THE OOMBULGURRI TRACK – THE KIMBERLEY
We are in The Kimberley so close to the wet season we are getting rain & battling floodwaters. This isn't just home valley station or El Questro - this is The Oombulgurri Track in the remote part the Kimberley - with Shaun Whale and the Dirty 30, Graham in the D-MAX and a convoy of 79 Series Land Cruisers and a Ford Ranger.
Its early season here in the Kimberley, the water is high, the rivers are full of crocs and the tracks push our 4WDs to their very limit as we are on a once in a lifetime mission to re-open one of Australia’s most remote 4WD tracks – the Oombulgurri Track. A single wet season can wipe this track off the map, and thanks to the global pandemic, it hasn’t been driven in nearly two years.
Ahead of us lies 15 days off-grid and off the map with no servos, no pubs, no phone reception, and no resupply. There is only one way out, and that’s to push through hundreds of kilometres of extreme low range as we try to put the Oombulgurri Track back on the map.
THE OOMBULGURRI TRACK
The Oombulgurri track is about as remote as any track gets. Starting out the back of Home Valley Station and winding its way over 500kms through the heart of the Kimberley and all the way back to the dirt near Kalumburu. The closest thing to civilisation here is the ruins of the former township of Oombulgurri – our first objective about 90kms into the journey.
First, we are meeting up with Ronny. He and his family are the traditional owners of this area, and Ronny has invited us to help him try and get the track open once again.
After months of planning, we are finally pointing the rigs down the Oombulgurri Track, a track only driven by special permission, and you won’t see another person or 4WD from start to finish.
The adventure begins with a very iconic moment, crossing the Pentecost River. The Pentecost itself is a bucket list destination for many 4WDers. For us, this wheel-deep wide river is just the road into the start of our journey.
Depending on the time of season, these sections of driving can be completely underwater, or even dry looking areas can still be a risk with mud under the surface that can bog and bury a 4WD in no time.
Creek crossings in the salt flats can often only be a car length wide but contain thick boggy mud with nothing to winch to on the other side, so at least one of our vehicles must make it across to help everyone winch across. Not only did our guide Ronny get stuck, but he also spotted a poisonous water snake in the creek for everyone to be mindful of.
After a reverse winch back onto dry ground, Ronny gave it another shot with his boot to the floor and made it through! Everyone was able to follow in the tracks of Ronny because as he went through, he took a lot of that slop and mud out, but we all had to give it heaps to get through.
Onwards and upwards as we pass the point of no return!
The Oombi Track sees only a few 4WDs on a good year, but with COVID-19 stopping all Ronny’s tours, the track is exceptionally overgrown. With almost two years and two wet seasons since Ronny’s last visit, the first challenge is simply just finding the track, facing grass so tall it swaps the vehicles.
After a big day on the track, it has become clear that we are going to have our work cut out to make it to Kalumburu. Last time we visited we made it to the old town of Oombulgurri in just a single day, but this time we are about a quarter of the way. If we continue at this rate, we could be out of here a heck of a lot longer than we planned, and we really couldn’t be happier.
CAMPING NIGHT 1
The scenery in the Kimberley is unmatched with the colours that come alive at dusk, and Ronny has a perfect spot for us to pull over for camp, appreciate the sites and maybe even crack a cold one.
The beauty of this track is anywhere you choose to pull up for camp will be guaranteed to be one of the finest campsites you’ll ever see.
Whether you’re rolling out canvas, setting up a rooftop tent or even your camper trailer, nothing really gets better than setting up camp at sunset in the Kimberley with a fire going and a fridge full of cold beers.
Overnight we had a surprise from the skies with rain bucketing down in the early hours of the morning. Aside from some wet canvas, that rain also suggests that the water level at the Durack River is going to be extra high and could spell disaster for our plans to make it to Kalumburu.
Because of the rain there is mud everywhere you walk of course, not only that this means the salt flats we passed will be too muddy to turn back and Ronny tells us there is another mud flat ahead.
Good news is when we get over this mountain range, Shauno has his eyes set on a river he has marked on the GPS with a chance of a barramundi and the boys can enjoy a Shauno speciality of barramundi – or maybe just chicken from the fridge.
As we make a move on day two, we find out why the Oombi isn’t just known for its water crossings, its also full of these rocky, shaley hills that seem perfectly designed to puncture tyres and rattle teeth.
Beyond these hills is our first creek crossing of the day. Saltwater flows into this one and with that comes the risk of big saltwater crocodiles – there is no way we are test walking this river! Not only is there a concern for salties, but also be mindful of big rocks hidden in the murky water.
Soon enough we are back into the long grass and it’s taking every bit of Ronny’s knowledge to keep us on track.
Ronny has given special permission to the back of the convoy to start some early season grass burns to try and open things up. Fire has been a key part of indigenous land management for thousands of years and burning in the early season stops potential for big fires during the dry. It goes without saying, do not try this at home folks.
We mentioned earlier about the rocky tracks, and the first victim of the trip is the camper trailer. This terrain is full of jagged rocks, it’s easy enough for a vehicle to follow course, but when the trailer goes on a different line it can get dragged over these sharp rocks. Luckily, we can fix this issue up as we have packed spares easy to access, and shortly have the camper trailer back up and running again.
HISTORY OF THE DURACK RIVER REGION
Many of these very remote places up here have a dark history that don’t really get mentioned to much, but really needs to be talked about. This was the site of a large aboriginal massacre many moons ago and it was an absolute atrocity. Ronny doesn’t talk about it much, and rightfully so, but this sort of Australian history tends to get hidden, but we think that the more people that know and are educated about it the better for our future.
THE DURACK RIVER
As we make it down off the ridge, the Durack River is up ahead, and it looks darn daunting. As the first people to attempt this crossing in two years, it really is anyone’s guess how hard this will be. While the water looks fresh from last nights rain, the rapids to the right are fully tidal, meaning the level could go up or down in the next few hours – and of course there could be some big crocs hiding beneath the surface.
Ronny has never seen the water levels so high in this section, due to the flooding. The options are to face the rapids, deep water, and big boulders or to camp up for the night and fish. As you can imagine for Shauno, this was the easiest choice for a plan B. With the tide still coming in and the possibility of increasing water depths, it is simply not a smart move this late in the day. The next low is due tomorrow morning.
While we wait for the lowering tides of the Durack, both the camera car and Shaun’s Dirty 30 has ran into some strife. The radiator of the camera car has been punctured with a stick, and a bit of the rear differential gasket in the 30 has been damaged by a rock.
With only a tenth of the track under our belts, a vehicle with a faulty rear diff, and a radiator broken with temperatures in the high 30’s could be big trouble for the boys. Luckily with the knowledge of the convoy, a few hours of work, and a bit of bush mechanics, the team should be ready to roll come tomorrow.
CAMP NIGHT 2 – DURACK RIVER
After the efforts of the team’s bush mechanics, that leave just one task – to catch a Barra. The waters here are teeming with life and rarely see a fisherman, and not long until Graham hooked himself a small shark which is not exactly what we are looking for.
Later that night things really got going, and after a massive battle Shauno finally caught his dream fish, a genuine metre barramundi! Of course, this one is over the allowed limit, so we set her free. Something tells us we are going to hear about this one from Shaun for a long time.
Not only this, but Shauno was able to snag another big barra within size guides perfect for his dinner plans. Shauno ran two myCOOLMAN fridges for this lengthy off-grid trip, so he has plenty of room to store tomorrow’s main course.
The Dirty 30 is also running camp lights among other 12V accessories, so the demand for power is very high, especially in 30–40-degree heat. Running Redarc battery chargers and RedVision allow for proper charging of the 12V and are essentially foolproof as we can monitor how much power we have left.
In the morning light the Durack River is still looking wild, but the water levels have receded overnight. The biggest concern is not the depth though, but the huge boulders hidden under the surface.
We get the 4WDs all up and running, with no continuing issues from the camera car or the 30. The last job before we tackle the crossing is to get the chainsaw out to clear the trees from our crossing entry, and then we should be good to send in Shauno the crash test dummy.
CROSSING THE DURACK RIVER
While we’re not going to walk the crossing, we take every precaution we can think of. We pre spool out the Runva winch in case of a front recovery, and ready a rear recovery option as well. Double checking everything is ready to roll is essential because we are miles from anywhere if something goes wrong. Here goes nothing.
The expert knowledge from Ronny spotting his path from behind is key and picking a line with a clear path is near impossible. The one thing you don’t want is getting a rock stuck under one of your diffs, leaving you in a world of hurt.
Shauno made it to the other side, and it definitely wasn’t light work. Ronny soon follows suit, and they both wait on the bank of the exit to act as a forward recovery anchor for the rest of the convoy.
With Grahams vehicle being the lightest, we chose to send the big and heavy Mits Alloy 79 Series ahead to pull up in a strategic yet comfortable spot to act as an anchor if need be. The Mits boys have been facing locker issues, so they have to attempt this with no diff locks engaged, calling for a few reattempts and a winch through to the middle of the Durack.
With multiple winch extensions to the only viable tree in the creek, Shauno has hooked the 79, and soon they are ready and winching, and make it to the middle of the river. Graham’s lack of clearance in the DMAX gets him caught up quickly by the boulders and needed to be winched to the middle island.
The boys continue leapfrogging and repositioning anchor vehicles throughout the water so all 4WDs have as many anchor points as possible. Tim with the mission to be a new anchor further across the river picks a perfect line to tackle, but in all the excitement throws the plan straight out the window and finished the crossing. We don’t blame you, Tim!
With Grahams anchor point gone (thanks, Tim) the plan changes and looks like Shaun – with his twin locked 4WD – is going to have to get the 30 wet again. Now with a full chain of anchor points, the team continue to leapfrog and winch their way through the Durack slowly but surely.
Sure enough, after countless winchs, wet clothes and wet footwells, we have done it. With the Durack River behind us, we are now well and truly on our own with the only route being forward.
CAMPING NIGHT 3 – BEYOND THE DURACK
Ronny again shows us the hidden secrets of the Kimberley and takes us to an epic campsite and fishing spot that will blow your socks off. Ronny takes us to an inland ocean with streams full of fish, and a perfect place to roll out some canvas.
Camp has soon sprung up and with a can in hand, we can reflect on the massive few days we have had on the tracks while Shauno tells us for the hundredth time about that barra he caught. None of us are complaining, as fresh barramundi is on the menu for tonight – Fresh Barra Yellow Curry!
We are soon read again for our next day on the tracks with a few running repairs on the go. A loose coolant hose clamp on the 30 with a water top up and a general daily look over everything to avoid problems before they happen.
With another 10 days or so to go and about 600kms of hardcore 4WDing ahead we don’t even know what to expect. With our vehicles jam packed full of gear, clothes, water, spares, food and cyrovaced meat it really pays to have space on a trip like this.
Ronny shows us to Nulla Nulla Creek, a spot with a few deep-water pockets full of fish, and full of crocs. We spot a 4m croc, and with locals like this in the river, no one is game to get too close to the bank and decide to head off with no fishing success.
Like so many camps in the Kimberley, we could happily park up for a week to fish and explore, but the track isn’t going to open itself.
REOPENING THE OOMBULGURRI
Making a mile on the Oombulgurri Track turns out to be more difficult than it sounds, with the track being an unrelenting mix of rocky terrain and half hidden track. Struggles throughout the convoy eventually require Rod and his 6 tonnes of vehicle and trailer to winch out of some rough, rocky hill climbs.
The sharp rocks of the Oombi have done a mischief yet again on the camper trailer. This is the trailers need for a second spare in 50kms, leaving no spares left for Rod’s Maverick trailer. Two damaged tyres in such a short stretch may seem like a lot but trust us in saying this is just the start of an ongoing puncture problem for the entire convoy.
We soon have our heads down trying to reach our next waypoint of the ruins of Oombulgurri. We previously have done this run in a single day, and this time around we are 4 days in with another river crossing and 30km left.
In the last light of the day another problem has popped up, and this time it’s Ronny who’s in trouble. The rear universal joint on the front shaft has broken and taken out the flange with it. Even with a spare uni joint, there is very little we can do with it so the best option is to pull it out and continue as far as we can without it. Basically, this means Ronny is stuck in 2WD for the rest of the journey.
CAMPING NIGHT 4
Sometimes the best camps are the unexpected ones, and soon we’ve got a fire cranking, beers on the go and a great feed. Our camp for tonight is just over halfway to the ruins of Oombulgurri, which has been our first objective of the trip. This is just a fraction of the length of the journey ahead as we still must cross the top of the Kimberley to finish it off.
With marshes, mud flats, hills, rivers, and forests to tackle along the way, we have no idea what challenges lie ahead, but this is exactly the kind of adventure we live for. Even though the convoy is riddled with mechanical issues, we still can’t wipe the grins of our faces.
HIGH GRASS AND BOG HOLES
We mentioned before that a big wet season can almost obliterate the track, but this time it’s even worse as it’s been two wet seasons since Ronny last came through with the tour. The grass has grown unchecked for nearly two years and is so thick the track is often impossible to make out, even for Ronny who knows this place like the back of his hands.
The real issue is not the grass, but what it’s hiding. Soon enough into day 5, Shauno’s in trouble! Ronny had warned about bog holes hidden in the grass, and Shaun has got the Dirty 30 almost on its side by accidentally driving in hidden mud.
Normally a winch to a nearby tree would get Shauno out of this mess, but the wet ground results in almost winching the tree out instead. A rear recovery in this instance would likely end up with panel damage to the 30, so a few readjusts of Graham’s DMAX finally allowed for a recovery.
MORE TYRE DAMAGE
The big rocky climbs and tyre shredding rocks that now cover the old main road to the town of Oombulgurri continue to cause issues with the tyres of the convoy. These rocks and hidden branches claim Graham as their newest victim.
Now two tyres gone in the last 100m, and four total in 24 hours is starting to become a concern. There is a lot of rocky country to come and some sections that aren’t any easier on our tyres.
Luckily one of these tyres had about a one-inch slash in the sidewall that Shauno successfully plugged up with 4 or 5 plugs, good enough to become a spare tyre to get you out of strife in the bush, but obviously not up to scratch for a tyre to use on the highway.
WATER HOLE SWIMMING
After a good amount of time on the tools, Ronny has found a stunning little water hole off the side of the track. Not only is this place perfect to drop a line in, but Ronny also thinks it is safe for swimming. With daytime temperatures averaging in the high 30s, we’re not gonna argue that!
After a bit of a freshen up it’s time for our next big river crossing, the Jilla, the last big obstacle before Oombulgurri. Last time Graham and Shauno did this crossing, it was merely a puddle of water, and this time its looking like bonnet-high depth.
Shauno again gets all the recovery preparation ready to be the first in, and Ronny walks the crossing to size up the big holes to avoid, but he makes quick time of it to avoid the scary potential of saltwater crocs.
Despite the big rocks and slippery ground, the whole convoy happily and easily wades their way to the other side – even Ronny in 2WD. Just like that and Oombulgurri is one step closer.
CAMPING NIGHT 5
After a few more hours of low range 4WDing, Ronny’s found us a spot on the edge of the township near the old runway. A solid 12 hours on the tracks with some big obstacles done, the boys are knackered and reward themselves with some steaks and a couple cold drinks.
In the light of morning, we can now see for the first time the airstrip that served Oombulgurri in its hay day, and in the distance spot the rooftops of what’s left in the town itself.
Before we head into Oombi, we have a quick breakie and refuel. Now we budgeted for a lot of diesel for this trip, with 150-200L per vehicle between us. We have been caught out in the rate of our fuel consumption, and Ronny has made the call to head back to pick up more fuel.
THE FORMER TOWNSHIP OF OOMBULGURRI
Just like we remembered, the main street is lined with Boab trees, but everything else couldn’t be more different. Seven years prior, this was a living, breathing community with shops, a school, a clinic, a police station and much more.
In 2014, the government decided that Oombulgurri had to go, first closing the shops, then the clinic and schools, and those who tried to stay were given just 48 hours to leave. People had to up and go, leaving behind their possessions and their homes. All that is left is the wildlife and the memories.
Ronnie has got a lot of memories to share of this place, after all this was the town he and his family grew up in, in a house built by his grandfather.
HEADING TOWARDS THE BERKELEY RIVER
As we continue, this is where Ronny will push back the road we’ve taken, to get some repairs and stock back up on fuel and parts while the rest of us push on to the halfway point of the track, the Berkeley River. Ronny will come back in via the Gibb River Road and Kalumburu Road and meet us at the top end.
For us, the first challenge is right outside town. The salt plains north of Oombi are still flooded and we’re going to have to trace an old fishing tack to bypass them. Staying on track without a guide is going to be a challenge.
Soon we’re tracing our way through seasonal wetlands and creeks, and just as expected, the track soon disappears back into the long grass. This section of the track was clearly a locals-only route that doesn’t appear on any maps. We quite literally follow our noses to try and link back to the main track about 25kms ahead.
NORTHEN END OF THE SALT FLATS
After plenty of kilometres of track pushing and a few more tyres down, we have made it back to the northern end of the salt flats – some of the most open country we’ve seen in days!
It feels good to stretch the legs a bit and we can see the edges of the old tracks around the wetlands, but soon we are back into the deep stuff, crawling the 4WDs towards the distant hills Ronny told us to aim for.
As we climb up out of the plains, the old track becomes a bit easier to follow with some defined rock edging where old maintenance crews piled rocks off the tracks. With football sized boulders and sharp rocks, you’ll agree this isn’t exactly a highway.
DAY 7-11 – PUSHING THROUGH
Between us and the Berkeley River lies a series of valleys, creeks, and ranges, and with half of the challenge of just finding the remains of the track, we don’t exactly rack up the miles. Frequently we follow what we think is the path, only to have to backtrack and try again. Every mistake costs us extra hours.
With deep growth around the creeks, entries and exits are a bit of a lottery, and of course they’re a heck of a lot of fun. Soon we settle into somewhat of a daily routine: drive until we run out of light, then park up at a perfect campsite after perfect campsite. In the mornings, we are up at first light ready to push a few more kms.
Every crossing in this stunning part of the world is adventure, and every glimmer of track is exciting. Soon three more days had passed with long hours behind the wheel.
The Mits Alloy boys lead the way with an old GPS logging of the track, and of course with the changing routes every season, these maps go out of date quickly, but at least keep us in the right direction.
Fire hardened stump, sharp rocks, and stray sticks cause mayhem in the convoy, and not a single 4WD hasn’t lost a tyre. While we are plugging tyres where we can, many are unrepairable.
Graham gets down to using an already damaged tyre filled with tyre repair plugs, and the number of spare tyres in the convoy are disappearing by the second.
While Berkeley is our next big objective, there’s a destination Graham and Shauno are hanging out to get to, Paradise, and you have to see it to understand. Four days out of Oombulgurri and we’ve finally found it.
We decide after 4 days of trail blazing to treat the convoy to an early camp and soak in the beauty that is Paradise. Having a swim in a freshwater waterfall, having a fish and camping can’t be done better than here in the middle of the Kimberley.
Fishing in Paradise is like what you’d see in a movie, every cast you’re reeling in lunch or dinner. Top it off with a cold one and a view, this really is a magical campsite.
Shauno tops of this night at Paradise camp with a specialty dish for when supplies start to run low – Paradise Chilli Chicken Curry.
Early morning light in Paradise looks idyllic and we can’t think of a better place to wake up to. The Kimberley is just one of those destinations you need add to your bucket list.
After checking our maps, we reckon we can make the Berkeley River by the end of the day, but we must move quickly as we have a lot of kilometres to cover.
CROSSINGS, CROSSINGS, AND MORE CROSSINGS
With fuel supply being our biggest concern before meeting with Ronny again – with 2/3s of or supply gone – every suspicious, croc filled creek we come upon is another barrier between us and the fuel supply.
Now we’ve lost count with the number of creeks and rivers on this track, and barely a kilometre goes by without some king of crossing to navigate. Making it even harder is the fact we cannot walk the crossings, due to the threat of saltwater crocodiles.
Not only are banks of these crossing full of big rocks and mud, but some are also even made of some of the softest sand you can face, adding to the variety of challenges us 4WDers live for!
MORE & MORE BUSH MECHANICS
After 9 days on the tracks collectively, we have gone through about 9 spare tyres and plugged many more. Just a few kilometres short of the Berkeley, Graham’s luck has run out, with an unrepairable staked tyre and nothing to replace it with.
Times like these, miles away from anywhere, you have got to think outside the box for a solution. We have put the two spare 35 inch tyres from the camera car and put them on the rear of the ranger, and used the two rear 33 inch tyres from the ranger as a replacement and spare for the DMAX.
Now there is no spare 35’s for the convoy, and Jesse is stuck driving the ranger in 2WD because of the mismatch front and rear wheel sizes. It’ll be a hard road ahead, but at least we can push on.
DAY 13 - THE BERKELEY RIVER
We are finally at the Berkeley River where we had hoped to meet up with Ronny, who’s bringing our much need fuel and spares, but we have learned that he hasn’t even been able to make it onto the track yet.
The Berkeley River offers some amazing fishing spots that rarely see a fisherman, and with fridges running low, we’re taking matters into our own hands and seeing if we can catch some dinner. The Kimberley is teeming with life and the Berkeley is no exception, chock-a-block full of barra, and soon enough, Shauno and Graham snag us some much-needed dinner supplies. With the fridges full, the boys carry on crossing the river.
Between us and the exit the track at Kalumburu Road lies a series of big river crossings of the Berkeley, the King George, and the Drysdale River. Of course, the spaces between these are filled with countless unknown bogs, marshes, and tributaries to keep us busy on our final leg.
LOW RANGE TRACK BUILDING
With the convoy rattled by vehicle issues, from leaking turbos, to no 4WD – not to mention the ongoing tyre and fuel supply issues – the boys carry own with the task of rebuilding this famous track that nature has reclaimed.
With the aid of GPS, the boys get a rough idea of where the former track was. Constant reattempts of finding the track continued, including blindly driving through sketchy river crossings with Shauno’s twin locked weapon as the Guinea Pig.
After every crossing we get a sense of false hope as the land opens again, to shortly return to dense grass and marshy land.
SHAUNO ON HIS SIDE, AGAIN!
Shaun has done a great job seeking out the track from the front of the pack, but as we start to get some miles down, things go a bit pear-shaped. Leading the charge through thick grass has again resulted in one side of the Dirty 30 collapsing into a bog hole, and if it weren’t for his ladder rack, Shaun would be completely on his side.
As quick as possible we’ve got the DMAX in position and the Runva winch hooked up to prevent him for rolling any further. Before you know it the Dirty 30 is back on 4 wheels, but not without issue. Because the 30 is low on diesel and was on its side for so long, the fuel pump needed to be hand pumped manually, then he was good to go.
SPINIFEX AND GRASS SEEDS
One thing that was a constant during this trip was the build-up of spinifex and grass seeds on all the vehicles. From across the bonnets, to under the vehicles and in the engine bay, it is unavoidable. You have got to be careful here as there is a real possibility of a fire with the hot components of 4WDs like the exhaust.
Every 4WD in the convoy carry at least one Firebox fire extinguisher, and we keep them in quick and easily accessible places using Kap Industry brackets. These brackets allow for the fire extinguisher to be tucked away at your feet with a quick-release bracket, rather than buried beneath your junk in a hard-to-reach area in case of the unthinkable. The key to these situations is to be able to get to your fire extinguisher lickety-split.
CAMP NIGHT 13
With the sun dipping below the horizon, a perfect camp spot has presented itself right on cue on the side of the track. Its has been a good day of progress and we are all ready for a cold beer or two, and a good feed.
Almost every meal we’ve had for dinner has been cooked on the coals of an unreal fire in a spectacular campsite, and tonight is no exception. It doesn’t take Shauno long to get his chef pants on and make some Fresh Barramundi Fish and Chips.
After a few weeks in the heat of the top end, your sense of temperature can get a little skewed. A morning chill of about 20 degrees has got us scrambling to light a fire for our barra breakfast and coffee.
Despite our big push yesterday, we only made it just 20kms from the Berkeley to our current campsite. With 160kms to go the boys have used their final jerry can of fuel, and word has come through over the satellite phone that Ronny is waiting for the water levels to settle at the Drysdale River.
Today’s objective is to make it to the King George River, about 40kms ahead, continuing through the thick scrub and marsh country, but we are determined to make it.
FUN IN THE MUD
On our way to the King George, we get to have some fun in the soft mud of the marshes and make our way to some proper low range bog holes. With a fresh coat of mud on all the 4WDs, the boys can’t wipe the smiles of their faces!
This part of the Kimberley might look dry, but it is made up of treacherous black soil. You only need to slip off the track line a few metres to be in real strife - and sometimes staying on track is not much better, with water-logged creeks present a real muddy challenge.
To avoid getting the tyres suctioned into the mud of these bogs badly the boys opt to use a set of MaxTrax and to assist getting some traction. We kept the Maxtrax in the bog holes even for those who needed to winch out, as they ease the pressure on the winch and make the recovery a lot safer – lifting the 4WDs up and out rather than dragging through.
OVERGROWN MARSH LAND
As we progress through the day, we come to what we think is the signs of an old track disappearing through dense undergrowth. After the two years of intense wet seasons, these tracks have been smothered by fallen trees and new growth that cover our path.
With the chainsaw out to forge a path and the boys blazing trails in the 4WDs, this slow and steady progress takes nearly two hours to cover 100m. Driving on this section of sharp branches has forced much of the convoy to plug and re-plug our already damaged tyres, with a record of 30 plugs in the one tyre. Sadly, the time has finally come to use the very last spare we have.
CAMPING NIGHT 14 – THE KING RIVER
Right on beer o’clock, we finally spot the King River, ready for a night to camp along the fresh water. Today represents the most kilometres we’ve done so far on the trip, and Ronny and our resupply is about 100kms away.
Our camp set ups are dialled in and efficient as possible, and before you know it, they boys a laying back with a fire going and a beer in hand. With our fridges looking a bit sad in terms of food, its time for Chef Whale to get a little creative. Shaun and Graham cheekily rummage the convoys supplies and create the Desperato Dinner.
This stunning morning marks over two weeks in the bush, and we have still got nearly 100kms to cover to finally reunite with Ronny and our supplies, and the crossing of the Drysdale River. Even if conditions improve, fuel is still our ongoing concern.
Its not long until we’re packing up camp and getting ready for the final push to the Drysdale, and with a lot of miles to cover it will be our biggest day by far in terms of kilometres, while running our 4WDs on the fumes of an empty tank. The Drysdale River itself is probably the deepest crossing of the trip, but that’s a problem for later.
THE KING GEORGE RIVER
As we have seen so often throughout this trip in the Kimberley, the track is often hardest to find coming in and out of the crossings, with exits washed away and the undergrowth covering any tyre marks.
Eventually though, Shauno has found a line forward that connects with the original track ahead. The rocky base of this crossing provided a solid track and created on of the least challenging efforts needed to cross a major river.
THE OLD MINING ROAD
With the King George River behind us, we found what we have been searching for – the remains of the old mining road. This track is not exactly a highway, but at least we know where we need to head.
As we venture down this road, we find a different obstacle to face, some suspicious looking quicksand. The convoy got another chance to give it a bit of right boot and have some fun.
The Old Mining Road gave us something we haven’t seen in weeks, a smooth road with an open stretch of land and a chance to stretch the legs. With an average of covering around 30 kilometres a day during the trip, reaching 30km/h feels like a highway!
REUNITING WITH RONNY
Low fuel lights are coming on across the convoy as the kilometres start to drop away, and for some of us the gauge is literally on empty. It would be gutting that after all this effort we end up stranded on the track.
Lucky for us, an angel of sorts has appeared up ahead. After hearing some muffles and mumbles over the UHF radios, Ronny is only a few kilometres away.
With hugs across the convoys from the welcomed sight that is Ronny, we finally have what we need to finish the Oombulgurri in confidence. Not only has he got jerry cans full of fuel, but Ronny also has enough spare tyres to swap out our plugged-up tyres.
THE DRYSDALE RIVER
Of course, this adventure is not quite over just yet, and Ronny is soon leading us to the last hurdle of the Oombulgurri Track – the Mighty Drysdale River. Last time the boys tackled this crossing, it was maybe a quarter of the size and ankle deep.
Shauno and Graham decide the smartest move to avoid the lightweight DMAX from floating away would be to tie off to the heavier Dirty 30 and get pulled through. The bonnet deep water caused moments of worry for a floating Graham, but the boys found the other end with nothing but a little water in the cabin. The convoy all followed suit in beautiful fashion with cheers and applause on the other side.
THE OOMBULGURRI TRACK COMPLETED
With the final crossing of the Drysdale, the Oombulgurri Track is finally done and dusted. 15 days of endless and countless challenges in the Kimberley, with some of the most stunning remote touring anyone could ever ask for.
A big thanks to Ronny - who offers tours across the winter seasons – for allowing us to reopen the Oombulgurri Track with him and take us on this wild adventure.
We travelled so far, have seen a lot and forged our own track through some of the toughest country in Australia. Get up here and experience the Kimberley and the Oombulgurri Track for yourself, places like this is why we build our 4WDs.
Maxtrax Recovery Tracks Series II Signature Orange - MTX02SO
MAXTRAX is the innovative, lightweight vehicle recovery device that's Australian designed, engineered and manufactured. Patented and rigorously tried, tested, trusted and proven in the world's toughest off-road events and expeditions. The MAXTRAX is the safe, simple, quick and easy method of sand, mud, slush and snow 4WD vehicle recovery. The MAXTRAX is an extraction device that's easily carried by almost anything with four-wheels, ensuring an easy way out if your vehicle becomes stuck.
- Lightweight, easy-to-use recovery and tred extraction device
- Large, aggressive cleats sink their teeth into tyre tread & tough terrain
- Built in handles and shovel allows you to get unstuck fast
- 2 x MAXTRAX Recovery Tracks & 2 Telltale Leashes included