More of Broome

On Thursday we went out to the 12 Mile area of Broome, to see a few of the tourist attractions.

First was the Wilderness Park.  Closed.

01 wilderness

Turns out that the Wilderness Park is actually a Crocodile Feeding attraction.  We were ok with it being closed, we’ve been there and done that and we were happy to move on anyway.

Next was the Mango Place.

02 mango

We took a walk around part of their mango farm then back to their shop where you can buy a range of mango condiments and fresh food and drinks which were quite nice.

03 mango

After that we visited the Bird Park.

04 bird

Now the Bird Park was definitely worth a visit, a large selection of mostly Australian birds on display, with a small petting zoo and a display of old tractors, something for everybody.

There were Red Tailed Cockatoos, dancing and talking loudly.

05 black

They also had White Tailed Black Cockatoos and Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and more.

This Corella named Norm would ring his bell whenever he wanted attention.

06 norm

This was pretty much non-stop so he wouldn’t stay still enough for us to get a good photo, this was the best one.

This is a Major Mitchell Cockatoo, he was very cute, up close and personal but not talkative.

07 mitchell

There were also Budgerigars, Canaries, Black Swans, Kookaburras Pheasants, Bush Turkeys and a lot more.

A Gouldian Finch.

08 gouldian

Here’s a Golden Pheasant from China, strutting up and down.

09 golden

This is a Conure from Brazil.

10 jandaya conure

The Macaws were brilliant but aloof.

11 macaw

There were way too many species of birds to record here, but it was an enjoyable visit.

Back at the beach, the camels were out again, we stayed upwind where possible.

12 camels

Three companies were doing tours and they were mostly attracting plenty of riders.

13 camels

We found a night market at Town Beach in Broome so we went to see if we could find a good food stall to try out.  Totally underwhelming after all the great food markets in Darwin.

14 market

We didn’t indulge so we went back to Cable Beach to check out the sunset.  Oops, a bit late but good sky colour.

15 sunset

After this we went to nearby Divers Tavern and Heather finally had a good  seafood selection.

16 basket

Fish, scallops, prawns and squid, yum!

We are staying about 10 minutes from the beach as the crow flies but haven’t been able to find a route to walk to it directly.  We would have to walk around by the road and pavement which is about 2 kms each way, and past houses, hotels, caravan parks etc., not very interesting.

So, on Friday, after consulting Google we set off cross country to try to find a way through.

Up a nearby hill, here is our neighbourhood behind us.

21 mantra

Turn around and there’s the beach

22aroute

Heather went on as not good for Roger he also had to get back to the washing.  I climbed up and down sand dunes sometimes on hands and knees, snaked around spinifex and small shrubs some of the dead branches reaching out and grabbing at my legs and clothes but being an explorer I ploughed on.

23 beach

 

Out to the beach where we have been walking before and lo and behold I was confronted with another naked man. Haven’t seen any women yet.

24 beach

Rog came & picked me up by the 4WD path onto the beach.

Later we went into the old Chinatown area of Broome, from where the pearling luggers originally worked.  Here’s Heather on Streeter’s Wharf enjoying the ambiance (and the mangroves).

25 streeter

The mangrove trees were not here when this was a working wharf, it was open for the luggers to get right in to the dock and the beach in the town.

Broome makes a lot of its pearling past with a few monuments dotted along the streets, this one of a 2nd generation pearl diver in his diving suit.

26 diver

The 1st generation divers would free dive with all the risks that went with that.  Very dangerous stuff, much safer in a diving suit.

It seems that more than half of the shops in Broome are selling pearl jewellery, we don’t know how they all make a living but they do seem to.

27 pearl shop

The pearls since the mid 1950s are mostly cultured pearls which were used to produce buttons and ornaments. The industry is quite different to what it was before that now.

At first they made aboriginals dive for natural pearl shells.  If they refused they would force them to or kill them. If they got sick or the bends they dropped them of and let them deal with it themselves. Needless to say most died agonising deaths.

The later divers, mostly Asian, would bring up pearl oysters to their luggers and shuckers would cut

growths off the outside and clean out the insides to leave the shells which would be kept for further processing.  If they found any pearls, they were a bonus.

The bulk manufacture of plastic buttons in the 1950s killed the pearling industry as it was.

Now, the cultured are harvested humanely, and the oysters are returned to the oyster farms to produce more pearls,  The shells are no longer harvested at all.

We passed the old Roebuck Bay Hotel, a rough pub in the day, now just a quaint place to have a drink or a meal.

28 roebuck pub

Not a  lot of evidence of the old Chinese influence in Chinatown, so a few decorations are being put in place.

29 mall

In the day, the Asian divers lived here and the area was rife with booze, gambling and brothels.  Not so now, or not from what we saw.

The old Sun Movie Theatre is interesting, and open air movie theatre still operating, currently showing Rocketman and Top End Wedding.

30 sun

We went to the Broome Museum, here’s Roger meeting an old diver.

31 diver

Well, his suit anyway.  They weren’t this big really.  This is how big it blew up to.

We saw some examples of old pearl buttons and ornaments.

32 shell

The museum has a large collection of old sea shells on display, collected over many years at Broome by a Mrs Phyllis McDaniel about 100 years ago.

33 shells

Broome is a magnet for tropical cyclones, it’s had 22 since 1920.  This map shows the worst of them and compares Broome with other towns between Darwin and Karratha

34 cyclones

The Wings of Broome is a sculpture in the town’s Male Park, made from a collection of old thongs or flip flops.

35 wings

We went to Dinner in town and on to the Moscow Circus on Friday Night.

36 circus

It was a good show and fun, but no pics sorry.  An old-fashioned circus.

A fairly quiet day on Saturday, we went back to the Museum and went down to Town Beach for lunch.

43 town beach

This is the spot to come to for the Staircase to the Moon sightings as the full moon rises if you are here at the right time.

Later we went back to Cable Beach for a walk and our last sunset here.

51 sunset

Tomorrow, we’re headed home.  Ah well, back to the cold.

 

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Broome

We had a fairly quiet day in Broome on Tuesday.  It was quite a bit cooler when we arose and tried out the outdoor shower, though it did warm up again later.

We checked out Cable Beach again, this time an hour before high tide, crikey what a difference.

01 beach

The water’s edge is about 50 metres closer than the day before.

We’ll be checking out the sunset up in this park later.  It’s a nice park, well equipped but not many people using it.

02 park

We went into town, visited the Tourist Info Office, did a bit of shopping and went over to the car rental office to lodge our claim for compensation for the problems that we have had.  Let’s see how that goes.

In the afternoon we went down to the beach again for a walk and to check it out.

The tide was by now half way out again, exposing lots of rocks that would be submerged at higher tides.

03 beach

The beach north of the main Cable Beach is 4 WD friendly and there were a few out and about, with people fishing, walking their dogs or just soaking up some rays.

04 beach

You would need to keep an eye on the incoming tides so as not to be cut off, apparently it comes in quickly.

Another view of the rocks.

05 beach

Here we are, on the beach that seems to go on forever.

06 beach

A couple of Pied Oyster catchers were hard at it.

07 pied oystercatchers

Ahhh, success.

08 oystercatcher

While Heather was busy taking photos of birds a chap walked past baring it all then we turned around to see another walking towards us. We hadn’t realized it must be a nudist beach.

 

This guy had a nice tan, he must walk here regularly.

09 nice tan

He was wearing his shorts, draped over his shoulder.

This guy doesn’t seem to get out so much.

10anotan

 

No shorts to be seen here, at least he had a hat.

Coming back mid afternoon, the camels were being lead onto the beach for the tourist camel rides.

11 camels

These are particularly popular at sunset.  Not for us thanks, we could smell them from over 100 metres away.

We went back later to see the sunset, and there were more people in the park, enjoying an evening picnic or just a drink, and viewing the sunset.

12 watchers

Down on the beach, the camels were out and about and there were a lot more 4 WDs out there too.

13 carpark

The sunset was clear but quick as there was no cloud cover to drag it out.

Now you see it.

14 sunset

Now you don’t.

15 sunset

We had a cruisey first day, very relaxing.

On Wednesday we continued our exploration of Broome, driving out to Gantheaume Point to check out the dinosaur footprints.

A lighthouse was established on the point, originally kerosene fired, with its light keeper’s cottage.

21 lighthouse

The lighthouse was rebuilt, electrified and automated in 1922, and the light keepers became redundant.  It must have been rebuilt sometime later as it is the most substantial lightkeeper’s cottage that we have seen.  Great house, in a terrific location.

Gantheaume Point is a rocky headland, mostly sandstone and heavily eroded by the elements for a long time.  We walked around the rocks.

22 rocks

The sea was calm this day, with a strong offshore wind trying to blow us off.

23 sea

Here we are having fun.

24 us

It turns out that the dinosaur footprints are hard to find and are only visible at a very low tide.

25 bay

We are here at the wrong time as when it is low tide this week, the sun either hasn’t risen or has set.

We’ve also missed out on the Stairway to the Moon as that only occurs on a full moon, which will be on June 19.  Oh well, if we come to Broome again, we’ll be sure to time it better.

We went around to the Port area of Broome, intending to walk out on the pier as we did in Busselton last year.

26 pier

Unfortunately it is a Border Port so there’s no public access, this is as close as we could get.  Probably just as well, it was very windy.

Looking back along the southern beaches of Broome, towards the town.

27 bay

The Moscow Circus has arrived in Broome.

28 circus

We bought some tickets and we’ll be going to see the Circus on Friday night.

Later we went back to Cable Beach for another walk, this time heading south, away from the 4WD area and the nudists.

29 beach

From the water’s edge, the tide is about halfway out at this stage. The sand gets softer and finer as it goes out. This gives a harder base and makes it easier for the 4WDs to drive on.  Normally the further out you go it gets courser.

There are signs warning about the crocodiles and the killer jellyfish but it’s a patrolled beach and there were people swimming.

We spoke to the Lifeguards on duty, just as one of them set out to test the waters for jellyfish, dragging a net with a closed pipe at its centre to catch any of the little Box or Irukandji Jellyfish, both deadly.

31 drag

He was completely covered in a wetsuit, with boots and gloves.  The guards do this test 3 times a day and if they find just 1 of the bad guys, they close the beach till further notice.

The net and trap work well, he did find some pieces of jellyfish but they weren’t Box or Irukandji so the beach is considered safe for swimming.

32 result

Crocs are a bit more obvious.  The water here is very clear and they would see them or sharks from the beach if they were around.

Later we went to see the sunset again, this shot looking like a living image of the Aboriginal Flag

33 flag

We had dinner at Zanders on the park. We were hoping to have a lovely fish meal now we are at the coast but it was really average.

34 heather

So far, we are enjoying our time in Broome, still a few days to go.

Driving to Broome

On Sunday morning we left Halls Creek to drive 295 kms to Fitzroy Crossing as the next part of our drive to Broome.  With the driving we have done up here and the places and things that we have seen, the drive was relatively mundane.

02 road

Flat, straight road, with no cattle to dodge, just a few dead wallabies along the way.

We saw a camera sign on the roadside so we stopped to see what terrific view we should be taking photos of.  This was it, not a lot different to what we were seeing along the way.

03 view

We would have liked to visit Wolfe Creek Meteor Crater to have a look.

01 crater

A meteor hit this site about 2 million years ago.  It is the second largest meteor crater in the world, it is about 900 metres across and the cliffs at the edge are about 35 metres high though it is raised in the centre.

Unfortunately it is well off the beaten track and we didn’t fancy a 250 km 4WD excursion enough to take the trip, so all we have is this photo.

We stopped for lunch at a picnic site above this gorge.

04 view

The day was very comfortable weather wise, except for a strong wind that up here made us cold.  So it was a quick lunch and we moved on.

We arrived at the Fitzroy River which is nearly as dry as all the creeks and rivers that we crossed today.

06 Fitzroy

We drove into Fitzroy Crossing and had a look around, going first to the Tourist Info Centre which was shut, only open Monday to Friday.   We found the local supermarket and a recommended Cafe and they were also shut.  What gives?

At this point we thought that we would rather not stay here but push straight on to Broome instead.  However we had already booked our accommodation and couldn’t cancel it so we stayed.

We took up our booking at the Fitzroy River Lodge.

07 lodge

We found it to be a lovely place with nice grounds.  It also has glam tents, a caravan park and camping areas.  We spent the rest of the day just wandering around the property, checking it all out and the many  friendly wallabies and ‘wild life’.

Here’s the pool view from our verandah.

08 Pool

Mama wallaby was out and about with a joey in her pouch.

09 roos

This eagle was making itself at home in a beautiful ghost gum.

10 eagle

Another wallaby struck a pose for us.

11 roo

There are heaps of wallabies in the grounds and if you leave them alone, they just graze and do what they do quite happily.

We had a relaxing afternoon and, in the end, we were happy that we did stay after all.

Monday is WA Day, a Public Holiday to commemorate the establishment of the Swan River Colony, in 1829.  So, we set of in the morning to drive the last 400 Kms to Broome.

The road was pretty much the same as our recent travels except that there was a lot more traffic than we have seen recently.

21 road

Not in this shot though.

We did see some cattle on the wrong side of their fences but they didn’t come close enough to the highway to be a problem.

There were more dead wallabies on the road and we had a near miss with this hungry bird.

22 eagle

We had a small change of scene when we passed between these hills, very flat on top.

23 hills

We saw this large, old Boab Tree at a rest area.

24 boab

Willare River was about the only one that we passed that had any water.

25 Willare crossing

This was because we were getting closer to the coast, only about 25 kms as the crow flies.

We made it safely to Broome in the afternoon, a quaint town, formed in 1883 as a base for the pearling industry.

26 Broome

The population of 15,000 will grow to about 45,000 for the next few months as grey nomads like us come here for the southern winter.

Our first view of the Indian Ocean on this trip.

27 ocean

In 1889 an undersea Telegraph Cable from Java was terminated near Broome, connecting ultimately to England.  This caused the beach where it is landed to be called Cable Beach, a mecca for tourists who flock here now to see the sunset across the water.

We checked into the Mantra Resort near Cable Beach, and found it very nice.

We have an outdoor area with BBQ and seating.

28 porch

Inside is a comfortable living room.

29 living

Through to a bedroom, with en suite and laundry.

30 bed

The shower is outdoors, that should be fun, Heather is not real keen but we should be comfortable here until we head for home on Sunday.

30a shower

We went to check out Cable Beach, here at low tide.

31 cable

The beach faces a little south of west and we have heard that the sunsets are very special.

We’ll check them out through the week and show you if we get some cloud cover which is what makes them really interesting.

 

Driving to Halls Creek

Yesterday we drove south west to Halls Creek, about 370 kms through what is now becoming familiar landscapes.

Flat along the route with craggy, rocky ranges.

02 road

Much of the spinifex has been burned off, some just in the last day or two.

01 fire

We did see quite a few critters trying to share the road with us, including a lot of cattle.

03 Cattle

These two kindly moved back off the road as we came along.

We were driving through an area of extensive cattle stations.  Mabel Downs in particular seemed to stretch for about 50 kms and there were lots of cattle, mostly behind the fences.

04 cattle

There were many outside the fences though to prove that the grass is always greener on the other side.

The area along the way also has a lot of mines for just about everything.  It is an area of great mineral wealth.

We found a good picnic table in shade where we could have some lunch.  Under cover and with a good breeze to keep us cool and blow the flies away, it was quite comfortable.

05 picnic

It’s officially winter now and obligingly the temperature has dropped about 10°C to be in the mid twenties, which is much more comfortable.  A beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky.

We crossed over the Ord River, now a sandy and dry river bed.

06 Ord R

The river bed is about 50 metres wide so it must still be a large river here in the wet.  This is probably about 300 kms above Kununurra so it obviously picks up a lot of water along the way.

We had remarked that in spite of the cattle on the road, we haven’t seen much road kill in WA, when we found some, a few small kangaroos or wallabies that had come to grief.

07 eagle

This one was playing its role in the food chain, with an eagle having a feed as we came along.

Not the best shot but the eagle wasn’t hanging around once we showed up.  It came back immediately as we passed.

There are masses of termite mounds along the way, as there have been on and off since leaving Darwin.  We must have passed millions of them by now.

08 termites

One of the people on our Bungle Bungle excursion remarked that if we reduced the number of termites on earth, we would solve our global greenhouse gas emission problem.  Seems that there may be something in this as scientists believe that termites emit more CO2 than ALL OTHER LIVING BEINGS COMBINED – https://www.iceagenow.info/termites-produce-co2-year-living-combined/

HMMM.

We arrived at Halls Creek in the afternoon to find a small sleepy village, even more remote than the other places we have visited on this trip.

09a Halls Creek

The Information Centre was very modern and the people were friendly and helpful.

10 vis ctr

The town has good amenities for its size, a hospital, a primary school and a high school, all modern and seemingly in good condition.

There are several newish houses around the town.

11 houses

There is a strong Aboriginal Art influence in the town, visible in a lot of local places.  Even the garbage bins are impressive.

14 bin

Not exactly authentic Aboriginal art but the local supermarket is in the spirit of urban beautification with some cute cows on their roof.

15 cows

We drove out to the north to check out the town lookout.

We found our way at this sign painted on a car bonnet.

12 sign

Here is Halls Creek sprawling in the distance along the highway.

13 view

Next we drove out to the south of town to see the China Wall, again signposted for us.

16 c wall

Heather had to open the gate and then shut it again after the car had passed through.  Got to keep those cattle in!

17 gate

We made our way to the China Wall that is a large quartz reef, standing high above the surrounding rock that has been eroded away over time.  It does look a bit like the Great Wall of China.

18 c wall

The wall is 6 metres above the ground in parts and runs for many kms.

You know what they say about quartz – where you find quartz you find gold.  And so it is.

In 1885, a prospector found a 28 ounce nugget of gold here and started a gold rush which caused the formation of the town.

We’d mentioned that we were going to stay a night in Halls Creek to people that we’d met along the way and the almost standard response was to ask WHY, or just roll their eyes.

Our reason was that son Warren had lived and been the chef in a restaurant here for about 6 months about 10 years ago and told us stories of what a strange place that it was.

We stayed at the motel where Warren had worked.

19 motel

Though it might seem modest by city standards it is par for this area.  Inside we found our room spotless (the cleanest one we have stayed in so far) and very comfortable with everything we needed.

The restaurant is huge and very modern, though sparsely populated last night.

20 jacks

The meal was excellent, so we retired happy for the night.

Halls Creek has a reputation for having problems for theft or rowdy behaviour after dark, but we must say that for our 1 night, we saw no evidence of any problem at all.

Last Day in Kununurra

We don’t normally check the tyres on Hire Cars and didn’t on the one we have now.  Imagine our surprise when we noticed that this tyre is worn so badly that the steel band is showing through.  The other front tyre is scrubbed and bald but not as bad as this one.

00 tyre

We are about 1,000 kms from the nearest depot and these are nowhere near legal, let alone safe.

We called the company last night and this morning bright and early went to their local service contractor as advised and found that they could not help us today.  We had already looked around the town and had spoken to the local Bridgestone dealer to confirm that they had stock and could fit and balance them this morning, and do a wheel alignment.  So after another discussion with the rental company, we dropped the car off there to be fixed.

So we lost another half day, but as we only had nearby activities planned, it did not impact us too much.  We will be looking closer to the tyres in future when we hire cars.

We did some washing and a filled the morning in, picked up the car a bit earlier than expected, had some lunch and set of for more sightseeing.

We crossed over the Ord River Diversion Dam which holds water back around Kununurra to supply the farms using the irrigation system.

01 ord dam

It’s not a large dam and has good spillways to handle any excess water that Argyle Dam needs to release.  There is a lot of work being done below the dam, some bank beautification perhaps?

We saw yet another Boab Tree

02 boab

This one had a hollow trunk.

03 Boab

Not large yet but similar to one that we have heard about but not seen where Police put a gate over the hole and used the secured hole as a prison.  Maybe in a few more years.

 

We drove out to the southern irrigation area to see what was growing – a lot of mangoes and limes and more sandalwood mostly.

04 mangoes

The southern area is not as large as the first we saw to the north so we drove back over the dam and through the town.

05 ord dam

We went to the Mirima National Park just east of Kununurra to have a walk through Hidden Valley.

The first part of the walk has plantings of some of the local trees.  This one is the sandpaper fig whose leaves are rough to the feel and they have been used by Aborigines for ages as sandpaper.

06 sandpaper fig

It works very well, and can be used to smooth wooden products like spears and didgeridoos.

The rock formations around Hidden Valley are similar to those of the Bungle Bungles but not as expansive.

07 h vall

We walked up to the top of the formations on what was described as another Grade 4 walk, but it was a lot smoother that the one at Emma Gorge and Roger was able to do it all.

We got fairly close to the balancing rock that we saw on our first day here.

08 balance

Warren don’t we look stylish in our new fly nets.  Heather bought one in Katherine and lost it yesterday so went out and bought two more this morning so Roger now has the luxury of one too.

08a hats

Back down on the ground again, we saw a flock of Kites milling around in the sky.

09 kites

There were a lot more than these and they were not diving, just soaring in the wind and thermals.

Tomorrow we will be heading further west, driving to Broome over 2 days.  Good thing we are road worthy again.

El Questro

Yesterday we visited El Questro Station, a working cattle station running over 6,000 head of cattle.  It covers over 1,000,000 acres, and is about 100 kms from Kununurra.

The station diversified its operations to include tourism with 10 or 12 sites you can walk or ride a horse around.   You can stay there in a variety of accommodation alternatives or just go for the day as we did.

The accommodations include your own tent or caravan on a public site or a private one, their tent or cabin or the very up market homestead with hotel suites.

We turned off the road to Wyndham onto the Gibb River Road, which is sealed at this end.  By this stage we were within the El Questro property having already passed the first attraction.

01 elq to

Gibb River Road is a 660 km long 4WD Kimberley Adventure track, stretching between Derby and Kununurra across the top of WA, an old cattle stock route originally.  It’s suggested that you allow about 14 days to travel it, though we are specifically excluded from it in our hire car beyond the turnoff to El Questro in the photo above.  That’s where the sealed road finishes.

The road to El Questro from the Gibb River Rd is unsealed but in very good condition.  The grader was out grading it as we drove along it.

02 elq rd

We stopped off at a place called Zebedee Springs along the way for a walk into a beautiful oasis in this dry sparsely vegetated land.

There is a good boardwalk and path through the bush with bridges where necessary over the flowing springs which are warm, constantly around 30°C.

03 zeb

The water is crystal clear.

04 zeb spring

We arrived at the head of the springs below a steep cliff which was hard to see through the thick foliage and trees.

Heather enjoyed her paddle.

05 zeb spr heth

 

We have seen many Pandanus Trees through the NT and now WA and noted that they are quite different to the Pandanus that we see often in Queensland.  We have also heard guides talking about spiral trees but never associated them with the local Pandanus.  Until now!

06 spiral pand

These have been trimmed so that visitors don’t get slashed too much by their sharp leaves, but you can clearly see the spiral.

We moved on the the main El Questro centre, through a water crossing which quite shallow and safe.

07 crossing

The main El Questro reception area is simple but has a lot of attractions.  The gardens are well developed and maintained and continue the oasis theme that we saw at Zebedee Springs.

08 elq reception

There’s a bar and shop, fuel pumps (a bit pricey) helicopter tours, horse tours and so on.

We saw a local artist’s studio, very outdoors, and went for a closer look.

09 art studio

Coralee his lived and worked here for 8 years and claims to be obsessed with everything Kimberley.  Mostly she paints Boab Trees.

10 coralee

She has some interesting techniques that she uses in her art to give different features and textures, including bark and snakeskin, and her use of resin on water gives unusual reflections as you would see on water.

There are the tents that you can use if you don’t have your own.

11 tents

This is a restaurant that seems to be pretty good but we had our picnic for lunch at a shaded table among the trees.

12 restaurant

We drove around the station area past the private camping sites which couldn’t see because they were a long way off the road because they are private.  They each have birds’ names, this one was Corella.

13 camp

We met a couple when we were having dinner out that night who had stayed in their van on one of these sites previously and they weren’t fans.  They said that they were expensive for what they were, the grass was too long, they were dusty and plagued with ants, so a bit too private perhaps.

We saw the Homestead accommodation from a distance in a nice location above the river.

14 homestead

We couldn’t get closer as it is private too.

Back into the general camping area, there were plenty of people staying with their vans and tents.

15 campground

They have good facilities with a large camp kitchen with ovens and cook tops to prepare a range of meals other than BBQ s, and plenty of bathroom blocks scattered around.

Back onto the Gibb River road, there are a lot of flood ways.

16 dips

We’ve heard that they get a lot of rain up here in the wet season, but this is beyond our experience.

The cliffs along here look quite different in the afternoon light.

17 cliffs

Our next objective was the Emma Gorge walking trail.  Also owned by El Questro, they have more accommodation and tourist facilities here and it is as well maintained as the other parts of the property that we saw.

18 emma

The walk up into Emma Gorge is only about 3 ½ kms but it is a Grade 4 track and we weren’t sure how Roger would handle it.

19 emma walk

He started out ok but the rocks of all shapes and sizes were not always firm under foot and his glasses made it difficult so he turned back after about 400 metres leaving Heather to continue alone.

20 walk

The track soon turned into huge boulders of all shapes and sizes and the little blue squares were often difficult to find and sometimes on the other side of the creek but I soldiered on stopping often to take photos.

21 pool

 

It was an exciting and energetic walk. I felt like an explorer making his way to the top climbing around and over obstacles in my way.

22 gorge

 

These photos do not do it justice, by the time I got there the sun had gone behind and the colours had darkened but it was still far more beautiful than the photos show.

Nearly there this is just below the top pool.

24 gorge

The last bit is quite a steep climb.

This is the top pool and the back wall is as high again.  By the time I arrived I didn’t need a swim as I was already swimming in perspiration but the walk was worth the effort.

23 gorge

The water was cool but there were still a couple of young lads enjoying swimming even though the sign at the bottom said a fresh water croc had taken up residence in there and not to disturb him.

I forgot to look for him.

The sun was quite low as we made our way back to Kununurra, again giving different light on the ranges.

25 range

We enjoyed our day at El Questro, but now we have some more car troubles.

 

Bungle Bungles

Today we took a flight out to the Bungle Bungles, a geologic feature about 100 kms south of Kununurra that have been over 300 million years in the making.

With an early pickup, we were all aboard our plane and away just after 9 am.  There were 12 passengers on the plane, a Cessna 208, all grey nomads like us.

01 plane

Climbing out of Kununurra.

02 Kununurra

We crossed the Ord River, climbing over the irrigation area to the south. They have no trouble with water restrictions here. It’s amazing to see the the different types of agriculture and the amount that’s under cultivation here.

03 irrigation

The flight path followed the Ord River at first.

04 ord

Soon we were approaching Lake Argyle

05 argyle

We flew past the Durack Homestead that we visited yesterday.

06 homestead

Then past the dam wall.

07 dam

We flew on over the lake which looks even larger from the air.

08 lake

Moving on we saw several more old unusual features in the landscape, this ridge the result of a very old tectonic shift, now eroded by wind and rain.

09 ridge

After about 1 hour we arrived at the area of the Bungle Bungles, the Purnululu National Park.

10 bungle

We arrived at the Bellburn International Airport as it is known down here

11 airstrip

We had some morning tea and boarded a 4wd bus to drive about 15 km to the site we were to explore on foot.

12 walk

The Bungle Bungles are a large collection of large rock formations and smaller round beehive domed shaped rocks, decorated with red and black stripes.

They were formed over a period of about 25 million years as sedimentary layers of sand and gravel, forming under pressure into sandstone,  The stripes occur as the layers are made of slightly different materials, the sandstone in the red stripe zones contain iron and manganese and the exposed surface form a layer of rust to give the orange colour.

The sandstone in the black layers is different and is more porous, holding water within it.  Algae and cyanobacteria growths growing on the surface give the black colour.

13 walk

The layers are quite precise and completely horizontal everywhere you look.

The sedimentary process took place in an area now called the Red Basin, and over the years, cracks in the top of this vast area of sandstone deposits occurred and rain, water and wind started the erosion process which have formed the shapes that we see today.

They are truly amazing.

14 walk

We moved into an area called Cathedral Gorge for a bit of shade and a rest while we ate our lunch.

You can see a lot of evidence of erosion as you move through and into the gorge.

15 walk

In the wet season, the gorge fills with water as the creeks and rivers here fill and flood.  All year there is wind.  Both conditions take their toll.

The Cathedral Gorge is a cutting well back into a large hill and it is very impressive and peaceful when you get inside, with a resounding echo if you feel the need to sing in there.

16 gorge

There are 2 waterholes trapped by the eroded floor.

We noticed a couple of interesting features in the rock walls.

Is this the Phantom Cave from the Phantom Comic?

17 phantom

Is this one a Shakespearean theatre mask?

18 mask

It was a very interesting visit, on a beautiful day.

19 bungle

Some of the other travelers took additional helicopter flights while we went to the local camp site for an afternoon tea of beautiful, cold fresh fruits.

It’s quite remote out here but the afternoon tea was terrific and the ‘camping’ consists of very comfortable cabins with en suite facilities if you please.

20 cabin

After this we went back to the airstrip (sorry, Bellburn International Airport) to board our plane for the flight back to Kununurra.

Back over the same country but the light was different but it was a bit hazy troubling visibility.

21 range

We did fly over the Argyle Diamond Mine which is vast as you would expect for such a large producer of diamonds.

22 argyle diamond

The exposed open cut mine sites here are no longer active, they have been  mining about 200 metres underground for the last 5 or 6 years.

Closer to Kununurra was a large controlled burn near the northern irrigation area.

23 fire

We landed safely after a long day.

Another terrific day with unusual experiences to enjoy.

 

Wyndham and Argyle

On Monday we drove about 100 kms to nearby Wyndham, on the Cambridge Gulf.  It is the northernmost town in WA.

The countryside is again very flat, and the roads are very straight.

01 road

The road is being upgraded and the traffic control team could use a few lessons, we thought.

02 stop

The area being worked on stretch for about 3 kms, there wasn’t much traffic and the working machinery was well away from where we had to drive, but it took us over 20 mins get through and over 30 mins to get back.

Wyndham was developed as a port town for the Kimberley in the 1880s and was important for the movement of people and freight for about 100 years.  The original impetus was a gold rush in the area but freight has included cattle, crops and ore over the years.

We went up to the 5 Rivers Lookout which has fantastic views of the piers and the surrounding area.

03 port

The gulf feeds to the sea and has a tidal range of over 8 metres

04aport

The 5 rivers are the Ord, King, Pentecost, Durack and the Forest.  You can’t see them all, but they all feed into the gulf in the vicinity of Wyndham.

There is a large picnic area at the lookout with a lovely breeze but with a gazillion flies around, we passed on lunch and had it later.

05 bbqs

At its heyday, Wyndham was a busy and important town, bustling with people and quite prosperous.  Not so today, it’s much quieter and are less people living here.  There are many derelict houses in the town, this would get our prize for the worst.

07 wreck

In 1989 the local Ngnarni Aboriginal people commissioned and installed a group of Dreamtime Statues in Wyndham which are very well done.

08 dreamtime

Consisting of a man, woman and child, a kangaroo, rainbow serpent, goanna and a dingo pup, they are 2.5 times life-size.  Local people were models for the humans.

They express the message ‘Aboriginal people will always survive in this timeless, beautiful land’.

We went down to the port area which is still operating but is not as busy as it once was with the competing forms of transport available.

09 port

There is another sculpture in the town of a 20 metre giant crocodile, which is also well done.

10 croc

It was constructed over a 10 week period by TAFE  Students and local Westrex workers at the direction of artist Andrew Hickson.  It consists of 5.5km of steel rods, 50kg of welding rods, 10 rolls of wire mesh and 6 cubic metres of concrete.  Well done.

We stopped to have a look at a waterhole called The Grotto on the way back to Kununurra, deep down in this chasm.

This is looking down.

11 grotto

Here are some of the stairs leading down, it’s a long way and very hot and far too many flies for Heather and too rough for Roger with his progressive glasses so we just looked down.

12 steps

Today we went out to visit Lake Argyle, the man-made source of the water used for the Ord River Irrigation scheme.

We passed over several creeks, some dry.

21 creek

Argyle Downs was originally a cattle station, established by the Irish immigrant Durack family in the 1880s.  They drove 5,000 head of cattle and 200 horses from central Queensland to the Kimberley, which took nearly 3 years achieve.

They were ultimately successful and became wealthy selling cattle for meat which they shipped out of Wyndham.  By 1900, they were running about 50,000 head of cattle.

Parts of the station were returned to Crown Land in the 1950s for the formation of the Ord River Scheme.

The Durack Homestead, built in 1895 was broken down and ultimately moved to a higher site near where the Argyle Dam is now sited as it would have been flooded by Lake Argyle.  Every stone had been numbered then put into storage for quite a few years before they could raise enough money to rebuild it.

We went in for a look and it was very interesting.

22 homestead

It is built of limestone blocks and termite mound mortar and consists of 6 rooms which are all a good size.

23 homestead

There are 3 bedrooms and 3 living rooms and is cool without any modern cooling equipment.

24 homestead

We moved on to see the lake which is huge.  A camping ground commands a great view over the lake, with its own infinity pool.

25 camp

The lake area covers a more than 1,000 square kms.

26 lake

The single dam wall is quite small for such a large reservoir.

27 lake

When it was completed in 1972, the lake had a capacity of 5.8 million megalitres, by far the largest reservoir in Australia.  In 1996 the wall was raised by 6 metres which doubled the capacity of the lake.

28 dam

We drove across the dam and down below we saw the spillway which feeds water to the Ord River and the irrigation scheme and the 74,000 hectares of farms that it serves.

29 spillway

We went back to Kununurra later and had a walk round parts of the Lily Creek Lagoon across the road from our hotel.  There are a lot of lovely parklands with lots of trees, birds and other critters.

Lots of fine Boab trees.

30 lily water

On our side of the lake a boat was getting ready for a sunset cruise which is very popular with tourists.

31 lily

The boat is called Jabiru and right on cue, there was a very pretty and quite tame Jabiru posing nearby.

32 jabiru

 

The Jabiru has become the latest bird to be renamed in a spirit of modern political correctness.  They are now to be known as Black Necked Storks.  Go figure.

We had a good couple of days looking around the local area, tomorrow we are flying out to the Bungle Bungles to get up close and personal with them.

Watch this space.

 

Around Kununurra

We spent today looking near Kununurra, out into the irrigation area to the north.

Driving out of the town we saw this rock formation, typical of the area.

01 rocks

The land around Kununurra is very flat, rich and has a favourable climate for farming, except for a natural shortage of water for most of the year. The Ord River scheme was started in the 1960s and has dams, reservoirs and a network of canals to bring water retained from the wet seasons  to the near farming country around the area.

The combination works well and we explored a couple of the more unusual local farming activities.

Here is a water wheel, pumping water from an irrigation canal onto a plantation for growing Indian Sandalwood.

02 pump

The wheel measures the amount of water delivered so that it can be paid for, and the farmers reticulate the water to their growing areas. As soon as the wet season starts they turn it off and stop taking the water as it is too wet to farm.

The farming areas are vast.

03 crop

Quintis, the company developing these farms, has over 14,000 hectares in various stages and has now delivered 6 harvests to market.

These are new plantings.

04 crop

These are more mature about halfway through their 15 year cycle.

05 trees

We went to their store to see what end products come from Sandalwood.

07 sandalwood

It’s an attractive wood with some lovely samples on display and some available for sale.

08 display

The main products though come from extraction of Sandalwood oil, and consist of many types of creams, lotions and perfumes.

09 shop

The plantations are vast and we wish them well in their business.

The irrigation canals are well established now and serve a variety of farmers here.

11 canal

We saw this recent plantation of sugar cane.

12 sugar

We wondered about this because we couldn’t see any sugar refineries in the area, but it did look very healthy.

13 sugar

Turns out that the crop is not meant to produce sugar but is used for Rum, as we saw when we visited Hoochery which claims to be the oldest continuously operating legal still in WA.

14 hoochery

They have quite a range of products and it commands a pretty high price.  $269 for a 750ml bottle of Rum seems high to us, it would have to be good.

There are a lot of more common crops grown in the area, including a wide range of fruit and veg.

We went to have a look at the Ivanhoe Crossing  on the Ord River, still close to Kununurra.

15 crossing

An Aboriginal family was doing a bit of fishing, when a truck went through towing a boat to show us how it’s done.

16 crossing

This sign was on display along with the by now common sign warning of the dangers of crocodiles in the area.

17 crossing

Imagine our surprise when we saw the family crossing to the other side to fish over there.

18 crossing

The father decided to fish in the middle so he plonked down his chair and wet his line, when along came another truck.

19 crossing

The crocodiles could have a good feed on him.

We met a couple of women who had grown up there and played in the shallows when they were young but said there is no way they would walk in there now as the crocodiles are protected and their numbers have increase immensely.

It was all fine, guess there’s no substitute for local knowledge.  However we chose not to cross, and moved on.

There is a well developed Motocross club nearby, but no action today.

20 mx

We visited the Zebra Rock Mine Gallery to see their display, and they were amazing.

21 zebra

The Zebra Rocks are mined in the Argyle area near the diamond mine.  No-one is sure just how they were formed but there is a mixture of rock types and colours in all of it and they are remarkable.

21aproducts

At the Gallery, they carve and polish the rocks and offer them for sale at reasonable prices.

22 display

Fancy an unusual wine rack?

23 products

We had a good day and returned to Kununurra for the evening.

 

Driving to Kununurra

On Saturday we drove west from Katherine to Kununurra in Western Australia.

That’s a 512km drive on the Victoria Hwy, which forms part of the Savanah Way, an old route that stretches 3500km from Cairns to Broome across northern Australia.

We were soon out of Katherine and into the 130kmh zone, although we didn’t drive that fast, being in a 4WD and on an unfamiliar road.

01 road

Having said that, nobody was travelling at 130kmh or more that we saw.  In the whole distance, nobody overtook us at all.

The countryside became drier as we drove along and the topography changed from flat to many old rocky outcrops eroded by water and wind over millions of years.

02 road

Into the country with the million hectare cattle stations.

We saw this dead wild buffalo on the roadside.

03 buffalo

How would you like to come around a fairly blind bend like this at 130kmh and find a 1 tonne + Buffalo standing there.   No thanks.

As we moved onwards towards Victoria River, the hills became higher and more rugged.

04 outcrop

Lots of strata of sedimentary rocks deposited over millions of years a long, long time ago.

05 outcrop

Later we saw some outcrops with a single hard layer on top, very striking.

06 outcrop

We stopped for lunch at Timber Creek, a bit over half way.

07 Timber Creek

We saw many Boab trees along the way.

08 boab

They are deciduous so have shed their leaves for winter, a relative term out here.

We reached the WA border and had to stop for the ‘Customs’ check.

09 border

Actually it’s a quarantine check, you can’t take any fresh fruit, veg or honey into WA.  They still have no fruit fly in the state and want to keep it that way.  The area around Kununurra is an important crop growing area and they are very keen avoid them.

We noticed several differences in the road conditions as we entered WA.

10 road

The surface is better, the roads are straighter and have wider verges with ripple strips. And they have regular drains to clear water off the road in the wet season.  The speed limit is also lower – 110 kmh maximum.

As we came into Kununurra, we saw some Road Trains parked in a rest area.  This tanker has 4 carriages!

11 road train

You have probably heard of normal semi-trailers being described as 18 wheelers, well this one had 68 wheels.  And they don’t carry any spare tyres.

We arrived at our hotel which is across the road from a nice lake that we’ll have a look at later, and we found the road lined with more Boab trees.  Very pretty.

12 boab

We noticed that these trees still had plenty of leaves.  Obviously, they get plenty of water and don’t otherwise know that it’s nearly winter.

It was a good drive, no problems as we like it, just over 5 hours in time.

WA is 1 ½ hours behind the NT so we were too early to check in but we did when we could and are now settled for a week in the Kimberley.