Day 9 and we arrived back at Drysdale around 9.30am. After collecting our food from the cool room and repacking our Engel we were on our way – todays final destination, Home Valley Station.
The Kalumburu road had deteriorated even further since our trip up two days previously. Dust and corrugations made the day long, and even longer by a couple of delays to help other travellers. Not being machanical, Paul’s often reluctant to offer assistance at roadside breakdowns, but in the outback you have to think how you would feel if it were you in need of assistance. Both the people we stopped to assist, and Paul and I were thrilled when the complications were, in fact, within Paul’s capability to assist.
The first was a couple who’s bull bar was falling off (the second car with bull bar detachments). They had used all their available strapping trying to secure the bull bar back to their car. It wasn’t enough, so Paul found one of ours that’s hardly ever used, and between the two men the best job possible was done to get them safely back on their way. I hope it held together long enough to get them somewhere where proper repairs could be carried out.
The second breakdown was a couple who had tackled the Gibb in an old Holden Jackaroo – not a good car for such a trip. It was clear once we stopped that they were underfunded should they have needed a full on rescue to transport both them and their vehicle back to civilisation. Their alternator had failed, meaning they could only draw a full battery charge from another vehicle and drive for as long as it lasted.
We hooked up the jumper leads and hung around for the battery to fully charge, then followed behind them to ensure they reached Ellanbrae station safely. Their car obliged getting them just inside the entrance before conking out again. Ellanbrae doesn’t have a mechanic on site, so all they could do for them was recharge their battery, or arrange a rescue truck. They chose the re-charge – more on that later.
We enjoyed a lunch of a shared toasted sandwich at Ellanbrae, along with their famed scones with jam and cream. The scones did full justice to their reputation, and Paul and I did full justice to the scones – yum!!
Back on our way again with the panoramic, Cockburn Ranges our movie screen for the day. Only a couple more river crossings with muddy banks, but a nice stony bottom and not to deep, so easy to cross in 4 wheel drive.
By mid afternoon we were driving through the welcoming gates of Home Valley Station.
Home Valley doesn’t have a natural swimming hole near their campground, but they’ve put in a swimming pool for their patrons. While not as nice as a natural water hole, it was never-the-less welcome for cooling down after the rough, dusty road. The Dusty Bar and Grill also proved to be a pleasant place for an evening drink later, and a table with lighting where we could enjoy a game of cards.
We booked a Barramundi afternoon fishing adventure for the next afternoon.
The next morning we met up again with the couple with alternator problems. They had continued on towards Home Valley after having their battery brought up to full charge. However, long before reaching their destination they lost all charge again. Eventually, another good samaritan took the time to stay with them and provided a full battery charge. It wasn’t enough to get them the whole way though, and they had ended up camped on the roadside for the night. The next morning they were assisted with a further charge up that managed to get them all the way. Home Valley could arrange an alternator to be sent out, but it would take a few days to arrive. However, I think they had decided the cost of outback repairs, together with a few days extra camping fees was going to be more than their budget would allow. I gather they were planning to limp the remainder of the Gibb River Road relying on the goodwill of strangers to stop and charge their battery for them.
I remember a time when we drove old bombs, and when we wouldn’t have had the finances to have supported outback repairs. Mind you, we wouldn’t have tackled an outback destination when we had insufficient funds to get ourselves out of trouble. I wonder how they managed in the end – I guess we’ll never know.
At 1pm the two Tims from #t-time tours picked Paul and I, along with three others up, and transported us in their trusted Landcruiser Troopy out to a fishing hole on the Pentecost River. I know Troopies have the reputation of being up there with the best and most reliable of 4 X 4 vehicles. We experienced just how true this is as it churned it’s way along a very sandy and rutted track. Our vehicle, although good, wouldn’t have come near to tackling this track without getting bogged.
The tidal Pentecost River in this area is known Saltie territory, so care is needed to fish there. We would most likely have been nervous if we hadn’t been fishing under the watchful eyes of our two guides. Young Tim caught live bait for us to use, and the two Tims rigged our lines and kept us baited up. We were instructed to stay on the upper of the muddy, slippery banks, as although no crocs showed themselves that day, we needed to be aware it was their territory. They could have been hiding in the muddy river depths just waiting for an opportunity.
First strike was by one of our fellow fishermen, David. Young Tim ventured to the water’s edge with a net to bring the catch in. Unfortunately, the first fish was an unacceptable catfish. By the afternoon’s end though David had more than made up for it with several good Barra (most of which went back and lived to see another day). He caught the most fish that day. Paul then struck, his only successful strike for the day, it was a barra, but under the legal minimum size of 550cm. Back it went.
It wasn’t long till the telltale rattle of the drag on my line indicated a fish was toying with my bait. With my line rigged with a circle hook, I waited the necessary 5 – 6 seconds for the fish to get hooked. Then, with adrenalin pumping I begun to reel in. As with every fish being reeled in the excitement passed to all present who quickly secured their own lines and gathered to watch what would surface. As my fish neared the banks it was clear it was a big one, and in fact ended up being the biggest barra of the day, at a whopping 78.6cm. At 80cms they’ve turned to female and are no longer legal so have to go back to breed for sustainability. I whooped and hollered as it was netted and measured. Paul looked on, diplomatically trying to share my excitement, albeit with a rather forlorn expression remembering his own dismal catch in comparison.
One more successful strike for me, this time with a 660 Barra. Paul, although trying very hard not to, looked rather crestfallen.
Another fisherman that day didn’t manage any strikes. There were no more circle hooks, so he was fishing with another type of hook. Paul had lost his circle hook after his first catch, and was then on rigged with another type of hook. Needless to say, Paul’s own fishing tackle box now contains circle hooks.
We stayed to watch the sun set, lighting up the stunning Cockburn Ranges on it’s way down. Then back to base where young Tim filleted our catch for us. What a day, what an absolutely wonderful day. Thank you Tim and Young Tim from #t-time tours. It was a real pleasure!