19 Day Tanami Kimberly and Top
End Tour with Outback Spirit
Commenced 4th May 2006
Others will have different opinions but this is the way I saw things. I
genuinely liked everyone on the trip and had many long and interesting
discussions with everyone. Anything I say about anyone is purely in fun.
In Purnulula (Bungles). Did helicopter ride and two magnificent walks. Also,
driving in and out the scenery was spectacular. The facilities were primitive
but that added to the attraction.
Garry. He spent a lot of time drawing on the bus and the one of Blues hand
on the steering wheel was very good.
Most Remote Place and Best Star Gazing
Rabbit Flat. The sky was lit up with stars.
Most Cultured Person
Robyn. Attends ballet regularly and had an expert knowledge of opera and
Best Bus Banter
“Are you drinking plenty of water Isobel?”
Best Campfire Wood Collector (and Driver).
Blue. He had a clever open weave mat to hold the wood which was tied to
the front of the trailer. Click here to
see picture. Along the way he would stop from time to time and we would collect
There were lots of lovely places but Galvans Gorge stands out. With a Boab
tree at the top of a waterfall and water cascading into a pool at the bottom it was a beautiful scene.
Robyn was ill at Kununurra and Joan at Broome. John D sliced his finger on a
Best Bus Fixer
Blue. Click here to see picture.
Best Bird Watchers
Ged and Sheila. Whenever the bus stopped the binoculars were up. I had never
noticed birds that much before and I was surprised at the number and variety of
bird life around.
The “zip-zip” bird. We all heard the noises during the night and early
evening and it happened at every camping location. I asked Ged and Sheila if
they had a photograph of this bird but it was not in their bird book.
Marilyn. I caught her a few times looking very cold and was bemused to see
that she still had her shorts and sleeveless top on.
On the morning we were to depart Katherine the
bus had a flat battery. We had to push the bus and jumpstart it! Luckily, it
was flat ground with concrete driveway so it started easily. New Batteries
were fitted at Kununurra.
On the morning we were to depart
Kununurra, Blue was negotiating the bus around trees in the campground. Whilst
backing the bus the trailer jack-knifed and snapped the air hose connections to
the trailer. This was fixed within an hour by a local mobile mechanic.
About half way along the Gibb River Road the
trailer had a flat tyre. By the time we stopped it was shredded with virtually
nothing left. Luckily, the rim was OK. However, we could not find a socket to
fit the trailer wheel nuts. The trailer rim, tyre size and hole spacing had
been specifically arranged to be the same as the bus so the spares were
interchangeable but nobody thought to make the nuts the same size. Frantic
calls on the Satellite phone discovered that another Outback Spirit bus was
about 10 minutes behind us. Luckily, they had the correct socket. A new tyre
was fitted at Halls Creek.
The brakes on one side of the trailer were
overheating. This may have contributed to the previous problem by overheating
the tyre. Blue adjusted the brakes.
Whilst driving into Purnululu (Bungles) the
bus got bogged negotiating a tricky creek crossing. Click
here to see picture. We all pitched in and using buckets and shovels threw
dry shale under the back wheels. We were out within an hour.
Along the Tanami Track, a mounting bolt on the
secondary alternator broke. It could not be fixed so the alternator was taken
off. It supplied charge to the batteries for the auxiliary items such as hot
water so it could be done without considering were were near the end of the
Sometimes it was difficult to hook the trailer
on and off.
Highest Fuel Cost
Rabbit Flat. Unleaded $2.04/Lt. Click here to
John D (83)
Most Promising Town
Kununurra. High potential for improvement. Plenty of water and electricity.
Reasonable climate. Lots of farming. Close to spectacular scenery. Close to
Forgot to ask Blue at the end but I estimate 4,500Km.
Best Windscreen Cleaner
Me at Mt Barnett. Click here to see picture.
Peter A and Nev helped.
Dennise and John. Whilst everyone helped I did notice that they always
pitched in. In particular, when the bus got bogged coming into Purnululu
(Bungles), Dennise was filling buckets with Ann and John was filling buckets
Best Accommodated Place
Emma Gorge. The cabins were of a strange construction and because they were
placed in a gorge with nice scenery they were very unique. I understand that
they dismantle the cabins during the wet season and store them somewhere.
Biggest Photo Takers
Betty and Maureen. Betty filled up her 1G Byte camera card a few times and had the
contents transferred to CD at every opportunity. Maureen used over 30 rolls of
Best Boot Cleaner
Doug. In Purnululu (Bungles) he cleaned Blue's boots.
Click here to see picture. Why did he bring his boot
polishing equipment with him?
Pull down blinds instead of pull across
curtains. On a later trip, the bus we were on had pull down blinds. The blind
could clip into one of 3 positions.
A better way of attracting attention of the
240v power outlets on the bus to charge
phones, lights etc whilst travelling. This would be easy and cheap to do with
Best Harmonica Player
Doug. He played a few tunes around the campfire at Windjara Gorge.
Best Wine Saver
Peter S at Emma Gorge. He made sure that nothing went to waste.
Click here to see picture.
Most Retired From Profession
I counted 4 ex teachers.
David. Any time we stopped and there was a chance of swimming David was the
first there. I also noticed John and Marilyn sunning themselves around various
pools so I suspect they also did some swimming.
Most Organised Person
Maureen. She had this blue folder bulging with information about everything
we would pass through or be nearby. I even used it a few times.
Most Embarrassing Moment
When we had a trailer flat tyre on the Gibb River Road and there was not a
socket to fit the wheel nuts. See Bus Problems.
John D and Dennise. In Purnululu (Bungles) in the Amphitheatre at the end of
Cathedral Gorge. Click here to see
Best Kite Flyer and Videoer
Peter A. He put on a kite flying exhibition for us at Old Halls Creek and
videoed the entire trip with precision.
Most Overrated Town
Broome. Pearl Luggers was good, nice beach and some fishing. Apart from that
it was too glossy for me and there is really not much else to see locally.
John H. He always appeared when the meat was being cooked and did a good job
Most Anticipated Moment
Arriving at Rabbit Flat (it is hard to admit). On this day we had driven
400Km on dirt track, some of it in very poor condition. We had lost 1.5 hrs due to
time zone change across the WA/NT border. At 5.00 we were still 123Km from
Rabbit Flat. Click here to see picture. It took
another 2.5 Hrs to get there and we were counting down every 10Km “RF” sign and
looking for the lights in the distance. It was good to finally get there even
though we erected our tents in the dark and did not have tea until about 10.00.
Clyde. After becoming a paraplegic following an accident and learning to
walk again he amazed me with the places he walked to. He told me the hardest
thing was climbing the steps into the bus. Ann also did well considering her
ankle had only been out of plaster 4 weeks.
Most Unexpected Scenic Attraction
Stairway to Heaven at Broome. I had never heard of this event and it was not
on the itinerary. Various people convinced the Tour Guide to take us there and
it was well worth it.
Quietest Person and Best Hat
Barbara. Her hat with the wire net in a small bag fastened to the hat
Best Accommodated Dinner
The motel at Katherine had the best food but Emma Gorge had the best
environment. The open air dining area at Emma Gorge was lovely and because the
food was not the quality it should be, Outback Spirit provided the wine.
Best Campfire Tenderer
David. He lit it many times and was usually one of the first around it in
the morning to stoke it up again.
Isobel. In Purnululu (Bungles) in the Amphitheatre at the end of Cathedral
It is interesting to find out peoples opinion about some controversial issue
so I asked nearly everyone (apart from 3 or 4) whether they supported the war in
Iraq. Of those I asked, only one fully supported it.
Busiest Person on Bus
Joan. She was creating a patchwork quilt made up of 28 hexagonal pieces of
different colours. Each piece had the signature of one of the bus occupants. The
signatures were to be embroidered and the pieces to be sewn together. I don't
believe she did much sewing along the Tanami Track.
Maureen and Garry were married on the same day and year as Ann and I on the
10th May 1969 and also had 4 children (1 girl and 3 boys). The tour group
purchased cards for us and made us give speeches (at Emma Gorge dinner) on our
anniversary. Thanks very much to everyone for that. After the 19 day tour
finished, we saw them a few times later and even at the Alice Springs airport
when leaving. I believe our paths will cross again.
Barbara and Peter also celebrated their anniversary a few days earlier in
The one at Rabbit Flat was the only camping
toilet with sign. Click here to see picture.
The one in Purnululu (Bungles) also served as
a shower. We hooked a hose to the tap beside the toilet and hung it over the
toilet wall. The water was warm and it also cleaned the toilet.
The public toilet at Halls Creek was a fully
automated one. Having such a sophisticated toilet in a remote town was a
The one in the bus I never used
but it was handy to know it was there. It did smell on occasions.
The toilets at Windjana Gorge had
locks on both sides of the door. Joan got locked in by someone and had to call
for help. Very embarrassing.
Not so good Campers.
Tom and Isobel. They amused me with their camping antics. I discovered early
in the trip that they had never camped before and had misread the brochure. Tom
told me he had learnt skills that he will quickly forget so I guess they will
not be camping again.
Things People Purchased that Looked Interesting
Best Tent Erector
Best Snake Spotter and Catcher.
Blue. He spotted a Black Headed Python on the Gibb River Road near Windjana
Gorge. At the Purnulula (Bungles) campsite a snake was spotted under the bus one
night. Blue moved it.
Purnulula (Bungles). Far, far exceeded what I expected and the helicopter
flight made it even better.
Ann. Every other lady had “travelling” hairstyles.
At Purnululu (Bungles) when we came back from our walks some of the tents
looked very sad. Click here to see picture.
Best Story Tellers
Audrey and Doug. With 6 children and ? grandchildren they had lots of
interesting and amusing tales.
At Pearl Luggers in Broome. The hour long talk about the pearling industry
in Broome was excellent.
Joan. One day when she was ironing her husband Nev happened to bend down
with his rear end towards her. In a villainous moment she picked up the iron and
pointed it towards his behind. What she didn’t expect was the spurt of steam
that came out of the iron directly into Nev’s behind. She said he got the
biggest fright of his life. Joan told us this story with a completely straight
face and had us in fits of laughter.
Most Travelled People
I was surprised at the amount and variety of travelling people had done.
People didn’t mention it much unless I asked them and I learnt a lot of useful
travel information. It appeared that Betty, Ged and Sheila were the most
Best Camping Spot and Camping Dinner
Windjana Gorge off the Gibb River Road. That evening, the moon was so bright that we ate our tea
under the moonlight. Doug played his harmonica around the campfire. The area was
nicely grassed, 3 toilets and a “cold” only shower which had warm water. We had
steak for tea that night. Click here to see a description of what the meat
was NOT like..
Kate. When camping, she was always late getting her coffee and handing her
plate in for washing.
Least Desirable Camping Spot
Mt Barnett Roadhouse on the Gibb River Road. After we could not get into Manning Gorge because of flooding we
camped beside the roadhouse. Strange place.
Sign on the public phone “After using phone please replace rag in hole [coin
return] so frogs cannot get in.”
$8.00 to use a charger of any type.
I counted 6 “Do not ….” Signs. For example “Do not drink this water”, “Do not
park in driveway”.
There was only one male and one female toilet and shower and we had to fight
with other campers to use them.
In the morning the camping area was damp and muddy.
Most Diplomatic Person.
David. He sorted out a few etiquette issues on the bus.
Best Baggage Handlers
Blue, John H and Peter S at the Broome Cable Beach resort.
Click here to see picture.
Brooms and dustpans for cleaning the tents.
These were provided later.
Clearly number every tent and sleeping bag so
people could get the same one each time.
The tents poles were a problem. The fixing nut
snapped on some. The fixing nuts were difficult to do up and sometimes the
poles slid down. An easy fix for the problem
is for each pole to be made up of 3 or 4 fixed sections that slide into each other
and the combined length of the pole to match the tent height. The poles can
then be kept in the tent bag.
John D. At Emma Gorge he had a bit too much to drink and was helped arm in
arm by various ladies up the track to his cabin. As he was walking along I heard
“This is better than the Kokoda Track”.
The padded area between the passengers and the cabin looked like a Punch and
Judy stage. I was waiting for the marionettes to appear.
The picture above the rubbish sign near the door was of a man. I told Ann she
was not allowed to put rubbish in the slot because only men were allowed.
Peter S. Always happy and joking with everyone.
Best Morning Tea Stop
Fletchers Creek. On the way out of Purnululu (Bungles).
Click here to see picture.
Best Bus Sleepers and Book Readers
Tom and Isobel. Click here to see picture.
Lorraine and David. Although they were both travelling alone they happened
to sit together on the bus and concocted their engagement. Apparently David
found a rock that was gemstone like (engagement ring) and this was the start of
the gag. It persisted for many days and was a source of much amusement on the bus.
The Gibb River Road was in much better condition than I expected. This was
partly because the road had only been open for a week. Quite a few sealed
sections if each only for a few hundred meters.
The Tanami Track was worse than I expected. In some sections we crawled through
the bulldust and the corrugations at very low speed. During one of these low
speed crawls a 4WD full of Aborigines passed us at high speed. I noticed that
the vehicle had no windscreen or windows.
Most Surprising thing anyone did.
Isobel. At Halls Creek, she walked around and found the Alcohol
Rehabilitation Center and had a long talk with the people running it.
Best Tour Guide and Cook
El. She did a very good job under difficult circumstances. Having the mother
of the owners of Outback Spirit as our tour guide had its advantages when we had
bus problems. The food
we had whilst camping was of excellent quality.
Halls Creek. The only motel I have ever been in that had a high fence around
it with barbed wire at the top. I noted that it was a 4.5 star rated. One star
must have been for the fence.
Best Poem Writer
Nev. The poem he recited at the final dinner was a gem.
Click here to see poem.
Breakfasts at accommodated stops
should all be buffets.
Hands free mike for driver.
More information earlier whilst driving.
Click here to see photo.
What did not Happen
Everyone we spoke to before leaving recommended taking extra strong strength
insect repellent which we did. We rarely used it. We must have been lucky
because others who had travelled there had bad experiences with insects.
The Good and Bad
This is the only Australian bus trip I know of that has a mixture of camping
and hotel/motel accommodation. It proved to be quite unique and enjoyable. We
stayed in a hotel/motel about every third night. The only criticism is some of
the hotels we stayed in were more luxurious than required. Considering we were
out all day and most evenings, we only needed showers and a bed. Also, the
hotels we stayed at in Broome and Alice Springs were both a few kilometres out
of the main township. The hotels did provide shuttle buses to and from town but
because our time was limited they were not always convenient.
A Selection of Photos