We got up early to leave our King Edward River campsite because we knew we had a decent days worth of driving ahead of us up to Kulumburu. The road up to the Carson River crossing wasn't too bad, corrugated & rough in patches with lots of places we had to slow down to first or second gear to get the trailer through safely without damaging it, so the going was slow.
We arrived at the Carson River at about 11am or so, to find a tag along tour group completing the crossing. There is the main crossing but also one just up to the right that is a bit shallower. The tour group crossed the shallower one & it was about half wheels deep, as they came across we asked what the road was like & they said you have definitely just done the best bit & it gets rough. We had some morning tea & then went across the Carson River also using the shallower crossing as we were a bit worried about the electronics box on the front of the trailer. Everything went well & it wasn't that deep.
As soon as you are across the river you realise the last 30kms into Kulumburu has not been graded for a long time. The road is really bad, so washed out in a lot of places that there are new side tracks everywhere & some times you wonder if you are still on the right track. We barely got out of second gear for that 30kms & there were a few other creek crossings as well.
Kalumburu road north of the Carson River
It seemed to take forever but finally we approached the town itself. We were very impressed by Kulumburu it was neat & tidy & we were surprised at how good the housing was. We pulled up at the mission store but it was closed, so we wandered up a bit further & found the community store where we could by our tourist permit for $50. No one at any stage asked us about our access permit (that Mats family had done online for us). We paid our money & grabbed a few basic groceries. The shop was pretty good, they had most things, it was expensive but the fresher & healthy food seemed to be subsided. We got a 3kg bag of oranges for $7.50 & sweet potatoes for $4.99 a kg, a carton of eggs was $6.50, but if you wanted a small box of coco pops they were $11.35.
We chatted to one of the ladies working there about where to camp & she suggested McGowans Island, our other option was Honeymoon Beach. We decided to try McGowans Island & set off. The road out of town was excellent & recently graded, we soon realised it was taking us towards where the barge comes in with all the supplies for the town, once past the barge turn off though, the road deteriorated again & once again most of the way was in second gear with huge corrugations & wash outs. We finally drove into McGowans island camp area, we pulled up at the house where the reception area was. We were greeted by a less than friendly or helpful gentleman & in the end got out of him that it was as $20 each person to camp per night & we could camp wherever we liked. Okay, we hesitantly paid for 3 nights. We drove down to the camp area & it was pretty full as it wasn't a large area at all, we found a site just back from the water that suited us & we started to set up. One of the other campers then came over & gave us the run down on what the go with everything was, it seemed we all got the same unfriendliness from the owner. It was a beautiful spot right on the water, with pretty good fishing & great views, but other than that is was a bit disappointing.
Everything that was advertised about the place was only partly true. They have signs & information on the internet that boasts the cheapest fuel on the Gibb River Road. This is not true their fuel was $2.85 the dearest on the Gibb & probably anywhere in Australia. They also say they have an off shore barge that yachts & boats can fuel up at, so that is why they have cheap diesel apparently, no actually what really happens is he drives his fuel tanker down onto the beach & the boats have to come right to shore to fill up, cars also have to get diesel from his tanker. We didn't get any fuel from him. They also advertise a laundry, but this is really his personal washing machine on his verandah that you can use for $8 a load, they also advertise showers & toilets they do have these, but there is no hot water, they weren't cleaned at all while we were there & there was no toilet paper in them for the first two days, at $40'a night I expect loo paper. They advertise that internet is available, & yes they delivered on that, but it is his wireless internet at the house, that he did let us use for free, but you had to sit on his verandah to use it & he definitely wasn't happy about it. Other than the unfriendliness & false advertising of the place, we did enjoy our stay. It was a nice place to relax & Mat did plenty of fishing from the rocks & got some nice Bream & a big Painted Sweet Lip.
By our 3rd night we were trying to decided whether to extend for a couple of nights or if we should move to Honeymoon Beach, we had heard it was a bit rugged. We decided to go for a drive to check it out before we made a decision. When we arrived we were greeted warmly & told it was no problem for us to have a look around to decide if we wanted to stay. It was another breathtakingly beautiful spot & we were sold straight away. We went back to the house & said we would be back the next day. We moved the next day, it was our shortest move of the trip so far at 7km, but so worth it. When we arrived that next day we again were warmly greeted by the owner who's dad is a traditional owner. It was $15 per person per night & we found an amazing campsite right on the beach. The facilities at Honeymoon are very very basic, but it didn't matter as the place just had a great vibe. Don't count on getting any drinking water at Honeymoon (you can at McGowans), the water is full of iron & comes out bright red, I wouldn't drink it, the owners said they do after letting it settle. We stayed for 3 more nights & loved it. More fishing, relaxing & exploring. Mat was devastated we didn't have a boat at Kulumburu as those going out fishing in the boats were getting heaps of fish, from red fish, cod, queenies, trevally & Jew fish.
We thought it was worth the effort of getting to Kulumburu to experience the remoteness & beauty of the place. For us we think you definitely need to spend at least 3-4 days to make the drive worthwhile, but plenty of people only stayed for 1 night, just crazy to us. There is so much potential at Kulumburu to take advantage of the tourist market, it is crying out to have some tours available like fishing, cultural or walking tours. There also didn't appear to be any art or souvenirs or anything for sale except for a guy that hit us up as we first got to town & wanted to know if we were interested in buying any artefacts. There is also not really any where else you can go other than in town, to the barge landing or to Honeymoon or McGowans, it would of been nice to be able to explore further. Kulumburu is also a dry alcohol free community.
We were a little sad as we left Kulumburu, it's not often you get to go somewhere so remote & beautiful. We were aiming to make it back to Drysdale station to camp that day, so had a big day of driving ahead of us. The road back down to Drysdale had deteriorated in the 10 days since we had last travelled it, with way more corrugations.
It was a long day but we rolled into camp at about 3.30pm & stayed at the homestead this time & only set up a basic camp & had dinner at the restaurant. After a week with no beer, we were soon in the bar having a couple of quiet beers when we met a great couple from Port Hedland Tony & Lisa, Tony introduced himself as a professional Tugga (tug boat driver) & Lisa is a police officer. We had a great night with them, sharing stories & drinking too much, both boys were a bit dusty the next morning!!
The next morning as we were packing up Mat noticed we had broken the support that holds up the winch control box on the bull bar. We tied it up as best we could & asked the workshop at Drysdale if they had a bit of scrap metal we could have & planned to fix it when we got to Home Valley station. We left Drysdale & after 60km were back on the Gibb River Road. We called into the famous Ellenbrae station that offer scones with jam & cream & they were awesome! Definitely worth a stop & after another 100km or so pulled into Home Valley station. More on that in our next post.