We survived the Gibb River road, which for many of you will mean nothing. The Gibb River road is famous amongst 4WD enthusiasts across the country for both its brutality and beauty. The track is more than 600 kilometres (mostly corrugated) of fine red dust and is home to a multitude of spectacular gorges scattered along a mix of privately owned cattle stations, indigenous land and conservation parks.
We stocked up with food in Kununurra (best said through clenched teeth), washed every piece of clothing we own including Izzy’s ‘Raffi’ which is always traumatic, and picked up Paul (aka Pa/ Father in law) from the airport. It wasn’t long before we traded the bitumen for the red dirt.
"We all looked like a debutante’s poor attempt at a spray tan"
The track had been graded early in the season, so for the most it was bearable. The red dust however has a habit of getting into everything and anything. We all looked like a debutante’s poor attempt at a spray tan thanks to the permanent orange coating on our face and limbs, and no matter how much water you guzzle you could never seem to remove the coating of dust permanently stuck to the roof of your mouth.
We started our journey at Emma Gorge resort for 3 days where we were treated to staying in glamping style tents (with showers!) and restaurant meals which was much needed opportunity to recharge the batteries and get some decent sleep. We needed to move on before Eva and Izzy became too accustomed to the lifestyle swapping our wonderful ensuite toilet for a drop loo/ porta potty and hit the Gibb.
We visited most of the main attractions along the way including El Questro, Home Valley and the gorges of Manning river, Barnett River, Emma River, Windjana and Tunnel creek. They were all spectacular and unique in their own way, and again I’m no Tim Winton so I will let some of the images attached paint the picture (although I’m sure there is little doubt they won’t do it justice). The walks into the swimming holes were on average a 6-7km return trip, however many were technically challenging involving clambering up and over and under rocks. The reward however, was always well worth the effort. It was almost like the Kimberley was not offering up anything without a bit of blood sweat and tears.
"Darian may not have been the bloke you wished your daughter to marry he knew everything you needed to know about barra fishing"
The girls highlight was a little thermal spring named ‘Zebedee springs’, named after the character in “The magic roundabout”! Don’t get me started on the names of these places, some of which, like ‘Zebedee’ were named by the various lease holders. I am certain the indigenous already had a perfectly fine name, albeit challenging to pronounce. What was disappointing about the Gibb was its lack of visible indigenous culture, or people for that matter. The Gibb has strong indigenous significance, however this seems to have been much more supressed than other parts of the country we have seen where it is forefront and celebrated by all (as it should be). We saw very few indigenous employees and caretakers on many of the stations we passed through. These pastoral leases like many others across this country have played its part in separating our indigenous people and one of the multifaceted contributing factors in the breakdown of their culture. The issue is complex and difficult and deserves more airtime in another blog which I will dutifully handball to Sarah.
Anyhoo, back to Zebedee springs…the water from these springs comes from deep underground, constantly providing water to this little oasis of pandanas and rare Levistonia palms. The girls loved it so much they returned the next day while Paul and I went barramundi fishing, which was probably one of my highlights. We woke at sparrows, which I can assure you was early given the sun rises at 5am, where we met by our guide Darian whom we both kept calling Gary for some strange reason! Although Darian may not have been the bloke you wished your daughter to marry he knew everything you needed to know about barra fishing, which was just as well given we were up early for one thing only…
We were fishing on the mighty Pentecost river as the sun came up over the Cockburn ranges (not pronounced phonetically for those with your mind in the gutter). We dropped a few fish however we also landed a few, the largest of which was 73 cm long and a good ol’ fashion wrestle.
"Sarah was mildly disappointed there wasn’t a resident John Snow"
We finished the Gibb with the magnificent Winjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. This area is a prehistoric reef – a red verison of “The Wall” from Game of Thrones (Sarah was mildly disappointed there wasn’t a resident John Snow). The hundreds of freshwater crocodiles that call Windjana their home were distracting enough. Tunnel creek was a highlight for the girls - wading through water in underground caves by torchlight and pointing out all the bats to Pa.
By day 11 we had all had enough of chewing on the dust and there was a collective sigh as our mobile phones pinged to attention on the outskirts of Broome. That evening we were all beaming sitting down at the table of a little Chinese restaurant stuffing little San Chow Bow filled lettuce cups, as we washed it down with a bottle of cold white wine quietly basking in the joy of knowing none of us would have to wash any of it up! We were sad as we dropped Pa off, at Broome airport, almost envious of the fact he didn't have to spend another night in a tent as we started the long slog down the WA coast.