The Mighty Gibb River Road- A dream come true!
Gibb, Western Australia
Windjana Gorge & Tunnel Creek
As we started the mighty Gibb we were pretty surprised by the bitumen….But after a quick 90km we hit the dirt and the corrugations the Gibb is so renowned for. As we ventured off to the parking bay to let some pressure out of the tyres another couple pulled in to do the same...more Victorians! The only difference was they were towing their van, but they were even more apprehensive than us.
The first 10km or so looked horrendous and was a sure reminder of what we thought the next 5 days or so were going to consist of… but then it opened up, as Tristan put it "like a freeway." In hindsight we were pretty lucky as the traffic coming the other way were struggling with the 100mm deep corrugations. It wasn't all smooth sailing, but it was pretty close.
As we pulled into Windjana Gorge we were greeted by a massive rock escarpment running as far as the eye could see. The colours were incredible with the deepest of yellows and oranges running through the basalt rock. After a quick set up it was time to check out Tunnel Creek. The 43km trek down the road to Tunnel Creek was incredible. Larry has probably never felt that sensation run through his suspension…ever! We were warned it was a bit rough, what an understatement. Drive fast and you can't steer, drive slow and you feel everything. We just gritted our teeth and put up with the ride because we knew it would be worth it.
Tunnel Creek is basically it's name sake. A creek that runs through a big dark tunnel. The formations and sheer size was incredible, as was wading through some sections and rock hopping. You name it- we did it. About half way in we said hello to a lady that mentioned the fresh water crocodiles that inhabited these waters, (we didn't read the information signs before we entered) let's say Tara was suitably unimpressed and somewhat feeling very uneasy. But she found the courage to keep going. The end of the tunnel opened out to the most beautiful stream and more unbelievable formations. The temperature inside the tunnel made it feel like we were in a free air-conditioned room and as we made our way back to the entry, we sure felt the heat!
Back down the bumpy track we went to our campsite at Windjana. We thought we had better go see the fresh water crocs that everyone was talking about that inhabit the gorge. Let's just say it was like visiting a croc farm, hundreds of them lined the bank sunning themselves. You could literally walk within a metre of them. The gorge itself was like nothing else going for kilometres with its high walls of incredible colours.
Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek-you were a true highlight of our first day and first night on the mighty GRR.
Being in a tent it means that you hear everything… that means between 5 and 5:30am when the crows start making that awful noise it generally wakes you pretty quickly. Early it was, but nice to get on the road before anyone else, Larry isn't fond of the other cars dust and quite frankly neither were we. A relatively short drive down the Gibb we found the turnoff to Bells Gorge and Silent Grove campground. Our first two serious creek crossings- Larry loved it. Another beautiful National Park campground with flushing toilets and hot showers, not bad for $12 bucks each per night.
After a slight argument about the placement of the tent… Tara wanted shade, Tristan wanted sun (for the solar panel) we finally agreed on a spot!!! After a quick set up, it was off to explore yet another gorge. After trekking for a couple of Km's we came across the first art of the gorge- the top pools. A stunning landscape of pandanas palms and crystal clear water. An adventurous hike to the bottom of the gorge led us to a beautiful place to swim with a fantastic view of the waterfalls, not a bad way to spend a Monday.
When we reached the top again we bumped into a couple we had met all the way back at Cervantes back in early June, funny how such a big state can be so small!
Mt Barnett and Manning Gorge
We didn't know whether to stop at Mt Barnett and Manning Gorge but we were so glad we did. After leaving Bell Gorge we pulled into Imintji store, a community run store with one of the best coffees Tristan has had in WA. (not that that's a lot go by but it was pretty good for the middle of no-where!)
After pulling into Mt Barnett Roadhouse and giving Larry a drink at $2.05 /litre, it was off to find our accommodation for the night. About 7kms behind the roadhouse we found our campground for the night. After yet another set-up of our woollies tent it was off to explore the gorge.
Just seconds from the campground we came across the most stunning swimming hole attached to the beautiful river. A make shift tinnie with a pully system was a means to get across the other side of the river. From there it was a 3.5km walk to the gorge over some pretty rough terrain, but the waterfall and the swim at the end of the walk was well worth it. We also knew we could skip the tinnie at the other end and just swim it instead. It would have been 40 degrees at least so a swim was very much welcomed!
After our hike, we were having a swim at the other end to cool off. Whilst floating about in the crystal clear water we got chatting to a couple from Brisbane, when they asked where we were from a reply led to another bloke close by saying he was from Kinglake. Turns out his kids were students of Tristan's Aunty and Uncle. Small world… Another lady close by mentioned she was from Research which is only minutes from where Tristan lives. Turns out later that night her husband was having troubles with his brand new T van, Tristan couldn't help himself, he had to try and help. Rob and Tristan spent hours pulling the van apart only to fail at finding the fuse box whilst Margot kept Tara company. She took Tristan's email address to send him the outcome of their endeavours. (FYI they found the fuse box on the opposite side to where Tristan and Rob were looking!)
An interesting time was had at Mt Barnett, three degrees of separation in the middle of the Kimberley.
Home Valley Station
Before we arrived to our accommodation for the night, we made a quick stop at Ellenbrae Station for one of their famous scones… Or in Tristan's case 3 ½. They were the best scones we have ever had and not to mention the friendliest people and beautiful gardens. From there it was off to Home Valley Station.
The Gibb had finally started to show its true colours… or the true corrugations, stones, shredded tyres (not us!) and everything in between. Luckily for us Larry took it in his stride and carried us through. As we came to the last few km's before Home Valley we were treated to spectacular views of the King Leopold Ranges. The lady at Ellenbrae said it was by far one of the best sunset spots on the Gibb… She wasn't wrong!
Upon arrival to Home Valley we were greeted by a beautiful set of gates set out like a Boab tree. After a quick check-in and set up of the tent, it was time for a swim. The water was bloody freezing but it was also bloody hot outside! Then came the sunset at the King Leopold Ranges… Oh and Tara realised that she got one bar of reception on her phone, she was happy. As the sun fell, there was an orange glow over the range. Just incredible! As we were leaving we noticed many of the station workers were headed up to the look-out for phone reception- they were pretty lucky as this was the only bit of reception anywhere on the Gibb.
After sunset, came Dinner. An old shed with nothing but a tin roof formed the restaurant, we were in love. Open air dining. It was at that point Tristan realised his mum mentioned ages ago when we got engaged that we could shout ourselves a nice dinner to celebrate. It was four months late… but we used it! Tara had a steak and Tristan had the ribs. The best meal we have both ever had.
It was hard to leave Home Valley… But we vowed that we would be one day back- maybe for our wedding?!
El Questro & Emma Gorge
We read on Wikicamps (an online camp site app) that El Questro was an American owned Money making machine… Well the comments weren't wrong. All the way along the Gibb it was hard working stations with friendly warm people. After all, it's the outback and about as far outback as you can get. So when we pulled into El Questro it felt like a ranch in the US we were a bit disappointed. Nothing against the yanks, but it was all a bit clinical and at $80 for a non-powered site for the night we kindly declined. We did however have to pay a $24 fee for a wilderness pass so we could have a look around. We had heard about Zebedee Springs and Emma Gorge- they were both magical but we were tired and a bit gorged out!
Overall on The Gibb
When a lifelong dream becomes a reality, it was hard for us to wipe the smiles of our faces. What an amazing adventure. The Kimberley Outback-you were everything we could ever have hoped for and more.