A fabulous and fabulously remote part of Australia.
It is the northernmost portion of WA, it is entirely north of the tropic of Capricorn. It has a wet season, the southern hemisphere summer and a dry, the winter. It is scenically splendid, and among many other wonderful creatures it is the home of the Black Grasswren. The McGee Australian birdlist hadn’t had an addition for a couple of years, an expedition was in order. Enquiry revealed that the only “accessible” places where it might be sought with a reasonable chance of success are Bachsten Gorge and the Mitchell Plateau. Early in the dry was tipped as the best time, swollen rivers close many of the roads in the wet. Access to both sites is from the infamous Gibb River Road.
The western half of the Gibb River Road provided access from Derby to cattle stations as far as, you guessed, the Gibb River. It was completed in 1956. Subsequently it was pushed further east and is now the scenic route from Derby to Kununurra. It is a reasonably well graded dirt road, 4WD is recommended. Almost all the car hire companies prohibit using the Gibb River Road. Broome is a very civilised place to begin and end, a circular tour can be completed via the Great Northern Highway, which is sealed and has the added advantage of taking you past the Purnulu National Park, better known as the Bungle Bungles.
This year has seen very late and heavy rainfall, as the time to go approached none of the roads were open. Two hundred millimetres of rain fell on Broome just before we arrived, but the outlook further west was encouraging. McGee and two intrepid companions left Broome on the 7th of June. The Gibb River Road was open, but for access to the Mitchell Plateau the King Edward River needed to drop a fair bit. It had a few days to do it.
In Derby we visited the wetlands and sewage works, a fair test of the 4WD capability of our Toyota Prado. The covering of red mud that it acquired made us look especially authentic. We headed for Windjana Gorge for our first camp site … <NEXT>.