SATURDAY 18 AUGUST – WEDNESDAY 22 AUGUST KUNUNURRA
On Saturday morning I walked to the shopping area to get a newspaper. Browsed some shops. Visited the Saturday markets and bought some grapefruit and tomatoes.
While I was away, John washed Truck and applied vinyl protectant to all the necessary places. Truck looked a different vehicle to the dusty, dirty one that had come in yesterday.
We washed the outside of the van – that was allowed, here.
M arrived from El Questro. She had done some walking and driving yesterday, but decided that she, too, was ready for a dose of “town”. They put her on a site that overlooked the lake – pleasant, but a bit of a distance away from us.
Son phoned. He’d had a great day with the Darwin branch manager. They even went to a rodeo! He would be flying out on the red-eye later.
On Sunday we went out to the rock gallery on the Packsaddle Road. John had a chat with the owner, who said he would cut John a nice slab of the type of stripey zebra rock he likes. We were to go back on Wednesday to collect it. John had in mind to carve shallow bowl like pieces to become Xmas presents for the offspring.
I bought a bag of assorted rock pieces, for $20. I had in mind to try carving these myself – to make earrings, perhaps, or bead shapes.
M bought a carved stone wine bottle holder rack – very “different” but also quite heavy and awkward to store in her Troopy for the rest of the trip. She only realized that later….
The Weekend Australian came into town on Sundays, so bought one of those and enjoyed a thorough catch up on national affairs. Yesterday’s WA paper was not the same…..
Refuelled Truck – $152cpl.
On Monday, M and I walked to the shops, in the morning, and to the Post Office. Then we explored some streets, walking on our way to meet John at a yard that also had slabs of the local rock. I think we inadvertently took a really circuitous route!
John selected several pieces of the rock. More weight!
Later in the day, he went out and organized buying a new tyre for Truck, as replacement for the one that blew out on the way to El Questro.
On Tuesday, M left to go to Old Halls Creek, to explore, for a couple of days. That was another place we had already stayed at.
John was basically just happy filling in a few days here, before we could head directly for Broome. Bit boring. I’d have preferred to Have left yesterday or today, and maybe had a couple of days in Derby, instead, as we hadn’t been there since our 1993 trip, But John’s quest for rock complicated it all.
On Wednesday we went back to the gallery to collect the cut slab. It was lovely. John was so impressed that he had a second one done, too, and we waited there for that. It cost $120 for both.
After a fairly early breakfast, I drove with son to Kununurra. He wanted to go for a drive and we couldn’t explore the local property. He also needed to be able to check his emails for work related stuff.
M left Home Valley at the same time as we did. She was going ahead of us, by a day, to El Questro. She had lots she wanted to do there; John and I had previously stayed there and there were some parts we didn’t particularly want to see again. We were hoping she would be able to bag one of their riverside “private” camp spots for all of us, when we joined her tomorrow.
We stopped at the Pentecost, to take photos at the ford, of the vehicles crossing – which had to go back and forth in order to be photographed. It was a bit old hat to me, but a great new experience for the other two.
In Kununurra, I directed us to the caravan park, so I could check on the van, while son caught up on his emails. I got a gas bottle filled. And luxury – I bought a newspaper! Yes, the world was still out there!
We did a quick sightsee around town: the spillway, the old Ivanhoe Crossing, the zebra rock gallery and the Argyle diamond shop. It was a pity the lad didn’t have more time than just the one week off work.
As we set off out of town to go back, there was much black smoke coming from the caravan park direction. The area behind the caravan park, close to the van storage area, was on fire!
We went back, in a hurry.
The park staff said that some of the locals had started a fire in the long grass outside the park, but the van would be safe.
To be on the safer side, I went down there and removed the lock out of the Treg coupling, to make it a bit easier, in case the van did have to be moved.
We left when the Fire Brigade was there and things seemed to be under control.
When we arrived back at camp, son went off to the ramp to fish some more. John and I did some preliminary packing up.
The evening around the camp fire seemed rather strange without M there.
WEDNESDAY 4 JULY KUNUNURRA TO KURRAJONG CAMP, BUNGLES 310kms
We got up early, but did not get away from Kununurra as early as I’d hoped.
Because John had gotten mired down yesterday, in trying to sort out his technology stuff, things that should have been done yesterday – like tying down the roof rack contents – had not been done.
Then John had to call Telstra to get the new phone scenario sorted out. Today, they told him that the new phone could keep the old number, after all! Talk about left hand not knowing…..A new sim card would be sent to our home address. We did not, after all – and again contrary to previous advice – have to send either phone back to them.
There had been much angst and time wasted over the whole business. Note to self – in future, absolutely insist that any technology changes are done at home and well in advance of any planned travel!
We had to hitch up the packed van and tow it around to the Park’s storage area, which was beyond the waterfront unpowered camp area, but overlooked by some powered sites higher up. This part of the Park was securely fenced with a really high mesh wire fence, so I was reasonably content about the security of the van. I put on the Treg lock that stops the van being able to be hitched up. John sprayed our very powerful ant spray on the ground all around the perimeter of the van.
After all that, left town about 8.30am.
The highway west, then south, from Kununurra is such a scenic drive, with the stark red ranges always present – near or far. We had, of course, travelled this way last year.
Stopped at the roadhouse at Warmun – formerly Turkey Creek – to top up the fuel at this last available outlet, knowing that given our plans, we would need every drop! $1.60cpl.
The place was humming – I was surprised by how many travellers were here. I noted that they now had a fenced van storage area here, that looked well patronized. Still, for a long period like we were planning, I thought Kununurra was the best place to have left ours.
We travelled about 250kms on the highways, before turning onto the unsealed road into Purnululu National Park – the Spring Creek Track.
Not far along the track, we came to the Fletcher Creek crossing. This was nearly the end of our Bungles expedition! After all the rain, it was quite wide, with a noticeable current, and muddy brown in colour – obscuring any idea of the nature of the creek bed.
We joined other vehicles parked up, waiting to watch someone else drive it! Logic said that since the track was officially open, this crossing must be do-able, but it looked pretty marginal to me. Eventually, a vehicle appeared on the far side and headed towards us. He took a curving path and made it without mishap, though it became obvious that the creek bottom was very uneven as he tilted about. His vehicle only looked to be in about 60cm deep water – we could manage that. With its rubber matting floors, a little water ingress was not a big deal for Truck; the rear contents, the HF radio unit and the air compressor controller, were all some 10cm higher than the footwell level for us, as the floor was stepped.
So we ventured in – with us in the lead and M waiting till we got through, and watching the line we took. We must have crawled over some fairly large rocks under the water – certainly got up some distinct leaning! The rocky bed wasn’t firm, either – a couple of times it felt like we slipped sideways off rocks. But got through unscathed, as did M when she followed us. Funny how the angle of tilt feels so much greater when one is sitting in the vehicle, rather than just watching on…..
It was clear, despite our success, that this crossing was obviously deterring the majority of would-be campers. No one seemed to immediately follow us. Maybe our crossing looked as bad as it felt!
After that, the track was quite good – a pleasant surprise as it had a reputation for often being rough. We covered the 52kms from the highway in about 90 minutes, to the Ranger Station/Three Ways corner.
We decided to go to Kurrajong Camp area; the alternative – Walardi – was much closer to the helicopter base, with its attendant noise. It cost us $20 a night to camp (unpowered of course), plus an entry fee of $3. Because John was going to be out of camp, up at Picaninny Gorge, we were only charged a $15 camp fee for each of those nights! Not cheap, for a National Park!
We booked for a week in all. That would, we thought, allow us to visit all the special sites, do the walks, and for M and John to have their two nights away, and then recover afterwards, which I suspected would be needed.
At Kurrajong Camp, we set up in their designated generator section – wanting to be able to re-charge camera and laptop batteries, if needed. This area was large and pleasant and had hardly any other campers. Across the little creek, the non-generator, “quiet” area was quite crowded, and really not quiet at all. I think we may have stumbled on a useful campground strategy!
I wondered how many of the campers here were recent arrivals, and how many were still waiting for Fletcher Creek to go down before leaving, after a prolonged stay?
It was a pretty camp area, with the nearby range red in the afternoon sun. The little creek behind us was dry. The pit toilets were not too far to walk, were alright for their type, and there were water taps not far away.
It took us a while to set up our camps. Our big tent was relatively easy to put up, as these things go, and we had done it many times before, so knew what we were doing. But it did take time to unload the gear from Truck and set it up – like the plastic crates of foodstuffs, in the tent. Had to blow up the lilo we slept on – the Truck air compressor did that. Then I had to make that up with underblanket and sheets, and open up the sleeping bags that would be our top coverings.
The camp gas stove, outside tables and chairs were set up. The Chescold fridge was unloaded and placed in the shade of the tent, and its gas bottle attached and fridge lit.
Then we felt we’d earned a beer or two before cooking tea. So good to be out in the bush again.
It was a really dark night – no moon to speak of and no general urban light.
Back to the shops, to collect our packaged meat, and to buy fresh fruit and vegies.
We needed to visit the camping gear shops to see what useful gear we might be able to acquire, without breaking the bank.
Bought John a 3 litre camel pack (a water bladder that fits inside a day or back pack). Carrying water would be a challenge on the gorge walk, because there is no reliable drinking water there.
Bought him a small, light, lilo, a light weight plate and bowl and a few similar items. We also bought some dried hike food.
I really thought that we should have bought him a rucksack, but the cheapest that was any good at all was $199, and he baulked at that.
From 1998, until just last year, we always carried on our travels, our two old hiking rucksacks, a hike tent, small meths stove and associated hike gear – just “in case”. Of course, this year, they were safely in a shed at home……
There was much packing through the afternoon.
I attracted some disbelieving looks from surrounding campers, as I tore up newspapers into different sized squares and individually wrapped all our potatoes, onions, oranges, carrots, grapefruit, apples. It took ages, but I’d found in the past that this effort was worth it – the unrefrigerated produce lasted much longer that way – and if a piece did go bad, it did not spread to the other items. I packed all that into cardboard cartons that we’d obtained from the supermarket.
Our clothes went into two soft luggage bags; these normally travelled empty, flat, in Truck. At least, we had brought those from home with us.
Our Chescold gas fridge was to be the refrigerator for most of our joint chiller items. M’s 12v Engel fridge was largely given over to freezer storage of our meat.
Took down the van annexe roof, packed up the floor matting and packed away as much as we could.
John tried to activate the new phone. It was not easy to work, and he did not really have time for detailed reading of the manual – in any case, as far as he is concerned, manuals are the very last resort when all experimentation fails!
I tried to send an experimental text message to daughter, to test it out – John not knowing how to text – but it didn’t seem to work.
The old phone kept on working, even though it was not supposed to – because the new phone was supposed to have its number! At night, I phoned daughter, who said that the strange text message (from me) had come in to her on a totally unfamiliar number.
John promptly phoned Telstra, who told him we couldn’t keep our old number, in spite of being told we could, by the salesman. Typical. John was told he would have to phone and sort it out tomorrow.
I was not happy. I was extremely unhappy…..
Phoned son and really urged him again to consider joining us, at some point, in the Kimberley, to take a break from his marital woes.
I woke up feeling perfectly fine, which was a pleasant surprise.
The caravan park had a dedicated area where residents could do vehicle work, including an oil change, so John and M did an oil change on both the vehicles – M with tutelege from John. It was a messy job.
While they were doing that, I went to the Park office, and arranged for the van to be stored here. It would be parked in their storage area, for $3 a day. Very reasonable.
We did a big food shop. At the butcher’s shop, M and I put in our orders for vacuum packed meats, which we would collect tomorrow. It was all meats minus bones – steaks, sausages, mince, chicken thighs. I learned the hard way, on a trip years ago, not to cryovac meat with bones that could pierce the plastic! Green chops anyone?
When we checked at the PO, the new phone had not arrived. Not good. We had been here long enough, without having to wait round for something like that! In fact, I would refuse to do so.
At the Visitor Centre, we bought Permits – as vaguely dated as we could manage – for Kalumburu, in case we did manage to get up there. At the moment, that road was still not open.
Refuelled Truck – $1.52cpl.
John phoned Telstra about the missing phone. They had sent the package to the caravan park, not the PO! Slight breakdown in communication right there! He collected it. He activated the new computer internet connection – much faster. At least that was positive. Not that there would be much in the way of internet signals where we were going for the next month or two.
We started the long packing process. Some gear, food and clothes had to be moved from van to Truck, and packed appropriately. Some stuff would move from Truck to van, mostly to be squeezed in under the bed. Truck would need rearranging so we could access things differently. Basically, unpack everything and start again! We knew from prior experience that this would be a long and tiring job.
We sat round at Happy Hour, discussing what we would do whilst in the Bungles. M really wanted to do the walk to Piccaninny Gorge, and camp up there for a night or two. Well, she would have to camp at least one night, because it was about 15kms each way. John decided he really wanted to do it too. Unfortunately, we did not have enough of the right gear for all of us to do it. M’s small hike tent would sleep two at a squeeze, but definitely not three, for starters. I actually did not mind too much the idea of minding the camp and having a bit of time on my own!
Apart from that, it was decided we would try to visit all the accessible features of the Bungles – and would stay long enough to do so. If we were making the effort to get in there, we would make it worthwhile! It would not be a short stay…..
Today it was official – the Kununurra area had just smashed all previous rainfall records for June! The previous record had been 15.2mm – but we had just tallied up 98.9mm! The average for June was just 4.0. Where we go, so goes the rain…….. It was also a new record low temperature June.
After the usual morning getting-going routines, we drove out to Lake Argyle Resort.
There is only the one road out to there, leaving the highway back east of Kununurra, almost to the NT border. The day was much nicer than when we’d passed this way over a week ago!
The drive out to the resort, dam wall and surrounds was well worth doing, just for the scenery along the road.
Out there, we did a little walking – to a couple of lookout areas.
At one of them, we were distracted from the views by a noisy group of red tailed black cockatoos, feeding in the trees, quite close to us.
From one of the lookouts, we could see down over the Ord River, to where we had cruised up yesterday.
Drove across the dam wall to the far side, parked near the boat landing, and wandered around for a bit longer than we’d had time to do, yesterday.
It really is such a small dam to hold back such an enormous volume of water! What struck me as noteworthy was that Patrick Durack was suggesting damming the Ord, decades before it happened.
John wanted us to have a fish and chip lunch at the Argyle Tavern, where they served the silver cobbler fish. As we’d previously discovered, this was the more palatable – marketable – name for the catfish caught in the Lake!
I was feeling a bit off colour before lunch, and was even more so after the meal, which was very greasy and tasted like the cooking oil was rank. It was a pity, because we’d talked this up to M, and because we had really enjoyed previous meals of this fish, even buying some for the van freezer. Not this time!
On the way back, stopped at the Stonewall Creek crossing and wandered about there for a little while. It was just being an ordinary creek, without a great deal of water. It was hard to describe to M what it was like when raging with overflow waters.
Our other destination on the return trip, was Mirima National Park, close to town. This is only small, but contains unusual rock formations and great short walks through them. The rocks are the banded sandstone formations similar to the Bungles – and like Keep River.
We walked through the valley between the rock formations and up to a lookout over Kununurra and its surrounding farmed plains.
One of the rock formations here has a name that both amused and fascinated me, the first time ever we came here – translated from the indigenous as Head Lice Dreaming. I love it.
Came across a bower belonging to a Great Bower Bird. It was always interesting to see which types of items individual male birds collect to decorate their bowers. This one had found some pale green glass – it looked like he was still experimenting with this. Presumably he had also brought the plastic drink can insert, to try out?
I went to bed very early, feeling very flu-ey. I couldn’t work out how much was due to the awful lunch, and how much was some illness.
John had to cook his own tea. I think it finished up being baked beans from a tin!
We walked to the boat departure area which was close by the caravan park, to be there at 11.15. Left at 11.30 for our Triple J tour up the Ord River.
There was a lovely, clear blue sky and it was not too hot.
Afternoon tea was provided as part of the tour, but travellers were encouraged to have their lunch before departure – so we’d had a slightly more substantial than usual, late breakfast. Took bottles of water with us.
This tour was so excellent. The different sections of the river that we traversed, over the 55kms each way, provided plenty of contrasts – and scope for many, many photos! Thank God for digital!
The first section was Lily Creek Lagoon, part of Lake Kununurra. Then it was out into the river proper – large and placid, with distant ranges.
Gradually, this section became less civilized/settled, and the river gradually narrowed, with the outlook ahead of the boat becoming dominated by rocky ranges.
The river entered a broad gorge through the Carr Boyd Range.
Here, the vistas were shorter, as the river wound around bends, and were dominated by red rock walls, whose varied shapes were interesting in their own right.
The reflections on the river surface added another dimension, and in some ways were more worth photographing than the actual subject matter that was being reflected. I was so pleased that the weather conditions today helped make these so good.
There began to be areas of shallows, sandbanks, little islands in the channel.
Some sections of more shallow “rapids” were a reminder that, before the building of the Ord River Dam, and the one at Kununurra, the river’s behaviour here would have been totally different. Trips like this would probably not have been possible for much of the year, if at all.
Finally, there was the section of river below the dam wall, which loomed high above. This part of the river was quite fast flowing, because of the outflow from the little hydro electricity generating station. The outflow pipe was gushing water.
The Ord River Dam that created Lake Argyle was finished in the early 70’s, in order to better store and regulate water flow for the downstream irrigation areas, and allow expansion of the farmed area. The hydro electricity scheme went in during the 1990’s. It only looks a little plant, but generates the power for Kununurra, Wyndham, and the Argyle Diamond Mine.
The whole place deals in massive and impressive statistics! We were told that Lake Argyle stores a water volume of something like 29 Sydney Harbours. I did remember, from when we did the sunset tour in 2000, being astounded by the size of the lake – and we were only on one narrow end. The boat operators on the Lake must have the same sort of certification as ocean ship operators – Lake Argyle is regarded as a sea!
We were also told then that they didn’t really expect the Lake to fill completely, that it was supposed to take several years to reach the part capacity forecast – and then, in the wet summer of 73/4, it filled to overflowing, catching them all by surprise.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that this dam wall that holds back so much water, is made of local rock, and clay – no cement at all! And it is such a tiny structure, comparative to the size of the impounded lake behind it.
After a short stop at the boat landing below the dam wall, we commenced the return trip down river. With the water flow this time, instead of against it.
The perspectives going back were quite different, so the trip did not become monotonous.
On the way back, we nosed into where Stonewall Creek entered the Ord, quite a distance downstream from the Dam. This is the spillway from the Lake, at overflow peaks. We had, on a previous trip, explored this creek at the point where the access road to the Argyle Village, crosses it, and seen it in full spate with raging floodwaters from the Lake.
We tied up at a little landing in a grotto-like area, where there was a little trickling waterfall, for afternoon tea. Nice it was too – pumpkin scones and a banana sponge, with tea and coffee. This was one of the places that canoe-based campers could stay, when travelling the river. That would actually be a great way of exploring it, over 3-5 days, but it would be hard work going upstream! Somewhat sadly, beyond our abilities and inclinations (mostly) these days.
Also different on the way back, was the light, as we approached late afternoon, then dusk and finally sunset and moonrise over Lake Kununurra as we came back to dock.
It was very chilly for the last half hour or so, as the sun went down. The sunset and moonrise reflections on the lake surface were quite special, though.
In all, a great trip, excellent value for money. One I’d be very tempted to do again, if we do another trip this way.
In our absence, M went off driving exploring, on the back tracks to the west of the Ord – Parrys Creek way. She visited Black Rock Falls and Middle Springs and the western side of the Ivanhoe Crossing.
Phoned son at night, to keep a check on him. We talked about him possibly meeting up with us, up this way, for a break, once his move of house had been done.
A fine day. Good – I hoped all those dirt roads we would soon be traversing, were drying out fast!
For us, the main event of the day was that we collected our sandblasted and repainted roof rack. John was extremely pleased with the job that was done on it. However, collected was the operative word. We were shown it, paid for it, and then left to replace it into position ourselves! This took us a while – it was a bloody unwieldy object! Truck is high. We had to be careful not to scratch the sides of Truck.
The road into the Bungles was re-opened today. Guess there would be a number of campers very happy to be able to leave there now! But although the Gibb is open, the Kalumburu road that gives access to the Mitchell Plateau area is still closed, so there would still be stranded groups at the Mitchell Plateau, King Edward River, the Kalumburu area camps, and Drysdale River.
Still having a few more days to go here yet, should enable the initial rushes of travellers to the Gibb and the Bungles, to clear through the camps and get ahead of us.
Did some minor shopping for the weekend meals. Fish and chips again tonight. Didn’t reckon we would be having our Friday night feasts again, for quite some time.
M did her Triple J tour today. She had a fine day for it, though there was still some cloud about.
She was collected from the caravan park before 9am. They travelled by boat up the Ord River, from near this caravan park, to the Argyle Dam wall, where they disembarked at a small landing there. Lunch was provided at the tavern at Lake Argyle. A ground tour of the key features followed, like the dam wall and the reconstructed Durack Homestead.
Patrick Durack, the founder of the Kimberley Durack dynasty, arrived in the Kimberley after an epic cattle drive. He built a substantial homestead on his Argyle Downs station, completing it in 1895. The site of this is now well under the waters of Lake Argyle, but before it flooded, the homestead was carefully taken apart, to be rebuilt above the water level. Even graves were relocated. It was to be a monument of sorts, to the pivotal role of the Durack family in opening up the Kimberley.
After the ground tour, the group took to another boat, on Lake Argyle itself, for the sunset boat tour, well lubricated with bubbly! Given that there was still some cloud about, they experienced a slightly different sunset to most groups, but it was very spectacular.
It was – obviously – well after dark when the bus deposited M back at the caravan park. It had been a full day. She enjoyed it, despite it still being windy and cold.
John spent much of the day messing about on his laptop.
Times like this, when we were largely confined to van by weather, and not going anywhere, were – fortunately – pretty rare on our travels. In what was essentially a 6 foot by 14 foot box, it didn’t take too long to start going stir-crazy.
I read and tried to do some planning for a possible trip to the Bungles and the Gibb River Road, and points beyond. One fact stood out – it was going to be expensive! Everyone in the more remote parts had to make their tourist profits in a very short window of time, and the charges reflected this. Even the basic campgrounds were relatively costly – and the tourist guide was emphatic that camping was allowed “in designated areas ONLY.” Gone were the days when one could pitch a camp in any lovely spot that caught the eye – too many such campers polluting the streams, leaving rubbish – and worse – and interfering with station activities.
A dilemma for us was what to do about the van. It was not allowed into the Bungles. Did we do a Bungles trip, with the van left here (or at Turkey Creek), then double back, collect it and take it through the Gibb? With the recent massive rains, how high would the Pentecost River be at the crossing on the Gibb – really didn’t want water above the van’s floor level! Hmmmm……..
We had been here for a week now. Booking in for a couple of weeks had not been so silly, after all. No word yet on when the tracks would reopen.
We had been rationing out things to do, around the area, to spread them over the time we had to be here.
It was definitely fining up. This was the second day without rain and the sky seemed much lighter. Blue skies by the end of the day!
A day trip to Wyndham today. Drove directly there on the highway – 105kms from Kununurra.
Wyndham is more essentially “Kimberley” than Kununurra, in my view. It is certainly older and thus reflects more of the history of the region. Located on the banks of Cambridge Gulf, it began in the mid 1880’s as the nearest port to the new gold fields around Halls Creek, quickly becoming somewhat of a boom town. However, the gold rush was quickly over and Wyndham remained as a small service centre for the surrounding pastoral ventures. Given the difficulties of land transport for so long into the 20th century, the port retained its importance in those times. Like a number of other northern ports, it was bombed during WW2.
On our previous visit here, my over-riding impression was of a little settlement battling to keep being. The improvements in land transport in the Kimberley did not favour Wyndham, for the most part, because it is not on either the main highway or the Gibb River Road. So, it requires a dedicated trip there, and the majority of tourists do not seem to bother – to their loss. However, the development of roads through the Kimberley did allow Wyndham to grow as a meat/cattle shipping port.
Our first stop at Wyndham was at the Five Rivers Lookout, reached by a sealed road that climbed steadily to the top of The Bastion – a peak right behind the town.
As suggested by the lookout name, five rivers flow into the Cambridge Gulf, at or near Wyndham. The Ord we had already encountered around Kununurra. The King was a short River, rising in the hills of El Questro Station. The Pentecost, whose tributaries drained much of the central Kimberley. The Forrest River passed mostly through the indigenous lands to the west of the Cambridge Gulf. Finally, the Durack, another system to the west of the Pentecost.
One gained a very good sense of the rather strange layout of the town, and the reasons for it, from up on The Bastion. The coastal, tidal mudflats and the narrowness of the flat coastal margin were obvious.
The original town centred on the old port, with its circular jetty. It was here that a meatworks was built and operated for years, preparing beef to be exported. For years, the little creek mouth near the jetty was the haunt of large saltie crocs – because the meatworks sent their waste products down the creek. A modern crocodile farm is not far from there.
A newer section of the town developed some distance from the old port area and it is here that most shops and housing are found. Also the quite pleasant caravan park where we had previously stayed.
Made our way down the big hill, turning off just before the town outskirts, to go to the Three Mile Valley. From the road’s end, here, we walked some of the way along the – dry – creek. It would be really pleasant when flowing.
Then to the old town area. which did not take long to drive around. Impulsively, M decided she wanted to do the croc farm tour and John said he’d go too. I decided to save the money – I had done so many croc farm tours in the past, in Darwin.
They enjoyed the informative tour, which of course featured some croc feeding. The farm contained its crocs mostly in pens, rather than in large, more natural lagoons, like in Darwin.
I sat in the little shop/cafe and waited for them.
There was a large cement crocodile by the entrance to the new town area.
As usual I had packed our lunches. We went to Warraiu Park to find some shade where we could sit and eat. There was a Dreamtime feature here – statues of an aboriginal family and some Dreamtime animals.
There were a number of present day aboriginals in the Park, too – not all of them sober. One lady, who told us her name was Julie, was quite insistent that we buy a carved boab nut that she had made. I actually thought it was very well done, with a lot of detail, featuring goannas and bustards – the latter a favourite bird of mine. So I bought it, for $25. I had no idea whether I was ripped off or not, but the main thing was that I really liked it.
With a final stop to photograph the cement croc at the new town’s entrance – just because it was there – drove back the way we’d come, for a short distance, then took Parry Creek Road, briefly, before taking the track to the Telegraph Hill walk and Marlgu Billabong.
The shortish walking track at Telegraph Hill took us via the foundations of an old wireless station – not much to see, really, of that. But it was also a lookout point over the maze of floodplains characteristic of the area. Perhaps the main feature, though, was the boabs growing on the hill, some still with nuts on. It was a pity these were too high for us to reach – I wouldn’t have minded a nice fat, uncarved one.
Continued on to the track’s end at Marlgu Billabong, where there was a bird hide overlooking the lagoon. Watched the bird activity for a while.
There were lots of hard-head ducks, a number of egrets, a few grebe, the occasional heron. Try as we might, couldn’t spot any type of bird we hadn’t seen before.
Back to the main road and our final touristy spot for the day – The Grotto. This was a deep valley in the surrounding rock, with a safe swimming hole at the bottom – a valued feature in these croccy parts. But to get to the water, one had to go down 140 steps hewn into the rocky cliff face – with no handrail. Not for me! Although it was the hottest day we’d had for over a week, it was getting later in the day, I was a bit weary – and I do not like heights. John’s hips were sore, so it was only M who ventured down to the water.
I wandered about up top, and tried to take some photos down into The Grotto, but they were not successful. It was quite hot among the rocks up top, so I was glad when M reappeared, reporting that it was nice enough down there, but she wasn’t sure it had been worth the effort.
Back to camp. We passed the junction of the Great Northern Highway and the Gibb River Road. On our way to Wyndham, this had featured a prominent Closed sign. But now, it was Open. So the glut of travellers aiming to traverse the northern Kimberley via this route, could now begin to empty out of Kununurra. I predicted a big exodus tomorrow.
John usually has little input into detailed decisions about where we will go, what we will see and do. Earlier in our travelling days, I used to pressure him over this. His response was usually to grab the map, have a cursory look and pick out the first name that caught his attention. Then he would be adamant that we visit there! This usually resulted in some “adventures” that I’d prefer to forget. Like on our first Kimberley trip, in 1993, when it took us two hours to drive 5kms, when John decided we must visit Crystal Creek – then about as remote as one could go in the region. Traversing large rock “steps” in the vehicle, literally through grass higher than it, just to get to a place that was open, hot, sandfly and croc infested………So, these days I don’t ask The Driver!
However, now that the weather was fining up, John decided he would really like for us to go to the Bungles, when our booked time here was through. It was a long time – 14 years – since we had been there, and M had never been. I liked the idea!