• IMG_1968

    12 to 17 October

     

    As mentioned in our last post we travelled up to Quobba next morning to see the blow holes and the HMAS Sydney Memorial Cain. It was a 50 Klms easy drive. We had planned to camp at Quobba one night, but we were so comfortable at Carnarvon decide to stay there for the extra night and do a day trip to Quobba. What a great decision. When the wind is not blowing it would be a nice place but the day we were there the wind was strong enough to blow your dog off its chain…. Assuming you had a dog. Being low tide we thought we would miss the blow holes but the opposite is true. They are at their best at low tide. There a couple of shots in the gallery. More interesting from a photographic point of view was the raging ocean smashing onto the rocks. Spectacular.  On the way back we suddenly noticed a huge display of wild flowers beside the road. They were not open on the way out but the sun had done its job and they were displaying their beauty. There is a photo in the gallery.

     

    After about a hour  of shooting the blow holes we headed up to the memorial which was 12 Klms away on a corrugated road. The Cain was built in 1980 by the members of the Naval Association before the remains of the boat was found, which was in 2005. The spot for the Cain was chosen as it was about half way between where 2 boats from the German boat beached. All were lost on the Sydney, and the Germans lost about 86 of their crew. After the the Sydney was found an inquest was held and the findings are interesting reading. It can be read on a navy website if you are interested in the history.

     

    Back in Carnarvon we bought some vegetables from a road side stall of one of the big irrigation producers in the area. His tomatoes are to die for, so full of  flavour. As well we solved another problem, that of our refrigeration capacity. We just didn't have enough, and we were having to restock every 3 or 4 days, which limited a bit on what we could do. So a visit to the local camping store saw us purchasing an Engel 40 litre fridge freezer to use as a full time freezer. The price was the same as what I would pay in Sydney so we didn't have second thoughts. The first thing to go in it was a box of magnums from Woolies. Ice cream on the road yum.

     

    The other fridge freezer we have is a 55 litre evakool, and we will use that solely as a fridge. We now have plenty of space for keeping food cool or frozen, which frees up what we can do. As well we have a back up system if something goes wrong.

     

    Stocked  up we headed off on Saturday morning to Kennedy National Park, some 170 Klms inland from Carnarvon. The national park sits in the middle of the driest plains you could imagine. Everything is either dead or wilting. What's makes the park interesting is that it encompasses a huge Messa. The top is what the level of the surrounding country side was before it was all eroded away after being pushed up from the bottom of the ocean many many millions of years ago. It is hot and very dry. No water or signs of water at all. It is an unforgiving landscape and very hot. 

     

    On the way out we crossed the Glascoyne River. It is a dry river at this time of the year, full of sand and also the longest river in WA. When dry the water runs under the sand. In the wet season the flows are huge and there are photos of the river in flood some 25 metres deep and about 500 metres wide. In fact the town of Glascoyne Junction was wiped out in the floods of 2002 and has been rebuilt. All nice new and shiny now. Further up the dirt road just before the National Park we came across a cobbled road. It was built in the 20’s  and 30’s during the depression when motorised transport was starting to be used to move wool and other supplies about. Prior to that camel and bullock wagons were the main means of moving goods about. In fact the road we were on was used by Charles Kingsford Smith for his mail run. The money he earns here provided the capital to fund his later flying adventures. Some of the stories and photos on the information panels show just what a hash and isolated life these pioneers had.

     

    We rested after we arrived and walked a couple of the gorges next morning when it was comparatively cooler. They are stunning, but very revealing of this fractured, dry and fragile landscape. Because there is no water there is very little wild life here, except for small marsupials who hide amounts the rocks during the day and come out at night. We noticed that a couple of the wild shrubs have adapted their leaves to capture the night dew and so survive without rain. 

     

    I have posted photos in the wa  low res images gallery which will give you some idea of what the country side is like, and the blow holes etc.

     

    Tomorrow we were going to love off to Mt Augustus, but given the heat and the 450 Klms round journey we have decided to leave that till next time. So will head off across the back roads to Hamelin, the Shark Bay (Monkey Mia) and the Francois Peron National Park.

     

    We have had this camp ground all to ourselves today, but just now some backpackers have pulled up and set up camp almost next to us. This camp ground is so large they could pick anywhere they liked and would never be able to see us or let alone hear us. But no right next to us in full sight and we can hear everything they say. They must like living on top of themselves in Europe or they are scared of the dark. With no moon and no lights it is pitch black at night out here. Oh well. 

     

    We were up very early next morning as the winds blew all night keeping us awake. By early morning they had stopped, but we had breakfast and packed up, visiting the Honeycomb Gorge before we left. As we headed back to Glascoyne Junction it started to sprinkle. We took a back road which had just been graded and as we progressed the clouds got thicker and the sprinkles turned to intermittent light rain. Roads are closed here very quickly when it starts to rain and fines for driving on them when closed are pretty steep. Luckily the hadn't shut the gate (yes there are gates on the back roads here)  Anyway the road we took was in good condition as I said and we made good time on our way to Shark Bay. 

     

    A check on Wikki Camps led us to choose a farm stay for one night at Hamelin Outback Station Stay. It is an ex sheep Station purchased by Bush Heritage Australia in 2015. It is a 202,000 hectare property. We are very glad we did, as the amenities are excellent, so much so we stayed an extra night so we could explore the surrounding area.

     

    Today we went to Hamelin just down the road and viewed the oldest living organism on the planet, the stromatolites. These organisms date back 2 billion years and are the mechanism that produced oxygen on our planet. The stromatolites here is the largest remaining collection in the world, making them very special and part of the reason it is a world heritage area. The landscape and seascape is truely amazing. The colour of the water has to be seen to be believed and no photos can really do it justice. Although while in Denham today we saw a photo exhibition of aerial photos taken by some very famous Australian photographers that go close.

     

    On the way to Denham we stopped in at Shell Beach. This beach is made up of cockle shells that survive in the very salty Hamelin Bay. It is an amazing place to walk on millions if not billions of shells that have accumulated over 1000’s of years. Makes you feel very humble that we are only small specs in the time line of earths history. 

     

    Our reconnoiter of the surrounds has led to us deciding to move on tomorrow to Francois Peron national park, and do some bush camping at the top end of the peninsula. To get there we will need to do some pretty serious 4 wheel driving on sand tracks, so should be fun. We will be up there for two to three days before we head off to Kalbarri.

     

     

    Till next time

  • IMG_1913

    Day 64 to 71

    Exmouth, Cape Range National Park, Carnarvon. 5 To 12 October

     

    Well our stay at the free camp just outside Old Onslow was indeed relaxing. The views over the river, which is lined with white River gums wAs indeed picturesque, and Louise had great fun photographing the many birds and then identifying them. A rail ( or in twitcher speak a buff banded rail) befriended us and hung around the camp the whole time we were there, not scared or intimidated by us at all. the only thing wrong with the camp was the increasing wind squalls that arose from about midday and went right through till sun up next morning. The country here has not seen rain of any sort for at least 4 months and the wind threw up the fine red dust everywhere. 

     

    Our drive to Exmouth was fairly uneventful. We had decided that we would not stay in Exmouth, but rather at a Conservation Park called Giralia  some 120 Klms from town. The property where we stayed at used to be a working sheep farm but was bought by the WA government and turned into a conservation park. We stayed two nights and if you are on Facebook you would have seen photos of one of the visitors to our camp. We left Giralia and headed into Exmouth to restock. Being a town of only 2000 odd residents we didn't expect much but a visit to the bakery changed our mind. It was good as or even better than any good bakery in the big smoke. The town also has two IGA supermarkets in competition with each other about 50 metres apart… strange.

     

    The main reason for Exmouth was the US Communication set up…North West Cape that is the main communication base to all US nuclear submarines around the world. A very strategic site…. I wonder if it is in North Korean sights.  The communication towers are just outside town, and one of them is the tallest structure in Australia according to all the visitor info, but a think a building in Melbourne may now hold that honour. Anyway the tower is taller than the Empire State Building.

     

    After stocking up we headed out to Cape Range National Park where we stayed for three nights at a place called  Yardies Creek.  In WA all the camp sites in national parks are very well laid out and this one was no exception. Next to the beach, there were only nine sites there plus the camp host. We set up camp and explored the beach and nearby inlet. Next day we walked up the Yardies River Gorge. The trail takes you up on top of the gorge as the area is all limestone and very fragile. There are several endangered species in the park, so where you can and can't go is strictly controlled. One endangered species in a black footed rock wallaby which evidently is a very timid animal and easily disturbed.  We saw one hopping away as we climbed the Gorge, plus plenty of bird life.  We also got some good photos as well.  We really like this place so next morning decided to explore further. There are heaps of small camp sites along the numerous beaches that make up the park which covers about 50 % of the Ningaloo Reef. The reef has world heritage listing and has very heavy protection. With the coastline along it being either National Park, or coastal protection zone there is no major developments impinging on the reef so it is almost in its natural state. As well being very close to shore it is easily accessible to view and we will be coming back. We explored all the camping areas and beaches to pick where we will stay next time. That is more likely to be earlier in the year, around May so we miss the windy season. And then we can go on and visit the other areas we have missed on this trip or go back to places we want to visit again. One of the great things about WA is there is a lot of space so it does not appear too crowded. One of the biggest attractions in the national park is the turquoise water over the reef which runs along the shore line, with whale sharks, and a multitude of marine life. Whales run up the coast near the reef, but it is now past the season so sightings now  are few and far between.

     

    On the way back to our camp we came across an Australasian Bustard. These birds are rare, and because of their acute shyness are very rarely seen. So how lucky were we. Louise got a couple of photos as it calmly walked off into the bush.

     

    We would have stayed here longer but the winds come up in the afternoon and like Old Onslow stay till first light next morning. On our last afternoon the winds were indeed strong and buffeting and it became very difficult to cook dinner as the gas was continually being blown out. It got worse overnight withe winds of over 50 Klms an hour more. It broke one of our tent ropes overnight holding up the vehicle awning. We were up early next morning after having very little sleep and in the heavy wind packed up and headed into town to have breakfast at the Bakery. 

     

    After breakfast we headed off to Carnarvon. This drive was also uneventful, driving in country similar to the Tanamai. As we got closer to Carnarvon, it was just miles and miles of spinifex, no trees and very little else. On the way we stopped into Coral Bay. At last we found a tourist spot a la Queensland. Up market resorts and caravan parks lined the shore. A beautiful little cove but too many people and too much development for our liking. But I can see why families like it as the bay has so much to offer kids. Snorkelling, coral viewing, kayaking etc.

     

    Just below Coral Bay we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn  some two months after going across it on the way to the Kimberley's. Our 2 months of being in the tropics has finished. Now fully acclimatised to the heat and no rain we are going to have get used to cold and rain again.

     

    We moved on the Carnarvon which is the first non mining town we have visited in a while. It was founded in the late 1800’s as a port to ship supplies for the wool farmers. It is also home to a space tracking complex as well as a huge agricultural irrigation area. They have been growing bananas here since the 1930’s and today it is a huge food bowl of bananas, avocados, mangos, tomatoes and other salad vegetables.  

     

     

    Tomorrow we are heading off to Quobba where there are blow holes and a memorial to the sailors who lost their lives with the sinking of HMAS Sydney in the Second World War, the wreck was found just off the coast from Quobba. 

  • IMG_1881

    28 September to 4 October

     

    Millstream National Park, Port Samson, Karratha, Dampier and Old Onslow

     

    We are sitting on the banks of the Ashburton River (photo above) enjoying the piece and Quiet and updating the blog. We are here for 3 days free camping, instead of paying $40 a night for a caravan pRk in Onslow. We have plenty of power now that I have sorted out the electrics, plenty of food and water, and also we have our own toilet facilities. This is truely a magical place with the nearest campers to us being over 200 metres away. Totally private. I'll get back to the blog before I get really carried away.

     

    As I said in the last blog we stayed in Tom Price a night as the chance for a hot shower was too good to pass up. Next morning we headed off to Millstream National Park which was about 280klms up the dirt road. There are two sections to see in this Park. The first is where the camping ground is and is the site of the original homestead and also a natural aquifer that feeds the local river. The water is also harvested to supply Karratha and surrounds with a reliable year long water supply ( but not the National Park). We visited the local sights and did a walk through the wet lands. There is also a popular swimming spot in the river. It is different scenery than Karijini but worth visiting. 

     

    Next morning we were up early and headed off to Karratha to restock.  On the way and still in the National Park, we drove through spectacular scenery as well as visiting another famous water/swimming hole, Python Pool. The drive to Karratha was 150 Klms with some stops along the way at Roebourne and Port Samson. Karratha is a recent town having been developed in the 1960’s to service the iron ore industry. Port Samson and Roebourne date back to the 1800’s as they were developed to service the emerging pearling and pastoral industries. Port Samson appealed to us so we checked into the caravan park for two nights. The reason for two nights was that a tavern was adjacent and we could watch the AFL grand final live. On the first day we went out and explored the ruins at Cossack. Being at the mouth of the river it was the old port developed in the mid 1800’s. Roebourne became the main administrated centre but is some 20 Klms inland. There are some beautiful govt buildings still standing in Cossack. The interesting thing is that there construction was completed when the town was in its dying days because everything had moved to Roebourne. 

     

    We had great fun on grand final afternoon. Being 2 hours behind Melbourne the game started at 12.30pm. We decided to back the Tigers as they were the underdogs. The crowd at the pub was evenly split with some diehard Crowe supporters there in all their football gear. They were very vocal for the first 10 minutes of the game but gradually quiet down as the tigers took and kept control. Not so us as each of Richmonds goals was met with even more raucous noise from us. One lady even photographed our response to each Richmond goal. It was a great fun afternoon.

     

    Next morning we headed into Karratha to stock up. The reports of the caravan parks in Karratha are not good so we had decided that we would stay in Dampier once we had got our supplies. Karratha is a mining town, as I previously reported, set up to service the iron ore industry as well as salt production.more recently the gas and oil discoveries on the north west shelf has greatly boosted the population and is now over 20,000 people, by far the largest town we have visited since leaving Alice Springs. It even has multiple sets of traffic lights, something we haven't negotiated since Alice as well. It is also a growing town with a lot of new developments taking place. 

     

    After stocking up we headed to Dampier another mining town set up in the 60’s. it is named after the English explorer, who discovered the desert pea. For some reason it was not named after him but after Sturt.  

     

    Dampier is the port for Karratha with a loading facility for iron ore and salt. As well it is where Woodside process all the off shore gas and load it for export and the WA market.  The other thing not mentioned is that it is not far from the Montebello islands where the British tested their atom bombs in the 1950’s. also Barrow Island is nearby as well. However, outside that Dampier is a dying town with what it looks like most residents moving to Karratha. We stayed in the caravan park there with a spot that had un interrupted views across the harbour to the loading facilities. 

     

    The other reason for visiting Dampier is that it is the home to the largest number of aboriginal peckings to be found in Australia, most dating between 10,000 and 20,000 years old, and some being carbon dated at over 40,000 years old. 

     

    Dampier’s other claim to fame is that  it is the home of Red Dog. I have not seen the film but the locals tell me that the film story is not the true story, which is available to read in the local library. 

     

    We were up next morning and visited Deep Gorge in the Murujuga National Park. You walk through a pile of jumbled rocks and there scattered amongst them are the peckings. Truely remarkable.

     

    After we walked through the Gorge we headed off to the gas processing facility where they have a visitor centre. The complex is massive, processing gas for both the domestic and international market. They have a loading facility that loads the boats with gas for Japan and others plus a pipeline that delivers gas to Perth and south WA.

     

    In the afternoon we visited the library and I read the real story of Red Dog. I'll now have to see the film to compare. While in the library we came across another interesting story about another interesting local. His name was Sam and he came to Australia after the Second World War. He was Yugoslav by birth and fled to USA when the Nazis invaded his country. There is a small island in Dampier Harbour and he squattered on it and built a castle in the Yugoslav tradition. He became a celebrity as he carted all the material he needed, including water to the island by boat. He even carted across sand to make a beach so others could visit. Owing to a fire that destroyed part of the castle because he did not have water, Hammesley Iron built a pipeline to the island and than granted him a 99 year lease over the land. He died in 2005. The town got together and organised his funeral and council passed a special resolution to allow him to be buried on the island. Several years later a cyclone destroyed a lot of the castle he built, but again the local community came together and restored his works. It is all there still today and open to anyone who wants to boat out there to see it. It is now protected by council resolution. The local school documented the story as Sam used to invite the children across to the island to visit each year. This to me is a great Australian story.

     

     Next day we headed off the Onslow, but discovered the free camp spot at Old Onslow where we are now. Onslow is a small town that is close to another salt mining operation run by Mitsui. As well there are two huge gas processing plants, one of which is run by Chevron who will be paying no royalties on their extraction for at least 20 years. What idiot negotiated that contract where they take our resources and pay us nothing.  We did not take to the town so headed off to old Onslow where we are now and will be for two more days. We are then heading down to Exmouth but on the way will be camping for a couple of nights at a station stay. We are going to stock up at Exmouth and then camp for three nights in Cape Range National park, so our next blog won't be for about 7 days. If you want an idea of  Where we are and the ground we have covered you can follow our tracks at

     https://www.exploroz.com/eotrackme#d=4A6C4AB6-CEF8-43CE-BD86-DD37ED9FC51C

     

     

    Also keep in mind that all my blog posts are available at http://christopherwilsonphotos.com/blog/

     

    It updates whenever we pass a phone tower so you can see where we are. If there is no phone tower it will give you our last position. To date we have travelled 11,000 Klms since leaving home.

     

  • IMG_1822

    Day 54 to 57 Karijini and Tom Price

    Sep 27, 2017, 9:01:00 PM

    25 September to 27 September. Karijini National Park and Tom Price

     

    The drive from Newman to Karijini was pretty straight forward, arriving at around lunchtime.  The country side is indeed beautiful with rolling plains of spinefix and trees giving away to mountain outcrops. This part of the Pilbara is the home to about the 20 highest peaks in WA. 

     

    The camping area at Karijini is manned by volunteers as it is school holidays and generally the park is full. Arriving early was to our advantage as we were allocated a loverly spot for 3 nights camping. After lunch and setting up, we headed off for one of the walks around the top Dales Gorge, taking in the magnificent sights. I have uploaded some photos onto my photography web site. The views are indeed stunning. As the sun set we found our way back to our camp site for dinner and an early night as we were going to walk Dales Gorge next morning. It is a class 4 walk meaning it has the 2nd hardest rating of bush walks. 

     

    As the sun set it became quite cool and the temperature dropped to below 20 degrees, the lowest in early evening we have had since we left Alice Springs. We must have acclimatised to the warmer weather as we rushed to get jeans and jumpers on. And we needed blankets on our bed the first time in 6 weeks. 

     

    We were up early next morning, commenting on the coolness and got ready for our walk. Let me say the walk through the Gorge was stunning, and a very memorable experience. It started with going down a steel staircase down about 70 metres or more. Once on the Gorge floor we did a slight detour to the fern pool. The photo heads this blog. It was a magical place with only two other couples there and no boisterous back packers to spoil the atmosphere. It is spring fed with a small waterfall and large pool. It is a sacred spot to the original inhabitants, and spending 30 minutes here soaking it all in you can see why. 

     

    We finally tore ourselves away and slowly meandered through the Gorge taking about 200 photos. It was simply stunning. The green and gold against the deep red of the iron rich soil.  In one of the photos you will notice a warning sign about asbestos. It is in the rock that surrounds the Gorge in small quantities. 

     

    We went to the other end of the gorge where there is another pool, the circular pool. While beautiful it was full of backpackers, noisy, ignoring all the warnings and generally making the place unpleasant. They have a habit of ignoring all the rules, making it sometimes very unpleasant for the others. 

     

    We climbed out of the Gorge using the other exit which is a very steep rocky climb. The leg muscles were hurting when we got to the top.

     

    Being worn out after our excursion we had a relaxing afternoon getting energy for the gorges we would walk next day at the other end of the park. 

     

    Next morning we headed off to the other end of the park. The first Gorge we stopped at was Kalmina Gorge. We descended into it. It also is spring fed so there is still water in the bottom of the gorge despite being the dry season. This also was a stunning walk with many photos again being taken. After we climbed out of the gorge we headed off to see Joffre Falls. Would love to see these falls when there was a full body of water going down them. It is a long drop and would be spectacular. We then headed off to Weano Gorge. When we got there about lunch time the car park was full. We did a walk to the top of the gorge and looked down to the bottom 100 metres below at a place where three gorges meet. Spectacular. There was a Celtic Cross just near the lookout that was a shrine to remember the life of a SES worker who drowned while saving others in the canyon after a heavy downpour. A telling reminder of the dangers of going into gorges, and also to the bravery of rescue workers risking their lives when others take unnecessary risks and don't follow the warnings.  We looked into Weano Gorge and the rough rocky descent, and the huge number of people in it and decided to give it a miss. Too many people to get any descent photos. We headed over to Hancock Gorge and had a look at its entrance. It is a class 5 walk.. the hardest. With the state of my knees we gave that a miss as well. We will do the Hamersley Gorge when we head off to Chichester Millstream National Park in a couple of days. 

     

    On the way back to camp we did a detour to a lookout that gave views of one of Rio Tinto mines. Somehow the WA government redefined the boundaries of Karijini in the 90’s to allow Rio Tinto to mine in the middle of the park. One thing we noticed that in the gorges of Karijini the rocks you walk on is in fact iron ore. If it is loose it rings if you knock it against another rock just like a steel slab. I hope the Rio Tinto precedent is not repeated. This park is a very special place and it's gorges in my opinion surpass those that we saw in the Kimberley's. 

     

     

    This morning we were up and headed into Tom Price to restock some supplies before heading off to Millstream. Our intention was to only shop in Tom Price. Having got here the call of a fresh hot shower was too much, after a 4 day break from them, and we checked into the local caravan park at the base of Mount Nameless. The amount of red dust that came off me in the shower had to be seen to be believed. Today will be a relaxing afternoon, and then tomorrow we will be on the road again.

  • IMG_1791

    Day 51 to 53 Marble Bar and Newman

    Sep 26, 2017, 4:16:58 PM

    Day 51 to 53

     

    22 September to 24 September.  Marble Bar and Newman

     

     We packed up and left Port Headland early. On the way out we saw an iron ore train stopped and was able to work out that the train was 130 cars long being hauled by two locos. We have subsequently learnt the the double one we had seen the day before with 4 locos was 270 cars and 2.7 Klms long with a total payload of 38,000 tonnes of ore. That is big.

     

    We headed down the Marble Bar Road for a drive of some 250 Klms. On the way we stopped into Doolena Gorge which was not far off the main road. Then back on the road arriving at Marble Bar in the early afternoon. A very small town but with a delightful caravan park, with grassy sites down near the dry river. We booked in for two nights. That afternoon we drove around and had a look at the relics around town and then adjourned to the Ironclad Hotel for a beer or two. Next morning we went out to look at the old gold mine out of town. Marble Bar was founded as a result of gold but its other claim to fame is that it is the hottest town in Australia. In 1923/24 it recorded 160 consecutive days where the temperature did not drop below 38.7 Degrees (100 in the old scale). It reached 39 the two days we were there, and the locals described that as comfortable. Hot is when it gets to 48 degrees. I'd call that bloody hot. The last night we were there the temp did not fall below 30 which made for a very uncomfortable night.

     

    Up here when you do get cold nights the temperature may be 14 degrees at 6.30am but by 10 o'clock has rising to 30 or 34 degrees. Once the sun is up it gets hot very quickly. Also the humidity may be 100% early but quickly drop to 10% by midday.

     

    In the morning we went out of town and had a look at a large outcrop of jade. It was this outcrop that gave Marble Bar its name. The person who discovered it thought it was Marble, but in fact it is jaspa. It is a protected site and if you take a sample of jaspa from this area the fine is $50,000. So there are no signs of people chipping bits off…. How refreshing.

     

    We then went out to look at the relic of the Comet Gold Mine. It is the only relic left.

     While out at the gold mine we looked in on the museum that is out there as well. It has many interesting artefacts and storys. When gold was first discovered at the mine site it was yielding 10 Troy ounces of gold to the ton. A very rich body of ore. Once they got down a bit the yield dropped off to 40 grams a ton, low but still profitable. The mine closed in the 1950s but there is a chance it may reopen in the future. 

     

    At the mine we saw a large piece of jasper which had been cut through the middle. It appeared to have gold seams in it, but they were actually asbestos. Witernoon, the home of the largest asbestos mine in Australia is south of here just outside Karajini National Park. 

     

    The other interesting thing about this area is that it is the home of the Invisible Air Base. It was the best kept secret of WWII. The airbase was manned by Americans and Australians from 1943 to 1945 and was set up as a result of the Japanese bombings of Broome etc. the bombers were American Liberators and they would set off on 15 hour return bombing trips of Japanese installations in Java and Timor. They are reputed to be the longest bombing runs in WWII. The base was camouflaged and despite many attempts was never found by the Japanese. The men who were stationed there worked under extreme hardship. There was no refrigeration and water was a scarce resource. They lived on bully beef and other powdered and dried food. Some of the American airman came straight here from enlistment after training and spent their whole service there. 

     

    Next morning we set off to take the back road to Newman, so that we could visit Herring Gorge on the way. We arrived at Newman in the early afternoon and booked into a tour of the BHP Mt Whaleback mine. Newman is a real mining town and there is not much to do there. Next morning we were up, packed up our gear and headed down to the information centre for the mine tour. The tour was fantastic. The bus took us to a look out in the middle of the mine where we could see all that was going on. The guide gave us facts and figures till they were coming out of our ears. So that we didn't miss any she gave us a hand out that summarised them all. 

    We learnt that the mountain they have mined looked like a whales back… hence the name.the mine is the largest single open cut mine in the world being 5.5 Klms long and 2 Klms wide and to me it looked 500metres deep, right down to below the water table. In fact the original Mt Whaleback was 805 metres above sea level and they were mining down to 135 metres. We took a gps reading on the lookout, the highest point left and it was 711 metres above sea level. The iron ore seam is estimated to be 1.6 billion tonnes. The ore is very rich being 68.8% pure. In fact after the ore is crushed it is mixed with less rich ores to create a blend that is wanted by their customers. Any ore that is below 50% pure is discarded. When this mine runs out in 20 years they will then move to the next close by mountain and start on it. Owned by BHP they expect to mine 295 million tonnes of ore this year. They pump 46 million litres of water out of the mine each week. I wonder what that does to the water table.

     

     

    Once the tour was finished, we were given tea and scones and we then set of to our next destination… Karijini National Park.

  • 80 mile beach sunset - No reproduction without written permision

    Day 41 to 50

     

    13 September to 21 September

    Broome, 80 Mile Beach and Port Hedland

     

    We were up early to say our good byes to the owners of the Goombaragin Eco Resort. It was definitely a restful experience and if we do come back here next year this place will definitely be on our list… but it will be earlier in the year to beat the heat. We headed into Broome. It was unseasonably hot at 38 degrees, so we headed out to Cable Beach and booked into the caravan park. Being closer to the beach we thought it would be cooler, but we did get a nice shady powered site and set up camp. To cool down we decided to hop into Clive and chase down a few tourist spots. We headed out to the harbour entry as at the reserve are supposedly the largest collection of dinosaur prints in Australia. Once out there we discovered they were on the sea rocks which was now covered with a metre of water. Oh well what else to see. Louise found a large Osprey chick nesting on the tower at the end of the spit. We then went and topped up supplies and headed back to camp as it was bear o’clock.

     

    Next day we headed into the Centrelink office to find out how my claim for the pension was going. I submitted it on 15 July and it was supposed to be determined by 4 September. After some persistence it was discovered that there was an IT problem and I would have to wait for that to be fixed before I could find out the result of my claim. Don't you just love government… if private industry behaved like that they wouldn’t have any customers. Anyway to cut a long story short very late Friday afternoon I got an email saying I had been granted the pension.

     

    Being my birthday we decided that we would celebrate it on Friday as we could go to the pub and have dinner and watch the Swannies on the big screen. The dinner was very nice but the less said about the game the better, unless your a Geelong supporter. Gee did Geelong play well.

     

    So on the Thursday we had Clive booked in for a 10000klm service… yes we have done 10000klms since we left Scone. To fill in the four hours we did a walk around Broome on a day the temperature reached 39 degrees. Unlike home the max temperature is reached at about 11am to midday. The heat took its toll as I don't think we were drinking enough water. This became evident when we picked Clive up and we headed off to the museum. As soon as we there in the air conditioned room the heat effect hit us. After many cold drinks we got our energy back and then had a look at the exhibits. Mainly pearling artefacts, but a lot of information about the bombing of Broome, Derby, Exmouth and Kalumburu by the Japanese in 1942/43. I never knew that the bombing of Australia went this far south.

     

    Friday was a quiet day, recovering from the day before. We went to the shopping centre to connect to Telstra Air but found it took hours to upload anything. I'll have to sort this out when we get to Port Hedland as it is driving me crazy, and in 5 days we have used our phone data allowance of 4GB doing nothing.

     

    On Friday night we left the pub at half time (yes we are bad losers). Next morning we were up early and headed off to Broome Bird Observatory for two nights of bush camping. The two days we spent at the Observatory were amazing and so far one of the highlights of the trip. 

    It was established in 1988 and is totally run on public donations and the work of volunteers. Broome is a very important stop over for migrating birds and the sand flats are the richest source of food for migrating birds in the world.  The Observatory monitors the migration of birds and also their population with weekly netting and tagging.  Each night  at 6.30 everyone meets at the shade house and calls out if they have seen a species of bird when it's name is called out. The first night we just sat and observed in awe. Louise was becoming hooked on bird watching so next morning I bought her a copy of the Australian Bird Guide. She immediately opened it and started trying to identify the birds we had seen the day before. Then we headed off to walk through the surrounding bush and they down to the bay and mud flats identifying birds as we went. That night at the bird call we were able to add to what was logged. So far this September they have logged 200 different species of shore and sea birds. Wow. Another place to visit when we come back, but next time stay longer and do a bit of volunteering.

     

    We left next morning and headed down the road towards Port Hedland. We had decided to camp along the way so headed to 80 mile beach which was near the sea and reported to be cooler. Outside the temperature nudged 40, so when we pulled up for a cup of tea which was drunk quickly as the heat was unbearable. We got to 80 mile beach to find that the temperature was 8 to 10 degrees cooler than inland… bliss. We set up camp changed into our cozzies and headed over the sand dunes to the beach. There was one problem. It was low tide and the water was about 1000 metres from the high tide mark, so we paddled around in the wet sand. In places it is like quicksand. Evidence of that is the roof of a 4WD in the sand about 800 metres out from the high tide mark. The rest of the vehicle is still below the roof. One expensive mistake. They lose between 10 and 15 4WD’s a year around Broome as people ignore the warnings about the big tides. Some tide variations are more than 11 metres between high and low tide.

     

    As the sun was going down Louise suddenly noticed the brilliance of the sunset so we made a quick dash to the top of the sand dunes and captured some great pics of the sun setting.

     

    Next morning we packed up and headed to Port Hedland. When we arrived we checked our batteries to find that the batteries we rely on for camping lights and fridges were not being charged so we checked into the caravan park with a powered site to get everything charged up while we tracked down the cause of the non charging. A trip to an auto electrician checked everything and established our alternator was ok and everything else was working properly but that the DC to DC regulator was overheating and cutting out. Because he was booked out he couldn't do anything for us but at least we now knew the cause. We went to ARB to see if we could buy a solar blanket so we could add to our solar capacity and keep things charged up as the next part of the trip will include free camping in the middle of no where. He pointed us to another auto electrician who could help us but he had closed for the day. Back at camp I had a look at the whole set up and found that the heat sensor was on top of the black battery and in the drive down with 40 degree heat the battery was extremely hot. I reasoned that if I moved the sensor to a more open position near the charger it would remove the heat affect from the battery and subsequently found that the fix has worked. 

     

    The next morning we had booked into a boat tour recommended by a fellow traveller we met at the bird Observatory. It is run by the Mission to Seamen. They visit every boat docked in the harbour and provide free transport to the mainland for any seaman that has a shore leave pass. They take them shopping, supply cooked meals and even has a licensed bar plus other support services. They help over 3000 seamen a month and are totally private funded charity. They sell tour passes on the boat that help fund the mission. $55 for Louise and $49.50 for me ( I'm now a pensioner). It was a fantastic and informative trip as we visited all eight ships docked in port at that time. Getting up close to these monsters is a photographers dream come true. We we got back fully impressed with the work the mission does I donated my pensioner discount back to them. Some facts we learnt is that the port is the largest bulk carrier loading port in the world, operates 24 hours a days with the main export being iron ore but also salt, precious minerals, and scrap metal to name a few. The tankers include some of the largest in the world and the port can simultaneously load 19 bulk carriers at a time. At any one time there is between 20 to 50 carriers off shore so efficiency is a must as the waiting cost to the mining companies up to $100,000 a day.  The ships when loading are turned around in 24 hours. Also if a cyclone warning is issued the harbour must be cleared and it takes 18 hours to clear 19 ships from the harbour. All ships must have pilots and 4 tugs to move them through the harbour entrance. All this info comes from the mission and we would recommend the tour to anyone staying in Port Headland.

     

    The other impressive sight. Was the iron ore trains. We saw one that had 160 cars being Towed by 2 drive less local but then saw another that was two sets of train and cars joined together. That is 4 Lucas and 320 cars…. Huge. 

     

    Another place we visited, other than the shopping centre to replenish stocks, was a working aboriginal art centre that has up to forty artists working there over time. It was very interesting watching them work on pieces that can take up to a month or two to complete. One artist was working on a commissioned piece and stop to talk to us. Her mother came from the central desert near the South Australian border and her mob only came out of the desert in the late 1950’s early 1960’s and saw their first white man. Her mother was only a child but was taken away from her family and sent to Perth. The family is now reunited but listening to her story was very moving. She is a proud mother of 3 and her eldest daughter has won a scholarship with one of the government agencies to go back to learning the traditional land care skills and then to pass it on to the next generation. 

     

    With the temperature again nudging 40 degrees we decided that we had enough of Port Hedland. The decision we had to make now was would we head to Marble Bar, Newman and Karajini where the temperatures over the next couple of days was going even higher, or would we miss them all and stick to the coast. An examination of the longer forecast showed that temps were going to drop from Sunday onwards to more normal levels, that is 10 degrees lower than they have been for the past month. So we decided to stick to our original itinerary and that is why we are in Marble Bar now, but you will have to wait for the next blog for that story.

     

     

    What I can tell you is that I have finally fixed the problem of not having enough data allowance to upload blogs photos etc.  I have been able to change my phone plan to get 15gb a month of extra data from Telstra without it costing me any more money, so will be able to upload photos to my website when I get time. Time is scarce when you are doing nothing, but we will see what happens.

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    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. 

     

     

     

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    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.

     

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    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.

     

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    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.