Where are we?
We have got to Mount Hart which is about 50 kms up a track off The Gibb.
Goodby Derby and starting the Gibb
Before we start the Gibb, we take the opportunity to restock everything at Woolworths in Derby and also to ensure we are as full with fuel as possible. One sign in the Woolworths in Derby which attracts our attention is this one:
I encountered a similar one yesterday when I purchased some Stubbies at a Bottle Shop (please note the developing local language !) which said that they would only sell alcohol to someone in a car and that car had to be parked outside.
We suspect the reason for this is to try to control the sale of alcohol to local Aborigines. There is a major drugs and alcohol problem in the Aboriginal Community and we have seen a number of aborigines trying to purchase alcohol in shops and being turned away.
Interestingly just down the road from the Bottle Shop, the police were stopping every car which passed and doing a Breath Test for alcohol.
Some 6 kms south of Derby is the less than conspicuous start to the Gibb River Road.
There are numerous signs at the start, all of which are iconic signs for Gibb Travellers. This one tells us that it is open all of the way through to the other end - it was closed three weeks ago because of heavy rain.
We attempt a Selfie - an exercise which shows we have not improved at all
and there is the usual fuel warning. 300 kms is not that far in Australian terms but if we say it is the same distance as London to York, a sign in London saying next fuel in York would attract some comment. Diesel is generally available on the Gibb, unleaded is not as easy to get and LPG is for cars is unavailable.
The Stray Animals sign amuses us, because it says that there is a chance of stray animals anywhere on the Gibb or anywhere between London and Aberdeen !
The first 80 kms are tarmac
well, tarmac of a sort because it is being repaired for a lot of the distance and they are spraying the road with water to try to keep the dust down. We were hoping the van would get a wash but the truck driver politely turned off the spray at he approach us.
It then changes to single track tarmac with a dirt strip on either side and there is a protocol to be followed when you meed a car coming towards you
namely that you each go to the side so that you have one side of your vehicle on the dirt and the other on the road. If a Road Train comes towards you, you get completely off the road and as far away from the tarmac as possible - they take up the whole road and do not like stopping for cars which do not move over.
The land on either side of the early part of the Gibb road is littered with Termite Mounds, so many it looks like the fields are covered with an army of them.
Eventually the tarmac ends, why at this point we have no idea, it just stops and you are onto gravel for the next many hundreds of kilometres.
Australia does not really get into road signs and there is no warning that the turnoff to Windjana is approaching and suddenly the sign is there
followed by the Road Open sign - apparently the fine for ignoring these signs is $1000 a wheel and that could work out expensive.
Exactly 23 kms later, you are told you were going the correct way and you have arrived
at the Park Entrance
with the standard self registration booth
and the current fees - it cost us $24 for a pitch for each night and $12 for the entry fee - a total of $60 for two nights. It would have been cheaper if we had been Australian Citizens.
The camp ground was fairly empty (there is a separate campground for those with generators)
and we found a pitch with shadow from a large tree - this was needed because it was 35C today.
Perhaps the reason for the high pitch fee was that the campground (unusually) had hot showers (solar heated) and flushing long drop toilets which although they suffered from ants and other bugs, did not really smell.
The background to the campsite is a Devonian Reef Rock Formation which looked quite spectacular.
The standard walk here is to walk down to the Windjana Gorge and see the Fresh Water Crocodiles and the Devonian Reef.
On the way down to the Gorge we passed a Bower Bird Nest
and the male owner was attempting to woo two females who had already chosen a nearby tree as as the place where they were going to hatch the result of any successful wooing.
The next morning he indulged in some courtship displays and the purple plume on the back of his neck associated with this was clearly visible.
The entrance to the gorge is down a short sandy path which goes through a hole in the reef.
Having passed the Crocodile warning sign
and walked down a sandy track
this view presents itself looking out of the Gorge
and this one looking into the Gorge
and there are lots of crocodiles (freshies) in the water.
It is a beautiful place and well worth visiting.
Another 60 kms down the GRR is the turn off to Mount Hart which being 50 kms further up a dead end is about as isolated as a homestead can get.
The GRR is very variable on this stretch with sections of severe corrugations
which seem to want to make your fillings fall out
and relatively smooth sections
We pass by Queen Victoria’s Rock as we go through the Inglis gap
and meet our first GRR Road Train carrying cattle. It creates the usual amount of dust which in this case is even more hazardous because there is another vehicle close behind in the dust and it would have been unlikely to have seen us coming towards it had we not waited for the dust to settle.
The scenery changes from the flat tundra to mountainous as we pass into the King Leopold Ranges and we
turn of to Mount Hart which is a homestead out in the Kimberley selling itself as a Wilderness Lodge.
Looking at its prices it seems to be an expensive one. It has a rather chequered history and it seems that when it was purchased by a travel corporation some years ago, the long term guardian of the place was forced out - at least that is the view given by sources on the internet.
Having driven through seven rivers we arrive at a rather ramshackle looking place
which has its own airstrip
and daily flights to exotic places (passing overhead).
It is expensive with an unpowered site for two costing $36, dinner $40 per head,
and in the bar, beer costs $7.50 per tin, Cola $5 per tin.
It is however a long distance from anywhere and hence transportation costs must be enormous and these have to be factored in of course.
It has a $7 a load washing machine which gets our custom and also a quick recharge to the laptop.
The campsite is very quiet and has idyllic views over the bush.
and our pitch has good shade.
The one major bugbear are the Flies which force us to wear a fly net hat whilst we have our customary lunchtime crisps (a source of much needed salt) and coca cola (a source of equally needed sugar)
A walk we did was to Mount Mathew Gorge. This involved driving to a marker point down the usual 4WD track
and then following a dry rocky stream bed
to a glade
which was quite beautiful until a fly-netted traveller sat down.
It really was a glade out of the theory books with near silence other than the gentle sound of water, beautiful trees
and lilies growing in the water (photograph courtesy of Pat).
Apart from the flies, Mount Hart was a lovely place. Flies and midges were a major major problem at this campsite (plus a jumping frog in the toilets), so much so that any thought of staying more than one night rapidly disappeared and we were relieved to be moving on to Bells Gorge the next day.