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There and Back Again

A Kimberley Experience

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 11 August 2008 | Views [606] | Comments [2]

We have described our trip in two parts. Our experience has two interwoven dimensions.

Part 1.

Sleeping in a swag under the very bright stars and waking up to a pristine dawn in one of the remotest parts of Australia was a memorable highlight.

On Peter’s 60th birthday, we were camped on the banks of the King Edward River, when a huge flock of cockatoos gave us an early morning raucous rendition of ‘happy birthday’.

Other highlights were:

Absolutely amazing countryside and scenic views of escarpments, mountain ranges, waterfalls and so on.

A helicopter flight over the Mitchell Plateau and Falls;

After having no access to showers for 48 hours, being able to swim in the numerous water holes and under waterfalls with cool clear water;

Driving over1000 km along the Gibb River and Kalumburu tracks with their dust and corrugations and through 72 river crossings (we only counted those with water);

The people of the Kimberley’s, their camaraderie and how people support and look after each other in that remote part of the world including the cattle truck drivers that assisted us, the Aboriginal people we met along the way and the workers and owners of Drysdale River Station- Wayne and Lisa (‘Lees’ is a very colourful and direct 26 year old that part owns and runs Drysdale River Station and helps muster cattle. She completed her engineer’s certificate by spending a few months on a prawn trawler);

Another helicopter flight over the Bungle Bungle ranges. This was an awesome place to visit and deservedly has its World Heritage status;

A cruise on the Ord River and the challenging bushwalks up some of the Gorges and to the waterfalls.

Part 2

The signs were there from the start.

We nearly missed our flight to Perth because Peter had not set the alarm clock correctly; Susan’s luggage did not arrive with our flight to Broome and, on our second day, Peter lost his hat and it appeared every decent hat in Broome had been sold to the many tourists.

The Tour operator for our 12 day camping safari was late picking us up on day 1 of the trip. His name was Dragan and he said he was an ‘emergency fill-in’ and ‘don’t make jokes about my name’. (We later discovered that he was someone who had made his fortune in the IT industry and was the new owner of ALL TERRAIN safari Company – of 4 months)

He was inexperienced and at times incompetent bordering on negligent.

On day 2 he left the tool compartment open and we had a trail of tools, tarpaulins strewn along the track between Manning Gorge and Mt Barnett Station.

That afternoon started with a loud banging noise on the chassis under our feet. He ignored our expressed concern (‘Its probably just the axe bouncing around in the compartment underneath the vehicle’) It turned out later that the housing for the suspension had sheared off and the springs were about to smash through the floor of the chassis.

While this was happening, he was driving too fast down the Kalumburu track and clipped a stationary truck with flashing light (carrying 44 gal drums of helicopter fuel) smashing his side mirror and the window adjacent to where we were sitting. Glass all over and down the back of Peter’s shirt. We were very lucky we escaped with a few minor abrasions in what could have been a disastrous accident.

A tarpaulin was taped over the space left from the smashed window and with the help of some passing cattle truck drivers, bush mechanics was applied to the springs and suspension (a log of wood chained in place between the suspension and chassis) and we were on our way again. Another 4 wheel drive All Terrain vehicle was dispatched from Broome (about 1000 km away) to come and rescue us.

The bush repair lasted for the 80 km we drove at 10km per hour along the Kalumburu track until we tried to cross a river when the repair collapsed.

Eventually the rescue vehicle arrived and 20 min after we clambered on board and transferred all food, luggage and swags – you guessed it – the same thing happened. Springs collapsed and smashed through into the tool cabinet of the second vehicle.

A young English backpacker on board who happened to be a mechanic and had been assisting all the way, burst into tears and walked off into the bush. He was angry and frustrated. He said the cause of many of the problems was poor maintenance of the vehicles.

People from Drysdale River Station were contacted by satellite phone and picked us up. We spent 2 nights camping there while one of the vehicles was repaired. A chance to have hot showers, cold beers and wash some clothes.

On the road again, we experienced 2 flat tyres, the luggage compartment was left open after one tyre repair and although no luggage was lost all our luggage was completely covered in dust and, we had another broken spring when we reached Kunanurra.

Of course we were a day late arriving back in Broome and despite numerous assurances from the tour operator, Dragan had failed to cancel the Sunday night booking at the motel (He had given them the wrong name) and the motel wouldn’t give us a refund.

All in all a memorable experience.

The Kimberley region is an iconic place to visit – its tough, its challenging and very beautiful once you make the effort. And, we had a real bonus. With the tour operator being so incompetent, we had experience money can’t buy. We were also able to interact with people of the Kimberley that tourists wouldn’t normally encounter.

Comments

1

Sounds wonderful - Paris and I will have to join you on one of these adventures some time!

  Brindi Aug 12, 2008 9:12 PM

2

looks great cant wait to go ourselves can you recommend a tour group? Love photo 30 the best love gaze

  Looks great cant wait to go ourselves-can you recommend a tour group? Aug 18, 2008 11:35 AM

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