A Travellerspoint blog

Day 66 - Tunnel Creek to Cable Beach

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Today was the day of our Tunnel creek walk.  I'd been looking forward to this since I first read the itinerary.  The notion of a creek flowing all the way through a limestone mountain, carving a tunnel large enough to walk through, was really interesting.

The cliffs of Tunnel Creek

The cliffs of Tunnel Creek

It was better than my imaginings.  We began by climbing over pink marble boulders before entering the cave along the bottom of which runs Tunnel Creek.  At times the footing is sandy, elsewhere it's discrete river smoothed rocks or shelves of pitted limestone.  Sometimes the bottom is dry but you're often in the creek, rarely more than knee deep, but sometimes to the bottom of hitched up board shorts...unless you've got ducks disease...

Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek


Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek


Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek

We saw a frog (it jumped passed Karen as she entered the cave eliciting a squeal), a ghost bat, and a small fresh water croc.  We took a slight detour around 1/3 of the way in and went up into a smaller cave to look at some stalagmites / tites and columns including one crystallised section.  A little further on the roof of the tunnel had eroded away allowing sunlight in but soon it was back to the darkness broken only by our (for some of us pretty feeble) torches.

Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek

It's about 720m long end to end.  We got there at about 8:40am. At the far end we checked out some more rock art and then heard the tale of Jandamarra and the battle of Windjana gorge.

Looking at rock art at the other end of Tunnel Creek

Looking at rock art at the other end of Tunnel Creek

After we returned through the tunnel we set out for Derby on the western coastline.  As we travelled we saw various birds including some buzzards which have learnt to work in pairs to eat emu eggs.  One flies down, attacking and annoying the emu until the emu finally leaves its nest to chase the buzzard away.  Then the other buzzard swoops in behind and rolls the emu egg away until it can find a way to crack it on or with a rock.  The other buzzard finds it and together they eat the contents of the egg.

About 90km away from Derby the countryside just flattens out.  About 75km out, we saw another massive boab and some termite mounds that looked like they used to be taller but had melted in the heat and sagged downward to form bulbous protrusions on their side.  Adam likened them to dinosaur droppings.

Petrified dinosaur poo?

Petrified dinosaur poo?


WA roads at their best

WA roads at their best

We were in Derby for lunch and saw Derby's leaning boab, the semicircular pier, the signs that describe Derby's 11m tides (apparently the 2nd biggest in world), a boab that had been used as a prison tree for captive aboriginals during a sad period in our history when black-birding was rife, and what was once the longest horse trough in the southern hemisphere.

Boab prison tree, Derby, WA

Boab prison tree, Derby, WA

After Derby we drove on and crossed the mighty Fitzroy river which is over 620 km long and, when in flood, gets over 11km wide and moves the 2nd highest volume of flood water in the world after the Nile.  It's also one of the last habitats for a species of saw tooth fish.

Just after 3 we stopped at a BP roadhouse where Adam gave those of us in the back seat one last big bump to remember him by.  We continued on to Broome where we had a look at the sea from one of the headlands and then, shortly after 5, we were sitting at the other end of town on the northern end of Cable Beach (along with many others in 4wd vehicles - all pretty puny when compared to our 13 tonne 4wd truck) waiting for the sunset.

Broome Headland

Broome Headland

With the wide white sandy beach, beautiful water, gentle waves and camel trains silhouetted against the sunset it was a beautiful end to an incredible road trip across the top end.

Cable Beach sunset

Cable Beach sunset

Then we went and checked in to our various hostels / hotels, showered and met up for a final dinner - all looking markedly different to the scraggly dust covered crew that had come out of the Kimberleys an hour or two before.

Final stop for the oldies?  Bed!  The youngin's went off to the beach, 6 packs in hand to party on.

Posted by pkd064 05:35 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes beaches people history caves june wa Comments (0)

Day 65 - Curlews, ant bums and Windjana Gorge

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We woke to another cloudless sky.  This run of fine days has been such a pleasant contrast to the first half of our trip...but doesn't do anything to lay the dust.

Karen cooked pancakes for breakfast to give us all some energy for our day which was going to start with a short 500m walk into Bell gorge.  Another gorge you say?  Yep, but they all have their distinctive features and unique beauty and, when camp grounds sometimes don't have shower facilities, a quick swim makes you and your fellow passengers much nicer to be around.

Walking into Bell Gorge

Walking into Bell Gorge


Bell Gorge

Bell Gorge


Wash holes, Bell Gorge

Wash holes, Bell Gorge

Bell gorge had some deeply gouged holes in the rocks on its edges, some of which were deep enough to climb down into.  It also had a naturally formed slippery dip that those who went swimming were soon sliding down to splash into the water and, further down stream, some rapids to clamber over and let the currents carry you along.  Here's a pic of the more adventurous ones coming back from the rapids.  At one point they looked like a synchronised swimming team.

The explorers return, Bell Gorge

The explorers return, Bell Gorge

Once we'd had a swim or sit, we returned to camp and began today's drive.  Adam started his tour guide narrative by telling us about how the King Leopold ranges had been deemed impenetrable by an early explorer named Alexander Forest.  

Another chap, Frank Hahn, heard Forest's account about this impenetrable range and decided he'd have a go at it.  Unlike Forest he didn't have much funding for his venture but did manage to map a passage through the range.  It was he who named Bell gorge after a doctor who provided his medical supplies.  After sharing that account with us, Adam pointed out a couple of boab trees that drovers use to mark the point of entry to the pass through the range.

Markers for the range crossing

Markers for the range crossing

Later while we were driving, Karen asked about a distinctive and extremely sad sounding bird cry that she'd heard through the night.  Adam answered her question by telling us an aboriginal account about a fella that was a lousy hunter.  

After coming back repeatedly without food for his family and being berated for his lack of skills, one day he decided he HAD to bring home some meat so, not having caught anything again, he sliced a section of flesh from his own thigh, concealed the injury beneath his dilli bag, and took the meat to his tribe claiming it was from an animal.  He enjoyed the praise while quietly enduring the pain...but of course the next day came and he had to go hunting again.  Failing to catch anything, he sliced meat from his other leg and returned to his tribe.  

This went on for a few days until, while sitting with the tribe, someone noticed blood pooling beneath his legs and then they discovered what he had done.  Disgusted by what he had done and what they had eaten, he was banished from the tribe and turned into a bird to walk the earth forever more.  The plaintive night cry of the curlew is him walking around campsites pleading for forgiveness.  The skinny legs and big knees of the curlew look like his human legs did after he'd sliced all the flesh from them.

After one of our stops we returned to our seat to find that Adam had left a book there open to a page showing a picture of a big kneed bustard which, we presume, looks like or is another name for this particular curlew.

Curlew, as seen on Wikipedia

Curlew, as seen on Wikipedia

This entry is being written way after the actual events but I think we saw a granite outcrop known as Queen Victoria's Head.  The road then began to climb and we worked our way up to a lookout where we took photos back toward the King Leopold ranges.  Just before 1pm we crossed the Napier ranges and then the Leonard river.

By 2 we were at today's destination and some of us were walking in Windjana gorge.  Unlike some of the other gorges, Windjana is very wide in parts, has wide long sand beds between the gorge walls / river banks and swimming is not allowed because of the prevalence of large fresh water crocs.  They're not aggressive like the salties but can inflict nasty injuries if you stand onor startle them.  We saw 4 crocs while we walked.  

Fresh water croc, Windjana Gorge

Fresh water croc, Windjana Gorge

Fresh water croc, Windjana Gorge

Fresh water croc, Windjana Gorge

Fresh water croc, Windjana Gorge

Fresh water croc, Windjana Gorge

We saw some more rock art and some fossils embedded in the limestone cliffs.  Adam also took us up to see a truly massive and gnarly boab tree, showed us some more bower bird nests and gave us an opportunity to lick an ant's bum.  Others said it tasted like lemon sherbet but mine didn't taste like anything at all - it's bad enough that I licked an ant's bum but I'd hate to think that it was flavourless because it had been previously licked. :(

Fossil in Windjana Gorge

Fossil in Windjana Gorge

Rock Stacks, Windjana Gorge

Rock Stacks, Windjana Gorge

Big Boab, Windjana Gorge

Big Boab, Windjana Gorge

Some of us remained in the gorge and Adam took back some drinks so they could sit and watch the sunset.  I went back to Karen who'd chosen to stay at camp.

Later that night Alan led us in a game of charades, with Karen guessing more of them than anyone else.  If you mentioned Alan and 'Robin' to anyone who was there that night that probably smile and laugh.  Paul also did a demo of some popping and locking moves and taught us how to  do a couple of them.  I'll have to break them out at our next church dance and embarrass my kids ;)

Speaking of Paul, I'd already mentioned that he plays the didgeridoo and is a keen photographer.   Now you know he pops and locks and it turns out that he's also a certified hypnotherapist.  What an interesting mix.

Posted by pkd064 14:31 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes waterfalls people animals birds history june wa Comments (0)

Day 64 - Manning Gorge

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I'm writing this entry using fragmented notes so it may not be a complete record of the day.  If any of my fellow passengers want to add or correct anything then please feel free to comment.

As we left our bush camp, Adam told us about Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and the Coffee Royal incident (you can read about it in the entry about Sir Charles in Wikipedia) with emphasis on the death of two of those who went searching for SCKS.  The whole saga was played out in the Kimberleys, where we currently were, and the Tanami desert where we had been some time ago.

Our first real objective for the day was to hike Manning Gorge and swim at the waterfalls.  The walk to the waterfalls takes about an hour, is just over 2.5km long and goes through some rocky terrain so it's a good idea to wear decent shoes, perhaps even hiking boots, but that's a bit tricky because you have to start by swimming across a river.

There was meant to be a small boat there in which people's boots, clothes, cameras etc could be ferried over, along with those people who aren't strong swimmers, but the boat was gone.  What was there was a few polystyrene containers, old fruit boxes perhaps, that gear could be put in so that you could push it in front of you as you swam over the river.

Manning River crossing

Manning River crossing

Some of the stronger swimmers, like Bec, Michelle etc, went across with a load and then brought a container back for someone else to use.  It was a fairly straightforward, even enjoyable, exercise complicated only by the need to assist Karen and Alan across the river.  Both did well.

At / near the gorge Adam showed us some rock paintings that were quite different in style to any that we had seen before.  Interestingly this part of the Kimberley ranges is rich with boab trees and this style of painting has the same distribution as the boabs.  Even more interestingly the art strongly resembles a style used in a region in Africa where boab trees are quite common.  Hmmmm?

African style rock art

African style rock art

Boab tree

Boab tree

The Manning Gorge Falls are great - much wider and higher than most of the others that we had seen.  Some of the braver / crazier folks (Adam, Bec, Rachel, Michelle, Roger & ?) climbed some slippery rocks down which the waterfalls were falling so that they could get to a ledge to jump into the pool.  I wasn't game enough to do it.  The jump itself was high enough to make me hesitate but the clincher was having to climb the falls without my glasses...just too risky.

Manning River Falls

Manning River Falls

When we crossed the river again on our way out of the gorge Adam loaned Karen his snorkel and goggles.  Although I swam near her, she got herself across without assistance.

We stopped briefly at the Mt Barnett roadhouse, such a dusty spot, where Adam refilled the water tanks on the truck and befriended a cattle dog bitch who'd recently had a litter by letting her lick the empty wrapper of a Weis bar that we'd bought for him.

Mt Barnett Roadhouse

Mt Barnett Roadhouse

After a short drive to Galvans Gorge we saw another won-jen-a (that's how it sounds, I'm uncertain of the spelling) rock painting which represents the spirit of the water hole.  It's one of the few paintings that is repainted each wet season.  Apparently it's never drawn with a mouth because the aborigines believe if a mouth is shown that all the rain will rush out and not come again and the distinctive hair represents lightning bolts.

Painting of a Wanjina

Painting of a Wanjina


Galvans Gorge

Galvans Gorge

On our way to Silent Grove, our destination for today, Adam caught a larger ~1.8m black headed rock python.  The feeling of the muscles in the middle of his body, as he worked his way forward from one of Adam's hands to another, was remarkable.

Another python

Another python

We're at Silent Grove in Bells Gorge now and these coordinates, 17.066392' S 125.249400' E, are the location of the best thing I've seen today...a flushing toilet!

Posted by pkd064 05:02 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes waterfalls people animals june wa Comments (1)

Day 63 - Leaving El Questro

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We've all become so good at breaking camp and getting on our way and setting up camp at day's end that I won't bother mentioning it anymore.

This morning began with a very early visit to Zebedee springs to beat the many who would arrive later in the morning.  Apparently you can't come too late as Zebedee closes at noon for 'private functions'.  We're told that's for the high rollers who come out to El Questro via helicopter and stay at the more exclusive parts of this wilderness retreat.

Livistona Palm trees on the way in to Zebedee Springs, El Questro

Livistona Palm trees on the way in to Zebedee Springs, El Questro

Unlike the springs at Mataranka, these could rightfully claim to be thermal springs.  Like El Questro gorge, these permanent waters create a rain forest like environment but it's even lusher.  The pools are pleasantly warm, 28 - 32' all year round, particularly if you get into those right near the source.  We had a soak in several of them before hopping out but the morning air, just after 7am, was quite a contrast to the warm water.

Then it was onto the Gibb River Road again with a photo opportunity just after 9am at the Pentecost river.  Adam unloaded us, took the truck across and then came back so we could take some photos.  The more trusting of us got in close so that they could get a good shot so, naturally, Adam obliged by going faster as he approached the river's edge to create a good bow wave. ;)

Pentecost River crossing

Pentecost River crossing

(Here's a piece of IT trivia for all my colleagues back at work...according to Wikipedia a photo of the Pentecost river was included in Windows 7's Australia wallpaper theme.  I don't have access to a Windows PC to verify that)

That river bank (I think?) was one of the few places that had mobile connectivity so we briefly called each of the kids.

Further along the Gibb we also crossed the Durack river and then, around morning tea time, we hiked into Bindoola Falls.  Having seen the Devil's Marbles earlier in the trip, my first thought on seeing this area was that the rock formations were the Devil's Building Blocks with big square sections of rock, stacked one atop the other to make the sides of the gorge, cliffs and water hole.

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Karen and I didn't go for a swim, choosing instead to lie in the shade and let our togs dry on the nearby rocks.  It was really pleasant but our rest was interrupted by cries of "croc".  I was very skeptical as Adam was so particular about where we swam and this water hole was so high up in a gorge but Bec thought she had spotted a little croc, told Adam who initially dismissed her claims and, when she persisted, he looked closer and then caught the little freshie.  He only showed it to us very briefly so as not to get it agitated and then set it free.

After we left Bindoola and continued up the Gibb, Adam pulled off the road at some spot that appeared little different to any other spot, and took us up to look at some aboriginal rock engravings, a burial niche that still contained paper bark wrappings and we found a native beehive.

I can't remember where we lunched but around 2:20 we stopped at the intersection of the Gibb River and Kalumburu roads to gather firewood.  About 15 mins later we were at the Gibb River itself.  

Adam took us there just so we could see it and cross it and then we went back to our regular path which took us to the Barnett River gorge where some had a swim, we set up camp, had stir fry for dinner and another cake was baked in the camp oven.  Alan, who seems to have become our de facto entertainment director, led us in a game of truth / lie.  

Barnett River

Barnett River

During the evening some guys in a 4wd with a tinny on top and a buggy on a trailer behind dropped in to see if they could share our camp site.  They ended up moving on.

Oh, this is another site where we have to take a shovel and dig a hole if we need to go to the toilet.  Unfortunately the ground is pretty rocky and, based on my late night discoveries while trying to find a secluded spot, some must find it too difficult to dig an adequate hole.  Yuk!

Given the lack of sound around me, other than someone snoring, I think I've taken so long to type this and amend some previous day's notes that I might be the last to sleep tonight...unless Paul is still out there somewhere taking shots of the night sky.  I'm sorry that I kept closing the truck door on you Paul.

Posted by pkd064 17:06 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes animals rivers june wa Comments (1)

Day 62 - El Questro

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El Questro has lots of gorges to see and hike in.  

Having seen Emma Falls yesterday, we started today by going into Amalia gorge.  Shortly after 8 we were on our way into the gorge, though it's more of a steep valley than a true gorge.  It's deemed moderately difficult by EQ's standard, had us walking up a dry rocky river bed most of the way and, because it's more of a valley, there was little shade.  It did have a nice deep rock pool though with a ledge above it that a few of us did some bomb dives from.

Amalia Gorge, El Questro

Amalia Gorge, El Questro

We returned to the camp ground for lunch and then went out to do El Questro gorge.  All of it.  

Those 3 little words simply don't convey enough.  It began easily with a walk through palm trees and ferns, odd to see in what had been such a typical outback landscape.  I think they were there because the creek in this gorge is also fed from a spring.  

El Questro Gorge Entrance

El Questro Gorge Entrance


El Questro Gorge

El Questro Gorge

We got to a small swimming hole fairly quickly and the the trail began to change.  It became much more rocky - not little ones that crunch pleasantly underfoot - boulders, frequently wet with one point where you had to take your hiking boots and other gear off and pass it person to person over your heads while some of us stood waist deep in the water and those who'd gone before us waited at the top of a small climb / waterfall to receive the boots etc.

Once up that climb the path switched back and forth from one side of the water to the other to avoid boulders / ridges / small cliffs that couldn't be climbed.  Karen and I left our aqua socks on for the remainder.  They were a boon giving us grip and confidence on the wet rock but our feet still got bruised through the thin soles.

The younger ones, Adam, Paul and the girls, were all like rock wallabies seemingly climbing with little effort under, over or around everything.  The rest of us, particularly we oldies, were somewhat slower and careful.  

About 2/3s of us made it all the way.  The others prudently chose to wait at earlier points along the climb for us to return.  I'm told that Diana had some scary moments, including 3 falls, one backwards while climbing up a steep section.  Fortunately she landed in water missing 2 large rocks.

El Questro Gorge

El Questro Gorge

Karen still had some after-effects from the previous day's tablets which made her a little unsteady but she and I soldiered on all the way to the top and back again.  I can't speak for the others but I feel quite a sense of accomplishment.  It reminds me of how we felt after we climbed Marion's Lookout in Tassie.

We ended the day by going to Saddle Back ridge to watch the sunset. Adam drove up part way and then parked the truck.  Apparently he's had the truck at the top but isn't allowed to take it up anymore.  Given what I've seen of his and the truck's abilities, I'm inclined to believe his claim.

Anyway that left us with about a 400m walk up a steep dusty road to reach the summit.  Others set out but I had to find one of those native lava-trees and have a toilet stop.  Fortunately, when we finally started up the slope, a young couple from Karatha came by in their 4wd and gave us a lift.

Like the other outback sunsets this was great and it was interesting to see the light passing through the meandering trail of dust that was hanging in the air over the road in the valley beneath us.

Sunset, Saddleback Ridge, El Questro

Sunset, Saddleback Ridge, El Questro

Karen and I struck up a conversation with another couple who weren't from our tour.  It turned out that they were from Morayfield just south of our home in Queensland.  It pays to have a chat - they gave us a lift back down the hill but we had to stand on their 4wd's running boards and hang on to their roof rack.

Posted by pkd064 14:44 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises trees hiking june wa karen Comments (0)

Day 61 - The Bungle Bungles by air, Gibb River road

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In what were quickly becoming his trade mark phrases, Adam had us wake "when the birds begin to sing" because today was going to be a "big day" after all "every day on tour is a big day"

A few of us chose to take a helicopter flight over the Bungle Bungles this morning.  All had chosen the 18 minute flight as it seemed a good compromise between duration and price.  There were enough of us to justify taking up 3 helicopters, 1 x 5 passenger Bell Long Ranger and 2 x 3 passenger smaller craft.  Luckily for Adam there was 1 vacant seat so he got a free ride.

Adam, Bill, Vivian, Karen and I went in the Long Ranger with Bill in the fully enclosed front cabin, the ladies in the middle (flying backwards) row with the half doors and then Adam and I in the back seats without any doors beside us.

The Bell Long Ranger (photo courtesy of Diana)

The Bell Long Ranger (photo courtesy of Diana)

We'd been warned that it would be very windy, quite cold, and all loose items were forbidden in the cabin so that nothing could be sucked out the doors and into the tail rotor which meant that Karen and I couldn't take any photos as we only had our iPhones without wrist straps.  We'll rely on the good will of the others to send us a few of their photos.  I did get to log the flight though using the GPS app with my iPhone zipped into an inside pocket.

All 3 choppers were meant to go up together but one, not ours, had some trouble with its engine governor taking too long to bring revs back down when it first lifted so they set back down and waited for us to return.

The flight was fantastic and gave a whole new perspective on both the scale and shapes of the Bungle Bungles.  They are simply remarkable structures and, because of how soft the rock is, constantly changing.

Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)

Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)


Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)

Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)

Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)

Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)

Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)

Bungle Bungles from the air (photo courtesy of Diana)

We were fortunate as the day wasn't as cold as expected and the Long Ranger wasn't as windy as their briefing had me expecting it to be.  What I didn't expect though was how instinctively, despite my believing I was mentally ok with it, I leaned away from the open doorway to my right each time he banked that way.  Once I noticed it, I tried to consciously counter it but it was really hard.  Clearly I have a strong sense of self preservation.

My GPS logged a maximum speed of 172km an hour. I've been faster on a bike but it was still impressive.

After the last group got their flight we drove on to Wyndham for lunch and then set out for the next phase of our adventure - the Gibb River Road.  Adam parked the bus near the first Gibb River Road signs in a way that, well, let's just say it would have given us a great photo opportunity but, sadly, some road workers came along and we had to move.

The start of the Gibb River road

The start of the Gibb River road


Bull dust floating in the air

Bull dust floating in the air

After we got some conventional photos we drove on.  The landscape changes constantly as we go around Oz.  Here in this part of the Kimberleys we saw ranges made of King Leopold sandstone...a mix of quartz sandstone and dolerite...though Adam also mentioned calcite.

By mid to late afternoon we had entered the boundaries of El Questro station and wilderness camp with our first stop being Emma Falls.  A little further up the road we stopped, as we did on most afternoons, to "play the firewood game" (read that with an echoing sound to get he full effect of Adam's announcement).  This time Adam parked on the rocky banks of a river crossing where there were many fallen trees, presumably from floods.

El Questro road river crossing

El Questro road river crossing


Firewood

Firewood

With the truck laden with timber we continued on to El Questro's campground where we found a luxurious oasis waiting we for us complete with shop, restaurant, live music, nice grassy sprinklered camp grounds and, best of all after days of dust, individual ensuite toilet and shower huts with endless hot water...and we'll be here two nights!

Posted by pkd064 14:09 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes accommodation june wa Comments (0)

Day 60 - Purnululu / The Bungle Bungles by foot

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Karen thought I'd rolled over and playfully tapped on her swag shortly before sunrise this morning so she elbowed me...and woke me up in time for me to hear something hop across my swag and then, out of the corner of my eye, I watched a toad hop down to the water.

After yesterday's 4wd-ing Karen asked Adam what the roads would be like today.  He warned  her that the entry into the Bungle Bungles was long and bumpy so she took a motion sickness tablet with breakfast.  The usual morning routine, albeit without access to any showers or toilets, followed and then we headed off to the Bungle Bungles Visitor Centre and then to the formations themselves.

Yes the road was bumpy but it was well worth it.  Over the course of the day we did several walks (I think they were Cathedral Gorge, Domes walk, Echidna Chasm, Picaninny Creek and the Lookout, not necessarily in that order), had lunch in between walks, took lots of photos, quickly setup camp late in the afternoon and then returned to watch the sunset (in much the same way as it's done at Uuru).  

Cathedral Gorge

Cathedral Gorge


Purnululu

Purnululu


Picaninny Creek

Picaninny Creek

As amazing as Uluru is for its sheer size and majesty, the Bungle Bungles offer so much variety and such striking colors.  I'm smitten but Karen's still an Uluru fan.

Because of national park constraints we had a timber shortage so couldn't have a campfire tonight.  The fire pit looked odd with candles perched around the rim and, unlike the previous two nights, it was quite a cool night so the warmth would have been welcomed.  

As usually happens when Karen takes motion sickness tablets, she got really weary at the end of the day so we went off to sleep early

Posted by pkd064 14:44 Archived in Australia Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises june wa karen perry Comments (0)

Day 59 - Adam the adventurer

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Well, as a group we're reasonably good at the start of day process too.  By 9am we'd eaten, broken camp, loaded the truck and were nearly 200km away from Katherine, some 500km away from Darwin, on the Victoria highway and were about to cross the Victoria river.

The countryside around us had high rocky bluffs that, from some angles, reminded me of the main mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I'm not sure the picture captures that.  

Escarpment near Victoria River

Escarpment near Victoria River

The Victoria River was blue, beautiful and wide and you could see a range in the background that exhibited the layering that's so common of many rock formations up here.

Victoria River

Victoria River

As the kilometres disappeared beneath our wheels we rolled on through Timber Creek, passed briefly through the northern end of the Gregory National Park, saw the first of many boab trees and continued on toward the NT - WA border.

Adam reminds Karen and me of our son Wade.  They're about the same age, height and build, both are too tanned for their own good, have hair that tends to go wavy / curly, a nature that you warm to straight away, appear to be able to speak to anyone, and both seem to love doing adventurous things...

About 100k short of the border, without any explanation, Adam abruptly stopped, leapt out of the truck and ran back behind us out of everyone's view.  We were all sitting there wondering what was going on until someone near the front called out, "He's got a snake!"

Many of us climbed out to have a closer look but Karen, not entirely comfortable with snakes,  remained on board.  I had to smile moments later though when Adam realised the truck wasn't pulled far enough off the road so, snake in hand, he climbed back on board to move it.  When he got back outside again we all jostled for position to get photos / a closer look / to touch the black headed python.  

Black headed python

Black headed python

After the python was released we continued on toward the border.  About 20k out, at the junction of the highway and Duncan Road, we came upon the Beef Road Monument.  

It's been defaced and doesn't have the plaque explaining why it's there but it commemorates the completion of the beef road, "originally a series of unformed tracks linking pastoral holdings" that became one continuous gravel road in the 1950s and was subsequently improved, sealed and declared a national highway in later decades.  It's been a boon to all the cattle stations who need to get their stock to port.  It's of particular interest to us because Karen's Dad, during a period of drought in the late 60s and early 70s, had to leave the family farm and went to build roads in the Northern Territory including part of the beef road.  That would have been a terrible job!  We were here in winter.  I can't begin to imagine how hard that must have been in the hotter months.

When we got to the border we took photos, had lunch and made sure that all fruit and veges and other unprocessed foods were eaten before we passed through WA's quarantine check point.  The folks staffing the check point were very diligent...not at all like our experiences at other state borders that relied solely on an honour system.

When we saw the Pine Creek mine lake yesterday I thought it was pretty big.  How wrong could I be?  Our next stop, Lake Argyle, was astounding.  At its normal supply level it holds 10.7 million megalitres, nearly 1600 times the size of the Pine Creek lake, close to 400 times the capacity of the 3 dams in the Maroochy river catchment up home, and 18 times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour.  If it's ever completely filled it will be 54 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.

Adam claims the explosion that was used to blow up a nearby hill to provide the rocks for the dam wall was, at the time, the largest non-nuclear explosion in the southern hemisphere.  In terms of the size of the dam wall to the volume of water stored, this is the most efficient dam in Australia.

The numbers only tell part of the story though...it's amazing to look at.  Beautiful blue water, surrounded by mountain tops, some of which are now islands poking up through the lake's surface, on a scale that's difficult to comprehend.  I'll try to give you some idea of just how big it is using some photos and maps.

The boat in this photo...

...is on this part of the lake, which is this bit...

...seen from here...

...but that's just this part of this...

Apparently we could see about 2 to 3% of the lake from our lookout.

Our next stop was Kununurra, a town that is one of the beneficiaries of Lake Argyle and the Ord River Irrigation Scheme that flows from it.  The water allows farmers to grow various things that wouldn't survive without the irrigation including commercial Indian Sandalwood.

We didn't visit any of the farms though.  We were here for toilets and supplies.  Once those needs were met, we went to the terminus of the Victoria Highway west of Kununurra and then turned southward down the Great Northern Highway.  

About 100km later Adam turned right onto a sandy track and Karen, Bec, Michelle and I learnt another reason why being last onto the bus on the first day of the trip isn't a good idea.  We were in the back seats, right over the rear wheels so we got quite a ride as Adam went 4wd-ing into our intended bush camp site...only to find it occupied when we got there so we enjoyed the ride again on the way out...and again a few 100m back up the road when we turned down another track.  As we were bouncing up and down we saw some wild brumbies.

Once the 'fun' stopped, we set up our swags at various points on the sandy banks of March Fly Creek, a small tributary of the nearby Wilson River which flows into the southern end of Lake Argyle.  I shaped Karen and my bed base out of a deep sandy section right near the water, giving it a profile a little like a sun lounge, raised at one end.

Adam's daring side surfaced again with the evening meal...20 passengers, mostly oldies, in the bush with no toilet facilities other than a shovel and a roll of toilet paper and he cooked up a Thai green curry.  Brave or mischievous? ;)

We're two days into this leg of our trip and I think I know everybody's names even if I'm not sure how to spell them:- Bex, Michelle, Mick and Rhonda, Rach, Missy, Peter and Jenny, Paul, Diana, Alan and Leah, Hermund and Rosa, Roger and Marion, Bill and Vivian and, of course, Adam.

Posted by pkd064 14:42 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes lakes people june wa nt Comments (0)

Day 58 - leaving Darwin

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This morning wasn't a great start to our Darwin to Broome trip.

We got ourselves fully packed last night, set our alarms so that we'd have ample time to get ready, booked a taxi for 6am (about 12 hours notice) to take us from our accommodation to the pickup point and then went to bed early.

The alarms worked, we got ready quickly and were out the front by 5:55 waiting for the taxi...which didn't come...not at 6, not at 6:05, not at 6:10, not after we called them to find out where it was, not even after we started carrying our bags into town while speaking to the dispatcher who tried to get 7 different taxis to pick us up.  Lesson 1 for the day - don't trust a Darwin taxi.

Fortunately we still got to Adventure Tours' pickup point in time.  In fact the bus arrived later than we expected because it picked almost everyone else up from their accommodation.  Lesson 2 for the day - challenge the travel agency when they say tour operators won't pickup.

Speaking of everybody else, this trip seems quite different to the others that we've recently been on.  The bus is almost full but I'd guess that there's only about 7 of the others who are younger than us.  Perhaps the trip's length and cost makes it unattractive to the young backpackers that filled so many of the seats around Uluru and Darwin?

Today's destinations were familiar to us but there are only so many roads out of Darwin and most of our companions hadn't been to Adelaide River, Edith Falls or Katherine Gorge or seen a magnetic termite mound before so we didn't mind ending up at each of these again.

Magnetic Termite Mound - Side View

Magnetic Termite Mound - Side View

It was fun to watch everyone's response to our tour guide Adam's claim that a movie star came to the Adelaide River Hotel each Saturday.  You might remember the Crocodile Dundee Water Buffalo from an earlier day's blog post.

There were some new things to see too.  We went to Pine Creek, the site of a former open cut  gold mine that, from 1985 to its closure, produced $393,000,000 of gold.  After closure they diverted Pine Creek into the pit.  It took 14 months to fill and there's now a lake 135m deep and 250m at its widest containing 6,800 megalitres.

Pine Creek Mine Lake

Pine Creek Mine Lake

Katherine gorge also had some surprises in store.  There wasn't time for anyone to take a cruise so we all went for a walk up to a lookout.  It was good to see the gorge from a different perspective.  We saw some Bower Bird nests and various native trees, all of which Adam seems to know the common and scientific names of as well as their various uses.  We also saw a bride going up the river on one of the cruise boats.  What a lovely setting for a wedding.

Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge

At the end of the day we arrived at our Katherine permanent tent site and had our first experience working together to do the whole end of day process.  I must say we're pretty good for a new group and had a great meal of barramundi, cous cous and coleslaw.

There was one more surprise waiting for us today.  No one plays the guitar so we sat around the camp fire and listened to Adam, our guide, and two of our fellow travelers, Alan and Paul, as they played the didgeridoo.  They were very good at it and it brought a really authentic Australian feel to the start of this latest outback experience...

Posted by pkd064 14:40 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes people june nt Comments (0)

Quick Update

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At 9:10 this morning we crossed the Pentecost River on the Gibb River Road, not far from El Questro station where we stayed last night.

Can't tell you anything more at present due to connectivity issues.

A post card for whomever makes the best guess about where we will be on Saturday midday (our time).

Posted by pkd064 09:27 Archived in Australia Tagged june wa Comments (1)

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