We felt the calling of a decent dinner and decided to ride the 200km or so back to Drysdale Station that night hoping to get another Kimberley Burger! As it turned out, the 200km takes longer than expected and we rode into the night, negotiating tricky river crossings in the dark and cold. Jon ploughed into a crossing just ahead of me at speed and showered me with water the bastard! I’m hypothermic by the time we reach Drysdale Station at 8.30pm and then crushed when the ‘City Dweller’ running the restaurant won’t make any effort to fix us up some grub! ‘We’re fully booked!’ What????
We were taken pity on by a ‘grey nomad’ working at the restaurant whom we’d chatted to a few days before on the way up and he tried his best to get us something, but the Chef wouldn’t budge. He did fix us up with some damper that they make for the coach tourists later in the evening while we drowned our sorrows with a couple of $37 bottles of very average red ($10 in the bottle shop at home) around the campfire. Jon was in fine form that evening entertaining the old dears sitting with us with his stories. I overheard the word ‘viagra’ at one point, not sure what that was about!
Eventually we were left to our own devices around the campfire as it was way past the bed time of the elderly tour coach patrons by then. The barman whom first turned us away from the restaurant wandered over expecting to join in the merriment but I’m afraid he didn’t get much of a reception from us that evening! Later, the chef and her girlfriend that also works in the restaurant as the ‘Manager’ (as we were reliably informed) also came over and told us to keep it down! Where’s the country hospitality we wonder? Oh that’s right - they were from the city.
In contrast, the next day we met the station owner’s daughter whom was really good to talk to and spent a half hour telling us about the history of the region and her life on the station whilst filling up our bikes and fuel bladders with fuel. It took half an hour to do this as the fuel bowser shut off every few seconds when filling the bikes directly, and we had to first put fuel into a jerry can and decant that into the tanks to make any progress. It would have been a challenging and time consuming task doing this for the larger group of 24 riders ahead of us.
Our next stop was Mt Elizabeth Station as we made our way back towards Derby. Mt Elizabeth is the gateway to the ’Munja Track’ and Bachsten Bush Camp. Little did we know it at the time, but Bachsten Camp was to be the highlight of the trip! After meeting the owner Pat (another great Station owner) on our arrival and managing to score a couple of takeaways from her to wash down the dust we were all set to tackle the track the next morning.
Drydale River Crossing
Mt Barnett Station
Another bitterly cold night ensued - we had envisaged that it’d be 10-15 degrees at night in the Kimberley and all brought lightweight sleeping bags with us. The 0.5 degrees Celsius of the early morning was only just bearable with all our spare clothes and riding gear on. The sun creeping through the tall palm trees at the well established camp grounds at Mt Elizabeth was a welcome sight when it finally arrived to warm us up.
Once out on the Munja Track the cold night was forgotten and we were in our element once again - on the bikes. The track had some of the most challenging riding on the trip so far, and because we and the main group of bikes ahead of us were the first ones in for the season it was difficult to navigate in parts because of the over growth during the wet season. Ed, leading the main group, had the difficult task of finding the track through the head high grass in places. He had a rough GPS track to follow that we’d worked together on before the trip but a lot of Ed’s progress was achieved through sheer experience and dead reckoning which is a tremendous skill to have.
We met the main group when they were on their way out from Bachsten Camp about half way along the track late that morning. They had been in at the camp for the previous couple of days. More stories were exchanged, but unfortunately the mission to get to Walcott Inlet couldn’t be completed due to time constraints caused by the track being too overgrown. It was just too slow going.
There was one rider still at the Bachsten Camp, Mike, after having his just rebuilt KTM 640 Adventure throw a bearing 6km into the return trip. Mike had planned to walk the 6km back to the camp and get on the radio there to the station for assistance and ultimately a chopper ride out and was not a happy camper!
John fixes a front puncture while Jon weights the rear of the bike
Head high grass on dusk made it difficult to navigate
The guys warned us that there was some gnarly jump ups (rocky inclines) coming up and that we would have to get a move on to make it to camp before dark. They were right, and while it was only 90km or so to camp, it took us the best part of 4 hours to ride in.
We were privileged to be allowed into the camp before the owners had even reached it this year. They were clearing the track before we arrived but their tractor had blown a head gasket. We were blessed with their hospitality in allowing us access and in return cleaned up the camp for them and had a chat to them from the camp each morning on the installed HF radio that was still working despite not having been touched for 6 months over the wet season.
The Bachsten camp was really well set up with chalets, a diesel generator, water pump down to the creek to get running water, environmental toilets and the ultimate luxury - hot showers! Mike was there as we expected and had the fire going, and we thawed out by the fire after having been dunked in the river crossing a couple of km out. We spent an enjoyable couple of days there, exploring the water fall a short way downstream, as well as the Aboriginal art that lay hidden in the cliff top caves behind the camp.
John loses the 640’s radiator camp and 10 minutes of panic ensues....we find it trodden into the sand, beneath the bike!
Beautiful flora of the Kimberley
The river flowed hard and fast in the wet season, well above its current level
Around the camp fire at the caretakers hut
We said farewell to Mike at the crack of dawn of the morning we departed. A chopper swooped low over the camp to announce its arrival as we were just stirring for the day. Mike tore down the track to direct it up to the heli pad on top of the hill behind - he was eager to get out of Bachsten after the chopper hadn’t made it in yesterday because of a mechanical problem. I bet Mike could taste that Reef and Beef special at the Derby Pub after living on left over rations at the camp for the past few days after being stranded. We were envious, but wouldn’t have traded places as we still had a great ride ahead to get back to civilisation!
Mike gets picked up
Our ride out was as challenging as when we came in but otherwise uneventful, which gave us time to appreciate the ancient and majestic landscape through which we travelled. This part of the Kimberley was something special and we were all in awe of its rugged beauty, with its towering rocky ranges, fertile flood plains and mighty rivers.
We noticed an absence of kangaroos in the area, but did see a lot of dingos during the trip including one on this day. We passed more Aboriginal art on the way out but this rocky outcrop had been desecrated by a renowned Aboriginal artist that was asked to ‘touch up’ the original art work and proceeded to repaint it in wash and wear Dulux! Apparently the traditional owners weren’t too happy with him we heard and for good reason. His rendition stuck out like dog balls!
Dingo in the distance
Back onto the Gibb River road we headed west towards Derby, stopping in at Mt Barnett to refuel and grab a burger for lunch. We had planned to stop in at Windjana Gorge that night, but rode until dark and until just after the first large Kangaroo we’d seen all trip jumped out at John and I nearly cleaning us up. Time to call it a day by the side of the road in a station siding.
We were on the home stretch the next morning and briefly stopped in at the gorge where we saw our first crocodiles of the trip, albeit only the less aggressive freshies. The pace quickened as Derby drew nearer and we were back in town before we knew it and packing the bikes back into the shipping container.
The essential pic with a Boab, not far from Derby
The main group was still in Derby, as we were all flying out home to Perth the next morning. A couple were nursing fractured arms from get offs during the trip and one had cracked ribs which were only attended to once back in town. Tough buggers!
While in Derby we were put up by the local Undertakers, Paul and his wife, who make coffins and offer funeral services to the greater Kimberley area. We all camped in the cabinet making factory for the night after enjoying a team dinner at the local pub and more than a few beers. The team presented Ed with a Leatherman Tool as a thank you for his efforts in co-ordinating the trip – well deserved I say as a great time was had by all!