Next stop on our adventure was Kakadu National Park, croc country or so we were led to believe! After watching the TV show following the day to day actions of the park rangers, we were excited to arrive and see the ancient lands for ourselves. Safely on dry land we visited the infamous Cahill river crossing, climbed to a lookout to view the expanse of the Arnhem Land flood plains and admired aboriginal art dating back 20,000 years. For all these reasons, it did not disappoint one bit.
Unfortunately, our starter motor decided to pack up on this day so we bump started our way around Kakadu, making the most of the sloped car parks and Ruth and Rosie’s brute strength. After a few days in Kakadu we still hadn’t set eyes on a single crocodile, with hope, binoculars and cameres at the ready we ventured south to Nitmiluk National Park, (Katherine Gorge). But stilll no crocs!
Doug and Ludo spent some time examining and testing the faulty starter motor, it became apparent we’d need a replacement, this was just bad luck. Passing through Katherine we bought the new motor, fitted it in camp and we were back up and running.
Ludo and Rosie were only in Australia for a couple of weeks, and our goal was to reach the Kimberlys and see as much as possible along the way. Driving the Victoria Hwy westbound, we passed through Gregory National Park. After weeks of wide flat vistas we were faced with huge rocky escarpments and a mountainous landscape.
Excitedly we saw our first Boab tree, after consulting our book (Les Hiddens’ Bush tucker guide) we decided it was safe to eat. Our first bit of bush tucker! Highly nutritious and didn’t taste terrible. It was a little dry, but good to have up our sleeve in an emergency!
That night we camped at Zebra Rock mine which was really lovely, being early in the season we were the only people there. In the morning we fossicked in the dry riverbed and each found some crystal to take home for souvenirs.
Back on the dirt and through a few small river crossings, we had arrived in Purnalulu National Park, home of the Bungle Bungle ranges. Somewhere we had been excited to get to for a long time. That evening, relaxing at camp and tucking into some Anzac biscuits, we were approached by the campsite host/ranger Gene. He was looking for assistance in their battle to eradicate Cane toads from the area. (these poisonous toads were introduced to Australia, and without a natural predator are putting some native species at risk of extinction). Rosie eagerly volunteered us all, and as darkness fell we clambered through another dry riverbed, armed with rubber gloves and a very stinky sack. Head torches on we caught 101 cane toads.
We woke the following morning well before the sun came up, we were off to the Bungle Bungles for sun rise. It was spectacular. It was an easy walk through the range to Cathederal gorge, we watched as the tips of the domes turned a firey orange colour in the morning sunlight.
The route to the northern side of the park passed the aptly named Elephant Rock, and we reached Echidna chasm as the sun was rising in the sky. Entering into the 200m chasm was a great relief from the heat and we were amazed at how far in we could get.
The Gibb River Road was our next challenge, renowned for being a bone shaker and wrecking cars we headed off optimistically. After a few minor car troubles we were hoping it wouldn’t live up to it’s reputation. Adjusting to the clock change and sunset being an hour and a half earlier than we’d become used to, we approached the largest of the croc infested river crossings, the Pentacost, nearing dusk. It was a little high at half a metre and the width was slightly daunting, there was no way we were going to walk this crossing first! Both cars made it across without any problems, however our car had picked up a small fish which Doug kindly returned to the river!
We had to bush camp this night as our planned destination had not yet opened for the dry season. We found a spot off the main road easily but we were spooked early on by the seemingly close dingoes howling in the woods. We woke the next morning to find the troopy had a flat tyre, the first casualty of the Gibb.
Turning off the Gibb River Rd into the Mitchell Plateau was a fabulous drive. The road was in great condition as we had arrived before the peak season traffic had roughed it up. There were a few river crossings which really added to the sense of adventure and remoteness. Once again our surroundings were tropical, red dirt and dusty roads lined with tall palm trees.
The walk to Mitchell Falls was really enjoyable. 4.5kms one way, passing through varied bush land but most memorably Little Bennet Falls. Here we could swim in the water hole, only Freshwater crocs ‘Freshies’ inhabit this area and we were assured they rarely eat people! It was another exceedingly hot day with high humidity so not even the crocs would stop us stepping under this waterfall and going for a swim. Arriving at Michell falls we needed another swim to cool off, we picnicked on the waters edge and waited for our helicopter lift to arrive. As a treat we booked a ride over the spectacular triple falls and were dropped safely back at the car park. This was an amazing experience.
It was on our return drive that we had to remove our ‘new’ prop shaft. It had been on for less than a week. Needless to say we were a little disappointed. We served tea and oreo cookies as Doug and Ludo removed the part in the dark. We continued on to Drysdale River station in 2wd, successfully dodging cows, bulls and ducks.
The following morning we were celebrating, it was Ruth’s birthday! Ludo and Rosie delivered some cards and gifts from family quite unexpectedly and a cake mix with candles to blow out. A great start to the day and a welcome distraction from it being the last day all 4 of us were together.
Ludo and Rosie were Darwin bound to return to the UK, we were to complete the final leg of the Gibb River Road. Driving into Derby to replenish fuel stocks, we could finally say that we, and the car, had survived the Gibb! Pulling up at Cable Beach in Broome we hurried to see the ocean, it had been a long time and the sea breeze was very welcoming!