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Gibb River Road - Part 3: Ellenbrae Station to El Questro

The grader gods are fickle. Clearly we had angered the gods for as soon as we turned back onto the Gibb from the Kalumburu Road the deep corrugations started. We had been sharing the driving and, true to form, Karen got all the worst parts of the road. It took us two hours to cover the 80km from the turn-off to Ellenbrae Station. There were plenty of vans travelling the Gibb, although we were certainly amongst the largest of rigs. Karen got a few smiles from some older male drivers who were impressed to “see the little lady taking such a big rig across creek crossings”. Who would have thought – in 2017 and all.

Ellenbrae was a pleasant stopover on the way to the eastern Kimberley. It is famous for its scones with jam and cream – not exactly what you expect to see in the middle of the Kimberley! We camped the night and spent the afternoon at the local waterhole and had to dodge bulls on the track back to the campsite. We made a cracking campfire and Sienna and I made damper. Ellenbrae had ‘rustic’ facilities: one toilet and one wood-heated shower for the 30+ campers.

Since coming down from the Mitchell Plateau the weather was noticeably warmer – hitting mid-to-high 30s during the day and only dropping to 19 during the night.

The next day was without a doubt the worst stretch of road we encountered. The 110km from Ellenbrae to Home Valley Station was shocking – taking us over 3 hours. For a change, I copped the worst section – the last 50km into Home Valley. The corrugations were huge. Thankfully we had been warned about the hard-to-see ‘transmission destroying’ dips exiting the floodways. The vibrations were as bad at 20km/hr as 50km/hr and no part of the road seemed to provide any respite. We passed numerous travellers and trucks with shredded tyres and a couple of people working on the suspension of their vans. Luckily we escaped with only a broken fridge shelf (nothing gaffa tape can’t fix) and learned (just in the knick of time) that long-life milk cardboard disintegrates with vibrations!

Just before arriving into Home Valley, we reached a lookout, which had spectacular views of the Pentecost River and the impressive Cockburn Range. It was also the first time we could pick up mobile reception in over three weeks.

If Drysdale Station was a travellers’ oasis, then Home Valley Station was Disneyland! As recompense for the corrugations, we had arranged to stay in a ‘Grass Castle’ – a small cottage overlooking Bindoola Creek. Our cottage had two modern luxuries – air conditioning (which was particularly important as temperatures reached 36’C) and a TV. The kids were able to ride horses on the Station, while we made the most of our brief time away from the kids… at the bar. We spent lazy afternoons in the pool (as we were now in salt water crocodile territory) and watched the sunset from various vantage points over the majestic Cockburn Range.

Our final leg on the Gibb was through to El Questro. Another bit of rubbish road – we passed more victims of the unforgiving sharp rocks. A few more creek crossings and we settled into our campsite. Highlights here were more horse riding, a spectacular trek up El Questro Gorge and a morning swim (or bath) in 35’C Zebedee Springs. A great way to finish our 23 days on the Gibb!

So…now I have conquered one of Australia’s toughest roads, what advice/learning can I offer?

  • it doesn’t take you long to de-tox from TV, internet and a faster pace of life and…it feels great;

  • there are loads of families, just like us, appreciating that there are some lessons only nature and doing without can teach your kids; and

  • in relation to the all important four questions?

  1. Road was rubbish where I just came from.

  2. Not sure where the grader is.

  3. 26 cold all round; and

  4. No faster than 60km/hr if you want to get there in one piece!

Ellenbrae to Home Valley

El Questro Gorge

El Questro: Zebedee Springs, Chamberlain Gorge

And after the Gibb....

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