Lake Argyle

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Lake Argyle was a destination we had promised ourselves to visit as we had missed seeing its size and majesty on our trip last year. Day one was a paddle into Bamboo Cove aboard the inflatable kayak (best $100 we ever spent), tried out the new life jackets with a swim before debriefing the day’s events with other travellers, in the deliciously frigid infinity pool that overlooks the northern reaches of Lake Argyle. Day two was again a very leisurely day, starting with a swim and then joined a tour group aboard the Kimberley Durack for an afternoon meandering across the lake. Prior to boarding we watched an almost ‘Movietone News’ documentary of the building of the dam wall that created the massive expanse of the lake, equal in volume to 19 Sydney Harbors (not sure how many Olympic sized swimming pools that is….. a bloody lot). Noelene’s dad had driven to the Ord River project with her uncle Eddie back in the 60s, so she has more than a passing interest in his reasons for travelling to this remote area of the country leaving behind a wife with 5 kids under the age 6! How did her mum survive? Young Captain Jack was our skipper and a font of knowledge and his love for the area was evident in his passion for the subject of Lake Argyleand the Ord River. A group swim beside Jump Rock where a couple dared to climb up to the 17 metre rock platform before plunging into the water. While the girl seemed to recover okay, the young man was a very quiet passenger for the rest of the tour. As the sun began to set we had our second group swim, where everyone slipped overboard with a pool noodle. Cans of beer were lobbed out to the thirsty, while a tray of champers and sav blanc arrived via the life ring! This went on for an hour as the sun slowly eased its way behind the distant range at which time we were welcomed back on board for more libation and a cheese platter. An absolutely wonderful experience.

We are steadily wending our way towards Drysdale River Station and after a couple of days in Kununurra to record our blog, make some calls and process some bill payments we will journey along the Gibb River Road, past El Questro and hit the 260 kms of red dust that billows behind.

Gregory and Keep River NP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We had planned to  camp just off the Victoria Highway  in a Gregory NP campground and complete a couple of walks on the escarpment which overlooks the Victoria River, however the campsite was dusty and uninviting so……on the road again. The escarpment walk was a sweaty uphill 45 minute test but well worth the views across a surprisingly large river. Rehydrated we headed off road for our second walk at Joe Creek Picnic area and the Nawulbinbin walk. It leads up a steep rocky incline to the base of a shaded escarpment. Livistonia palms grow in abundance at the base of the escarpment walls, being fed water that continuously drips and trickles through the limestone. Under several of the overhangs is indigenous art, although much of it is faded and difficult to discern.

After two walks, we were desperate for a shady camp and a shower. Timber Creek caravan park provided both, however the bonus was a frigid pool for an afternoon soak. With the long days of driving behind us, within a few hours on the next day, we were at Keep River National Park, with the camp ground to ourselves, and early enough for a magical walk that took us through grasslands onto rocky outcrops with spectacular views and rich, Kimberley colours. Sleep was made difficult as we suffered through our hottest night since we started.

Northwards Again

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We travelled from home to Elsey National Pk, near Katherine, in 5 days, most days were of 8 or so hours of driving. After staying at Noelene’s mum’s the first night, we free camped at World’s End, near Burra in SA. A lovely, quiet spot at Burra Gorge with trees, dry creekbed, firepits and drop loos. It was a lovely place but the morning was an early wakeup call by thousands of birds. After a loooong day of driving we reached Coober Pedy and stayed at a park where they warned us of many 6/7 year olds who were pilfering belongings at night, so we locked everything up that night. What a shame the view of the Indigenous people is coloured by this minority.

Northward and we travelled on to Alice Springs. Having done the West Macdonald Ranges with the kids and the East Macdonald Range last year, it was just a stopover at the Macdonald Ranges caravan park. The same place we stayed 19 years ago on our first trip to the outback. We were delightfully surprised to be informed that a photographer/musician that had entertained us all those years ago with his slide shows of the outback and his bush songs was still a regular at the park. Unfortunately we missed Barry Skipsey as he performs each Thursday night and has done for over 20 years.

The next long day of driving was to Elliot where we tried to retrace our steps when we travelled with the kids 19 years ago, by staying in a heavily treed small caravan park. We found it but, though the store and bowsers were still operational the park had essentially closed down though a few stayed in spots long term we think. The owner said, ‘Give us $20 and park anywhere but not all the power poles work….try them out’. It was recognisable from all those years ago, despite the overgrown weeds everywhere and general feeling of decrepitude! We enjoyed our night and the memories it brought back of the older people we had met there many years ago who got the shady spots by getting there very early (and not spending time looking at any spots along the way!)

From there, it was straight to Elsey National Park where we camped, as we had on that previous trip with Liam and Lynsey. The wild donkeys were still there, rarely seen (we did this time!) but heard all night, braying and calling…..though not running up and down the road as previously! We went for a dip at Mataranka thermal springs which was lovely but warm. We were unable to swim in the Roper River as we had previously, as they had not scanned it for salties after the wet…..so definitely closed!

After getting to Katherine we headed west to some National parks….and a bit more relax…..but that’s another blog!

 

 

Making our way home

After the cruise, we made our way east towards the goldfields area, taking 2 days to arrive at Lake Ballard, the world’s largest art gallery! 51 metal sculptures , apparantly representing the people of the nearby town of Menzies. There are children and adults, young and old all represented sans covering….all placed in a spreadout fashion on a large saltpan, Lake Ballard. To see all the sculptures, it apparantly takes around 5 hours to walk the site. We didn’t see all of them but saw enough to be satisfied we had seen a cross section of them.  They were made

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for a Perth Art Festival/ competition but was deemed such a success that the sculptures have remained in place and are now a tourist attraction. It is well worth seeing and it was free camping too! This is where we started to feel the cold in the evening.

Going through Kalgoorlie, Marcus registered to do the Nullabor Golf Links which begins on the first 2 holes of the Kalgoorlie golf course..a beautiful course…some ‘ interesting’ ones followed though,  where gravel, mounds of vegetation, crows and just rough country had to be overcome!

We free camped  at Norseman and outside Nullabor but also stayed in a couple of motels because it was raining and cold!!! The campfires we had free camping made it an enjoyable experience…and a little bit warmer!

We called into Adelaide to see our niece Lauren who as a 3 year old was in our wedding and her husband Lucas and 2 gorgeous kids. We enjoyed their hospitality for a couple of nights and then spent a long day driving home. The adventure was complete.

Abrolhos Islands 5 day cruise

This was the final special component of our trip before heading home and extraordinarily special it turned out to be. The Abrolhos are best known for the crayfish industry and the Batavia wreck and its story. The number of fishermen on the islands have dwindled with the introduction of quotas so they come out to the islands for a short season rather than living on the islands full time with their families. This has meant the closure of all the schools on the islands and community activities such as the inter island football league, are no more. Our first surprising view of some of the islands was of multi colored shanties perched on the coral, just a metre above the sea level. It was obvious that some of these part time homes were well loved but we couldn’t understand how the residents were permitted to pipe raw sewerage directly into the ocean!(they now have to have the toilets inside the house whereas previously they sat precariously over the ocean using long drops). We heard lots of stories about life on these islands and catching Crays from our captain (and past crayfisherman)Jay Cox.

Each day started with brekky at 7 am and then followed a full day of activities that included snorkeling/diving in a variety of quality sites, fishing, trawling, island walks, drinks on the beach, glassbottom boat trips, fish feeding in a couple of different places and some relaxing……plenty of eating too as the food was delicious and plentiful. The crew were great fun and knowledgeable and they looked after us well.

The known history of the islands includes the Dutch ship Batavia, on its way to Java, hitting a reef in the middle of the night in 1629. The story that unfolded was full of murder, rape, theft and general horror as the worst of human traits were let loose by those in control. We visited Beacon Island where most of these events unfolded. It is now a protected zone as arch

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eologists are still finding bodies in mass graves there. The coral prison built to house Geronimus Cornelius, the instigator, still stands. He was removed from this prison and tried on nearby Long Island where he was found guilty, had his hands severed before being hanged. The soldiers on West Wallabi Island built coral walls to protect themselves from Cornelius’ men when they tried to attack. These still stand. A fascinating story that  is apparently taught in Dutch schools presently!

It was a marvelous 5 day adventure although it has taken a few days to get our land legs again. Now we are on our way home……free camping when we can and playing the Nullabor Links…..Marcus that is.

Wooramel Station

Due in Geralton in three days, we had the opportunity to find another station to camp at……Wooramel  was a delightful opportunity to catch some R&R. Situated on a river that only flows twice a year, Marcus took the opportunity to fine tune his golf swing by wandering along the dry river bed, belting balls into the distance. While he was belting, something was biting……. tiny midges were in abundance, but being so small they were not obvious like flies or mossies would be. The next morning he awoke to scores of bites on both legs and both arms…… And so commenced the scratching and scratching and scratching! Noelene did not escape by any means either. That was the only downside of a delightful camping spot. A warm spa fed by a naturally heated spring was a venue each afternoon, before a Bundy and a Stones by the fire.

Wonderful Warroora

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Heading south from Karratha, we free camped the night beside a dry river bed……. Sounds idyllic, but not so. The downside of travelling at this time of the year in the west, is the number is sandgropers heading north to escape the winter chill, so turning into a free camp means dodging the scores of luxury, tandem axled apartments on wheels that pass for caravans.

Noelene had discovered an operating sheep station that would bring us on to the Ningaloo Reef coastline as anything remotely near Exmouth was booked out and caravaners were lining up in the mornings to take their chances on getting a space, and school holidays were a week away.

What a find! Bypassed the popular Elle’s beach camp site, dropped the tyre pressures and headed to Maggy’s. The beach site was packed but we continued on and found a rocky outcrop perfect for the camper and our nearest neighbours were 50 metres away. Beautiful views overlooking the reef, surging surf lulled us to sleep and the sunsets in this part of the world continued to be stunning.

Meanders and shell hunting along the beaches. Wrass and a shovel nosed shark close to shore. And freshly caught squid donated by our neighbour. We stayed an extra day.

Dampier / Karratha

A brief stop in Karratha to wash and restock saw us exploring the Burrup Peninsula and the hundreds of thousands of ancient petroglyphs (rock engravings). We had to visit the memorial to Red Dog and go to the Moonlight outdoor cinema, something lots of places in the Kimberley and Pilbara have but our first time experiencing.

Our impressions of the Pilbara as we leave and visit the Gascoyne!

red

rock

mines everywhere

long trains and road trains

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gorges and water

spinifix

birds

beautiful!!!!