This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels July 1


After the usual morning getting-going routines, we drove out to Lake Argyle Resort.

Lake Argyle – only the very small northern end

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.

Dam wall and one of the lookouts

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.

Ord River – a section we’d travelled on 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.

Ord River Dam wall – such a small structure to hold back so much water

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.

Head Lice Dreaming

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!

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2007 Travels June 30


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.

Dam wall – built across a very narrow, deep valley

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.

Hydro generation plant outflow with only one of the three outlet pipes operating

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.

The gorge of a tributary creek

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.

Moonrise over the Sleeping Buddha

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.

That graduated blue-pink-grey horizon that is so typical of dusk in these parts

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.

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2007 Travels June 28


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.

Lake Argyle hydro scheme from dam wall. Boat landing on left

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.

Lake Argyle – just a very little part of it

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.

Ord River on Zoom. Red marks show pick up point and end of river trip

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……..

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2000 Travels July 10


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

07-10-2000 Lake Argyle CP.jpg

Our open site at lake Argyle

I washed a small load that had accumulated.

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

We were both very tired and had an early night

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2000 Travels June 28


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.

06-28-2000 03 lake argyle reflections

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


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