• IMG_1693

    Day 36 to 40 Broome and the Dampier Peninsula

    8 to 12 September

     

    We spent 2 nights in Broome, stocking up, fixing the electrical issues, and  organising the servicing of Clive for this coming Thursday. We also did a run out to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm. Not much to see but their shop has pearls ranging from $55 (for imported fresh water ones) to over $20,000 for the Australian Pearl necklace.  Cheaper than the pink diamonds we saw in Kununarra but not our cup of tea. We also ventured out to a free camping area at Quondong Point. Back in town we headed off to the pub at Cable Beach to watch the Swannies beat the Bombers. All the locals seemed to be barracking for the Bombers and early in the game were quite vocal, but quiet ended down as the game progressed. Us Swannie supporters all sat together. It was great fun. I have just rearranged our itinerary so we can watch the next game at the same venue at the famous Cable Beach pub. 

     

     

    Next morning we packed up for three nights camping on the Dampier Peninsula at Goombaragin Eco Resort. This is a hideaway run by a local indigenous women and her husband. It is absolutely magical. You have seen the photos I posted on Facebook and will add them to my gallery of iPhoto photos tomorrow when I get cheap internet access. There are 3 bush camping spots totally private plus some Eco lodges and tents in what I can only describe as the next best thing to heaven. Yesterday we just lay around and enjoyed the peace and quiet as we were the only ones here. Today we drove down to the beach and explored for a Few hours. The red sand is iron oxide and the dark rock you can see is iron ore. 

     

    Tomorrow we are back in Broome so I can wash the vehicles before I have them serviced on Thursday. We will then stay in Broome at Cable Beach for the touristy thing  till Saturday morning and then take off for a couple of nights at Broome’s Bird Sanctuary and then leave the Kimberley's and head for the next section 80 mile beach and then - the Pilbara.

     

    Well after 30 days in the Kimberley’s I thought I would summarise our perceptions.

     

    Is the Gibb River Road an iconic 4WD destination?

     My view is that that is all hype and advertising bull. Yes it is long (620klms) yes it is corrugated but not overly so. The main issue is the other users mainly in hired 4WD vehicles, who drive far to fast for the conditions, ignore all road rules and etiquette. Yes you need to go slow in some places but it is not unlike any other long dirt corrugated roads found all over Australia.

     

    Is it as beautiful as the ads show? Definitely no. Most photos of the Kimberley's are taken soon after the wet season stops and the places are only accessible by helicopter at great expense at sunset or sunrise. If you travel in August September like we did it is extremely dry (no moisture of any kind for more than three months) so dust is a massive issue to deal with - everywhere. That is not to say that the gorges are not spectacular but they are that because they are spread apart and you have to go through miles and miles of patched country to get to them. 

     

    So what were the highlights.. El Questro ( but very touristy). Ellenbrae Station (the tea and scones and the excentric bathroom); Manning, Bell and Windjana Gorges were all spectacular and different and well worth the visit; Mornington Wilderness Camp and Goombaragin Eco Camp were both highlights with the Horizontal Falls experience being the absolute best. We didn't make Mitchell Falls or Kalambaru and that was a disappointment, but hey we have already put those two on our list for next year in June or July.

     

    The other two stops that were memorable but not on the Gibb River Road were Purnululu and the Ord River Dam or Argyle River. Both were spectacular in their own right.

     

    Overall it has been a great experience and taught us a lot and we are ready for the next leg of this great journey.

     

    I have now sorted out the blog situation and will post this chapter and future ones on

    https://www.exploroz.com/blogs  and search my user name “Matwil” as well as my photography website ( at http://www.christopherwilsonphotos.com/blog/

     

    I can embed photos in the exploroz site, but on my website you well need to go to the photo gallery to see the photos. The photos will be uploaded over the next few days once I am in Broome and have access to Telstra Air which uses my home internet allowance so costs nothing extra. Out here if I used the phone I would blow my whole phone allowance of 5 gigs in one day. 

     

     

     

  • IMG_0040

    Day 30 to 35 Mornington to Broome

     

    2 September to 7 September

     

    We left the Mornington Wilderness Centre early and headed out to the Gibb River Road without  incident and headed towards Bell Gorge. We had planned to spend a night or 2 at Charnley River Station which is also run by the Wilderness Society. However we had been told that it was more of the same unless you were into Kayaking, so we gave it a miss and headed down the road to Silent grove camping area and Bell Gorge. On the way we stopped in at Imitji Aboriginal settlement to refuel. They were reputed to have the cheapest fuel on the Gibb and they didn't disappoint… $2.00 a litre wow 5cents off. we filled up and headed on our way arriving at Silent Grove about lunch time. Our plan was to walk Bell Gorge first thing next morning. Again we had an early night up again up early, breakfast and then headed off to the Gorge. To us this Gorge was the best we had visited to date. A love rly shady walk in and then a spectacular waterfall and pools at the end. (Would love to see the waterfall in the wet season.) We spent a few hours there photographing the surrounds. And then headed back to camp to pack up and move on.

     

    Our next stop was to be Mount Hart Station. This was a property acquired by  the WA Park Service some years ago. They gave a lease to a couple who really built up the tourist side, putting in facilities etc at their own expense. Once successful the Minister terminated their lease with no compensation and gave it to someone else. As a result of reading the story we decided on principle to not go there. So we headed off to Windjana Gorge.

     

    We arrived at Windjana in the early afternoon. On the way we stopped at Marsh Fly Glen for a cuppa and very quickly found out how it got its name, so quickly drank to tea and headed on. Once at Windjana we did a late walk up the Gorge just before sunset. It was spectacular. There were fresh water crocs aplenty as it is a popular place for them during the dry. We had our tripods so took heaps of photos until after the sun had set.

     

    Next morning we were up early and headed  to Tunnel Creek.. This is a cave that the river has carved through the limestone. Unfortunately they have had a massive rock fall at the entrance and the spectacular entrance opening is no more. We went into the cave, walking through water, but had to turn back when our torch batteries gave out. You are able to walk right through the cave and out the other side but we were not able to do the full walk. Once back at the vehicle we headed off to Fitzroy Crossing and Gieke Gorge. The drive was some 150 on dirt corrugated road and the bitumen into Fitzroy. Once we got to the bitumen we pulled up to pump up out tyres to find that we had the first casualty of the trip. The Anderson plugs that carry power from the truck to the tVan had come apart and one Anderson plug was no more. Also a lead that powered the fridge had also failed. Amazing 600 Klms on one of the worst roads and everything Holds until the last 100klms.  We got a camping spot in Fitzroy with power so we could keep the fridge running while I did running repairs. The park was part of a resort with a bar so we adjourned there for a few coldies. They had Little Creatures Pale Ale on tap which was delicious. We did a trip out to Gieke Gorge and walked some trails but it was nothing spectacular.

     

    Next morning we were on the road again to Derby arriving there about lunch time.

    We went straight to the Information Centre to book the Horizontal Falls trip as we heard on the road that it was fully booked out and it might take a week to get a booking. We went straight to the counter and made enquiries. “When do you want to go the girl asked and then added if you want to go tomorrow let me know quick as they have just opened another trip for 8 people.” We will take two spots we replied. She got on the computer and then rang them and we got the last 2 spots. Wow was it our lucky day. At the caravan park there were people who were there for a week as the only bookings they could get were 5 or 7 days away. 

     

    We had a look around Derby and again next morning and then were picked up from the park at 2.15 and taken to our 12 seater amphibious plane. The trip took 30 minutes and finished withe two passes over the falls. spectacular. We landed next to the pontoon connected to the two house boats which were our quarters for the night. Funny enough one of the couples on the plane we met at Silent Grove when we camped next to them. First thing on the agenda was feeding the sharks and fish and then a swim amongst them. (With a cage between the swimmers and the sharks of course). Next we were on the super fast ( 4 x 300hp engines) for a trip up to the falls and through them. There are two gaps, one 20 metres wide and the second only 8 metres wide. We sped up to the first and stopped while the captain surveyed the rushing currents, then picked his line and off he took. Wow the adrenalin started pumping and it was an ultimate experience. The tide was rushing out and the water inside the falls was about 1 metre higher than outside. The ride back was even better as as we fell off the wave he cut the engines and we came down with an almighty bang. Wow again. I looked over at Louise and she was grinning from ear to ear. On the plane when we hit bumps like that her look was a bit different… fear.

     

    He took us through the wider gap 3 more times I think to soften us up for the smaller gap. We then took off to the smaller gap and as we approached we could see that it was a lot more turbulent than the wider gap. He had a look at it while the discussion around the boat was will he or won't he? The difference in the two water levels was about 3 metres and the turbulence huge. He then announced that it was far too rough and we would give it a miss today and try again in the morning. So we went back to the wider gap and did 3 more passes through before a tour up Cyclone Creek, which is a bay where  they store the boats over the cyclone season. It use during cyclones goes right back to the pearlers who used to shelter their boats there when cyclones hit. It has high cliffs around it on all sides and the shape of the bay totally protects the boats moored there from the rough seas and high winds. Once back on the boat it was coldies time (BYO) and chin wagging about our adventure we have all done together. Then dinner was served, wild barramundi bbq’d withe salad and then sweets of brownies, berries and cream. Yum. We then sat around over our wines and passed the time chin wagging until about ten. Our latest night on our trip and it was the same for all the others that have been camping.

     

    We were up early next morning at 5.30am and breakfast, cereal and bacon and eggs, and then another trip through the falls before our sea plane returns to take us back at 8.15am. We again went through the big gap but still couldn't go through the small gAp it was running between 3 to 4 metres. Because of this he did extra passes through the big gap and then took us back to the barge to await the plane. At 8.30am they announced that the plane had been delayed in Broome because of fog and would not arrive till about 9.45am. To help fill the time he would take us for “another burn in the jet boat” in the hope of being able to do the smaller gap. This time we were lucky and we got to do 3 or 4 passes through both openings. Back to the barge to await the plane only to find out it still had not left Broome yet and might not arrive to about 10.30. So morning tea and cake was hastily arranged and then another trip to the falls and another journey up Cyclone Creek to see it in different light and a different tide. This time we saw a salt water croc as well as dolphins.

     

    What luck did we have getting on this trip. Finally the plane arrived and we headed back to Derby on a different route than the day before that took us over the whole archipelago. We finally arrived back in Derby 3.5 hours late but no complaints. It was an experience of a life time and the high light of the trip so far.

     

    Back at camp we had lunch and then headed out to the Prison boab tree and the Mowanjum Arts and Cultural Centre. It is where three main aborigine language groups have come together to protect their culture and language and traditional ways.

     

    The Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre is a creative hub for the Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunumbal tribes, who make up the Mowanjum community outside Derby, Western Australia.

    These three language groups are united by their belief in the Wandjina as a sacred spiritual force and the creators of the land. They are the custodians of Wandjina law and iconography.

    The centre hosts exhibitions, workshops and community projects, as well as the annual Mowanjum Festival, one of Australia's longest running indigenous cultural festivals.

     

    It was well worth the visit and to view the extensive art work of each artists interpretation on their Wandjina. 

     

     

    Friday we he'd to Broome to get fully restocked and fix a few electrical issues before heading off up in the Dampier Peninsula to do some bush camping. Our next post will be around the 13 September, so till then, au revoir.

     

  • IMG_1639

    Days 23 to 29

    Sep 1, 2017, 6:58:16 PM

    Saturday 26 to Friday 1 September

     

     

    We were up early, on Saturday  morning, and took off for our next stop which is Mt Elizabeth Station about 160 Klms down the road. On the way we stopped into an aboriginal settlement to get some fuel at believe or not Gibb River Station. We met the storekeeper who gave us a run down of the place… 1 million acres and about 8,000 head of cattle when fully stocked but they were only running about 6000 head at the moment. He told us that the roads up here are the worst he has seen in 25 years and he had been told by someone in the know that it was due to state govt budget cuts due to the GST cuts.  What gets me about that is it is another example of a state govt blaming everyone but the real culprits… themselves. What happened to the 10 years of windfall gains from the mining boom.  It seems to me that it is not good economics to starve the area of a profitable industry that that brings in the most of the states  tourist income.

    Anyway we filled up at $2.05 a litre and headed off to Mt Elizabeth Station. Another 1 million acre property with tourist facilities. Of all the places we have stayed so far this was the  most forgettable. We went out to one of their Gorges for a swim. No one was there so I decided to have a skinny dip. No sooner had I dived in two car loads of people turned up, much to Louise’s mirth. She chucked me my togs and laughed as I struggled to get them on under water without sinking to the bottom. 

    We were up early next morning and moved on to Mount Barnett Roadhouse, which is the only store with a range of supplies on the Gibb River Road. We desperately needed to restock especially on fresh food. It is also gateway to Manning Gorge where we camped for 2 nights. 

    At the camp ground we set up and next morning made the 2.5 kilometre walk over rough rocky ground to the gorge. The  walk was difficult but the reward at the end was a magnificent gorge full of water. We swam and took in the scenery and watched a bunch of kids jump off the water fall into the pool below. Great fun. There are also some aboriginal paintings in the gorge which were a delight to find as they are not mentioned in any of the brochures.

     

    One of the travellers we met told us a man on an APT tour had died at Mitchell Falls the previous day when he fell while exploring. Evidently it is a reasonably common occurrence. 

     

    In the afternoon we decided to make some bread as the bread in the Roadhouse was frozen sunblest bread. Not the most delicious I have eaten and turns stale as soon as it comes out of the packet. A photo of the finished loaf heads up this post and it was more delicious than it looks. We cooked it in a wood fire using our spun Steel camp oven with hot coals on top. Beats the bought stuff.

     

    After two nights we pulled out to head to Mornington Wilderness Camp and Wilderness Sanctuary. First we stopped at the store and stocked up on fruit, vegetables and other necessary supplies like biscuits, bread and fuel as it will be about a week before we hit civilisation at Fitzroy Crossing and then Derby.

     

    We passed two gorges on the way. One Galvins Gorge is right next to the GRR. The car park was chockers, so we gave it a miss. The second Adcock Gorge we also gave a miss as the road in was very rough. 

     

    We arrived at the wilderness lodge turnoff and checked in  by radio before the 90 Klms Trek in. They had room for three nights camping so after giving all our details over the two way headed in for the 2 hour drive up there front driveway. The country is quite different to what we had been driving through, flat open grassy plains giving away to long jump ups (mountains) in the distance.

    The wilderness park is managed and run by the Australian Conservation Society. This one is about 300,000 hectares which was purchased in 2001. There are some endangered species here as well of remnants of habitat no longer found in the Kimberly's. On the way in, while going through a long stony Creek crossing I sensed someone behind me to see an idiot trying to pass me. He must have a licence he found in a corn flakes packet. What really got my goat was we were only about 10 Klms from our destination. Anyway just as we came out of the crossing we came to a locked gate. Louise jumped out and opened it. As I looked in the rear vision mirror there were two vehicles that accelerated past me and left Louise in a dust storm. I thought I was mad until Louise got in the car and she was more hyped up than me.. we got to the reception counter and the two inconsiderate bastards were at the counter checking in. Louise went straight up and asked who was in the last truck and didn't they know the etiquette of the last through shutting the gate. Oh well he replied “ you were already out so why did we need to get out and get dusty.” That was a bit much for me so I commented that manners mattered in the bush. He then made some comment of trying to pass me for 50 Klms. I gave him the death stare and commented that I didn't know it was a race. Another inconsiderate European. His companion was Aussie and she suggested he quit and let us book in first. I think they may have got the message. This is not the first time someone has tried to pass me on a water crossing, which beAks all the rules in the book. You don’t enter water until you have checked it out and until it is completely clear. Simple survival strategy but seemingly ignored by overseas visitors, who from my observation drive far to fast for the conditions. 

     

    In the after noon we drove out to Sir Johns Gorge for a look. The rehabilitation work they are doing here allows you to see what the Kimberley's looked like before the introduction of cattle. 

     

    Wednesday night we decided to shout ourselves out for dinner at the restaurant. Scotch fillet with an assortment of veggies and sweets for $60 a head. It was very nice with a nice WA cab sav from the bar.  We finished dinner at about 7.30 to find that our early to bed and early to rise regime was catching up with us, so we walked back to our camp to be ready for an early morning (5.30am) bird watching tour with guide. 

     

    The alarm went off at 4.45am and we got up and walked to reception to head off on the bird watching tour. There were four of us plus the guide so we headed off to a secret spot to see how many different species we could spot with the guide naming them for us. It was a terrific morning and left an impression on us. I think Louise has become a twitcher, as no sooner we were back at camp, had breakfast, that we were off again looking for birds on one of the many walking trails around the park. One walking trail was through termite mounds that goes for about 500 metres and tells the story of the mounds, there formation and the life cycle of termites. Very interesting. Some of the mounds are about 100 years old, with the queen living up to 100. When the queen dies, so does the mound. Wow.

     

    They are also a critical part of the ecology up here, aerating the soil and helping it to absorb moisture. 

     

    Back to camp for the afternoon before a few pre dinner drinks at the bar. When we saw Thursday nights  menu we may have jumped the gun having dinner on Wednesday night. Salt water barramundi for mains and individual pavlovas for sweets. Oh well.  We were joined by the couple that came on the bird watching morning tour. We traded stories of our adventures so far as the sun slowly set before heading back to camp for dinner and an early night. 

     

    This morning (Friday) we took the track out to Diamond Gorge. It was a 28 Klms drive over rough terrain but well worth it. On the way out at one of the many Creek crossing Louise spotted a White ne led heron standing in the water. We didn't have our cameras ready but the sighting was terrific. On the way back we did a detour to another water hole on the Fitzroy River. It was beautiful and we spotted the birds as they darted amongst the trees. As well a male rainbow bee eater settled in the tree above me and I was able to get a few photos of this lovely little bird. We then drove back to camp for a quiet afternoon with time to get this blog up to date. 

     

    We have promised ourselves that if we ever come back to northern WA we will definitely come back to the wilderness camp and stay again. It is a wonderfull Facility and is doing a lot to restore natural habitat and protect threatened species. The bird life here is prolific and diverse. You could never get tired of this place. The staff are all enthusiastic and love their work.

     

     

    One of the services they provide here is usable wi fi for a few hours a day so I can upload the blog. I will up load this tonight when we go to the bar for a coldie or two. Gee life is Tomorrow we will head off to Bell Gorge then onto Windjana Gorge, Tunnell Creek and then Fitzroy Crossing and finally Derby, arriving there next Thursday or Friday (7 or 8 September) when I should be able to upload some photos to the web site. So till then.

     

  • IMG_1615

    Days 18 to 22

    Aug 31, 2017, 2:57:33 PM

    Day 18 to day 22

     

    Tuesday To Friday   22 To 25 August

     

    I am writing this on Friday afternoon after arriving at Drysdale River Station which in on the road to Kulumbaru. So much has happened since Tuesday morning when we left Kununarra.

     

    We were up early Tuesday morning packed up and on the road early. We filled up with diesel as well as filling up our jerries as it was $1.42 a litre less a 14 cent discount as I had a flybuys card. Up the road we went on the way to El Questro with L at the wheel.

     

    We dropped in at Emma Gorge ( which is part of the El Questro Group and had a look at the walk. It was extremely hot and the walk to the Gorge and the Gorge itself are in full sun since a cyclone a few years ago wiped out all the palms that gave it shade and also its beauty. Plus it was a grade 4 walk and so we decided discretion was the better part of valour. We took off up the road and headed for El Questro. We got to the turn off where the bitumen on the Gibb River Road ends and had a 16 kilometre drive in with several water crossings. We arrived at the Homestead/township at just about lunch time. This is a working cattle station and also a tourist resort. The property is about 1million acres. The resort caters for all comers with the dearest rooms overlooking the river at $3,700 pn or down to small cabins near the caravan park for $300 pn.  We decided to take a bush camping site near the river which was $28.00 pp pn. It had a pit toilet and privacy and peace. No other camp site within about 200 metres. The river was nice but you couldn't swim in it because of crocodiles. We set up camp and did a bit of exploring. We decided to do two things while we were there. One was to walk El Questro Gorge early in the morning and also to visit Zebedee Hot Springs (see cover photo).

     

    We decided to only spend 2 nights here. Everything is commercial and money making, I don't mean that as a criticism but rather an observation and not the experience we want. 

     

    The walk up El Questro Gorge was stunning and very enjoyable. We got to what they call the half way pool and had a swim. We were there very early starting the walk at 7.30am and it was an incredibly refreshing swim. You can walk or climb is a better word, further up the Gorge to another water hole. (This part was rated a difficulty of 5 out of 5 so we gave it a miss and headed back to the car park and then the camp for a vegging out afternoon. On the walk up the gorge we came across what appeared to be a brown frog ( there is one native to the area.) on closer inspection it looked to me to be a cane toad. We have now discovered for sure it was a cane toad after we found a information notice showing how to tell the difference. This is sad as it will decimate the local wildlife. 

     

    Next morning we were again up early and arrived at Zebedee Springs a little after 7 am. The Springs are only open to the public between 7 and 12 noon as the afternoon is reserved for the more affluent. The Springs are fed by a naturAl spring and the water temp is a constant 23 to 28 degrees. It was fantastic and very relaxing especially sitting under the waterfall and getting a free back massage. At about 9.00 an influx of people off tourist coaches flagged that it was time to leave so we packed off and headed back to Connie and Clive who were waiting patiently for us in the car park. 

     

    We headed back to the GRR ( Gibb River Road) and turned west. About 80 klms down the road we came to the Pentecost River crossing, which is the most photographed part of the GRR. The crossing is quite long and when you get to the other side the backdrop is the stunning Cockburn Ranges. We waited while another car in front crossed and then did it ourselves. Once over the car in front went back over so we could all get the ‘money shot’ of the crossing. 20 Klms further on we came to Home Valley Station. This property of about 800,000 acres again is a working cattle station but is owned by the local indigenous development corporation. It is also a TAFE college and trains young aboriginals in the cattle and hospitality industries. It is extremely well set up with beautiful swimming pool, camp grounds, huts and a huge bar and entertainment area. We stopped and had morning tea there and then headed off to the next stop, Ellenbrae.

     

    Ellenbrae Again is a working cattle station but has become famous for its tea and scones. We arrived there at about 2pm and decide to have a lunch of tea and scones complete with fresh whipped cream. I'll quote from Birgit Bradtke’s book The Kimberley: “There are no gorges or walks on Ellenbrae, and no sightseeing other than seeing the place itself, which is definitely worth a look!

    Every building and every structure here is built by hand from bush materials, with ingenuity and creativity. The facilities are basic and unusual, like the boab bathroom an outdoor bathroom attached to a massive boab tree (oh no, the boab fell over in May 2016 and is no more!), or the donkey water heater at the campground (stick in 2 or 3 bits of the provided fire wood and voila, hot shower water in 15 minutes).

    The gardens are lovely and so is the veranda with the well visited bird feeders where you enjoy your scones. “

     

    We were so impressed we decided to stay a night at the camp ground near the river for $15 pp. it had running water, flush toilets and hot shower and a water hole 100 metres away for swimming. As well there was a short drive and walk to another swimming spot that had a sandy beach which we checked out and it was fantastic. We ran into a couple there who had just come from Mitchell Falls with horror stories about the state of the road in. Evidently 5  4WD recoveries at $5000 a pop in one day. Does not sound promising. 

     

    The night at Ellenbrae was very relaxing and we both agreed it was the best camp yet.

     

    Next morning we headed of up the GRR for our next stop Drysdale River Station.

     

    One of the things we had heard from other travellers was just how bad the western end of the GRR is. Driving along at 80 Klms an hour we wondered what all the fuss was about. About 50 Klms on we came to a grader, grading the road. A little later on we found out first hand what the fuss was about. We had been driving on the newly grade road, now we were driving on the road that hadn't been graded for 12 months and had seen a very wet season in between. The corrugations were so big in parts that we were reduced to a crawl, below 5 Klms and hour and they were bone shaking. Occasionally the ruts would be reduced and I would speed up only to be caught again at the next corner. It continued like this for the next 20 kilometres until we arrived at the turn off to Kulumbaru and a shady rest area where we stopped for morning tea.

     

    Some vehicles shot past us at 80klms an hour, but the hundreds of shredded tyres on the road side is testament to where speed gets you. Slow and easy is the way to do it.

     

    The road for the first part into Drysdale River Station had also been recently graded and was in excellent condition until we again met the graders and then deteriorated badly. Again down to 5 Klms at times. Louise thinks we should stay here until the graders catch up to where we are. We arrived at Drysdale River Station and checked in for two nights. We had read about their legendary burgers so decided to have one each for lunch. And they were everything they were cracked up to be.

     

    We are going to veg out this afternoon and then do a bit of exploring in the morning, depending on the road situation. With over 15000 Klms to go on this trek I don't want to break anything just yet and certainly don't want a recovery bill.

     

    I just ran into some one who has come back from Mitchell Falls. It took him just over 7 hours without a stop to do the 150ks one way. I think that has made our decision for us. It's a pity but that is the way it is.  As a constellation we have decided that once we get to Derby we will shout ourselves an overnight visit to the Horizontal Falls that involves a seaplane from Derby an overnight on their luxury boat and a jet boat ride through the falls on the tidal turn  and back to Derby next morning on the seaplane. 

     

    So we will veg out for a day and move on on Sunday for the eastern end of the GRR.

     

    Postscript to Argyle River. 

    One of the things I forgot to mention was that the hills you see around the Argyle dam and the Ord River are remnants of mountains that were as tall as Mount Everest, however the Kimberly rock is a lot more brittle, so the towering mountains are no more.

     

     

    I don't know when this will be posted as there is no internet out here. Also I haven't up loaded any photos to my gallery as when you get internet coverage it is $4.95 for 100 mbits and that is just two hi res photos, so you may see none until we get to Broome and we get A Telstra hotspot connection.

  • IMG_1582

    Days 14 to 17

    Aug 21, 2017, 6:57:40 PM

    16 August to 21 August Wednesday to Monday

     

    Well time is going very quickly. It doesn't seem almost a week since the last blog. We arrived in Kununarra on the 16th after a short drive from the Bungles. We had about 6 caravan parks to choose from but when we read about the bats at the ones on the edge of town we opted for the one in town which is right behind the pub. I have a small electrical issue that I need to sort out before we tackle the Gibb River Road and we need a powered site. 

     

    We set up camp and then we're off the Coles to stock up which we did. We decided that we would spend the next 3 days at The Argyle River camp to rest up before the Gibb River Road part. We had an early night and next morning after filling up with fuel headed off on the drive to the Ord River Scheme. We arrived there late in the morning and got a powered site for 3 nights which was close to all the amenities including bar and bistro. What a great place. The swimming pool is perched on the edge of the cliff with views over Lake Argyle (the unofficial name for the Ord Irrigation dam) At 4.30 the resident musician sets up and sings Ballards till the sun sets. Bliss. We went down to book into the sunset cruise on the lake but Friday was booked out so opted for the Saturday afternoon sunset cruise. 

     

    Friday we took easy and did some exploring around the area. We visited the Durack homestead. The Durack’s moved there in the late 1870’s after driving 2,800 head of cattle from south central Queensland. They planned to take 6 months but in fact it took 2 and a half years. On the way they lost about half their heard, but arrived in the Kimberley's and set up their farm. Their original holding in now under the lake and the only thing they were able to salvage was the main homestead building which has been rebuilt in its present position from the original materials. It was the grandson Kimberley  Durack who came up withe the idea of damming the Ord River. He did all the research and cost benefit analysis and convinced both the state and federal governments to build it. Unfortunately he died just before it was finished and never saw his dream fulfilled.

    The amazing thing about this project was the speed from the decision to build to completion and the cost. Just over $23 million (about $325 million in today's money)  and 3 years to build from first sod to opening. ( they planned 5 and did it in 3) it is the largest single dam in Australia and at the moment the surface area Is 19.5 times that of Sydney Harbour.  The dam wall is small compared to similar sized dams in the world. In those days there were no EIS studies or taking into account people's wishes. While initially a success the project since has had problems but they are over now and there is an expansion under way of land under irrigation around Kununarra and also in the Northern Territory. It is the main source of melons to the Australian market. 

     

    We drove across the dam wall and was amazed by the evenness of the rock walls. 

     

    When we got back to the resort we headed for the pool. Coming from Blackheath were the temperature at this time of the year is 10 degrees on a warm days we are taking a while to acclimatise to the 35 to 37 degree days. The pool was envigorating. Being Friday night it was footy night on the big TV and the Swans playing the Cats so off to the pub we went. Well you can't have everything. The big screen was a projector withe the top half sort of in focus and the bottom half totally out of focus. At half time we had had enough and went back to the Tvan. Well wait till the morning for the scores… really the afternoon as that is when there is access to wifi.

     

    Next morning we took things easy as the sunset cruise starts at 2.15pm. We had lunch and set off on the cruise as planned along with 60 odd other people. The cruise gives you a better idea of the vastness of this waterway and over the whole 3 hours of cruising we only covered a small part of it. We were taken to the largest island in the lake. On it was a colony of wallaroos. Kangaroos without fur but hair instead. When the lake was being filled Harry Butler and Malcolm Douglass got together and salvaged As much wild life as they could and moved it to the island. Snakes lizards, wallaroos etc and that is why they are there today. What a legacy. No one asked them - they just did it. 

     

     At around five the boat was moored in the middle of the lake, the drinks and nibbles came out and those that wanted to could jump in for a swim, with a buoy decked out with beers champagne and nibbles for those in the water so they didn't miss out. The rest of us watched the fun and kept an eye on the setting sun.

     

    We returned to the resort at six with the sun set and everyone had had a great afternoon. Louise and I were a bit tired from all the activity so an early dinner and to bed were the order of the evening.

     

    On Sunday morning we packed up and set off for Kununarra again as I have mail to pick

     up and may need the services of an auto electrician. We returned to the caravan park in town and we were lucky we were early as we got the last spot in town. We left Connie(Tvan) and headed off to the Zebra Stone factory. They find a stone here that is rather unique and

     fashion it into all manner of things including jewellery. We then headed out to Wyndham which is about 100 Klms to the north. Once there we saw the ghost of a former town. This was once a thriving port, gateway to the Kimberley's but not any more. It hasn't been the same when a mine closed down in 2015 and over 2/3rds of the town was put out of work. At its peak the mines employed over 4000 indigenous workers and now all those jobs are gone. Only a few hundred people live there today and the main activity appears to be the live export of cattle to Indonesia.

     

    On the way out of town we went to the lookout which is about 500 metres directly above the town. What spectacular views.

     

    Back to town, we topped up the shopping. Coming out of the supermarket there was an aboriginal woman doing the most intickate of calving on a boab nut with a butter knife. She had almost finished it so I bought it after she calved her name on the back and the date. You'll see a photo of it in the gallery. Back at camp it was again another early night. Jeez we are getting boring in our old age.

     

    Monday we were up early, one of the benefits of an early night. Louise is cooking today to replenish our store of frozen meals for the next leg of our adventure. I got some parts I needed and was able to sort out the electrical problems so we should be right for the next leg of our trip.

     

     

    Again it will be early to bed and then off to El Questro tomorrow for three of four days of riverside bush camping.

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    10th to 13th Days

    Aug 16, 2017, 9:50:17 PM

    Saturday 12 August to Tuesday 15 August 2017

     

     

    PURNULULU

     

    We were up early, but I had a few things to do- first of all was to try and repair the water pump. I pulled it apart, found the cause of the leak and fixed it. And all the other leaks that I found.  However, the hand pump still didn't work but the electric pump now worked without leaking.

    Next I checked the wheel bearings on the van and the noises I had heard the previous day were gone. Seems it was dust in the brake area. We topped up the water tank, got some supplies and headed off to the Bungle Bungle ranges (Purnululu) where we are spending four days. 

    We arrived at the turn off after a little only 200 Klms and two hours driving. Only 50klms to go , and what a 50 Klms it was. It took about 2 and a half hours with numerous twists and turns and plenty of water crossing. Plus we came across a dingo on the side of the road who quickly disappeared when we made eye contact. We got to the Rangers Hut and paid 4 nights camping fees and set off to find a site. We found one and it is one of the best sites we have used in a National Park. Private and plenty of space. It also has views across the northern Bungle Bungle range.We set up camp, which wore us out because of the heat, so had a rest with plans to photograph the setting sun over the Bungles from a nearby look out.

    We took off at 5pm because the sun sets at 5.30 but alas was too late. Because of the ranges, the sun goes behind the Hills at 5:00pm. As we drove along we could see the brilliant red hughs of the Bungles but were not in a position to photograph it. We’ll come back tomorrow so proceeded to the lookout to check vantage points.

     

    The next morning we decided to visit Echidna Gorge  which is a walk up the valley floor then through a rock cavern to the gorge. To get the best colour you need to be there between 10 and midday. The walk up the valley had little shade and the sun here is unrelenting . There is no cloud cover whatsoever, and with 30 to 35 degree temperatures little wind and 0 humidity it saps your energy very quickly and dehydration can become an issue. The walk as about 2 k return and I drank all of the water I had with me being 1.6 litres and really it was not enough. Without water you would not last long in this country.

     

    The gorge was spectacular. We reached the end and sat there for about an hour and watched the sun gradually descend and light up the gorge and reveal the colours. Fantastic. We walked back out and did another short walk then headed back to camp for a late lunch.

     

    (Today I met one of the local aboriginal rangers and he explained that the dreaming story for this area related to the palm trees that grow out of the rocks in this area. It is to do with a long time ago echidnas burrowing under the Bungles and their spikes are the palm trees. He also told me he has never seen an echidna in the area in his life except a dead one.)

     

    After the echidna walk we went back to camp had lunch and decide to rest up and the head up to the lookout for the sunset shot. We got there in time but there was a lot of smoke haze and not as clear as the night before. We got some good shots and lamented on what it could have been. As that famous Australian philosopher Tony Abbott said a few years ago “shit happens”. It's the only slogan he has used that most probably has some truth to it, but it is only 2 words.

     

    Monday we were up early and decided to explore the southern area of Purnululu. This is where the famous beehive domes are and about 50 Klms from our camp. Again spectacular, but the walks here have no shade at all. We did the Dome walk and then scouted some vantage points to do a sunrise shoot the next morning. We got back to camp at 4pm with me buggered again. 10 years ago I would have done it all before breakfast and then more in the afternoon, but I am quickly coming to the conclusion that at 75 those days are over. While I rested Louise did some scouting about and found a new vantage point for sunset shoots that was very close to our camp.

     

    This morning we were up real early (4am) and headed out to get the sunrise shots, however, in the dark could not find the vantage points we had picked. That's ok we just played it by ear, found a few spots and got some hopefully stunning shots. Once the sun had risen we had breakfast  and the headed off for several walks, the first being the Cathedral Gorge walk. The walk in was fairly easy as the sun was not fully up and the huge domes provide some relief. We got to the end of the gorge to find this huge cavern like cathedral and just sat there in silence and soaked up the atmosphere. We had beaten the crowds so could really get the feel of the place. Majestic, spiritual, grand are all words you could use to describe it but none suffice. While the photos are great they don't do it justice either. Just with the whole of Purnululu you have to visit, soak it in to  get the full experience.

     

    We walked out and I was finding the going a bit difficult because of the heat so missed the other two walks we had planned. It was just too hot.

     

    We returned to camp where I had a sleep for about 3 hours.

     

    While having lunch two aboriginal rangers came by. I went over to them and asked if this was their country and when he replied yes and why there was there was no information at all of aboriginal heritage for the area despite aboriginal association to this land for over 20000 years.

     

    I should have guessed. Politics. It appears that the language groups in the Kimberley's did not mix in the past. Governments being what they are choose the easiest solution and appears that the group in the area would not work with the  yes minister group from further north ( just as they haven't for over 20000 years). So they have been totally cut out of the process and aren't even part of the Kimberley Land Council. Because of the politics, government has decided just to ignore their history as if it didn't exist. They also have the longest running native land title claim which has been going for over 30 years. So the rich history of the people of this area including massacres, rich rock art and rock peckings is being lost unless something changes real soon. (Pecking said are where the person chipped the outline of the drawing and then filled in the middle by chipping out more rock. They are only found in Mutawintji National Park north of Broken Hill and those have been carbon dated to over 40,000 years old and we have privaliged to see them. The only other place you find them in Australia is here.)  To lose that history in my book is sacrilege and government should fix it. To exclude a group because they don't follow the yes men is not the way to do it.

     

    The last thing I should mention here is the dust. As I said before there is absolutely no moisture in the air. If you huff on your glasses to clean them nothing happens. So the dust permeates everything, every nook and cranny and ends up in places I'll let your imagination think about the possibilities. Normally coiffured  and spotless Louise looks like she's been rolling in the dirt with the local station dogs.

     

     

    We are up early in the morning for the trip to Kunanarra and a long hot shower. After 4 days we need it.

    we are staying in Kununarra tonight and then tomorrow going out to Lake Argyle for 3 nights and more than likely be off air for that time. Until the next blog.

  • These blogs will follow our progress as we leave Scone in NSW and head to the Kimberelys in northern Western Australia for a bucket list photographic tour. We will visit the Kimbereleys, Pilbara and hopefully the wild flower regions of WA then head home across...

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    Day 8 and 9.

    Aug 11, 2017, 7:54:00 PM

    Thursday and Friday 10 , and 11. August 2017 

     

    Thursday

     

    Got away from Tilmouth Wells at about 8.30m for the long hall to Halls Creek, although we know we won’t make it in one day and will have to bush camp along the way. We might make Wolfe Creek but I doubt 

     

     

    The road out of Tilmouth is sealed for about 80klms so the first part was easy going. After that it is dirt and corrugations but when we got to the dirt bit  it was in fairly good condition and we were able to sit on 80klms an hour. We stopped at the settlement at Yuendumu. To have a look at the cultural centre and art work. Unfortunately it was closed. This town is home of the Bush  Mechanics made famous by the ABC show. I believe they have made a new series but it hasn't aired yet. The town also had mobile phone coverage so I was able to update our position on exploroz’s map tracking site and check in on Facebook.

     

     

    Returning to the Tanamai we dropped our tyre pressures down to make the ride easier over the corrugations.

     

    The rest of the day was uneventful and the scenery is not much to write home about. At about 4pm we decide we had better start  looking for a spot to camp 

     

     

    then I noticed the sun was still high in the sky.   We crossed the border and gained 1 1/2 hours. At about then 599 Klms mark we found a little layback that's had been used to gather gravel for the road so drove in and set up. Also emptying our jerry cans into the tank. 

     

    It was a lovely peaceful camp but as soon as we had dinner we were into bed as we had been on the road for 9 hours. 

     

     

    Friday

    Well early to bed early to rise and we were on the road at 7.30am. Again fairly uninteresting scenery, more of the same. However there was a highlight when we had to give way to a big brown snake crossing the road. The amazing thing about these creatures is how quickly it turned when it sensed the movement of our vehicle. We then arrived at the turnoff to Wolfe Creek. Turning in it was 18klms to the crater. Very stunning but when you have been to the Breakaways it can be a bit ho hum but something else to tick off the bucket list. 

    Today as Louise is driving I was able to pair through Airdrop the iPad and iPhone so I can place photos in the blog. These are iPhone photos so not hi resolution. To night when are at Halls  Creek I hope to down load the photos (some 600) from the Nikon’s.

     

    One thing we have noticed is how much warmer it has become. Last night it was sheet only and a blanket pulled up in the early hours. Today is very warm most probably around 35 degrees so I think for the next few weeks it will shorts tee shirts and thongs. We don't miss Bleakheath.

     

    After booking into the caravan park we went out to the China Wall. It is a quartz rock structure made by nature. The photo below will give you an idea why it is called that.

     

     Act really posting this I have found that the blog does not allOw photos so I will upload them onto the websits and you can have a look in there. The gallery will be called th e Kimberley's.

     

       

  • Days 5 to 7

    Aug 9, 2017, 4:09:36 PM

    Day 5

     

    7 August 2017 Monday

     

    Woke to a very clear morning even if it was a bit cold. As the sun rose it warmed up very quickly.

    We packed up and headed towards the Information booth to find out about the Breakaways. I had never heard of them let alone seen any photography of them. A brochure at the caravan park caught my eye and we just had to go and explore. There was a loop road that would take us out of Coober Pedy, through the Kanku-Breakaways and then back onto the highway 20 ks north. It cost $10 for a permit that funds the conservation area maintenance. We happily paid and the guy behind the desk said “now go out on the highway and travel 20 ks north and then turn off”. Up pipes me “ I thought I would go out on the loop road” . “Why in the hell would you do that” he replied. Don't you want to be surprised by the splendour when you get there”.

     

    We followed his instructions turning off the highway as directed and the 17 kilometre drive along a dirt road through flat uninteresting country and suddenly out of nowhere we came to a cliff and there was the splendour. Words can't describe the feeling. I posted some iPhone photos on my Facebook pages and they do not do the scene justice. I will upload some pics onto my website from the Nikon when I get a chance to process them. We spent 2 hours driving around stunned by the spectacular beauty of the place. Part of the area is like a mars landscape and has been recognised as the most like mars landscape on this planet.  Also parts of Thunderdome and Mad Max 4 were filmed there. But the strangest thing is I don't remember seeing any reference to this place in any landscape photography sites or books. It would be magic to photograph at sunrise or sunset. We will come back one day and do it as we just don't have the time this time. 

    As for the rest of Coober Pedy you can keep it. Outside the caravan park there was nothing of interest.

     

    We have been monitoring our fuel usage and doing some tests before we head on the Tanamai where we will be doing 1200 Klms between fill ups. On the first day averaging 100 Klms an hour we used 17.7 litres per hundred. Next day we dropped back to 90 Klms an hour and the usage dropped to 16.7. Yesterday we dropped down to 80klms an hour and consumption came down to a very respectable 14.4. So guess what speed we are doing today.  The savings over the 23000 Klms of this trip will be quite substantial and most probably adds 30 minutes to travel time each day. So we are re ally becoming the 80kph grey nomads.

     

    Anyway we arrived at Marla at about 3.30pm and booked into the caravan park and set up in a lovely private spot and cracked a few coldies. Marla is a service town and nothing else. We watched the moon rise in the clear outback sky and had dinner and turned in for an early night and an early start in the morning.

     

    Day 6 and 7  8 August 2017 Tuesday and Wednesday

     

    Up early and boy have we got the pack up down to a fine art. We were on the road at 8.30am.

    The drive from Marla to Alice was pretty uneventful and really nothing to report except that at 80 Klms an hour our fuel consumption is down to 14 litres per hundred kilometres. We arrive in Alice at a little after 3pm and booked into a caravan park we stayed at 2 years ago when we did the Simpson Desert . We got the last space and the town was booked out.

     

    After setting up we were straight into town to resupply. And then back to the caravan park a few  coldies and then dinner. We have decided that in the morning we will not rush, get refuelled and fill the jerry cans as the next leg is 1000klms up the Tanamai through the desert. We are now doing the first leg to Tidmouth Wells where we stay the night, double check all equipment before the rough part starts. We will also have free wifi so I will upload these blogs as that will be the last chance until we get to Halls Creek.b

     

     

    We have arrived at Tilmouth W Ellis and what an oasis it is and free wi fi to boot but no phone. Oh well in the desert you can't have everything. It is a nice balmy 28 degrees so there will be less blankets on the bed. Tomorrow we start the real adventure as we head up the Tanamai. We will be off air for 2 or 3 days until we get to Halls Creek, so until then. This afternoon we are just vegging out.

     

  • 2nd to 4th Day of the big WA trip

    Aug 7, 2017, 7:08:41 PM

    4 August to 6 August 2017

     Day 2 was pretty uneventful on the road to Broken Hill. Stopped at BH for some supplies (read beer) and then on the road to Peterborough. Got to Oarly which is a blip on the map with a pub(sort of) and a rest area with facilities so we stopped and set up for the night. Rain was starting to close in and the wind was howling . Well we thought looking at the front entrance to the pub which said “open and warm log fire” we will duck over there and watch the swannies play The Cats. Problem was the door was locked and there was no sign of life anywhere. Plan 2. Early dinner and early to bed and read. And watch the scores on the app. At least we had one bar phone reception.

     At about 6pm a semi and pilot truck pulled up. The lady who was driving the pilot van came over for a yarn. I asked where she was from “ no fixed address” she replied.  Although I do own a house in Perth.  Turns out she and her husband are on the road all the time with him driving the semi with her the pilot warning vehicle as there specialise in long or over wide loads.

     As soon as we were snug in bed suddenly the pub lights went on and two trucks pulled up with the occupants disappearing into the pub. We were snug and warm and it was bloody cold so we stayed put . Anyway the night was not a waste of time as the Swannies won.

    We slept ok despite some road and train noise as the stop was between the Barrier highway and the main western rail line. 

    We were up before dawn next morning to a minus 2 temperature and the wind. Quick breakfast and on the road to Port Augusta. That trip was also uneventful as we had spend four days there two years ago so we just filled up with diesel and the up the Sturt Highway to Woomera where we arrived just after 3.30pm. Stayed at the caravan park which though basic was clean and comfortable and two beers cost $7. What more do you want.

    We are now on the road to Coober Pedy where we will stay tonight before we head to Alice where the real adventure begins.

    As we are driving along these treeless stone filled plains commenting how barren it is suddenly there is a sign saying photo opportunity. We pull up and there in the distance is Lake Hart. I only know that because Facebook told me.

    Well Facebook was wrong as we has just come to Lake Hart which is a massive salt lake. The other Lake was Island Lagoon. Pays to check the Hema maps.

    Finally arrived in Coober Pedy at about 3.30pm and booked into the Big 4 Caravan Park. We heard that they had great Pizzas.

    Well what a great place. Everything you need and a camp kitchen that was huge and had every home facility including top of the range stove and oven. We had pizza for dinner and it was great but my eyes were bigger than my tummy when I ordered a large.  In the morning we are going out to see the Breakaways so won’t make Alice tomorrow. We did a drive around Coober Pedy and it was a jumble of a place. White Clifffs was far more interesting. While sitting in the sum sucking on a beer the cops came around and asked us to ensure we locked everything up. They were having trouble with young kids watching the caravans and when someone went to the toilet ducking in and stealing what they could get. We took the advise and had no issues.