Along the Gibb

It has certainly been a long time since we last posted anything. It is at least good to know that a few people have remarked on our lack of communication. We have just emerged back into civilization, having been “out on the Gibb” for quite some time. Everything is very dusty, we are 2 tyres down and we have a huge pile of washing to do. We have set up camp in Kununurra and will remain here until we feel recovered enough to hit the road again. Since it is now Week 4 of the school term, I have to think back to what we got up to since I last posted anything……

For the last few days of the school holidays, we lazed around Fitzroy Crossing, taking advantage of the free rent at Trevor and Emmas (it’s nice to get something back from your kids) and did a spot of fishing (what else). Trevor managed a nice barra in the gorge whcih we promptly despatched to the stomach on getting home.

The start of school saw us out at Muludja, staying with our friend Jackie, another escapee from Kalumburu. Muludja is a community on the banks of the Margaret River on land excised from Fossil Downs Station. It is only about 35km from Fitzroy Crossing so it is quite convenient. Even so, we took the camper out and set up our own home. All the houses in Muludja are built on raised stilts for protection from floods so we set up under the house, giving plenty of shelter and shade.

The school has two classes, K-3 and 4-7 with an enrolment around 25 or so. The kids were absolutely delightful, having both a respect for teachers and an appetite to learn. We spent our time in the junior class, which seemed to have more Year Ones than anything else. Of course, the two bears came to class with us and proved an instant hit. They were mauled all day long, as one child after another took possession of them to hold while working. They read about bears, did maths with bears and read stories to the bears. We brought out all our electronic gadgets, made a movie of the school, had a wonderful time and got paid for it. What more could anyone ask? We still seem to spend a lot of time preapring for the next day’s lessons but as we go along, we gather more and more resources and ideas so in theory, the work will get easier and we will become more efficient. Jackie spoiled us each evening with her hospitality and we spent a couple of terrific evenings with her and Jenny Evans from the District Office catching up on all the news around the Kimberley schools. The movie we made will be shown at Wannanami (Mt Barnett) in a few weeks time and we will make a similar movie there to send back to Muludja kids.

It was back to Fitzroy Crossing for the weekend, before once again farewelling Trevor and Emma and heading off for a camp at Mooridah Crossing on the Fitzroy at Looma. We spent 3 lazy days fishing (with little success), sleeping and reading. Christine turned 54 and I pointed out that she is still below retirement age so she needs to keep working hard. That went down well. Then it was back into Derby to replenish supplies before crossing the Gibb River Rd to Mt Barnett for another week of work.

Along the way, we stopped for the night at Silent Grove and Bell Gorge, one of the most spectacular in the Kimberley. At the end of a day’s driving and an afternoon exploring the gorge, we were greeted by a flat tyre on the track back to Silent Grove. It was a very grubby and rather short tempered Terry that crawled into camp just on sun-down. We did some running repairs on tyres at Imitji and pulled into Mt Barnett the next day. Camp was set up at Manning Gorge campsite, some 7kms from the school. It was worth the comute though because we were able to have a relaxing swim in the best swimming hole in the North every afternoon. Watching the stready stream of campers come and go each day is also a great little distraction. The variety of camper trailers, tents, swags and even caravans is testimony to the financial power of the grey nomads.

Wananami School is wonderful. Gary and Ethel McKivett are frinds from Wyalkatchem days (they were at Cadoux). Gary is the Pricnipal and Ethel is the Registrar. Once again, they laid out the hospitality red carpet and kept us well supplied with the luxuries of life like ice. The staff is friendly and there is a real collegiate feel to the place. They have 3 classes, K-3, 4-6 and 7-12. We loved the kids and had some terrific teaching experiences in our week with them. Three very talented and engaging students worked on putting together a video about Wananami that we sent back to the kids in Muludja. Working with aboriginal kids who want to work and learn is a hugely rewarding thing to do. Mt Barnett is a very isolated part of the world. It sees a steady stream of off-road campers and 4-wheel drives but the average length of stay is only around 15 minutes or so. We met a few characters who live and work around the roadhouse. In the main, they are like us, itinerant and free to stop or go on.

From Mt Barnett, we back-tracked a little then headed South to Mornington Wildlife Conservation Centre, near the headwaters of the Fitzroy. This one-time station turned nature -lovers retreat caters for campers to luxury safari tents. As we worked our way along bumpy tracks to Dimond Gorge, the map told us we were only 90kms from Fitzroy Crossing, but nearly 400kms by road. One look at the King Leopold Ranges towering over us told us why the roads don’t exist.

Dimond Gorge was a bit of a let-down, as was Sir John Gorge. Perhaps we are a bit “gorged-out”. We packed up and commenced the 400km crossing of the Gibb River Road to Kununurra. Along the way, we stopped to help 3 British girls in a “Wicked Van”. They only had one spare, which was flat, and the car seemed to be shaking so badly that it would not steer straight. I suspect the rear shockies were blown. Cars like this should not be allowed out on the Gibb and the rental companies have to take some responsibility. We got the girls to the Durack River, were they could camp, swim and wait for help before driving on to Home Valley Station and reporting their plight to the Wicked Rental mob. They thanked us and said they would deal with things so I hope the girls were going to get some assistance.

Enough for now. Time to start cleaning everything in sight.