was swallowed up by the Indian Ocean. We left Broome and headed for Derby. We paid homage at the 1500 year old Prison Boab - a sacred place where police and slave traders stopped to rest, their captives held by chains to the neck. 

We took a walk out across the 3km of mud flats to gaze in awe at yet another sunset from the wharf. Derby has the largest tides ion the Southern hemisphere at 12 metres+. The wharf’s height testament to that fact. 

The small restaurant at the end of the wharf served a seriously tasty scallop and prawn curry - caught just minutes earlier - ‘…. the best curries in the Kimberley”. The wharf is a place to gaze, ponder, fish and generally just be.

We headed west the next day starting our journey along the Gibb River Road. We have thus far engaged with every kind of road surface; sand; rocks; mud; corregations-  small, large and the size of small hills; and water crossings of varying depth with sandy and rocky bottoms - oh yes - and narrow strips of tar on occasion.

 Stopping at Windjanna Gorge for the night we popped down to Tunnel Creek where Jandamarra held out and led the Bunuba resistance movement from. He fought for three years to keep white settlers out of the Tunnel Creek area, a place sacred to the Bunuba people. The cave cuts through the Napier Ranges - we clambered over boulders and through icy water to about half way. In the pitch black the odour of the 5 different species of bat together our own imaginations created a sense of how Jandamarra lived. these caves are ancient - the Devonian Reef that is the Napier Range once an underwater coral reef some 250 million years ago. 

The next morning we headed off just after sunset to walk the 7km walk through the Windjarna Gorge. The same Napier Range stands erect to form the walls and guard the Lennard River as it cuts its way through. The gorge is aptly described as a ‘first class geological formation’ and provided a stunning backdrop to our trek. About 20 of the largest freshwater crocodiles I have seen sunbaked on the beaches and banks of the gorge.

It was here - and luckily not further up the road - that the Mighty Nellie Nissan displayed some attention seeking behaviour - being greedy she had started chewing through oil at a rapid rate - no leaks evident but we decided to pop back the 300km return trip to Derby and grab a few litres more. It was at the servo, patrolled by the police - that we met a helpful bobby from Skipton in Yorkshire - the last person or machine to close the oil cap had clearly been related to Arnold Schwazaneger!  
Our next stop was Silent Grove, nestled in the Leopald Ranges - so named aftre the King of Belgium who didn’t actually visit here - or indeed Australia but was very supportive of explorers. Silent Grove is a shady oasis with the great red rocks providing a back wall to the camp ground. The sounds of some 40 species of bird filled the air and the huge skies were lit by a silvery moon and miriad of stars. We trekked the km or so into Bell Gorge from near here - once again clambering over boulders and splashing through creeks across slippery rocks - in other words - climbing every mountain and fording every stream until we found our dream - the simply gorgeous Bell Gorge. With crystal clear water holes at the top and a cascade of water rushing over the top of the gorge into the  deep waters below, it was a gem.

 Next day took us back on the road bouncing, splashing, bumping and grinding along to Glvan’s Gorge - another little stunner nestled away along a grassy, rocky path and onto Manning Gorge. The Mount Barnett Station is home to the Roadhouse - and Manning Gorge. Camped here we swam in the icy waters - quite okay once sensitised - and crossed the river by tug boat - you sit in the tinny and tug, pulling yourself across the width of the river to the rocky outcrop on the other side.

On arrival at Drysdale Station - about 59 km off the Gibb River Road headed towards Kalumburu on the north coast - we checked in for three nights. Being a day later than planned our back up system was working perfectly as we were greeted by signs posted '….. anyone has seen two women in a burgundy Patrol AF8…..’. We had been unable to contact Col and check in as you sometimes need to climb high to get a satellite signal and we had spent the last couple of days meandering through the Leoplad Ranges - and Col had acted. It is good to know that we would never spend more than 3-5 days rolled over in a ditch somewhere :). Conveniently, there was a pay phone in a fridge at Drysdale.
The early morning and late afternoon light of the tropics transforms everything creating long shadows and soft colours.
Tonight the setting sun painted the sky a deep, solid Valencia orange and in the opposite sky the waxing moon rose brightly into a purple sky. The sky certainly has its paint palette out tonight.
Cows , standing still disguised as termite mounds then coming to life jumping into the road to play chicken " haha, gotcha- I'm really an invincible young bullock" - this one was safe thanks to the effective electric brakes and we were thanks to the anti-sway system - but others have not been so. Their mothers seem to have no control as they stand and watch with long faces and sad eyes.
Goannas, the size of Teradactyls, watch us heads held high and still as we drive past. We have passed the odd oversized Carpet Python and seen the track of other slithery friends secretly going about their business. Flocks of Galahs arguing with each other and competing with the Cockies for top spot in the decibel stakes. Black Cockies, much shyer than there pale counterparts, fly gracefully by, make a peaceful home and then vacate the tree that the large gang of noisy cousins have also chosen for the night. Pretty purple headed wrens busy about the place. As knights on the wing with no need for a white charger, Kites swoop in watching over their territory and then retire to a tall tree to maintain their surveillance. Mighty Wedge-tailed eagles - the royalty of birds of prey - majestically circle held high on the thermals or feast - having first dibs at the Road Kill Restaurant.

The dust. The dust is everywhere - is that a golden tan or a layer of red dust that has become a part of me - showering dilutes it and sends an orange stream swirling around my feet. Seeming only minutes later, I am back to my orange self with matching clothes. The car and the van too are covered in the iron ore dust and we all look like we have risen from the dirt and have been created by it. Sometimes it fills our mouths - if the wind is blowing or one of us - me that is- didn't close the window in time for an oncoming vehicle to deliver its cloak into our car. It will provide beautiful tangible memories of our trip long after we return.
Today we took an early morning flight in a teeny weeny plane across the Mitchell Plateau; followed Drysdale River through immense gorges of blushing red rocks wearing lush green onesies; looked down on the deep azure waters folding themselves around the numerous islands and rocks that form the Kimberley coastline; and banked steeply to gaze in wonder at the Mitchell Falls crashing down over three levels to drop over 100 metres on its way to the Prince Regent Sound.

There is so much more to feel and see in this ancient land and we are just touching the tip of the iceberg that is the Kimberley.


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