After the last few weeks job hunting and WWOOFING by September it was time to do some sight-seeing!
I fed the animals for the last time at Waminda and said fond goodbyes, I had really enjoyed my time at the Wildlife Sanctuary. My car share companion Jess and I got up at 5.30 to hit the road early and try and keep out of the sun for a 450km plus stretch to Broome. We filled up with plenty of water in Exmouth for the long journey but it turned out to be dodgy so spent the day quite dehydrated deciding to use the water only after boiling.
We spent all day on the road doing 2 hour plus shifts each. Hitting Cable Beach near Broome we caught an amazing sunset. This beach is rated one of the top ten beaches in Western Australia and we were not disappointed. Imagine long, slow waves rolling in on to almost never-ending pink sand alongside crystal clear blue water. We even saw camels! You jealous yet???
Back at the campsite for my first paid accommodation in a month!
Next day we travelled the long road to Cape Levesque a surprisingly more difficult road than we had expected; the 90km is mostly unsealed, very sandy, and can be badly corrugated. This was my first experience of 4-wheel driving and we found out later it was one of the most difficult to drive. After a stressful drive we arrived at the cape for a quick visit around the fantastic beach, to get a rattle on the car looked at and check out tourist information guides. For us it happened to be a fantastic day of Australian hospitality and general kindness all of which we truly appreciated but the advice we got meant having to travel back to Broome in search of a garage. Another stressful journey, and I wasn’t even driving this time, but we had more success driving all the way in 4-wheel drive and with deflated tyres, even treating ourselves to air-conditioning!
The campground gave us details of a local garage where they checked out the car, not finding the source of the rattle they did however assure us that there was no concern and didn’t even charge us, awesome news, a miracle it seemed – the service and kindness reminded me of my local garage at home (R. Christophers) who have got me out of more than one emergency over the years. With the great service we had time to go to the beach.
The Kimberley Coast has the biggest tides in the southern hemisphere; the difference between high and low tides is up to around 10 metres, with low tides offering the best chance to see the dinosaur footprints but we were disappointed. I dropped Jess off at the cinema while I spent time with some great people we’d met at the campground. What had been a difficult day turned out great in the end but little did we know we were certainly not finished with car problems.
After planning and preparing for the Gibb River Road we set off to town only to realise the air compressor wasn’t working then after sorting that, both cigarette lighters stopped. Walking out of the shop about to investigate the fuses we were followed by Paul and Jim from the speedway, they could see we were struggling and just got stuck in trying to help. Unfortunately none of us were able to diagnose/fix the issues but they guided us to their friend Shaun an auto electrician.
Back at the campground we met a Swiss couple that had done the Gibb River Road so were able to give us some tips. Before leaving we visited Moon Steps where the reflection of the moon on the mud flats causes an optical illusion looking like steps to the moon – fascinating! We spent the evening with them having drinks, another great evening.
Time to move on again so up at 6am to re-inflate the tyres, drive to Darby, top-up the petrol and check the visitors centre for road and weather information. On the way to Tunnel Creek National Park we enjoyed the cooler shade and spotted shallow water baby freshwater crocodiles. The caves let in sunbeams to highlight Aboriginal art and blue/green algae ponds. That night we stayed at
Windjana Gorge campsite with an honesty box pay set up. This place is supposedly on lots of peoples lists of top places to visit in Kimberley and it didn’t disappoint as we walked in to the gorge for sunset, watching freshwater crocodiles trying to eat the thousands of fruit bats. What an amazing day!!!
Up at 5.30 to have a cool hike into the stunning gorge to see more crocodiles, my first wallaby and some great boat trees! Back at camp we met a German family that live close to Jessi’ home address – would you credit that?? As we were travelling in opposite directions we shared some travel tips and then we continued down unsealed roads to Bell Gorge in the 40˚ heat; on arrival we enjoyed a refreshing swim in the river and diving in the waterfall next to Bell Gorge.
After another night camping we were up early again to head firstly to Adcock Gorge; we hadn’t expected much from comments we had come across but as it was only 5km from the road we decided to give it a go. As the road got gradually worse we parked up and completed the final 1km on foot, passing a sign notifying us that two freshwater crocodiles had been spotted we arrived at a lily pond. Beyond there we were overwhelmed by the hidden main pool with fantastic high, red rock backdrops and plenty of wildlife, and we had it all to ourselves; I even found some Aboriginal paintings. It was amazing to find such an oasis in such long stretches of dry land! We continued on to Galvans and then Manning Gorge stopping at Barnett station for a very expensive top up, they can charge what they like here…it’s not like we have an option! We parked up and took the pull boat across the river and enjoyed a welcome swim after an extremely hot hike.
Making the most of the fresher morning air we set off at 4.30am heading for El Questro, however, the road had very different ideas. Only about 4km from Ellenbrae station we realised we had a flat, on investigation it turned out to be both back tyres.
To cut a very long story, and an even longer day, short we got a lift to a garage to find the owner wasn’t around, back at the car we tried to fit the spare, borrowed another spare from a passer-by, had problems with the jack as with 2 flats the car was too low and the end result was the car fell from the jacks breaking the suspension. We were getting desperate in the middle of nowhere in the baking heat but so many people slowed down offering help, a constant display of Australian friendliness and hospitality. With the help of many people we eventually fitted a nearly repaired tyre, putting in as much air as we could and limped back to the garage in a convoy of 5 vehicles and 11 people, all watching out for us as we carefully negotiated every bump in the road. The garage managed to repair one tyre and we had to replace the other at $300. We got some cold refreshment and feeling nervous hit the road again. Only to get around the bend and have another tyre go… back in the dust and dirt for another $300 change!!! The guys at the station were amazing though and gave us a free gift of beer and frozen water. We enjoyed these relaxing at Durack River Resting Area that evening watching a fantastic sunset, and reflecting on the long hard day but feeling blessed that so many people came to our aid. Enormous thanks go out to Lauren, Bran, Gary and Mark and all the others that helped us out and tried to keep our spirits up.
After 3 flat tyres the previous day we nervously set off once again, constantly stopping and checking the tyres at every bump and squeak. We arrived at Zebedee Springs and took the short walk through the oasis rainforest to some hot springs where we enjoyed a long soak washing away all the dirt and sweat from yesterday and trying to ease the sunburn and the 2 scorpion stings I had acquired. A highlight of the trip was crossing the Ivanhoe Water Crossing, realising the water was up to the door I jumped out to let Jess drive across so that I could get some great video.
We spent the next few days travelling, sightseeing, swimming and kayaking before finally arriving in Katherine. We arranged for a garage to replace rear springs and all the shocks and find accommodation. It was at this point that Jess and I agreed that it would be better if our plans to journey together ended sooner than we had originally planned. After some arguments and being faced with half of a huge garage bill that had not been part of our agreement I spent the next few days deciding on my future plans. The answer came in the form of a French girl driving from Darwin to Townsville and offering another car share…hoping this was going to be less traumatic!!!This