Australia: Gibb River Road Adventure

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Gibb River Road_3

18 days on the road, sleeping under the stars in the middle of nowhere inside the roof-top tent of the car. 18 days of sneaking into camping sites for showers, cooking in the dark, sitting around the fire in the evening, embracing the sky full of stars, waking up at 6am to enjoy wild nature and screaming loud from the beauty around… Yes, I have done it all! Believe it or not, just less than a year ago I was standing in the top-brand luxury store, assisting people with their purchasing decision, and now, camping and sleeping in the tent with two German travel mates I had met just a day before the trip! How crazy is this?! How unpredictable life is?!

All in all, it has been an unforgettable experience, where I had to adjust myself to new surroundings, give up the comfort (I guess that’s what you call ’getting out of the comfort zone’) and much more. For that I gained valuable experience, learned new things about myself, and saw the most amazing places in Australia!

Gibb River what?

Gibb River Road was originally constructed in the 1960s to transport cattle from outlying stations to the ports of Derby and Wyndham. Today GRR, with its 660km, is one of the last true Aussie outback adventures. The journey takes in spectacular scenery with many gorges, waterfalls, rivers ,and amazing scenery all around. The road conditions vary from bitumen to natural rocky earth, suitable for high clearance four-wheel drive vehicles only. There are a few absolutely crazy river crossings, some of which are quite deep and thus exciting. 90% of GRR is badly corrugated, very shaky, so be prepared for a bumpy ride and check your car thoroughly before starting the trip! There are no stores, hotels, restaurants, or supermarkets, and gas stations are very rare. There is only one restaurant, Mt. Bernett Roadhouse, towards the middle of GRR, where one can get some groceries and cooked food. GRR does not have any network coverage. There is only one tire repair guy not far away from Bernett Roadhouse. So yes, if your car brakes, you have to fix it yourself or get help from others. It is a real outback adventure, where you are totally cut off from civilization and can get close to the nature.

Gibb River Road

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Gibb River Road_8

We started our trip in Darwin on 25.06.15 at 10:30 and it took us 4 days to finally get to Kununurra and then straight to Gibb. We slept most of the time at free camp sites, so-called bush/wild camping, without shower or toilet facilities. As soon as it got dark, camping fire kept us warm, gave us light for cooking and even became our cooking facility during the last 4 days (as we run out of cooking gas). When we started our trip, we were prepared for max 2 weeks of traveling. So the last few days we run out not only of cooking gas, but most of the food as well. An image of a piece of chocolate had become a dream for us.

El Questro Wilderness Park

El Questro is a huge camping site that offers wide range of accommodation, restaurant, gas station, small shop, car repairs, amazing shower facilities (better than in some hotels), activities in the nature like trekking paths and walks through the forest, helicopter tours, horseback riding, art course, and much more! If you start your Gibb adventure from Derby, by the time you get to El Quester, it feels like paradise. We started from another side, so after El Quester we have not seen anything so nice. We did not sleep at ELQ campsite (too expensive) but were hanging out there for 2 days for showers, petrol, chocolate and chilling.

What to see around:

Lake Argyle

We went to the view point from where one can see some part of the lake and its surroundings. Beautiful place, the lake is magnificent and really big. It is actually the largest human-made lake in the world. I still cannot believe it is manmade!

Argyle Lake_1

Argyle Lake_3

Argyle Lake_3

And of course many many gorges. That is what Gibb is so famous for. Do not muss Emma Gorge (nice 1 hour walk and beautiful gorge), Zebedee Gorge (hot springs) and El Quester Gorge (beautiful walk). Those are my favorites in the area!

El Questro Gorge

Zebedee Gorge

Emma Gorge

Where to camp for free (instead of El Questro Camp):

We slept at the bush camp spot called Fish Hole (to be found on WikiCamps) for two nights. Really nice spot, quiet and peaceful, with no other people around. It is right next to the small river (with crocodiles, of course, so no swimming) and the scenery around is just breathtaking. Looking back at all of our camping spots, this one is on my top-3 list.

Gibb River Road_1

Gibb River Road_1

Plant

Pentecost River area
Amazing area with beautiful scenery. We were lucky to be on the road during the sunset, when the sky turned red and the clouds made the view around fantastic. One night we stayed at free camping spot with the most beautiful scenery and nature. If you google GRR river crossing, that’s the most common image to be found. And yes, it is truly beautiful!

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Pentecost River area_1

Pentecost River crossing

Where to camp for free:
Pentecost river crossing Camp (to be found in WikiCamps) is just before the Pentecost river and was the nicest camping spot for me. Quiet, not many people, beautiful scenery! I woke up early that morning and went along the GRR up the hill for a walk. It is so beautiful, no cars around, no people…only me and those red cliffs.

Mitchell Plateau & Falls

Mitchell Falls was one of an adventure itself! The way there deserves special attention! To drive to Mitchell Falls, we had to leave GRR and take Kalumburu road, which is said to be the worse road in the whole of Australia! And yes, I can totally confirm that it is a really really bad road. Around 250km from the crossing with GRR – the most shaky drive ever! Absolutely the worst road I have ever driven on! It is only possible to drive with a 4-wheel-drive car: we had to drive very slow because of the road condition. It took us on average 1,5 hours for 45km. So to make it clear about Kalumburu road: imagine Russian roads? Now imagine Indian road? Now combine those and that’s the kind of shakiness you get here! After 1 hour drive my head was about to explode! We were driving the whole time on red dirt, which ended up being everywhere (shoes, clothes, hair, nose…everywhere)! We had to decrease the air-pressure in tires to 25, which is very low. And the bad news was, it was going to get worse, after the turn to Mitchell Fall road!

Mitchell Falls was magnificent, so big and truly amazing. It was one of those spots where I was sitting and looking at the falls and its power, and my brain seemed to be blocking the fact that it can be so huge. I had this kind of feeling only once before, when I was sitting at the edge of Grand Canyon in States.

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Kalumburu road_1

Big Mertens Falls_1

Big Mertens Falls_2

Big Mertens Falls_3

Mitchell Falls

Mitchell Falls_1

Some other beautiful gorges and places along Gibb River Road that I really enjoyed visiting: Manning Gorge (absolutely my favorite one), Galvans Gorge, Bell Gorge and Windjana Gorge. Manning Gorge was amazing!!! So beautiful, the walk itself was very nice and not hard. The sky was covered with some clouds which made the whole place look amazing. I was happy to see something so beautiful! I even liked it more than Mitchell Falls! Those orange cliffs, baby blue sky and white clouds! Combination that blew my mind! Bell Gorge – beautiful place, but totally overwhelmed with tourists! I absolutely loved those red-rock cliffs! The rock formation is amazing, our nature keeps surprising me! And again, I loved to climb somewhere high, from where I can look down and feel like I am on the top of the world! Windjana Gorge is beautiful, huge and somewhat different from all the other gorges we have seen! And I saw fresh-water crocs living just like that in the wild, crazy how close we could get to those crocs. There were many of them, but they were rather very small.

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Manning Gorge_1

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Bell Gorge_1

Bell Gorge_2

Bell Gorge_3

Windjana Gorge_1

Windjana Gorge_2

18 days, living outside of civilization, falling asleep under the sky full of stars and waking up with the sound of wild birds, swimming in natural gorges, cooking by the fire. Yes, it has been one great experience! But, I was very happy to be back to civilization. Derby was the last stop of our Gibb adventure and the first stop of my next adventure.

Impressions from my camping life…

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camping_2

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Gibb River Road at night_1

Camping life in Australia

Good to know:

*** Petrol prices: range from 1.55 to 2.15 per Liter. As you go further and further towards Derby, prices get higher. So bring extra fuel with you!
*** Coming into W.A.: check quarantine restrictions. We were not allowed to bring fruits & veggies with us
*** Air is extremely (extremely) dry, take creams with u!
*** No network coverage, no petrol stations (just very very few and expensive), shops, police, restaurants – nothing! Take everything what you need with u!
*** The only spot with Telstra coverage on GRR: (15°44′46.24″S 127°49′32.71″E)
*** Must-have App: wiki camps
*** The only mechanics on Gibb River road: Over the range Tires (-16.885962 125.797313). Great friendly guy!
*** Take water shoes, very practical in gorges
*** Spray or net against flies (those were extremely annoying)

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