The Gibb River Road. The guidebooks say that it is a must if you want to get a real sense of the Kimberly. They also say that it is hard going. A four wheel drive is a must, as is an off-road trailer built for travelling. We have the former. And although our trailer was not built for such roads, we’re confident that it’ll do the job. It was new, having been bought near Adelaide and is ‘Built Tough’. We have also fitted it with four-wheel drive wheels, so that we can interchange all the wheels - car and trailer. We’re as prepared as we could be. And all very excited.
Owen, who had joined us from near Warrnambool for the Kimberly leg, has planned the week we have for the Kimberly. It was going to be slow driving. Short days, punctuated by lunchtime stops at various gorges along the way. Our camping spots have been plotted so that we can set up before nightfall and enjoy the last light of each day to explore the country.
They say that even the best laid plans can come to nothing. And we were only a couple of hundred Ks – five or six hours of driving time when the wheels fell off. Literally. We turned off into Leonard Gorge for a spell and as we slowly moved down the hill towards the parking area the trailer started bucking….violently. Riding it would have tested the best of cowboys and from the revision mirror it looked like it was going to topple over. Getting out, we discovered that one side of the axle had come away from the trailer completely. The left wheel was floating about 30cms further back than it was designed to. We were blocking the road so that no-one could come in or out of the Gorge. Time for some bush mechanics. Luckily for us – none of us is suitably qualified – we were patched up by a fellow traveller. With straps that we use to tie down the kayaks, our momentary saviour tied the axle back into place. We crawled to the carpark and left the trailer, Owen, Nadine, Tenzin and Annie to set up camp and to check out the gorge.
Meanwhile, Simon and I, took off to the nearest community, Imiji. Here we were very fortunate to meet Neville, mechanic extraordinaire who is, it seems, always in demand. He agreed to pick up the trailer and take it to Derby.
We had done all that we could, so we wandered back to camp, stopping along the way for some footage. The country here is stunning. I wonder how it might be possible to capture how amazing it is on the video. There is both the size of the place and the incredible details. There are amazing landscapes accompanied by the widest of skies…you’ll have to watch the ‘excised’ doco!!
Arrived back at camp, had dinner and made Tenzin a birthday cake of sorts – damper cooked in our camp oven. A bit burnt, but a memorable birthday nonetheless.
A dawn swim in the Leonard Gorge. As Neville had said the previous day, ‘There are worse places to have broken down!’ The gorge is awe inspiring. The water is clear and mild. There are some photos of Big Simon that I would love to share with those following the blog, but we would have to move the blog into a different part of the cyberspace.
Neville came by as he said he would, taking the trailer and Simon back to Derby. The rest of the EXCISED team followed, stopping at Windjana Gorge where we saw a bunch of freshwater crocs. It was near Windjana that Pigeon waged a guerrilla campaign against his colonial invaders.
Arrived back at Derby, landing back on Michelle’s door. We weren’t to see the Gibb River Road again. 24 hours later, having had the trailer repaired and a new tyre put on, we took the low road out. Bitumen all the way!