This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2000 Travels July 14

FRIDAY 14 JULY   WYNDHAM TO JACKS WATERHOLE   193kms

We got up before dawn to drive back up The Bastion and look at the sun rise over the Gulf. It was alright, but not stunning.

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Sunrise from The Bastion

We seemed to take ages to pack up and did not get away until 9.30. It was a very hot and sweaty job too.

Refuelled at Wyndham – diesel here was 2.8cpl cheaper than in Kununurra, at 98cpl.

I felt fine about leaving the van at the caravan park.

Drove back down the highway again, for 52kms, to the junction with the Gibb River Road, and turned west onto this.

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Corner of the Gibb River Road and the highway

The Gibb River Road evolved over some time. It has become one of the classic dirt road drives of Australia. It closes in the Wet season and for much of the Dry can have wet stream crossings. Depending on when it was graded, it can be quite rough. A number of the cattle properties along its length have set up camp areas for travellers.

The route of the road follows the explorer Frank Hann’s 1898 route from the west, as far as where Mt Elizabeth now is. In 1901, the Brockman expedition came from the Wyndham end as far as Mt Elizabeth, then went north. They named the Pentecost and Durack Rivers.

From 1914, on, the pastoral settlement occurred and leases were taken up. Until the Beef Roads scheme of the 1960’s, the road was a rough track between Derby and Mt House, then it was improved for cattle trucks, and named the Gibb River Road, because it reached as far as the Gibb River. In the 1970’s, it was pushed through to the Wyndham end and also a road was formed north to the Kalumburu Mission.

It felt great to be on the Gibb again – finally! We drove this in ’93, from the other direction, and without a great deal of time to linger at its attractions.

It was a pity that it was so hazy from all the dry season burning in the region – it would affect the quality of my photos.

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The Cockburn Range from the Gibb River Road

There was quite a bit of traffic on the road, until we passed the turnoffs to Emma Gorge and El Questro – obviously, people go that far and no further, even day tripping from Kununurra.

We kept encountering a tour group in a 4WD – a nice group. We saw them at Wyndham yesterday, and at the Gibb River Road turnoff this morning. John had flagged him down, just out of Wyndham, to tell him that one of his back wheels was very wobbly – he said he’d had it checked and it was ok. The group members are paying $1600 each, for an 8 day trip from Darwin to Broome!

Almost 60kms along from the highway, we came to the main obstacle to travellers on the Gibb – the crossing of the Pentecost River. As one would expect, after a generous Wet season, it was quite wide. Our last time here, in ’93, it had been dry and there was a mustering camp in the river bed!

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Approaching the Pentecost River crossing

This is one river crossing one does not walk to check depths first. There are very large saltie crocs live in the Pentecost – lots of them. It is also a place where I would never camp on the banks downstream from the crossing – though some do. El Questro is some distance upstream from here, by the river; we were camped there in ’93, in late June, when a good sized saltie was caught in the river pool below the main guest house.

We sat and watched some other vehicles do it – the route is clearly marked by rocks at the sides. It looked straightforward, although obviously a bit rocky, as vehicles crossing jiggled around a bit. It only looked to be about 45cms deep. We ploughed on through – yes, it was a bit rocky, but nothing major.

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Crossing the Pentecost River

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Looking upstream as we crossed the Pentecost

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The Pentecost River downstream of the crossing. Home Valley Station land on the far bank

We stopped on the far side, to photo the crossing and the view back the way we’d come. The outlook back to the Cockburn Range was superb.

There was water draining out of the underside of Truck as John sat waiting for me!

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Looking back across the Pentecost to the Cockburn Range

After the crossing, the road climbed up a ridge and we stopped at the Cockburn lookout at the top, to look at the way we’d come. There was a vast panorama across the wide Pentecost valley, to the Cockburn Range behind. This section of the Gibb is undoubtedly really scenic.

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Pentecost River valley and Cockburn Range from Cockburn Lookout

A little further along the road, on a gentle corner, an oncoming rental 4WD that was going too fast, startled an eagle by the road side. it did not fly clear in time and was hit. It was horrible – feathers and pieces of eagle went everywhere. The bird was killed. It must have given the people a real fright, as it plastered across their windscreen. We certainly hoped so – it might have made them slow down after that. This incident highlighted what is actually the greatest hazard of the Gibb – other travellers going too fast. Overseas hirers of 4WD vehicles are the worst offenders.

After the Pentecost, the few stream crossings that we encountered were really just puddles, although the Bindoola Creek crossing was maybe 30cms deep, and edged with rock – presumably to keep travellers on a safe track through it, as there was a bit of a downstream drop off. The name of Bluey O’Malley’s crossing commemorates one of the pioneering drovers of the area.

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Gibb River Road just before Bindoola Creek

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Bindoola Creek ford

We stopped by the road side just after Bindoola Creek, for lunch.

Then we continued on, to Jacks Waterhole, or Durack River Station.

The Sinnamon family held the Karunjie and Home Valley pastoral leases, until last year, when they sold to the Indigenous Land Corporation. In the 1970’s, when the Gibb River Road was realigned to pass close to the Durack River in one section, Sinnamon set up a tourist operation at a large waterhole on the river, calling it Durack River Station.

Although the buildings at Jacks Waterhole look like they were once a station homestead complex, there was never one here.

At the office/store structure, we booked in. It had a cement floor and corrugated iron walls – these had marks on which recorded the levels reached in the ’97 and 2000 Wet season floods – about a metre up the walls! Apparently, the ’97 flood was a bit higher, but came up and went down fast, whereas this year’s lasted longer. The German lady – half of the couple managing the camp area – said that it had not been fun to come back after the floods to clean out all the mud. I bet! The location might be a great one from a tourist viewpoint, but it is very prone to flooding.

The waterhole was a lovely place – a long, tree fringed pool of the Durack River.

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Jacks Waterhole on the Durack River

We paid $14 a night to camp here – no power or formal sites, of course, but a newish corrugated iron amenity block with flush toilets and hot showers – if one wanted hot, in this weather!

We cruised around the tracks in the camping area – all quite informal – and found ourselves a lovely spot to camp. There was no shade, but rocky outcrops and wet season erosion channels ensured no one else would be able to set up near to anti-social us! We had a brilliant view down over the waterhole, and it was not too far to walk up to the amenity block, on a bit of a terrace above us.

It was early afternoon when we’d reached Jacks Waterhole, so we were able to take our time, setting up camp with the big tent. Hoped that the occasional cow grazing nearby would not come too close to the tent!

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Setting up camp at Jacks Waterhole – and watching the cow!

 

Then we sat and relaxed, looking out over the view. It was really peaceful and pleasant.

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Lilo almost inflated. The “homestead” buildings in the background

The 4WD tour group we’d been encountering, were camped here too, and its members were swimming in the waterhole. I was not sure that I’d trust it to be saltie free! The camp manager had said there were barramundi in there – I’ve always believed that where there are barra, there can also be salties!

There were few other campers when we arrived, but there was a steady stream of arrivals through the afternoon. We were later surprised that three lots came in after dark, including one 4WD, towing a popup Jayco camper – at 9pm! Travelling the GRR in the dark seems rather silly to me – missing all of the wonderful scenery. That late lot had much difficulty finding somewhere to set up, in the dark, and in the end gave up and parked on a track. They then seemed to have much difficulty getting the top of the camper to wind up – not really built for these roads!

Later in the afternoon, John radphoned sister H. When he’d finished, I checked in with the VKS Base at Alice Springs, to let them know our location and intentions.

Tea was curried leftover sausages, rice, followed by melon.

The evening was pleasantly cool. We needed the doona.

During the night, there were lots of curlew calls in the distance – nice.

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2000 Travels July 13

THURSDAY 13 JULY     WYNDHAM

Over breakfast, I told John how worried I was about the van left at Argyle and how I wasn’t sure I would enjoy going on with the trip as planned. It turned out that he was uneasy too. He came up with the idea of going and getting it, and storing it here at Wyndham. The caravan park manager, P, said he would store it right by his van and living area, and keep a close eye on it – for $20 a week. That sounded much better!

So we set off in the heat and drove back to Lake Argyle. It only took us about half an hour to secure the stuff in it for moving, put the bikes up on to the rack, etc and go. We gave the manager there two rock melons as a thank you gift, and paid him $4 for the two nights. It was not his fault that the Village admin had decreed that our van should go into the Works area.

We had a stop on the way back through Kununurra. Got money from the bank. Bought John a new pair of bathers, shorts style, as his old ones were so thin as to be indecent! John had another pie and pastie lunch!

We took the van on to Wyndham and set it up on the slab behind the manager’s hot food van.It had not been as hard a day as we thought it would be. We drove 363kms!

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The van securely set up at Wyndham Caravan Park

We walked to the Post Office/store and bought a newspaper. It was a reasonable walk, and a change from being in the Truck for hours.

Tea was savoury mince and a bread roll.

After tea, I cleaned out the Chescold camp fridge – it smelled of the spicy sausages!

It did seem to be a bit cooler here, at nights, by the coast.


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2000 Travels July 12

WEDNESDAY 12 JULY     WYNDHAM

We decided that, since we are here, we will spend a couple of days doing the touristy things.

Today was cloudy, hazy, but hot. Wyndham does battle with Marble Bar for recognition as WA’s hottest town, it seems. Wyndham claims to have the highest consistent average temperatures.

We drove to the original, old town, port area and looked around it. The town is strung out on pockets of land between tidal salt flats, and squashed by the steep rise of the Bastion Range behind it. It is dislocated, and more like two nearby townships – the Old Town and the Three Mile which is the newer – and nicer – part.

After the early gold rush petered out, the little port serviced the needs of the big pastoral holdings of pioneers like the Durack family. In 1919 the meatworks opened, so beef was exported, but this closed in 1985. For a while, after WW2, beef was frozen here and flown to Britain – the Air Beef Scheme. I remember learning about this at school, in the 1950’s! These days, live cattle are exported from Wyndham.

The old town seems pretty decrepit now. The old meatworks buildings are run down.

Signs near the meatworks warn of the dangers of crocodiles. Apparently, in the meatworks days, the crocs were well fed by the discharge of blood and offal into the sea here – and crocs have long memories, it seems, and still hang about that area!

There is a new bulk fertilizer storage facility at the wharf area, and they are working on wharf upkeep.

We walked out on the wharf and looked at life on the mudflats exposed by the tide – there was a heron feeding, mud skippers, crabs and the like. Quite busy there, and quite engrossing.

There had been a load of cattle shipped out yesterday.

We then drove up The Bastion, the big peak behind the town, to see the outlook from the top. The road rose steeply, and twisted around, giving some rather good views as we went.

Five rivers empty into the Cambridge Gulf – the Durack, Pentecost and King, south of Wyndham, and the Forrest and Ord to the north. We have been by the Ord River already; will ford the Pentecost, Durack and King Rivers on the Gibb River Road. The Forrest River is the only one we will not encounter, in the remote country to the NW of Wyndham.

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Looking south from The Bastion. King River entry at left, Pentecost River straight ahead

The view from the Bastion was very “different” – out over the salt flats and the Gulf. And very impressive. The smoke haze make the colours interesting too.

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Looking north, over the tidal flats beside Cambridge Gulf

Drove back down again, and went to the Three Mile Valley, where there was a walking track along a creek, but we did not feel like walking in the heat, so just looked at the area and went back to camp for lunch.

After that, drove out to Marlgu Billabong, in the Parry Creek Wetlands Reserve. We took the highway back out of Wyndham for a little way, then turned back to the east. It was a great drive, some of it over dirt roads. The bird life was superb, and we had no trouble watching birds for a couple of hours. The late afternoon light on the lagoon was just beautiful.

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Parrys Lagoon

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Late afternoon light over Parrys Lagoon

Then it was back to camp for tea of sausages and vegies.

Again, I had nightmares about the van – it being ransacked and destroyed – and got very little sleep. I just have a really bad feeling about this.


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2000 Travels July 11

TUESDAY 11 JULY   LAKE ARGYLE TO WYNDHAM   180kms

We were up early to do more packing up and move the van to the storage area.

The day was really hot and sticky.

John did not like the long, dead grass where the van was put, so borrowed a spade and hacked it back for a couple of metres. I didn’t like the location at all – thought it was very vulnerable. There were no fences, gates, lights at night, surveillance at all. This was really not what we’d had in mind, at all. Thought it would be stored near the resident caretaker, like it was at Wonga. They told John they never have any trouble with stuff there, but I still felt really uneasy. Maybe it was just separation anxiety?

It was the middle of the day when we finally we ready to head off in Truck. We stopped by the roadside, not far out of the Argyle settlement, and ate our lunch of cold left over fish from last night.

In Kununurra, bought alcohol for a month, and methylated spirits to prime the lamp, because I thought I’d forgotten to pack what we had in the van. John bought a pie and sausage roll – he was hankering for a last high calorie “fix”!

Refuelled Truck at the BP – 99cpl – a lot cheaper than the Shell fuel the other day.

Headed west out of Kununurra. Along the road, decided it was too late in the afternoon to go on to Jacks Waterhole, on the Gibb River Road, as we’d planned, so stayed on the faster, sealed road and went to Wyndham instead.

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The Ord River downstream of the Diversion Dam and the highway

It was a very scenic drive with ranges always somewhere in view. We drove through some burning off.

Then we started to see large areas of tidal mud flats to our left. Wyndham is situated beside Cambridge Gulf, a very large inlet where five large rivers feed in to the sea. The town began as a small port for the Halls Creek gold rushes in the late 1800’s. Then, through much of the 1900’s, it was an export point for Kimberley beef.

I was expecting a town more in keeping with its history and was disappointed that it seemed rather small and dilapidated.

We booked into the Wyndham Caravan Park, for $18.70 a night. It was back a couple of blocks from the main street. There were only a few formal sites, but lots of shady trees. The amenities were adequate.

We set up the big tent. It took a while, but John wanted the extra space and ease of access.

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The big tent set up at Wyndham Caravan Park

We soon discovered there were sandflies! Probably not surprising, given the tidal mud flats and mangroves not too far away.

In a nearby caravan, there was much yelling and abusing of young children! Not pleasant.

John was still full from his earlier indulgences. He had some watermelon for tea. I had some salad and feta cheese.

We were both really tired so it was an early night. I had nightmares about disasters befalling the van, so I guess I really was uneasy about leaving it where it was.

07-11-2000 to wyndham


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2000 Travels July 10

MONDAY 10 JULY   KUNUNURRA TO LAKE ARGYLE   79kms

Hot day again. We seem to have settled into a regular pattern of clear skies and days in the low 30’s.

We packed up and got away from the caravan park in good time.

Parked the rig at the shops and did a very big shop – groceries and meats. The butcher cryovacced my meat packs so they would last longer. Once we leave the van, there will only be the Chescold fridge.

It was too early to stock up on alcohol – outlets for this do not open until midday. We’d get some when we come back through Kununurra on Tuesday.

Drove out to Lake Argyle, where John had arranged, when we were last there, to store the van at the caravan park. Once again, we admired the incredibly dramatic country we passed through.

Paid $17.60 for our powered site for the night. John was shown where the van would be kept – in the Works area – and said he was sort of satisfied.

The site we were on was unshaded. It was a very hot day out here, and we had a lot to do. Had to pack the Truck, and move things between van and Truck. We’d done this before, for the Cape York and the Simpson Desert trips, without the van, so it was at least, a familiar process.

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Our open site at lake Argyle

I washed a small load that had accumulated.

I bought some silver cobbler fish at the hotel and cooked it and fries for tea. We couldn’t eat it all!

We were both very tired and had an early night


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2000 Travels July 9

SUNDAY 9 JULY     KUNUNURRA

Today felt even hotter!

After breakfast, we drove out to the Top Rockz Gallery, off the Ivanhoe road.

On the way, bought some grapefruit – big ones – from a roadside stall.

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M

The gallery features, in particular, the unusually coloured  stone that is unique to this area. Zebra rock is the main one – striped, as the name suggests. There is also ribbon stone and rainbow stone. Jewellery and wood craft products  were displayed too.

The zebra stone is a soft silt stone, so it is easily carved and shaped in to all sorts of products, from earrings to wine bottle holders.

I bought a rainbow stone “scene” – a small rectangle, with a mirage like effect. At home, John can make a small easel to display it. Also bought a set of six rainbow stone circular coasters. John could make a wooden box to hold these. It is such an unusual stone.

We saw some good ideas for wooden  boxes: one with sides made from banksia cones, with a solid lid and base. One could also use banksia cone segments in box lids. We saw rainbow stone slices set in box lids.

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Zebra rock chunk, rainbow stone coaster and “mirage” panel

 

On the way back, we bought melons at the Melon Patch – that’s the place we liked in ’93. They had three melons for $2, so I bought nine assorted ones. Also bought some more vegetables.

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Local produce (not the beer!)

Back at the van, I had a long swim, and we did some packing up.

John emptied the 15 litres from the jerry can into the fuel tank, then went and completely refilled it, at the Shell servo – $1.07cpl. We did not expect fuel availability would be an issue where we are going – there are roadhouses, stations and community supplies.

Rafter made the tennis final, but lost to Sampras.

Tea was steak and vegetables.


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2000 Travels July 8

SATURDAY 8 JULY     KUNUNURRA

It was another hot day.

After breakfast, I walked up to the street markets, held in the main park area of town. I bought bananas and some vegetables. Collected the Saturday papers too. That was today’s main exercise, though I did later have a swim in the very nice pool at the caravan park. The water was surprisingly cold.

John watched tennis and football on TV and pottered about.

There were more arrivals into the camp across the road. It is the Kimberley Christian Fellowship Convention. I decided that explained the cleaner, more purposeful and organized nature of the camp.

Tea was fried rice.