Joined September 2017 Message
  • Aug10

    Back to Perth

    August 10, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    The last day of our trip was an easy one. We had a late breakfast and went for a quick tour around Broome before being dropped at the airport for our trip back to Perth and the cool reality of winter.

    The Kimberley is beautiful but there are some pitfalls.

    - The distances in this part of the world are enormous, we travelled over 3,500kms (not including plane and chopper flights) on mostly gravel roads.
    - These places are difficult to access and unless you have local knowledge you’ll miss many of the highlights. Our tour guide Phil and driver JDub know this area well and took us to places and told us stories we would otherwise have missed.
    - While the Kimberley is growing in popularity as a tourist destination it is still pretty basic in some ways, it’s definitely not a 5 star travel destination.
    - Help is a long way away. Like I said many places in the Kimberley are remote and difficult to access so if something goes wrong you have to sort it out yourself or wait a long time for help.

    While many people don’t like going on organised tours and prefer to do it themselves I thought this tour was excellent, we saw everything we wanted to and lots more besides. Our driver JDub and tour guide Phil were excellent and really added value to the trip.

    And so ends another tour, catch you all next time!
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  • Aug9

    Back to Broome

    August 9, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    The last day of our tour started early in Fitzroy Crossing. We headed west down the Great Northern Highway again following the Napier Range. First stop was Tunnel Creek.

    The Napier Range is an old reef system that was pushed up and is now a high and dry limestone range. As the name suggests Tunnel Creek carved a tunnel under the Napier Range that runs for about 800m. The climb down is a little rough through pink limestone (caused by fossilised algae) after that it was a pretty easy walk through a sandy stream.

    Half way through the ceiling had collapsed allowing light down into the tunnel. There were loads of stalactites and mites through the cave as well as a few fish swimming in the water. We did have to wade through some sections but it was only a bit over knee deep.

    We went through and back again in about an hour or so. When we were coming out a local snake had made itself comfortable on a rock at the entrance. Everyone said it was a python and so not venomous but whether that was correct or just wishful thinking I am not sure, either way I wasn’t getting close.

    Next stop was Windjana Gorge where the Lennard River has cut a deep gorge through the limestone with lots of fresh water crocs in residence. The gorge was really impressive and very wide.

    After that we hit the road back to Broome for another night at the Oaks Sanctuary Resort.

    Tomorrow we bid farewell to the Kimberleys.
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  • Aug8

    The mighty Fitzroy River

    August 8, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    We left the thriving metropolis of Halls Creek nice and early and continued our trek along the Great Northern Highway heading towards Fitzroy Crossing. The scenery on this leg of the trip has changed with it being a lot flatter that it has been. We came around the edge of the Kimberley Plateau and headed west.

    This area of the Kimberley is cattle country with massive cattle stations and huge numbers of cattle. The advent of aerial mustering made cattle farming far more viable with one aircraft being able to muster in one day what would have taken many stockmen days to cover previously.

    Eventually we made it to the Fitzroy River and the town of Fitzroy Crossing. Can’t say there is much to Fitzroy Crossing just a massive bridge, a few caravan parks, and some houses. The Fitzroy River used to be impassable during the wet season until the government built a new bridge in about 1972 - the old Crossing was just a concrete causeway.

    The Fitzroy River meets the sea near Derby and is a seriously big river during the wet but barely a trickle now.

    We headed out of town for our afternoon’s entertainment, a cruise on the Fitzroy through Geikie Gorge. The tour guide clarified how much water comes through the river during the wet, if you drained Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River systems there would be enough water flowing in the Fitzroy at the peak of the wet season to fill it all again in just 2 minutes. A staggering amount of water.

    Geikie Gorge is created by the river eroding the limestone cliffs. There are loads of freshwater crocs around and as we are close to egg laying season they can be rather aggressive at this time of year. Fortunately they have all been told they are harmless to humans. Hopefully.

    Anyway the Gorge was really amazing. The white line on the cliff shows how high the water can get during the wet. I would love to see the country during the wet season just to see how different it is to the dusty and dry country it is at the moment.

    Anyway after our cruise we headed back to out tents with ensuites at the illustrious Fitzroy River Lodge. Our last night under canvas!

    Tomorrow we are back in Broome.
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  • Aug7

    Northern Bungles

    August 7, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    The weather to date has been nice warm days followed by cooler evenings which has been very easy to take. This morning that fell apart. It was damn cold. So far we have been reasonably close to the coast but Purnululu National Park is well inland and so it was a lot colder.

    After breakfast we went to the local airport for our second helicopter ride of the trip. We were flying a Robertson 44 chopper around the Bungle Bungle Ranges. It was fantastic to see the domes from the air, it really gave an appreciation of just how many there are and how amazing this landscape is. See the photos below.

    After our chopper ride we headed up to the northern end of the park to see Echidna Chasm. This is a narrow crack that runs through the Bungle Bungle Massif.

    The rock here is very different to the southern end of the range with the rocks in the northern area containing large rounded river rocks whereas the southern end has smaller pebble sized rocks, once again likely due to currents in the ancient sea.

    Echidna Chasm starts with a wide crack in the rock and gets progressively narrower as you walk through. Of course it was all carved out by rainwater over millions of years. The walk in was pretty easy, as with other areas of the park you walk up through the dry river beds to minimise the impact to the banks. As you move through the chasm the walls become progressively closer until you can reach out and touch both sides of the chasm.

    The chasm is open all the way to the top which would be about 100m or so and the light coming down made the whole chasm glow orange.

    After wandering around for a while we hopped back on the bus and headed to our stop for the night at the Halls Creek Motel in Halls Creek - the location of the first gold discovery in WA.

    On arriving we cruised out to the site of the original town but there was not a lot left. They moved the town a number of years ago to be closer to the water bore. While Charlie Hall did find gold there was never a lot of gold at Halls Creek so the gold rush was short lived and quickly petered out.

    On the way back to town we stopped off at the China Walls. This is a quartz rock ridge that has been left standing after the surrounding sedimentary rock has weathered away, quite amazing actually.

    So far this holiday I have mostly photographed rocks and sunsets and today wasn’t any different.

    Tomorrow we are off to Fitzroy Crossing.
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  • Aug6

    Bungle Bungles

    August 6, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We were up and away from Kununurra nice and early as we had a way to go. We headed down the Great Northern Highway towards Purnululu National Park which is the home of the Bungle Bungle Ranges.

    The road into the Park from the highway is best described as a goat track. It isn’t that long distance wise at only 53kms but it is so rough it took a good hour and a half to cover and had its share of our old favourite: corrugations.

    We eventually arrived at the southern end of the Bungle Bungle Range where the famous bee hive domes are located and they are fascinating. The rocks themselves are about 350 million years old and were once the bottom of an ocean. They were then pushed up when the Kimberley continent ran into the Australian continent and were weathered into their famous dome shape.

    The stripes are a bit of a mystery. The rock itself is actually a grey sandstone but they contain a lot of iron that oxidises on contact with the air to rust and turn red. The black stripes are caused by the same bacteria that causes the cliffs around the horizontal falls have a black line up to the high tide mark. Why the rocks are striped - we are not sure.

    The coarseness of the rocks varies as well, in some spots the rock is plain sandstone with very fine grains but then it will have a layer of pebbles embedded in it then return to fine sand again. This is probably due to ancient periods of stronger currents pushing heavier rocks through before returning to slower currents and so finer sand.

    There is lots of aboriginal artwork in the small caves and hollows and this was a special place for them.

    The Bungle Bungle domes have been known to the local aborigines and stockmen for years but only became known to the wider public when a film crew making a documentary about the Kimberley first showed them in 1983.

    Apart from the obvious domes the key points of interest we went to were Cathedral Gorge and Picaninny Lookout, photos of both are below.

    Our accommodation was small cabins in the Park on the banks of Belburn Creek not far from the domes. Very comfortable.

    The walk around the domes was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far and I managed to take well over 100 photos. Tomorrow we head to the northern end of the park.
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  • Aug5

    Cruisin' on Lake Argyle

    August 5, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Today we hung out in Kununurra and surrounds. First up was a quick trip to the local Coles for some urgent chocolate supplies and then we were ready. We went for a trip out to the Ivanhoe Crossing of the Ord River. Usually this is closed but the water was down a bit so 4 wheel drives and buses could get across.

    This section to the river has salt water crocs but that didn’t seem to bother a couple of the local kids who were swimming at the crossing. Even though this is the dry season there is still a lot of water coming through.

    Next we had a quick visit to Kelly’s Knob which gives a good view over the town of Kununurra.

    Our afternoon’s entertainment was a cruise on Lake Argyle. This Lake was formed in the 1960s by the damming of the Ord River and it is massive.

    There are 2 dams on the Ord River. The lower one is called the Diversion Dam as it was built to store water that would be pumped, or diverted, into the main irrigation channel that runs out to the crops. This dam holds back Lake Kununurra and is where we cruised last night. The upper dam is the Lake Argyle Dam which is far and away the bigger of the two. The main dam holds back about 21 Sydney Harbours full of water though at full load it could go to 40 Sydney Harbours. As a comparison, Warragamba Dam in Sydney - one of the largest domestic water storages in the world - holds about 4 Sydney Harbours.

    It was built for the total cost of about $22 million which was very cheap. Most of the material to build the wall - clay, sand, and rock - was all available on site so there was no need to transport anything. The dam wall is quite small at only 300m wide and about 94m tall. Instead of spillways beside the dam there is actually a system of spillways in valleys around the dam so if the dam gets over full the excess water runs down the valleys and rejoins the Ord River downstream.

    The dam as a large population of freshwater crocs and we managed to spot a few of them sunning themselves on the shore. There where also a range of fish species. The captain of the boat gave us all some bread and said to hold it over the side of the boat but not to drop it into the water and after a minute we were getting squirted! The lake is home to the seven spotted archer fish which squirt water at bugs along the water's edge trying to knock them into the water and clearly they have learnt tourist boats offer a good source of food. There are also a couple of species of cat fish but no Barramundi as they require access to salt water in order to breed.

    Our cruise on the lake included some drinks and watching the sunset. A fantastic afternoon.

    Tomorrow it is Purnululu and the Bungles!
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  • Aug4

    Wyndham and Kununurra

    August 4, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    We left Home Valley Station early and stopped at the iconic Pentecost River crossing which is also used in numerous promotional photos for the Kimberleys. Fortunately a couple of 4 wheel drives cooperated and we managed to get a few photos.

    Next stop was El Questro Station which is one of the (very few) luxury accommodation options on the Gibb River Road, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman stayed there when they were filming the movie Australia and took a helicopter out to the film site each day. We didn’t actually go into the Station accommodation but did go to one of the popular springs on the property: Zebedee Springs.

    These springs are amazing, they are geothermally heated and never run dry. They spring out of the rocks and flow between livistonia palms with a backdrop of stunning red cliffs. The springs are very popular with lots of people visiting when we were there but El Questro Management close the springs to non-guests at 12 noon each day so guests can visit without the plebs.

    After visiting the springs we headed back to the Gibb River Road and something we have all been looking forward to - the end of the gravel and its corrugations! Finally we could hear ourselves think! After a couple of kilometres we reached the end of the Gibb River Road.

    We turned left and headed towards Wyndham for lunch. We drove up to the top of the Bastion Range to the 5 rivers lookout to take in the amazing view. Wyndham is on the Cambridge Gulf and used to be a major port but changes in the cattle and iron ore industry have meant it has lost a lot of its main businesses and so is a shadow of its former glory.

    The 5 rivers lookout gives panoramic views across the flood plains and Cockburn Ranges. The Town actually moved from its original location as it didn’t have enough room so the original town became known as Wyndham Port and the new town was built 3 kms away.

    After lunch we headed into Kununurra to check in to our cabins at the Ivanhoe Caravan Park and to get organised for our afternoon cruise on Lake Kununurra. The Lakes were created in the early 1960s to try and harness the massive amounts of water flowing through the Ord River system during the wet season. The initial attempt at an irrigation system was a bit of a failure as they planted cotton then found there is a local moth that eats cotton so farmers ended up having to spray every 3 days which was of course unviable. Next they tried rice but the bird life here ensured that was not going to work. To their credit they are now trying a genetically modified cotton plus sugar cane and chia which seem to be working a little better. The amount of water going into the ocean each year is staggering so it is a good idea to try and harness it.

    Anyway dinner was excellent and the sunset was fantastic. Another great day in the Kimberley!
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  • Aug3

    Gibb River Road

    August 3, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Today was a big drive. We had to get from Mount Hart Lodge to Home Valley Station and while it isn’t a huge distance, about 450kms, the Gibb River Road is very rough.

    The Road was originally made for cattle transport and while it is still used for that it is also popular with tourists. Most people on the road are grey nomads with their 4 wheel drives there were only a couple of other buses like ours. The Road itself is closed for much of the year due to the wet season floods but during the dry it is graded and then reopened. The bus handled it OK but the corrugations meant it vibrated furiously for most of the trip making it impossible to talk to anyone as it was so noisy.

    We were on our way early and the first stop was at Galvans Gorge to stretch the legs. Today was also the first real cool morning we have had but it soon warmed up. Galvans Gorge is pretty good, not as spectacular as Bell Gorge.

    While the country looks very dry there is actually a lot of water around with rivers and creeks either still flowing or with large pools. We crossed the Durack and a number of other rivers on our trip. There were also loads of wild cattle around which you had to be careful of as they tend to wander onto the road.

    We have seen some local wildlife during our trip, a rock wallaby at Bell Gorge, dingoes around Mount Hart, more wallabies around Mount Hart, and lots of birds. Unfortunately at Home Valley Station we saw our first cane toad.

    Home Valley Station is run by the Government as an indigenous training area and is hugely popular with loads of campers and holiday makers camping or staying in the motel style accommodation. It is located on the Pentecost River flood plain and is a working cattle station. On the road into the Station we stopped to watch the sun set on the Cockburn Ranges which turned red and orange as the sun went below the horizon.

    Dinner was steak (of course) and it was excellent. We were in the motel style accommodation for the night and our room even had its own insect-control officer (a gecko). Tomorrow we are on to Kununurra.
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  • Aug2

    Dolerite Gorge and the Barker River

    August 2, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Today was a quieter day as we have a long way to go tomorrow. This morning we went to a gorge close to the Mount Hart homestead for a cooling swim. It has been fantastic weather so far with days getting up to about 30 degrees and cooling at night but not getting cold.

    Today’s gorge is called the Dolerite Gorge because it formed in a dolerite plug. The mostly sandstone structure of the Kimberley has a number of these dolerite plugs where molten lava pushed up between cracking and faults in the sandstone. The results are patches of black dolerite rock dotting the landscape where little vegetation grows as the black rock makes it too hot for most plants. The dolerite is harder than the sandstone so it is left behind when the other rock erodes away.

    The gorge has a few swimming pools and you can walk quite a way up to its source. All up a good morning’s activity.

    After lunch we then went a couple of kilometres in the other direction from the homestead to the Barker River for a very refreshing swim. They tell us there may be a couple of freshwater crocks in the Barker but they are harmless (hope they know that!). Anyway we didn’t see any so no dramas.

    The evening’s dinner was very special. Our tour guide Phil was banging on all day about us going out for dinner and that we had to get dressed up - dunno how we were going to go anywhere it is 50kms over very rough road just to get to the front gate of the homestead. Anyway we hopped on the bus and it took us to the top of a nearby hill where they had a table with lanterns and a bbq. The chef here is excellent and it was a really nice dinner and desert as the sun went down. A very memorable evening.
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  • Aug1

    Bell Gorge

    August 1, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Today we went on a drive from Mount Hart to Bell Gorge for a bit of a swim. It was about a 2 hour drive there from the Lodge but well worth the visit. We parked the bus and walked about 1km down to the falls.

    There are a number of gorges and falls in the Kimberley and this one was pretty popular. I know I have said it before but the geology of this area is stunning. The ruggedness of the terrain and amazing rocky outcrops make this area fascinating.

    Originally the landmass that would become Australia was separate to the Kimberley but about 560 million years ago the Kimberley continent crashed into the Australia continent giving rise to the mountains and terrain we can see today.

    Bell Gorge has a swimming pool at the top and you can also walk down to the lower level and swim there as well. It was very refreshing on a hot day.

    After a few hours swimming we made it back up to the bus and back to the lodge for a couple of beers and dinner. A great way to spend a day!
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