The Bungle Bungles to the Gibb River Road

The Bungle Bungles to the Gibb River Road


There was a real air of excitement about the next leg. We had all researched the Gibb River Road and we were expecting this to be the high light of the trip. Little did we know that a major hiccup was about to rear its ugly head.

Kris and my body clocks were starting to tune back into natural rhythms that were closer to sunset and sunrise rather than being tuned into the work clock. Our pack up was a little quicker than the other guys so I decided to give the boat and boat trailer a good once over. I was pleasantly surprised at how the custom boat cover had held up over some pretty rough and dusty terrain. The boat was doing well with couple of ‘rub’ marks but not in places that compromised the hull.

The trailer was another story! It had quite a few patch jobs done to it including one of the mud guards.

Besides the damage to the mud guard, the trailer was missing the number plate. Worse, one of the nuts on the shock absorber had vibrated off. Subsequently, the shock absorber was destroyed.

What's left of the shock absorber!
What’s left of the shock absorber!

You can’t see it in the picture but a hydraulic break line had been hit by a rock and the we’d lost all the break fluid. This in turn had rattled the brake pads to destruction. The trailer was in poor shape but still mobile.

Well, that’s what I’d thought…

I decided to look a bit closer at the trailer in case there were any structural issues. While the suspension springs had stood up to the punishment the main beam had not. There were fatigue cracks radiating out from the welds holding on the swing arms.

Fatigue crack in the chassis
Fatigue crack in the chassis

I took a deep breath and called the guys together for a group conference: the boat trailer was not going to make it to Kalumburu…

With a dark cloud hanging above me, we started off on the trek to the Gibb. We were travelling on bitumen roads and were not going to check the rigs so often but with the fatigue cracks playing on my mind I wanted to check the cracks after about 30Km. The cracks had radiated about another half a centimetre.

I knew it was ‘all over red rover’…

This meant the damage could not even handle the bitumen let alone Gibb. Kris and I had a quick chat and took the hard decision. The boat had to go home.

I set about drilling some holes at the end of the fatigue cracks to stop them propagating further. Kris rang ahead to Kununurra to organise the boat’s transportation back Adelaide. A couple of more checks on the way to Kununurra showed that the holes, and some slower driving, stopped any further damage. We made it to Kununurra where we sadly said fair well to the boat and trailer.

We’d dragged that boat all the way from Adelaide to Western Australia and didn’t even get it wet…

While we were in Kununurra we decided to top up supplies and grab some alcohol. We got the gas bottle filled and grabbed some fresh vegetables. We then went to the bottle shop and grabbed our normal camping supply we’d get from a South Australian ‘bottlo’. We got to the checkout and the guy looked at us quizzically. We looked back with a welcoming smile.

“You can have one of those, or, one of those but not all that!” the guy said.

This is where we learned that purchasing alcohol was different from what we were used to. Rooky mistake really and we chalked that one up to experience.

We got back on the road and reached the beginning of the Great Northern Highway by about 4 o’clock. Spirits began to rise as we had finally reach the ‘main’ leg of the trip. We planned to stay a couple of days at El Questro station and we were all ready for a break.

Gibb River Road Sign
Gibb River Road Sign

Author: Col

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