Travellers need to take iconic track more seriously

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Gibb River Road
How to do it ... well-prepared grey nomads carefully cross the Pentecost River.

The unsealed Gibb River Road in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley is a track synonymous with adventure and beauty … and it’s therefore a magnet for grey nomads and other independent travellers.

However, authorities are continuing to warn that it is not a route to be tackled by the unwary, the unwise or the underprepared.  The ABC reports that, despite constant grading of the road, three serious accidents – including two rollovers – have occurred since the start of the April-September tourist season.

A crash in August resulted in two deaths and, although those fatalities were locals from Wyndham, incidents usually involve tourists. One of the other crashes involved 13 passengers on a tourist bus that rolled near Windjana Gorge, and the other involved a 4WD vehicle occupied by French backpackers who suffered injuries serious enough to require them to be airlifted to hospital from Drysdale River Station.

The ABC says the 700-kilometre stretch of mostly unsealed road is dotted with world renowned waterfalls, gorges and Aboriginal cultural sites, but rocks, corrugations and river crossings can turn the sightseeing adventure into a life-threatening disaster.

Dylan Daily, the acting sergeant of Wyndham Police Station, often tends to people in trouble on the road. He told the ABC that some tourists continue to travel with inadequate vehicles and equipment.

“It’s the final frontier for a lot of people, that’s why they drive it,” he said. “There is total lack of understanding of the situation and landscape by inexperienced drivers … the circumstances can be tragic.”

Very limited mobile phone reception and extreme distances from medical facilities makes any accident more serious.

And it’s not just crashes. Vehicle breakdowns often put an end to many people’s off-road adventures.

Robin Chiswell was travelling the Gibb River Road with her husband recently when their differential snapped. She told the ABC that they had to leave their car at Drysdale River Station and travel to the nearest town.

“We came around a curve on a corrugated area, it snapped, and we skidded off the side of the road,” she said. “We have to see if we can get parts, come back and fix it, or get it towed — which will be quite costly.”

Ms Chiswell said they were driving to the conditions so theirs was not a serious accident but not everyone is as careful … or as lucky!

  • Have you suffered any misfortune on one of Australia’s unsealed roads? Comment below.

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One Response to Travellers need to take iconic track more seriously

  1. Travelling The Gibb River Road you come across some of the most sensational country you could find anywhere. We have travelled it 3 times, the first in 1979, then in 2006 and again in 2014 and in that time we have seen many changes, not the least of which is the road and while it is wider now and there are some bitumen stretches and despite the fact that we did break a leaf in one of our camper trailer springs, I think the road was better in the earlier days. In defence of our “broken spring”, I must say that our camper trailer was far from an “off road trailer” and in fact only had 12″ rims but we got our selves out of trouble and completed the crossing without any further issues.
    I think the problems are that too much faith is placed what the sales people tell you about “off road campers” and there capabilities. Our last 2 “crossings” have been with a Bushtracker caravan in tow and have had no major issues, just the odd screw working loose but we still have people allegedly “driving to the conditions”, over taking us on some less than enjoyable sections of the road and wondering why the fridge greeted them at the door when they stopped for lunch. There was one instance over the last few years where some people towing an “off road van”, decided to leave the G.R.R. for a side trip up to Kalumbaroo only to find on arrival that there caravans rear bumper including spare wheel had parted company just a little bit North of the G.R.R..
    But anyway it’s a great drive with fantastic places to visit and “scenes to be seen”. Cheers Sundy

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