Before commencing our trip we had decided we wouldn’t risk our vehicle on the road from Drysdale Station up to the Mitchell Plateau. A decision never regretted having seen the damaged vehicles either returning taped together, or worse, on the back of rescue trucks at the minimum cost of $5000 for the rescue. However, the Mitchell Plateau and Mitchell Falls being the highlight of a Gibb River trip for most people was something we didn’t want to exclude. So we investigated options.
The option that appealed the most was a flight from Drysdale, landing on the plateau, with overnight accommodation. It cost an arm and a leg, but still less than the cost of being rescued, and without the trauma, so we considered it money well worth spending. It did prove to be the stand out highlight of our trip – but more on that later.
We needed to arrive at Drysdale station at least the day before our 6.30am flight, but as the kids inheritance had taken a tumble to pay for the flights, we decided we’d give ourselves a day’s grace and arrive with a day up our sleeves.
The Gibb River Road from Mount Elizabeth to approximately 30 kms before the Kalumburu Road turn off remained relatively good. At that point it deteriorated rapidly. Never mind, we managed to do almost half our trip on roads that weren’t too bad. The Kalumburu road leading up to Drysdale station was particularly bad, with corrugations in places measuring around 15cm (6inchs) deep I’m told – a fellow traveller actually measured them. That’s like travelling over multiple speed humps. Some drivers are under the misguided impression that high speed is the way to conquer the corrugations, and with smaller corrugations, we’d agree to a point (around 80 kmh is good over small corrugations, not 120kph as some drivers seem to think – that’s just plain dangerous). We dropped our speed to around 50kms for most of the road, but at times slowed down considerably more. It’s a bit hair raising when you encounter someone driving around a bend towards you at break neck speed, their vehicle out of control and travelling sideways, some people just haven’t matured enough yet to grow a brain! All we could do was hold fast and hope they would gain control before ploughing into us, then stop and wait for their dust to settle – morons! Anyway, no collision i’m pleased to say, more good luck on their part than good management that’s for sure. I can only hope their’s was one of the many vehicles requiring rescue later in their trip.
The Drysdale River crosses the Kalumburu Road approximately two kilometres north of Drysdale Station, and has a lovely fresh water swimming hole to the immediate right of where the road crosses the river. We set up camp and headed down to explore – perfect for a peaceful meander along the river banks, and a refreshing swim in the small, clear water pool.
We saw the occasional ‘freshie’ in the river, but none near our swimming hole. There was lots of nice bird song as we wandered along, and we saw the first of many tiny Double Barred Finches (also known as Owl Faced Finch). It was so pleasant the first afternoon, we just had to go back again on our second day.
Drysdale Station has a beer garden and restaurant, so we took our portable light, deck of cards and crib board over after dinner on the two evenings we were there and enjoyed a beer or two while playing cards. We opted out of dinner from the restaurant having heard it wasn’t that great. However, we did treat ourselves to one of their famous hamburgers on our second day, only available at lunch time. The reputation of the hamburger is well earned – it was delicious.
On the second afternoon we bagged all our fridge food up and deposited it in the stations cool room for safe keeping – a free service they offer their patrons. It’s not advised that any travellers tow a caravan, or even a heavy duty camper trailer any further up the Kalumburu Road than Drysdale Station. So they will also store any trailers or caravans free of charge, an appreciated service by those taking advantage of it, and a service some no doubt wish they’d taken advantage of when they come to grief further up the track. We packed our backpack with clothes, camera etc to take with us the next day, and everything else with the exception of our tent and mattresses was packed away in the ute ready for the next morning’s early flight.
The next morning we awoke bright and early, dropped and packed the tent, and drove to the airstrip for our 6.30am scheduled take off to the Mitchell Plateau, but more on that later.
Drysdale station is one of the few accommodation places that supports Gibb River traffic that I can say charges a fair price for what they have on offer (inflated by city standards, but fair for their outback location), and with free storage, they actually give something back. Good on ya Drysdale, such a pleasure to have stayed with you!