Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Gibb

A recapitulation of part of my trip which started August 1, 2012, see previous posts

(August 2012) Riding into Derby from Broome in Australia's north west, the huge signpost for the Gibb River Road to Mt Barnett takes some missing. At that point turn right and you're on it. The surrounding countryside is green considering the time of year and littered with Boab trees swollen at their base conserving water until the wet season. There are only two seasons in the Kimberley, the dry May to October, and the wet November to April. During the wet season this road is virtually impassible as the river crossings are too deep and most of the road is under water, but during the dry season it would seem that every man and his dog wants to drive it.

I had read about the road. I asked a close 'desert roaming' friend of mine about the chances of me traversing the road safely. I even went to the visitors centre in Derby to find out more about it, but nothing prepared me for what lay ahead. I'd imagined this to be an adventure in the Kimberley and that it was.

 

The Gibb River Road plays an important role in the history of the Kimberley. The road was originally a rough bullock and donkey wagon team track. In under a century it has become a formed 2 lane dirt and gravel road running 660kms through the heart of Australia's great north west. It starts at Derby on the west coast and runs through almost to Wyndham/Kununurra on Western Australia's eastern border. It passes through spectacular landscape of intensely coloured ranges, dramatic gorges, lush rock pools and waterfalls, everything that the Kimberley has become famous for.

The first 80kms or so is a single vehicle width tarmac strip with gravel shoulders above deep sandy gullies cutting straight through the Kimberley bush. It's probably due to the fact that the people coming from the opposite direction have just spent the past 600kms on a dirt road that they are reluctant to give up this piece of tarmac. As a result, the mini bus heading straight towards me just 20kms in refused to budge. I headed onto the gravel shoulder but found it impossible to stay on the sloping surface and careered into the sandy gully and up the other side towards the trees. Luckily the sand slowed my progress and I stopped short of any obstacle. What a wanker, I thought to myself, but there were plenty more of those heading my way.

The Beemer squirmed back through the sandy gully and up onto the tarmac. As I approached the dirt I paused for a while to let some air out of the tyres as I'd been warned of the eagerness of rocks to puncture them. The first thing I noticed about the road surface were the corrugations, if anything was going to loosen my crowns these things were. I'd read that the Gibb River Road is graded three or four times a year in an effort to keep it smooth. Apparently this is not true, even though it only takes a matter of days for the corrugations to start reforming, reports from locals indicate that the road is only smooth once a year, that's at the beginning of the dry season just for a few minutes after the grader been through.

P1000570P1000655P1000657P1000658P1000662P1000663
P1000665P1000666P1000667P1000671P1000673P1000675
Gibb River Road, a set on Flickr.

My original plan was to spend the first night camping at Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge which is 189kms from the start, and a further 50kms up a side road. The problem with most attractions and places to stay is the distance you need to travel off the Gibb on an equally hostile surface to get there. So I continued along the Gibb in hope that sooner rather than later I would come across a place to camp that's closer to the road. The scenery in parts is absolutely stunning, but very difficult to absorb unless stationary. The changing road conditions were ridiculously hard to predict and master. One minute you're wallowing through bull dust, the next you're bouncing from one rock to another, and it changes endlessly, sand, gravel, stones, rocks and the occasional river crossing. Vehicles coming in the opposite direction seem to believe that speed is the answer to the corrugated surface, and nothing but a broken driveshaft is going to slow them. As a result, whenever an oncoming vehicle passes, you're immediately blinded with dust be it red, white, grey or brown. That dust ends up everywhere, most of it up your nose, down your throat and in your eyes. Did I mention the amount of fun I was having?

There were many times when I believed I was going to part company with the Beemer, but managed to slow just enough to maintain control before it happened. This takes its toll on your arms and legs, and by the time I reached Mt Barnett Roadhouse I was absolutely knackered. I was now 305kms in, almost half way. In the roadhouse I paid my $17 for a campsite and was told by the gentleman that it was just 7kms out the back. I did mention that I'd fill the bike up the following morning, thinking that those 14kms worth of petrol may be needed at a later stage, but he failed to inform me what time they opened. I ploughed my furrow down the sandy track to Manning Gorge camp ground. I admit to feeling a little miserable. It seemed like I was in the middle of nowhere, I was filthy, could hardly swallow because of all the dust I'd eaten and what's more, I'd got it all to do again tomorrow. While I was setting up camp a lovely couple named Angela and Ian came over for a chat and invited me to dine with them that evening. I was pleased that I didn't have to get out my little stove and cook myself. We had drinks with a group of 4WDrivers, needless to say the main topic of conversation was the Gibb. They had all come in from the Wyndham end and gave a good account of what lay ahead of me. I slept terribly and before dawn I was breaking camp in the hope of hitting the road before the dust creators.

While packing the panniers I chatted with Errol from Queensland about the Gibb scene, news from the bush telegraph. By all accounts there were 3 guys on KTMs a couple of days ahead of us, one of which finished the final 100kms or so in the back of an ambulance. There were tales of a couple of mad mountain bikers out there somewhere and news just in... a couple of backpackers had recently snapped a Budget camper van just behind the cab, it was taken from the scene on the back of a low loader. Feeling uneasy I headed back up to the roadhouse to fill up the Beemer only to find that it doesn't open until 8.00am, I was an hour too early! While I waited, I chatted with a guy who spent the night in one of the roadhouse's chalets. He was headed the same way as me and confirmed the previous nights accounts of what lay ahead, 25kms of large rocks left there by the grader and too big to be pounded into the road by 4WDs. He had cut the side wall of a tyre trying to pick his way through the previous day, fitted the spare and headed back to the roadhouse. It had all gotten too much for him and he was heading back the way he'd come.

A long way back I'd wondered whether I should have been riding on knobbly tyres, now it was clear they'd be the better option. Nothing I could do now but get on with it, but would my tyres hold out until the end?




Monday, 20 August 2012

Home again : (

Day 18, Left Ceduna in the pouring rain just before sunrise, took shelter in the slipstream of a west bound road train in an effort to keep safe from any suicidal wildlife. Not too long before the sun was up and the rain abated. The sky was full of cloud but nothing came other than a few brief showers, nothing to worry the Rev'it gear. The Beemer just burbled along without a care in the world, I have been so pleased with the efficiency and performance of my bike and could not wish for a better mount. There are doubters of the GSA's reliability and suitability for long distance rides but I can't fault the bike one bit. I put it through hell on the Gibb River Road and subjected it to long distances between stops and it has never faulted. Today was to be an exceptionally long ride and I am racing the sun to the horizon, a race that can't be won. All of the riding today was done on the Eyre Highway which makes its way through the Nullarbor National Park, hence the reason that some call todays stretch 'crossing the Nullarbor". It's a long and tedious section of road which also takes in 'Ninety Mile Straight' which is the longest straight section of tarmac in Australia. Despite this, the scenery does vary quite a bit even though Nullarbor translates to 'treeless plain'. I eventually made it to Norseman, a distance of 1250kms for the day and across the border into Western Australia. I arrived just as the sun was setting behind the trees, which made for a strobed dash through the final few kilometres. On the run into town I noticed a sign for the Railway Hotel which for some reason sounded appealing, perhaps the thought of accommodation and the promise of a pint. I checked out the local motels on the way through and found them to be above my budget. The Railway Hotel is undergoing renovations which would appear to be out of reach for the current young owner, but she's doing a wonderful job all the same. A warm welcome awaits, and I doubt more affordable accommodation can be found anywhere in town. I paid $40 for b&b and nothing was too much trouble, with the added bonus of this being a beautiful old art deco building, I felt like Clarke Gable! Norseman is a small town surrounded by iron ore mines. Unfortunately for the local hoteliers & businesses the mining companies in this part of Australia supply their employees with on-site accommodation, so they fly in and fly out without spending a single cent locally, doesn't seem fair does it?

 

Day 19, It was a cold night last night and the temperature when setting off was 1˚C. This is the final leg with just 680kms to get me home. It's a familiar ride as it mainly consists of the ride back from Kalgoorlie which I did just a few months ago. The day developed into one of winter's sunny ones, which made for a great ride. Before long I was riding up the street towards home. I never thought that I'd be seeing this place again, but it's strange how things turn out ain't it? I was welcomed by Lynne and Nancy the cat, who tentatively await my next adventure.

 

Despite the initial disappointment of needing to curtail my original plan, I have thoroughly enjoyed my ride through some of this great country. All the equipment that I bought for the trip worked absolutely perfectly and the way that everything was packed and fitted to the bike made life on the road easy, so the months of planning and preparation were worthwhile. I may not be able to make safe passage through Indonesia and South East Asia because of the high temperature effect on my insulin, but I have plans to ride Europe, and North Asia very soon. Now I have the job of cleaning up, which will give me a great chance to reflect on everything. I enjoyed it, and I hope you did too. Best wishes 8)




Saturday, 18 August 2012

North to south, loving every minute!

Day 12, Wandered into Katherine today just to see what's around. Quite a big town, with a lot of Indigenous people seemingly eager to take advantage of any situation. Managed to get a decent coffee for the first time since leaving Perth, and they had Wifi, hence the last blog post. Cadel Evans was born here apparently, so a great big sign says upon entering the town from the other direction. Rode out to Katherine Gorge where there's a visitors centre offering tours and information, so I booked a boat cruise which went through two of the many gorges. Absolutely stunning scenery, everyone on the boat just sat and starred in ore at the size of the gorges and their chiselled, ancient appearance. The detailed explanation of their history and associated Aboriginal beliefs was fascinating. The young Aboriginal guide is from the Jamal tribe and identified all the trees and bushes and the many uses for a variety of applications. There was one tree which had burgundy leaves on it, the Aboriginies that roamed the land would collect handfuls of leaves and throw them into a billabong (pool of water), the leaves would starve the water of oxygen and the fish would float to the surface motionless. Once the Aborigines had collected the fish they required to eat, they would allow their picininnis (children) to play in the billabong thus re-oxygenating the water and the fish would again swim and keep the billabong stocked. This is just one incredible use that they had for their huge variety of plant life. They are quite different to the Aborigines that I saw outside the bottleshop this morning. After a fabulous day at the gorges I returned to Riverview and cooked dinner. Never really do much in the evenings as folk just seem to disappear into their tents and caravans.

P1000846P1000845P1000840P1000834P1000831P1000826
P1000821P1000816P1000812P1000808P1000804P1000803
P1000796P1000792P1000778P1000768P1000763

Katherine to Ceduna, a set on Flickr.

Day 13, A long round trip to Darwin today to get a front tyre fitted as the one that came across the Gibb River Road is knackered. I'd put aside a couple of tyres at Cyclone Motorcycles in Darwin prior to leaving Perth with plans of my original trip. When I arrived in Winnellie at the shop I was amazed. Tim, who I had previously only spoken to on the phone, and his partner had recently bought the business and have worked hard on giving it a face lift. What a fantastic job they've done. It is one of the best presented and stocked motorcycle shops I have seen in Australia, and also one of the biggest. They sell BMW, Honda, Husqvarna and Polaris mainly, but also have a range of second hand bikes, farm bikes, clothes and accessories. They have a modern workshop capable of anything, and they are so damned friendly and helpful. If anyone passing through Darwin needs any help with their motorcycle or gear, Cyclone Motorcycles has to be your first choice. The scenery and landscape in the Northern Territory is beautiful, although it did seem that most of it was on fire. The early morning sky was blocked out by smoke nearly all of the 300km journey there, but on my return most of it had cleared. By all accounts there are always spot fires breaking out in the Northern Territory and they are just left to burn themselves out unless they threaten homes or lives, as this clears a lot of the dry land naturally. Someone did say that one of the bird species will pick up a burning stick and drop it in an unburnt area in an effort to flush out its prey, I found this hard to believe, but you be the judge. Upon my return I visited the hot springs at the back of the campsite and once again they were very busy with either simple bathers or those looking to be cured. I was hoping that one of the mystical qualities of the water may just cure diabetes, but alas not.

Day 14, I said my goodbyes to Tammy and Will, and to Katherine the town. Not a bad little place to be based really, just a shame about the rather dodgy looking Indigenous folk, but they're probably harmless, and I certainly didn't hear of any reported trouble. I set off towards Alice Springs, not really knowing where I'd pitch my tent tonight. There was plenty of evidence of bush fires early in the trip, and as the morning sun shone through the smoke it was almost like a scene from a Hammer House of Horror movie, with the blackened skeleton trees and the strange shapes formed out of termite mounds. It was especially eerie as the road was so quiet. I went through service stop and town in search of somewhere that looked remotely hospitable but all the promise that the signage offered didn't seem to be delivered by the location, just one basic run down town or stop after another. I ended up riding much farther than I wanted and did the 620kms to Tennant Creek. I asked a local bobbie which was the best caravan park and he pointed me in the direction of the Outback Caravan Park. And what a belting little place, $16 per night, great facilities, great shop, a bar, pool and nicely situated down a quiet side street away from the probably harmless young Indigenous that were roaming the town centre. The town itself looks like it's big enough to be fairly self sustaining with it's little workshops and maintenance businesses, plenty of shops, hotels and restaurants. Basic but warm and welcoming. I noticed a menu on a letter head from the Tennant Creek Memorial Hall pinned to the notice board in the bar area and enquired as to it's whereabouts. I was passed a business card and told to "give them a ring and a courtesy bus will come and pick you up and drop you off at no charge". True enough they did, so off I went to the Memorial Hall for dinner, Barramudi, Mash, Salad and Hollandaise, very cheap and tasty too. It turns out that Charles & Di have also been there, that's if the photo on the wall isn't photoshopped. And after I'd had my fill they dropped me off back at the campsite and tucked me in!

Day 15, It's 7.00am, filling up the tank and it seems strange that every cash point in town including the one in the petrol station has a young Aboriginal lad doing things with it. Maybe it's just me but why do they need cash so desperately at this time of the morning? Anyway, onwards and upwards, off I headed to Alice Springs. The long black ribbon of tarmac going through the red centre is wonderfully smooth but it would seem that somebody pulled it too tight, as it's very straight. I stopped for coffee at Wycliffe Well and by all accounts it's the 'UFO centre of Australia'. Along with petrol and the usual refreshments, they sell an extraordinary amount of different UFO/Alien paraphernalia, which appeared to flying out the door! The reason for this is that many years ago a UFO was allegedly spotted flying nearby, It was probably more likely to be Charley Boorman! The scenery as I approached Alice became more dramatic with large ranges of Limestone taking up the horizon, I also came across the Devil's Marbles. As I rolled into town I couldn't help but be impressed with the surrounding countryside forming a backdrop in every direction. I made camp at Stuart Caravan Park, which has everything a guy could want, but little more. Basic facilities, clean and tidy for $17. I must add that a lot of the campsites will let you pitch your tent just about anywhere if you ask them nicely, so don't feel that you need to pitch it on the only dusty little patch left available, find yourself some shade. I wandered into town to pick up some provisions and it would seem that Alice suffers the same problems as other Northern Territory towns, Aboriginals & alcohol. It's a pleasant little town but I feel the countryside with its many national parks has a lot more to offer, and of course just down the road is Uluru. Alice has a lot to do and see, weeks would be needed to do it justice, but I must move on.

Day 16, The surrounding countryside of Alice is absolutely stunning, it really is a beautiful town. I head off south not really knowing where to, but I know it's going to be a long run. For about 150kms the mountains and rocks of Alice extend until it becomes rolling hills and treescape. Across the border into South Australia I'm heading for Coober Pedy with the hope of finding a site for camping, the road is long and straight following the Central Australian Railway for a while, the spectacular colours remain for the time being. I'm stalked and chased by a dingo, either that or he's impersonating a dog just chasing tyres. On the run into Coober Pedy the horizon is littered with different sized sand piles, dozens at first but then thousands. Coober is an opal mining town and it would seem that they dig a hole, find an opal and leave the hole, there are signs everywhere warning of deep shafts and not to run across the surface. 10kms out of town I join a queue of motorists waiting to go through a drug and alcohol test station set up by the local police, the senior officer advises me that there is little on offer in town. I call in for petrol and have a look around, it may be unfair of me to make such a quick appraisal but I tend to agree with the officer. I continue, after Coober Pedy the countryside becomes vast treeless plains offering neither the emus or myself little protection from the wind that is howling from the west. If I were a yachtsman today I'd be one of those acrobatic guys standing off the side of the boat while it leans at a ridiculous angle, that's how I feel on the Beemer right now. from memory there should be more camping available about 160kms out of Coober, I travel for 244kms before it finally appears, Glendambo. A dusty truck stop with two petrol stations, a neat wooden building pretending to be a hotel, caravan site and a bunk house. After surveying the dusty undernourished campsite I plump for the bunk house as my accommodation for the night. The bunk house, for $20, is a wooden shack with five rooms, 3 have two sets of bunks in each, 1 has a 1950's TV and an old couch and the last is a bathroom, all very run down. Still it's blowing like hell out there tonight and I don't wish to get my tent full of sand. I dined in the hotel for just $16 but the beers were horrendously priced. While walking back from the hotel to the bunk house I watch as the huge road trains pull in out of the dark to refuel in preparation for their run through the night. They look absolutely fantastic, immaculately presented with their coloured lights making them look more like a Blackpool tram than a long haul rig. They sit motionless with their engines rumbling continuously in the waiting yard while their stablemates refuel anxious to join the convoy.

Day 17, Yesterday was the first day since day 1 that I noticed clouds in the distance, overnight the clouds moved in and dampened the roads. Leaving just before sunrise the roads were still wet and the wildlife requiring better road sense included kangaroos, sheep and emus. The landscape maintained it's baron appearance until closer to Port Augusta, where the beautiful winter colours of trees and plants became more prominent as did the hillsides. Last night I decided it's time to stop fighting the cold, the temperature has been dropping since leaving Katherine and the morning starts have found me in need of better protection. So I've put the dry liners and the thermal liners in my Rev'it gear. I have also dug out my new winter gloves. What a difference, I can now ride without noticing the temperature or worrying about weather conditions. All the way to Port Augusta the road heads either East or Southeast, but once there I turn sharp right and head West on the Eyre Highway. Once out of town the countryside turns emerald green with rolling hillside of pastoral and multi farming land, it looks absolutely wonderful especially after the light rain. The storm clouds threaten but only once did I ride through a brief shower all the way to Ceduna. I'm like a race horse, once I'm in sight of the finish line I can't wait to get home. I'm now riding through country that I have been through and seen before although it still remains a fantastic ride. Tonight I stayed at the Ceduna Airport Caravan Park. I stayed in a small overnight villa, very basic, not too expensive, but convenient.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

And now the bad news!

Day 5, and a little of day 4… met up with some of Mazza's work friends and what nice guys they were. Very friendly and sociable, and couldn't do enough for this drift-in. Mazza lives in a company house in Pretty Pool which is right on the coast within a stones throw of the beach, but apparently there have been salt water crocodile sightings of late so that put paid to a swim.  On the Sunday, we, Mazza and I, just caught up while she told me all about the history of Hedland and showed me many of the sights, and what a great place it is too. Essentially it is a mining town and that's about it. Every single driveway has 2 or 3 or 6 mine approved vehicles on it. The mining companies as well as a few associate companies rent just about every house in Hedland and put their employees in them for nominal rent. Most employees are 'fly in fly out' so they spend very little money in Hedland which means it has very few facilities, but what it has are very good. The biggest commodity is iron ore, and the iron ore trains run out of town 200 carriages long. Work never stops in Hedland, nor in any other North Western Australian mining town, and the people just keep on coming for the work. I had a great time with Mazza and her friends and will always remember them.

P1000614P1000617P1000619P1000635P1000640P1000643
P1000650P1000653P1000658P1000662P1000663P1000669
P1000672P1000674P1000676P1000678P1000690P1000691
P1000692P1000693P1000700P1000714P1000721P1000727
Port Hedland to Katherine, a set on Flickr.
Day 6, up at sparrows, said my goodbyes and headed off into the morning sun. The cows were once again out in force but this time they behaved, I reckon I got the only suicidal cow in WA the other day. Amazingly the road train drivers don't even lift off when they see them standing by the side of the road, quite obviously a 600kg beast doesn't harm a road train when they make contact. Today I was headed to Broome, 600kms further along the north coast. The scenery was forever changing from green fertile bush to dry baron plains to charred remnants of the aforementioned, The soil changed constantly from deep reddy brown to nearly every shade of orange you can imagine. Groups of small birds seemed to find fun in swooping down in front of the bike, while overhead or waiting in the occasional tree top, goshawks kept tabs on their prey, perhaps it was me. The road itself was incredibly straight and tedious, but at least the caravans and camper vans have once again replaced the mine site vehicles. I still can't figure out which road trains are going to affect your stability when coming in the opposite direction, some nearly blow you off the road while others pass as gently as an angels fart. I've studied their shape and size but their doesn't appear to be a common denominator for the turbulence. Shortly after lunch I rolled into Broome and after disappointment at a few of the campsites I finally got a great little spot in the Palm Grove Holiday Resort. Quite pricey, but that seems to be the norm in these parts. The ablution block comes a very close second to the Anchorage in Kalbarri, and I very quickly made use of their swimming pool. Once refreshed I investigated the town which is pleasant, but the Cable Beach area is very nice. It's a happening kind of place that is absolutely chockablock full of tourists, but not to the detrement of it's atmosphere. It has a great vibe and is wonderfully clean and tidy. In the evening I wandered down to Cable Beach to take the obligatory shot of the ships of the desert at sunset and followed that with a pint in the beachside bar. All in all a great day.

Day 7, I left Broome bright and early as usual, and headed to Derby. The scenery pretty much the same as the day before but steadily getting warmer, eventually reaching 35˚C. Derby seemed like a nice place with plenty to do, but patience got the better of me. So I decided to fill up, get a spare 5 litre fuel container just in case, and filled that up, and headed off along the Gibb River Road. The first 120kms or so isn't so bad as there is a single bitumen road that takes you that far. It would appear that vehicles don't give up that single strip of bitumen as I was run off the road and into a deep sandy gully within the first 50kms. After the bitumen it's hell on earth. I did visit the visitors centre in Derby to get a little advice on distances etc. There should've been a sign up on the wall saying "Any motorcyclists wishing to ride the Gibb River Road make sure you either have the ability to complete the Dakar, or be a complete twat!". Unfortunately I didn't know any better. There was one guy in the visitors centre who had just completed the trip in a 4WD and was offering his tuppence worth, eventually ending the conversation with "well that's what you guys buy those bikes for ain't it?". On approaching the dirt I let a little air out of the tyres, hoping for good traction and control, pah! The road consists of gravel, sand, rocks, stones, corrugations, oh and creek (river) crossings. The biggest problem I found was there was no consistency for any length of time, the stuff under the tyres changed in an instant and then just as you may be getting to grips with that surface, it'd change again. Then there were the idiots coming the other way in 4WDs and camper vans, people who obviously have no regard for their vehicle whatsoever, flying along as fast as their nerves would stand. They also had very little regard for the safety of others coming in the opposite direction, showering them in whatever the road surface was and blinding their vision with the thickest cloud of dust you could imagine. My first stop was Manning Gorge Roadhouse which is 200kms in. They also have a campsite another 7kms further into the bush, which was my only real option. I arrived absolutely knackered and filthy dirty, with lungs full of dust. While I was setting up camp I was approached by a lovely couple, Ian and Angela, who had recently retired and were travelling around Australia with a caravan. They offered me dinner, which I graciously and desperately accepted. We had a great evening exchanging horror stories about the Gibb and life in general. It was common belief around the site that I still had the worst ahead of me. I slept terribly. 

Day 8, When I arrived at the Manning Gorge Road House the previous afternoon, the guy behind the counter took my money for the campsite explaining that it was 7kms out the back to the site. So I said I would fill up when coming back through in the morning. When I arrived at the pumps at 7.00am the following morning, they were all locked up, the bloody place doesn't open until 8.00am. So I wasted an hour of the best time of the day to travel just waiting for the place to open. The previous day I'd lost count of the near misses I had just from the tyres, particularly the front, sliding about all over the place. I'd been warned by many campers at the site that the first 25kms going in the direction I was headed, are about the worst, as the grader had been through but not cleared the rocks. And there was plenty of proof in the campsite that these rocks were capable of inflicting punctures. I managed to get through the rock section and continued on my unpleasant way. About 50kms out from the road house I came upon a fairly deep looking water crossing and gingerly took the plunge. With about 2 metres left to go the engine sucked in water and stopped dead. A million miles from anywhere, standing in a river with a flooded engine, great! I couldn't budge the bike by myself, but after a couple of minutes along came Errol, a guy that had been chatting to me while I packed the bike earlier. He was travelling with another camper van, so they all got out, and the two guys took off their socks and boots and helped me to push it out. I took the plugs out, turned the engine over until petrol spat out instead of water, replaced the plugs and bingo, the Beemer fired up. I have given this bike such a flogging over the past couple of days and felt so guilty about what I'd done. After many thanks the camper vans pootled off while I packed everything away again. About 20kms further on I fell off in deep sand, inevitable really, it was all happening today! After another passing vehicle stopped and the driver helped me get the bike upright, I struggled along for another 210kms until reaching Home Valley Station. What a relief to find such an oasis in the middle of nowhere, well not exactly, I only have another 66kms of the Gibb left to do. This station is wonderful, great campsite, great facilities including a pool and a wonderful restaurant which I patronised later that evening. What a terrible day, I hate this Gibb River Road.

Day 9, Up early again in an effort to get on the Gibb before anyone else, not a chance! Onwards I meandered through quite a rough section of mainly rocks and gravel, then the bit many people had warned me about, The Pentecoste Crossing. This is the widest river crossing on the Gibb with a uneven rocky base. I stood at the waters edge and weighed up my options, didn't really have many. Their was a couple who had just driven through in a 4WD stopped over the other side, waiting to take pictures, probably of me falling off! I wobbled in, deciding that riding with my feet as kind of outriggers was the best way, not too much speed else the bow wave gets too big and does what it did the other day. I made it to half way where it gets quite shallow and studied the next deeper section, while I was waiting, another 4WD came passed and gave me a good indication of the depth, about 3/4 of the way up their wheels. Without too much much drama other than bouncing from one rock to the other, I made the other side and I was elated, I had crossed the Pentecoste and was nearly out of the Gibb. The couple on the other side had some great pictures and have promised to send them to me. The section around El Questro was really rough and corrugated but didn't last too long and before I knew it I was back on tarmac. I managed to ride the Gibb River Road, 600kms of dirt, no punctures and only one very minor tumble. 50kms later I was in Kununurra, and pitched my tent at Hidden Valley Caravan Park. Good facilities and great grassy campsites for the tents, has a pool, and good kitchen facilities all for just $12, bargain! I believed Kununurra was big town, but was surprised how small it was. It's surrounded by fantastic countryside and Kununurra Lake which is teeming with wildlife. Unfortunately an unwanted guest has made it's way over from Queensland into the North of Western Australia, the Cane Toad. This venemous reptile is killing all kinds of wildlife throughout the Northern Territory and has now started invading the west, many have been caught in the Kununurra area. The Indigenous people in and around Kununurra are very friendly and welcoming, in fact the only positive encouragement I got along the Gibb was from a young Aboriginal guy who drives it once every year. 

Day 10, I was expecting a long day in the saddle today, which was to be the ride to Katherine along with an excursion to Lake Argyle which is about 80km away from Kununurra towards Katherine. After visiting Lake Argyle I decided to spend the day and night there, as it is absolutely idyllic and surrounded by spectacular countryside. I also needed some time to mull a few things over, well one thing really, my diabetic care. Since leaving Perth the temperature has been steadily climbing, not ridiculously but up in the 30s. My Insulin isn't maintaining a good low temperature and this has affected its ability to bring down my blood glucose levels. I'm not at all confident that I can carry Insulin through Indonesia and South East Asia for 4 months and believe it is going to work effectively, in fact I'm sure it'll all be dead long before South East Asia as Indonesia is too humid and the cooling effect of the Frig wallets will be compromised. So it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to bin the ride to the UK as it will place me in too much danger. I'm rather gutted, but diabetics can end up in a world of trouble if they are unable to maintain good control. I didn't sleep well last night knowing that I've failed, but hey, there's always cooler Europe. Anyway, today I'm relaxing and thinking, and floating around in a pool that has the most unbelievable view, and just coming to terms with things. The Lake Argyle Caravan Park is absolutely fantastic, it has a resort type feel about it, yet it is just a caravan park/camp ground. It cost a huge $12 for one person, and that includes the use of all facilities. I am planning on coming back here next week after visiting Darwin to get tyres fitted. I must admit today has been the first day that I have felt how I wanted to feel for the whole trip, not rushed, able to soak up the atmosphere, and it's sensational. The sights, sounds and colours of the Kimberley region have proven to be much more wonderful than I could have imagined, and living in Western Australia for the past 22 years, I've seen many TV programs and advertisements promoting the region. If anyone is looking for a stopover in this area, skip Kununurra and come here instead, more bang for your buck!

Day 11, Bit windy in Lake Argyle last night but the MSR tent stood up to it well. Didn't sleep the best again despite the fact that I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I set off to Katherine today where I will spend three nights. Then on Monday I can shoot up to Darwin to get my tyre fitted and then back again. Then on Tuesday I'll head back to Lake Argyle. The scenery today has been the best yet, from Timber Creek to within 50kms or so of Katherine the roads meandered through spectacular countryside, I could take a million photos but none would do the feeling or scenery any justice, so I just lapped it up. I saw another cyclist on the road today, and I've pitched my tent next to a young couple from Switzerland who are riding a tandem from Darwin to Perth. I can't imagine what compels someone to cycle the long country roads of Australia. There would be days when you start in the morning and at the end of the day get to the point in the road that you could see in the morning when you set off. It takes all sorts I guess. I've just been for a walk out of the back of the campsite to have a look at Katherine Hot Springs. It is a little creek, beautifully shaded, with presumably hot water running through. It was chockablock full of people, it's obviously a very popular local spot. The Riverview Tourist village is I guess adequate, it's your typical sleepy town campsite with the very basic of everything, but it has hot springs! May give them a try tomorrow. Now I'm just relaxing, I've put my watch on 1 and 1/2 hours as I'm now in the Northern Territory. So it'll very soon be dinner time.


Please be patient for blog updates as I can only do it when I have Wifi available, which hasn't been often in Australia.