Sunday, August 6, 2017

Purposeful Meandering across Oz - Week 4

Distance traveled = 1178km

Week 4 (day 4 on the Gibb) started slowly at Manning Gorge, we soon realised that our fridge problems of a week earlier had returned. Some in depth diagnosing revealed that a 50-amp circuit breaker which allowed the 2nd battery to charge had broken, we think because of the corrugated roads. Thankfully one of our group had a spare and we were soon able to fix the problem. It’s amazing how a $20 part can quickly ruin your day….. We were soon on the road again and heading east, we detoured into Barnett Gorge where we stumbled upon a picturesque billabong. The warning sign at the water’s edge informed us that freshwater crocs were present but we forgot to tell the kids who were all keen for a swim. We threw caution to the wind and all jumped in for a refreshing swim. The lure to press on was greater than the urge to be bitten by a croc so we pushed on towards our overnight destination of Mt Elizabeth Station. This remote cattle station offered a great place to relax but there was no chance of us doing that, we headed off exploring. An hour later and some low range driving saw us finding a remote waterfall and a subsequent swimming hole. It was after dark by the time we’d returned to our camp, the remainder of the night was spent relaxing with the wildlife coming to visit us occasionally. 

Sunday (day 5 on the Gibb) started with us heading towards Drysdale Station, the dirt road had deteriorated to some serious corrugations which coupled with the dust made driving difficult at times. Our plan of getting as far north as possible was well on track as we made it to the remote Drysdale cattle Station by lunchtime, the remoteness of this place became clear when a plate of chips cost $10, a hamburger was $19 and diesel was $2.05/ltr. Due to the time of day we decided to push further north and make camp at King Edward River. As soon we’d setup and with the temp nudging 35deg we made a beeline for the river swimming hole for a refreshing swim. The remainder of the evening was spent mellowing around the campfire with thousands of stars watching over us. 

Monday (day 6 on the Gibb) for us dawned well before sunrise as we were off to Mitchell Falls for the day. Feedback from returning travellers suggested we should proceed with extreme caution as the track conditions were best described as “very poor” - they weren’t wrong! Our cars seemed to rattle themselves to pieces whether we went fast or slow, there was no let-up to the ongoing corrugated track, we even celebrated the first time we got the car into 4th gear. By 9am we’d finally made the 78km to the upper NW reaches of WA, however Mitchell Falls would be a further 2hr walk for us so we were keen to get going. The walk was demanding as temps once again pushed into the mid 30’s, but eventually we topped a rise and the grandness of this 4-tiered waterfall was there to be seen. We spent some time just admiring the beauty of such a place before heading down to the water for a refreshing swim. Our time at the falls quickly passed and it was soon time to return, for Sam however the thrill of a birthday joy flight over the falls was the icing on a nice day. The drive back to our campsite was as relentless as the outward trip with some of us sustaining damage to our vehicles….. Once back at King Edward River we all agreed the beauty of the falls was spectacular but at what cost? Our vehicles had been put through hell! 

Tuesday (day 7 on the Gibb) was Sam’s 14th birthday and moving day. We enjoyed a lazy morning treating Sam to a hearty dose of bacon n eggs and a number of presents we’d brought with us. The drive back to Drysdale Station started like any other drive but soon deteriorated to a day of vehicle mishaps. One vehicle sustained a puncture while another simply stopped dead on the track. With a number of bush mechanics amongst us we poured over the engine bay with no success, after a few hours in the boiling sun we decided to drag the vehicle 30km into Drysdale Station where we quickly decided to stay for the night. A $3k tow-truck fee from Kununurra wasn’t an option so we needed to fix our teams stricken vehicle. After plenty of fault finding the issue focused on the fuel system, specifically the fuel tank and pickup unit. With the sun setting our bush mechanic skills were put to the test as we removed the fuel tank in the Nissan Patrol. In between though we stopped to celebrate Sam’s birthday with everyone singing ‘happy birthday’ and feasting on chocolate cake and brownies cooked in the ‘weber’. Back to the repairs and it was found that the fuel pick-up and gauge system had sheared off within the tank causing the Nissan to stop. Finally, as the hours neared midnight we’d fabricated a makeshift fuel pick-up system that would see us all on the road again the following day. 

Wednesday (day 8 on the Gibb) dawned with a slight amount of trepidation, would our repairs be effective enough? There was still over 300km of driving on the Gibb River Rd to be done. Leaving Drysdale Station, we were soon heading East again and by lunchtime we’d reached the Ellenbrae Homestead where scones with jam and cream are served daily. Our bunch of dusty dirty travellers feasted on such a delicious meal so far from home. With reluctance, we had to leave the scones behind as we continued towards Home Valley Station but not before some further bone jarring conditions were encountered. As mid-afternoon approached we arrived at our nights stopover. HV8 (Home Valley Station) as it’s known to the locals had changed a bit since our visit 3 years earlier, it was no longer the sleepy hollow with many travellers now packing the campground. With us checked in for a few nights the kids were quickly in the pool while the adults enjoyed another round of ‘happy-hour’ drinks. As dusk fell many of our group enjoyed a meal and live music at the bar. There was no better way to relax after another long day of corrugated dusty roads. 

Thursday (day 9 on the Gibb) should have been somewhat of a sleep-in but those bloody crows and their early morning ‘faaark, faaark, faaark’ drove us insane so we had a somewhat early start to our lazy day….. We surprised the kids with a 30min horse ride around the cattle station which they both loved, Ethan now seems to like 1 horsepower better than motorised horsepower. By late morning we headed out for a sightseeing drive through the ranges which included a stop at El-Questro Station and a trip across the Pentacost River which looked magical with the backdrop of the sun on the Cockburn Ranges. By the time we returned to HV8, ‘happy hour’ was in full swing again so the kids migrated to the pool while we performed life guard duties with a beverage in hand… To my surprise the nights entertainment at the bar was ‘NRL’ on the big screen, this would be our first bit of NRL news in 4 weeks and it was made all the sweeter as the Eels punished the Dogs.

Friday (day 10 on the Gibb) was moving day. We’d heard whispers that a rodeo and camp draft event was being held in Kununurra so with everyone keen to take in the outback lifestyle we headed straight for Kununurra, but not before we encountered more problems with our 2nd battery and fridge again. It seems the Gibb wanted one last bite at trying to destroy our cars, this time our dual battery isolator gave up the ghost as it’d shaken itself to pieces. With another bit of quick bush mechanics complete we were on the road again. Our phones soon letting us know that some form of civilisation was just around the corner, but not all news is good news and sadly one of our group had received the sad news of a family pet passing….. Once in Kununurra we soon found the rodeo grounds where we delighted in watching the camp draft events with kids as young as 4 through to adults showing their wares in riding and steering cows through various gates…. As the day drew to an end we took the opportunity to restock our dwindling food supplies and enjoy a relaxing evening in the van park.

As week 4 came to an end, half of our ‘purposeful meander across oz’ is already complete. How time flies when you’re having fun. 

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