This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2000 Travels July 4

TUESDAY 4 JULY     KUNUNURRA

It was another lovely day, weather-wise.

In the morning, I walked to the shops for the paper. Bought some barramundi fish at the butcher. Checked out the two hairdressing places – both would charge $27 just to do a basic cut on my hair. I decided I might let it grow, for a while!

Then I wrote a letter to friend T.

John went out to look around the industrial establishments, more, and found another place to fix the Truck air-con – a refrigeration person. It did not take all that long and cost under $100!

Had a discussion with John about our movements for the next couple of months. I have been increasingly concerned that, with our somewhat late arrival in these parts, and the wish to be near Perth when the Olympics  are on, there is growing pressure to rush our time in the north west.

John made  phone calls to a couple of caravan parks in Karratha and established that one had adequate TV reception, so he was happy to change plans and book into Karratha for the Olympic period, instead. It was not my first choice of park there – that one told him that their TV signal was poor. At least, they were honest.

I phoned the Fremantle park I’d booked back when we were in Tasmania, and was able to transfer the September booking deposit to our Xmas period booking instead – so that will reduce our costs, then.

So – pressure eased somewhat. I was pleased. That gave us just over two months to get to Karratha. It seems adequate, now, but I am sure will go quickly.

John wanted to watch Wimbledon tennis on TV, as Australians were doing well to date, so it was decided we would stay on here until Sunday, so I went and extended our booking accordingly.

John appeared to have lost his watch! It was the expensive Casio I had bought for him in Jakarta in 1997. He can’t remember exactly when he had it last. He does not know whether he left it somewhere, like the showers. I suspect he might have put it down on top of the newspaper heap in the van – he has a tendency to strew things around. If he did that, it could have been covered up by the next lot of papers. I threw the heap out, yesterday, and the bins have been emptied! Either way, it appeared to be gone.

Tea was the barra, and fries.

There is a sizeable long-grass camp over the road from the caravan park – next to the Showgrounds. This is a rough camp where aboriginals camp, with little shelter – often they have come in from the outlying small communities, unfortunately because they can get alcohol here in town. They get quite quarrelsome, at times – we hear them at night.


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2000 Travels July 3

MONDAY 3 JULY     KUNUNURRA

In the morning, went to the shops. Bought some odds and ends at the supermarket, including filters for my water filtering jug.

We found someone – a Landrover dealer of sorts – who could fix the air-con on Truck. He quoted nearly $300. John was shocked! It did seem a lot. He said he needed to think about it.

The light industrial establishments in this town were rather hard to locate, being kind of scattered around in the housing sections.

After lunch, went to the Post Office to collect the mail. I had letters from three friends – a good batch! There was a phone bill – small, for once, and cheques for $14 in Keno prizes! Haven’t exactly made our fortune at that, yet.

We went for a small drive – out through the Packsaddle Plains irrigation area. This was across the Diversion Dam and then to the south, on the other side of the Ord River. Bought some bananas at a farm gate stall. I was shocked at the amount of wasted produce we saw – mostly water melons. Could not tell why there was so much mangled fruit lying about.

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Fruit wastage. There were lots of broken-open watermelons on the ground between the rows

Tea was sausages, potato, tomato.

After tea, I did some planning of food to take on the Gibb River Road jaunt. We will only have the Chescold fridge, so can’t take frozen meats. I believe the local butcher does cryovac meat packs, so they will keep for a while in the fridge. But mostly, we will need fresh produce that keeps well. Hopefully we will be able to replenish some stocks of fresh items at community stores – I remember being able to buy a chicken to roast at the store at Mt Barnett, in 1993! At the time, I had not expected to be able to buy such items along the Gibb River Road. We will probably only be about 4-5 weeks away from the van.


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2000 Travels July 2

SUNDAY 2 JULY     KUNUNURRA

It was a clear day that reached about 30 degrees.

We decided to do some exploring beyond the irrigated areas. After being at Keep River National Park, we were curious about the Keep River further downstream, so set out to try to go there. There was a track on my map that went to “Spirit Hills” and beyond that to “Legune” – in the NT, north of the National Park.

Drove out the Ivanhoe road again, to buy some more grapefruit, which we did at a farm gate stall.

Then we came back into town and went out the Weaber Plains road, past the sugar mill. The irrigated area extended for quite a way out there, which was good to see. Since all that effort and expense has been put into developing the infrastructure, one wants to see it well utilized.

Much of the irrigated land was in sugar cane – big farms, with much new machinery.

When the Ord Scheme was first developed, it was envisaged that the main crops would be rice and cotton. However, as happened at Humpty Doo in the NT, magpie geese took a massive liking to the young rice, passed the word around about this new food, and descended in great hordes, and that was the end of that idea! The cotton got some sort of grub. Since then, fruit growing – and to a lesser extent, vegetables – has become the mainstay, and sugar cane too, supplying a local sugar mill. The sugar growing industry is dependent on there being a nearby mill as the cut cane does not lend itself to transport over great distances. As we noted in Queensland, in 1998, in the sugar growing districts, there are lots of sugar mills and they are not that far apart.

It was a gravel road for most of the way to the Keep River ford. We crossed back into the NT to get there – no quarantine checks on the border there! No signs to mark the border there!

Once we got close to the river area, we passed several other vehicles – all seemed to be parked where they could fish, or be looking for same. Being a Sunday, they were probably out here from Kununurra. It was not a place that most tourists would think to venture.

Some men fishing near the ford told us there was a big saltie croc, upstream of the ford, and a smaller one hanging about downstream. We were actually not all that far from the sea, here, so their presence was not surprising.

The river ford was not a particularly attractive place, so we did not stay there long. Turned around, then took a side track to the north, to a tributary creek, and ate lunch there, looking at birds.

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Callistemon in the bush

While we were out there, John tried to radio phone friends from home, who had left us a message on the mobile, last week. They were travelling in these parts, having tacked some extra leave onto the school holidays.

We drove back the way we’d come. It was quite a decent day’s outing, with some really  spectacular range scenery along the way. We did 148kms.

Tea was chops, potato, tomato.

After tea, had some phone calls with family members.


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2000 Travels July 1

SATURDAY 1 JULY     KUNUNURRA

There was still some cloud about, today. Therefore, it became increasingly humid as the day wore on.

After breakfast, we walked to the shops and bought the papers, and had a bit of a browse in some of the shops.

After lunch, set out for a drive. We took the Ivanhoe Road, that goes past the caravan park, out to the Ivanhoe Crossing. This is where the main road, such as it was, once forded the Ord River – as that river was before the construction of the Ord River Scheme. In the 1950’s, a concrete causeway was built where there was an early ford and a rocky section of the river, as part of the construction of a road from the NT to the port at Wyndham.

The Ord River Scheme resulted in the construction of the Diversion Dam at Kununurra, in the 1960’s, and the main road was moved to cross the top of this.

Of course, back before the irrigation scheme began, the Ord would have been like the other big rivers in these parts – very seasonal in its flow – and the Crossing would have been very low for some of the year, and impassable for some of it.

These days, the river level here is regulated by the two upstream dams – and the release of water through the hydro plant at Lake Argyle. It is still subject to big floods in the Wet Season, but there are supposed to be times of the year when vehicles can cross on the ford.

Right now, the river was quite high – up into the carpark area. Water was racing over the ford. There was surely no way that anyone in their right mind would attempt to drive on it.

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The Ivanhoe Crossing ford was the large ripple crossing the centre of the photo!

There was a tour bus at the Crossing, and also some people, fishing. One can catch barramundi here. It is also a haunt of saltwater crocodiles. Not a place to go paddling!

From there, we drove back to town and across the top of the Diversion Dam to its far side, where there was a track going to the river, downstream of the dam, from where there was a view back to the dam. There was a sort of park here, with roofed picnic tables – flooded due to the river levels!

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Flooded picnic area below the Kununurra Diversion Dam

There was a lot of water coming out of the Diversion Dam. It really is a pity that some way cannot be found of diverting all this surplus water to the dry parts of the interior, and south.

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The Kununurra Diversion Dam with raised gates letting water out, down the Ord River. The gantry raises and lowers these gates. The highway crosses the top.

There were many people fishing along the river side, here. This was another place on the Ord where one needs to be crocodile aware.

It was quite late in the afternoon by now, so we did not stay long.

Tea was salads and tinned fish.

From today, most things will cost 10% more, although many foods are exempt. Supposedly, the whole convoluted range of State taxes are to be phased out, to be replaced by GST money. We shall see! I have little faith in State Governments doing their bit.

I do know that our accommodation rate rose. The nightly rate was $18, now it is $22, which is a lot more than a 10% rise. I suspect this sort of price hike, on the excuse of the GST,  will be common across lots of things. The cost of living just got costlier!


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2000 Travels June 30

FRIDAY 30 JUNE     KUNUNURRA

Woke to a day with some cloud about. We even wondered if it might rain, but it didn’t, and the cloud cleared a bit, later.

The Olympic Torch Relay was coming to town this morning, so we joined the throng going out to the airport, to see its brief stop there. The airport was the only place in town it would be.

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There were many small planes and helicopters bringing people in from outlying areas. There were quite a few small buses – mostly Coasters – from local aboriginal communities in the car park, too.

It seemed to us like rather laid-back event organizing, but it did all come together.

The local fruit and produce growers put on a display stand, complete with some agricultural machinery. We scored some free melons, afterwards! They took around some cut up melon for people to eat, too, in the lead-up to the Torch arrival. A nice touch.

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Display of produce and machinery by local producers

Premier Court of WA was there. There was a small media contingent, and AMP representatives – they were sponsors.

The Torch arrived by Air North commuter jet plane, from Darwin. There were several local Torch-bearers organized to carry it on a little procession, and they had escorts – guess that involved more people. One of the bearers was an old aboriginal lady, with very bad legs, in a wheelchair. A couple of the escorts were from Halls Creek.

Slingair flew in school children from all over the Kimberley – even from Kalumburu.

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People arriving by helicopter for the Olympic Torch Relay visit

We saw the Torch go by, amidst the crowd. Later, John touched the Torch holder that one of the escort runners had.

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The Olympic Torch

We watched the flame-carrying plane depart for its next whistle-stop, but few other people waited round, so the mass exodus happened before we left.

We went back to town, and put the wheel with the bad tyre in for changing – before the coming GST applies!

I put in two more films for processing. We had to do some banking. Refuelled Truck – 96cpl.

Went to the Tourist Information Centre, which is a modern, slick operation, here. Found out that the track to Mitchell Falls is open now. Bought the annual notes on the Gibb River Road and surrounds, produced by the Derby Tourist Bureau. A staff person phoned Mt House Station and found out for us that the Tablelands Track is too wet to use, at the moment. We remain hopeful that, by the time we are looking to go that way, it might be passable. That is the reason we plan to leave the van stored and take to the tent for our trip into those parts – would not be any hope of taking the van on the Tablelands Track.

I picked up my photos and was pleased with them.

I paid for another five nights at the caravan park. The price had risen – because it is July and the onset of GST – to $19.80 a night, after discount.

John went back to the tyre place and collected the wheel with the new tyre on it. The man there did not make any adverse comments about the suitability of our Dunlop tyres for these parts. Since he had what we needed in stock, there must be some demand for others for them, up here.

Tea was savoury mince and bread.

There was a lovely sunset. It was a bit cooler at night.

Today was the last day GST-free! The media was full of GST talk and speculation and dire predictions about its likely impacts.


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2000 Travels June 29

THURSDAY 29 JUNE   LAKE ARGYLE TO KUNUNURRA   76kms

This morning, John slept in, but we still managed to leave the Park by 10am.

We had an easy run to Kununurra, through magnificent, rugged, range country. There was some flood damage, and other places where road repairs were evident.

We booked into the Ivanhoe Village Caravan park, initially for two nights, but with the option to extend. Cost $16.20, after discount. This was an excellent park – we stayed here in ’93, but it is on the costly side.

It was good to be back in Kununurra – the place had a good “feel”. There was a buzz about it today because the Olympic Torch Relay was coming to town tomorrow – the first place in WA it would visit. It had already been in the NT and Qld.

After setting up, went to the shopping centre. Kununurra has the same layout concept as purpose built mining settlements in WA – a central core that is the service centre, with housing around that – and with the roads in a circular sort of pattern.

The shopping centre had changed since we were last there – more shops and even a Coles supermarket.

I put a film in for processing, at the Pharmacy.

At the Post Office, we collected the sapphires that had been sent from Rubyvale. The PO only charged us $21 in COD cost. It should have been $211, so we phoned Rubyvale and said we would send a cheque for the difference. The ten stones were not that little, after all, and  cut up well. There was a mix of colours and one substantial diamond-like zircon. We were both pleased at the quality and size of the parcel.

We bought lunch – a treat after the wilds! John had a sausage roll and a pie, I had a vegetable pasty.

We bought some spare parts for the lamp at a disposals type shop.

We went and looked in the Argyle diamond mine gallery – some wonderful stones and jewellery pieces, but oh, so expensive! Looking was all we could afford!

Drove out to the melon farm a few kms to the north, out the Ivanhoe road. Bought grapefruit and melons. It seems a much smaller operation than last time. There used to be a dairy out that way, too, but it had gone.

Back at the park, there was another Trakmaster van in – a larger Nullarbor. He told us he’d only had it since February, and he is heading off along the Gibb River Road.

Tea was steak, mushrooms, potato, tomato, followed by lovely fresh rock melon.

06-29-2000 TO KUN.JPG


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2000 Travels June 28

WEDNESDAY 28 JUNE     LAKE ARGYLE

The day was lovely, warm and sunny, again.

We lazed about the van in the morning. John played computer games – he had power again for his laptop! I wrote letters and read tourist information.

We watched the antics of the Great bower bird that had built his bower on the site behind us. He hovered protectively around it, all the time. Occasionally, he “danced” and displayed his pink neck feathers. He made a harsh calling noise. There seemed to be quite a few lady bower birds around.

We discussed the possibility of storing the caravan here, while we went off on our planned jaunt through remote parts of the Kimberley. This place seemed relatively secure and away from some of the issues we’d heard about in Kununurra, when we were there in ’93, and a caravan park storage area had been broken into and vans ransacked.

John went off to talk to the park manager about this and came back having organized for us to bring the van back out here when we were ready.

We were at the cruise office at 2.30pm. A bus then took us to the boat mooring. The boat was a wide based one with open sides and a roof for shade. We seemed to sit quite low in the water.

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The boat’s wake distorting reflections in the water

The cruise was well worth doing – the perspective from the water was so different. We really only motored about on a comparatively small part of the northern section of the Lake – but that seemed pretty big.

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On Lake Argyle – dam wall in distance

It was pointed out that, submerged under the Lake, was the original homestead area of the pioneering Durack family. We learned that this was being dismantled, carefully, as the dam wall was being constructed, to be re-erected away from the lake level, as a memorial. However, the rains came and the Lake filled far more quickly than anticipated, so not all was saved. Even more portable tools and machinery were lost. So what is now the museum and homestead on display is not fully the original.

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Reflections on Lake Argyle

We saw rock wallabies and Euros – there are islands in the Lake and these critters have survived on them. We cruised around some of these islands.

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We also saw freshie crocs – there are thousands of them in the lake, catfish and archer fish. These shot water at pieces of bread held out by tourists on the boat. One freshie had learned that fish come to the boat for a feed, therefore so does he!

We watched a great sunset over the Lake, whilst partaking of generous quantities of champagne, biscuits and dips. It was all very pleasant.

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Sunset over Lake Argyle

The cruise got back at 6pm, which felt much later to us. The bus transferred us back to the resort.

We had a fish and chip dinner at the hotel that is part of the resort complex. The fish was silver cobbler – local catfish caught in the Lake, that has had a name and image change and now sells at a much more handsome price. Who says a name is but a name? It was actually very nice to eat.

After dinner, walked back to camp and had an early night by local time, but it felt right to us.

 


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2000 Travels June 27

TUESDAY 27 JUNE   KEEP RIVER TO LAKE ARGYLE   69kms

Our pack up and departure was very leisurely, with only a short distance to move, today. It was another hot day.

Keep River National Park was a great place to stay. We felt that we’d covered the Park’s attractions pretty thoroughly. Could have lazed around a bit longer there, just enjoying the place, but we really needed to get onto mains power. So annoying!

The stop and check at the border quarantine point was a routine one – they only checked the fridges. The person on duty told us that vehicle numbers going through, so far this year, were down by about 100 a day, on the average for this time of year. I thought this might be due to the late severe weather, and people’s perceptions of floods and damage up this way.

At the border we “gained” time again – another 90 minutes.

Not far into WA, we turned south off the highway, for Lake Argyle. The country we were passing through was quite rugged.

Lake Argyle is a man-made reservoir on the Ord River, created to provide year-round irrigation water for farming downstream of the dam. A seemingly small dam wall holds back an enormous amount of water in the valleys amid the range country here. Lake Argyle is the largest single water storage in Australia – it would fill at least 18 Sydney Harbours in normal times, and about 70 of them in flood times! The dam was built from 1969-1971, officially opened in 1972, and by 1974 was full – silencing the sceptics who doubted it would ever fill! The wet season rainfall up here can be huge, and the Ord River catchment is a large one.

A creek that flows out of one arm of the Lake acts as a natural spillway and is crossed by a bridge on the road in. Spillway Creek was a raging torrent!

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Spillway Creek

We booked into the Lake Argyle Tourist Village caravan park, for $16 a night. It was adequate – sites were a reasonable size, grassed and there were shady trees.

While John was doing the set up, I did two loads of washing – it had built up, and was a great day for drying. We had lunch and then went driving.

Firstly, we visited the lookouts and sightseeing points around the dam wall and Ord River. The river water leaves the dam via a small hydro electric plant; when the Spillway Creek is flowing, that enters the Ord between the dam wall and Kununurra, some 55kms downstream. The hydro plant helps power Kununurra and the Argyle diamond operation, to the SW.

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Argyle Dam wall, holding back the massive volume of water of Lake Argyle, blocking the Ord River – and a cruise boat

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The hydro station outflow. Dam wall base at left, with road. The Ord River.

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Below the dam wall. Hyrdro station outflow sending water down the Ord River

The Lake is truly vast and impressive, even though one only ever sees a small fraction of it from around here. The only way to really take in its full size would be from the air.

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A very small portion of Lake Argyle

Due to 1999/2000 being the biggest Wet since records have been kept, the Lake was at its highest level ever, although 3 metres below its peak of earlier in the year. That would explain why the Spillway Creek was such an incredible torrent.

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Looking down on the top of the dam wall. The lake water level is high.

We drove back to the Spillway Creek bridge for a look, then took a side track alongside it, to try to get close to where it comes out of the Lake. We did not succeed in driving that far – tracks became rather muddy. But we then walked along the creek and looked. I was trying to cross a little side creek, to get a better view when I saw a crocodile only a couple of metres away! It gave me a huge fright! It was a freshwater one, but still…..Then, a short distance further upstream in my walk, I nearly trod on another! After that, I felt outnumbered and gave up on the exploring.

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Waves on the Spillway Creek would challenge a surfer!

They were quite big freshies. Apparently, the water was running far too fast for their comfort, so they had taken refuge wherever they could find quieter backwaters.

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Fresh water crocodile taking refuge from the raging creek. Look in front of the water!

After that little adventure, it was back to camp.

Tea was sausages, with the veggie mix I cooked up yesterday.

Phoned P and wished her a happy birthday.

Our body clocks were “out” – we needed to adjust to the change in time zone.

At the same time as we booked in today, we booked and paid to go on the afternoon cruise, tomorrow, on Lake Argyle – $35 per person.

06-27-2000 to argyle


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2000 Travels June 26

MONDAY 26 JUNE     KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK

Today was another one like yesterday.

We got up about 8am. There was much activity in the camp area – it seems like just about everyone is going today. We will then be the longest staying ones here! It is a pity that so many people do not take the time to fully explore and enjoy this park. Quite a few seem to be here simply as an overnight stop.

In the morning, we heard a pheasant coucal in the distance, and a dingo howling. There was much noise from butcher birds, pardalotes and friar birds.

After breakfast, drove back towards the highway, to the Ranger Station and Cockatoo Lagoon, and watched the birds at the Lagoon for a while.

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Turkey Bush

Then we went back a little way, to the kite hunting hide on Gingers Hill. This was interesting: a low stone walled shelter, with the top camouflaged under spinifex grass. The aboriginal hunters used to light a smoky fire and the black kites – also called fire birds because they hang about fires hunting small creatures escaping from it – came down and were grabbed by the hunter in the hide. Clever!

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Kite hunting hide on Gingers Hill

We went back to the van for lunch – rolls John baked from a bread mix packet. They were good.

We’d driven 36kms this morning.

Later in the afternoon, we did the circuit walk that went from the camp ground. This was the best of the lot. The track wound around through excellent rock formations and across ledges that gave views from quite high up. I was glad we saved this closest one till last.

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On the walking track from the campground

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Unusual rock stack shapes on the walk from the camp ground

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There were more campers in the campground using a loud generator. Since they were making a noise, John had no qualms about running Truck engine for a short while, as the van battery was low again. It really was most unsatisfactory and we were really annoyed that the so-called solar power expert in Melbourne had equipped us with what was now an obviously insufficient set up for even our modest needs.

Then John worked out how he could switch the second, spare, Truck battery for van use, and all was well for the night. The fridge ran as needed. That was a useful lesson to have learned.

I did a bit of a cook up of apples, also of an onion, capsicum and tomato mix. I had intended to make minestrone soup, to use up the remaining vegies, but John was cross about the fridge and battery not working as we wanted, and did not like the idea of me heating up the van any more. So I threw out the soup ingredients.

Tea was the last of the carrot soup, and salads.

Like last night, the insects came in, in their hordes, and we had to retreat indoors quickly. It affected the whole campground and sounded like it was raining on the van!


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2000 Travels June 25

SUNDAY 25 JUNE     KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK

It was another beautiful blue sky day, about 30 degrees. The nights had been just cool enough to need the doona, which was pleasant because it did allow one to cool down after the day.

We were woken at 7.30am – which was just after daybreak here – by the nearby van group starting their bloody generator – again! Absolute morons! I thought very nasty wishes for them until they left, and glared hard whenever I saw them, just in case they didn’t realise what other campers thought of them. Fortunately, they packed up and left.

After a slow start, we eventually got moving and drove to the Keep River Gorge. This was again to the north of where we were camped, but not as far as yesterday, and the side track went off to the east. The Keep River makes a big curve around from where we went yesterday.

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John with boab near the parking area for the Keep River Gorge walk

Left Truck in the parking area wand walked the marked track down its length through part of a little gorge, to a rock overhang area that was an aboriginal shelter. This was some way above the river level.

There was much flood debris showing that a huge depth of water had been through the gorge.

We saw lots of interesting boabs. They have such individuality that I never get sick of gazing at them.

At the shelter, there were some well defined and interesting paintings.

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Rock art in overhang, Keep River Gorge. Figures with no mouths – Wandjina like?

The gorge itself was quite rugged. There was lots of bird life.

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In the Keep River Gorge

When we got back to Truck, decided that this 3 or 4 km walk had been quite enough exercise in the heat, so we went back to the van for lunch and a lazy afternoon. The drive there and back was 25kms.

I sewed. John replaced the heat generator on the lamp with a spare we’d bought in Cairns in ’98. He got bitten on the toe – not too hard – by a little centipede. His attempts to rest on the banana lounge were plagued by ants! He listened to footballs on the little radio – turned right down so as not to disturb me or anyone else. There were bitey midges about again.

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Our camp set up at Keep River National Park

Tea was carrot soup, a udon noodle stir fry I made up using veal and a commercial stir fry sauce. It was ok, bit nothing special. John had some watermelon given to him by one of the two lots of Qld caravanners neighbours. They had a Golf and a Bushtracker – a big, heavy van with many mod cons. It weighs 2.3 tonnes, empty. I was glad we were not towing it! It was very nice watermelon. They had come out here from Kununurra are were going back there, so could not take any fruit or veg back across the border. I was trying hard to use up all our stocks, too.

The lamp worked!

I started reading “Going Inland” again – really enjoyed it the first time, but it was the sort of book that would give even more the second time.

Suddenly, a huge horde of mosquitoes descended on the lamp and we were driven inside. We could hear them banging on the van sides and vinyl of the poptop. It was almost scary! A couple of campers with a small tent, set up nearby, were cooking their tea outside when this happened and they too were driven to take refuge in their tent. Without tea! We have never encountered anything quite like this before.

Read in the van, by the lamp light, until 10.30pm – a late night for us!

John went out to take a leak in the nearby bush, under a low tree, heard a noise above him, looked up and right into the face of a huge bat feeding in the leaves! John got the biggest fright!