Week 9 26/9/06 through 2/10/06
Last night was an interesting night. We decided to have the cracks in our inner guard on the vehicle welded so we chose to stay in Kununurra and prepare the vehicle to assist in getting the job done ASAP. The poor vehicle looks worse than it really is as the outer guard has been removed in this picture to access the inner guard. The welding only took an hour and we had the vehicle back on the road an hour after that. How did we work out that the inner guard was cracked? There has been a clunking, clicking and squeaking noise in the drivers side of the dash for about 2 weeks. We tried everything thinking there maybe a loose screw was responsible somewhere in the dash. Eventually, we spotted the problem with the aid of a torch and mirror.
With the vehicle back together, it was back to have a clean up shower at the caravan park and off to see the Kununurra Diversion Dam. The next stop was the Zebra Rock Gallery, a gift shop selling what is known as Zebra Rock. The Zebra rock is only found one place in the world and that is below the high water mark of Lake Argyle. So when the dry season is happening so is the mining of this rock. Living up to its name the rock is like zebra stripes. An interesting natural formation.
We had heard about a rum factory which had sparked particularly Steve's interest called the Hoochery, so this was the next stop of the day. The architecture of the retail outlet was amazing with its corrugated iron appearance inside and out. It also turns out that some of the packing crates boards which were used to line the building, were the ones that were used to transport machinery used in the Ord Hydro scheme. Steve enjoyed the tasting and the conversation on what to consume with your Ord Rum.
As the afternoon was getting on we heading off over the Ivanhoe Crossing to Button Crossing on the Ord River where we found a huge flood plain. We pitched our tent on a high bank which has wide views of the river, and you could hear the gentle sounds of rapids in the distance..
Both managed to sleep in this morning, so what we planned as a fairly early start resulted in an 8.30 departure. From Button Crossing we needed to back track to Kununurra and then off to the Bungle Bungles. Back tracking meant we had time to photograph traversing Ivanhoe Crossing.
Now when your crossing the Ord River at Ivanhoe Crossing, if you are not used to driving in relatively deep water for long distances and following an imaginary line, you need to make sure you mind doesn't take control and your natural urges take over to panic! The crossing looks better suited to Jet Boats than vehicles and the strength of the current could swallow a baby 4WD like a Rav or Suby, so keep calm. With the adventure of crossing the Ord River again completed, we headed down the Great Northern Road towards the Bungles.
What can we say about one of Australia's most famous National Parks, which has been photographed from the air so many times typifying those beehive domes and rich earth coloured mountains. The Bungle Bungles is situated in the Purnululu National Park and is only accessible by 4WD. Now if we were cynics, one could come to the conclusion that the road from the highway to the National Park itself has been allowed to deteriorate in an effort to force tourists to only experience the park by flying over it! The road in for the use of a better word just sucks. It is thick with corrugations which takes their toll on driver and vehicle alike.
With the cool of the afternoon coinciding with our arrival, we decided to take the walk to the Piccaninny lookout and see the sun setting. The walk through the sandstone near dusk was cool and the views rich with colours. The view from the lookout didn't disappoint. With torch in hand we headed off to our camping ground for the evening.
Our alarm clock didn't need to wake us this morning as the local white cockatoo population had decided an early morning munch on seeds in the gum tree above our tent at dawn was on their agenda today. The birds were considerate and spared bombarding our tent with poo, to our relief. We decided to get hiking early and so we returned to the Piccaninny area. First trail took us to the Cathedral Gorge. The gorge itself followed a creek bed through the sandstone mountains. There were some incredible pot holes in the rock creek bed where stones that had been caught in the currents and spun in a circular motion (as our model below demonstrates). When we reached the end of the gorge, where it gets its naming from, the cathedral location presented some challenging photographing opportunities. It is hard to imagine and capture the immense size of the walls of this fabulous natural formation. Using flash on your camera in these locations is a no no, so a steady hand or tripod is essential.
The next area we wanted to visit was the Piccaninny Creek track. Many tourists bypass some of the prettiest parts of this area by just visiting the lookout only. The creek bed again here has been shaped and crafted from the abrasive rocks being swept along by the wet season flooding of water. The full track is up to 30km return, and popular for overnight treks. However there is still quite a lot to see in the first few kms. Choose as much or as little as you wish to see. We were pleasantly surprised by the cooling winds blowing down the valley.
With the heat of the day quickly approaching it was time to head back to the lookout which we had visited the previous evening. It would be interesting to see the difference between our photography today and the previous evening as the time of day we take our pictures really can make the difference between a good photo and a memorable one.
After a lunch stop in a shady place and with our recharged fluid levels we decided to head for Echidna Chasm. The instructions the information centre gave us was the ideal time to visit this chasm was between 11.30 and 12.30. We arrived in the chasm at noon and were just on the end of the fabulous display of the chasm bathed in rich red light. The best laid plans! The chasm is extremely narrow and goes back a few 100 metres into the rock of the mountain. At some points you need to squeeze past fallen boulders wedged in the chasm and other points you need climb stairs to progress further up to the blind end. When dry leaves from trees are swept into the chasm they flutter loudly as they clamber down the sides of the chasm imitating the sound of a rock. Gives you a real start until you have the leaf fall at your feet!
The Bungles Bungles was a photographer's paradise and the pair of us captured in excess of 400 photographs, the biggest day for both of us by far. A great day!
Headed back towards Kununurra today and to a placed called Wyndham which is near the coast and a major port for the area including the bulk loading of sugar. We passed one of those road trains and were finally able to stop and capture the size of it,. The driver was great as he posed his truck before heading off towards Wyndham with a huge load of nickel. We let him go on ahead as these trains cruise at 100km/hr, which is faster than we do.
Every now and then you come to a spot on your travels which will stay with you as a living memory. Well today was one of those days. We were totally in awe of Wyndham's 5 Rivers lookout (or as it is known "The Bastion"). At 320m above sea level, the altitude of the lookout was enough to give us a nose bleed, and the view took our breath away. The scenery just knocked us out. We decided this would be the spot to watch the sun go down and we were lucky enough to be invited to a small party by a few of the locals, namely Steve, Lindsay, Karen, Sara and Mike. The Argyle diamond mine is a major employer of the region and this happy group were finished for the week and also had it in mind to watch the sunset over a few ales.
As the sun set the sunset was enhanced by the smoke in the air from the local bush fires on the other side of the river. These fires became obvious as darkness set in and supplied a spectacular sight as the flames flickered in the distance. The party moved back to Karen and Lindsay's house where they made us feel very welcome and the evening just disappeared. We met a wonderful group of people and had a terrific time, another one of those memories to treasure.
We were up early before we fuelled up and headed back to Kununurra for the Rodeo. On our way there, we just had to have one more drive over the salt and flood pans where we came across Marlgu Billabong. There were many birds there and an excellent hide to sit in the shade to observe them from. This billabong is part of the Parry Lagoon Nature Reserve, and is an incredible nature reserve of 36,000ha.
The smell of manure filled the air of the rodeo ground, as the sun slowly settled into the background. The flood lights highlighted the dust thick and dense as the stock stirred up the dry ground. This was country entertainment in the extreme. Women who rode horses and men that rode bulls, country tough! Great night and Steve worked magic with his camera in the fading light, fast action and dusty conditions.
Caught up with Richard and Lisa who we met a week ago and who had set off to Bungle Bungles a few days before us. Their big news was that Richard had caught a Barramundi at Ivanhoe Crossing, his first.. You could see the grin on Richard's face from ear to ear. We must admit it was so nice meeting up with some earlier acquaintances, and we were a little sad to see then head the opposite direction to us.
Headed for the Gibb River Road and on the turnoff we pulled up at the information sign to get the lay of the land, so to speak. Steve started a conversation up with a fellow Patrol owner Alan and 5 minutes turned to 1/2 hour. Alan & Shirley had picked up their brand new off road caravan from Queensland and were doing it in style. Unfortunately they destroyed the electrical cable linking the caravan to the vehicle and were being forced to return to Kununurra for repairs. It is fantastic how you can meet such wonderful people like Alan & Shirley and they gave us the run down on El Questro. We hope we we see them on the road to Broome, when they get going again.
First 4WD track for the day (and the only track for the day) was the Tier Gorge and Matteo Rock Track. There is a swimming area at Tier Gorge and yes there was some water (sufficient to swim). The gorge was small, but there was one spot where a little water cascaded into a pool with coloured walls around it. We spent about an hour walking up the gorge. The next stop was a stockman's grave by the name of James Johnston who died in 1907 and was buried in front of this huge boab tree. What a place to rest! The last picture opportunity for the day was the Cockburn Range and it is certainly impressive.
Early morning start today. During the night we were kept awake by the bulls in the paddocks near us. They made a racket with the strangest bellows you have ever heard.
First stop today was Emma Gorge, with a walk of only 3.2kms which should have been a push over. The heat really made going tough and by 11am we were finished for the day. The rest of the day we refused to leave the air conditioned vehicle! But we digress, Emma Gorge, was extremely pretty with a 65m drop water fall into a cool pool of water which was swimmable. Ferns clung to the sheer walls, nourished by the water released by a sandstone spring halfway up cliff. It was great finding frogs and goannas amongst the rocks as we traversed the creek bed to the falls base. Certainly a pretty walk.
The next stop was the township of El Questro. This is a slickly run tourist venture, which is very well set up, but as you know us, not quiet our scene. The best lookout we found was the Branco's Lookout. The view was spectacular and the cameras loved the scene equally.
As we drove around El Questro we realised this area was murder on tyres (having sighted 4 flat tyres and multiple tyre disintegrated on the road) and we decided that we were not going to do the whole Gibb Track. At this moment our own cursed tyre decided that it had also come to the end of its life as if too reinforce our decision! A 3 inch split was terminal for the poor BF Goodrich tyre - new in Darwin! Oh a point to note here is beware of the white ELQ vehicles which hoon around the roads showering you with stones, pity they don't obey their own road rules!
The Gibb River Road also got the award of the worst road we have traversed; damn corrugations the worst yet. Although we had known about the condition of the Gibb River Rd, and had driven accordingly, we still couldn't avoid this fate. A simple puncture would have been OK and repairable. However we just can't afford to keep on destroying tyres!!!!
So it's back to Kununurra to get a new tyre.
Stay tuned as the adventure continues......