Perth to Kununurra via the Gibb

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Chriswyper, Jul 11, 2020.

  1. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    After 15 years working for the same company I was made redundant last month. In some ways it sucks (self esteem, money, security) but in others it doesn’t. For the first time ever I have free time, and enough spare cash to enjoy it for a few months at least.
    I’m not thinking too much about finding work just yet. If I jump into a job too soon then I’ll resent it. Better to take some time for myself and get hungry to work again.
    So, what to do in the mean time!
    Originally I had dreamt about returning to the Himalayas as I still have my Enfield in Chandigarh. But CV19 will prevent us from leaving Australia any time in the next few months or even years. So needed to plan a trip that kept me in Western Australia (as of July 2020 the borders are closed with other states). Luckily we live in one of the biggest states geographically and there is plenty to explore.
    Just got back from the South West riding skinny bikes where it was cold! Around freezing some mornings. It’s fun when you are on single trail but don’t fancy camping in sub zero temps for many days.

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    So the obvious answer is to head north. Ten years ago we drove the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley with the kids and a camper trailer. It’s a great drive but I felt that we moved too fast, constrained by work and school to meet targets for mileage every day. This time I want to wander, to explore and to savour the land.

    There is so far one fixed point - I booked accommodation at Coral Bay in 19th July as it’s busy there at the moment. Planning to leave on Wednesday after a routine doctors appointment in the morning.

    Here is the route plan. Don’t have too many choices in WA for tarmac, it’s either the coast road or the Great Northern Highway. I don’t want to be on dirt too much as there is limited fuel off the main roads, at least until Derby.
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    I’m joined by Schalk, another gentleman with time on his hands due to the Bat Bronchitis. Been riding dirt bikes with Schalk and family for a few years and he bought an 1190 last year. We’ve talked about doing a big ride for ages, so when the opportunity came he jumped at it. Both of us used to work overseas for large periods of time. The last 4 months have been the longest we have been at home ever - so the families are not too bothered if we skip out for a few weeks.



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    I’ll be on the F800GS. Just bought new rubber for the bike and I’m tossing up tyre choice. Currently have part worn road tyres front and rear. Thinking to change them now and run the TKC80 (F) and K784 (R) all the way, or run the road tyres to Derby and change them just before the Gibb. Big advantage is that I’ll have a set of part worn tyres in a campsite nearby if I shred the off road tyres. But it does mean carrying two tyres a fair distance on the way up. Think I’ll load the bike and see how it feels.
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    Lots to do over the next three days. I left most of my gear in the USA planning a trip across the Divide in April that never happened. Need to maybe buy some more camping gear and definitely sort out some pants. Also doing an oil and filter change, plus maybe brake pads and coolant on my bike.
    #1
  2. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    912A5142-2D20-4DFE-A125-1BBEA1DE3C73.jpeg Spent the day doing some preparation work. Decided that the tyres are going to be an arse ache to carry so they can go on the wheels here. It will be good to practice removing and refitting with only the tools in my bike box.


    Also did some fettling of the top box. We took it to Mexico earlier this year and it fell off frequently. I’ve added some strengthening to the underside to spread the load and hopefully stop vibration.

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    Dropped the skid plate and drained the oil, still need to get some fresh oil from Supercheap this morning.

    One big problem is trousers! I have a nice pair of Revits that I left with my boots and KTM 1190 in LAX. Also have a pair of cheap Indian pants in Himanchal Pradesh with my Enfield. But no pants here in Perth.
    I ordered a pair last month from Germany but with the CV19 reductions in planes there is not enough freight capacity to Western Australia and they are stuck in Germany.

    I’ve put out a shout on Perth Adventure Riders and hopefully can borrow a pair for the month.

    Attached Files:

    #2
  3. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    E5725511-9D14-4443-BEEA-166C6A6E169F.jpeg AD7D2C07-FFCB-40B1-9D19-544AE011BFDB.jpeg E220A4B1-0799-4342-9643-E59C2E834D38.jpeg Slowly getting there today. Changed both tyres to semi off road. Spent 20 mins trying to break the bead of the old rear before I gave up and took it around the corner to the man with the machine. I really wanted to only use the tools that I would be carrying. Figure that if I had a puncture then two people could break the bead given enough time.

    Did a trial pack and it turned out well. Still got half a pannier free space, even with all the food loaded.
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    Only small issue now is pants. My ordered ones show no sign of arriving. I put out a shout on Perth Adventure riders for a loan pair but nothing suitable. I can get some in the local shop for $250 which is annoying, but pants are necessary.
    It’s raining here in Perth today and forecast to carry on for a few days, so at least until Carnarvon I’m expecting cold and wet.
    #3
  4. Desert2202

    Desert2202 Been here awhile

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    Looking forward to this :thumbup
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  5. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    880A75DC-5D02-4424-A997-C2263C98657B.jpeg D18A00C4-E181-4D23-BC3E-758190285AAE.jpeg I had a doctors appointment this morning early, but once that was done I headed over to meet Schalk. He was ready and raring to go. Had a few compulsory departure photos care of Mikaela.






    The biggest struggle is getting off my bike. It’s easy to climb in if it’s in the side stand. I’ve made as much space as I can but pretty sure I’m going to end on my arse next to a fuel bowser before the month is out.

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    The ride out of Perth is pretty easy and a familiar route. Past Lancelin we picked up speed and found our pace.


    Fuel in Jurien Bay ($15) and a pie at Dongara BP ($6). Stopped in Gero for the night $25 unpowered site. $14 beers and $25 two excellent steaks .

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    400 km today
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  6. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    The forecast was for heavy rain today, getting worse. We awake early to pack in the dry.
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    Fuel at the 440 roadhouse and on to Northampton. Lovely farming town with a decent cafe. The main road heads north but we chose to go west via Kalbarri. It’s a more interesting route but the rain started soon after we left town. The cliffs are a worthwhile stop for sure.

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    By the time we hit Kalbarri it was bucketing down so we hit the pub for a mediocre pizza. We sat out the worst of it then rode o the gorges national park. $8 entry for bikes, or free if you have an annual pass. Well worth it for the skywalk. The choice of corroded iron for the structure blends in perfectly with the landscape.
    Natures window was good, if busy. Someone had tripped and broken their ankle so the police and SES were on the scene.

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    We left later than anticipated testament to the stunning rock formations of the Murchison river. It was 4pm by the time we reached the main highway with 170 km to the next bed. The weather was getting worse with heavy rain and strong winds. I was warm in my suit with heated grips and furry hand guards. Quite anxious about cows, Roos and goats on the wet road.
    We pulled into billabong roadhouse at 6 pm. Andrew, the owner said that they had no rooms, but we could sleep in the shed. At least it was dry and warm. A bit noisy on the tin roof but I slept well enough.
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  7. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    5B62ED30-7C21-414E-820A-7F2CF55C462C.jpeg Woke up at 5 am warm and snug on my mattress, listening to the rain outside. Even managed to doze a few times. At 7 we had a coffee and toastie in the cafe and checked the forecast. It was clearing by 10am so we did some clothes drying and minor fettling of the bikes. Can’t thank Andrew enough, he would not even take payment for the nights accommodation.

    By the time we had fueled up and left the sun was out and it was a pleasant day. There was a lot of traffic headed south but less in our direction. It’s the last week of school holidays so should get quieter now.

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    We discussed going to shark bay but decided this time to press north. At overlander roadhouse we met Sam on a GS1200 headed to Carnarvon to do a few months cattle mustering. He joined us as far as the junction before continuing to Exmouth for the weekend.

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    The road was under water in a few places. Never a problem for the bikes and the drivers slowed down so as not to splash us.

    We did some shopping, a new SIM card for me and an inflatable mattress for Schalk and his tender ass. The space museum in Ctown is OK, but not worth $15. Very tenuous links to Apollo program, plus some kid’s displays.

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    The campsite is full of European fruit pickers. I was surprised that they didn’t go home in March, but I guess that spending quarantine in WA is preferable to an unknown life in Europe right now.

    Garlic prawns with Chicken wings for entree. We don’t ride well but we sure eat well.

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  8. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Not a great nights sleep I am afraid. The aforementioned European fruit pickers can piss off back to Europe to pick fruit. They can constant loud music, shouting and cars driving past until 5am. The owner of the campsite told us later that they had the police in during the last week. Ah well, to be young and woefully inconsiderate again!
    It was a slow start to the day, some porridge and a coffee, then pack up. We went back to town to grab some cash from the ATM and saw the farmers market. Busy week for the coastal towns.

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    Fueled up ($1.40 here) and rode out to the Blowholes. There was a strong easterly all day. Not bad when it was at our backs but it was a horrid side wind. Convinced my tyres will have a chamfer on the right!
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    The road from Carnarvon to Minilya doesn’t have much to recommend it. It’s straight and flat, with quite a few trucks and convoys of caravans. Add the side wind and it was a depressing hour. Stopped at Minilya for a lunch of cheese and sausage.
    We pulled into coral bay around 2pm. It was the only accommodation we booked in advance, as I knew the school holidays would ensure space was limited. It’s a cosy cabin with a double and a single bed and a small kitchen. Bliss compared with a tent!

    Walked out to the beach to see the Snapper feeding (being fed) on the shoreline. It’s a conservation area so the fish grow big are are quite accustomed to people hand feeding them.
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    Dinner was a masterpiece of packet pasta and sliced chorizo, washed down with a couple of Pacific ales. Life is good.

    I confess I went to bed at 7pm and slept through to 7am the next day. Maybe I needed the comfy bed.

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  9. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Easy day from Coral Bay to Exmouth. The road is pretty good, although the wind was atrocious. I’m expecting a chamfer down the side of the tyres from constantly leaning into the wind.
    Turned up at the Ningaloo Caravan park in town and got an unpowered site for $44. They are very strict with rules (walking pace, no music etc) but I’ll take that for a good nights kip. Walked into town for a pie and met the local equivalent of pigeons begging for scraps.

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    We met up with Sam again, and he invited us to the Whalebone brewery to meet with some friends. We had a lovely night, fresh pizza and a bonfire with a live band and decent microbrewery. Well worth a visit, and it’s only 1.5 km walk from town. I felt like Fremantle on a warm night.

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  10. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Schalk wanted to hang around in Exmouth and do some scouting for his work. He organises cruises for the well heeled and needed to make some contacts in the local tourism industry.
    I wasn’t too keen on any long days, at least no if we didn’t have to so I left the camp on Monday morning agreeing to meet Schalk in Karratha the next day.

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    Just outside of Exmouth was the sign for shot hole canyon. Having plenty of time I rode the 25km length. Very pretty route, mostly gravel and some large stones as you rode through the river bed.

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    The vibration knocked out the dipped beam bulb. Not a huge problem except the BMW MMI engineers decided that if a bulb goes south then the warning should block out the trip odometer. Now I had no way to measure distance.
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    It was around 250 km from Exmouth to Nanaturra, and I had a 300km range, and had taken a 50 km detour. Safest course was to keep the speed to 80 Kph and sip fuel. Was averaging 4 l/100km so pretty happy. Even so made Nanaturra with only 25 km remaining on the computer. It took 15.5 litres to refill, so I trust the gauge. I was kicking myself for not filling the 3 litre bladder in Exmouth.

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    I stopped for a quick break and had a sleep under a tree. Didn’t feel tired but maybe needed it. When I checked the bike noted that one of the straps was broken, I had left the tag ends free but wound up. One had unraveled and caught the chain, ripping it off. Lucky it didn’t throw me down the road (didn’t even feel it). The end of strap was wrapped around the hub.

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    I planned to wild camp but there wasn’t anywhere that looked good. The river crossings were teeming with grey nomads and there was fence on both sides of the road.

    Saw a turning for Peedamulla homestead, so did a u turn and followed the dirt 7km towards Onslow. Camping was $15, and they didn’t seem too worried about formalities at check in. It was an aboriginal corporation, so I’m guessing state seed capital it locally owned. At first glance the camping grounds were idyllic. Great location with BBQs, sinks and ablutions. Even a grassy area for cheeky tenters. Best of all I had the place to myself.

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    There were a few grumbles. No gas in the bbqs, so I jury rigged a frying pan from my Coleman stove.

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    No toilet paper in the toilets either. Not a catastrophe but a symptom of bad management. The kitchen was also pretty dirty with a blocked sink and dead pigeon in the drawers. It’s a tough one. I really do sympathise with the plight of the modern aborigine. It’s a shit card to be dealt and you have to overcome significant obstacles in life. But here was a great business with no advertising, no customers and brand new, yet poorly maintained facilities.

    Dinner was epic, chicken wins with couscous. Light and easy to cook, plus tastes ok too.
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    On a lighter note I pitched the tent on the grass, only to be woken at 11pm when the reticulation (sprinklers) opened up. Remind me never to do that again.

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  11. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Pretty easy day. Woke up early and packed the tent. Refueled at Fortescue Roadhouse and made Karratha for lunch. Had to pay $19 for a new bulb, but this is the Pilbara.

    Dropped in to see my mate Shannon, and Charlie Dog, the best dog in the world.

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    Spent a very nice afternoon drinking beers with Charlie and tennis balls for Shannon until Schalk arrived.

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    Shannon’s housemate Rocco cooked us some fish for tea, and promised to take us out fishing the next day.

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  12. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Rocco made us all a super breakfast of curry boerworst and eggs.


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    A little aside here. One of the heroes of the story has lost their licence for drinking and driving. However, here in remote WA there are no buses and it’s no feasible to take a taxi to work. So you can apply for a special permit to drive to work, but you have an alcohol interlock fitted to the ignition. We only had one vehicle with a tow bar, which was this Ute. I volunteered to drive for the day but needed to learn how to blow into the box every 10 minutes to make progress.


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    Made it out onto the water. Slightly choppy at speed but we settled into a good rhythm for trolling lures. No stokes until we passed close to a channel marker. We thought that we had the rope, but actually a double header of GT. I lost the first fish when the trace broke, but Schalk landed a good fish. I got one we threw back, then Shannon landed a horse of a Giant Trevally.

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    We had seen some humpback whales in the distance, but as we passed the mark one breached right out of water close by. We followed at a respectful distance and tried to get some photos. Harder than you think as they stay under quite some time, and reappear somewhere else.

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    Anchored in a quiet bay for a quick swim in the 24 degree water, then back to clean the fish, clean the boat and had a cold one.
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    #12
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  13. sages

    sages Been here awhile

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    Must have been a pisser of a day, sideways fishing and inverted fish boasting pics :photog
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  14. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Yeah most of the readers here are from North America so I inverted the pictures from down under!
    They appeared OK on my iPad but something seems to have gone wrong with the upload.
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  15. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

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    Enjoying following you along. :drink
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  16. Essbee

    Essbee Been here awhile

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    Re your strap coming loose ; geez, mate, I have a fkn phobia for that, having known someone who lost his life from exactly that. He was riding home from a rally and his rear wheel locked up and he veered off the road and hit some rocks, that was the end of him. Sorry, don't want to put the fear of death in you, but please be careful.
    #16
  17. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    I apologise for the lack of updates over the last week. No internet access for a while and not much time either.

    From Karratha we rode out to Port Hedland. This is the major iron ore export terminal for the Pilbara and is as dismal as you would expect. The port generates a lot of red dust, plus the whole town is subject to storm surges during the cyclone season. Most workers have moved to South Hedland a few km away, but the poorer townspeople stay there in some pretty squalid conditions. We stopped for a quick snack and loaded up with chorizo (forgot my groceries in Shannon’s fridge).

    About 90 km from Karratha is the Whim Creek pub, recently closed. It used to be a Mining camp, then a popular stop off For travellers, but I guess Covid has hit tourism hard here.

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    Our goal was Pardoo station - a place I had stayed 10 years prior. It is around 10 km from the highway down a rough track, but totally worth it. Good facilities with a camp kitchen, showers and even a pool. They have cold beer at $30 a six pack, so decided to have a dry night.

    Lots and lots of long straight road today. E6CA4D74-805C-4D9B-9BBA-D320756C6395.jpeg
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  18. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Another big mileage day. Thought about stopping at 80 mile but there isn’t much there, and Schalk wanted to press on with hopes of getting back to Perth by 4th August.

    At Sandfire roadhouse met with Francesco, an Italian guy on an F650 that he had bought in QLD and was riding around Oz. He was worried as it is 300 km from Sandfire to Broome and he had no spare fuel, so I agreed to ride with him to pool my bladder if needed. Turns out that the F650 is a lot more fuel efficient than the F800. He had 80 km left at the servo when I had 20km. Watching his tachometer he is higher geared - maybe BMW do this to make the F800 seem quicker on tests? Might have to change to a larger sprocket if I do any more big trips on this bike.

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    (once again sorry for upside down pics. It looks ok on my iPad. Metadata issue?)

    Schalk was already into his first beer in Broome. We booked a backpackers for $50 each in Chinatown, only to be turned away because we are too old! They have a strict under 35 policy. Took a spot at the Cable Beach Caravan park instead. Very nice, with a good sunset view.
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  19. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

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    Another early one for me, I was packed and ready by 7am so set out before Schalk for Derby. It’s a great time to be riding. Cool enough to need a jacket and the sun just above the peak of your helmet.
    In Derby filled up with fuel and did a little more shopping. Found some cheap chicken in Coles that would keep for the evening.

    I have a small esky (cool box) in my pannier but we didn’t have any ice blocks cooled from the night before. Keeping food cool is a challenge, and it’s impossible to keep beer cold more than an hour.
    I bought a box of wine from Perth - colloquially know as a goon bag - as it’s unbreakable and resealable. Sadly you can’t buy these north of Carnarvon. Another attempt to protect the local indigenous population from the worst excesses of alcohol abuse. Doesn’t help motorbike riders who want a glass of wine with dinner though.

    Stopped for a photo of the Boab prison tree outside of Derby. This was a stopping point for criminals, or more likely forced labour from the indigenous people of the area who were forced to work in Broome as pearlers. It has cultural significance so is fenced off. Cleverly the sign doesn’t only mention the cultural reasons for not approaching the tree it also points to the snakes that live inside.

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    Derby tourist office were quite helpful, giving us a hand with fuel planning and accommodation on the road. The first leg is Derby to Mt Barnett. It’s about 300 km without detours, or 400km if you visit Windjana.

    This is peak tourist season usually as the road is impassable during the wet season. However many of the stations and attractions are closed. Ostensibly this is to protect the local communities from Covid 19 - but they seem to be happy enough to mingle in towns. Really I think it’s an attempt to reduce tourist traffic as vectors of the disease. Back in March the whole of WA was split into regions with no travel between them. I think that this type of compartmentalisation is very sensible if it can be strictly enforced. Anyway, for us it meant less fuel and fewer gorges that we could access on the bikes. The plus side is fewer people and quieter camping spots.

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    First impressions of the Gibb was how easy it was. Mostly paved now, at least nearly to the Windjana turning. Not much traffic at all.
    A few cattle on the road but they mostly run off when they hear the bike. You just have to guess in which direction they will run.

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    Arrived to Windjana gorge mid arvo, and set up the tents. It’s a great spot with solar powered showers, flush toilets and drinking water on tap. Not very grassy but lots of space. Fire rings set up all around for cooking and relaxing.
    We walked the length of the gorge along the overgrown track. The main attraction is freshwater crocodiles, indeed this is the best place in Australia to see them in the wild. We weren’t disappointed seeing several both in and out of the water.



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    You have to keep a 4 m distance from them, even the small ones will do some damage if provoked. Mostly they are quite timid and will return to the water, but if they feel cornered can do as much damage as a saltwater croc, so best treated with respect.
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    Another decent dinner of chicken and noodles. I have this little Teflon plate that sits on the petrol stove and does a fine job of frying enough meat for two people.

    There were a couple with a camper trailer parked behind us who kindly donated a couple of cold beers. This proved to be a pattern - people took pity on us and gave a cold one most nights!

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    #19
    mrsdnf likes this.
  20. Chriswyper

    Chriswyper Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Oddometer:
    81
    Location:
    Perth
    Next morning rode the 40km down to Tunnel Creek. This was an easy day so had time for a little maintenance. I dropped my tyre pressures a little and tightened the chain. First time I had to break out the tool roll this trip.

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    This was a newly graded track with the graders still working some sections so pretty easy riding. I left my loaded panniers at Windjana so the bike was light and easier to throw around.

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    Tunnel creek is a 400 m long path through the limestone. In the wet season it would be a torrent of water cutting a path, but in the dry is a sandy narrow fissure with a spring in the middle feeding fresh water.

    It involves some clambering over rocks but once inside is cool and easy to navigate. A torch is needed as sometime you cross from one side to the other. The water is never more than waist deep but it is cold and dark. To add to the excitement there are freshwater crocs living in the tunnel. You can sometime see their eyes reflected in the torch and we saw marks in the sand from dragging their bellies.

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    At the end of the tunnel there is a freshwater lagoon with green algae and overhanging trees, a real oasis.

    On the way back I was passing through a creek bed when I saw a snake across the road. I had to brake hard to stop before this beautiful olive python. It was easily 2m long, and stopped when I stopped. We contemplated each other for a few minutes before he slipped across and disappeared into the long grass.
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    First casualty on the bike was a plastic nut holding the screen in place. It had vibrated loose and was lost making the screen rattle noisily against the mounting plate. I tried to find a suitable nut but in the end just zip tied in place - a fix that is still holding one week later.
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    There were a couple of small water crossings on the bell gorge road.

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    On the deeper one we met a pair of GS1200 riders (identical bikes, identical Motorad suits - you know them!) who had just crossed in the other direction. They were kind enough to wade over and show the least rocky route so neither Schalk nor myself got wet feet.

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    From Silent Grove campsite we rode up to the gorge and walked the 2km in. It’s a lovely spot for a swim in the cool deep pools.

    Back at the campsite we met Paul, a desert racer who was kind enough to donate a few beers for Schalk and I as we traded tales.
    #20