You have to drive through Katherine again to get to WA, so we stopped, stayed the night and had another crack at the School of the Air. Much like the Royal Flying Doctors, it’s an amazing service that actually makes it possible for people to live in these far out places.
We sat in on one of the classes, a lovely Mrs Window who was teaching kindergarten, and then Katie & Skye actually sat in the teacher’s chairs afterwards. It was really nice for Katie, as she’s doing the same kind of thing with her Distance Education.
Straight afterwards we headed West, coming to rest at Timber Creek – about an hour short of the WA border. There wasn’t much there apart from a camp site, but we had a lovely grassy spot right next to a big tree all on our own.
Crocodile feeding was on that night at 5 o’clock, so Katie, Skye and myself wandered down as Erin was preparing dinner – and the guy gave Skye a stick with the meat on the end, to feed the crocodiles with!
She was a chuffed little lady I can tell you. I’m 40 years older than her and I’ve never fed a crocodile.
The kids made friends with a wee boy called Angus, and it turns out he was in Mrs Window’s class. So the next morning as we were packing up, Angus dragged Katie and Skye off to his ‘classroom’ 🙂 So nice of the wee fella, and a great experience for Katie – seeing both sides of the School of the Air.
The next day we stopped at the ‘Welcome to WA’ sign. I jumped out the car to take a picture, and this guy on a bike pulls up behind me. Jesus I wasn’t expecting that! Daniel is his name, he’s from Adelaide and he’s cycling round Australia. I asked him why, and he said he just fancied it, he likes cycling, so why not? Why not indeed.
This is his site here:
I wandered round to check everything out and noticed a fucking dust cap had fallen of one of the trailer wheels. Shit. I have a few spares however, so replaced it and rolled on to the border crossing.
From there it wasn’t far to Kununurra, which is a surprisingly nice little town that sits on the edge of a lake, and marks the beginning of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The Kimberley is often touted as one of Australia’s last great wildernesses. Having driven round half of this country however, I don’t really know about that. There is a whole lot of wilderness in Australia. I don’t think they’re in any danger of running out.
There is a bit of romance about the region though. The scenery is spectacular, and fair enough it is extremely difficult to get around. There are only two roads that cross the region. The Great Northern Highway, and the infamous Gibb River Road.
The highway is bitumen, and circles underneath the centre of the Kimberley, but the Gibb cuts right through the middle, and was created to allow road trains access to the cattle stations. It’s 660km of rough, unsealed, highly corrugated and rocky terrain, and although it takes you through some of the hottest, dustiest countryside in Australia, it also happens to be fairly dramatic at the same time.
So, let’s get stuck into it!
Our quick stopover in Kununurra turned into a bit of a drawn out affair however. The car needed a service and its pink slip, and then it needed a new water pump – which I was quite happy to hang around for. I’d rather not head into the wilderness with a car that can’t cool itself down.
In the meantime we were staying in this lovely campsite where we met lots of nice people, Katie learned how to dive properly, and at night we looked out over the lake where you could see Crocodiles’ eyes shining in the light of your torch. Not that bad a place to hang around for a while really.
I was walking back from the pool with Skye one day, we passed an old fella sitting outside of his caravan. Skye pipes up.
“Is he your brother?”
“Ha! What? No he’s not my brother Skye.”
The old fella looks at me and laughs, takes another swig of his beer as we toddle back to camp. A few weeks ago we were watching a Michael Jackson song on YouTube. Skye screwed her wee face up and tilted her head to the side.
“Is Michael Jackson your brother?”
“Eh? What? No he’s not my brother. What?!”
She is a funny little thing. Anyway, in Kununurra, all everybody talks about is the ‘Gibb’. Are you heading down the Gibb? Have you just been? What was it like? Most people who had driven across said it was pretty awful.
Although by now, I’m starting to be a bit wary of people’s assessments of roads and their condition. Nevertheless, one thing that most people seemed to be saying, was that the road was so rocky you WILL get flat tyres. Plural. Hmmm…
Now at the moment I carry one spare for the car, and one for the trailer. It never even dawned on me that I would need any more. I’ve seen lots of people driving around the country with extra tyres on the roof, but I thought they were kind of overdoing it a little bit. It can be very easy to go ‘gear mad’ on this kind of trip.
Everybody who’s made it as far as Kununurra is fairly loaded up already. And that’s fair enough, you have to be to get here really. But some vehicles just have bloody everything on them.
Anyway, I spoke to a guy who got five flat tyres on the Gibb. Five. Oh well. Perhaps he’s not a great driver. Perhaps he’s got the wrong kind of tyres. I carry a puncture repair kit anyway.
Then I spoke to a woman who said two of their three punctures, were blowouts. Tyres completely destroyed. Hmmm…
It’s about 39 degrees by 9 o’clock in the morning at the moment, and the thought of getting stuck in the middle of the Gibb River Road, with no wheels, in over 40degree heat with my young family sitting in the back of the car, is not a very nice one.
The next day I bought another couple of spares.
And eventually we’re ready to go. Not to the Gibb just yet however, if you want to see the Bungle Bungles, and trust me if you’ve come this bloody far you DO want to see them, you have to head down the highway for a couple of hours, and then take a two hour 4WD track into the World Heritage Listed Purnululu National Park.
So we have to drive down the Great Northern Highway, check it out, come back to Kununurra, and THEN head down the Gibb. Phwoo. Anyway, off we go.