This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels July 28


We were up at 6am and away at 7.45.

Came across the mangled vehicle, still beside the track. He’d made a fair old mess of it. Judging by the big skid marks on the track, it had been on its way into the campground and Falls. It had been pushed to the side of the road, awaiting collection.

We stopped at the aboriginal art site by the King Edward River.

The grass around these had been burnt, so the various rocks and outcrops where the paintings occurred, were more obvious. It made wandering around the area really pleasant. The galleries now had board walks constructed around them, to protect the sites.

I thought that the “paint” had deteriorated since we first saw these, in 2000.

The Wandjina figures here are so powerful. They really do seem to be watching you.

As we approached the crossing of the King Edward River, a recovery tilt try truck was coming from the other side – presumably on the way to collect the accident vehicle. He mangled the crossing quite badly and had to reverse out to change direction. Definitely harder than it looks!

Recovery truck crossing the King Edward River

I think the river here had gotten deeper! We got water in the back of Truck, and on the back seat floor. I took photos of M doing the crossing.

Passenger’s view of the crossing
Truck fording the King Edward River

The road north to Kalumburu was rough – corrugated, still with some erosion channels, rocky in places. The Carson River Crossing, about 20kms before Kalumburu, had water in, but was straightforward.

We went straight through Kalumburu, noting that there seemed to be a number of new houses there. Continued on out past the airstrip, on the road to the barge landing, McGowans beach, Honeymoon Beach and the Pago Mission ruins. Whilst it was still rough, the track to Honeymoon did not have the deep sandy sections of before. It was usually somewhat re-routed every season, and they seemed to have found some firmer ground. There were none of the direction signs John had made on old tyres, in 2000, but the way was now better sign posted, with proper painted signs. However, we noted they had retained John’s star rating system – only now up to  seven stars! Ha!

Kalumburu localities

There did not seem to have been too much change at Honeymoon, and little for the better. The family now had a proper, high-set house, near the entrance, but all the old sheds were still there. They had survived the 2006 Category 5 cyclone, but it was noticeable that there was a lot less vegetation. Whole trees were gone, and the tops were out of most others. So the view was more open – and the camp area less shaded. The tank had gone off its stand – and was way down by the beach. The campground water was now very discoloured – a dark brown –  and was not drinkable – presumably the rather shallow bore had bottomed out. Campers had to have their own water with them – and replenish same if needed, in Kalumburu.

Les had not added any more to the partly built ablutions block to be, since 2000!

There were a lot more people here than we had expected. It was hard to find a spot to set up camp! In the end we had to opt for a place in full sun, but we did have a small view to the bay.

There were two large Bushtracker vans parked where we had camped in 2000, where there was still a little shade. On the other side of us was a camp of six men, here for the fishing. They were rather noisy – mostly just through sheer numbers.

There were sandflies in evidence now – and mosquitoes. Hadn’t had those here last time.

The showers – the same old two – were cold ones; what else could we have expected? There was no toilet paper provided – BYO! We found out soon enough that the campers from the Bushtrackers were cleaning the amenities each day, and emptying the rubbish bins. Relying on the paying guests to keep the place usable had not changed since 2000, it seemed.

Rather unwisely as it turned out, we’d already decided to stay a week here, before we had a good look round. We were charged $12 per person, per night, to stay here. Theoretically, we could pay $5 a night more for power, which we opted not to do. Good thing too, because the camp genset turned out to be off for most of each day – they were having problems with it.

Les’ wife Ruth was at the main shed, where they used to live, when we arrived. There were 13 puppies there too, including a kelpie-looking female pup that was absolutely gorgeous, and that I’d loved to have “rescued” and taken home with me. Unfortunately, not feasible.

It was very hot here.

Les remembered John, from 2000, when we had spent about three weeks here. We hoped he didn’t think John was going to do lots of free maintenance work around the place, like last time.

There was a community phone box here now – a steel box, 12 keys, no slots, no lights; it worked on punching in pre-paid card numbers only. I guessed it was about as vandal proof as they could make it.

We set up camp, then wandered about, looking.

The old camping shed was still down by the beach – it had survived, somehow.

The bay – Napier Broome Bay – was as beautiful as ever.

Napier Broome Bay from Honeymoon Beach

There was an area in front of our tents where there had previously been campfires, so we tidied that up, with a decent rock circle to contain it. Had loaded up some firewood onto the roof rack on the way here, so unloaded that. Here, it would be easy to go out into the bush and get more, as needed. In these parts, given the paucity and cost of gas refills, we tried, whenever possible to use a campfire for at least heating water, if not for cooking too. Even when it was hot, sitting round the embers of a campfire, into the evening, was pleasurable.

In this place, there was another practical reason for a fire – to burn as much rubbish as possible, given that the only collection of same from the campground, was done by fellow campers.

I think we both felt  sense of let down. We’d been prepared for this place to be pretty much like it was before, but to find it actually somewhat worse was a disappointment. Clearly, Les’ plans of 2000 had not really materialized; neither it seemed, had his hopes that some of his family would join him in the venture. There seemed to be a number of them living or spending time out here, but we did not see any of them contributing to the running of the place at all – apart from collecting the fees from the visitors.

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2000 Travels August 8


Today was hot and sunny, with more smoke haze.

D and R left for Barnett Gorge.

We’d finally had enough of the lilo-interrupted sleep! John went in the river with it and found a hole – in the flat top surface, not around the valve or a seam, as we would have expected. Left it to dry while we were away.

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Finding where the lilo leaks

We drove to the art site here that we’d heard about – back  near the river crossing. This was most impressive. To me, it was on a par with the Nourlangie rock art site in Kakadu.

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Rock art site near the King Edward River crossing

It was in an area where blocks of rock outcropped from the otherwise flat ground. There were a couple of galleries of Wandjina heads – these were quite eerie: the eyes seem to “follow” you. I felt they were benign, protective images, though.

The Wandjina were creation spirits. When they found the place they would die, they painted their image on rock walls, then entered the nearby waterhole. It was thought they ensured the coming of the monsoon rains, and for that reason they were repainted every year.

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Wandjina heads

There was a deal of other art work too, of a different style of red outlines and infill lines.

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08-08-2000 09  animal rock art King Edward River.jpg

08-08-2000 10 skinny figure rock art King Edward River


We explored fairly thoroughly amongst the clusters of outcrops. Here again, the fires had been our friend, because some of the area had been burnt a while ago and thus it was easy for us to see where we were going and to walk around.

08-08-2000 13 King Edward River rocks at art site.jpg

Recent burning at the rock art site

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A different shaped termite mound

In our explorations, we found two skulls up on what must have been a burial ledge, with some other bones. I am not sure we should have seen those!

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Burual ledge – skulls and bones in there

Looking around this area was all a rather special experience.

We picked up some firewood on the way back to camp.

The lilo had dried while we were away and John tried to repair it by putting silicone on it. He was not sure if this would work, but it seemed the best option with the materials available. He later put repair tape over the silicone.

We went for a swim in the river near our camp. The water was cool and lovely. Lazed around for a while, then went for another swim – it was good to feel cool and clean.

This campground was not as busy as I’d expected. It has a composting toilet.

There was much bird life, especially butcher birds. Four brolgas flew in and did some feeding nearby.

There was a family camped down along the river who had been here since before D and R arrived – at least a week. Their vehicle was broken down and they were waiting on a part. The guy had hitched a ride to Drysdale River Station to arrange it. I imagined that getting the part, plus the services of the mechanic from Drysdale River, were going to cost a significant amount.

There was also a camp set up by a tourist company, further along – with permanent (for the season) tents. The camp cook was there all the time.

We got chatting to another couple of campers. The man runs an equipment hire firm in Mt Isa. He invited us to look him up next time we are in Mt Isa – which will probably be next year – and he will show us around the place.

Tea was udon noodles with stir fry vegies, then tinned fruit.

The fire across the river was very bright tonight.

John was not optimistic that the lilo repair would hold, but it actually stayed up all night. It felt so good to wake in the night and not be resting on the hard ground.

At night, there was a bush curlew chorus nearby – quite close. It sounded like there were several of them, calling to each other. It is a lovely noise.