For the first time in its 10 year history, the annual Drive 4 Life 4x4 tour ventured to the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The not-for-profit event raises money for low-profile charity organisations – like Northcott, a NSW-based charity that supports people with disabilities, and their families. Drive 4 Life has raised more than $748,000 for Northcott since the event began in 2006.
For the 2016 event, participants gathered at the starting point in Kununurra, where the convoy was split in two groups and sent in different directions to prevent traffic jams.
Group One went in an anti-clockwise direction along Gibb River Road returning along the Great Northern Highway; Group Two took the clockwise route along the Great Northern Highway returning via Gibb River Road.
The day before the official event kicked off, Group One travelled 70km from Kununurra to Lake Argyle where they took a four-hour boat cruise – the lake is almost 17 times the size of Sydney Harbour. There are two hydro-electric generators at Lake Argyle which generate enough electricity to power Kununurra, Wyndham, the Argyle Diamond Mine and the Lake Argyle Resort. The group saw many freshwater crocodiles on the banks, and even had a swim in the lake for good measure.
On the first official day, Group One went to El Questro where they spent three nights. From there they drove up past Drysdale River Station and stayed the night at King Edward River, after viewing the indigenous rock art and various artefacts. It was a short drive to the Mitchell Plateau where they walked to the falls. Virtually everyone took the helicopter option to return to the campsite.
The road from Mitchell Plateau to Kalumburu had seen better days, and it was a slow, bumpy trip. The group camped at Honeymoon Bay, and a few diehards took the opportunity to charter a fishing boat for several hours. The fishing was excellent, with all on board catching their bag limit within 20 minutes. The haul fed all 14 in the group for the next three nights.
Group Two went from Kununurra to the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu) where they all took helicopter rides over the area, followed by a walk into Cathedral Gorge and Piccaninny Gorge. From there they drove to Fitzroy Crossing via China Wall, near Old Hall’s Creek. At Fitzroy Crossing the boat trip through Geikie Gorge was truly impressive and all agreed that Geikie Gorge is arguably the most impressive gorge in the Kimberley.
After Fitzroy Crossing the group took Leopold Downs Road up to Tunnel Creek and waded through the tunnel under the mountain. Several people saw small freshwater crocodiles and some of the five species of bats which live in the tunnel. The group continued up to Windjana Gorge where they walked through the gorge and saw at least 50 freshwater crocodiles. They continued on the Gibb River Road and into Broome, with a quick stop in at Derby along the way.
The next morning at 7.00am the group boarded two light aircraft and flew up to the Horizontal Waterfalls – about 50 minutes away. After circling the falls several times so everyone could get photos, the group flew back to Cape Leveque for breakfast.
Following a two-hour swim after breakfast, the group flew to Cygnet Bay and visited the pearl farm run by the Brown family. They were taken on a Giant Tides Tour to witness the effects of the tidal movement. This was followed by an excellent lunch. After lunch and a tour of the pearl farm’s land operations, it was back on a plane to return to Broome. The tour was very well run by Kimberley Aviation, and all agreed it was an excellent day.
After leaving Kalumburu, Group One drove to Mt Barnett Roadhouse where they camped and visited Manning Gorge. From there it was down to Windjana Gorge (the reverse of the Group Two tour), which included the Geikie Gorge boat trip and the helicopter flights over the Bungle Bungles. Incidentally, these were run by Helispirit, who also operate from a strip at El Questro.
Group Two arrived at Mt Barnett Roadhouse from Broome just as Group One were leaving, so there was much swapping of experiences and tips on what to look out for. After visiting Manning Gorge, Group Two drove to El Questro where they spent the rest of the day settling in and watching the sunset from up on Saddleback Ridge.
The next day it was a day trip to Wyndham and the Five Rivers Lookout, and the group discovered the Rusty Shed Cafe at lunchtime. It was then back to El Questro via a stop to see the Prison Boab Tree. The next day they took the cruise up into Chamberlain Gorge, and this was followed by visiting various gorges and springs on the El Questro Station property.
Both groups arrived back in Kununurra on day 14 where the Drive 4 Life organisers hosted dinner for the participants at the Lakeside Resort, which was used as the Kununurra base. Drive 4 Life thanks Carol Shaw and all the staff at the Lakeside Resort.
This wouldn’t have been possible without generous sponsors who pay the bills, thus allowing every cent donated by the participants to go directly to Northcott.
A big thankyou goes to our principal sponsor: ARB 4x4. Thanks also to our major sponsors: Cooper Tires, IGA Supermarkets and 4X4 Australia magazine. Drive 4 Life would also like to thank Hema Maps for providing each participant with an atlas.
The next Drive 4 Life tour will be in the first quarter of 2017, and it will be in the Victorian High Country; the organisers are already busy identifying and driving new tracks for 2017.