Darwin-Karratha-Darwin

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#1
Secured employment in the WA Pilbara in 2011 and fortunately employees at the Rio Tinto Cape Lambert construction site were allowed to keep private cars at the Birabirra Camp. I drove down to site from Darwin in June 2011 and of course used the Camp as a base for touring around the Pilbara for the next 3 years. I would drive home for the long break at Xmas each year and then return with the Hilux at the end of the 'Wet', usually in March. I think 2012 I didn't drive back to Cape Lambert until August ( via the Gibb River Road for something different to do. )
These drives were not really tourist trips, really just point A to point B and in a big hurry as I usually had to front up to work the next day or so.
2600klm from Darwin to Cape Lambert via the bitumen and I could do it 2 days, but the long hours does take it out of you. I would try to get back to camp a day early just to lay low in the donga for a day before fronting for work. On my runs up home it was always just before Xmas so I had a bit of a time restraint to get home Xmas Eve. I've done a bit of long distance work in trucks in the past and nowadays as a crane operator I sit in a cab for extended periods....so yes, I am used to the big drives......
Few rules I follow on big road trips....I am a bit of a drinker....love my beer.....but I don't ever drink and drive on the road. Sure do sink a few at the end of the day on a trip but.... and I have learnt to manage fatigue, by that I mean yawning is a warning....you start to yawn on the road, chances are you will fall asleep at the wheel. I pull over and power nap for 10 mins or half an hour, slumped over the steering wheel with the aircon on and the engine running. Come good for another 6 hours after that !. And I really try to avoid night driving in the Kimberley.....kangaroos and cattle on the road are killers for the unwary.
The drive west to the WA border is quite scenic through the Vic River country. The drive south to Katherine I have done umpteen times in 36 years.....310klm of the Top End then turn right onto the Victoria Highway for the run over to Kununurra. About 550klm from Katherine to Kununurra and the escarpment country between Vic River and Timber Creek is a great drive as the highway winds along the banks of the Victoria River. 30 years ago the road was a single lane flood prone route to the West that was often flooded for weeks at a time. Even this week the Highway is closed to all traffic between Xmas and New Year due to flooding at the Big Horse and Little Horse Creeks.
Kununurra through the Kimberleys to Broome is also pretty well flood proofed now with lots of new bridges at former low level causeways. Back in the 70's it was a dirt road north, I think it was sealed in 1982. Single lane bitumen through the hills was a very scenic drive, the highway is upgraded now all the way south and west. The hilly country disappears about Fitzroy Crossing and the road traverses fairly boring country to the coastal plains at Roebuck and Broome. On my trips I like to make it least to Fitzroy Crossing ( 1400klm ) on day 1. Pretty well knackered by then and it guarantees a decent nights sleep in the swag. Sometimes I push on a couple of hundred to Willare. WA has really exceptional 24 hour camping stops up in the Kimberley ( I have stopped at most of them ).
The trees disappear south of Roebuck as the Highway skirts the Gibson Desert and pretty well follows the coast to Sandfire, Pardoo and Port Hedland. This stretch really taxes you for fatigue and I like to give the audio ( talking ) books a run to keep me awake. They are a lifesaver out in country with limited radio reception. With the diesel tank topped up I can do about 1200klm so I avoid paying the exorbitant prices at Sandfire and Pardoo. Once I make Port Hedland I only have 200klm to go until I'm back in my donga in the camp and it's a nice run past Whim Creek and Roebourne. Fitzroy Crossing to the Camp about 1200klm so still a big day. heading north from the Camp ( if I don't stop at Broome that is ) I make it a 1400klm run to Halls Creek and then 1200klm home to Darwin the next day.
In June 2011, instead of running the bitumen to Halls Creek, I took the route down the Buntine Highway to Top Springs and Kalkarinji then came into Halls Creek via 400klm of dirt. Very nice drive through Victoria River Downs, and if one was/is a smuggler of any description there is no roadblock/quarantine station on this road unlike the one on the Vic Highway at the WA border
246888_234332363250207_226644_n.jpg
246888_234332366583540_5018996_n.jpg
246888_234332369916873_5049311_n.jpg
246888_234332373250206_441975_n.jpg
246888_234332376583539_166655_n.jpg
246890_234311843252259_2970848_n.jpg
246890_234311849918925_295421_n.jpg
259934_234329563250487_4337866_n.jpg
259934_234329569917153_281126_n.jpg
259934_234329573250486_4003349_n.jpg
 

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#2
387075_510672762282831_604830915_n.jpg
395971_510671768949597_382674189_n.jpg
417217_510671732282934_14398824_n.jpg
417422_510670912283016_592109681_n.jpg
417491_510670175616423_1716517253_n.jpg
418467_510671395616301_670127_n.jpg
418604_510670742283033_307818678_n.jpg
418932_510672195616221_144916817_n.jpg
427122_510671595616281_1290564382_n.jpg
427521_510671352282972_630019581_n.jpg
387075_510672762282831_604830915_n.jpg
August 2012 I did a quick run down the Gibb River Road. Again it was a point A to point B trip with no time to sightsee as I was due back at work. Its a great drive though the Kimberleys, hilly terrain with the highest peaks topping out at 900m ASL. I camped the night near Silent Grove and it was bitterly cold only 4c ! Endless corrugations and dust.....
 

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#4
As stated previously, the road north from Broome to Darwin is quite scenic as it winds its way through the Kimberleys. 26 years ago I used to do regular maintenance and shutdown works at a BHP lead/silver/zinc mine known as Cadjebut ( about 80klm north of Fitzroy Crossing ). We used to drive down from Darwin to do gut busting liner change outs on the ball mills. About 1350klm and this was before the new highway and the high level bridges. I have spent a fair bit of time stranded between flooded creeks and it was always a relief to get north of the Ord Crossing during the 'Wet'. One time the Boss and I drove home non stop ( powered by green cans ) from Cadjebut to Darwin....I fronted up to work the next day and at 4.00pm the Manager comes up to me and says,
374738_346423788707730_1258649908_n.jpg
374738_346423792041063_1254487511_n.jpg
375434_346432588706850_1966035109_n.jpg
375434_346432595373516_1866416420_n.jpg
375434_346432598706849_742787939_n.jpg
1491006_784863064863798_1245621791_n.jpg
1491192_783430635007041_1373979432_n.jpg
1527843_783430378340400_922905455_n.jpg
"need you to go back down to Cadjebut, the other Mill has just broken down....". "When ?" says I...."Now, need the ute and tools there in the morning, the rest of the crew will fly down...." So I filled up the 'Cruiser ute and headed back down....another 14 hours. But at a creek north of Halls Creek at 4.00am the floodwaters stopped us. Later a bloke I knew in a Mobile Oil road train on the way out to the Tanami Gold Mine pulled up and he cooked us up a big bacon and egg brekky as we all waited out the flooded crossing. Arrived on site at 2.00pm and then had to front up to nightshift at 6.00pm....ahhh to be young and dumb and keen again instead of old and tired and cynical....
Anyways the highway is nearly floodproof now ( except for the Ord ). A few years ago I visited some mates in Broome for a few days then drove home to Darwin in one stint....1950klm. I think its 1100klm to Kununurra and then 850klm to Darwin. home at 3.30am Xmas Eve after leaving Broome at 7.00am the day before. Audio books, loud music and a coupla quick power naps got me over the line....
 
Last edited:

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#5
WA highways have excellent 24hour overnight camping facilities and the ones in the Kimberley are no exception. Mostly sealed, long drop toilets, running water, BBQ fire pits and set a bit off the main road to reduce the noise ( and ratbag ) factor. On the Great Horthern Road the campgrounds are usually set on the old road river crossings and are quite picturesque. And the one near the Bungle Bungles turn off has full mobile/internet service....in the middle of woop woop ....how good is that ?
75993_576646942352079_1509235321_n.jpg
77000_576646855685421_854755205_n.jpg
165089_576646892352084_224183197_n.jpg
218127_576646962352077_423455355_n.jpg
564670_576646872352086_1502940404_n.jpg
992569_784750928208345_683594699_n.jpg
1470578_783435578339880_406570203_n.jpg
1484804_784920594858045_206402398_n.jpg
1508285_783438791672892_405933237_n.jpg
1957378_822068877809883_1999234154_n.jpg
 
Last edited:

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#6
The highway through the Kimberleys was sealed in the early/mid 80's with a single lane/narrow tarmac. Was a nightmare getting stuck behind the ore carrying triple road trains running the 1100klm round trip to Wyndham from Cadjebut. Simply nowhere to overtake for 100klm at time. And spare a thought for the drivers...day cab Western Stars running 3 trailers over the hilly, windy, single lane bridges and miles of double lines. Flood prone low level crossings and no bunk to sleep in..... a different time...even now ( although the Sally Malay Nickle Mines are closed recently ) its a bastard being caught behind a triple or a quad on the highway...no overtaking lanes unlike the Stuart Highway in the Top End.
182394_576647139018726_2060956716_n.jpg
223642_576647119018728_37755553_n.jpg
281729_576647362352037_1387521275_n.jpg
522877_576650192351754_234466057_n.jpg
528661_576647265685380_1183414314_n.jpg
540840_576647252352048_1128362397_n.jpg
551719_576647065685400_1274204300_n.jpg
735065_576647339018706_1411025451_n.jpg
 

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#7
Heading east into the Territory from Kununurra the countryside changes from the hills to open woodland savannah, although the escarpment around Timber Creek and the Victoria River is very pretty country indeed !
63781_576650959018344_2074872173_n.jpg
67991_576651295684977_766028361_n.jpg
163353_576651185684988_1382244726_n.jpg
165877_576650909018349_529249860_n.jpg
207796_576651592351614_1339690471_n.jpg
218000_576651739018266_906352726_n.jpg
223642_576647119018728_37755553_n.jpg
522847_576650485685058_646415658_n.jpg
522884_576650995685007_2043284497_n.jpg
528687_576650385685068_508567382_n.jpg
 

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#10
A couple of Xmas' ago after leaving Broome, I decided to head home via Derby and Windjana Gorge. This entails heading up the southern end of the Gibb Road then turning right to the Gorge and rejoining the bitumen near Fitzroy Crossing. Sounds good in theory, but of course any travel in the Kimberley in late December can be a bit 'iffy' due to the impending Wet sesonn. In the mountainous country ( yes, real mountains, some of the highest peaks in the King Leopold Ranges top 3000' or 900m ASL ) a thunderstorm 100klm away can rapidly 'flash flood' causeways and crossings. As mentioned earlier I have been stuck on the road in blazing 40c heat and not a cloud in the sky with what looks like the Murray River raging over the road !
Big storms around Broome had me wondering if the road was open but according to the signs all was OK

Fairly featureless country on the southern end of the Gibb Road

The sign was telling lies ! A thunderstorm overnight brought up the creeks on the Windjana Road.

I found a bit of sparse shade in the 40c heat and did a couple of tyre changes waiting out the creeks ( don't get me started on those bloody BFG'S....)

Anyway the creeks were still rising so I had to backtrack to the bitumen at Derby and continue the trip home via the Great Northern Road. Warning to the traveller....its a 50klm speed limit through Halls Creek, not 60. Cops pulled me over for speeding, breathalised me ( I'm a bit of a drinker but I don't drink on the road...camp is a different matter haha ) Halls Creek Cop was a decent bloke, he let me off with a warning and wished me a Merry Xmas ! Pulled into the 24h roadside stop at the Bungle Bungle turnoff, rolled out the swag, cracked a well earned beer and watched the lightning flickering over the distant hills and slept soundly until about 2,00am when the sounds of snorting, grumbling and snuffling woke me up. We dont have Grizzly Bears in Australia but that's what it sounded like, Found the torch and it was a bloody great big Kimberley scrub bull snorting away about 3m from my mossie dome ! so then I'm in my jocks sitting on the roof of my canopy at 2.00am in the morning politely telling Mr Scrub Bull to go away....and that was another ruined nights sleep haha and a big ( 1200klm ) run home come the new day.
 

billolga

4x4 Earth Contributer
#11
Love your reports Mate.
In 2001, our group just got to the South side of the Penticost on the Gibb River Road & we met a guy from the CENSU handing out forms!
We loved filling out the forms that night - "Do you own your residence?" - YES, "How long have you been living in it?" - A MONTH, "How much did you pay for it?" - $500 :D
 

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#12
On several occaisions I have broke up the Karratha-Darwin-Karratha trips with a stop over in Broome. I have an old mate from primary school days living there. Its a bit of a trap but....you see he's a drinker and he leads me astray sometimes. And so therefore I don't get much rest before hitting the road again. Seems I'm only there near Xmas time when its very hot and humid. Only Broome can get away with a Xmas Boab Tree

Magnificant beaches, unlike the Territory, you are allowed to drive on them, even Cable Beach

All the locals complain that the storms that brew up every day skirt around the town

Mate owns this Pommy thing...Discovery ?

It actually goes alright on the sand

handles the pindan gravel roads OK too

This shot is of James Price Point, the spot of the proposed Woodside Gas Plant ( since canned )

Pretty coast either side of the Point

Pretty coastline, yes indeed, and it is scenic for 400klm either side of the point.The scrub inland not much to write home about. The proposed site is 50klm out of town and about 40 hectares...in the middle of 40,000 sq klms.... The Greenies got their way, stopped a multi billion dollar development in the Kimberley. The debate on the ethics of development is for other forums ( I am a CUB; cashed up bogan because of the work provided by these massive projects, indeed Darwin is booming because of the second Gas Plant being built up here ) so perhaps I should stick to posting up photos 'eh ?

Big storm brewing up on the outskirts of Broome
 

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#13
Those nice smooth pindan roads turn into slippery skating rinks after a bit of rain. And the Discovery has this new fangled traction control thingy that stops the fun factor...make it hard to drift around corners

Tree huggers camp ( protesters ) at James Price Point

I'm not a fan of Greenies, although I do have a grudging admiration of people who can camp out for months in the oppressive 'build up' conditions out here. The bush camps are pretty rough !

Its a 40klm drive along the beach back to Broome via Cable Beach

How good is this ?

Mentioned previously I'm a died in the wool Toyota man, but this Disco goes alright in the sand

Every now and then you see a carcass on the beach....no not a whale, its a dead fourby ! Big tides on this beach ! Do not get bogged

Iconic Aussie beach....Cable Beach, Broome, WA

Hard to cope with this every evening ( mate lives just behind the Cable Beach sand dune )
 

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#14
Called in again the following Christmas.....and again had a ball on the beach and at the fishing spots at Willie Creek. Love the color of the waters and the white sandy beaches
1472301_784256901591081_2060057369_n.jpg
1472336_784257084924396_984510471_n.jpg
1476849_784158404934264_88708341_n.jpg
1502017_784257121591059_976650870_n.jpg
1508322_784247988258639_1206816349_n.jpg
1527961_784256974924407_473242925_n.jpg
My mate and his son are relocated Mexicans ( Victorians ) and just like the locals ignore the crocodile warning signs.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

greysrigging

Well-Known Member
#15
Had a huge night prior to the drive home so left relatively late at 7.00am or 8.30am Territory time....lol... probably not really the ideal way to prepare for a big drive. Its about 1950klm to Darwin. I was going to swag it at Kununurra or Timber Creek but it was raining so I cranked up the music and pushed through the fatigue after a quick power nap and pulled into my driveway at 3.30am the following morning which was Xmas Eve. Slept pretty well until near noon !
960272_786843647999073_1973214975_n.jpg
992261_784346981582073_1427080006_n.jpg
1477458_784420644908040_1330019323_n.jpg
 

deepop

4x4 Earth Contributer
#16
Thanks Grey's... good write up and love to hear the experiences. couple of good tips on long distance as well - I'm a bit of a fan of the power nap as well. Good photo's too.
 
Top