AWOL Around Australia...

Rufant

Active member
The Kimberley. Part 1.

West Australia.



So we drove the rest of the highway to Broome. Nice and quiet, good for making sure there are no untoward noises after the service. Also, really great to get so much done and really just peace of mind to know everything you can visually check, seems to be A OK. Especially as after Broome we would be exploring the Kimberley, so more rough and ready tracks and trails coming up, no doubt.

I’m going to skip a little here. As another tropical cyclone was forming off the coast of north Australia meant we had to wait to see what would happen with that before deciding exactly where to go next. So a few days in Broome, which isn’t so bad. We were here twenty years ago on our first road trip around this part of the world. It felt like a very cool town back then, in a shabby chic kind of way. Many say that has been lost with the resorts and posh new houses that have sprung up in the meantime, maybe so, but that’s the world we’re in now. To me it still retained enough of that character and is still a place you could have a really great time. Although, were travelling out of season. Most locals we interacted with just assumed we were also locals. I know a mate who came here in peak dry season, and hated it.
So the original plan was to head up the Gibb River Road and then up Kalumburu, at the northern tip of the Kimberley. However the cyclone delayed this too, after local advice was not to go for a few days till any possible torrential rain has subsided. Same local advice said a road was open, which then appeared closed. Next day we found out it was probably just the signs hadn’t been taken down yet. But at $1000/wheel for being on a closed road... I should have just called Main Roads on the sat phone like the co-pilot suggested. Anyway, there was another day gone. So we pounded bitumen to Wolfe Creek. (So I didn’t really skip anything, just summarised I guess).

Some pictures anyway.

Inquisitive Manta Ray, off Cable Beach.





'Camping'

Some kick-ass Balinese food we had whilst in Broome.









Matso's is the local brewery, serving up all sorts of delights for hot and humid weather. You can ge the mango beer just about everywhere, shame you can't get the others too. Not many Australian brewers have so good a touch for balance, in their beers.


Spring clean time!


Wolfe Creek had been on my radar after obviously watching the movie.

[sidenote; feel free to skip this if you want... When the movie Wolf Creek was released in Australia, I was away with the Army. So despite the massive hype around this film there was no way for me to watch it when it first came out. By the time I got back to civilisation the movie had been out literally months, and had probably had more publicity than any other movie for a long time (it’s a horror movie, based in the outback if you don’t know). The only cinema left showing it in Brisbane was one of those full on Art House jobs where you get your own armchair and the theatre maybe seats about 40 people. Despite all the publicity, still about halfway through (when the movie turns from being a backpacker type movie to a proper horror movie) at least half the cinema got up and walked out! I’m like, I’ve been living in the bush for the past 3 months and even I knew that was going to happen. I also tried to dissuade my mother from going and seeing it when she emailed me to say she was going to watch it. Too late, she got up and walked out too!]


So we head out to the crater, just like the movie... On the southern edge of HEMA’s Kimberley map, it feels more like the outback than the Kimberley, but anyway.







A sometimes smooth-ish and sometimes rough-ish dirt road takes you the 130km from the highway out to the crater. The land around is very flat, helping the crater to stand out, as opposed to say the Hickman crater, which you have to be standing on the edge of to make it out from the surrounding hills.

We, and the flies, make camp.





...

I notice we're starting to wake earlier, around 5am this morning. I presume we are suffering the opposite effect when we were having heading west, now we are heading back east.

On my morning checkover I find a spotlight bracket broken. So I take it off. The other one is cracked but still holding at this point. Barely use the bloody things anyway...



Quick pack up and we drive over to the crater. It is a spectacle, and easily the most perfect circle of the craters we have seen. Second largest in the world apparently. Australia hates coming second...







Skin on this fella/sheila looked almost translucent, maybe he/she had just shed its skin.

 

Rufant

Active member
We take the same Tanami Road back out, this road runs all the way to Alice Springs to the south, and where we were camped is the edge of the Tanami Desert. Hence it felt more like the outback in South Australia were used to rather than the Kimberley per se. You won't find me complaining.



Apparently ants outnumber humans, not only by number but also by mass. I believe!







Weirdly this road feels smoother and easier going out, I guess that’s the effect of hitting it in the morning, with a fresh start, rather than hitting it later afternoon after 500km? of driving already done for the day. Worth remembering that for sticky situations late in the day, sometimes it’s best to park it and look with fresh eyes on the morrow.

Anyway, back on the bitumen and into the town of Halls Creek. Not a bad little place, we topped off fuel again and bought a couple of pies for brunch. From here we would keep heading east. Firstly to a couple of local sights and then taking another unknown minor track we could see on the map.

China Wall.





The rough and winding road out of town showcased all different ages of abandoned cars off the side.





The wheels told me this was a Discovery. Looking later at the photos, the melted aluminium bodywork confirmed the diagnosis!



We got a bit carried away looking for Sawtooth Gorge, until this minor obstacle stopped us in our tracks.







Anyway, we were on the wrong track as it turns out. We needed to be the other side of that range, see the gap in the rocks?




Ta dah!



Palm Springs.



These spots were all along the main dirt road and signposted, so had a corresponding amount of crap around them... Time to get off the beaten track.
 

Rufant

Active member
We followed a trail off into the Ord River Regeneration area. Firstly skirting the fence line for this station.





I don't think many people come down here...



We stop for a spot of lunch. Saying g'day to old mate.



I whip out the compressor and blow some grass seeds out of the radiator.



These ant hills guarded the horizon against the moody sky.




The road ahead.



We cross many dry rivers.



We can see a few bushfires on the horizon. The smoke is going straight up which is a good sign. No wind means they will spread slowly.


The trail is completely overgrown in sections. We see one set of tyre tracks long ago dried in a patch of mud, but that's it. No one has been down this way in a long time. N carefully watches the GPS to make sure we are staying on the right track.



We skirt round Turner Hill and check out the abandoned Turner Station. As usual I would love to know what happened here? Maybe just a very dry wet season like the one we are travelling in, there must be a few worried farmers up here, as it's almost guaranteed not to rain now for six months.







I find a spanner! Sidchrome too, good quality - half inch, useful size!




Turner Hill.



So we're still mowing stuff down, like a lite version of All 4 Adventure.





 

Rufant

Active member
The sun pokes out from behind the clouds.



There are small bushfires intermittently around, some smouldering up to the track but nothing moving with any speed.

We finally cross some water, stagnant and a bit soft, despite the rocky surface.



Deeper than it looks!



As we drive out the other side N says "we're going in the wrong direction" "lets just give it a minute" I say, known that there are often small discrepancies in the exact position of the track on the map. But no, this track goes the wrong way. We back track to the water crossing, seems we might have missed a junction a short while back.
We find it. Easy to follow our own tracks back, we back on the route marked on the map, then...





I walk, but only so far. Not cool crashing through this thick undergrowth. We drive down a bit, but it's literally a sea of overgrown, and more importantly there isn't any sign of where you cross the water, and it's getting dark.







Weirdly the map had been spot on, all day, right up to this point. No choice though, than to hang a u-bolt.


We backtrack, cross the water again. Switching to the the topo map we can see this track does eventually lead out. As we had been on this track for about 200km already, I was expecting to camp out here tonight anyway. Although with the fires, actually making it back to the main dirt road would be a good idea.

So we follow this track and make it back to the main dirt road - Duncan Road, just as the light is gone. Remember that spotlight I took off this morning....?



Anyway, one is a lot better than none.

Bushfires still doing their thing, about 100m off the road.



We drive on. Eventually at the NT border we find a clear enough spot in the Spinifex to camp. Quick chicken and rice for dinner and call it a night. I can see a few bushfires, but a long way away, still no wind. I wake every so often and have a look out the mesh of the tent, see if the light from the fires is any brighter, seems N was doing the same.

Our old man dog Rollo needs to go out for a whizz at 2am. I go out with him and then turn all the lights off and have another look at those fires. The breeze is up now, not windy but steadily blowing and in our direction. I stare at the brightest light, I think I can just see the direct light of the fire, not just reflected in the hazy night sky. Time to go.

No rush, we're not in any immediate danger, no point in waiting though.



It's about 200km back to the bitumen, this road is actually in pretty good condition, but no rushing from us. Unfortunately a few birds and one small kangaroo decides to hop back across the road into our path, nowhere to go... On the plus side we avoid many many others, such strange behaviour these creatures, many will just stop and sort of crawl away even though the truck is stopped right behind them. We also pass a really big snake, just down the road from a hopping mouse. Lots of wildlife on the road at night.

Sunrise just before we hit the main road.



We roll into Kununurra. Feeling pretty wasted.
 

Pacific Northwest yetti

Expedition Medic
Thanks for posting, and also including the links ( like with he critters we arent familiar with). I look forward to following along, and was able to add a few places to my list.

Happy Trails & Safe Travels
 

vbc1_75

New member
The Kimberley. Part 1.

West Australia.



So we drove the rest of the highway to Broome. Nice and quiet, good for making sure there are no untoward noises after the service. Also, really great to get so much done and really just peace of mind to know everything you can visually check, seems to be A OK. Especially as after Broome we would be exploring the Kimberley, so more rough and ready tracks and trails coming up, no doubt.

I’m going to skip a little here. As another tropical cyclone was forming off the coast of north Australia meant we had to wait to see what would happen with that before deciding exactly where to go next. So a few days in Broome, which isn’t so bad. We were here twenty years ago on our first road trip around this part of the world. It felt like a very cool town back then, in a shabby chic kind of way. Many say that has been lost with the resorts and posh new houses that have sprung up in the meantime, maybe so, but that’s the world we’re in now. To me it still retained enough of that character and is still a place you could have a really great time. Although, were travelling out of season. Most locals we interacted with just assumed we were also locals. I know a mate who came here in peak dry season, and hated it.
So the original plan was to head up the Gibb River Road and then up Kalumburu, at the northern tip of the Kimberley. However the cyclone delayed this too, after local advice was not to go for a few days till any possible torrential rain has subsided. Same local advice said a road was open, which then appeared closed. Next day we found out it was probably just the signs hadn’t been taken down yet. But at $1000/wheel for being on a closed road... I should have just called Main Roads on the sat phone like the co-pilot suggested. Anyway, there was another day gone. So we pounded bitumen to Wolfe Creek. (So I didn’t really skip anything, just summarised I guess).

Some pictures anyway.

Inquisitive Manta Ray, off Cable Beach.





'Camping'

Some kick-ass Balinese food we had whilst in Broome.









Matso's is the local brewery, serving up all sorts of delights for hot and humid weather. You can ge the mango beer just about everywhere, shame you can't get the others too. Not many Australian brewers have so good a touch for balance, in their beers.


Spring clean time!


Wolfe Creek had been on my radar after obviously watching the movie.

[sidenote; feel free to skip this if you want... When the movie Wolf Creek was released in Australia, I was away with the Army. So despite the massive hype around this film there was no way for me to watch it when it first came out. By the time I got back to civilisation the movie had been out literally months, and had probably had more publicity than any other movie for a long time (it’s a horror movie, based in the outback if you don’t know). The only cinema left showing it in Brisbane was one of those full on Art House jobs where you get your own armchair and the theatre maybe seats about 40 people. Despite all the publicity, still about halfway through (when the movie turns from being a backpacker type movie to a proper horror movie) at least half the cinema got up and walked out! I’m like, I’ve been living in the bush for the past 3 months and even I knew that was going to happen. I also tried to dissuade my mother from going and seeing it when she emailed me to say she was going to watch it. Too late, she got up and walked out too!]


So we head out to the crater, just like the movie... On the southern edge of HEMA’s Kimberley map, it feels more like the outback than the Kimberley, but anyway.







A sometimes smooth-ish and sometimes rough-ish dirt road takes you the 130km from the highway out to the crater. The land around is very flat, helping the crater to stand out, as opposed to say the Hickman crater, which you have to be standing on the edge of to make it out from the surrounding hills.

We, and the flies, make camp.





...

I notice we're starting to wake earlier, around 5am this morning. I presume we are suffering the opposite effect when we were having heading west, now we are heading back east.

On my morning checkover I find a spotlight bracket broken. So I take it off. The other one is cracked but still holding at this point. Barely use the bloody things anyway...



Quick pack up and we drive over to the crater. It is a spectacle, and easily the most perfect circle of the craters we have seen. Second largest in the world apparently. Australia hates coming second...







Skin on this fella/sheila looked almost translucent, maybe he/she had just shed its skin.

Did you walk into the centre of the crater amongst the trees, a mini ecosystem of little birds, finches etc.
 

Rufant

Active member
The Kimberley. Part 2

West Australia.




We stopped in Kununurra for a couple of nights. Not much got done that first day as we were somewhat bushwhacked after the last few days exploits. First night was a bit wild, with a carry on all night and the sound of someone determinedly trying to break into the local shops (no shops have exposed windows overnight).
The park manager said that was a particularly bad night and probably people from out of town, coming in, getting carried away and trying to trash the place. Next day the town carried on as normal. Kununurra is the main centre for the East Kimberley region, and when any local around here refers to ‘town’ this is where they mean.
Seems the manager was right as the next night was far more normal.

I evacuated as many grass seeds from the radiator as possible.



Running an air line from the compressor got rid of some, but a micro fibre cloth on the end of a long screwdriver was by far the most effective. Plus another good check over of the Cruiser. Reliability would be as important as ever, now we were be in the north of Australia for the foreseeable future.

Fish and chips from ‘The Barra Shack’ that night. Barramundi is a great eating fish in the north where it can be caught fresh and large. Not so much in the rest of the country where it is either frozen or farmed.



Time to hit the road. The road to Kalumburu should be open by now, so we can take a nice easy two days to get there. Or not.



Hmmm...

No phone reception here.

There are many properties and places to stay along the Gibb River Road, nearly all were shut this early in the season (or really late in the wet season according to the calendar). However I knew El Questro was open, and only a short drive from this eastern end of ‘the Gibb’. We can check local advice there, and make a plan. If not, I can get on the sat phone.

El Questro is by far the most slick and commercial operation in the Kimberley by all accounts, so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise when we got there to find out there was 3G phone reception. So I put a call into Main Roads WA. Who advised they had no road closures,but advised they couldn’t help with smaller, shire roads - makes sense, the clue is in the name... Feeling a bit thick I googled the local shire office and called them. Yep it’s definitely shut, no information on when it will open, they’ve had rain up there. Please check back on the roads page of our website for the latest updates.

Rightyho. Might as well book in for a night here. I was planning to spend a few nights here on the way back anyway. Let’s see how tomorrow (Friday) pans out, if it’s not open then it probably won’t open till after the weekend. No worries, we can spend our nights here now and head out Monday.

So that’s how it played out. Plenty of people bag El Questro but (crucially) at this time of year it was a great place to kill a few days. Easy but scenic 4x4 trails planned out for you. Someone else to cook. Happy hour. DJ playing Toto - Africa on Saturday night! Reminding me of our mates Venturesome Overland who named their African touring Land Rover after that song.

Some shots from our time there.




















There are no real challenging tracks at El Questro. However, about half the 4x4's we saw were hire cars, so better safe than sorry with the signage. Not to mention there are plenty of people with tricked up 4x4's who haven't done much off road driving, as N was chatting to the couple in a 200 series Cruiser who did this hill after us and they said how challenging it was, lucky N didn't mention you could clearly see where the grader had been up it...



The below track was the only on that was really off road, loose and rocky, we did bump the rear bar coming down it but coming back up (where it is easier to see the line) I could see I just picked a poor spot to drop off, I had a good reason for not getting out of the car and looking first I might add!







 

Rufant

Active member
Superb hiking trails, easily mapped out.


















Speaking of...



Climbing out of this rock pool, I slipped, falling maybe half a metre with my big toe taking the full brunt of stopping me falling any further. This is the ‘halfway pool’ on the El Questro gorge hike. I had already tried wading through here with all my gear, and even though it doesn’t look it, it is too deep to do with stuff strapped around your neck. Both the camera bag and my other bag were getting wet. Not particularly wanting to sacrifice my camera gear or satellite telephone I stashed them and went back with just my phone and the PLB. I wasn’t sure which side you were meant to climb out. The waterfall looked easier until I swam closer and realised I couldn’t touch the bottom at all that side, so pulling myself out could prove troublesome. The steeper side I could at least get my feet on the side of the rock (makes you realise how photos change the perspective, the above pool doesn't look anywhere near deep enough for a 6 foot man not to be able to stand in it hey?). All was going well, till my foothold, held no longer and down I went.
As ever, could have been worse, banged head, water, etc... Anyway, pulled myself together. Foot was definitely painful, but just channeled a small bit of Toby Price, and hobbled out.

Toe at time, and 24 hours later.



Looking a bit bent in the above photo, also shows how long I was in the water as my skin has started to go wrinkly.

Below, the full technicolour glory. Plus Roxy.



So, that’ll put a lid on this for a while. It has been sometime since I injured myself, but it just comes with the territory, if you’re an outdoors sort of person it’s just going to happen every now and then. Hoping it was just badly bruised and not broken, I just tried to stay off it, put some ice on it and N did most of the stuff I normally do. Whilst I watched movies and took over the laser pointer.

We got chatting to some Kununurra locals up for the weekend, they advised that the Kalumburu road was unlikely to open before Thursday (this was Saturday), and she being ex pat English like us, gave us a snapshot of what it was like to live in the north - HATES the wet season, loves the dry season. Something I’ve heard many times before.

Well between the bushfires, busting my foot and this bloody road closure I had the growing feeling that Kalumburu wasn’t meant to be. Why did I want to go? About 10 years ago I had spent three months of my life there. Cooking up a storm as part of the Australian Army AACAP project. I got some amazing experiences out of that time and was keen to revisit. I’d also been recommending The Kimberley as THE Australian destination after that trip. I might revise that now, it seems the crazy numbers that come in peak dry season now, have definitely changed the experience up here.

Kimberley-Australia newsletter sealed the deal at least in my mind. Time to move on and explore other areas. First though, I had seen the backtrack to Wyndham recommended as worth doing, not far from here. Just before the crossing of the Pentecost River which we did anyway.



Seems interesting.





Or not.



That just about sums up how it went in the Kimberley for us. It would be churlish to say we didn’t have a good time, we got to some cool places for sure. But my expectations were high, and sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Maybe a few weeks later would have made all the difference. Hey ho, first world problems!

[In reality, with N being crook back in January we were about a month ahead of when we were originally planning to be here. However with how hot January was, we might well have ended up heading home then anyway. Might, but, if, you can only plan so far into the future]

Back to Kununurra, and onto one of my favourite places in the world. Once again we would be back in the Northern Territory!


WA - some observations. Wow! What a State. Covering about a third of the country, its scale and diversity are unsurpassed. You could spend a lifetime exploring here (we had been here about eight weeks).
However, the coast is now a very busy tourist route (I could keep harking back to how it was twenty years ago, but I hate it when people do nothing but spout off about the good old days, that clearly aren't coming back). So be warned. Heading into the outback interior definitely gives more of a sense of vastness and toughness of the environment. Although with so much mining it is maybe more inhabited than you might expect, which gives it its own character.

It’s expensive. This in itself, I don’t have a problem with. Distances are huge, transportation costs have to be factored in, businesses are there to make money. Be glad they are there.
However, there is virtually no free camping. Ok there are many, many roadside ‘rest stop’ camping areas, and we used these on multiple occasions. When you just need somewhere to stop because you are never going to get to the next town before dark, fine, great. But I mean there are virtually no goodfree bush camps, where you might want to stay a bit longer. Even out in the middle of nowhere (which is a real shame, because there is a whole heap of that, and you really need to camp in it to experience it best). It’s not only that they are not free, but they are just not there. It’s pretty much either stay in the towns, national parks or stay be the roadside. Possibly with more research or more local knowledge, it is different. However we traveled the same here as we did through NSW, VIC and SA. Noticeable difference. Maybe it is just because many humans are pigs and can’t clean up after themselves - no offence to pigs.
 
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