The Gibb River Girl

The Gibb River Girl

Story by: Linda McCall

Meet Jo Drury, “The Gibb River Girl”, as I have playfully nicknamed her.   I first met Jo at Barn Hill Station in Western Australia while she was on a holiday with her husband Ross. We kept in touch and when I recently saw that she had completed the Gibb River ‘Solo!’ I had to catch up with her to find out all about it.

Jo on the Gibb River Road – Let the journey begin

For those of you that are not aware, the Gibb River is located in the Kimberly region of Western Australia. It has a total length of 660 km and whilst a major road for the people of the region it is very isolated, rough and rugged, definitely 4WD only for most of the way, and floods frequently.  It is definitely not a trip to take for the faint-hearted.

So, hold down your hats people as I introduce you to Jo Drury. This little lady has creativeness oozing out of all her pores and a great sense of humour.


Jo is proudly from Sandy Point, in the cooler state of Victoria.  A teacher of 38 years, specialising in Art & Woodwork, Jo has a great eye for design and is incredibly creative. She feeds her artistic flair by travelling all over the country, including a trip to Perth WA to learn how to basket weave with old beach rope scraps and driven to Queensland to learn how to make a rocking horse. She often creates large art structures and pieces for public areas as commissioned.

The Rocking Horse Jo made for her grandkids

Jo is a free spirit, and an unstoppable and adventurous soul who chooses to travel alone and loves it because then she doesn’t have to think about anyone else but herself.

“It might seem a bit selfish but, I spent my whole life looking after my family and teaching kids so traveling solo is great, I can do whatever I want when I want”

Well, traveling alone is not entirely true! Jo is a solo traveller but…

“Sometimes Eddy who I call ‘killer’ dog (A toy poodle mind you) travels with me and did so for most of 2016, we have lots of fun travelling but I can’t take him when I am planning trips like the Gibb River because of the National Parks”.

The sign said  ‘share the driving’, so we did

Never Wait, Just Go

As a traveller myself, I love hearing other people’s stories. In particular, as to what has prompted them to start travelling.  I believe everyone has a great story to tell and what I have discovered is often, somewhere on that journey, something happens that shakes up the status quo that triggers us to question ourselves.  “What’s important to me now?” Or “how can I experience my life differently, so that I am truly living my life?”  So, let’s find out what made Jo decide to go travelling, and see if you can relate to her story.

“After four decades of teaching, I retired and waited for my husband Ross to take his long service leave and go traveling. But he didn’t take it, and it didn’t happen.”

As Jo went on I heard the tone of her voice softened… then came the mortality check.

“…And then l lost my sister to cancer”.

That was it, the ball breaker that makes us get a move on.  She continued in an upbeat energetic matter-of-fact way.

“I wasn’t waiting around anymore, I just decided. I got to go and explore this beautiful country, which I have always wanted to do for so long.   That could have been me! and I am not waiting any longer”.


How she rolls

Now her husband keeps working, doing what he love’s and Jo either fly home or Ross just flies in and meets her when he can.  And they are both happy doing that.  This means Jo can bounce back to her home base in VIC’s Sandy Point for special occasions and then head off again into the wilderness for another adventure.

At the start of her adventures, Jo had the idea she would teach art workshops around Australia, which she did for a while.  Initially setting off with a trailer full of art supplies a small accident saw the trailer roll over and she lost all her art supplies.  From then on she just kept it simple, and now Jo just travels in her trusty Red 4×4 Nissan Navara with a tray back, with a sleeping compartment built in the middle, but also carries a pop-up tent.

Jo’s sleeping quarters

As a traveller myself, I truly love discovering all the different ways people express life and there is no right or wrong way.  ‘It is what it is’…and it is an individual interpretation of life. It’s perfect!

So, I know you are curious as to how Jo prepared for her trip so let’s find out…I should say my next chat with Jo was a barmy sparkling day and we faced time while she was down on her beach.

Preparing for the Gibb River

Q. How did you prepare for a trip like this?

A. A big part of the preparation for the trip was chatting with other people about their experience of it. When I mentioned I was planning to do it alone, people, lots of people tried to talk me out of it, but I know there were only looking out for my safety, but I was still up for the challenge. I thought it’s just another road, sure, it’s a bit ruff in places but it’s just another road and I had the gear and the vehicle that could handle it so I felt pretty safe.

Q. Did you run into any troubles on your trip?”

A. Not really, I’ve had worse! Like when my trailer rolled, and I lost all my art supplies that was worse. I only had one flat tyre on the Gibb River. That was about it, and there was a tyre shop half way down the track, so it was easy.  And…a minor hiccup, I did get a bit lost on one of my bush hikes, and had to wade through water filled with crocs (freshies) so that was not great, but funny when you look back at the things you do, that’s not highly recommended!

Q. What time of year did you do the Gibb River?

A. Early October, it was great not many people at that time of year, the road had been nicely graded, and it was not busy.

Q. What’s your advice for other travellers wanting to do the Gibb River?

A. Just do it! Don’t wait for anyone to go with you just go. Be prepared of course with good gear, water, food. But just go. Probably take a few spare tyres with you, I would recommend that.

Q. What is your ‘must see’ on the Gibb River?

A. It was all beautiful I am happy I did it, the Gorges were breathtaking, the hikes were awesome. But I couldn’t take little Eddie with me because it was a National Park. There are lots of great hikes, but don’t get lost like I did it’s easy to do, take my word for it. However, it does make for an exciting day” (as she giggles, rolling her eyes, remembering her unwillingness to swim with crocs.)

Hopefully a Croc free swimming hole

Q. When you travel what would be your ‘must have’ favourite travel item?

A. My back scratcher, I have it on the dash board and I never leave home without it.

Q. Is there anything else you recommend?

A. I also reckon that the Spot beacon is a good thing to take for safety if you get into trouble. I did take that with me.  The great thing about solo travel is that you don’t have to worry about anyone else but yourself. Even when you’re with you’re other half or a friend you still have to think about them and what they want to do. When you are on your own it’s just you. But, I do carry a little book of family photos with me on my travels.  

I travel very minimalistic, so it doesn’t cost me much. Also, I don’t eat much and don’t need much. Keep it simple is what I like. I love to shop in Op shops so if I need something I go fossicking for other people’s loved stuff. Also, I give the stuff I haven’t worn or not used much to the Salvos. It’s a win win!  When I first started traveling a few years ago, I took way too much. And now it’s about simple, simple travel.

The freedom of travel

Q. What’s the best thing about traveling the Gibb River and solo travel?

A. It’s a great experience and you meet some awesome people on the road when you travel.

Q. What’s the worst thing about traveling?

A. Caravan parks, they won’t give you a single travellers rate and all a solo traveller wants is a safe piece of ground to stay, without paying through the nose for it. I don’t run an aircon all night I just want a piece of dirt.

Q. How often do you tend to travel throughout the year?

A. Generally, 5-6 months at a time.

Q. Where to next Jo?

A. Queensland.  Up to the tip of Australia! Look out!

Story by: Linda McCall from the Global Adventure Shop

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