The Great Gibb River Road Adventure!

Kununurra Travel Blog

 › entry 14 of 30 › view all entries

Kununurra is 1057km east of Broome and over 3000km north of Perth, depending on which the road travelled.

Its also the point where we should collect the 4WD camper we did order - Trailmasters promised a driver would meet us with the bush camper so we can start the tour on the Gibb River road to the west of Kununarra.

After some calls we do meet the driver with our camper who set off 5 days earlier from Perth ... but he starts the conversation with news we dont want ... the camper is in a garage as the fridge does not seem to be working .... actually the fridge was the least of our worries but more of that later.....!

Our driver hurridley does a vehicle swop as he needs to be in Darwin to drop the 2WD off as its out tomorrow on hire and then we are on our own.

Investigating the fridge more I am sure its NOT working!

We find a refridgeration expert but they are not available till 1330 - so we have an early lunch and find some asian food and watch the locals sitting under some trees out the sun.

At 1330 we head back and the expert confirms its not the fridge but wiring into the fridge - in desperation of loosing more time I borrow a screwdriver and rip out the fridge so we can get to the wiring - 2 mins with the plug and 6 screws back and the fridge is getting cold and I am dripping wet with the heat - how do they work up here!

So with a working fridge we head to the fuel station and fill up - I can hear thunder and see huge clouds coming - a storm is gonna hit here very soon - so with full tanks, food and a fridge we quickly head out to the west to miss the storms.

Turning into the Gibb River road we stop and take some pics - a deep breath and we are off.

Gorge country is found along the rugged Gibb River Road. Really a 600km long 'bush track' that connects the remote Kimberley cattle stations to Derby and Kununurra. It allows superb access to the virtually untouched natural assets of the Kimberley wilderness. Some of the most spectacular scenery on earth, and so recently 'discovered' that it is yet to be made into national parks. The road cuts through King Leopold Range, Philips Range, Barnett Range, Gibb Range, Mosquito Hills, Pentecost Range and Cockburn Range. Wildlife concentrates around the densely vegetated waterholes, creeks and many gorges, including fresh water crocodiles, green tree snakes, tortoises and archer fish.

However you 'do' the Gibb River Road - it is an outback 4WD adventure never to be forgotten.

we were not to forgot the trip that was for sure!

 The Gibb River Road is traversable only between from approximately May to October, due to the dramatic summer weather conditions experienced in Australias North West. The rugged terrain of the Gibb River Road is a southern hemisphere winter adventure option for both 4WD enthusiasts and those eager to soak in the rich history and stunning scenery of the ranges, waterfalls, gorges, rock pools, caves and wildlife in the last frontier that is Australias North West.

The Gibb River Road is sealed only for the first 60km of the western end and although the rest may be regularly graded, interesting corrugations are the norm. Limited supplies are available along the route; it is essential to be self-sufficient and well prepared.

The Gibb river Road was built in the 1970s to allow station owners to drive cattle in thousands from the massive inland Kimberley stations to remote ports on the Kimberley coast. Cattle is King in Australias North West, and traveling conditions and speed on the Gibb River Road vary dramatically. Potential hazards such as cattle and other wildlife make daylight hours the only time to travel the Gibb River Road. 

A few stations along the road have accomodation, fuel and more important tyres - the Gibb R:R has rather a reputation for tyres as the rocks onlong it are sharp and the road conditions can, especially at the end of the seaon, become rather corrugated.

Our first major point along the road was El Questro and then onto the first river crossing, the Pentecoste.

We crossed the river without issues - it was still low and mostly not more than 150mm - we planned to stop at one of the next stations along but when we got there the signs were down to say it was closed - season end.

By now it was getting darker and we decided to press on alittle further to one of the next stations - the storms that we had seen in Kununurra early were easily visible and keeping a close eye on them we drove on.

After crossing the dried out bed that was the Durack River we were greeted by the hissing sounds of a flat tyre.

Not a good place to stop now as we are still in low ground and I didnt like the idea of a flash flood catching us out - no problem - only a flat - 10 mins and we will be on our way and then the next station we can fix the flat.

So with Karina holding the small torch she had I wind the wheel down and get the jack out - loosing the nuts and trying to jack the car up leads to a major problem - the jack does not seem to be working - its making a horrible grinding sound and not lifting the car - now are in trouble! With storms all around us now I decided that we needed to take quick actions to get to higher ground - we drive around 1 km on the flat up the hill on the other side of the river - I feel more comfortable but Karina is clearly not and is worried and slightly panicy - I re-assure her - we have over 100 lts of water and 5-6 days food - we are in no danger - just dying of boredom waiting for someone to pop by! - So we make camp as it dark now . We are 180km from the main road!

Around 1.5 hrs later Karina jumps up - "I can hear a car" - we see lights - its late - who can that be - more lost souls??

I wave the car down - actually another 4x4 and am greeted by teh puzzled looks of an old Aboriginal woman - looking into the car I see the whole family - explaining our issue she smiles and says "no worries .

..we gotta jack we can use" and her husband is out the car in a jiffy and under the camper with it. The family are on their way to a family gathering further north and use the dark cooler hours for travelling - Grandpa cannot speak English but he has a huge big toothless smile and wants to shake hands very often - the kids are lovely and all want to help - the tyre is changed quickly and we are ready to drive out in the morning once its light - the family pile into the 4x4 - mum, dad, 3 kids, grandpa, 2 chiuaus and..... mum suddenly shows us a bag and out pops a baby Kangeroo - a small Joey - blinking in the light and upset at being woken up .....this is Sally we are told!

Watching the lightning around us I said "I think the lightning man" is coming soon - the old woman laughs - yep he sure is"! 

Thanking them and exchanging hand shakes and smiles I ask the father is there anything I can give him for their time ..... No worries he says ......travellers help each other dont they ..... safe trip he says. I thank him and tell him how much we enjoyed meeting them  "Bo Bo"  the Aboriginal good bye in the NT - Thank you says the father and they disappear into the night leaving us at least mobile.

I dont sleep well - I am hot - dirty - sweaty and thinking about driving 180km back to the sealed road - another puncture and wre are going no where! Karina is asleep - I can see the lightining - I hear nothing ...... the bush sounds around us are all...... I try to sleep.

0430 - the dawn is coming - I am awake - Karina wakes next to me and is surprised to see me awake - shes calmer now - I offer some breakfast but neither of us want to eat - we drink some juice and start out.....

Slowly - 40km/h max and walking pace in some places we make the way out - After 3 hrs of driving we escape onto the sealed road - safe - we only see 1 car in 18 hrs - we might have to had wait a while till someone had come along!

But we are safe, tired, dirty and again worried about the lack of preparation on the camper ........ we should be worried ...... this wasnt the only time we are going to be stuck .........

But first we need to get a new tyre and a jack......!


koala says:
What a night!!! I will never forget that - for sure! I was not panicky I was just worried that we will get a second tyre!
Posted on: Dec 10, 2006
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photo by: Morle