Week 8 19/9/06 through 25/9/06
We left Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge about 10am with week 7 safely posted to our web site. Then we spent some time answering emails and reflecting on how week 7 had been a huge week and that we had covered a fair bit of ground. Finally after we did a few final jobs we left Katherine and headed westerly towards Gregory National Park, NT's 2nd largest park, covering a staggering 13,000 km2 and featuring some awesome gorge scenery. The western section of the park also has 4WD tracks, something we have been missing for while and are excited in seeing.
In the eastern section of the Park we travelled to the Victoria River Gorge and then onto the Old Victoria River Crossing. Feeling like stretching our legs we then headed to the Nawulbinbin Walk from Joe Creek Picnic Area. This walk took us up to the base of the escarpment and then we followed it round to a small creek which directed us back to the car park. The sight of palms against the red cliffs was impressive. Some of these palms were so tall and skinny reaching 20 to 30m towards the sky with a barren rocky foot hold. Also if you look closely you will notice Aboriginal paintings of rainbow serpents and animals including frogs, emus and people.
Now here is an interesting one, you're looking for a campsite, and you drive down a track to find a vehicle at the end of it. First thing that strikes you is that the couple that own this vehicle are completely naked! Do you stop and talk? We just hope they had lots of sun protection factor 30+.
Today we headed off down the Savannah Way once more (we thought it ended at Katherine) for the western end of Gregory National Park via Timber Creek. Timber creek is one of those standard roadhouses that sells fuel with a little extra businesses on the side including a caravan park and hotel. Not many souvenirs, so we stretched our legs, filled up with water again and then we moved on to the 4WD adventure we had been waiting for.
The entrance to the Gregory National Park heads down an access road to Bullita Homestead. The homestead is in original condition (less furnishings) and you are allowed to go inside the house and associated huts to get a glimpse of life 40 years ago. Wood stove and cement floors, no fly screens and basic wall coverings, a stark reality to today's homes. There is a great deal of history here, including many accounts of life as it was back then. Any amazing account of a major flood back in the 60's was incredible. A huge boab tree towers over the scene of the homestead and surely could tell many a tail of times gone by. We had lunch under the tree and read some of the many blazings in its bark.
After lunch we decided to tackle the Bullita Stockroute. The first thing that strikes you about the track is how rough it is, and in the wetter months, probably near impossible to traverse. The pace is slow and telling on vehicle , driver and passenger. The route is spectacular, taking you past many boab trees, limestone ridges and through dried up creek and river beds. Fire has also recently burned parts along side the track giving spectacular contrasts of the surviving trees and plants and the sprouting green life of the Spinifex.
By "find a camp time" we were approaching Drovers Rest where we decided to rest for the night. We were fortunate enough to meet Martin and Anne from Darwin who were happy to share their camp site with us. They are working in Darwin for 12 months, out from the UK. It was nice listening to their stories of where they had travelled during their time here.
The Humbert Track, which heads south through the Park approx 60kms, was on the agenda today. Later in the day we connected to the Wickham Track and pitched camp along it. Tomorrow we will finish the Wickham Track and exit the park on the Gibbie Track.
This morning we bid Martin and Anne a safe trip home, both to Darwin and to the UK next month. We hope they may find themselves in Brisbane next? The Humbert Track promised we would travel along another stock route and to take at least 6 hours to do. It certainly lived up to its reputation. The first part was past more boab trees and some incredible creek crossings. It was a pity the dry season was close to finish as earlier in the season the tracks here would certainly test anyone's skill at remaining out of trouble and harms way. Many of the creek crossings contained hidden dangers like holes and rocks and were further complicated by some of their steep entrances and exits. Other parts of the track you could see the tacks imbedded in the dried soft mud which would have tested ground clearance on many standard vehicles. Thanks to the work in Cooktown, we cleared the ruts easily.
The camping ground near the intersection of the Humberg and Wickham Tracks called Top Humbert Yard, looked ideal with its large shading trees and flat camping areas near a lagoon, but as it was still so early in the day, and as tempting as it was we moved on. The Wickham track quickly moved us into open country that had been burned clean recently. After a while, with the day now getting late, we stopped on a ridge top and enjoyed an average sunset that was a little lack lustre. We then spent an hour or 2 searching the heavens for orbiting satellites before heading to bed.
Around 1 am we had a visit from a dingo. He came close to our tent and then decided that he would show us how dingos howl, a fact we were both blissfully unaware of before this. He moved on shortly afterwards, howling along the way and we returned to our sleep a little wiser in life's ways!
Today was one of those days when what you planned just does not quite work out. We broke camp this morning and headed for the the next track called Gibbie Track. The scenery offered by this track was also unique to other sections of the park. About 2 hours in we passed the intersection for the Broadarrow Track which by appearance has been used very little this year. We did see a notice back near the rangers residence which was out of date by at least 3 weeks and we were unsure if the Broadarrow Track was actually open yet?
We continued down Gibbie track and eventually got close to the exit of the park when we passed our 1st car for the last 2 days. As bush etiquette dictates, we both stopped and compared track notes. These guys were from the Bureau of Meteorology checking flood warning equipment before the wet season. Sanford Station, when we passed it, was a clean modern looking place and we almost wished we were stopping there for the day.
We continued onto Kalkarindji for fuel before we headed down the Buntine Highway for the WA border. It had been hoped that we could camp somewhere along this stretch of country. The first vehicles we encountered leaving town were 5 triple trailer cattle trucks and the Buntine Highway is thick dry dust! For 60 seconds after each of the monsters passed us, we sat on the side of the road waiting for the dust to settle,while being blanketed in a thick film of dust, which adheres to sweet moistened skin instantly. So now you know the secret to our great tans! It does have its advantages though... it makes a great sun block!
The next thing we encountered on the highway was fire. Kilometre after kilometre! The amount of burning within this country is incredible as our minds flash back to TV reports we have both seem offering criticism on countries like Indonesia for their burning policies. Eventually we left the fires behind and found ourselves in the middle of huge grass plains, with the sun beginning to set and no shade or cover to camp with. With the passing of the WA border we turned north again towards Kununurra on Duncan Road hoping to find a quiet, dustless and fireless place to camp. With the sun gone, the fires on our right became obvious, like the devil had opened the gates of hell for public viewing. The front must have been 100kms long and ran parallel to the road and about 10km in. We crossed the WA/NT border repeatedly as the road weaved northwards before we found a safe spot on the bank of a creek for the night.
It is only a short drive today and this will take us to Keep River National Park, back in NT again. Keep NP, also known as The Little Bungle Bungles, is about 700m2 and offers some spectacular views of surrounding / countryside. There are boab trees along the drive into the park and once again fire in an earlier time has wiped clean the landscape leaving the crisp green sprouting Spinifex utilising any moisture it can to survive.
The daily heat is on the rise again and we are having to be careful what time of the day we walk to visit sites. The thermometer in our vehicle has topped the 40.5 c degrees mark or 105 f.
On our drive to the Jarnem camping ground we stopped for a relatively short walk, 500m each way, to the Nganalam Art site. This site utilised an opening in a rock wall, with artwork being painted on the wall and the opening ideal for catching and channelling any breeze. The art site is relatively small in area, but it is plentiful and in good condition, some 2,500 individual paintings layered on top of each other. This was certainly one of the better sites we have seen.
Another encounter with the local wildlife was on the agenda at 10pm. We got a huge shock when a 3m Brown Snake decided he wanted our campsite, and we decided to let him have it and promptly moved to the other end of the camping ground, no arguments!
Early start this morning as we decided to attempt the 8km long Jarnem loop walk which would take us to the lookout for the area, then to the base of the sandstone cliffs and to some more Aboriginal art. We then planned to head for Kununurra for food supplies and some much needed cleaning and vehicle maintenance.
The march flies, which had driven us both crazy yesterday, were quiet this morning as we packed up camp and we prepared for the mornings walk. We took the loop walk in the anti-clockwise direction which took us to the lookout first. The walk was quiet easy before it started the climb up the slope to the high point. The geography we traversed reminded us of the Olgas which we had visited 5 years ago. As we worked our way up the rise we frequently stopped for drinks of water. We have drunk so much water over the past few weeks we feel like we are camels.
The view from the top was certainly worthwhile and there seemed to be many different types of landscapes to feast our eyes on. The grandest part of the view was the huge sandstone escarpment we were walking to next. Palm and boab trees dot the escarpment giving an impression of a mixture of dry and tropical climates. The red of the multilayered rocks pancaked the background with dark areas indicating where algae has stained the rock.
The art site paled to insignificance when compared to the sandstone canyons, the groves of palms and other plant life which seemed to thrive in the shadow of natures giant art canvas. By the time we started our return journey, the marsh flies had decided we looked like a tasty meal of the day. This helped motivate us to continue walking, in some vane hope the flies get tired of chasing us. Fortunately, we had earlier packed up the campsite, so our escape from their menu was easy and quick.
Next stop was another walk to a minor art site closer to the main road. We wish in hind sight, that we had not made the effort to see this site. The walk was another 3km and the art work not of the quality we saw yesterday at the main art site. The next stop was the WA border and quarantine inspection point.
The inspection point is mainly to stop people bringing fruit and vegies to WA (although it works both directions) and contaminating the crops that are grown here. A secondary function of the site is a vane attempt to try and stop the march of the plague of Cane Toads which are working their way so quickly towards the WA coast. The Cane Toad has reached Timber Creek which is conducting groups of volunteers to collect as many Cane Toads as they can. The inspector took stock of our fridge, drawers and then ran a mirror under the vehicle to check for illegal aliens. Inspections completed we headed for a caravan park in Kununurra and a welcome swim.
Sunday morning was spent listening to Macca on the ABC while we attended to a dust locked door, some preventive maintenance on other locks, and general dust removal from the rest of the car. The red bull dust has penetrated everything except the black widow drawer system and the roof top tent which have been excellent at resisting its continued offensive. As the dust builds up in our locks the handles become stiffer until they just will not unlock or open. After we get the door opened, the lock is removed and bathed in diesel and has the tooth brush taken to it. The lock looks brand new when it is refitted to hopefully last a few more months.
We walked into Kununurra this afternoon to do some sight seeing. Kununurra reminds us both of our home towns, before Saturday afternoon and Sunday trading became the norm. It reminds us of all the so called progress our modern society has bought to us all, but at the expense of losing it 's own soul in the journey to grow and come of age.
The afternoon was spent chatting to Richard and Lisa who have been on the road 3 months. Their journey has taken them from Melbourne to Perth and up the west coast to here. They are thinking of heading to Darwin to spend the wet season there before they continue their travels. There seems to be many people doing this.
Today we ventured to Lake Argyle, an area Alison had wanted to see for many years and we both were pleasantly surprised by the scenery that we encountered. Now if you are unsure of the history of Lake Argyle, the readers digest version goes like this. Wow if we plug this small gap in these mountains we will have a huge lake! Wham bam you have a dam! The township of Kununurra was built as a result of the dam and all the agriculture in the area has come post dam including bananas, sugar cane etc. So what did we find? A mountainous area with amazing lookouts and lots and lots of water. The base of the dam wall has a hydro electricity plant which supplies the area.
Tonight we are back in Kununurra as we have finally found the cause of squeak in the dash board of the vehicle and will need a welder tomorrow. Ahhh.. the joys of a 17 year old vehicle.
Stay tuned as the adventure continues......