So what is www.bigaussieroadtrip.com all about? Well... hopefully, by the time we are done, it will be a comprehensive journal about a family of 5 who have travelled around Australia to see the sights and also do some volunteer work around the country! In Mid 2010 we started thinking about what it would take to fulfil a life-long dream... We wanted to bundle up our 3 kids, pack-up the house, jump in the car and hit the road - probably for about 12 months. It sounds so simple ... At the start of January 2013, after almost 15 months on the road; we finally completed Our Big Aussie Road Trip. We hope that you enjoyed following our adventures, trials and tribulations as much as we enjoyed having them!

12 June, 2012

The Gibb River Road

Between the 29th May and the 5th June 2012, we travelled with our car and our tent along the Gibb River Road.  We travelled from West to East and then looped back around to Derby on the bitumen (via the Bungle Bungles and the Wolfe Creek Meteor Crater National Park) to complete a 2,300km journey through the Kimberly.  The below post is the blog of our entire Gibb River Road part of the trip and we wanted to keep the whole journey as one post (but it makes for a very long read!), so if you're keen, grab a cuppa and off we go...


When we were planning our exit from Broome, we thought that we’d have a night in Derby, but after some re-consideration we decided that there was no need for us to stay in Derby on the way to the Gibb River Road.  So on Tuesday 29th May, we checked out of the Broome Caravan Park, did a last minute shop in Broome, went to the Post Office and drove out of town.  We didn’t get away from Broome until about 11:30am so we knew it might be a bit of a stretch to get to Windjana!  As we headed toward Derby (to pick up some fuel).  We were surprised that the main road goes down to 1 lane bridges at times (which are sometimes quite long!)  thankfully we didn't meet a Road Train on the way.


We stopped at the Prison Boab tree and Myall's Bore not far out of Derby, then went into town and stopped at the visitors centre before looking at the Derby Jetty.  Derby has Australia’s Highest tides (11 metres in spring time). 
The Prison Boab Tree near Derby
Myall's Trough - the longest trough of its type in the southern hemisphere
The Derby Jetty at mid-tide
We refilled Bruiser with Diesel and then dropped off the Caravan at a caravan storage yard (called Hamlet Grove Caravan Storage) at the start of the Gibb River Road.  By this time it was quite late.  As we pulled onto the Gibb, the sun was sinking low in the sky behind us.  We got to the Windjana gorge campground as the light started to fade.  We setup our tents and then had some dinner before bed.
The Western end of the Gibb River Road

Dinner at Windjana Gorge Campsite

Our first night in the tents (since Cape Leveque) was very chilly.  We were all a bit cold during the night and we woke up very early.  We haven’t been used to winter temperatures because we’ve been on the coast and it hasn’t got too cold overnight, but away from the coast it gets really cold.  Once we’d warmed up a bit, we did the gorge walk into Windjana gorge.  It was a fantastic walk with beautiful scenery.  We also saw 25 freshwater crocodiles in the river along the walk.  We made it to the end of the ‘open section’ of the track and then walked back to the campsite.
At the start of the Windjana Gorge Walk you need to walk through a rock tunnel

Windjana Gorge

One of the many Freshwater crocodiles we saw in Windjana Gorge

The Kids watching a 'Freshie' swim nearby
 After a bit of lunch, and a sit down to rest our legs, we jumped into the car and drove to Tunnel Creek.  One of our 20L water jerry’s (which was on the roof rack) cracked along the bumpy road to Tunnel Creek and gave Bruiser a bit of a wash, but thankfully our sleeping gear (which we also kept on the roof) was still in the tent, so none of our gear got wet.
The entrance to Tunnel Creek
We all really enjoyed walking through tunnel creek.  It was very very dark inside the tunnel - it reminded us of the Glow worm Tunnel (near Newnes, NSW) that we did a few years earlier.  In the tunnel, we saw some ghost bats flying around.  
Inside Tunnel Creek

A sinkhole half way along the Tunnel Creek walk

Thankfully, we didn’t see any freshwater crocs (which can sometimes inhabit the creek).  The deepest section of water in the tunnel was up to the kids waists, but the water wasn’t too cold and the kids enjoyed wading through the inky water.  At the end of the tunnel, we saw some aboriginal rock art.  Sam did really well in the dark (because he never used to like the dark) but he didn’t mention being scared once.
Some of the Rock art at the end of the Tunnel Creek walk

Josh, Natalie and Liz wading through the water inside Tunnel Creek
We left tunnel creek and on the way back to the campsite, we briefly stopped to have a look at the ruins of the homestead from the days when the National Park was a cattle property.
After a big day of walking, we all had another early night (and that night was very, very cold too – but we had prepared ourselves a little better and had some extra “blankets” (our towels) so we didn’t feel cold inside the tent from that night on.

Because the night’s were so cold, each morning we would wake up and put on our long sleeve shirts, jumpers and long pants, but by the time we’d finished brekkie, it was normally time to get into our ‘day clothes’ because the days were still >30 degrees and very sunny with cloudless blue sky.  So after brekkie on Thursday 31st May, we packed up and then drove from the Windjana gorge campsite to the Silent Grove campsite.  We did a couple of very small water crossings, but nothing above ½ a wheel high.
One of the many river/creek crossings we encountered on The Gibb

We setup our tents and then drove about 10Km to the start of the Bell Gorge walk.  Bell Gorge was one of our favourite gorges along the Gibb.  It was a really nice gorge with a big waterfall and a nice swimming hole.  We all went swimming in the chilly water and then warmed up in the sun as we watched the falls and ate some afternoon tea.  It wasn’t too much of a hike (maybe 1/2 hour) back to the car, then we drove the 10Km back to the campsite.
Beautiful Bell Gorge

The water in Bell Gorge was a bit chilly, but the swim was great

We only stayed 1 night at Silent Grove, so we packed up the tents on Friday morning and headed back out to the Gibb River Road.
Driving along the Gibb River Road

It was the 1st of June that day – so officially the start of Winter (but the days were still very hot).  We stopped at the Imintji Store to get some diesel - which was our most expensive yet at $2.04 per litre (but it turned out that it would not be the most expensive we bought on the Gibb!!).  We thought we’d stop at Adcock Gorge (which is not advertised much) and when we started the track, we could see why!  The track turned into a very rough 4WD track with a really rocky river crossing, but we saw there were some fresh tyre tracks so we figured that someone else had done it recently so we went ahead.  We got to the ‘carpark’ and then scrambled on a ‘goat trail’ to the gorge.  When we got there it was absolutely beautiful.  We found some Aboriginal Rock Art on the walls and looked at the waterfall.  The Kimberly certainly is the "land of the Boab", and there are plenty around – especially in the gorges and they add a real character to the area. 

Scrambling over the rocks to get to Adcock Gorge

The waterfall and waterhole at Adcock Gorge
We moved on from Adcock gorge and stopped at Galvan’s Gorge, which is not far up the road.  After a brief walk into the gorge, we found a beautiful gorge with more rock art nearby.  The kids were a bit hot and decided to strip off to their undies and go for a dip in the cool water.
Galvans Gorge

Galvans Gorge, Gibb River Road

Sam, Liz and Natalie under the rock art at Galvans Gorge

Natalie and Josh cooling off in Galvans Gorge

After Galvans Gorge, we drove to Mt Barnett Roadhouse and booked in for a night at Manning Gorge (part of the Mt Barnett roadhouse).  It was quite late in the afternoon, so we put on our swimmers and went down to the river to swim instead of attempting the gorge walk at that time of afternoon (which turned out to be a very good idea).  It was quite chilly in the water, but was nice and refreshing on a hot day.

After we’d got out we saw a small freshwater crocodile basking in the sun on a rock nearby.  That evening, we had our first campfire in a long time.  Over the summer period, there haven’t been any campfires allowed in all the places we have stayed, so it had been a long time between fires.  We all enjoyed a nice warming fire (but we didn’t have any marshmallows to toast - not that our kids really like them anyway).

Our campfire at the Manning Gorge campsite

On the 2nd of June, we packed up the tents and then got going early so we could walk the Manning gorge.  We decided that the water would be a bit too cold first thing in the morning, so decided to take the ‘detour’ that was advertised instead of swim across the river (which was the normal start to the walk).  Unfortunately the ‘detour’ was a big mistake!  We couldn’t find the way and so wasted ½ hour trying to find the way; only to abandon the detour idea and swim across the river!!  The walk to the gorge was a really long walk for us (a full hour to get there).  The walk was very rocky and quite difficult, but when we got there, the waterfall and swimming hole was fantastic.  We thought that it was our best gorge swim yet.  The kids played in the waterfall and we jumped off some rock platforms at the waterfall into very deep water.  After about an hour, we hiked back to the car (another hour) and left the campsite.  It was about 2pm when we left Mt Barnett Roadhouse and we still had quite a drive ahead of us to get to our next stop (Ellenbrae) that night.
Manning Gorge

The kids and Liz splashing around in the waterfall at Manning Gorge

Manning Gorge
Along the drive that day, there were many creek/river crossings - which were a bit of fun.  The Gibb River Road is notorious for eating tyres and lots of people ruin tyres along their journey.  There is also plenty of evidence of shredded tyres strewn along the road.  The river crossings also have some pretty unforgiving holes hidden in them, but we managed to dodge most of them and we made it all the way through the Gibb (and the Bungle Bungles) without having to change a tyre - yippee.
Another River crossing

The Gibb River Road

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we pulled into a nice campsite called Ellenbrae, and we setup our tent and had dinner as the sunlight disappeared.  The kids had a hot shower (which is heated by a Donkey Boiler) in a very unusual shower block, but Ellenbrae certainly had lots of character.  We had another campfire that night with the few pieces of wood that we managed to find in the dark, then it was off to bed for another chilly night on the Gibb.
The 'Donkey Boiler' hot water system at Ellenbrae


Sunday the 3rd of June 2012 was Josh’s 8th Birthday.  Josh was very excited and was the first up that morning (at 5:30am) to announce that he was now 8 years old.  Therefore, we all got up quite early and had presents for Josh.  After presents, we had brekkie and then had a bit of a leisurely morning (while Josh played with some of his new toys).
Josh with some of his Birthday Presents
It was quite late in the morning when we packed up and we were the last ones left at the Ellenbrae campsite.  We quite liked the ‘Ellenbrae’ Campsite and finished our stay there with a brief walk to the waterhole.  On the way out of Ellenbrae, we went to the homestead for a look around and to enjoy some huge, hot scones with Jam and Cream (a speciality at Ellenbrae), and a cup of coffee.  After feasting on some lovely scones, we left Ellenbrae and drove east.
Some HUGE scones at Ellenbrae homestead

We drove through more river crossings (including the Durak river which was pretty long and quite deep).  We  stopped at the lookout which overlooks the Cockburn ranges.  We managed to get Telstra phone reception from the top of that lookout so listened to some Birthday Messages for Josh and called Nanna & Pa and Grandma & Grandad.  Shortly after leaving the lookout, we arrived at the Pentecost River - the Famous River crossing of the Gibb River Road.  Crossing the Pentecost was a bit of fun - It wasn’t too long or deep and we didn’t see any Saltwater Crocodiles that can be present, but we're sure it would be a very different story in the wet season!
The Durak river crossing

Josh, Natalie and Sam at the lookout


Preparing to cross the Pentecost River

Crossing the Pentecost River, Gibb River Road


We arrived at El Questro at about 2pm, found a site and setup for 2 nights.  We had a ‘Lamington’ Birthday cake for Josh.  Josh also really wanted to have a whole can of Coke as a special treat for his birthday, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Crossing the Pentecost river to get into El Questro
Josh's Birthday Cake
 After a quick walk around the township, we went to the showers to brush up so that we could go to the El Questro Steakhouse as a special Birthday dinner for Josh.  We all enjoyed a lovely meal and felt very full.  Josh had a fantastic Day for his Birthday and commented that it was his best birthday ever.
Josh's Birthday dinner at the El Questro Steakhouse


Early on Monday morning, we went to Zebedee springs (they are open to the public from 7am to 12pm).  We all loved bathing in the warm waters of the springs (on a cool winters morning – but it was a bit hard to get out of the warm water because the cool air on our wet swimmers made it a bit icy).
Zebedee springs, El Questro Wilderness Park

Keeping warm on a cold winters morning

After Zebedee springs we drove to Emma Gorge.  It was a pretty rocky walk up to Emma Gorge, but was a fantastic waterfall and swimming hole at the end.  The water was freezing, but we all went in for a swim.  After we’d warmed up and had some morning tea we headed back to the car.
Along the walking track to Emma Gorge, El Questro

The end of the Emma Gorge walk

Emma Gorge

Turquoise Pool along the Emma Gorge walking trail

Sam hitching a ride with Dad back from Emma Gorge

As we drove back to El Questro, we decided to go have a look at the start of the El Questro Gorge walk because we had heard there was a deep river crossing on the way – and it certainly was deep (but lots of fun).
A deep river crossing to get to El Questro Gorge

After lunch back at El Questro, we drove to a couple of lookouts up some very steep and narrow 4WD tracks.  The lookouts gave magnificent views of the area.  To get to Branco’s lookout, the 4WD track went across the longest and rockiest river crossing we’ve done – it was extremely bumpy but not too deep – again it was pretty good fun.  On the way back to the tent, we had a look at the Chamberlain gorge Jetty and picked up some firewood to have a fire on our last night on 'The Gibb'.

At the top of the Saddleback Ridge Lookout

Branco's Crossing - yes folks, that's a "road" ahead

The view from Branco's lookout

The El Questro Homestead


We left El Questro very early on the 5th June because we knew we had a big drive ahead of us to get to our next destination (the Bungle Bungle’s).  After 7 nights on the Gibb river road, we finally made it to the eastern end.  Before we got back onto the bitumen road, we re-inflated the tyres and dis-engaged 4WD for the first time in a week.  We are thankful that our car and all our tyres all got to the other end of the Gibb without too much damage (you can definitely tell that the tyres have seen some rough terrain, but they are all still in one piece, and Bruiser (our car) did us proud). 
Re-inflating the tyres at the end of the Gibb River Road
We really enjoyed travelling the Gibb River Road.  We will certainly have fond memories of ‘The Gibb’ for a long time to come.

3 comments:

THB said...

Am still envious as I follow your wonderful trip. Am glad that all of the kids managed to avoid becoming croc bait. Was great listening to you all in church the other week. Were currently raising some money for families in the bush. Happy birthday Josh. Love to you all. Keep safe. Tom HB

Mark Hodge said...

What tires have you got? Love the look of the branco's crossing.

Aussie Roadtrip said...

Hey Mark,

Before we left Sydney, we bought a new set of Cooper Discoverer ATR's to replace our old Cooper Tyres. Cooper ATR seemed to be a good choice for us for the type of driving we would be doing (mostly on-road, with some off-road).

Branco's crossing was pretty bumpy, but lots of fun. :)