Members Trips

stories from Australia



kimberley adventure

by theo



Our trip has been underway for about a month and with 4 vehicles and trailers we’ve had a ball but with just under 100K to go to Kunnunarra, one of our party had a major disaster, their right hand trailer wheel overtook them heading bush. The following car said it looked pretty spectacular with lots of smoke and sparks. The wheel is recovered from the scrub with the hub still attached but unfortunately the axle stub was ground to about half its size and the axle needed replacing. One of our group sets of for Kunnunarra to get a replacement axle. Whilst waiting we remove the old axle and get set up for the installation – we are if nothing a hopeful lot. They return some 4 hours later with all the bits and more to make the repair, the workshop had given them all this gear on good faith because we were in trouble. The welder is again put to use to weld on the spring lugs and it takes about another 45 minutes to complete the repair, it is now about 5-30 and the sun has well and truly set. We make a decision to go for Kunnunnarra as everyone is tired and wants a good shower etc.

While in Kunnunnarra we spent time doing Lake Argyle (sunset tour), Lake Kunnunnarra (our tinnies), Wyndham and an Ord River fishing charter. Well, my story is a sad one, after a number misses finally hooked a big barra when half asleep (the sun and the cold I’d caught got the better of me). You know it’s a good one when the man of few words – Greg, the guide – shouts “Geezs that’s a big one”. With a magnificent shake of the head to show himself Greg guessed it was a 40 pounder, the adrenalin now kick’s in because I’ve got the title winning fish on the end of my line. I follow Greg’s instructions and apply heaps of pressure (he had wound my drag to almost lock up before we started). At this stage Murphy shows himself and this fish makes a dive for the snag and through the shouts and instructions we try to raise the anchor to chase the fish around the snag but the anchor decided to become snagged as well – damn Murphy. By the time we get to the snag the fish had won its freedom. No one would have believed it anyway as I didn’t have my camera, one of life’s cruel little jokes – but it was good while it lasted.

Back to the jetty to clean the fish we’d been given another 65cm fish from the other boat. The little non English speaking pensioner caught 7 – how good are we? The frames were fed to the resident 3.5 meter saltie that stands guard over the pontoon and the boats no doubt. He was magnificent beast that showed itself once they started the water pump. Coming up out of the water he swallows a fishframe, ever cautious he comes out again and takes another frame back into the river. A couple of freshies sitting on the sides are fed the skins.

Take note: stay away from Top End Motors they are a bunch of cowboys.

Next stop is El Questro and so far the GRR is pretty good for a dirt corrugated highway. We camp in Magpie Goose, a bush camp on the junction of the Pentecost and Chamberlain Rivers a very pleasant spot with only your own facilities. Dug a toilet and set up the shower so we are set. The place has a large flock of corellas as our neighbours – what a delightful bunch of clowns they are. Several times we watched as one would land on a very thin twig, then spin it around till it broke falling towards the river but only to glide out off trouble half way down. We spend several days here and do a couple of trips and everyone enjoyed their stay.

Heading for Drysdale River Station we had nothing but problems and only make it to Ellenbrea for our overnight camp. We are sent to the ringers camp and all find a comfy place. The shower here is worthy of some mention, a timber-burning boiler that is the size of a car but it certainly provided a fantastic shower after what had been a trying day. One sick traveller, 2 tyres, another bearing and a couple of falls conspired to upset the harmony of our travels.

We have about 130 K to Drysdale River Station and do this in good time. The road is much better than expected but we had a few scary moments with the ABS. A lock up on a tight bend almost had us in the bush and another lock up dodging a yearling almost had us eating beef but other than that an uneventful trip and we set up camp well before lunch.

We spend a glorious week at McGowans Island camping ground located about 7 K out of Kulumburu. The locations has its ups and downs, the camp site looks much like it did after cyclone Ingrid flattened it earlier this year there is wreckage strewn everywhere. Our camp has 180 degree water views but no shade and if it wasn’t for the sea breeze the heat would be intolerable. George the caretaker has been most friendly from the moment we pulled into the place. He has showed us where to go and catch bait. The toilet and shower are worth a mention they are in a building that was demolished in the cyclone but he shower and toilet sort of survived, just cold water which is burning hot during the day because the water main lies above the ground and acts as solar heating. Some of this house roof also survived and its location over a concrete floor made it a perfect work shop. We take the opportunity to do some tyre repairs.

Driving back to Drysdale River Station we arrive in time for lunch and have a hamburger and book for dinner that night. We head for Mt Barnett the next day and stay there for several days. It’s a bush camp with solar showers and flush toilets. The first day is spent repairing water tanks and the next we walk to Manning Gorge. It takes about and hour and a half to do this walk which is mostly uphill with a steep decent at the other end. We were all hot and bothered by the time we got there and a swim was most welcome in a pleasant setting. A hot walk back to the camp ground and another swim in the waterhole there – we were stuffed.

We are back on the GRR heading for Bell Gorge, having chosen to by pass Old Mornington Camp because they do not allow generators (as nice as it sounded and as strong as the recommendations we need the power to run the fridges which are working very hard in this heat). As a parting gesture from the GRR, one of our group has a bolt let go on his front wishbone and fortunately pulls up in time before anything serious lets go. As luck would have it (we’ve had a bit of this on this trip) a replacement high tensile bolt is found and the show is on the road again. We camp at Silent Grove which has good facilities and nice water. There are lots of birds here including corellas, finches and bower birds. We all decide to go and do the walk to Bell Gorge which turns out to be a half hour rough walk, including a steep climb at the end.

We set off for Windjana Gorge and arrive at lunch time (in the heat of the day). Planning to spend 2 days and go to Tunnel Ck after lunch. Tunnel Ck is a magnificent place that requires a little climbing and wading through knee deep water for several hundred meters. It is also notable as a hide out for Pidgeon an aboriginal outlaw earlier this century. The road to Tunnel Ck is on the side of an escarpment which is dotted with boab trees, a scene that typifies the Kimberley. We arrive back at camp somewhat nackered but are talked into doing Windjana Gorge, which we are told is best viewed late avo or early morning. At this stage we are well and truly exhausted and get back from our walk only to slump in our chairs. The gorge was magnificent and all those fresh water crocs in a shallow pool was well worth seeing.

Our next destination is derby CP we liked it there, the owner was a friendly chap and greeted us after having rung him the day before (he guessed it was us from the vehicles). Spend a bit of time at the Boab Inn, nice place and good meals, and get lots of advice about fishing. Attempt to fish Blue Holes but this is a failure due to the tides, nice place to see lots of roos (hundreds). A couple of us do the Horizontal water fall tour – what a buzz, it was a great day. Next stop Broome via Cape Leveque, we spend a couple of days at Cape Leveque and Middle Lagoon both are nice destinations and worthy of another trip.

Broome was a special place and we thoroughly enjoyed our week here doing amongst other things sail fishing (7 sails), creek fishing (small barra), a sunset Camel tour, Malcolm Douglas’s croc farm, the Broome jetty, stairway to the moon and the Shinju festival (pearl festival). Also a good place to have any mechanical work done and we stayed at the Roebuck CP, not the friendliest of people but a nice, well located park.

Our next stop is Fitzroy Crossing where we camp at a magnificent resort style park on the river. We all go on the Geiky Gorge tour which was very entertaining. Next day we are off to Halls Ck for lunch and fuel deciding to spend the night at Wolfe Ck crater. Here we pitched camp and have enough time to visit the crater (short walk from the camp site). Walked down to the centre of the crater, quite a climb really. I took a tumble on the way down. A very interesting place and we pondered if history would repeat itself while we were there – fortunately it didn’t! We watched the sunset and the moonrise over the crater. A lot has been said that this would not be a good camp, well it was nowhere that bad, in fact it was a good camp with drop toilets and plenty of level spaces. I guess that was the benefit of being relatively self sufficient with a comfy bed and our own showers we finished the day watching the stars.

We drive to Bililuna and top up the fuel, which at $2/litre is the dearest fuel anywhere. There was a French guy manning the pump and he was telling us that he would only be there another week as the numbers were dropping off and he didn’t like getting bitten by the local dogs. We overnight at a dried up creek just off the road and note that there is little traffic. Our next stop is Tilmouth Well for a lunch stop and fuel. The people told us that the tar road was not far away so we decide to put some air in the tyres while there. The Tanami sure took a toll on the trailer springs and we needed to do some repairs in Alice.

Alice Springs was trailer springs for us and we have these repaired by the owner of Stuart CP, a great bloke and even better boilermaker, did a great job. We spend some time here and do a couple of trips including an 18 hour marathon to Ayers Rock. Our group splits here and only 2 of us plan to do the Simpson. We leave Alice for Mt Dare via Kulgera and Finke, we opted for the Stuart for an easier drive. These NT roads are just fantastic so were the roads in WA and we make good time.


 thanks to Theo for sharing his trip with us