This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels August 9


Conscious that we had a long drive – for these parts – ahead of us, we were up before 6am, and ready to go at 7.30. For once, we had to wait for M to be packed and ready!

We had a brief stop about 18kms south of Kalumburu, because John wanted to collect some more of the stones he’d seen there on the way up. He was convinced they were topaz. I thought they were just quartz.

It was a straightforward, but long and tiring day.

We passed through Theda Station, north of the Mitchell Plateau turnoff. It was a pity that the new owners had stopped allowing bush camping on the place – we’d had a great time camped there in 2000, and we still hadn’t gotten to see the really good Bradshaw figure rock art they were supposed to have.

Refuelled at Drysdale River Homestead. Still $1.95cpl. Refuelled ourselves too, with cold drinks and icy poles.

The Kalumburu road was rough in sections, with some bulldust patches south of Drysdale. It did not take long on that road for the grader’s work to deteriorate again. But the Gibb River Road was in good condition.

Gibb River Road ahead

We ate our biscuit and cheese lunch as we travelled, not wanting to lose time by taking a lunch break.

We stopped at the Bindoola Creek Jumpup lookout – it gave wonderful views of the Cockburn Range and the Pentecost River valley.

Cockburn Range and Pentecost River valley from Bindoola Lookout
Pentecost River from Lookout

Had actually made much better time than we’d anticipated, and it was only about 4pm when we arrived at Home Valley Station, a short distance north of the Gibb, by the Pentecost River.

Gibb River Road near Home Valley Station

This was a place John and I had not visited before, although it had offered camping and activities for travellers. In 2000, we had opted to camp at the nearby Jacks Waterhole, on Durack River Station, and that had been excellent. But, in keeping with the way things regularly changed  in these parts, Jacks Waterhole now no longer existed for camping after major damage in the 2002 Wet season.

Home Valley had been a pastoral leasehold cattle property, but was now owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation. The little research I’d done suggested that there were some good internal tracks and sights to see – and I was hoping that we might be allowed to go visit the Jacks Waterhole site too, also owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation.

The approach to the Reception area took us by a pleasantly green and grassed formal camping area. It was tempting, but we’d already decided to opt for their “bush camping” area, right by the Pentecost, a few kms from the main area. More “us”.

Home Valley on Bindoola Creek. Bush camp at junction of this with Pentecost River (Zoom)

The bush camp would cost $10 each, per night. As we booked in, the girl at Reception told us that all the usual activities and places on Home Valley were closed to tourist access! Really? This was either due to restrictions by the aboriginal owners, or due to the filming of the TV series “Outback Jack” which was happening somewhere on the place. She couldn’t, or wouldn’t answer my question as to which parts of the place were off limits due to filming and which due to closure by the aboriginal owners. So, there was nothing to do, except camp by the river, and fish.

Having arranged to meet son here, we could not really change plans.

In the event, the unexpected restrictions did not matter. As we were driving to the camp area, approaching the gate to it, the brake on the driver’s side back wheel of truck, died. We would not be going anywhere beyond camp, in the near future.

Under these circumstances, it was pleasing that the camp area had magnificent views to the Cockburn Range, and was right beside the Pentecost river, which was large and tidal here. We noted that the camping area was somewhat elevated above the river, and a bit back from the bank. It would not be impossible for a determined crocodile to reach the camp area, but it would be quite difficult. Anyway, we felt secure enough.

Pentecost River and Cockburn Range at dusk, from our camp

The bush campground had some shelter roofs – to give shade to campers – and a new amenities block with flush toilets and very nice – but cold water only – showers. There was even a washup sink/camp kitchen sort of facility there.

We were able to set up camp by a built shelter – pretty lucky, we felt. It was a bit dusty, though. Probably everywhere in the Kimberley was dusty by August!

We set up our camp, each side of the shelter. It would provide us with a shaded day time sitting area, when there was no tree shade.

Home Valley camp

John then investigated the Truck brakes, to see why there hadn’t been any as we approached the gate. It was fortunate that we’d been going slowly enough for him to coast to a stop before reaching the gate.

It seemed that pins had come out in one brake, and it had fallen apart. A pin was loose on the other side one. John felt he could probably repair them himself – if he could get the necessary parts. Then, we had an “Aha” moment – son was flying up from Melbourne late on Friday night.

M drove John back up to the homestead Reception/bar area, so he could make phone calls to arrange with son to get the parts from our current Landrover dealer, and bring them with him. It was too late in the east to phone the dealer today.

We were also running very low on beer. Had been having to ration our Happy Hour consumption to one can each! Son was asked to bring some from Kununurra.

I cooked the red emperor we’d been given yesterday. Wrapped it in foil, with some flavourings and cooked it whole on our little metal rack, over the campfire embers. It was excellent.

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2000 Travels August 5


We were woken early by campground noises and so were up at 6.15am.

There was water, so I was able to have a shower and wash my hair, which made me feel much better.

We worked steadily on the pack up and left about 8.40, after stopping off at the shed/office to say goodbye. Les and R had already gone out on the boat with a fishing party, so we only saw his wife and daughter.

Today’s was another mass exodus. By the time we left, there was only one remaining group.

After yesterday, it felt good to be going. Apparently, there was to be a corroboree and a celebration for the Sisters – some sort of anniversary – in town tonight, and we could have gone to that. It might have been interesting.  But we hadn’t found out about it until we were packed up, and by then we were very focussed on going.

The driving was alright – it seemed ages since we had done that!

Not far from town, drove past burning bush, not far from the road. We assumed it was the normal dry season burning, done by the locals, to deter fierce fires later in the season, by reducing fuel availability, in an ad hoc sort of pattern.

The road condition was rather varied. THE problem creek crossing had been worked on and partly filled in. A pile of earth covered where the rock had been, and a big stick marked the way. Road repairs Kalumburu style!

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Road repairs! The problem rock dealt with, and much less water.

We called in at Theda Station, briefly. I bought grapefruit, some used books that were for sale, and a postcard.

Next stop was at the King Edward River, for lunch. We had to ford the river to reach the camp ground and stopping place beside the river. The ford was 40-50cms deep and quite rough, though not all that wide.

The area was most picturesque and we would both really like to spend some time camped there, so we decided to do that after we’d been to the Mitchell Plateau.

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King Edward River near the camping area

After lunch, found where D and R were camped, and exchanged home addresses, which we’d forgotten to do at Honeymoon.

It took us two hours to drive from the King Edward River to the Mitchell Falls camp area – 85kms. The track was corrugated, stony, rough, winding, and needed much concentration. Hazards such as sharp corners were not signposted. The road camber was wrong in parts too.

For some of the way, the track followed a ridge line, and there were some distant views out across the scrubland. After some 60kms, we came to the small, but boggy crossing of Camp Creek. On our ’93 trip, we’d camped a little distance from the Mitchell Plateau track, beside Camp Creek. The area looked different from what we remembered, and I thought the track route may have slightly changed. Back then ,there was a rather confusing maze of tracks around here. From there, we’d gone to Crystal Creek, the most northerly spot on the Plateau able to be reached by vehicle. We had not turned off the Port Warrender track to go to Mitchell Falls, which were hardly flowing that year. This time, only a couple of kms beyond Camp Creek, we turned left for the Falls. So, the 15kms of the track to the Falls camp are was new for us.

There had recently been a big fire through some of that country – it was quite desolate in parts.

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Burnt Livistona Palms by the track to the Mitchell Plateau

It was just after 3pm when we reached the campground. It was a hot day, but the travel had created a bit of a breeze through the windows.

The camp area was bigger than I expected and not as crowded as I’d feared. However, it was rather barren, rocky and hot, but would do for our purpose of a place to camp whilst visiting the Falls. There were a few composting toilets. At least, it was free to stay here.

We had passed a number of vehicles going out as we were coming in – obviously some people do it as a day trip from King Edward River. It would be a hard day, driving that road twice, not to mention the walk to the Falls – 3kms each way.

We set up the small tent, easily enough.

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Camp at the Mitchell Falls campground

After setting up, we walked to the creek to get water and then up to the pilots’ base to enquire about helicopter flight options and costs. Found out that there are currently three helicopters based here. We decided to buy a 12 minute flight from the Falls back to camp, as an anniversary present to ourselves. It would cost $100 each, or $60 if they get another two passengers.

Three years ago, to this day, John went into hospital for his hip operation. That was one anniversary. The other is our wedding one, coming up in five days.

Tea was tinned ham, potato, some salad.

At night, there was a feeling of some coolness in the air.

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2000 Travels July 20


Another hot day.

John made some radphone calls in relation to his oldest brother, C, who at 80 is not well. There is concern in the family about him.

John then went fishing some more. I walked down the side of the river for some way, and back.

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Turtle Pool on the Morgan River at Theda Station

I noticed a grey “rock” in the pool by camp, where there hadn’t been one before, and spotted a croc – just eyes and nose – watching the camp. This was different behaviour to that of the little pale brown freshie we saw a couple of times yesterday, floating around over the other side, pretending to be a piece of dead pandanus, while it checked us out. It had also done its check, in the same way, this morning. It rather gives itself away, by floating upstream!

The grey watcher sank when he heard John coming back up the river bank, then resurfaced, and John saw him. I fetched my camera, but he went under again and came back up, across the other side, floating around for a while before swimming slowly away, upstream. He was about 3 metres long. I was unsure whether he was a very large freshie or a small saltie. He seemed quite bold, for a freshie, but we had been told there was a big one in the pool.

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Larger, grey coloured crocodile

The question was whether he would come back at night for a closer look!

We had a quiet afternoon, in the heat. We played chess and yahtzee to while away the time.

In the late afternoon, John fished some more.

Tea was pasta with a tub of capsicum and olive sauce – quite nice.

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Camp oven cookery

We made sure we kept a fair sized fire going through the night, getting up a couple of times to put more wood on it. When I was camping on a beach on Melville Island, with some Tiwi people, a decade ago, they kept a large fire burning between their camp and the water, as a croc deterrent.

Occasionally, we heard splashing noises from the pool. The night was cold again.

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2000 Travels July 19


Woke to another hot day.

There was some burn off haze not far away. The area around the camp spot has been recently burned, so we have no worries about a fire near us.

We heard a vehicle which sounded like it was coming near us, but it faded. We think the main road might be not too far from here, across the river, so it was probably a truck.

John walked down to nearby rapids and later we both went exploring down that way – it was really pretty. The reflections in the water, in the morning light, are wonderful.

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Rapids at Turtle Pool, on the Morgan River

We saw a little, pale brown coloured, freshie croc in the pool, over the other side from us, just floating on the water surface, looking for all the world like a dried pandanus leaf. Sighted him a couple of times, just hanging about there.

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Freshie croc playing at being a floating pandanus leaf, over by the far bank

There were some cattle around, but they stayed away from the immediate camp area.

John investigated under Truck again, and removed the remainder of the broken part, altogether. He thinks it will be alright to go on without it.

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That part is no good any more!

I made bread, from a packet mix, forming four rolls and cooking them in the camp oven. The tops got a bit dark but otherwise they turned out well, and will be lunch for two days.

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Well done bread rolls!

John went off up the access track, on foot, hunting firewood, and discovered why some of the local timber is called ironwood! Hard to cut into and hard to get axe out of! And heavy.

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Axe stuck in ironwood

He then tried some fishing and caught a black bream.

After lunch, we went for a walk back up the track we’d driven in on, looking at birds. There were lots of them. The bee eaters put on a great show by camp, as does a kingfisher. On the way back from our walk, we startled a large dark coloured snake – we actually startled each other! It disappeared very quickly into a crack in the ground. It looked like a taipan – and that hiding in ground cracks is taipan behaviour. That rather spoiled the enthusiasm for walking!

We lazed about camp during the hottest part of the afternoon.

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Our camp at Turtle Pool

John had his bream for tea, with potato and some bits of vegies. I had potato and vegies.

At dusk we heard the vehicle noise again – going the other way.

John phoned his sister on the radio. He then went fishing for a while.

I sat by the campfire, in the moonlight. It became quite cold.

Tonight’s sleep was rather disturbed by the noises of cattle nearby and croc growls from the river.

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2000 Travels July 18


It was another hot day.

We were up at 6.30 again, and away two hours later, after topping up our water containers.

We drove into Miners Pool to have a look – 3.5kms from the main road. It was a much bigger camp area than I remembered, strung alongside the waterhole, and with pit toilets. It would have been a fairly pleasant place to stay, after all.

The Kalumburu road was still closed to vehicles over 7 tonnes, beyond Drysdale River HS, and was listed as 4WD only. It is usually later to open than the main Gibb River Road, and also later to be graded.

We encountered several muddy sections of road. After going through one of these, there was much grinding from under Truck. We stopped, looked, drove it back and forth a few times. John decided the noise was coming from the left rear wheel. He jacked Truck up and took off the wheel. The shaped metal plate that protects the brake was buckled and rubbing on the wheel. The bolt area was still attached, so part of it had just torn off! John took it off to stop it rubbing any more and ensured what was left was clear of the wheel.  He buckled a bit of the Truck frame using the jack – did not have it in at the right angle.

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Having some difficulties – checking out the noise from the wheel (and losing shorts!)

We passed the turn off to the Mitchell Plateau and continued on to Theda Station, through some Livistona palm stands. Mostly we passed through typical Kimberley savanna scrub and woodlands.

The road was great in sections, corrugated and dusty in others. It was not fast driving. There was very little traffic.

We reached Theda at lunchtime. There were two other travellers’ vehicles there, having tyres repaired.

The Theda person said we could bush camp at their Turtle Pool site, for $14 a night, but it was only available for four nights. Their other dispersed camp sites were not available as the tracks were still too cut up. The tracks to Worriga Gorge and King Edward Falls, that we’d read about and thought of driving, were still inaccessible – but we could do their Bradshaw art tour for $55 each! Hmmm – we would need to think about that.

He also said that a large freshie croc lived in Turtle Pool!

I bought magnets and postcards.

We drove out to Turtle Pool, about 7kms away, crossing the Morgan River, which was shallow at the ford and not very wide. The track was rather basic.

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Morgan River,  taken as we forded it

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The track to Turtle Pool

We set up the big tent, in a shaded part of a clearing, not far from the river, then had lunch.

John had a sleep for a while, then he fished. Caught a couple of little somethings – bait?

I went for a walk, exploring along the river for a little distance. Turtle Pool was a lovely, long, wide stretch of the Morgan River – it was a serene spot.

Tea was the last of the corned beef, potato, some salad.

It cooled down really quickly once the sun set. We discovered that there were mozzies here!

John took the lamp and went off to fish, which left me with nothing to do except sit and stare into the darkness! Even with light, I have found the evenings a bit boring – miss having books to read.

Eventually the moon rose.

John returned with no fish. We turned in. There were lots of night noises – splashes from the pool, night insects – but we slept well.

07-18-2000 to theda