The aim of this trip, in
July/August 1999, was to travel the Gibb River
Road in northern Western Australia.
My partner of the time was Julie.
Her brother Peter contacted us to ask if we
wanted to go with him and his partner on the trip.
We wanted to very much, so
made the necessary changes in our life to make it possible.
We had to travel from Townsville
to the Northern Territory border, then on
to Katherine, and connect up with them.
They were arriving from different directions and by different modes of
transport - Peter flying from Sydney via Darwin and then on a bus
to Katherine and Sue from
Central Australia in her 4WD towing her caravan.
From Katherine we were to drive on together into Western Australia
to Kununurra and then out onto the
corrugated, dirt road that is/was the
Gibb River Road.
We left Townsville around 1.30pm and drove to Charters Towers, picked up some gear -
that I had forgotten - from a hardware
store and drove on till just after dark.
Just outside Hughenden we
stopped and had
some sandwiches and a cuppa.
We drove on into the darkness into an area I had never been. I
was disappointed that nothing was visible but that was the way it had to
We passed through small centres I had heard of, such as Richmond and
Julia Creek. Julie was driving and I think I must have been asleep as we
passed through Cloncurry as I have no recollection of it.
We arrived just outside of Mt Isa around 11.30pm and pulled off the road.
With the city lights in the distance, we tried to get some sleep - sitting
upright in the front of the vehicle!
After a restless sleep for an hour or so, we drove into Mt
Isa and found an all night Service Station where we fuelled up the vehicle
and our bodies.
It was a very warm night for July and I felt a sense of peace
and happiness to be walking around in the middle of the night, in an area new
to me, with Julie.
As we were to meet her brother Peter and his partner Sue in Katherine
at a predetermined time, we had to continue on,
changing drivers when necessary.
We decided to stop at Camooweal, which is just before
the Northern Territory border, and try to get some more sleep.
Again, sitting upright in the front of the vehicle!
Around 5am we
were awoken - stiff, cold and sore - by a rattling road train passing through
approaching, so we decided to travel on.
It was my first trip to NT and WA and I was very excited about what
Somewhere on the Barkly Tableland, near Avon Downs
from memory, we pulled off the road and set about having breakfast.
The scene that greeted us was beautiful !!
Julie began making breakfast as I took in the 360 degree view. As far as I could
see in all directions was flat, and it seemed to go on forever.
The orange rays of the sunrise on the eastern horizon, bathed the massive expanse
of dry, white grassland on the Barkly Tableland, which then blended with a front of
white Altocumulus cloud on the western horizon.
The effect was spectacular and
it was really understandable why the early explorers of the Earth thought that
it was flat and if you went far enough, you would fall off the edge.
After breakfast, nature decided to call and being miles from nowhere, I had to
find a spot in this vast treeless, openness to do what was necessary without being
exposed to the vehicles passing by, not more than 100 metres away.
found a small crater in the landscape.
Afterwards, as I like to feel clean, I decided to have a full wash.
I gathered Julie
Being July, it was very cold at that time of the morning but I enjoyed the
freshness of splashing water over myself, warmed slightly by some water heated
on our camp stove.
Vehicles driving by would have had their animals frightened
by the sight of me standing in a dish naked, throwing water over myself - but
it felt really refreshing.
The dish was necessary to keep my feet from getting muddy, as the ground was already showing
the dusty orange I was to become very familiar with, on our trip to Broome.
next stop was the Barkly Homestead Roadhouse
where we picked up a drink.
We refrained from buying
fuel and used our supplies on board, as it was very expensive, as expected.
joined the Stuart Highway at the
Three Ways Roadhouse and headed north.
As the rules in the NT allowed you to
go at any safe speed, we stepped on the pedal and made for Katherine without stopping to be tourists.
we picked up a drink at the shop, then continued on.
We arrived in Katherine just
before dark and found our way to the caravan park -
The Low Level Caravan Park
- where Sue was to be.
Peter arrived and we spent time resting and enjoying the surrounds of the
When we planned for the trip, part of the
plan was to sell my Ford Econovan I had from my business in Hervey Bay
and put the funds into a 4WD.
I did that and with the help of a loan, we bought a
Mazda Bravo 2600 4WD.
Part of the deal was to have a UHF CB fitted.
Because Peter and Sue didn't have a UHF CB, I packed one of my spare sets
and an antenna.
In the time spent at the
caravan park, I temporarily fitted the spare set
and the antenna.
Katherine Gorge or Nitmiluk was obviously on the agenda.
The gorges are well worth seeing, but I could have done without the
commercialized "Theme Park" way of showing it.
There were various ways of seeing it, from helicopter joy flights to canoeing up
the gorges in hire canoes.
We had to opt for the "sardine" method, squeezing into an aluminium flat
bottomed boat, complete with the obligatory khaki clothed ranger, who did the
usual "follow me" routine guiding us from highlight to highlight.
I wish I had taken still shots, but in my wisdom I decided to use my video
camera mostly, to capture the trip.
As we were leaving for WA
the next day, we had to stock up on
necessary groceries from the supermarket in Katherine
and I really enjoyed the air conditioning, as,
even though it was July, it was very