Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 Trip: Gibb River Road

Monday 11th July.

We left Derby this morning and headed up the Gibb River Road (GRR). We decided not to visit Windjana Gorge as we had seen it before and Ken's feet were giving him some pain being almost the last week of his monthly chemo regime. At the end of the very short bitumen section we took 10psi out of all the tyres and continued on.

We were looking for a morning coffee stop and pulled into Lennard River Rest Area (WA Camp 768 in CAW 6) and drove in a short distance to find several vans parked up including BOG members Grin'n'Bearit (John & Wendy) and  Track'n'On (Bob & Sue) who we had met at Denmark. That was enough for us, we decided to stay overnight.

This is the Lennard River looking down towards the bridge:

At sunset we all took our chairs up to the high banks and enjoyed some wine, beer and nibblies.

Queen Victoria Rock:

Our next overnighter was at Silent Grove which was very pleasant:

Continuing on we stopped at Mt Barnett Roadhouse and went through to Manning Gorge to camp the night. Ken and I had a very pleasant swim in the pool at the end of the campground.

Russ Creek was our next overnight rest area (WA Camp 752 in CAW 6). It was dusty but pleasant. The creek was all but dry:

Leaving Russ Creek we saw several signs enticing us to call into Ellenbrae Station for scones and jam and cream. Resistance was useless. After washing these down with some coffee we went for a brief walk along the creek bank to see where a tinny had been forced into a tree during last wet season's floods:

The grounds at Ellenbrae:

Approaching the Pentacost River there were some beautiful vistas in front of us.

By this stage of the dry, the Pentacost was really shallow. It only just reached our side steps. But we had to record the crossing so I whipped out my Fat Gecko and stuck my video camera on to a window the van.

Here are Ken & Lyn taking their mighty Spinifex across the Pentacost:

We spent three nights at El Questro. It wasn't too bad. A bit over-priced but I reckon it would be an economic nightmare to run. It is now owned and operated by an American company, the same one that operates the campsites at Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks in the US.

On Chamberlain Gorge the power of the wet season flooding was obvious.

Putting aside my negative feelings about Robinson R44 helicopters we took to the air. Here is the El Questro homestead. $2500 per room per night, minimum 2 nights. The floods last wet were lapping halfway up the pylons to the verandah.

Lyn is hiding her white knuckles behind Ken's back.

We arrived in Kununurra on Monday 18th July.

My impressions of the GRR:

West of the Kalumburu turnoff the road is very good. A lot of roadworks happening and only a few short corrugated sections.

East of the Kalumburu turnoff it is a goat track and steadily gets worse around the El Questro entrance road (which is really bad too). The corrugations here reduced us to 10 to 15kph. Obviously Royalties for Regions has not reached here yet.

Perhaps the worst thing about our drive along the GRR, and the factor that will stop me ever coming back, is the complete selfishness and arrogance of the drivers. Those that have UHF radios do not use them. Others don't carry them at all. So hardly anyone called up behind us to negotiate getting around us.

They passed at reckless speed, throwing up stones. They would appear out of our dust on our right on blind corners and hills and then cut us off as if we were on their road.

And a special mention to the managers of Thrifty Rent-a-Cars: give your Prado customers a better briefing than just throwing them the keys and saying good luck. They seem to be a breed of their own.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2011 Trip: Horizontal Falls

Sunday 10th July:
Today it was our floatplane tour to the Horizontal Falls. We had booked with Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures before we left home and just as well, now fully booked.

Our flight out from Derby was in a float equipped Cessna Caravan turbo-prop.

Over the tidal mud flats north of Derby. Fascinating patterns in the mud. 

We got a bird's eye view of our destination on the way in.

After a smooth landing we tied up to a couple of flat pontoons. There was also a houseboat there with accomodation as they do overnight stays as well.

A very enjoyable cup of coffee before we boarded our boat. 

Seating was astride a padded cushion like riding a horse. The boat was powered by two 300HP Yamaha 4 stroke outboards.

This was the first passage and just an introduction to the real horizontal falls. The water rushes out of the captive lakes as the tide drops.

Heading towards the narrower passage which produces the greatest drop in water level and the appearance of a horizontal waterfall.

The surging rushing water produces whirlpools and uprises of water that can be really dangerous and catch the inexperienced off guard.

Here we were sitting stationary against the outflow of water. The inner water level was about 1.5 metres higher than the downstream side. Despite the fact that our boat was stationary the speedo showed 37kph and the water depth was 43 metres.

We actually drove the boat uphill on water.

This is from the inside of the high side looking down the falls.

Awesome power. Two 300 HP Yamaha 4 stroke outboards. The acceleration was staggering.

After lunch (barramundi BBQ) we explored a few more little bays.

I think he thought we were Meals on Wheels.

The trip home took us over the many islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago.

And a barramundi farm. 

The turquoise waters of the Kimberley.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

2011 Trip: Perth to Derby

Sunday 3rd July
We left Mandurah at 8:30am and headed north up the Freeway to Roe Highway and met up with our friends Ken & Lyn at Ginger's Roadhouse in Upper Swan.. They are towing their new Spinifex van with their new 200 Series Cruiser.

Lunch was at New Norcia.

It was our intention to stop over night at Mt Gibson Rest Stop, but it wasn't where I last saw it and we drove right past. There is now a mine where the rest stop used to be and the highway has been shifted a few kilometres to the west (including a new rest stop). You can tell we are in a mining State when that can happen.

So we found a spot near Paynes Find and camped there for the night. It was cold, too. Paynes Find fuel stop and tavern has been closed. One person we spoke to said that it will eventually re-open. Time will tell.

Monday 4th July.
Continuing north through Mt Magnet and Cue to Meekatharra. We camped overnight at Bilyuin Pool on the Murchison River (Camp 576 in CAW 6). What a nice spot.

My new firewood basket did the job and we had a great camp fire that night. It was still cold but no rain.

Tuesday 5th July
Northwards, ever northwards, through Newman. The mining activity in this part of the State is unbelievable. Massive machinery moving up and down the highway. Holes in the ground everywhere. It is truly Australia's engine room.

We drove past the road to Area C where our son and son-in-law work. The morning jet with the fly in, fly out workers was just making its landing approach to the mine's private airport.

After lunch the rain set in. Low cloud over the ranges and very cold. We pulled into Mt Robinson Rest Area (Camp 580 CAW 6) for the night. It was good to see the number of new Dump Points and toilet blocks being installed for travellers.

We were all glad that we had diesel heaters installed in our vans. They got a workout that night. Beanies and sox to bed.

Wednesday 6th July
It was our intention to stay at Albert Tognolini Rest Area last night (Camp 581 CAW 6) but the weather got the better of us. So we drove in and had a look this morning.

What a pretty place. Very popular too. 

Continuing north out of the ranges into flat plain country and through Port Hedland. We stopped for the night at Cape Keraudren (Camp 617 CAW 6). We were not very impressed with our stay here. It cost us $27 per van to stay overnight because it is a National Park or similar and there is a Ranger at the entry to lighten our wallets. It was bush camping pure and simple and we could have parked up on wild grass in a million other places for free.

Mind you there were plenty of other people there who were obviously enjoying themselves, so to each their own. And my photos don't show the ocean views from these vans.

Thursday 7th July.
Guess what, northwards again. This length of the Great Northern Highway is deadly boring. We arrived at our next overnight stop, Barn Hill Station caravan park (Camp 620 in CAW 6) in mid afternoon. Now this is a nice spot.

Powered sites if needed. Water connection. A beautiful beach and colourful scenery.

Friday 8th July.
2500kms and 5 days after leaving home, we are in Derby (and still in WA).

On Sunday we are booked on a flight and boat ride to the Horizontal Falls.