This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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……..

Leave a comment

2007 Travels June 23


Today was grey, a little humid, and with showers through the day. It did not look like this nasty little low pressure system was going anywhere else, anytime soon. At least, the ongoing rain had saved face for me!

Whilst John was still sleeping in, M and I walked to the town shops, so I could buy a Weekend Australian paper. The town seemed even more crowded with disgruntled travellers.

After John was up and breakfasted (late), I packed some sandwiches and we drove out to the Diversion Dam, just on the western edge of town.

Highway across the Diversion Dam (Google)

When the Ord River Irrigation Scheme was being established, the Diversion Dam was built across the Ord River, in 1963. This marked the start of the first stage of irrigated farming on the river’s rich flood plains. Before the dam, the absolutely huge Wet season flow of the Ord River – many millions of litres – flowed into the sea. Then, by the late Dry season, the river was almost dry. Successful farming would require regulation of the water flow, hence the dam, which created Lake Kununurra behind it – the stored water able to be released as needed for downstream irrigation.

One of the first crops tried in the new irrigated farmlands was rice – a logical enough product. The problem with this was that magpie geese love rice seedlings. Word quickly spread amongst the magpie goose population of the tropical north, about this new bonanza, and that spelled the end of rice cropping in the Ord. Cotton  was another experiment. There seems to have been fairly consistent growing of some fruits and vegetables – melons, mangoes, beans, pumpkins and the like. But it is a long way from major Australian markets for that sort of produce. So the whole scheme sort of staggers on.

The Diversion Dam is an impressive structure, with its movable “gates” that can be lifted up and down to control the volume of water outflow. A bonus of the building of the Diversion Dam was putting a road across the top – the current highway. As we drove over the dam, could see the gate operating mechanisms, close up.

On the far side, a road goes down to a small picnic area, below the dam wall. From here, there were good views back to the wall and its gates, which were not letting out a great deal of water, it seemed. We kept a careful eye out for crocs. It was common to see people fishing below the dam wall, here, and where there are barra…….

Diversion Dam from picnic area; two gates letting out water

Ate our sandwiches here, admiring the river and the nearby boabs.

After that, drove back across the dam wall, and north, out the Ivanhoe Road, to the Ivanhoe Crossing. Today seemed to be developing an Ord River theme!

Before the Diversion Dam was built, up to 1963, this cement causeway was the way for travellers to cross the Ord. This was built in 1953, improving on an older causeway that had been made where a large rock outcrop broke the river into two smaller channels. It was probably originally used as a crossing point by the pioneering Durack family, who established the Ivanhoe and Carlton Downs Stations, on opposite sides of the river.

 In the Wet season, the Crossing was often impassable for months on end. These days, since the upstream dams control the river differently to Nature, the water was over the causeway for much more of the Dry season, and generally at a higher level all year.

We had previously seen it at a driveable level – just – for the adventurous or foolhardy – but too high for us to tackle it. Mostly, we have seen it closed, as it was now. It was one of the local tourist attractions, and some people came here to fish in the waters below the causeway – definitely croc territory!

Ivanhoe Crossing – the force of that water coming over the causeway should not be underestimated!

Back to camp and a leisurely rest of the day, spent reading my newspaper.

The No Vacancy sign was a permanent fixture at the front of the caravan park!

At night, I phoned son, who was just back from his four day work trip to NZ, being Customer Service Manager for both Australia and NZ, for the motorhome rental company he worked for. He sounded alright – was minding the children while their mother was out socialising.

Leave a comment

2006 Travels September 14


We left Kununurra at 6.15 am. The early start was helped by the fact that our systems were still on NT time!

Resize of 09-14-2006 Jabiru

Jabiru flying. Lots of sky, but I’d never sen one in flight before

Refuelled at Halls Creek – $1.65cpl; and at Fitzroy Crossing Lodge – $1.65cpl.

It was about 2.10pm when we reached Fitzroy Crossing, not long after we had stopped at the Mary River rest and camping area for lunch.

We were both ready to stop then, rather than make the next long stage to Broome.  Decided that the company had dicked us around for the past few weeks, so we were not going to kill ourselves getting to the site. We would do reasonable stages, and have some rest, each day.

The countryside between Kununurra and Fitzroy Crossing was seriously superb. As far almost as Halls Creek, it was very hilly and dramatic and stark. It evened out a bit after that, but still had mesas, plateaus and hills in the distance, to keep it interesting.

Resize of 7-7-1993 highway 1 north of warmun

Country around Warmun

We noted several very good free camping areas – with toilets.

There was a new bridge over the Ord River crossing, but were still lots of single vehicle width bridges, with no sides, just low cement edging. I had forgotten about those!

Went into Fitzroy River Lodge – $25.

This was a park where caravanners seemed secondary to the main accommodation business of the hotel and motel sections. They said we could select our own site. There might or might not be a drive-through site left. If we wanted to use two ordinary sites so that we could stay hitched up, we could pay double! We found a drive through one – they were not all that busy.

Guests were allowed to use the motel pool, so we had a long and beautiful swim in that.

Just after dark, it was really pleasant to walk around the park. The lights from the rigs were really pretty. The cooking smells were nice too! It was balmy and warm.

Resize of 6-17-1993 Fitzroy River from new bridge

Fitzroy River at Fitzroy Crossing

I put a bit more effort into tea tonight.

We had noticed that the van wheels, especially on the left side, were feeling quite hot in the afternoons. They seemed better in the mornings. It was a concern, because we were not doing much braking to explain the heat!

M phoned, from Marla. She had detoured into Chambers Pillar on the way south and camped a couple of nights there – loved the place. She was timing her return south to reach our home in time to take over from the outgoing house sitters. She was quite happy to have a place to stay that wasn’t with her mother, for as long as needed. I gave her a free hand in dealing with the garden – pruning, tidying up and so on, as much as she wanted. Being the keen gardener that she was, I imagined the place would soon look better than it did when we were home.

Resize of 09-14-2006 to fc

1 Comment

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.

08-16-2000 01 ord river causway.jpg

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.

08-16-2000 02 the upper Ord River.jpg

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.

08-16-2000 03 ord river depth marks.jpg

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.

08-16-2000 07 hillside Old Halls Ck.jpg

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.

08-16-2000 04 camp old halls ck

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.

08-16-2000 05 ruins old halls ck.jpg

What remains of the original settlemnt of Halls Creek

08-16-2000 06 ruins close.jpg

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.

08-16-2000 to ohc.JPG

Leave a comment

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!

06-27-2000 06 Lake Argyle spillway creek raging.jpg

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.

06-27-2000 05 argyle dam

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

06-27-2000 03 Lake Argyle outflow from hydro plant.jpg

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

06-27-2000 04 Lake Argyle hydro plant.jpg

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.

06-27-2000 01 Lake Argyle expanse.jpg

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.

06-27-2000 02 argyle dam wall.jpg

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.

06-27-2000 09 spillway waves.jpg

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.

06-27-2000 08 freshie

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