We got up and left Broome at 5:00 for a long, remote drive through the Kimberley. Better to be safe than sorry, we detoured to a place called Derby for some new tyres and to get the car serviced. Feeling in fine form, off we went!
250 kms later, just after exiting Fitrzroy Crossing – ‘BANG’ goes the gear box!
Right through Western Australia, we’ve been told to be on high alert when passing through Fitzroy Crossing. “Don’t leave the car alone”, “lock the doors even when you’re inside”, “remove anything from the roof racks”. Without an issue, we fuel’d up and kept moving, then only less than 5 kilometres out of town, our long drive came to a halt.
Our manual transmission and front diff had given up, luckily, we we’re only a few k’s from a resort and campground, so we were able to very slowly (& loudly) creep back there and roll into a campsite, unluckily, we were in possibly the most remote part of our entire lap around the country and certainly not the safest place or best for finding car parts.
First things first, we gave RACV a call, & they were incredible! For our little fee of about $5 a week, they ended up paying for all of our accommodation, called us regularly to make sure that we were okay and even offered to tow us anywhere in the country for free.
With a lack of Subaru spare parts in WA, we struck gold in Cairns and had them sent 3,500 kms to us.
We’ll keep busy in the meantime at the pool or bar – anywhere out of the heat!
Fitzroy Crossing is about 400 kms to the east of Broome, out in the middle of no where. The town is more-or-less a couple of petrol stations and a few other small businesses for necessities, surrounded by pretty much nothing. It’s a very hot place far from anywhere.
Although the town isn’t the greatest, we had made it to the Fitzroy River Lodge, right next to the river, about 2 kms out of town.
The place has a pool, bar and restaurant, so, considering the circumstances, it’s a great place to be stuck, but we had no air con and a major lack of internet.
Knowing that our transmission was going to take a few weeks to arrive, we couldn’t spend the whole time by the pool, so we picked up some employment at the river lodge in exchange for a healthy pay, free food and importantly: a room with air con!
Papi and I joined the maintenance team, which was a bit of fun. I also did some night patrols from 11pm-4am, as the place used to get its fair share of break-ins from locals looking for grog – which luckily doesn’t happen anymore with night patrol in place. I eventually then started doing house keeping with Eva as my boss, when she wasn’t busy in the restaurant.
It all ended up being a good solution for while we were stuck & a decent experience.
Finally, the car was back on the road, but we didn’t leave right away as we gave the River Lodge a 6 week commitment when they hired us. They were good to us, so we returned the favour and stayed the whole time. We worked almost every day, and when we managed to have some time off together, we went exploring.
The gorge was huge! Some of the rock walls were 300 metres tall and the pools were full of crocodiles. It was a fun place to check out, but with the temperature in the mid 40’s, we didn’t go far and decided to go find some shelter from the blistering heat at Tunnel Creek.
Tunnel Creek was really damn cool, but we didn’t have a torch and we needed one. As the name suggests, the place is a cave with a creek going through the middle of it, the cave tunnels all of the way through a hill for hundreds of metres and opens up on the other side.
Just before entering the cave, a sign warned us to be careful of the crocodiles, and about 50 metres into the cave in absolute pitch black, there was a big splash next to us, so we quickly made our way back to the car and called it a day.
Around 80-90 kms back towards Broome is a giant Boab tree that has a hollow centre that was apparently once used as a prison. The thing was massive!
One of the main reasons that people visit Fitzroy Crossing is for Geikie Gorge, about 20 kms out of town where the Fitzroy and Margaret River meet. The place is normally explored via boat tours, but as the tourist season is over, our only option was to take a look from the river bank.
Just down from the River Lodge is the original Fitzroy River crossing.
Back before the Great Northern Highway was built, travellers used to take a dirt track along the river and when the water level was low enough, they’d make their way across the river and then head to the historical Crossing Inn, which was the first established hotel in the entire Kimberley region. We went down there to watch the sunset with a few beers.
The day after, the wet season arrived and the rain poured down. We couldn’t even get close to the place again, with the water level quickly reaching the top of the river banks.
After a very hot and dry stay, over the last few days, the heavy rain has barely stopped and Fitzroy Crossing has been flooded in and become an island. The small town is above the flood water but there’s no way in our out. We’re scheduled to leave in a few days, but unless the rain stops now, we’ll be extending our stay!
Let us know in the comments section below if you’ve ever been stuck in a remote town!
If you happen to make your way out here some time and are lucky enough to still have your car working, here’s a brief guide to visiting Fitzroy Crossing that we’ve whipped together since we’ve been here.
Up next: we’ll be heading off once the flood water clears and making our way through the rest of the Kimberley, then over to Darwin and Kakadu. Wish us luck!
EDIT: While we were broken down in Fitzroy Crossing, the ABC interviewed us about our experience. Listen to it here!