The basic plan for this trip: Marcus and Jude drive Lara and Paddy (Marcus’ car) up through the Pilbara to Broome via Mt Augustus (the biggest monolith in WA) and Karijini. Jon, Mel and Karlie fly into Broome about 10 days later and then we’ll start our round trip through the Kimberley. Rough plan for the Kimberley is to drive via the Gibb River Road to Kununurra with a big side trip to the Mitchell Plateau. After Kununurra we want to head down to Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) and hopefully Wolfe Creek (nope – we haven’t watched the movie yet, we will watch it when we get there…). Jon has to leave us after the Bungle Bungles as he is going back to work and we’ll continue with places like Tunnel Creek and Geiki Gorge before dropping off Mel and Karlie at the airport in Broome. Marcus and Jude will drive the cars back down to Perth again…
July 2009: We’re back – the trip has ended… 44 days of holidays…time flies! This is the story of the Kimberley section of the trip, check out the rest of the trip in the Pilbara post.
Jude picked up Jon from the airport in Broome and we all went for a nice breakfast and some shopping in Chinatown. Scooby and Jude had to buy new thongs and Jon bought another pair of shorts.
Later that day we drove up to Cape Leveque to spend the weekend there, waiting for Mel and Karlie to arrive in Broome. We tested the new kayak (terrified of the possibility of salties around), went exploring the mud flats at night (was that a safe idea?), walked around Cape Leveque, Marcus got close to a few snakes, helped out an aboriginal family to rearrange some studs on their car (the wheel only had 3 left!) and went mud crab hunting with spears (is that smart with salties roaming the same areas?!) before eating them straight from the bbq. We also said good-bye to John and Scooby who were continuing their holiday in the opposite direction from here (and also a bit faster than us).
Back in Broome we picked up Mel and Karlie and some more supplies before finally heading off to the Gibb River Road – first stop: Windjana Gorge where we went for a walk to the end of the gorge and then decided to go for a paddle. We discovered just how many crocs live in the river when we returned in the dark with our head torches on… there is literally at least one croc every 10m or so!
During a run Marcus discovered some caves with rock art in them and we all went to have a look too before heading out to the Horizontal Waterfalls. The gap between the rocks is so small and the difference in height of the sea between high and low tide causes the horizontal falls. They are incredibly powerful. We flew there on a bi-plane and immediately jumped into the speed boat to zoom through the falls a few times. Great fun.
Fishing time up the creek after that with the girls catching all the fish with the hand reels. We used up quite a bit of bait fish so after a delicious fishy dinner we helped the crew catch some more bait fish from the jetty before petting the tawny sharks that always hang around. We also caught a small hamerhead that we were going to release. But he nearly died on the line before we could bring him in as a bigger shark decided to take a bite (he did survive and was released a little later, must have been quite traumatising for the little fellow).
Too soon it was time to head back and continue our drive on the Gibb River Road. We stopped in at Bell Gorge for a lovely swim and explored the gorge before heading over to Lennard Gorge. Unfortunately the road to get there was closed, but we found out we could still get there on foot. We packed our tents, left our cars with the road working crew and hiked in. Having the place to ourselves was amazing. It is a very beautiful gorge and we explored in every direction. It is very similar to some of the gorges in Karijini. Some of us got a ride back to the cars, others decided to go for a run…
Our next stop was the Mornington Station. It is a working station bought by the AWC and they are doing a lot of practical research here with the help of volunteers. They restarted the early season deliberate fires to prevent the really hot fires later in the (dryer) season and also fenced off a whole area to let nature recover. They realised billabongs recover in a year if they are not trampled by the many cow hooves… Another thing they are researching is the number of dingos and its relation with other predators and local wildlife. It seems if you reintroduce dingos they stabilise it all, bringing down the number of foxes and cats and actually helping local wildlife survive.
We had to take the boats out for a paddle on the beautiful river of course, climbing up to one of the local caves for an amazing view. The next day Marcus, Jon & Jude went for a hike up to the top of Fitzroy Bluff before cooling off at Cajeput Pool (still a bit nervous about the crocs) with the bouncy ball.
We then fill up (ouch, nearly $2 a litre!) just before the turn-off to Mitchell Plateau and bump into Scooby. After lunch at a lovely creek crossing we continue our way north towards the Mitchell Falls when disaster strikes. Jude doesn’t see a whole line of boulders in the line of driving due to the bull dust hanging around with the sun shining and flies up and over them, causing Lara to crash and land on her side. Game over for Lara and, we think, it is game over for our trip. We call Marcus on the radio and he returns to find Jon and Jude save but shaken next to Lara. Marcus and Jude drive back a few hours to the nearest station to ask for help, or better the use of the telephone. The lady is very helpful and after a few phonecalls to Kununurra and the insurance company we return to the crash side and wait.
We wait for 36 hours before the tow truck arrives and we say our goodbyes to Marcus, Mel and Karlie. They continue their way to the Mitchell Falls and we head to Kununurra in the tow truck. After a long drive we arrive in Kununurra in the dark and, having called Kellie, we are picked up by a friendly face where we can spend the night. The next morning we arrange a rental vehicle through the insurance company, load everything over from Lara into the new car and head out to El Questro, our rendezvous point with Marcus, Mel and Karlie. We arrive pretty much at the same time and head out to our campsite along the river. We have a great dinner at the restaurant for a change and the next days we explore Zebedee hot springs, Emma Gorge and Amelia Falls.
Back in Kununurra to sort out some things for Lara we head out for a day of fishing on the Ord River with our tow truck driver. We only catch a small shark but see plenty of massive salties floating around…
Next stop is the Bungle Bungles or Purnululu where we spend a few days exploring the amazing looking beehives and gorges. Jon and Jude go for a very hot overnight hike into Piccaninnie Gorge whilst the others explore the area on day hikes before going up into the skies with a helicopter to see the Bungle Bungles from above.
Then, when we are on our way out already, disaster strikes again and this time it is Paddy who dies. We drive out for help and the tow truck comes out again and brings us back to Kununurra where Paddy is delivered to the same spot as Lara.
Whilst we need to wait for Paddy to be fixed Marcus, Jon and Jude take one of the boats and go for an overnight paddle on the Ord River. There are freshies there, but no salties, or so they say. We head out quite late in the afternoon and with a lot of luck find a really great camp site where we enjoy a camp fire. The next morning we paddle further upstream as we try to get as close as we can to the dam. We don’t make it all the way, but get very close. The water flows a lot faster this far up the gorge.
When we get back it is time for Jon to fly back home and all the gear off Lara to be shipped back on a pallet. Before leaving Kununurra Jude goes for a run in Mirima and then we all drive to Wolfe Creek. Of course we have to watch the movie at night, after visiting the crater during the day and at sunset.
Our last stop is in Tunnel Creek where we take a boat with all the oldies and cruise up and down the river seeing the sights and listening to the stories.
Back in Broome we visit the real (!) dinosaur prints at low tide, seriously impressive, before dropping off Mel and Karlie at the airport. Marcus and Jude continue the trip back to Perth in Paddy and of course stop again in Karijini where we explore some more gorges. This time we want to explore the Red Gorge as well and nearly get hypothermia trying.
A few days later we are back in Perth, the end of an amazing trip and the end of the road for Lara. She never recovered from the crash and was declared a total loss by the insurance company. We bought her so we could salvage all the pieces of her we wanted to keep, bought another basic Land Rover Defender (a white one this time) and spent a lot of time having everything moved across from one car to our new car. Another Lara was born…
Very basic map of the Kimberley. The Gibb River Rd is the road between Derby and Kununurra via Windjana Gorge (just off the Gibb River Rd) and El Questro. Bungle Bungle NP is the same as Purnululu NP