May 2010

May 2 – Ellenbrae to Bush Camp Gibb River, 77.26 klms, Avg speed 12.0 kph, Cycling time 6.26 hrs; Total kms 14,074.15

Mixture of road conditions today, undulating ride with a few 10% hills thrown in which are always great to free wheel down the other side.  Only 6 cars passed us, saw 2 dingos & a large frilled neck lizard.  Arrived at our bush camp on the Gibb River at 2.30pm—very pretty place—we’re busy for the next 4 hours as it gets dark around 5.30pm—water to filter, put up tent, do some washing, make cups of tea, have bush shower, get dinner, write log etc. etc. There were a few other campers nearby, which always helps me sleep a little easier, and one of them, a German tourist Mickey invited us over to share her fire. We were appreciative of the offer, but declined as we were both feeling a wee bit buggered and wanted to get horizontal as soon as possible.  In bed by 6.30pm & had a great night’s sleep, finally cool at night—yeehaa!  Heard lots of dingos howl in the night, they seemed pretty close.

May 3 - Bush Camp Gibb River to Hann River Bush Camp, 56.73 klms, Avg speed 12.0 kph, Cycling time 4.42 hrs; Total kms 14,130.88

Very sandy conditions & lots of corrugations, luckily we could ride on a relatively hard shoulder to avoid the worse.  I’ve been listening to my iPod all along The Gibb, definitely helps with the hard times although when riding in these conditions you’re always concentrating on finding the smoothest part of the road—easy for me, I just follow Greg’s tyre tracks!  Couple of cars stopped for a chat, people are amazed to see a couple of cyclists let alone on this road.  As we’re heading SW the SE wind didn’t help until the afternoon when it swung around to the East.  Another great bush camp along the Hann River.

May 4—5 Hann River Bush Camp to Manning Gorge, 61.64 klms, Avg speed 13.1 kph, Cycling time 4.40 hrs; Total kms 14,192.44

5.00am & we woke to the cheerful sound of the birds—Galahs, Black Cockatoos, Willie Wagtails—listening to their calls, being surrounded by some wonderful river gums & no traffic—it was so peaceful eating our muesli & cups of tea.  The interesting sandstones of the Barnett Range was a welcome sight as was the Mt Barnett Road House which sold cold drinks, hamburgers, pies, chips, sausages, chops, potatos, onions, tins of fruit & oranges.  We bought all of these, scoffed the former at the Road House & road 7klms down the narrow, sandy track to the Manning Gorge campground next to the Manning River, a welcome swimming hole surrounded by Pandanus Palms.  At the Road House we bumped into Mickey again, a German girl we’d met at the Gibb River Camp who was travelling around Australia for 3 months on her own.  She was also camping at the Gorge & joined us for dinner—Greg dished up a delicious meal of sausages, chops, potatoes & onions.  Mickey spoilt us the following morning with breakfast—tinned fruit & weetbix, a wonderful change from eating muesli for the past fortnight.  It was time to walk to the picturesque falls & plunge pool of Manning Gorge, a 8 klms return trip but worth it, one of the prettiest gorges we’d been to, after climbing to the top of the falls & a swim we spent our time on the return trip talking about food—if we were back home in Sydney where would we go to lunch, what would we order etc.etc. This is good therapy and always gladdens our hearts.

May 6 – Manning Gorge to Adcock Gorge, 44.24 klms, Avg speed 12.6 kph, Cycling time 3.30 hrs; Total kms 14,236.68

Short ride today, favourable wind, average road conditions with sand & corrugations.  We had a big climb over the Phillips Range & got a “Respect” from a Swiss couple at the top of the lookout.  Rocky 5 klms down to Adcock Gorge where we camped for the night, there were signs saying “No camping at the Gorge” but we did as we needed to pick up water. We had the place to ourselves and it was just wonderful.

May 7—9 Adcock Gorge to Silent Grove Camp, King Leopold Ranges NP, 77.25 klms, Avg speed 13.5 kph, Cycling time 5.43 hrs; Total kms 14,313.93

More undulating short hills with scenic views to SW of the Ranges, dreaded headwind luckily followed by a tailwind.  As we approached the Imintji Store the northern outline of the stunning King Leopold Ranges came into view, what a sight.  We entered the store hoping that our 5th & final food parcel would be there—it was & another surprise too—we met Klari again, the delightful lady we’d previously met at Timber Creek.  We promised to catch up again when we reached Broome, her home town.  After having a pretty good coffee at the store, we decided to ride another 28 klms to our next camp, rather than stay at Imintji for the night.  8 klms down the road we reached the turn off to the King Leopold Ranges National Park & the Silent Grove Camp, one very rough & rocky 20 klms road, definitely not my favourite surface, what’s the joy in being shaken to bits so I ride very slowly—how come Greg can ride so fast? Maybe no brains..... Eventually I got there & what great camping facilities—flushing toilets & hot showers, well the ladies were luke warm & the men’s were hot, still to have these facilities when bush camping is a bonus.  We had risotto for dinner, one of the luxuries we’d posted to ourselves in our parcel.

We stayed 3 nights here & the next day went on an even bumpier 10 klms road down to Bell Gorge—ggggrrrr—took me an hour to ride there, however the Gorge was very pretty, the water freezing & we sat at the edge of the Gorge having lunch, a beautiful spot.  Our final day was spent washing, reading, fighting off the flies & mozzies & treating Greg to a delicious lunch of Spam luncheon meat—the last time we’d eaten this was about 15 years ago and we hoped it would be the last but the lunch supplies at Imintji were limited—we did survive the ordeal thanks to having more pickle than Spam on each biscuit.  The night did improve—we lit a fire, listened to the Music Show on the radio & Greg BBQ’s his delicious salmon & potato patties.

May 10 - Silent Grove Camp, King Leopold Ranges NP to Apex Creek, 49.57 klms, Avg speed 11.4 kph, Cycling time 4.20 hrs; Total kms 14,363.50

Rattled 20 klms back to join The Gibb with great views of the Precipice Range ahead.  We then began a sealed 3 klm climb (jump up) over the King Leopold Ranges, the climb wasn’t as bad as it looked & we stopped at the lookout 500 metres from the top, all around we were surrounded by superb scenery.  The joy of climbing a jump up is the decent on the other side & this one didn’t disappoint, we whizzed down the other side on a sealed 3.5 klm section then hit another sealed jump up surrounded by views of large granite hills & gorges.  With the rocky road back to The Gibb followed by more rocks & corrugations it was a slow day topped off by a pleasant camp next to Apex Creek surrounded by palms & cycads which we hadn’t seen for a while. By now my iPod has run out of battery but Greg’s still has plenty of life in it as he rarely uses his on the dirt roads. He bristles when I suggest he give me his, but I eventually charm it away from him.

May 11 - Apex Creek to Lennard River Bush Camp, 64.64 klms, Avg speed 14.3 kph, Cycling time 4.30 hrs; Total kms 14,438.14

The road climbed to Inglis Gap Lookout offering wonderful views then descended onto flat plains cycling on a relatively firm & smooth surface leading to a gap in the Napier Range known as Queen Victoria’s Head.  We spoke to 2 Norwegian cyclists, Helene & Jardar, cycling the other way to Kununnura.  After meeting Helene, Greg wants to have another holiday in Norway!!  We had a relatively painless ride to our bush camp at Lennard River thanks to the road having recently been graded & there was also an added bonus, a Snack Bar selling ice creams & icy cold drinks.  We had lunch overlooking the river & during that afternoon drank 5 of those icy cans each, we were that parched.  We set up camp overlooking the river & listened to the local radio something we haven’t been able to access over the past couple of weeks.  In a couple of days we’ll reach Derby, the end of our journey along The Gibb, Greg is now “Beer & Burger Dreaming”.

May 12 - Lennard River Bush Camp to Derby, 127.47 klms, Avg speed 15.9 kph, Cycling time 8.00 hrs; Total kms 14,565.61

Our plan today was to cycle 106 klms to Birdwood Downs, a working Station that hopefully could supply us with a meal.  A friend of Clari’s called Jim (who was travelling with her at Imintji) said he would call Birdwood & advise we’d be arriving today & ask if we could have a meal.  Surprisingly we seemed to be climbing most of the day with very long stretches of road that seemed to go on forever, I could just see Greg in the distance.  You’d expect to roll down the other side but this didn’t seem to happen, how strange, we must have been below sea level along The Gibb.  After leaving camp we started to hit 10 klms stretches of bitumen (yeah) knowing that 70 klms out from Derby the road was sealed. Now Greg’s iPod has run out of battery so I give it back to him and he now claims he wanted to listen to it today. The man’s a born trouble maker! The camera is also almost out of battery and the computer battery has just died as well, as the last electricity we had access to was at Home Valley Station more than two weeks ago. He’ll just have to wait to get to Derby to charge every thing up, and watch, he’ll probably not use his iPod until after we get to Broome! I think he’s been in the sun too long....The landscape had now changed to open plains & unfortunately the winds weren’t favourable, they were mostly headwinds.  We were both having a morning break in the shade when a couple stopped & said they had 2 icy colds drinks for us from the owner of the Snack Bar—we couldn’t believe our luck & how thoughtful.  With renewed energy we battled the heat & hills & after a long hard slog & no lunch, Greg rode into Birdwood Downs at 2.30pm, I then saw him returning & he said there was a “No vacancy” sign on the gate—but didn’t it say “except the 2 cyclists” !!  We sat & had lunch back on The Gibb (Sao’s, vegemite & tomatoes—yuuummmmm) then knew we’d have no other option to cycle another 18 klms into Derby.  Still we didn’t mind, it could have been the Beer & Burgers spurring us on.  More climbing as we rolled into Derby at 4.00pm after cycling 127 klms & peddling for 8 hours.  We booked into the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park for 5 nights & what luxury—warm showers, electric lights, a washing machine after 13 days, taps, access to fresh food & cold beer, cold beer, did I mention cold beer.  We had done it, we had conquered The Gibb River Road, lost about 6 kilos in the process so headed to the pub to celebrate with icy cold beer, steaks, burgers & chips.

May 13—16 Derby (pop 5000)  Beyond the Boab trees of Derby, you’ll discover adventures on land & sea.

Situated on King Sound, 220 kilometres north east of Broome, Derby was the first town settled in the Kimberley.  It’s located on an ancient sand dune, dotted with Boab Trees, surrounded by intriguing mud flats—the legacy of its location adjacent to the mighty Fitzroy River—& has the highest tides in the southern hemisphere reaching over 12 metres.  Within a 200 kilometre radius of Derby are the wonderful attractions of the southern end of The Gibb including the Buccaneer Archipelago.  Catching up on emails, updating the web & washing our sandy bikes will keep us busy for most of our time here, doesn’t matter, it’s a great feeling not having to get up at 4.30am to face another day on The Gibb—yeehaa.....

May 17—18 Derby

How lucky were we to have finished riding on The Gibb when we did as 70.6 mills of heavy rain fell in Derby yesterday causing The Gibb and some gorges to be closed.  Imagine being stuck on The Gibb in the soaking rain, not being allowed to move, possibly running out of food & then having to face the prospect of riding on a wet, soggy, carved up gravel road—yuk!  From the comfort of the camp kitchen, we saw & heard the caos this unexpected rain caused to other travellers in the caravan park—when’s The Gibb opening? what’s the road like, what gorges are closed, should we change our travel plans & miss The Gibb altogether etc.etc.  Ian & Julia, owners of the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park, were wonderful and kept everybody informed as much as they could.  As further rain continued to fall, we got to know them & Derby really well as our initial 4 night stay extended to 7 nights & our permanent booking in the camp kitchen was used productively to plan & book our trip to the UK at the end of July for 6 weeks. 

We really liked Derby & can recommend The Windmill Cafe (best coffee since Darwin & decent food), Jila Gallery & Restaurant (young Italian chef serving great food) & The Spinifex Hotel (local hangout & great hamburger & chips).  Our extended stay didn’t interrupt our plans as I’d allowed 4 days to ride the 222 klms to Broome when even 3 or 2 days was possible.  In the end we had to ride it in 2 days as we found out the Roebuck Plains Caravan Park was closed for renovations so we had no choice as our accommodation at the Backpackers was booked for 20th May.

May 19 - Derby to Nilibubbica Rest Area, 115.56 klms, Avg speed 16.8 kph, Cycling time 6.51 hrs; Total kms 14,681.17

It poured with rain during the night & was still raining heavily when we left, but we had no choice & unfortunately Greg had to pack up a very wet & heavy tent, Horsey loaded with this & 19 litres of water & Crazy Ruby carrying 15 litres too as we knew no water was available at our camp spot that evening.  Luckily the rain cleared as we left Derby & by 10am we’d reached Willare Bridge Road House for morning tea after having a relatively easy 62 klm ride.  We then had a much slower ride to the Rest Area, we seemed to be pushing up gentle hills most of the way, my thighs were aching & the long, long roads seemed to go on forever.  Greg was struggling too & we put it down to too many days off the bikes & carrying all the extra weight.  Greg was keen to get to the Rest Area to dry out the tent & we arrived at 3pm, pushed the bikes into one of the shelters, hung out the tent & devoured lunch & a cup of tea as the rain started to pour down.  The Rest Area was quite boggy & wet & filled with caravans—it’s a 24 hour free camping area so these are always popular & as the rain continued to fall we made the decision to sleep on our air mattresses on the 2 picnic tables in the shelter.  With that decision made we had a quick bottle shower in the pit toilet area & enjoyed a huge bowl of Spag Bol I’d made & frozen the night before.  I had visions of rolling off the table during the night but surprisingly slept well except for someone snoring in a caravan close by.

May 20 - Nilibubbica Rest Area to Broome, 106.49 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 6.57 hrs; Total kms 14,787.66

Another long, hard ride with more long stretches with upward climbs, coupled with headwinds for most of the day & some short heavy downpours.  We arrived at the Kimberley Klub Youth Hostel late afternoon feeling pretty drained but feeling chuffed we’d completed another leg of our journey around Australia, cycling 1709 klms from Katherine to Broome since 8th April.  We checked in & with some trepidation wondered if our request for a quiet room would be granted and it was, a great double room (with a fridge!) & after last night’s accommodation this is sheer luxury for the next 10 days.  Feeling much better after a refreshing shower we ate that night at Noodlefish serving Asian & noodle food & it was BYO too—Darwin take note!  After 2 day’s hard riding & a comfy bed we slept like babies.

Broome—set between a vast red desert & an azure blue sea, alongside a 22 klm pure white beach called Cable Beach lies this charismatic town in the Kimberley region of WA, 2200 klms north of Perth.  The year round population is approx. 18,000 swelling to more that 45,000 per month during the tourist season.  William Dampier was the first European to visit the shores of Roebuck Bay in 1688 aboard his ship the H.M.S Roebuck. The discovery of the Pinctada Maxima (the largest pearl shell species in the world) in the waters off Roebuck bay led to the establishment of Broome's pearling industry in the 1880's.  Pearling peaked in the first decade of the twentieth century, with Broome producing 80% of the world's mother of pearl shells. Around this time the pearl shells were almost exclusively used for making buttons and knife handles.  The commercial development of the plastic button after the Second World War killed the Mother of Pearl shell industry. The industry was revitalised in the early 1950's with the marketing of cultured pearls as jewellery. Tourism now plays a part in Broome's social and economic prosperity and it is expected to continue, as the Kimberley continues to grow as a popular holiday destination.  Most of Broome's prosperity however is stilled linked to producing the worlds finest cultured pearls.

To be closer to services, we’re staying in an area called Old Broome with the more upmarket area of Cable Beach being 7 klms away.  Old Broome has a lovely feel, funnily enough the airport & prison are right in the heart of it & it’s also filled with decent cafes & restaurants.  When we booked into the Hostel there was a long note from Klari (a local we’d met at Timber Creek then bumped into again along The Gibb) giving us recommendations where to eat & find good coffee, she knew us well!   We tried 2 coffee places the next morning & agree with her recommendation for the best coffee—The Aarli—& have eaten at 3 other places too, mostly BYOs, again Darwin take note.  Klari & her husband, Bob, have made us feel so welcome, have shown us the sights of Broome & invited us over for dinner.  Did I say were only staying for 10 days?

We will be busy in Broome doing admin, replacing some worn out sun bleached clothing, broken walking sandals (don’t buy Teva sandals), bike bits and pieces, filling scripts (Greg must keep the pharmaceutical industry in cash), fixing a buggered zip on the tent, washing the dust of the Gibb of all our gear and assorted other stuff. In between, as Greg is quick to remind me, we will be restoring our fuel tanks (tummies) with food, beer, wine and coffee before we cycle it all off when we leave Broome.

May 31 - Cape Leveque - We’re catching a lift with the “postie” at 4am, heading 220km north of Broome to stay at  Kooljaman Cape Leveque on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula for 5 days.  Apparently it’s a beautiful spot with gorgeous sunrises & sunsets, swimming in azure waters, beachcombing, spectacular walks, bird watching & snorkelling.  We shall let you know next week!