The Kimberley via Gibb River Road

Australia, WA Roadtrip — By on November 2, 2010 4:42 AM

We have been having some serious fun in the Outback since my last post! It has been hard to catch up on the blog due to lack of internet and electricity. After El Questro we drove deep into the Kimberley to explore the wild wild west! Each day in the Kimberley was spent hiking through beautiful gorges and swimming in a cool watering holes with waterfalls!

The Kimberley plateau covers the north west corner of Australia, a wild and still largely untouched land of sweeping plains, tidal rivers, rugged ranges, endless escarpments, and dramatic gorges. The Kimberley is a huge area (162,680 sq miles) and although it may look small on a map, it is comparable to the size of California.

The land is one of extremes – arid plains, red hot outback roads mixed with tiny pockets of tropical rainforest and tranquil waterholes.

If you plan to drive west from Kunanurra, there are only two road options that will lead you to Broome. The Great Northern Highway is a sealed road that skirts the southern edge of the Kimberley. The alternative is the legendary Gibb River road, a 660km dirt track that runs straight through the heart of the Kimberley. It is notorious for destroying tires, for its remoteness and for having some pretty hardcore river crossings. Gibb River Road was originally constructed as a “beef road” to move cattle from station to station and today is a severely corrugated, 4WD only dirt road that is often closed after rain.

The Kimberley has two seasons – wet and dry. The wet season is said to begin in early November; however this year the rains came early. The week prior to our drive heavy rains had flooded many roads resulting in road closures. Ludo had not been able to make the drive across Gibb River because of poor road conditions and had convinced Stacy that we should take the highway instead. We talked to others who warned us that the drive would be quite treacherous explaining we should bring extra tires, petrol, food and water if we planned to brave the road. If Hercules were to break down or get stuck in the sand or mud if could easily take a week for someone to stumble upon us.

Despite the warnings, I wanted to take the road less traveled versus a boring highway. Driving the Gibb is a journey that is touted as one of the last serious Aussie adventures – a drive through a very remote area where all sorts of dangers loom, an undertaking that requires guts, and in my opinion – the road to fun and adventure! I loved the idea of exploring a part of the country that very few people see, but I still had to change Stacy’s mind which took some persuasion! I reminded her that we bought Hercules so we could utilize his 4WD abilities and that he was born to tumble over unsealed roads! I reasoned that Hercules would be so happy crossing rivers and would love to show off his manhood by mastering the rugged terrain. Stacy agreed that exploring the Kimberley via the Gibb would be a more scenic drive and would be up for the challenge so long as there was no rain in the forecast and all the river crossings were open. So we checked the road closures report online and found that all roads were open and the weather report called for dry, sunny, HOT conditions the next week.

We stocked up on supplies, lowered the air pressure in the tires, switched on the 4WD and drove Hercules into the wild wild west via Gibb River Road!

And we were both so glad we didn’t heed the warnings as we marveled  at views we would have otherwise missed had we taken the safe route of the highway. Gibb River road is miles and miles of colorful, sweeping landscapes, steep ranges, lush vegetated gorges, enticing rock pools and waterfalls.

The downside was lots of dust, corrugation, and extreme heat. Hercules gets too hot in the outback when the AC fan blows hot air on his engine, so we were forced to turn off the AC and drive with the windows down. Stacy and I both have a high tolerance for heat but with temperatures easily reaching 115 degrees outside it was hotter inside the car causing us to cruise in our bikinis.

Driving on the unsealed roads was exhausting, requiring intense concentration as we dodged massive boulders, crossed countless rivers, and navigated the most rugged road either of us had ever experienced. I had never driven on corrugated roads prior and would describe the experience as driving over an endless row of speed bumps, your entire body in constance vibration feeling as if your bones are being shaken loose!

Here is a short video to give a glimpse at the path we took …

I am curious how many people drive the Gibb each year but cannot find that stat on the internet. We only passed 15 cars during the four days we drove on the Gibb and often saw no cars at all on the more remote paths we explored off of the Gibb.

More on our Gibb River Road adventure to come soon!

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  1. Lisa says:

    As soon as I read there were two options; one dangerous and one not, I laughed knowing which you chose. Jarod (7yr) has more sense then you and said to tell you that you are The pictures of the Waterfall are beautiful and the kids and I enjoyed the video. We laughed and agreed that at least when you were driving through a river you werent in danger of running over any more kangaroos. Love you! Be careful

  2. Amber says:

    Kelly, this is amazing!!! LOVE following your adventures! 😀

  3. Dusty says:

    the gibb river road is a super highway nowdays compared to 30 or more years back, now mobs of bloody tourists rubbernecking, stopping on jumpups blocking access for road trains trying to get up these jumpups and genuinely a hindrence to locals, i drove road trains for EKT & Buntine Roadways out of the gidd river road many moons ago the only thing we had to worry about was getting flat tyres now we must watch out for rubbernecking bug eyed tourists doing the wrong thing on the road, the gibb river beef road was built so the cocky’s could get there beef to market quicker rather that walking the cattle many miles into the wyndham meatworks or to other meatworks in Derby or Broome etc,

  4. Dusty says:

    ps. anyway you gals need a big medal for doing what you want to do and not listening to the BS of others regarding the gibb river beef road, keep up the spirit girls and good luck, how about doing the gun barrel highway next voyage a?

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