Rattling along the Gibb River Road
The Gibb River Road sits in the same travel trophy cabinet as the Canning Stock Route, the Birdsville Track and the other great Aussie outback tracks. In recent times, the Road has seen some civilising upgrades, but it’s still only open for around six months of the year, during dry season, and it’s still around 700km of teeth-rattling, red dirt corrugations.
Most of Australia’s outback tracks were devised to get cattle from remote stations to the nearest port. While there’s more traffic on the Gibb River Road than there once was, traversing the immense Kimberley landscape is still a challenge. There’s plenty of opportunity for having, and making, your own adventure. It’s the sort of place where anything could happen – and does – and it won’t be what you’re expecting.
I knew to be wary of the man-eating crocodiles, but I found myself flipping fresh fish carcasses to a six-metre-long monster just a couple of metres away. I was ‘mauled’, not by a croc, but by the world’s smallest marsupial – a planigale, weighing less than a teaspoon of sugar, sank its tiny fangs into my finger and wouldn’t let go!
I flew by chopper to waterfalls that few humans have seen; I caught a big barramundi under the guidance of a guy called Hairy Dog; I embraced boabs and chatted to a dingo; I slept under the stars and woke to a cacophony of corellas. I drove a couple of thousand bone-shaking kilometres through mountain ranges worn down like old molars in a landscape little changed in billions of years. And all in barely a week: it wasn’t nearly long enough.
There is much to see, but, as the Aboriginal traditional owners say, it’s important to take the time to ’sit on country’: the spirit of the Kimberley will speak to you.