Alphadog's Travels

Joined September 2017Living in: Sydney, Australia
  • Jul31

    Chopper ride!

    July 31, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We were up early as we were booked in for a 6am helicopter ride over the falls and Talbot Bay. My first ever helicopter ride was in a 5 seater Bell and I have to say it was excellent. The bloke flying it was quite young but he flew us around all the sights and back to the pontoon, definitely one of the highlights of the trip, see the photos below.

    After the chopper we had another fast boat ride through the falls before getting back on the sea plane to get back to Derby. This time the inner falls were too high at about a 2m difference so he couldn’t take the boat through but we did a few trips through the lower falls.

    In all our visit to the falls was excellent. They are in a very remote part of the country and yet the whole logistical process of getting us there, showing us the falls, and putting us up for the night was all very professional and well done.

    Once back in Derby we were on the Gibb River Road heading to Mount Hart Wilderness Retreat which is kind of of the home base for the touring company we are using.

    Along the way we stopped at the Prison Boab Tree just outside Derby, Queen Victoria’s Head (a rock outcrop that looks like Queen Victoria’s Head!), Lennard River crossing, and a lookout in the King Leopold Ranges.

    This area is fascinating from a geological perspective. About 100 million years ago it was all underwater and it has been slowly pushed up. Queen Victoria’s Head is actually in the Napier ranges which was once an offshore reef, past that was a shallow sea before the King Leopold Ranges which was the old shore line. The whole area has remained remarkably intact since that time with few major geological changes just the effects of erosion.

    Mount Hart was originally a cattle station but there is a big problem raising cattle in the Kimberley and that is the problem of distance. The cattle do survive and fatten on the land but moving them to Derby involved walking them over very hard terrain for days at a time meaning their condition quickly deteriorated and many died on the way. The land is very rugged and even walking over it is difficult as it is rocky and uneven.

    The Mount Hart homestead is now a tourist retreat with campsites, on site tents, and services for people to stay. Pop and I are sharing a tent with an ensuite bathroom attached, all very comfortable!
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  • Jul30

    Horizontal Waterfalls

    July 30, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Dawn at Cape Leveque was almost as impressive as the sunset with the sun reflecting off the red rocks on the east beach. After an early breakfast we backtracked from Cape Leveque to the main highway again and headed towards Derby.

    Derby is a town of about 3000 people and was the site of a large live cattle export operation until about the 1970s when it shifted to Fremantle. It is one of the big cities of the Kimberley as there are only 3 towns with a population over 2000 - Derby, Broome, and Kununurra.

    We stopped at the port for lunch and then headed to Derby Airport for our flight to Talbot Bay and the Horizontal Falls in an amphibious Cessna Caravan.

    There are actually 2 sets of Horizontal Falls in Talbot Bay, the outer falls which are about 12m across and the inner ones which are about 7m across, both are about 40m deep. They are caused by a small gap in the rocks that restricts the tidal flows in and out of the inner and middle bays. The inner falls are the smallest and so the most dangerous with a difference in water height of up to 3 metres, the outer ones are wider and so only get to about 1 metre or so difference. The water past both falls was very rough with lots of whirlpools and waves. In the photos below the dark stain on the rocks shows how high the tide can get, about 11m.

    We landed on the bay and took a fast boat ride through the falls which was loads of fun. They then took the boat on a tour of some of the nearby bays, the rocks in this area are amazing and clearly very old. It is mostly sandstone but there are some areas of limestone as well.

    Our accommodation was on a house boat that was part of a system of pontoons, jetties, helipads, and swimming cages. It was a really well set up. During the wet season they move all the components up into one of the nearby creeks where it is well protected from cyclones.

    There is a large population of Tawny Nurse Sharks in Talbot Bay. These are bottom feeding sharks that don’t mind a free hand out! They do have a lot of small teeth but don’t usually attack humans, provided humans don’t do silly things.

    The photos below are a few of the 300+ I ended up taking during our stay.
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  • Jul29

    Cape Leveque

    July 29, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    It was an early departure from Broome heading to Cape Leveque. The landscape along the way was scrub with a few small trees. This area is like the Northern Territory in that there are few really large trees as the termites tend to get to them.

    Speaking of termites the termite mounds are different to the ones in the NT, these are flatter and wider than the cathedral or fan type.

    First stop was the town of Beagle Bay, named of course after the ship Charles Darwin was on when he sailed through this area. Beagle Bay is a small aboriginal settlement that was originally settled by a group of German missionaries around 100 years ago. They built the stunning white church that is famous for being decorated with mother of pearl shells. The church is obviously a key part of the community and is very well looked after.

    Next we were on to Cape Leveque. This is the northern most point of the Dampier Peninsula and is a popular camping destination. The area is in a lot of West Australian tourist photos as it has very red rocks and white sands, see the photos below.

    After lunch we went to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm to learn about how they cultivate and harvest pearls. This area of WA is home to the World’s largest pearl producing oyster 'Pinctada Maxima' and Cygnet Bay Pearls harvest wild oysters as well as breed their own.

    Cygnet Bay produce both cultured and natural pearls with the largest they have found being 22.4mm big and worth about $2 million. The company has been run by the same family for a number of years and has a large operation in King Sound.

    After the pearl farm tour it was back to the Kooljaman Centre at Cape Leveque to take some sunset photos and dinner. Our accommodation was in a tent with an ensuite - the tent was set up on a covered platform with a balcony at one end and a small kitchen and bathroom at the other. Very comfortable!
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  • Jul28

    Easy day

    July 28, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    We were up early to check out the lunar eclipse and associated blood moon. Unfortunately the clouds did not cooperate but we managed to get glimpses of the moon and Mars. Watching it happen over Cable Beach was pretty good anyway.

    We caught the bus into town and had an enormous breakfast followed by a trip to the Visitors Centre to book in for the obligatory Cable Beach camel ride this afternoon. We also found that the Court House Markets were on and very popular.

    In the afternoon we went up to Cable Beach again and found our camel team. My noble steed was called Wangi and was a fine specimen. Pop and I each had our own camel to ride and it was a good trip up and down the beach.

    In the evening we met up with our tour group and they took us into town again to the Mangrove Hotel to see the Staircase to the Moon. This is caused by the rising full moon reflecting off the mud flats of Roebuck Bay. Very good to see and most of Broome was there watching.

    There are 17 people on our tour as well as our driver JDub and tour guide Phil Schubert. All our fellow travellers are Australian.

    Today’s trivia. Roebuck Bay was named by William Dampier in 1699 when he was mapping this section of the coast in HMS Roebuck

    Tomorrow our tour begins in earnest and we are travelling north to Cape Leveque.
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  • Jul27

    Beautiful Broome

    July 27, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    We were in a 7.30 am flight out of Perth to Broome a mere 2 and a bit hours away. The Virgin flight was an A320 and it was pretty full.

    First impressions of Broome: is nice and warm but not hot or humid, it is very green, there are lots of 4 wheel drives and caravans, and it is a very relaxed town. The houses are interesting with many of them having walls of corrugated iron and no gutters on their roofs - this is a cyclone prone area. The central business district of the town is called Chinatown as there were a lot of Chinese here working in the pearling industry many years ago. The airport is located just next to Chinatown so there is a steady stream of planes flying overhead to various locations and helicopters taking workers to the offshore rigs.

    Pop and I did a wander around town and then did the Jetty to Jetty self guided walking tour. The bus service was pretty easy to work out they just did a loop around town and ran every half an hour or so.

    Early Broome was very much based on the pearling industry and there are many big pearl shops and galleries in town. In World War 2 it was attacked 4 times by the Japanese mainly because it has a large sheltered bay, called Roebuck Bay, which is ideal for landing flying boats that were evacuating people from Indonesia ahead of the Japanese advance. Now it still has a pearling industry but also has lots of tourists.

    Thanks to the shape of the continental shelf off the coast the tidal movements here are huge, the 7th largest in the world, so wharves have to be very big and long to get out to deep enough water.

    The famous Cable Beach was the place to be to watch the sun go down over the Indian Ocean, along with a few hundred others ... and some camels!
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  • Jul26

    On the road again

    July 26, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    On the road again! This time I am travelling with Pop and we are heading up to Broome and then on to the Kimberleys for a 14 day tour of all the sights.

    Today I arrived in Perth ahead of our flight to Broome tomorrow.

    First update comes tomorrow from Broome.

  • Day11

    Home

    March 3, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    We were on a 10am flight out of Hobart so we were up and moving early. One last trip in the Beast before we dropped it at the airport and the Virgin flight was on time.

    A few thoughts and comments about the trip:

    - Travelling in a manual transmission Yaris was hard work at times but actually it wasn’t too bad overall. We travelled over a thousand kilometres and spent a grand total of $130 on petrol at around $1.45 a litre so there were some benefits!
    - Tasmania is beautiful. The scenery is really stunning especially Cradle Mountain and the Gordon River
    - I was really amazed at the amount of convict history, just about every town had convict built buildings or bridges
    - It really would have been the end of the earth for the convicts, especially the west coast
    - Cradle Mountain and Port Arthur were my favourites
    - It’s a great place to celebrate a wedding anniversary!

    T and I had a great time, see you next time!!!
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  • Day10

    Last day in Tassie

    March 2, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Our last full day in Tassie was spent on a big dose of culture. One of the top tourist attractions in town is the privately owned Museum of Old and New Art or MONA.

    The best way to get there is by ferry from Hobart docks so we scored our tickets and headed over. Right from the start this Museum is a bit different ... OK it is just plain weird. The ferries are camouflage painted and you can sit on sheep or stools or normal chairs - seriously! See the photos.

    The Museum is up the river from Hobart under the Tasman bridge and past the Incat ship yards (we were on an Incat built ferry, our third for the trip) so was about a 30 min trip and it was rather full.

    Mona is owned by a Hobart local called David Walsh who is described as a professional gambler, art collector, and businessman. It reminded me of the art galleries on Naoshima Island in that and lot of it was underground and very modern but MONA was far bigger than anything in Naoshima.

    From the ferry dock there are 99 steps to the top where you enter the museum and head underground. MONA has won various awards for tourism and you can see the appeal. Yes it is very weird but it also had a lot of really old things like an Egyptian mummy, old pots from the Middle East as well as more modern paintings by Brett Whitely and Sydney Nolan.

    Suffice to say it is well worth a look if you ever make it to Hobart but some of the exhibits are very confronting.

    We headed back into town hopped in the Beast and headed out to the Cascade Brewery which is on the edge of Hobart. We didn’t get to do a tour but had a look around and sampled some of the wares.

    Dinner was at a neat Japanese establishment on the restaurant strip of Elizabeth Street, a short walk from the Hotel.

    Tomorrow it is back to Sydney.
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  • Day9

    The big drive

    March 1, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    On Thursday we finished the big anti-clockwise loop of Tasmania with a final leg from Strahan to Hobart. It was a wet start again with light drizzle falling but that didn’t faze The Beast. The west coast does get a lot of rain so we were quite lucky the weather was as good as it was, a few light falls but nothing to slow us down. Glad we didn’t go to Queensland for these 2 weeks!

    The road out of Strahan to the next big town of Queenstown was very windy through dense rainforest so speed was limited to about 60kph. It was a really nice drive and next to no traffic.

    Queenstown was a real surprise. A century of mining and logging has taken a big toll on the environment with the hills around the town cleared of vegetation and huge tailings mounds dotting the landscape. Very different to the lush rainforest we had been driving through.

    The rest of the drive from Queenstown across to Hobart was pretty uneventful. Closer to Hobart the land became more farming focussed with cows and sheep lazing around in paddocks.

    After about 6 hours of pretty easy driving and including a few rests we made it to Hobart. We are staying at the same hotel we stayed at on the first night but this time they put us up in the Presidential Suite! We had a massive room with antique furniture, a 4 poster bed and views across the city. Dinner was a fancy restaurant in the City.
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  • Day8

    Trains and boats

    February 28, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Today was a full day. First up was a trip on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. This is a narrow gauge line that was built in the late 1890s to take zinc and lead ore from Queenstown to Strahan so it can be loaded on ships and taken for processing.

    It stopped running years ago and now takes tourists on full day and half day tours through the rainforest. We were booked on the half day tour that runs along the King River Valley to Dubbil Barrill and back again.

    The little steam engine was built in Glasgow and sent out in crates so it was a nightmare to get it together and running but they did it. All up there were 5 engines running on the line and in its peak it was a very busy line.

    We cruised up away from Strahan and into the temperate rainforest. It was drizzling lightly which actually suited the trip. The train climbed steadily and crossed a number of rivers and creeks after a while the rainforest became very thick. It is amazing they built this as it was after they had convicts so it was all paid labour.

    We arrived at Dubbill Barrill which is essentially just a station hacked into the middle of the forest. They had a turntable and a second line so the engine was decoupled, turned around by hand, and driven up to the front of the train for the trip back.

    All up the trip took about 4 hours so we were back in Strahan by 1pm in time for a quick lunch and to get ready for our next activity - a tour of Macquarie Harbour and cruise up the Gordon River.

    We boarded a big Tassie built Incat catamaran and took off for the Gordon River which is at the southern end of the Harbour (Strahan is at the northern end). Macquarie Harbour is 5 times bigger than Sydney Harbour and only slightly smaller than Port Phillip Bay. The boat really moved, hitting 28 knots so we were there in about 30 mins or so, it would have taken hours to row in the early days.

    The Gordon River is really beautiful. It was logged pretty heavily in the early 1900s but now there is little evidence of this. It is part of the Word Heritage area which makes up about 20% of Tasmania and you can understand why people say the Tassie Tiger is still alive as this rainforest is huge, very dense, and very rugged there would be things living in there that are unknown to man.

    We cruised up to where the river flowed through a gorge and it was beautiful. This is of course where the protests happened in the 70s against damming the river.

    After a while we turned around and headed back to Macquarie Harbour and headed up to Sarah Island. Like everywhere else Strahan was a convict settlement and Sarah Island is an island in Macquarie Harbour where they used to send the problem convicts. Now days there are a few ruined buildings and not much else.

    Next stop were the fish farms. They farm trout and salmon in giant sock-shaped nets with about 20,000 fish in each and there are about 40 or 50 of these nets in the Harbour.

    Lastly we went through Hells Gates which are at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour and so named because the convicts believed the west coast convict settlements were hell on earth. The channel is very narrow between the gates so we went out into the Southern Ocean turned around and came back in, lots of ships were wrecked in this area. Looking west the next stop would be Argentina (we are below South Africa) and the roaring 40s were really blowing.

    Finally we headed back to Strahan and had dinner at the local Club.

    Tomorrow we leave Strahan and head east towards Hobart.
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