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.


  1. Anonymous4:18 pm

    Hi Stephen, really enjoying your photos and reading your trip notes, keep them coming, cant wait until we can get out there, but still waiting to get the chevy decked out ready to go, then will have a short break (2wks in August heading to Narrabri, Bingara area)really cold and wet in Sydney so reading your blog makes me very envious. Regards Teresa (B&TwithBT)

  2. Anonymous6:23 pm

    Thanks very much for the great pictures and trip update. We have been along the GRR a couple of years ago but it certainly sounds like it has become a very busy track now.
    I had the best ever steak at El Questro, it was expensive but excellent.
    Regards Will

  3. Anonymous9:10 pm

    Sounds like your having a great time Dad, look forward to one day showing my family the same country. Hopefully it stay the same as you see it today.

    Drive safe and look forward to your next entry - Michael

  4. Grumblebum and the Dragon7:24 am

    Hi Stephen et al,

    Enjoy the good country. We spent 8 weeks on the GIbb/Mitchell Plateau in 2008 and found some magic spots of the beaten track.
    When in Kununurra go an see the Nadeen Lovell Gallery of Fine Art to see the work of some brilliant local artists. Its like an East Kimberley Tour all in one gallery.

    John and Jean
    AKA 'Grumblebum and the Dragon

  5. Anonymous8:15 am

    Hi Steve, Robyn, Ken & Lynne
    Enjoyed your trip report and photo's. Amazing country isn't it. I have only one week to go work wise Yay!!!!. Have put in for the super, been to lunch with my work friends, now counting down the days. Hey Robyn great to see the Docker's beat Sydney last week, great game. Take care of yourselves and look forward to reading more of your adventures. Luv Glenda xxxx

  6. Lizee7:57 pm

    Sounds awesome guys! Thanks for all the updates. Great photos.

    Izaak says "Hello Nana & Grandpa"



  7. Warwick Dooland9:07 am

    Greetings Stephen, great blog and great photos. Please keep them coming. You are a long way from Denmark now. How about commenting on some of the gadgets/toys you wuld have brought with you, in retrospect. I look forward to your next blog, it makes me feel that I am travelling there also.
    Kindest Regards, Warwick

  8. Anonymous9:52 pm

    Hi Stephen ( Gone Bush )
    Dont know why but the corrugations east of the Kalumburu turn off are always there. They do the road up you blink and the corrugations are back again. Even in the late 70s when it was a two wheel cattle track.
    Have fun.

    Tony S