Now we regret putting the car here…I wipe the sweat from my brow while I turn the steering wheel around again. The effort must show on my face.The front tyres grind under me while I force them yet again the other way. I don’t know if this is a known fitness exercise, but if so I will have mastered it after our journey.
The bull bar pushes the plants and fence out of the way while the spare wheel and back bumper thrust against the wall of cane. Some angry looks and frustrated comments later we finally manage to get out of this tight spot. I quickly run from the scene and inside for a well deserved cup of coffee which I drain like it’s a cold glass of milk.
Ten minutes later and we’re ready to go. It’s the four of us now. Adam and Megan from Canada are fascinated by our trip and like to accompany us for a few Miles Along The Sea.
The four of us have a look at the map. Together we decide to keep following the small gravel roads we can see on our detailed map. When the small gravel roads turn out to be narrow, muddy tracks with tight passages and low overhanging trees I start to worry.
I leave the car on a hill where turning around is still a possibility and follow the track on foot walking between huts and low hanging branches. The track ends on a steep uneven slope which ends in a river. Bare feet I walk through it while the strong current tries to unbalance me several times. The ground seems solid underneath and besides some deep holes I believe the car can do this watercrossing..
Slowly, like a funeral procession, I follow Helga down the hill in the car while she walks in front of me with the walkie talkie to guide me around the largest potholes. Megan is safely on the other side with the camera filming everything. Helga has a hard time getting across the river bare feet. The current is trying to unbalance her too while the sharp, slippery rocks don’t give much opportunity to plant your feet well. I watch her struggle and notice that walking is not going any better than driving. I decide to use my momentum. I pass by Helga and try to read the path through the river as good as I can by myself while I start on the steep part. I miss a giant pothole and the car makes a dangerous sweep to the left, followed by a loud yelp from Helga. I’m being tossed in my carseat while the car balances itself out and slowly start the steep climb up from the river crossing.
I park the car a little up the slope so everyone has time to deal with the earlier fright and the adrenaline rush settles down. This way I hope to avoid a lecture about my irresponsible behaviour…By the time everyone reaches the car there are already a few laughs and giggles about the whole situation.
We barely speak about it later and focus on navigating the route ahead. When we reach the top of the hill it almost looks like someone drew a line with chalk on a green pool table. In the valleys below we sometimes have to look for the roads that from the top were so easily to see.
The line of chalk get wider and wider, people live along side the road and the low rumble of the car makes the cows step away from the it. I think we are all secretly relieved when we reach the tarmac around noon and see the first signs leading us to Dwesa National Park.
A Canadian is not an American. Absolutely not. Not that I’m implying that Americans have no clue when it comes to camping, but when I lived in the States I only met a few people who really camped. They either stay somewhere about 5 hours from home or they are climbers who sleep in their car. But as soon as we park the car the Canadian Adam feels right at home; he browses through our camping equipment, finds the MSR stove and crowns himself as the cook of the camp kitchen. He helps setting up our camp like he does this every day and gathers wood which he expertly transforms into a beautiful campfire. Around the fire he tells us about his nightly hunting expeditions with his father, the solo hunts with bow and arrow, his adventures on a snow mobil in which he had to plow through powdery snow and the days he spent on the ice, fishing. He also tells us that the only way of hunting for moose is to spray yourself with a deoderant of moose urine and not wash yourself for days. And also that it can be a bit scary when you’re alone in a tree when it gets dark, with bow and arrow ,while the forest underneath you comes to life.
They teach us an easy card game and maybe it’s the alcohol that effects our play, but the sober Helga quickly turns out to be the best player with strategically placed, but often painful cards.
The clouds are hanging like smoke plumes in a clear blue sky. You would almost have to squeeze your eyes shut to look into the sun and see them. They could have been smoke signals from some Indian tribe by the round and identical look of them. Without any warning the clouds start to form a thick blanket, which turns a dark grey and bursts open just a few minutes later. Water flows in long red-coloured streams and finds its way through the soil. We’re driving an unsealed road, the red mud gets stuck in our tires and all four of them spray the wet red dirt around as we drive.
We have started on the legendary Gibb River Road, once a road to move cattle, but now a 4wd track that every offroad enthusiast wants to drive. As the Lonely Planet describes: “ A high-clearance 4WD (eg Toyota Landcruiser) is mandatory, with two spare tyres, tools, emergency water and several days’ food in case of breakdown.” I believe we got this sorted.
The largely unsealed road of about 660 km long lies between Kununurra and Derby and along it are some of the most stunning gorges to be found in Australia. We really want to experience this drive, but time is running short and it is already December. The wet season is about to commence and this road can be closed at any time when the circumstances are unsafe for travel.
Fortunately, the department of Transport in Kununurra informed us it would still be safe, but that we should not take longer than 4 days and that we would probably be one of the last cars to drive the whole thing from there to Derby before they close it off.
The rain stops as suddenly as it started. The clouds drift away like sailboats and leave an empty blue ocean. I turn down my window and warm, humid air flows in. The road takes us up an elevated plateau with an impressive grey rock wall which beautifully contrasts with the red dirt and blue sky. I see two vehicles coming from the way we are heading. They seem to be sand coloured from a distance, but when they pass us they turn out to be the same white Landcruiser Troopcarrier that we are driving, camouflaged by a layer of mud. We now know what awaits us…
We don’t have to wait long for that matter, before we know it we’re standing before the Pentecost River: a 300 meter long river crossing. Helga gets out her trekking poles, puts the camera in a water resistant backpack, grabs an Oricom handheld from the glove department and starts to walk across the river. The Troopcarrier waits with its front wheels in the water and me on the bonnet scouting the river. We realise that this river probably has some less dangerous freshwater crocodiles, but could also house some bloodthirsty saltwater ones since the river ends in the sea.
The water almost reaches her shorts, but it doesn’t seem to bother her. She won’t be distracted by the current and reaches the other side quickly. I now know which depth to expect.
Over the radio Helga tells me about the obstacles and the route to take.
Slowly, in low gear, I follow her trail with our loaded Troopy. When we’re on the other side the clouds, again, turn to a solid grey blanket. By the time we are both safe and sound inside the car the blanket tears open: just in time.
The road winds through a breathtaking landscape. The road is rough, but the low tyre pressure makes it bearable. We stop to have lunch at Rollies Jump Up, make coffee with our percolator and look out over a long stretch of nothing. The whole day we are the only ones on the road.
We set up camp at Kennedy Creek next to an old fire pit. For many years travellers through the Kimberleys have stayed here and probably not much has changed.
We have already left before the sun rises. It must have rained extensively a few kilometres down the road because it’s alternately mud and sand. We take a turn off the Gibb towards “Gibb River” cattle station. A young couple opened a little shop here about a year ago and together with the Aboriginal community, a nurse and the owner of the station they form a small, but hospitable place to stay. Three large mango trees are the centre of attention when we pull up and leave us and the car in some more than welcome shade. We enjoy the stories from the people we meet and we feel very welcome in this community. The map comes out quickly and we leave with several notes and circles around places not to miss along our way. We return to the main road full of new ideas and places to visit.
31 Kilometres later we leave the Gibb again. We start on the road that will lead us towards Mount Elizabeth Station and for the next 29 kilometres, which is not that long save for the teeth shattering corrugations, we mindlessly endure the rough road. When we reach the homestead we find out that the owner has left the station for the wet season and we meet the caretakers. They turn out to be both writers and they decided to live in this desolate place to finish their books. Surprised by us visitors so late in the season they don’t hesitate to answer our enquiries. The owner from the shop we just visited made some notes on how we should visit the gorge that belongs to Mt Elizabeth Station. There should also be some Aboriginal Art around on the rocks a little bit further downstream. The writers have no knowledge about the art, but give us the small laminated mud map of the area which shows us the way to the gorge and point out the grey gate towards the beginning of the track.
We cross a small river and slowly start on the narrow road that winds through the dense vegetation and boulders. It is obvious that this road has not been used for a while now. Nature has started to reclaim some parts of it; we can hear the low scrub in the middle of the track brushing underneath the car, roots found their way over the road and the first rainstorms left deep ditches to navigate around.
We stop when we reach a steep and rocky descent we don’t want to risk with our car. The sun is at its highest point, but we decide to follow the rest of the track on foot. We battle the heat step by step, while our footprints are clearly visible in the dust behind us. The track becomes more narrow until all that remains is a walking trail on which we continue. Small white ribbons are the only way of knowing we are actually going the right way. From beneath her pink cap I can see Helga’s face; sweat trickles down her face into her t-shirt and her colour matches that of the cap.
A water python watches us from its hiding place when we make our descent into the gorge. We waste no time, undress and quickly dip in the cool, blue-green water.
We spend the night at Galvans Gorge and are disappointed when it turns out to be just a small pool with no flowing water the next day. We decide to skip our morning swim and drive on to “Over The Range” Car and Tyre Shop. Neville Hermon settled here about 14 years ago coming from New South Wales. He saw a business opportunity and fell in love with the Kimberleys. Slowly he managed to build up his shop and when we look around us there are a lot of cars that did not make it until the end of the Gibb. Neville mainly uses Landcruisers and we make out a 40, a 60 and a 70 series around the main building. He now employs one man and he tells us that his next focus is to build a house for his family so they don’t have to live in a caravan anymore.
Neville points out that we should go to Adcock Gorge a little bit further down the road and we take a belated morning swim there. After this we drive through King Leopold Ranges, past Queen Victoria’s head and put up the tent near Kimberley Downs just before the rain hits again. We watch the road turn into a muddy affair and I look at Helga: we both start to laugh, again, we are just in time. When we drive the last stretch of the Gibb River road we are becoming more and more aware of the trees along side the road. The Boab Trees are not to be missed in this part of Australia. These ancient trees are amongst the longest living things in the world and some are more than 2,000 years old. Storing water from spring rains give them their swelled trunks and thus distinctive look. We pass more and more cars and we realise the past days of seeing maybe one car a day are over. Civilisation is around the corner and as the gravel turns into bitumen the quietness of the car lets us relive the wonders of the Gibb River road in our minds.
It’s 5 o’clock in the morning when the Kookaburras wake me up.
I turn around in my sleeping bag, but I’m already too excited to go back to sleep.The day before a long, sandy 4wd track through Cooloola National Park prepared us for Fraser Island, which is only a mere 50 km ahead.
I stick my head out of the rooftop tent and the humid air startles me. I pull back immediately, but it’s too late: mozzies, having waited for their chance to come in, find their way through the now open mosquito net. Alright then, I think – they’re in, I’m out. Twenty minutes of hurried packing later and we’re on our way to Inskip Point.
The sun just doesn’t want to join us this morning. Inskip is covered in a thick layer of fog which doesn’t make it any easier in locating the barge on an unfamiliar beach.
When we finally get there we are guided to one of the three rows of cars already there. This is where the separation is made: all 2wd cars stay behind while only 4wd cars are allowed on Fraser Island. Our Toyota Troopcarrier should feel right at home.
Since it’s only ten minutes to get to Fraser we leave the barge still in the thickest of fog. We’re glad another Landcruiser takes the lead and we follow him on the hard sand which almost resembles bitumen. We can barely see the thick waves rolling in and the start of the low tide gives us enough space to drive along side them. In the distance we can see the outline of a the Maheno Wreck. The sun finally won its war against the fog and we get out the camera to capture this amazing scene.
That first day we drive all the way to Marloo, past Orchid Beach, and hide behind a small sand dune where we set up camp. We enjoy the sunset which is on the other side of the island, but still leaves a beautiful colour palette to our sea view.
The next day we drive back to K’gari where we start the first 4×4 track on Fraser Island: the Northern Forest Scenic Drive. Knife blade Lookout gives us a view over an enormous sand blow where you can almost feel the battle between sand and bush. We slowly continue on the track where the vegetation gives the eerie feeling of driving through a tunnel. I feel like I’m on a fun fair going through a haunted house: the branches are like cobwebs and the vegetation becomes a dark tunnel.
An oncoming car suddenly appears from around the corner on our single track. My foot is on the brake immediately and my adrenaline rush makes me go to lean on the horn before putting the Troopy into reverse to create some space to pass. The other driver waits while I make some space for him to to continue, after which he smiles meekly while he passes in a hurry to get away from us. It takes a while for us to get out of the adrenaline rush, but fortunately Lake Allom is close by, and a swim in the freshwater lake calms us down.
On the last few kilometers of the track we come across a deep ditch on the left side where the soft sand almost doesn’t allow us to level the car through it. We make it out of there unscathed after we reverse and try again – driving off-road on Fraser Island is not always a walk in the park.
That night we camp at Eli where the howling winds and the lack of sand dunes keep us awake for most of the night.
The next morning we drive from Eli via the beach to Eurong, and from there we drive a sandy track to Central Station, where we meet road workers placing rubber mats on the soft sand. We set up camp amongst the trees and decide to do the return walk to Basin Lake for a quick dip. We like our hidden little spot so much that we decide on another night and a long, 18 km walk the next day which will take us to Pile Valley, Lake McKenzie, Basin Lake and back to Central Station. It’s a long and testing walk and by the time we have reached Basin Lake it starts to pour down with rain. Luckily we know the way from the day before and we almost break into a run the last kilometers to get to the car. Not that it makes any difference, we’re soaked anyway.
It keeps on raining through the night and we have to pack up a wet tent and annex the next day. We take the Southern Lakes Scenic Drive to Dilli Village and continue via the beach back to Hook Point. We timed the trip back with the low tide and it seems like we’re not the only ones trying to get of the island. We join the long queue of 4wd cars waiting for the barge to take them back to the main land and from there we continue our journey around Australia.
This story was published by Hema Maps: http://www.hemamaps.com.au/en/Trip-Reports/Fraser-Island
After we drove my parents back to Sydney (driving on the “wrong” side of the road not being their thing) and spent a whole 5 hours being tourists we took a train back to the Blue Mountains to pick up our car.
That first night alone again we stayed at a deserted campsite in the Blue Mountains near Woodford.
From there we drove from Dharug National Park to Yengo National Park and from Yengo to Barrington Tops. Our timing was really unlucky since all of the 4×4 tracks in Barrington were closed until the 1st of October……
A little frustrated with this we camped at Manning river and made a nice fire to ease our pain. We were really close to Gloucester then and we went to see our friends at the company Drifta. They helped us sort out our crate-storage problem by making a wooden frame for them. Happy to have this sorted out we decided to head for the coast.
The moment we left Gloucester it started to rain……and hail…..and rain some more. From Port Macquarie we took a “road” towards Point Plomer. That road had so many potholes (filled with water from the still ongoing, never to stop, rain) that anything above 5km/h was impossible. Frustrated and tired we spent a night in the pouring rain and thought we would try our luck inland the following day. We drove towards Wollomombi Falls (still raining), camped here and there (rainy) and took the Waterfall Way back to the coast (RAIN).
So apparently, the New South Wales coastline is really spectacular and worth seeing….but not when it’s raining.
Currently hiding out near Lismore with Ben & Sigrid (who we traveled with through WA & SA), we’re waiting for the weather to turn and hopefully enjoy the coastline with a little bit of sunshine.
Leaving Melbourne was long awaited but sad. We would finally be on the road again after spending almost 7 months working and preparing the upcoming trip in one of the greatest cities we’ve ever lived. We met wonderful people, drank the best coffee and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of city life. But it was time. Time to feel our beloved Troopcarrier work beneath us to bring us from A to B, time for campfires, time to sleep up high and time to see more of this amazing country.
It took us two days to pack the car. Reen once compared packing his motorcycle panniers as a game of Tetris. Well, this was Advanced Tetris. With the barrier we had installed behind the backseats, some things were a little bit more difficult to fit in and we had acquired a lot more stuff.
In the end, we managed, but knew we would probably repack at least 5 times before everything had its right place.
We left Melbourne in the pouring rain. The city was obviously weeping for our departure.
Giddy for being on the road again we listened to Abba and drove all the way to Lake Eildon. Mt Pinninger provided us with a beautiful campsite and we were glad the rain stopped when we were pitching up the tent for the first time in months.
The next two days we drove through Mansfield, camped at Edi, moved on to Myrtleford, Bright and camped at the beautiful Mountain Creek Campsite near Mt. Beauty.
We decided to do some 4 wheel driving and took a short cut to Mitta Mitta on Disappointment Track….which turned out to be a real disappointment since the road was blocked by an enormous tree. Turning back was the only option unfortunately. Where is that chainsaw when you need it?
To drive from Corryong to Kiandra was a challenge. The high altitudes in Kosciuszko National Park and the fact that it is still winter resulted in closed roads, campsites and Park entrances. Long winding roads and even snow on the side of the road gave us the distinct feeling of driving somewhere in Europe and we had to drive well into the evening before we found a place to camp at Yarrangobily.
Waking up the next morning I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes: frost! on the inside of the tent. Reen hurried out of the tent to take photos of the unbelievable winter scenery of frost and ice.
We decided to take the advice of our fellow camper and head over to the Thermal Pool at Yarrangobilly Caves and indulge ourselves with 27 degrees bath in the outdoors.
All refreshed we began our longest drive in 5 days. We wanted to reach the Blue Mountains that day since my parents arrived there that day too.
I would’ve loved to know how many kilometers we drove that day, but both my iPhone cables decided their life had come to an end and my Hemamaps app only tracked for an hour before my phone’s battery gave out. After a long and boring drive on the Freeway we arrived, exhausted, in Leura (the Blue Mountains) where my parents were waiting for us in a nice apartment.
Over the past few days we’ve seen many stunning views and walked beautiful tracks through canyons and over high cliffs. So far the Blue Mountains have not disappointed us and we’ll enjoy its riches for a few more days before my parents go back to a currently rainy Holland and we’ll continue up the coast.
Het is eind november als ik de deur van de Toyota hard dicht sla, alles is ingepakt. De wolken sluiten samen als een dichte deken en de eerste druppel raakt me vol in het gezicht, snel volgen er meer. Heerlijk reisweer, we rijden de stad Perth uit en volgen de kust zuid.
Eaglebay, Margaret river, Augusta.
We zoeken het gezelschap weer op van een rondreizend stel. Twee jaar geleden zijn ze uit Sydney vertrokken en inmiddels zijn ze bijna rond Australië.
Warren NP, Shannon NP, Mt. Toolbrunup, Fitzgerald River NP
We kruipen we nu in oostelijke richting langs de kust. We zetten de auto waterpas met een paar stenen, klappen de tent uit en met het zakken van de zon lijkt al het geluid te verdwijnen. We zijn alleen onder een heldere sterrenhemel.
Moeizaam ploetert de auto zich door het zachte zand omhoog. Helga’s knokkels zijn wit, haar handen hebben zich stevig om het stuur van de Toyota geklemd. Het raampje aan de bestuurderskant staat half open, af en toe persen zich er takken doorheen die vervolgens schrapend over de zijkant van de auto verdwijnen. We stoppen als omgewaaide bomen het pad versperren.
Port Lincoln, Coffin bay
De zon gaat onder en kleurt de lucht rood en paars. De vinnen van dolfijnen snijden door het water, vanaf de door de zon eerder opgewarmde stenen bekijken we het schouwspel dat duurt tot het laatste licht. Met een kampvuur halen we de warmte en het licht weer terug. In goed gezelschap beginnen we een nieuw jaar.
Nuttbush Retreat – Port Augusta
Een gevoel van herkenning is er als we aankomen op een sheepstation. De voortrazende roadtrains bulderen door de stilte. In combinatie met het zachte hoge herkenbare gezoem van muskieten houd het ons die avond in een lichte slaap.
Geuren van ondefinieerbare, maar vast goede gerechten vinden zich een weg door je neus. Mannen laten hun gezichtshaar staan, lopen in korte broeken op kleurige sportschoenen en lijken druk onderweg naar iets. Vrouwen trekken hun broeken op ver voorbij hun navel, rood geverfd haar is hip en zichtbare geïnjecteerde inkt is meer gewoonte dan uitzondering.
Het is inmiddels drie maanden geleden dat ik voor het eerst aankwam in Australie, 2 weken later volgde Helga en drie dagen later waren we onderweg naar een boerderij in Badgingarra, 250 kilometer ten noorden van Perth. Hier konden we gelijk aan de slag, oogst, schapen, reparaties en onderhoud. De werkzaamheden lagen voor het oprapen en waren erg afwisselend. Inmiddels hebben we alle factoren om ons heen kunnen verzamelen om te kunnen reizen en begint het te kriebelen. We ruimen de kamer leeg en pakken onze wel bekende tassen slordig in. Aan ruimte hebben we geen gebrek met de Toyota Landcruiser troopcarrier en morgen zullen we zuidelijk trekken op zoek naar het ongerepte en ruige Australie.
In de periode dat we in Badgingarra aan het werk waren hebben we een tripje van twee weken naar het noorden gemaakt. De route staat hieronder en de foto’s zijn te vinden in het foto album!