14 September 2016
I’m on the road just as it gets light enough to see. I whump and hump my way over the corrugations back to the Gibb River Road. Only one other camper passes me, just before the Gibb. Lazy buggers, sleepin’ in. NO! I DO NOT ENVY THEM (much).
The Gibb is quite good and I race along getting in fifty kilometres before 0900.
With less than three hundred meters before the first stretch of asphalt I see a triple-trailered roadtrain. No dust. It’s on the asphalt. Then it hits the gravel and a phenomenal cloud of dust arises and completely engulfs me. Never, not in some 5000 km of gravel riding have I been so engulfed in dust. It’s quite an experience. Then I hit asphalt and fly.
It doesn’t last and I face another long stretch of gravel.
Not always am I insignificant. Not always do Australians lack empathy. Kilometre 70 am plodding along when I hear the all-too-familiar sound of a large 4WD slowing down to that point whereby I know they wanna communicate with me.
As I turn to face the noise a hand emerges from the window of a Britz’ 4WD camper and I gratefully take receipt of a chilled bottle of Gatorade. The Britz then drives on. I stop in the shade of a tree and enjoy.
At kilometre 78 a familiar Nissan 4WD pulls alongside and a familiar face asks “Max! Do you want a cold bottle of water?”. It’s 42oC OTH. Laughing I say yes. They pull over and hand me 1.5 litres of chilled water. That’s quite a volume to drink but drink it I do. I met this couple first in El Questro and have bumped into them quite frequently, the last time was last night in Windjana.
Belly full I don’t drink from my own sources for another twenty kilometres.
Finally the final gravel-meets-asphalt and an MC-er GoPros me as I pull up. “Congratulations” accented English tells me “you have successfully done the Gibb River Road”. A young French guy on a brand new KTM. He’s got a page on Facebook if you’re interested: zuccozstralia.
We swap travel stories for a while before heading our respective ways.
Hundred kilometres. I’m tired. I need a place to get out of the sun. Huge boabs dot the area but are not easy to get to. The turnoff to Meda Station and the Mary River comes up and I take it. Five hundred meters later I come across a massive boab a couple hundred meters from the road and bush bash my way across recently burn ground.
I’m wiped out. The heat, the sun, the road, the headwind. I lay my groundsheet and mattresses in its voluminous shade and let a good snooze take me a way for an hour and half grateful that the ants and millions of baby locusts leave me alone. Or perhaps they didn’t only I don’t know that coz I was asleep. It’s a struggle to make dinner after I wake up and I’m grateful to crash again.
15 September 2016
A strong tailwind powers me along the asphalt. I am definitely getting close to civilisation. Buildings, art-centres, and general sense of society and urbanisation. Even a sign reminding 4wders of the Gibb that here, in the urban world, there is that rare breed most uncommon on the Gibb: pedestrians. And cyclists. I am recognised. Again. For what it’s worth. Truly, am I insignificant? Really?
I pull into the Information Bay just shy of The Turn-off where Gibb River Road meets Derby Highway. Interesting to read about where I’ve just been.
The Junction. Six kilometres to the city (is Derby a city?).
I take a long look back the way I come, back along the incongruous, innocent looking road with its smooth asphalt surface giving no indication that it is in fact quite a trip.
I arrive in Derby mid-morning.
I end up at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park.
The Gibb River Road has been done!
Thought to get that out of my system.
I plan to stay here but a couple of nights, setting into motion a number of equipment-fail-solution-things before heading to Broome to chill out, catch up with Rod and Craig and hopefully join them on a trip to Cape Leveque.
My Goalzero Nomad 13 solar panels no longer charge my Sherpa 100 power pack. They swiftly reply to my email and I send off the solar panels and hope to receive a solution whilst in Broome.
I also contact Sony about my poor dead DSC-HX90V camera. Being monolithic Sony do not reply quite as quickly as I want to the email I sent via an online form. I chase them. I get the phone number of the Sony Service Centre off the online chat support. My call is not answered. Just before I can formulate an opinion about this Norma calls me and tells me she was just reading my email when I called. She gives me an address and I send it off.
Now for my Brooks saddle. Brooks’ saddles are great. Until they fail. Mine collapsed on the Tanami and it’s painfully uncomfortable especially late in the day. Makes 100+km days very unpleasant. I take snaps of it and send them to Brooks via another online form. It is most likely I’ll need to send my saddle to England for repairs, purchasing a temporary replacement from the bike shop I know exists in Broome. Repairing Brooks saddles is, apparently, a bit of an art form.
My brother Cob spent decades in Derby before heading south to his farm in Northam. It’s a cute kinda place but hardly aesthetic. No beach and one of the world’s highest tides at 11.8 metres. The highest is in Nova Scotia at 15 metres.
I get talking to a dude with a young boy in the shade of a tree at the jetty. He’s curious about my trip. Turns out he’s a local. And a chopper pilot. Cob used to fly choppers based in Derby. I mention this. Dave Kelly knows my brother who left a lasting good impression upon him. Small world.
A busy day, spent mostly in the post office. Return to the caravan park, planning on a very early start. Two hundred and twenty kilometres separate Derby from Broome. One night and two one hundred and ten kilometre days. Or two nights with day three determined by how many I manage on day’s one and two.
If I could make 108 km on the second last day of the Gibb where over fifty kilometres of that was on less than wonderful gravel, then one hundred and ten should be doable.
Regardless, 0400 start. I want to do it in two days and am gonna give myself every opportunity to achieve that.
See you in Broome.
Derby, 16 September 2016