THE GIBB RIVER ROAD

The Kimberly’s WA

I love travelling early after the Wet up North. The crowds are down, the dust is still lacking and the water holes are still filled. It does however often mess with your plans. Last year I spent a month in the Cape after a somewhat non existent Wet, it lead to what some call the “winter rains” where scattered down pours continue right into the Dry. This messed us up a few times, as the bigger rivers flooded we were cut off a number of times. Nothing a slight change in travel plans couldn’t fix and we were able to reach our destinations a few days later.

The Kimberley over the 2016/17 Wet Season had one of its biggest on record. Massive weather systems pounded the region and it continued much later than usual, this was however much needed after last year’s dismal display. Once we hit the Gibb River Road after leaving Derby early we made our way to the famous Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek, big names on everyone’s Kimberley bucket list! The plan was to spend the morning at Tunnel Creek then shoot back to Windjana Gorge to camp the night and do a bit of exploration. What a perfect way to start a trip across Australia’s last great wilderness, that is, until you come across a sign informing that the road is in fact still closed after being destroyed by the big wet.

I was disappointed to say the least, I remember researching the Kimberley years ago and seeing pictures of Tunnel Creek, an 800 m cave with water flowing through it is pretty cool and knowing it was formed thousands of years ago as part of a Great Barrier Reef is something pretty special to be able to visit. Nevertheless we continued East on the Gibb and with some en route planning made tracks for a place called Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge. The lodge is some 50 km off the main route down a single lane, relatively slow going 4wd track. After crossing the endless amounts of small creeks we pulled up for the night, eagerly anticipating the adventures of our next destination- Silent Grove and Bell Gorge.

TJM 4×4 EQUIPPED ROOF TOP TENT

“Ive used a few Rooftop tents now, poor stitches that tear, mattresses that are to hard or much to soft. Leaving you sore and in a foul mood when you should be enjoying the great outdoors. Before embarking on my big trip I needed a new tent for the trailer and put my money into a TJM one. When I finally ripped it out of the box to fit up I could already see the difference, now after living in it for a month I know the difference! The mattress has found the perfect ground of comfort, my hip isn’t on the base and I don’t feel as if I’m laying on rock! Aside from the maximum level of comfort this tent has provided so far it is the perfect accomodation for the country up North, its cooler than being on the ground and I know for a fact Crocodiles and Dingo’s can’t climb ladders!”

Now on the better part of our journey we weren’t to keen on waking up at the crack of dawn so slept in, not for long as once the sun is up the temperature inside the TJM Rooftop Tent gets pretty warm quickly up here even with the windows open! Once on the road again we headed toward Silent Grove, we found ourselves staring at another road closure sign soon after. Were we ever going to catch a break? Or were we just going to drive the Gibb in 3 days? The Hema Kimberley atlas was out again and we decided with not really knowing what was going to be opened and what closed it was best to just keep driving and see where the day would take us. We stopped at a small place called the Imintji Store, a quirky little shop with some Diesel and ice cold refreshments. Speaking with the owners we learnt that most of this end of the Kimberley had been hammered by the Wet Season, but were also informed that it got better from here on out. We eventually found ourselves at Mt Barnett Roadhouse and decided to stay at Manning Gorge out the back of their land. Things had finally looked up, at one end of the grounds was a white sandy beach on the edge of the River- also the first obstacle to cross when heading 2.5 km up to Manning Gorge itself. After an afternoon swim we prepped the cameras for the trip out to Manning, made a small fire and called it a day.

Up early to beat the heat and the crowds we began our trek. The walk is a well marked track with both indicators in trees and on the ground, it would be hard to get lost but we did witness some people almost achieve it when on the return leg not paying attention. The 5 km return isn’t the hardest bush walk you will find in these parts, but a moderate level of fitness is required as you will find yourself up and down rocky creek beds, scrambling over rocks and walking in some pretty intense heat at times with little shade. Upon arrival at the falls of Manning Gorge you get that real Kimberley experience. An almost untouched pool with crystal clear water cascading roughly 20 m down the face of the Gorge. Seeing this is why the Kimberley is best visited earlier in the dry, as the months go on these falls and many like it will begin to dwindle down to more of a trickle.

We made our way back and unloaded the Polaris Ute, it was lunch time and what better way to head back up the 7 km track than on an ATV! We received a few looks as I pulled in to fill up with Unleaded that’s for sure. Using the Polaris to collect some firewood before we returned would mean the perfect end to a perfect day with a big fire for the night. Once the hard work was done we headed back over to the sandy beach by the river and enjoyed another swim to cool off. It was then a somewhat startled gentleman pointed out the presence of a 1.5 m Freshwater Crocodile sun baking on one of the many rocks in the water. Some panicked, some including myself remained calm and just watched. Freshwater Crocodiles, unlike their Saltwater cousins are rather docile and rarely attack humans. Later on another was spotted of a slightly larger size, but he or she was also happy to just enjoy the afternoon sun and leave us alone to swim.

There is all kinds of risk in travelling, be it the dangers of the wildlife or the remote regions we head to. I see travelling early after the Wet one of them, there is always the chance something may be closed but it means you get to see the rest at their best with much less people around you. The closures we have faced so far won’t stop me doing it, I’m tempted to go earlier if anything.

Written by David Royles

Out & Back Offroad

TJM 4×4 Megastores