The road back south was uneventful but painful as we had to relive the corrugations between King Edward River and Drysdale station. The Mitsubishi Pajero was feeling it too, as the windscreen cracks spread towards my view, and then the dashboard started playing up. First the speedometer stopped working, then the fuel economy gauge started climbing every minute until it hit 99.9l per 100km. Amanda was stressing that we wouldn’t have enough fuel to make Drysdale but unless we were leaking (a quick check discounted that) the other readings of range and the fact the fuel tank gauge was ok, led me to think it was an electronic problem (loose wire with the corrugations?). When the engine warning light came on I had to pull over and look it up in the manual. “Blah blah …. you should still be able to drive for a while. Get it checked up as soon as you can” sounded good to me as the Pajero was still running fine. Then the odometer stopped working!
I wasn’t prepared to drive beyond Drysdale after a long day’s drive and the bar was beckoning (yes there was a bar there with Sydney prices).
The next morning a cattle egret came looking for frogs in our washing tub at breakfast. No matter how patiently it stood on the rim peering through the soapy bubbles the frogs didn’t show and it moved on after fifteen or more minutes. I was hoping it might have helped the washing up but without opposable fingers it would have been hard. A quick look at the other campsite, called Miners Pool was much more tranquil and less crowded by the river, but without the facilities 2km back at the station.
Back on the GRR we had a look at some rock art with crocodiles then headed north and east again. Lots of finches, rainbow bee-eater, and other birds were here in and amongst the pandanus and other trees that line the riverbanks.
We drove on past more carnage on the road starting with a boat trailer that had collapsed. Its owner patiently sat in his car awaiting the recovery truck. On the unsealed roads they charge by the hour and a car that had broken in half near Kalumburu had cost over $5,000 to tow to Kununurra for repairs. Then we saw Marty with a flat tyre. We pulled over to assist, though he had it all under control and he was soon off again. As we helped the recovered boat and trailer passed us on the back of the recovery truck. Five minutes further down the road he had stopped to pick up two people who had taken a corner too fast and ended up hitting a tree. They took their belongings and rather glumly climbed into the cabin of the truck.
The Gibb River Road, like any other unsealed road needs to be driven carefully, with tyres sufficiently deflated for better grip on the rough surface, and watching your speed as loose gravel on some of the corners are like marbles allowing little traction in places. “Drive to the conditions” is the best advice we continually heard to avoid mishaps.
Late in the afternoon we drove into Home Valley Station on the Pentecost River. The drive down the hill to the station turn-off commands spectacular views of the Cockburn Ranges and at sunset the colours on the cliffs turn many shades of red.