The Kimberley (so far) – Boabs, Creeks, Crocs and Gibb River Road Part I

Nillibubbica Rest Area approx. 100km away was our overnight destination after leaving Broome and was probably one of the busiest free camps we have been to, with about 25 other groups also settling there. The kids did some schoolwork and then set about gathering firewood. People from most of the other sites were doing the same and there was lots of banging and crashing coming from the bush. I wasn’t really taking much notice at first but did a rapid double take when I saw Paul sauntering across the camp area with a tree thrown over his shoulder! I swear every pair of eyes was on him and there was some serious branch envy going on!

Paul also befriended a couple of backpackers from Germany who were camped next to us. They were doing it tough and funds were low, so Paul took pity on them and shared some of the roast he had made on the barbie. They thought this was wonderful and told him that he looked too young to have three kids. Well, this only encouraged him as he then proceeded to share our drinks fridge with them! Sitting round the campfire later that night they had truly figured him out and after about the 3rd ‘last beer’ I went to bed and left them to it. Needless to say it was a fairly slow morning the next day.

Boab Prison Tree

Once Paul’s head had cleared we had another relatively easy drive
into Derby. On the way in we called in to have a look at the Boab Prison
Tree where Aboriginal prisoners were once held. The kids have been learning
quite a bit about Australian history and have found some of the images they have seen quite confronting. A few sticky questions have been asked at times and we have answered them as honestly as possible. Some valuable lessons are being learned that I hadn’t previously considered. The kids met an aboriginal man selling boab tree nuts that he had carved pictures on. They were really interested and the man told them where he came from. Reardon bought one with Freshwater Bream on and Emma bought one with Sea Turtles on. I was really pleased that they did this rather than buy some of the crappy plastic toys usually made overseas that they always seem to want.

Reardon at the water playground

It was really warm when we got to Derby and we were relieved to find there was a public pool to visit. It only cost $10 for a family pass. We spent a good couple of hours there and the kids really loved the water playground. It was a welcome break from sitting in the car or walking through red dust.

Boab sunset

We then checked into The Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park which we really enjoyed. There is no pool or playground for the kids but this really hasn’t mattered at all, they have had a ball riding around meeting people.  Ian in the office is the right man for the job. He welcomes every guest and nothing seems to be any trouble. Campers can leave their vans on site for only $7 a night and even store their cold stuff in large fridge/freezers he has. He obviously loves where he lives as he is always happy to make suggestions on what to do and where to go. On our first night he recommended we head down to The Dinner Tree which is a beautiful big Boab tree where you can watch the sunset. It was a totally different experience to the ocean sunsets we have been enjoying up until now. Each Tuesday there is a sundowner where a local entertainer comes to the park and sings songs from the 50’s to the 80’s. We enjoyed this for an hour and then headed off to one of the on site vans where you can buy a baked spud. Yum!

SOTA resources

Whilst in Derby we also visited The Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) and The Kimberley School of the Air (SOTA). Both were pretty impressive and do fantastic work.
 In Western Australia the RFDS services an area of 2,500,000 sq kms and in 1009/10 assisted 39,194 patients and flew a distance of 6,905,846km. Staggering! Most of the co-ordinating is now done out of Jandakot (near Perth) but we enjoyed looking at the old radios once used and reading about rescues made.

Emma at SOTA

At SOTA we were able to sit in on a morning muster, which is where all the kids in remote areas who learn with SOTA all check in, kind of like a morning assembly. They all said good morning to the teacher and told  any news they had. The kids then all have timetabled one on one lessons with teachers over the internet. They are able to request one further lessons if they are having trouble. Teachers also visit them on their stations and all of the kids meet a number of times throughout the year at camps. Parents are also guided on how to deliver lessons. Packs of schoolwork are sent out – using the same resources as Schools of Isolated and Distant Education (SIDE). The whole set up was amazing. There was no charge for the visit although people are invited to purchase a book for $10 which is then donated to the school with the names of the contributors recorded inside which we thought was a great idea. Used books were also for sale for 50 cents each, so Emma stocked up.

Paul & Patricia on the Gibb River Road

On day 3 we packed up Stanley and said goodbye as we headed off down the Gibb River Road. The road is a former cattle route that runs 660km through The Kimberley from Derby to Kununurra. There is lots of spectacular scenery along the way and at times the road can be closed during the wet season due to flooding. Traditionally access had been for 4WD only, but in recent times there have been upgrades made. It can be very bumpy and 4WD is still recommended, although we saw a number of off-road campers and single axle caravans. There was no way Stan was going to make it but Paul was happy to spend a couple of nights exploring the first couple of hundred kilometres of the road. In all the road was in pretty good condition, although very bumpy at times which can get tiring, I can understand why people take their time to follow the route.

Windjana Gorge Camp

Our first stop was Windjana Gorge. The campsite was fantastic, with flushing toilets and hot showers. This is in a National park so there is an entry fee (which was covered by our National Parks Pass) and camping was $11 an adult a night and $2 for kids.After setting up and having lunch we drove to the amazing Tunnel Creek.

Halfway through Tunnel Creek

This is a 750m tunnel worn through the limestone of the Napier
Range which you can walk through. It has a permanent body of water in it so we
were prepared to get wet! It was about waist-high at its deepest and very dark. In the middle of the tunnel there has been a rock collapse which did let some light in and the view at the other end was gorgeous. There are bats in the cave along with other small freshwater crustaceans and Paul even saw an eel, which he loudly proclaimed – resulting in Emma walking on water.

Tunnel Creek was another trip highlight.

After a chilly night we got up early and headed off for a fairly long walk through Windjana Gorge. It was beautiful and my favourite gorge so far. What made it a little more exciting was the freshwater crocs that could be seen basking on the banks in the sun or gliding through the water. Some of them were fairly large at
about 2.5-3metres long but they are not generally aggressive and seem to ignore
people passing by. In all we spotted 21!

Crikey! If you look closely you CAN see a croc!

Windjana Gorge

Our final overnight camp along the Gibb River Road was at Silent
Grove campsite. The prices were the same as Windjana
and there were also flushing toilets and hot showers. A 10km drive from the campsite (including a couple of creek crossings) takes you to Bell Gorge. There is quite a rocky walk down to a beautiful swimming spot and falls and our thongs were totally inadequate. To make matters worse, Ben managed to drop one of his thongs when we were crossing the water and it floated away towards the falls. Ordinarily we would have let it go but there is no way that he would have been able to make the walk back with bare feet so Paul jumped in and swam after it. Once again all eyes were on Paul (I think he likes it) and there may have been a round of applause when he got to the thong before it reached the falls!

The great thong rescue!

Falls at Bell Gorge

Another group of lovely people were at our campsite, one couple
re-doing some of a trip they did with their own children 24 years ago. They
were fantastic with the kids, who seize the chance of having a captive audience
that isn’t Paul or I whenever they can.

They even went spider hunting!

In all a great couple of days were had and I would recommend the
places we visited to anyone. If for any reason you can’t get all the way down
the Gibb River Road, then just do what we did and explore one end of it, this
is an option a number of other people were also taking.

Sorry about the long post we will be dropping off the radar for a
while as we make our way to The Bungle Bungles. Looking forward to that.

Oh and for those wondering, there WAS a tooth lost this camping trip.


3 responses to “The Kimberley (so far) – Boabs, Creeks, Crocs and Gibb River Road Part I

  1. Fantastic!! Loved the photos, especially the boab tree sunset. I guess we were feeling lazy when we were there – recovering from the trials of having sick children. Looking forward to seeing what you make of the Bungles.

  2. Hi All
    Have been following EVERY post with interest and envy. You all make me so proud to know a family that is prepared to do it all. Come and get me anytime you like. Every post is intersting and entertaining. Now you are in the Kimberley it is going to make it more difficult for me not to have serious traveller envy! Nothing changes here – same, same. Off to Karri Valley for first week of hols – quilting week with the blisters!! Love, love and love Sue

  3. Love your style Helen and Paul. What a wonderful education you are giving your children. They will never forget their adventures. Good on you.

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