This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2000 Travels August 21


It was another lovely hot day.

John was up early to drive Truck – very slowly and carefully – to Shinju Motors.

I cycled to the shops at the newish Boulevard Centre and had a look around.

Shinju Motors phoned, later in the morning. Both back wheel bearings and axles need replacing. We don’t do things by halves! But the shocking news was when they said that the problem was caused because the back wheel bearings have NEVER been greased! It is not on the service schedule, it seems, because they are supposed to be “whole of life” units”! The mechanic told John this, but also said that there is an “extreme conditions” addendum to the service schedule, and greasing the bearings is on that. Obviously, the various service centres we have used have only followed the standard schedule. It is simply not something one thinks to ask be done – seems so obvious.

I suspect, also, that the time the hot wheels spent standing in cold water, when we were bogged on the Kalumburu road, may have played a role. I had read somewhere that, after such an event, which can suck in water, re-greasing is needed. I wondered if we had gotten this done in Kununurra, whether we would have been ok?

John will complain to Landrover Australia about this issue. It is going to cost us about $1600. However, it may be ready as early as Wednesday.

John has insisted that they keep Truck locked inside the workshop at night.

John began work on this year’s tax stuff.

I cycled to the Post Office and collected our mail. I got some nice letters from friends.

The cruise ship left, late in the day. So it basically had a two day stop here. Guess they did the Cable Beach sunset thing last night.

From the caravan park beach front, we can see the wharf area in the distance.

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Roebuck Bay as seen from in front of the caravan park

Tea was curried beans and rice.

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2000 Travels August 20


We did little in the morning except read some of the paper from yesterday. I did make a batch of tomato, bacon and basil soup.

A big cruise ship docked at the port today. There were special markets being put on for it.

After lunch, we went to bowls. Some logistical issues presented themselves, which John solved by using my bike with the pannier rack on the back, to ferry our heavy bowls bags to the club – four blocks away. Then he came back and we both walked there.

We played pairs. This was my first game since Cloncurry – months ago. I played alright in the first game, which we won, but lost concentration in the second, which we lost. The conditions of the grass changed too, as it got darker and damper. I had problems throwing the jack, as usual, and John got cross with me. I just kept trying!

During the afternoon, there was a loud road accident crunch nearby, then lots of sirens and a pall of black smoke, as one vehicle burned. Talk was that one of the drivers – an aboriginal – drove straight through a Stop sign.

The man from the next caravan was also playing, and he gave us a ride back to the park. This was much appreciated, as it was well and truly dark by then, and the bowls bags were heavy.

Tea was soup, then sweet corn cooked in foil in the electric frypan. All very nice.

Over the weekend, at various times, we phoned the offspring and some of John’s siblings, to update them about what was going on with us. I couldn’t get through to V though, and left a message.

John’s cousin M phoned us.

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2000 Travels August 19


It was a beautiful day. Seems that at the moment it is getting to the high 20’s during the day, but cools right down at night. Very pleasant weather.

This was the last weekend of the annual Shinju Matsuri Festival, so quite a bit was happening. This event that spreads over more than a week, is a celebration of Broome – its early days as a pearling port in the late 1800’s – and the multi cultural mix that has resulted from those times.

We rode the bikes down town to the weekly Courthouse Markets, held in the gardens of that building. The stalls had a lot of hippie-type stuff – bead work, pottery and so on. There were some Asian food stalls – to be expected with the Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese influences of the past, here.

We had a good browse about. I bought some corn, tomatoes and bananas and a frog magnet for a fridge. We bought some Indonesian food for lunch – it was alright. It was really pleasant, sitting on a bench, in the shade of a huge tree, eating and watching the passing people.

John wanted to see the Art Show and prize winners, associated with the festival, so we rode around, looking for that, eventually finding it at Matso’s Broome Brewery Cafe.

En route, we found a second-hand book shop. John wanted me to buy a novel – he knows how I have been missing reading of late. I got a cheap one that he could read too. He bought an atlas – to help him with the Railroad Tycoon computer game he plays!

The art show work was only average, I thought. Mostly not to my taste.

We rode back to Coles for potatoes and meat.

Much of the day was gone by the time we got back to the van.

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Our site at Roebuck Bay Caravan Park

It was good fun, zipping about Broome on the bikes.

I was disappointed to see the numbers of derelict and semi-derelict aborigines in the park at the oval/sports area, drinking there, despite the displayed signs about no alcohol being allowed. I didn’t remember this as an issue, last time, but guess the rain then had driven them all indoors.

It was interesting and unusual that this area, which was right on the main tourist strip, had two sets of public toilets, almost adjacent. One set were open public ones, and the other were ones where the doors were coin operated.

For the remainder of the afternoon, John watched Carlton win the football game.

Tea was scotch fillet steak, mushrooms, potato. The steak was the nicest I’d ever had – so tender.

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2000 Travels August 18


The tow truck driver – B – was not joking about the early morning! He appeared at our site at 6.15am. We had gotten up early, with the alarm, so were dressed, but had not had breakfast.

Truck was very efficiently loaded onto the tilt tray truck, to the great curiosity and speculation of the campers around us. B had to transfer our hitch receiver onto his tow truck so he could hitch the van up. We were certainly the morning entertainment at the park.

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Almost ready to leave Fitzroy Crossing

And thus we left Fitzroy Crossing in style – with John and I squished into the tow truck.

It was fairly monotonous country between Fitzroy Crossing and Broome, with the only real point of interest being the Willare Bridge, where Highway 1 crosses the mighty Fitzroy River, not far from its mouth, where it enters King Sound.

B proved to be an interesting and articulate man – and a great driver – so the time passed quickly enough. He told us that this was a good job for him because it was all on sealed roads. It was even relatively short, compared to some! He said that he does regular retrievals from along the Gibb River Road, the Kalumburu one and even the Mitchell Plateau track.

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Having a quick break beside Highway 1

We reached Broome at midday. There is something about this town that seems to doom us! Last visit here, in ’93, we arrived in teeming unseasonal rain, in May, that had virtually shut down the whole region. It was far too wet to put up our tent and we took refuge in the only available on site van in the first caravan park we found. It was available because its roof leaked in several places – they did supply us with some buckets too! Even so, it was not cheap. John got his first ever speeding ticket there. We did virtually no sightseeing, were distinctly unimpressed with the place, and after three days of rain, moved on to Derby to wait there for the unsealed roads to open.

This time, we did not even get here under our own steam!

B drove us to Roebuck Bay Caravan Park, where a site had been arranged for us. He offloaded the van there and then drove Truck and us to Shinju Motors, the Landrover dealer. Truck was offloaded there. However, after discussion with the manager, it was decided that we would keep Truck at the caravan park, over the weekend, The fenced yard that Truck would be in had been broken into and some vehicles robbed the weekend before. As we had a lot of good gear in Truck, decided to play safe, look after it ourselves, and take some things out of it before it comes back here.


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Offloading Truck at Broome – then onloading it again…..

So the obliging B hoisted Truck back up on his truck and took us back to the caravan park. He put Truck off again, outside the gate, which his rules apparently called for, so we crawled Truck in, to our site, and set up.

We booked a week and paid $138 for it. We were really surprised at the lovely site we had been given, facing the sea, with only one row of vans between us and Roebuck Bay, and plenty of glimpses of the sea between the facing vans.

The bay was a beautiful aqua blue colour. There were some boats out on it, and mudflats exposed by the low tide. It was really lovely. I liked Broome better already!

Other campers seemed very nice, too. One stopped his car by the gate, as we were getting Truck off the tow truck, to see if we wanted him to tow us inside. Very good of him.

Apparently, such a great site was available because the couple who usually stay on it for several months each winter, had to depart a few weeks earlier than planned. They only left this morning! At least, we were lucky with that.

We felt quite relaxed, as we set the van up. At least we got here, and this would be a much better place than Fitzroy Crossing to while away time waiting for repairs.

After a late lunch, John suggested we go for a walk.

We walked to a small complex of shops, a couple of blocks away. I was able to buy a paper, but the shops were mostly shut. John said we should walk on and find other shops. We did not have a map of Broome at this stage! John was only wearing rubber thongs and by the time we reached the start of the commercial end of town, his feet were sore.

I bought some fish – snapper – for $25 a kilo, for tea, at a fish shop. It would have been cheaper at Coles, but this was not an occasion to walk further, to shop around!

It was nearly dark by the time we walked back to the van. I enjoyed the exercise, even if John didn’t!

Tea was fries and the fish. It was yummy.

We watched the moon rise. The best of the “staircase” effect has passed, but we got an idea of what it would be like. The “staircase to the moon” happens monthly, through the dry season (no clouds), when the full moon reflects on the mud flats at really low tides.

I saw a little owl sitting on a nearby post.

Unfortunately, the TV signal is not great, here.

It had been a tiring couple of days. We are not used to pressure any more.

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2000 Travels August 17


We managed to depart camp before 9am.

Drove back into Halls Creek, where we refuelled, for $1.13cpl.

Then turned west again on the highway.

The scenery was less spectacular between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, but there was still enough variety to be interesting.

In these days of easy travel through the Kimberley, one forgets that the highway was only sealed, between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, in 1986. That was only seven years before we came up this way in 1993. The last frontier….

About an hour out of Halls Creek, we began to notice a strange noise coming from the area of the back left wheel, like a stone caught somewhere in there. It would go away for a while, then come back. John tried stopping and reversing, as one does to try to get rid of a stone, and that seemed to stop it for a while. We stopped several times to check it.

When I looked out my side as we were going along, I thought the wheel might have been wobbling a little, but I wasn’t sure. John was becoming increasingly terse, so I didn’t pursue that line.

We stopped for morning tea at an area of really spectacular cliffs and jump up hills. There were some dramatic hills in the distance too.

The need to get to Karratha was curtailing our ability to slow down and explore some of these interesting parts, but there was always next year.

The noise became worse after we started up again. John wondered if we had a broken axle, but I remembered that, when we broke the axle on the Hilux, in 1993, it didn’t move at all.

He slowed right down and we crawled along. I pointed out the wobbly wheel, which was much worse by now, and John agreed that it really was going from side to side!

The last 100 or so kms to Fitzroy Crossing took us ages, and seemed a really long way.

We talked about possible scenarios. It seemed most unlikely that repairs could be done in Fitzroy Crossing, given what we remembered of the place, from ’93. A tow truck trip to Broome for Truck seemed probable – and I resigned myself to an extended stay at Fitzroy Crossing, with van and no vehicle.

We reached the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge, with its very pleasant campground, and went into the motel reception to book in. The site cost $20.90. John explained our predicament and asked whether – if we had to stay longer here – their weekly rate could be retrospective. The lady was not helpful, and said weekly rates had to be paid up front. We were not prepared to do that until we knew what might happen. That is twice we have stayed here, now, and both times we have felt that the campground patrons are not a staff priority, but the second class citizens.

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At Fitzroy Crossing – we look normal enough, but……

John phoned Landrover Assist and they said to leave it to them to find a solution. Shortly after, while we were setting up camp, a tow truck driver called John. He said he would come from Broome and take Truck and van back there.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that he would take the van too. I really was not looking forward to a solo stay at Fitzroy Crossing.

John said the driver sounded pleased to have the job – a nice long one. He was very obliging – would drive out to here, camp overnight, and hitch us up early in the morning.

I did not envy him a night time drive with the wildlife that is around at night. Guess he got paid extra for being out overnight, though.

We were very impressed with the service from Landrover Assist – one phone call on our part, and all was organized for us. We do not even have to pay for the tow.

Tea was a packet macaroni cheese.

After tea, I walked down to the Fitzroy River which borders the very extensive grounds. It had quite a lot of water in. But it was still hard to envisage the floods that regularly inundate the camp ground where we are.

The sunset was brilliant.

It was a good night to be early to bed! So much tension today. What ever time that repairs take is going to eat into our time available for looking around this northern part of WA. Damn!

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2000 Travels August 16


We were up early and away from the park about 8.30.

Drove the rig to a refrigeration business in town, where John had arranged to have the van’s air-con checked. He wasn’t sure if it might need regassing, but they said it was ok. That cost $33.

We left Kununurra about 9.30am, heading west and south.

It was a pleasant drive on Highway 1, with varied changes of scenery to keep it interesting. It is spectacular and dramatic country – “true” Kimberley.

The road varied. It was good (and repaired) in parts. Other parts were narrower, a bit rough, and at times there were no white lines. There were quite a few single lane bridges, some with only very low cement kerb edges. Quite long, too, some of them. There did not seem to be much of a side margin for error, but I guessed they must be better than they looked, because road trains manage them.

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Low level, single width bridge

We shared the driving.

Passed the turnoff into the Bungles National Park. We had been in there on our ’93 trip, so missing that, this time, was not too disappointing. Another for next year?

We had not before travelled the highway, south of the Bungles turnoff, so that was new road for us, between that and Fitzroy Crossing, well to the west.

We noted the track where we would have come out onto the highway, had we driven the Tableland Track. John reckoned what he could see of the country to the west of there  looked interesting. Maybe next year, or the one after?

We stopped to have a look at the upper Ord River, where it was crossed by the highway. There was much evidence of the floods earlier in the year.

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The Ord River – upper reaches

The highway went over on a low level causeway – obviously sometimes impassable in the wet season. The road surface had white river level markers painted on it to show how deep the water beyond would be.

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Depth markers painted on the road at the Ord River

Right now, it was a benign little trickle under the causeway – a total contrast with the huge, powerful river downstream of the Argyle Dam.

Reached the township of Halls Creek. We drove around to try to get a newspaper. It was not a pleasant looking town – there were many barricades on windows and doors, much graffiti about, groups of indigenes just sitting about.

We didn’t linger in Halls Creek, and were not tempted at all to stay in the town.

Took the Duncan Road to the south, heading for Old Halls Creek, some 16kms away.

John was not happy to find that the road was unsealed – dirt on his nice clean Truck!

It was a pretty drive out there. The road was not too rough.

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The country around Old Halls Creek

Halls Creek settlement originally began out here, with the gold rush of the 1880’s. A prospector named Hall found gold near the Black Elvire River. The settlement that sprung up was by a tributary – Halls Creek. The rush was soon over, but for a few months, there were upwards of 15,000 people there.

The settlement battled on, servicing local pastoral runs, and what passing traffic there was. Water shortage was a problem in the dry season. It was abandoned, progressively, from 1948 to 1954, as the settlement was relocated to the present Halls Creek site, where the airstrip had been built in 1948, and the (gravel) highway rerouted to avoid the hills around the old site.

We booked into the caravan park at the Old Halls Creek Lodge, for $14 for a powered site.

The Lodge was a sizeable establishment, rather run down. It certainly needed some work. The managers had only been in place for two weeks. It was apparently built by a miner, possibly as a means of avoiding some tax, and he had put a lot into it. It could be really nice.

We found the camp ground really pleasant.

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Our site at Old Halls Creek Lodge

The original settlement remains consisted of a few ruins, street signs out in the long grass, plaques showing what was there. The buildings seemed to have been made from ant bed – or mud from termite mounds, so they hadn’t lasted all that well.

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What remains of the original settlemnt of Halls Creek

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These were the most substantial of the ruins

Halls Creek runs through the little valley. It is an attractive place.

We sat outside the van, which was parked up on a terraced level. We had good views of interesting hills around and we watched the antics of corellas having baths under a sprinkler – and ending up looking quite muddy.

I went for a walk around the ruins. John had a sleep.

A fellow camper (a prospector) lit a BBQ fire and invited us to share it, so I cooked potatoes and sweet corn cobs in foil on it. Very nice too.

There was no TV, of course, and the generator that powered the sites went off at 9pm. John played games on his laptop for a while. I had an early night.

It was lovely and quiet once the generator was off – no urban sounds out here.

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2000 Travels August 15


It was hot and humid again.

We did a shop – some food and some beer and wine. Went to the Melon Patch and got some more fruit.

Refuelled Truck – $1.03cpl. Also filled the jerry can we’d used.

We did the usual preliminary pack up.

I had a last swim – have loved that pool.

Tea was roast veggies and cold chook.

Phoned K to report our next movements.