Saturday, 28 September 2013

Kununurra to Derby

After leaving Kununurra we headed towards Wyndham. Its not a very exciting town however it has an amazing lookout. Its called the Five Rivers Lookout and we had to unhitch the van to get up the hill to the top but it was well worth it. The river flats were endless. Needless to say it was very hot up there.

Wyndham's other main attraction is the 'Big Crocodile'. I think he is quite gorgeous and he certainly is very big as you can see by the size of the car and van behind him.

From Wyndham we drove to El Questro Wilderness Park which really took us into the true Kimberley country. The escarpments and terrain were spectacular. Its really hard to describe this kind of country. Its so ancient and timeless. I have probably said that already about other spots. On the way into El Questro we found a 'Grotto' so went to investigate as it sounded cool and it was really hot. It was a bit murky for me so I just put my feet in but Mike went in for a swim (very briefly!!).

Our van site at El Questro was very shady and there was plenty of space. In the evenings we were visited by some stray cows who were wandering around the park. It was quite funny hearing cows mooing in the dark and not being sure exactly where they were. One morning we had just woken up and saw four cows running down the road with a ranger in hot pursuit shooing them back over into the next paddock.

El Questro has many lookouts and gorges to visit. We took a bone shaking 4WD track to visit Explosion Gorge (named after the fishing methods used in the past).

Another lovely part of El Questro was Zebedee Springs. Similar to the hot springs in Kununurra. Lovely Livistonia Palms.

From El Questro we drove to Fitzroy Crossing which was a long drive, around 670 km. Ever changing scenery again on the way.

Fitzroy Crossing is another small town, as you would expect right on the Fitzroy River. The Fitzroy is a large river at this point but there was not much water in it. Apparently it only runs well for about 4 months of the year as the rains from the wet season flow down.

We decided to visit a place callled Tunnel Creek which was about a 120km drive from Fitzroy Crossing. The road was dirt for about 80 km and pretty rough.

As soon as we reached Tunnel Creek, which is a creek inside a long cave in the rocks shown in the picture above, Mike noticed one of the tyres on the car was going flat. We waited till we had looked at the cave to fix it. I say 'we' figuratively as I am no use when changing a tyre.

The cave was amazing, a lot like Jenolan Caves with similar features. It was really dark in parts so we had torches with us to light the way. What a special place.

When we came back to the car to check out the tyre, this is what we found!!! 

Funniest looking tyre I've ever seen!! Mike did a great job changing it in the heat. We had planned to visit another nearby gorge for a swim but decided it was not wise to travel any further on the dirt than we had to so we returned to Fitzroy Crossing. The red dirt parts of the road were the worst. The corrugations were bone shaking and I thought the Navara was just going to fall to pieces. It seemed much worse on the way back.

We made it back safely however with much relief. Not a place you want to break down. No phone reception out there of course.

On returning to our van that afternoon, and after finishing a refreshing G and T, I decided to go for a swim in the pool. I went out the car to get my cozzie and looked up to see a grass fire approaching about 100 metres away. I found this quite alarming!!!

Anyway, it crackled its way along for about 20 minutes gradually moving past us. It never crossed the road between it and us in the caravan park. There was lots of smoke and a fire engine drove past eventually but they didn't seem to do anything! There are vast tracts of burnt scrub all throughout the top end, across Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Grass fires dont seem as scary as bush fires in the mountains. They move fairly quickly along the ground with the wind behind them but don't actually burn all the trees. So it wasn't quite as bad as I first thought, thank goodness.

After leaving Fitzroy Crossing we travelled to Derby where we saw water for the first time on the west coast of Australia. We were not that sure whether to go there or not but thought that we may as well as we were so close. It was very hot, about 42 degrees but worth visiting. Its not a beachy place as it sits on King Sound. The water was very muddy.

The main attraction in Derby is the jetty and the tides. They apparently have the biggest tides in the country there. I took the photos below in the same spot about 3 hours apart. What a difference!!

And this...

At the caravan park in Derby this amazing peacock was just wandering around strutting his stuff.

We have never seen a white peacock before but he was beautiful as you can see. He was turning around slowing so we could get a view of him from every angle. Very modest!!

We saw the sun go down for the first time over the water. Just beautiful.

We are really starting to relax after four weeks on the road. We haven't watched the news for about three weeks, hardly watched any telly at all. We have met some lovely people and everyone is so friendly. We are getting pretty good at setting up and packing up. The days go by quite quickly even though we usually rise early. Its a very different routine to what we are used to. Very nice indeed!!  My next post will be from Broome.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Katherine to Kununurra

 We spent two nights in Katherine and had a lovely time. We stayed at the Boab Caravan Park and of course it had its own Boab tree. Boab trees are all over the place in the Northern Territory and Northern WA. On our first morning in Katherine we went out to Katherine Gorge for a swim. We made brekky on a barbeque in the picnic area with some friendly agile wallabies for company.

Then as it was getting pretty warm we went in for a dip. The water was very deep and we went in off a small pontoon. It was lovely.
The same afternoon, just down the road, from the caravan park, we found another 'hot spring'. It wasn't actually that hot, the temp was about 32 degrees, but it was the most beautiful place. There were lots of people there as it was about 5pm when we arrived. Anyway we stayed for a while and cooled down and decided to come back in the morning.

We had a forgettable dinner at a pub in the town and then retired to the van.  As planned the next morning we got up really early and went down to the spring and had the whole place to ourselves. It was just lovely. The water is so clear and surrounded by lots of beautiful trees. I was floating around on my back and just getting moved around by the currents. I had the best view of the canopy of trees above. There were large round leafed trees, small leaved trees, fluffy leaved trees, big spiky Pandanus palms all together hanging over the spring. You can see them in the picture below. It was amazing that there was nobody else there as it is just about 1km out of town.

From Katherine we travelled to a place called Timber Creek. Some people we met in Katherine told us there there was nothing to see on the road between Katherine and Timber Creek however we found it really interesting.

We took lots of photos along the way. We stopped at a place called Sullivan Campground where we went down to have a look at what turned out to be a billabong. We climbed down to have a look at the water and took some photos.

From here we travelled along until we came to the Victoria River in the Gregory National Park. Its a is a huge river with a huge bridge. There was also a roadhouse where we bought some ice blocks as it was really hot. We walked back to the bridge to take some photos.

We then continued on to Timber Creek and stayed at a lovely caravan park behind the roadhouse. It had huge trees with a carpet of leaves underneath. An added attraction was that they had Kite and Croc feeding sessions each afternoon at 5pm. The Kites were amazing. They would swoop down for a piece of bread thrown into the air then deftly place it in their tail feathers so that they could continue to fly and look for more. We saw our first crocs in the nearby river. They were 'freshies' which have a narrow snout. The biggest one called 'one eye' for obvious reasons was the boss and kept the other three away from the meat which was being lowered into the river on a hook.

The next morning we left Timber Creek and found a fantastic lookout just outside town. It was a very rocky place but had great views of Timber Creek and the Victoria River. There was also a monument there to 'the Nackeroos'  who assisted in the protection of the north of Australia during WWII. I have included a poem which appeared on one of the plaques.

As we travelled towards Kununurra, which is in the east Kimberleys, the rugged mountainous landscape became more obvious. It was a very interesting drive and the official photographer was very busy!!

Kununurra is a nice town with great rocky outcrops right next to residential streets. It also has a beautiful lake. Kununurra was established as part of the Ord River Scheme. The Ord River was dammed creating Lake Argyle and providing irrigation water for large tracts of cropps.

This morning Mike climbed right up the top of  a rocky outcrop called 'Kelly's Knob' which overlooked the caravan park and
had great views of the whole town and lake beyond.

After that we travelled out to Lake Argyle which is an enormous lake. It was almost like looking out at the sea with small islands dotted in it. The mountains around it are so spectacular that words really fail me. Even the camera does not do them justice. Its an awe inspiring part of the country.

We stopped at the old Argyle Homestead which was owned by the famous Durack family. They once owned millions of acres of northern Australia as cattle properties. The homestead had been moved from its original location, which is now underwater due to the dam, and relocated to its present position. It was a lovely place with a beautiful garden and some interesting artifacts in side, including two antique sewing machines.

As I said before, everything up here is huge. We stopped by the river on the way back to town and saw lots of fish swimming around. Mike also saw two turtles swimming around. We also checked out the lake on the way back to town.

From Kununrra we are off to El Questro Wilderness Park via Wyndham.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Changing landscapes

Since my last post we have travelled from Hervey Bay in Queensland all the way up through the west to Mt Isa then over into the Northern Territory and up to Katherine.

On the way we have passed many dry creek beds and rivers, notable among them the Cloncurry and Leichhardt Rivers which were both bone dry. Some others show signs of past flooding.

See the 44 gallon drum up the tree!

There are lots of creeks and other spots, especially in NSW and Queensland, with funny names, such as Tom Cat Creek, Middle Brother Creek, Passionfruit Creek, Dirty Creek Road, Murderers Creek Road, Dead Bullock Gully, Pumpkin Hut Creek, Spectacle Creek and Christmas Creek (the sign for which also had red tinsel!). .

The landscapes have been subtly changing along the way. We have seen some very long straight stretches of road which go all the way to the horizon in front and some almost 360 degree vistas. The skies are huge mostly with few or no clouds.

Along the way we passed a group of push bike riders who were raising money for cancer research. They were called 'Smiling for Smiddy'. There were about 50 of them and we first saw them at a rest stop where we made some breakfast. Then we passed them on the road.

We soon started to see road trains and now they have become quite common. They are about 53 metres long and usually have three or four trailers behind a prime mover. They carry anything and everything in all directions.

We stopped at a little town called Alpha in Queensland and were set up not far from the road. As it grew dark we could see the big trucks coming out of the darkness in a blaze of light. They have so many lights on them you can see them coming for ages before they appeared. There were also some great paintings of lorikeets on the sheds in the caravan park. Mike reckons they have evil eyes!

We travelled to Barcaldine, where my friend Grace used to live, and stopped for breakfast at a cafe on a corner in the main street. Unbeknown to us this was a corner where fully laden cattle road trains did a right hand turn in front of the cafe. You can imagine the dust and how this smelt as it went past! It was enough to put you off your eggs.

We stopped at another little town called Ilfracombe and found three emus walking around in the main street. They were not bothered by humans at all.

Bougainvilleas abound all over these remote towns. They are often the only bright vegetation in the place. This beautiful specimen below was also in Ilfracombe along with a whole lot of old farm machinery including a Marshall Traction Engine, which we are quite partial to.

The bougainvillea....
and the Marshall Traction Engine.

The weather has been great but its getting warmer and warmer. We stopped in Winton where it was about 38 degrees. . It cooled down at night though which was good. They use artesian water there which has a very strong smell of sulphur which was different to say the least. We also saw two big brolgas walking down the main street of the town early in the morning.

After leaving Winton we travelled towards Mt Isa. On the way we stopped at the Walkabout Creek Hotel which featured in the movie, Crocodile Dundee. It was very very hot so we had to stop and have a beer. Well we did, didn't we? It was 11.30 am so it was OK.........

There are lots of photos of Paul Hogan and crew from the movie inside.  Along the way we also saw a camel just roaming around in a paddock beside the road! That was a surprise.

Mt Isa is a pretty big town.  There is a huge copper, zinc lead and silver mine there right beside the town. It dominates both economically and physically.

You can see the mine at the back of the town in this picture.

It was also very hot there but the caravan park had a pool which was lovely. It was pretty dusty and dry but we met some friendly people in the pool.

We went on a tour of a mine which was set up specifically for tourists. Apparently it took about 4 years to build and cost about $6 million. The equipment down in the mine was the old equipment that is no longer used in the modern mine. Our tour guide Bill was fabulous. He was a retired miner himself having worked in Mt Isa mines for some 36 years. It was a great tour and I would recommend it to anyone. It really gave us an idea of what it must have been like. I'm sure modern technology has changed many aspects of mining but it is a dirty and dangerous place to work. One thing we really noticed was how noisy all the equipment was that they used. Its a wonder they didn't all go completely deaf.

After leaving Mt Isa we found ourselves in the countryside which was much greener than before. There were termite mounds everywhere and some of them were dressed up in T shirts, dresses, a superman outfit, helmet, beanie, etc. This has continued all the way to Katherine.

We came across two drovers with a mob of cattle roaming across the road. It was a fantastic site.

The cattle took their time and this one just stood in front of the car. Mike nudged the ute forward really slowly and eventually he moved over to the side.

We also came across an enormous eagle who had been feasting on a dead animal on the roadside. It was a huge bird, probably about 4ft high. Unfortunately he moved too fast for a photo.

We spent another night at Barkly Homestead which is another very isolated spot on the highway a way further on from Mt Isa. It was a very dusty spot but had a pool, bar and restaurant.

The driver relaxing.

A pretty sunset.

Our next stop was in Daly Waters which is a tiny place off the main road. There is an old pub there which has a lot of history and character. Its also a petrol station, caravan park, post office, restaurant and motel. The Greyhound Bus headed for Alice Springs roared into town, turned around and pulled into the front of the pub at about 9.30pm to drop off a backpacker and pick up the mail bag!

This building is opposite the pub. Not sure what its for!

Our campsite was again very dusty but we fitted in between all the other vans. No need to unhitch. Everyone was just passing through for the night.

There is a historic aerodrome at Daly Waters too which was very interesting. The display provided lots of info about the town itself as well as the aerodrome. There was also this amazing bush outside with the most beautiful flowers. I have no idea what they are. Maybe someone else has seen these before.

One thing we have found already is how friendly our fellow caravaners are. After all, we are all on holidays and out to have a fun time. Everyone says hello at petrol stations and makes enquiries as to where you are off to or where you have been. We all raise a wave to each other as our vans pass on the road. We have quickly got into the habit of doing this. Mike has done most of the driving so far. I did most of yesterday and some today but I still leave all the tricky bits to him. I'm nowhere near ready for reversing!

From Daly Waters we travelled to Katherine via Mataranka Springs. This is a classic oasis in the dessert. Its just out of town and a welcome relief from the heat and dust. The pool and springs are now part of the national park so they will be preserved for all to enjoy.

The beautiful tall palms

The beautiful pool
and the canopy above.

We are now in Katherine and plan to stay here for a couple of nights before heading west.

For those of you who have made it to the end of this mammoth post I thank you for your attention. The next instalment will be from Western Australia.