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The Great Australia Road Trip – Part V – Perth to Darwin

The story of our Great Australia Road Trip continues. The following is a summary of the amazing section from Perth to Darwin, including the Kimberlys and the Gibb River Road.

I am writing this from the front seat of a Nissan Patrol just shy of 200km outside of Darwin. We have been on the road for 40 days and have covered some 12,000km. The window is open and a warm wind rushes through. We’ve made it to the Top End. I smile to myself and relish in the amazing sense of freedom. This is the end of another incredible Australia road trip journey, the last day of what was a dream mission to begin with.

It is a surreal sense of accomplishment and one I silently appreciate as we roll along the last stretch into the capital on the NT. 40 days ago I set out on a dream journey around Australia. I packed up all my stuff and hit the road. The goal was simple, to make it to Darwin and see as much as possible. The first stretch The Great Australian Road Trip – Part IV – Adelaide to Perth was absolutely incredible and led me into Perth super excited about the continued journey north.

A New Crew Member

Perth was also a bit of a switch over of the road tripping crew. We sadly said goodbye to Nathalie and picked up a wonderful French-Canadian girl named Elisabeth. Nellie met Elisabeth on a bus in Queensland and after an hour convo they were convinced of a lifelong friendship. Nellie knew she would be perfect to join a portion of this road trip and asked her a few weeks before we set off. Lis was super keen and jumped on board right away.

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The Crew!

Western Australia is an absolutely massive state and one I had only just had a taste of at that point. The Perth to Darwin section  of our Australia road trip was going to take us through some pretty wild and untamed country.The plan was to discover some of the most scenic and remote parts of Western Australia.

The Itinerary

The trip took us up the coast to Kalbarri, Shark Bay, Denham and Monkey Mia, to Coral Bay and Exmouth. From there we turned  inland to Karijini National Park for some  days of hiking before returning to the northern coast. Once arrived in Broom we took our sweet time exploring the Dampier Peninsula, followed by the famed Kimberley Region. A big challenge of our Australia road trip was the crossing of the so called Gibb River Road – a 660km stretch of desert road without service stations or civilization.

This part of the Great Australia Road Trip was a fantastic journey and one I find difficult to sum up completely into this one post.

The Ningaloo Reef

As a diver the Ningaloo Reef was right up there as one of the major highlights for me. The reef plays host to incredibly easily accessible world class snorkeling and diving within an ecosystem totally teeming with life. I was in heaven.

 

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Ningaloo Reef

Snorkeling just meters off the coast of a perfect white sand beach completely alone with only the fish and the coral. It was amazing and completely lived up to my expectations.

We were able to spend a couple days out exploring with tour operators specifically looking for Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. Turtles  and Nemo (who I have yet to find) were also on our lost. The highlight of our encounter with Western Australia’s underwater world was definitely the snorkeling with Whale Sharks. It was incredible swimming side by side with these wonderful gentle giants of the deep.

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Whale Shark

The Ningaloo is a perfect example of a wonderful marine ecosystem and is just remote enough that it doesn’t get overcrowded. Fortunately it has been relatively protected from ‘humanisation’ until now. It’s vibrancy attracts a plethora of marine life creating great opportunities for nature lovers. Snorkelers and divers really get to interact with the species in their own environment.

Karijini National Park

From the Coral Coast we headed into Karijini Naptional Park. The area is famed for its stunning gorges and crystal clear rock pools. As part of a road trip from Perth to Darwin this unique place was a must-visit. It was our goal to witness these ancient rocks and canyons carving their way slowly through the Outback desert.

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Lissie at the summit of Mt. Bruce, Karijini National Park

For anyone who likes geology and hiking, the Karijini National Park is definitely worth a visit. From exploring each twisting canyon and its obligatory rock pool, to photographing rock wallabies and red kangaroos. There was so much to offer in this brilliant National Park and we had an amazing time getting to know the area.

Broome

After the rocks of Karijini it was back to the coast and onwards to Broome, the historical multicultural capital of WA. To this day Broome is the pearling capital of the country. The city is a shining example of a remote community making the most of their wonderful life.

The vibe of the town was upbeat and positive with stunning beaches, a lively weekend market, super tasty craft beer, and great sunsets which would melt the heart of the most romantic soul. This was one of the favourite destinations in the WA, so naturally we decided to stay for four days. It was also the last time we would see the beach for a couple weeks and needed the tanning time (obviously).

The Kimberly and Gibb River Road

From Broome we were headed back inland and into the depths of one of Australia’s most famed regions, The Kimberley. The 660km Gibb River Road (GRR) is by far the best way to access the Kimberly. Further, it has gained a somewhat legendary status among travelers as the gateway to one of the last true wildernesses left on earth. This place is extremely remote and full of so many hidden gorges, waterfalls, rock pools, raw cliff sides. For this reason, it was named one of Lonley Planet’s Top Ten Regions to visit in 2014. It is truly an area beckoning to be explored and any intrepid traveller’s wet dream.

We spent one week traversing the GRR taking in as much as possible and photographing basically everything. During our Australia road trip we admired more than one Fresh Water Crocodile in Windjana Gorge and millions of stars at night. We relaxed in the thermal hot springs of El Questro and jumped into the crystal clear pool at Emma Gorge. The whole area had something at every turn and honestly each one was as surprising as the next. It is indeed an impeccable part of the world and one we all thoroughly enjoyed experiencing, even when the car broke down.

The Break Down – What Now?

Unfortunately, our beloved Nissan Patrol decided to hiccup about 500km into the GRR. Luckily for us, we had just made it through a pretty major river crossing and didn’t stall out half way. Also being a lucky bunch, where we had broken down was a busy spot and there were a lot of other travelers passing by.

After about an hour of numerous ideas and discussions about what went wrong, we decided the electrical had taken on some water during the crossing and she just needed some dry time. We ended up setting up camp where our Nissan had decided to ‘rest’ and give it some time to hopefully dry up overnight.

The next morning she didn’t start and my worrying began. By about 8am the sun was up strong and we were all sweating over our limited options. We had literally broken down in the middle of nowhere. One thing I love about Australia is that almost everyone, is looking to give you a hand when needed. We were passed several times that morning with each car stopping to see if we were alright and needed a hand.

The Australian Outback – Where Strangers Become Friends

Eventually a young mechanic drove by a made it his mission to fix our vehicle. It was incredible to see all of these strangers banding together with the one goal of helping to get us back on the road.

After about an hour of tinkering and taking apart and putting back together and drawing more of a crowd, we had still not started the car. She was close though and the mechanic decided he needed a beer (at ten am) to ponder the problem. During the wait some of his friends drove up returning from a wedding party they had all been crashing over the weekend. It turned out to be the bride and groom on their way back to Darwin. They of course stopped and had a look at Baby in her sad situation.

The groom spoke with the mechanic for maybe five minutes and they decided it must be something to do with the spark plugs. Two minutes later our car roared to life and the excitement was palpable. About eight people including our crew jumped for joy hooting and hollering at one another. Big hugs were exchanged and genuine thanks to everyone involved. Looking back at that 22 hour stretch beside the river is funnily enough, a very fond memory and one of the better stories of the entire journey.

The Final Stretch Of Perth to Darwin

After the GRR we crossed directly into the NT and were on the home stretch of the massive journey from Perth to Darwin. From the border we traversed wild and barren country until Katherine where we headed north exploring Butterfly Gorge and the Douglas Daly Hot Springs. The NT holds some fabulous secrets and is home to hidden gems around every corner.

I was only just starting to see the possibilities of this country and am looking forward to visiting Kakadu National Park. Butterfly Gorge still holds the title of my favorite place in the Territory. It was a pleasure to return to this magic place during the end of our road trip. The hot springs were also pretty awesome to see and a nice relaxing change before hitting Darwin and concluding this section.

So yeah, after 12,000km and the adventure of a lifetime we have almost completed the Great Australia Road Trip. The trip from Perth to Darwin blew me away. The diversity and expansiveness of the landscape, the warm inviting smiles, the easily accessible national parks and wonderful wildlife, the stunning coast and perfect stretches of endless white sand. This is a journey more than worthy of the love it received from the entire crew and one that we will remember and share for many years to come.

Cheers,

Greg

Follow Greg’s exciting adventure around Australia – From the Best Job in the World to the completion of the Great Australia Road Trip!