This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels June 20

WEDNESDAY 20 JUNE   KEEP RIVER TO KUNUNURRA   70kms

We woke to continuing rain and a very damp camp. That meant we were not sure about our plans to leave here today.

That dish was empty when we went to bed last night!

Just after  breakfast, the Ranger arrived. He informed us that we’d had 60mm of rain. Whilst it didn’t sound like much, in those terms, was much more impressive when translated to two and a half inches! No wonder the camp was damp!

Damp camp….

The rain event was widespread over the Kimberley, he said – an intense low pressure system that snuck in from up Indonesia way.

No joy in that sky

He declared all the Park roads closed, effective immediately. However, he said that he would escort anyone who wanted to leave, who had a proper 4WD outfit – vehicle and van – out of the Park. That was us, and only us. Everyone else had to stay here until the Park roads were opened again. I had a feeling that could be quite a while.

We had already begun the pack up, in case, so it did not take us long to be ready to go. Wet van awning was bundled up and laid on plastic on the van floor. M bundled up her living tent and it went onto roof rack.

The Ranger waited patiently for us.

The track was slushy on top, but there was a good firm base underneath, so we did not slide around at all. That was very good, as sliding about with the van on the back could have been somewhat hairy!

There were several places with water over the road, including a couple of causeways that were already flowing fairly fast.

Sheet of water across the road – there’s probably a creek channel in there somewhere….

We made it to the highway with no dramas and waved goodbye to our very helpful Ranger friend.

Causeway already flowing fast

As soon as I knew we were leaving the camp, I’d phoned Kununurra and booked us into the Kimberleyland Caravan Park. I made a snap decision to book for two weeks. My thinking was that, if all the dirt roads of the Kimberley region were affected by this, it could be at least a week, and probably more, before they were open again. Travellers would keep arriving on the sealed roads, so there would be a great rush when the roads re-opened. Two weeks could give us time to wait out that initial rush that would see everywhere crowded.

At least, we would know we had a place to be for that time!

The rain seemed to be easing somewhat by the time we got to Kununurra.

Now we were in WA – and there before we’d actually departed camp, thanks to changing time zones!

Our powered site at Kimberleyland cost $26 a night, with each seventh night free. We were close to the amenity block.

The park was generally well set up, but the sites did vary in quality. Our site was rather wet underfoot – especially after John had washed today’s accumulated mud off the rig!

M was given a smaller site, not far from us, that was partly also a walkway.

But we were happy to be in there at all. By early afternoon, people were being turned away, even from the informal unpowered camp area by the lake shore – itself rather soggy. There was no accommodation of any sort left in Kununurra, we heard.

All dirt roads in the Kimberley were indeed closed, as was the Tanami Track south from Halls Creek into the NT. Groups of travellers were stranded in lots of places, including in the Bungles and up on the Mitchell Plateau, and all the camping places along the Gibb River Road.

The caravan park had a frontage to Lily Creek Lagoon, an offshoot of Lake Kununurra. It would be really attractive in good weather. It was within walking distance of the town centre shops, initially through a pleasant park.

Setting up camp, manhandling large expanses of wet and dirty canvas, was not fun! We tackled our awning first, then gave M a hand with her living tent.

After set up and lunch – stomachs still on NT time – drove to the town centre.

Collected our bag of mail from the PO. Went to the Visitor Centre and gathered some information from the displays. Stayed away from the service counter, which was busy with people looking for somewhere to stay! Did some food shopping at the supermarket. I was able to buy a newspaper and catch up with the world again.

Drove out of town on the Ivanhoe Road, to the north, through the irrigated farmland, to where we knew there was a produce packing centre and associated market stall. Bought some fruit and vegies there. But there was not the range and variety we’d found on previous visits.

Back to caravan park lifestyle – tea, followed by TV, laptops and reading, and trying to sleep with background caravan park noises – so much more intrusive than those of the bush. Well, most bush night noises – the beach thick knee (curlew) call can be incredibly intrusive!


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2007 Travels June 19

TUESDAY 19 JUNE     KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK

Increased cloud in the sky may have made for a great sunset, but it did not make for a great day following.

Today was a grey day, but the batteries that we’d topped up yesterday with the genset, were holding OK.

Drove north again, to the car park for the Keep River Gorge walk.

This was a 3km return walk, up the little gorge and back. The walk was enjoyable, between the coloured, layered sandstone gorge walls, to an overhanging rock area that had been used as a shelter by aborigines, and where there was rock art.

The works were varied in subject matter. Some figures were in the Wandjina figure style – eyes and no mouths.

The gorge was not all that deep, and was fairly wide most of the way.

Again, there were some wonderful old boabs to marvel at.

There were actually several different shelter areas along the gorge – an indication that a number of family groups used the area, and that it was rich in food.

Then it was back to the main road through the Park and further north for a short way, to a major art site, located in one of the rock outcrop areas that are scattered all over the Park.

A cave-like rock structure

The art here was brilliant.

Particularly striking was a depiction of the Rainbow Serpent – Garrimalam.

There had been the occasional drizzly showers through the morning.  But the rain, heralded by today’s grey skies, started in earnest in the afternoon. We were somewhat surprised by this change in the weather. We didn’t have any means of checking the weather forecast, apart from firing up the HF radio – and we didn’t even think of doing that.

When the rock formations close to camp were wet, the colours changed. The grey sections became darker and the oranges more intense. These two photos were taken in the area around the rock shelter featured above.

The Ranger still came and did his talk, which was really interesting and worth staying for. The conditions were not great though – standing around in our waterproof coats, in  rain, listening! We hadn’t wanted to take our camp chairs over to the talk, because they would have been soaked.

We learned that Keep River is a boundary,  in these parts, between arid and tropical ecosystems, and is thus ecologically very significant. I think the talk was shortened from the normal, because of the rain!

Through the night, the rain became steady and heavy. This did not seem like some little aberration in the normal weather pattern…..


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2007 Travels June 18

MONDAY 18 JUNE     KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK

I didn’t sleep well, last night – the other bed occupant was “breathing heavily”!

I was, therefore, up and about early, but John slept for much of the morning.

During the night, noticed that the battery level light on the controller system had turned from green to orange. Not a good sign. So John got the generator going for a while in the morning.

M went off from the campground to walk and explore. John was tired after yesterday and wanted a mostly camp based day. He hooked his laptop to the inverter, whilst the genset was going, and had a “fix” of his computer game, until into the afternoon.

Zoom image – the campground circle and rock formations around camp

After a late lunch we all drove to the Gingers Hill walk, back near the Ranger Station. This was only a short walk, up a hill.

Gingers Hill outlook

At the top there was a structure that the aboriginals used for catching kites – the “fire birds”.

A man would hide in the shelter, light a little fire to attract the kite to come in, looking for prey that was trying to escape the fire. He would wave a feathered lure from a hole in the top of the shelter. When a kite swooped in on the “distressed” prey, it would be grabbed. Roast kite for dinner!

Drove on to Cockatoo Lagoon, by the Ranger Station. We hoped to see a whole lot of different birds here, but they were not as prolific as expected. We had a survey with the binoculars for a little while, but did not see anything riveting.

Turkey Bush – widespread at Keep River

Back at camp, M and I had a hair washing session, using her new solar shower bag, which we’d left out in the sun, to warm the water inside. We took it in turns to hold up the bag so the other could rinse. It worked well.

I made a batch of carrot soup, to use up those we had, in preparation for crossing into WA, soon.

Some new campers came in during the afternoon. The result was two lots of very noisy and hyper kids running amok around the campground until 9pm. They were very intrusive as they ran all round where we were trying to sit peacefully around our campfire.

This completed our original three nights here, but we had decided to stay on another night, because a Ranger was giving a talk tomorrow night, about the Park, that we thought would be worthwhile hearing.

Once again, the sunset was brilliant, due to increased clouds in the sky.

Red sky at night – should have taken notice…..


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2007 Travels June 17

SUNDAY 17 JUNE     KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK

We were a bit slow to get going today – John slept in!

Today, wanted to give M a good exposure to the best of this Park.

We drove to the other campground, Jarnem, another 14kms to the north. The track was in pretty good condition. It passed through occasional low sandstone outcrops, with bigger ranges sometimes visible beyond. The vegetation was a mix of spinifex, shrubs and low trees – there were not as many boabs in evidence here as there had been at Bullita. Some of the trees – eucalypts of some sorts, I thought, were in flower, with clumps of big lemony yellow flowers.

The Jarnem campground is not as scenic as where we were – but it was also not as busy.

There were large flocks of red tailed black cockatoos feeding on the ground around the camping area, which seemed to have been burnt, maybe a month or two ago.

The goal was to complete the full Jarnem/Nigli Gap circuit walk. The distance of this was confusing – Park info gave one distance, the sign boards at Jarnem gave two different distances. It was somewhere between 6.8 and 8kms!

The walk circuit

The track out of the campground initially crossed flat black soil plains, and there were plenty of the black cockatoos there.

Red tailed black cockatoo

We skirted the front of a range, then the track took us fairly steeply up a narrow valley in the rocks.

Steeply uphill. Keep River valley in background

Signposts have more than the obvious value……

From the lookout at the top of this climb we could see both back across the Keep River Valley, and into the rather pound like area where we were headed.

The Bungles-like striped sandstone dome structures were obvious, across the flat central area.

Over there is where we are headed….

But first we had to go down to that flat, picking our way carefully down the rocky path.

The central area was not as flat as it had appeared. There were rock outcrops of various sizes and configurations, and often with a stacked appearance. Clearly, there had been some selective burning -both to reduce “hot” bushfires later in the season, and to make the area more passable for us!

The vegetation was really varied, too, from the spinifex  grasses, through eucalypts and other trees,  turkey bush, and even palms and boabs.

The variety of rock type and shapes and what was growing made for a really interesting walk.

Eroded sandstone

A rock stack also made a convenient place for lunch.

A shady place to sit for lunch

We spotted a pair of plump, white quilled rock doves sitting on a ledge, keeping very still. These birds are confined to the north-west of the country, so we were pleased to have spotted them. But they were too far away to photograph successfully.

The path approached close to the dome structures, so we could appreciate their intricacy. To me, they were identical to the structures found in the Bungles.

The way back was through the Nigli Gap – more gradual going.  Because of the late start, we’d ended up walking in the hottest part of the day. I’d definitely had enough by the time we finished.

The circuit walk we’d done was basically the only walk to be done from this campground. Last time we were here, there was another walk, to a section of the Keep River, to the north. We did it, but it was a bit of an anti-climax, walking across the floodplain but not really being able to get close to the river because of thick vegetation. Looked like National Parks had now taken it off the walks menu.

Drove straight back to the campground, and lazed around for the remainder of the day.

We had a cooking fire in the nearest fire place, then sat around it after tea, chatting and admiring the night skies some more. Had a bit of an ongoing “spot the satellite” competition going , on these nights.


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2007 Travels June 16

SATURDAY 16 JUNE   TIMBER CREEK TO KEEP RIVER NAT PARK   200kms

The tour group was on their way fairly early. I snuck over there and used their amenities for my morning ablutions, before they got locked up again. These were in much better order, and cleaner – as I’d thought.

We were not particularly slow getting going, but many others in the campground were away before us. Escaping the grunge.

This was not a park – or even a place – I’d recommend for travellers.

Our approximate 200kms drive west, on the Victoria Highway, was an interesting one, as the terrain became more rugged. The road crossed the East Baines River, then the multiple channels of the West Baines River. Noted the turn off to Bulloo River Station, once the home of author Sarah Henderson.

Almost to the WA border, turned north off the highway, onto an unsealed road into the Keep River National Park. This lesser known Park is, in our opinion, a real gem. Most travellers tend to be focussed on getting to – or leaving – Kununurra, with often a long drive ahead of or behind them. They sail on by the unprepossessing dirt road that leads into this Park. Some, of course, are put off by the 18kms of gravel road that leads to the first of the two campgrounds. Usually, this road is in quite good condition and – in fine weather – would hold no issues for a two wheel drive vehicle and conventional caravan – although the latter would have to be off grid capable.

Our destination was the first campground, which we consider the more immediately scenic of the two – Goorrandalng Campground. The way to this took us past Cockatoo Lagoon and the Ranger’s place. We did not stop, having not found the lagoon all that special, previously. Also passed a water point, where potable water could be obtained.

We arrived before lunchtime and, at that stage, there were only two other lots of campers in here, so we had a fair choice of sites.

The camp area was a loop road around a bollarded off central area of low rock outcrops. Places to pull in with campers or vans were spaced along beside the inner part of the road loop. Tent campers could use the central “fenced off” part.  At convenient spots in this central area, were fireplaces and low table platforms. There were pit toilets down close to the entrance.

It was a very scenic and pleasant place to stay. Beyond the campground, to the west, were higher rock outcrops – very dramatic ones.

We set up at the far end of the campground, where we had a great outlook across to the rocks beyond. We had a bay where we could pull in and face the van inwards, M had an adjacent bay where she could put up her living tent on the area between the two bays. A most suitable spot for us!

Tailor made for us

Settled in. Walked up to the check in point and completed our registration envelope and put in our $6.60 a night fee – for the next three nights.

Rock outcrop in central area of campground

There appeared to be a number of day trippers in the campground area, presumably from Kununurra, it being a weekend. Them being parked in a number of the camp bays made it harder for the would-be campers who arrived later in the day. By dusk, most of the day trippers had gone and most camp spots were occupied. It was certainly busier than when we had been here last.

In the later afternoon, we walked the 2km circuit from the campground, through the rock formations nearby.

There are like a mini-Bungles, in the shapes and colouring of some of the formations, and geologically similar – striped sandstone.

There were spectacular, photogenic shapes.

It was a great little walk, except for there still being too many day trippers around. M was impressed.

Sunset, with an uninterrupted outlook to the west, was dramatic.

Camp chores

We had a campfire again! And stars at night. All was well with the world again…..


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2000 Travels June 24

SATURDAY 24 JUNE     KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK

We were up about 7.30am. The tour group left soon after. It didn’t seem like they had seen much of the park!

It was a lovely morning, with lots of birds about – much bird noise.

After breakfast, I packed lunch, and we drove back to the main park track, then further north for about 16kms, to the other camp ground, Jarnem. That was larger than the one we were in, with more specifically marked out caravan and trailer bays. But it is not quite as impressive in its immediately obvious surrounding scenery, as ours. The track there was fine, but we could see a number of places where the track had flooded.

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Near Jarnem campground

Our goal was to walk to Policemans Waterhole. On the information  boards in the National Parks office in Timber Creek, I’d noted that the western track was closed, due to water, so we took the northern route.

There was a large area of water over the track in one stretch, so we did get wet feet. We passed through high grass, in places. It did not seem that this track had been much used, recently.

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The almost overgrown walking track to policemans Waterhole can be seen leading away from me

Policemans Waterhole was on the Keep River, but when we reached there, most of it was obscured by vines, pandanus and high grass, so it was a bit of an anti-climax. However, the sandstone outcrops on the way had been scenic, so the walk itself was worth doing. We had travelled about 2kms from the Truck.

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Near Policemans Waterhole

It was getting hot by the time we left the water hole. We retraced our route for some of the way, then branched off to the west to do the Nigli Gap walk. According to the information at Timber Creek, this track was closed, due to water, but it appeared to us that they had it the wrong way round, because this track was fine.

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Lone palm tree on the ridge

The Nigli Gap track went round some excellent sandstone formations – rather like those of the Bungles – most spectacular and very photogenic.

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Bungles-like dome formations on Nigli Gap walk

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Spinifex, dome like shapes, and palm trees on the Nigli Gap walk

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It was a hot walk back to the Truck. We had lunch in the camp ground there and watched birds.

Then drove back to our camp. The round trip today was 41kms.

We  lazed about for the rest of the afternoon. I marinated chicken drumsticks for tea. I tried to treat a heap of sandfly bites I must have collected yesterday, on my right elbow area – it is very hot and swollen today. We could see little sandfly/midge things around, so I put on repellent.

It was pleasant, later in the afternoon, as the day cooled down. The camp area became quite crowded by evening.

John had another go at fixing the kero lamp.

Tea was carrot soup, drumsticks, coleslaw.

There was one group of campers running a generator, which was quite noisy. They didn’t turn it off until after 10pm, by which time most other campers were trying to get to sleep. Inconsiderate pigs.

Our lamp gave up totally and wouldn’t go at all. We lit a small fire in the nearby fireplace and sat round that for a while, before turning in, and trying to sleep against the background noise of that infernal genset. Karma would get them, somewhere, sometime, I found myself thinking!


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2000 Travels June 23

FRIDAY 23 JUNE   TIMBER CREEK TO KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK   211kms

We got up about 7.30am, but did not get away from the caravan park until after 10, because of talking to people.

We refuelled Truck and also filled the smaller jerry can, which we’d emptied back at Opalton. Fuel here cost $1.07cpl.

At the store, I bought four small yoghurts and a half litre of milk – cost $8.65! The cost of remote living. I also phoned home from the phone box at the Park and left a message about our planned movements.

The drive westwards was really interesting. We saw the very large Victoria River, off to the right, initially. It sure had grown in size from where we crossed it a few days ago! There was some fairly flat river flood plain country; we crossed the East Baines River, that we’d seen at Bullita yesterday. Further on were the several channels of the larger West Baines River, and after that we were into increasingly dramatic range country.

The turn off to Bulloo Station was just west of the West Baines River – Sara Henderson’s place and the setting for her books. The homestead was some 70kms from the highway – a long driveway!

We stopped at a parking area just past that turn off, for a coffee break. There were several other vans there.

Close to the WA border, and the Keep River turnoff, which is only a few kms this side of it, we went through a range of hills.

Turned to the north to go into the Keep River National Park, on a good unsealed road, with a couple of small creek crossings. About 3kms in, was the turnoff to the Ranger Station and Cockatoo Lagoon. A few kms after that there was a water collecting tap beside the road. Then about 15kms from the highway, we turned left to go into Gurrandalng camp ground, another 3kms in.

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The road into Keep River National Park

We loved the camp ground as soon as we saw it. It was a small, lovely area, a road circle constructed around some sandstone outcrops, with bays and pull in areas for campers’ rigs. It looked to have the capacity for maybe a dozen or fifteen rigs.

We parked by two other vans, making and end-to-end line of three, side on to the low log fence that enclosed the central area. The other two lots made us welcome – I think they saw us as “compatible” and preventing worse occupation of the vacant spot by them – such as the Whizz-bang type of camper favoured by overseas back packers, so called because of the noise made by the sliding door of the camper, especially in the middle of the night! The others had only arrived today, too.

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Our camp site at Keep River – superb backdrop!

The camp ground had a very spectacular sandstone ridge backdrop, complete with walking track.

There was a long drop toilet and some low tables and fireplaces, in the central area.

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The central part of camp area – railed off from vehicle access

At the entrance we completed a payment envelope and put in the $5 a night fee, paying for four nights.

There was a lot of bird life around the camp area.

After setting up, I chatted to our neighbours for a while, then made soup – curried carrot – enough for three days or more.

John tried to fix the kero lamp, which had begun to play up  at Opalton – with only moderate success.

Tea was soup, fried chops, potato, salads, yoghurt. I was not very hungry – maybe due to the heat?

There was a pleasant breeze, after dark.

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Sun setting on the hills by the camp ground

Just on dark, an Oka 4WD bus of West Coast Adventures pulled in nearby and disgorged about ten campers. After a most unpleasant time with an AAT Kings neighbouring group, in the Bungles in ’93, we thought dire things, but they were actually very quiet and unobtrusive. I wish all tour groups were like that!

There were a few mozzies about.

The stars were brilliant.

We did not stay up late – back to conserving our power!

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