Adelaide to the Kimberley - week 2 Kununurra to Broome via The Bungle Bungle'

Tuesday, Jun 02, 2015 at 23:33

Member - Carolyn & Peter L

Wednesday 27th May

Into our second week! Still in Kununurra, we did a bit of local sight seeing today. Fist stop was The Hoochery, only 14km north of Kununurra into the agricultural area. The Hoochery is the only remaining distillery in Western Australia, and you can visit and take part in whisky and rum tastings. Tastings are $5 for a paddle of 3. They had nine blends to choose from, we chose 2 paddles, a total of 6. All I can say is, I consolidated my conviction that I am NOT a whisky or rum drinker. I find it quite distasteful, but I’m sure regular drinkers of the beverage woulda appreciate the tastings. At least I had a try! The shed they have built is worth a look at, beautiful woodwork and at each table in the testing room has a photo album and copy of an outback magazine article about The Hoochery and Kununurra. Great reading. While we were there we met up with our neighbours from Kununurra caravan park - Jim and Susie and Jim’s daughter Amanda who are touring in a motor home and enjoyed a chat over the wonderful rum cake which refreshed the taste of the whisky and rum we had with the tastings.

After leaving The Hoochery we headed back into town and stopped at The Sandalwood Factory. Indian Sandalwood has been grown in the area in only recent time by TFS, and in 2008 TFS bought Mt Romance, the world’s largest supplier of natural sandalwood oil. It seems it is a growing industry with lots of potential although rumour has it some of the locals aren’t happy as the Dam was meant to supply a food bowl, not other industries. There is a video room with the story of the company and how they farm the Sandalwood (in fact a parasite which needs a host tree on which to grow). There are lots of beauty products, hand creams and toiletries based on the beautiful smelling sandalwood.

We headed back again towards town, stopping at Mirima National Park, and Hidden Valley, only 2km from Kununurra, also known as the mini-Bungles. We climbed up to the top of the lookout where the township of Kununurra can be seen. It was a hot climb (as everything is!!) but the views were worth it and there are steps at different points to make it a bit easier.

Thursday 28th May

In the morning we headed out to the Zebra Rock Gallery just south west of town along the Ord river. We had to cross the weir just out of town first. The Zebra Rock is mined from Lake Argyle, and can only be mined during the last two to four weeks of the dry season when the water levels in the Dam fall low enough for excavation to be done. The rock is a very rare silkstone, unique to the Kimberley. There were two other mine sites but both are now submerged under the dam. The jewellery and art pieces are all fashioned on site. Of course I had to buy some – told Pete it was too unique to miss the chance, and although the sculptured rock pieces were beautiful, they would just become dust catchers – jewellery is so much more useful!!!

The gallery is on the bank of the Upper Ord River, and at their jetty they have a large school of catfish which clamour out on top of each other to be fed the bread that the owners leave out for tourists. I have never seen such massive fat catfish!

After the gallery we headed back into town to shop for supplies for the next few days to the Bungle Bungle and a free camping spot near Fitzroy Crossing. We even treated ourselves to Subway for lunch, but the BMT would come back to haunt me later……..

We were picked up by Kingfisher Tours for our aerial flight of the East Kimberley’s from the caravan park at 1.25pm. There ended up being 5 passengers – all of us from SA! There was also a co-pilot Ben, who was learning from Matt, our pilot. It was so hot, 35 degrees as we walked out across the hot tarmac and clambered aboard our aircraft, a Gippsland something or other. It was so cramped Pete’s legs were nearly up to his chin, so he swapped his seat with one of the others so he could sit at the back with his legs out in front – sort of.
The Flight took us over Lake Argyle, Bungle Bungle, Argyle Diamond Mine and Wyndham. There was also a shorter flight just over the Dam and The Bungles but we really wanted to get a good perspective of the area so booked on the longer flight. In my own defence I have to say I was seated in the direct sun for the first hour of the journey. We had been warned there would be a bit of a bumpy ride due to the warm thermals. As I said it was 35 degrees outside – probably a lot more inside and no air conditioning, just warm air vents. The sweat was running off of me, very uncomfortable. I do have a bit of a reputation for motion sickness so I had taken the precaution of taking some stemetil an hour before we left, which probably saved me! In the end altho I did dry retch a couple of times fortunately the BMT stayed in my stomach, but I was rather unwell and very embarrassed for a large portion of the flight. Peter, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed himself and even took over the job of photographer when I just couldn't manage it anymore. The scenery was amazing, the Dam absolutely huge. We also flew over the Argyle Diamond Mine and then north to Wyndham and over the Cockburn Range where the film Australia was shot. The Homestead from the movie has since been dismantled because it didn’t meet building regulations and the station owners didn’t want heaps of tourists coming to check it out. So I was very relieved when we arrived back at Kununurra for our last night of civilisation.

Friday 29th May

We rose with the sun at just after 5.30 to start packing up the camper and have breakfast. Even the maintenance park staff at Kimberleyland start at 6.30 to try and get things done in the cool of the day. By the time we filled up with fuel it was 9am. Goodbye to civilisation, swimming pools, tiled showers and flushing loos, along with phone and internet coverage for the next 4 days until we get to Broome.

The drive toPurnululu National Park takes you west then south along the Great Northern Highway, all bituminised and I believe has Telstra coverage for most of it as well. We drove for about 2 hrs 40 min to turn off to the park, 251km from Kununurra at Mabel Downs Station (where the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park is now if you didn't have a single axle off-road caravan or camper trailer which is all that is allowed into the park) . If you are coming from the other way it is 792km from Broome. Then it is still another 53km to the park entrance and 10 to 12km to the two main campsites, north at Kurrajong (generator free) and south at Walardi which is closer to the Bellburn camp, run by APT tours and East Kimberley tours, and a bit busier with choppers coming in and out. Even though its only 53km to the visitor centre, it still takes 2 ½ to 3 hrs from the main road. Once you leave the bitumen there is an area (with a drop loo) for you to pull over and let your tyres down before you continue on the road into the park that takes you through Mabel Downs station. There has been a very dry wet season this year, so the six water crossings into the park were ok, not too deep and short. The park is very strict about no 2WD, although once in the park the roads are fine, although a bit corrugated. If you only have a 2WD You can book a tour from the caravan park at the turn off.

We had already purchased a 12 month WA National Parks pass when in Kununurra, for $88 which saves us having to pay entry fees every time we enter a park. The camping fees for Purnululu are paid online, usually 48 hours in advance although I got the impression that you might be able to pay at the visitor centre (but a long 2 ½ drive in to be the turned away if they don’t!) camping fees are $12 per night for bore water and drop loos.
So, we dropped in to the visitor centre for our paper camping permit and maps, and headed north to Kurrajong campsite. There are four loops at Kurrajong with just over 100 sites. Fortunately everybody was spaced out and there was oodles of room with only about 25-30 campers there at the same time as us. You get quite territorial if anyone comes into your area of spaces and looks to be setting up!

It was about 2pm by the time we picked our site. The sites have all been slashed of the grass, but there is still heaps of long grass and spear grass surrounding the sites. We chose a beautiful shady spot by the dry river bed and set up. Then the “zoomers” came in!!! tiny black mosquitoes, zooming in on you in the hordes, but didn’t seem to be biting much. But the noise was enough to drive you crazy, and this was 2pm in the afternoon, heaven knows what it would be like by sunset! We thought it might have been the proximity to the creek bed, even though it was dry. We went for a bit of a walk to another spot, which seemed to be free of the pests. We even dragged our chairs over and sat in the shade for a while – all seemed ok. We decided it was worth the effort, despite the heat ( did I mention it was 35 degrees in the shade??) to pack up the kamper and move!

We had even already set up the “kwik awning” which isn’t quick at all. So we took out a couple of poles, left the awning attached, folded it all up (sort of) and threw the poles and ladder on the front, hitched up to the car and drove (very slowly) to our new site. Granted it wouldn’t be as shady all day, but we thought it would be worth it…….

That was, until I was holding the pole for the quick awning and got a sharp bite on the foot! Bloody hell, red bull ants!!!! Right under our kitchen and meals area – not one but two holes! Oh! And did I mention the zoomers came with us???? Probably attracted by our sweat, who knows. But the bastards were back! Giving up, we had a bit of a bird bath to cool down and wash the sweat off then loaded up with bushman’s.

Interestingly, once the sun went down we didn't have any more mozzies, and the temperature dropped to the low 20’s with no breeze – it was beautiful! The bull ants I was trying to get rid of with a variety of techniques – fly spray, water, boiling water from the potatoes, and even some clove oil I had as the fridge had some mould in it when we started our trip. Nothing really worked, and in the morning there were three holes! We just learnt not to stand in the middle, and we seem to coexist since then reasonably well. We were able to enjoy a delicious meal (stuffed meatballs with garlic mash) and a glass or two of wine, and watched a movie on Pete’s laptop before retiring for a lovely cool night – probably 17 degrees or less

Saturday 30th May

What a wonderful sleep we had! Beautiful cool night, bright, starry sky. Dawn happens early up here, so we were up before 6am and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and sit around (I sat around while Pete tinkered around with the solar panels and “stuff”.

We headed further north, another 15 km or so to Echidna Chasm, then it was a 2km walk from the car park through a rocky riverbed into the chasm. Late morning and midday are the best times to view the chasm when the sun is overhead and reflecting off the walls, much like Stanley Chasm near Alice Springs, although much narrower in parts and much higher.

It was a really hot sweaty walk in, until we reached the walls of the chasm where it was much cooler. It’s a 2km return walk. The walking is very uneven along the dry creek bed over loose river stones. The colours in the chasm were amazing reds and oranges. When you get to the main chasm there is another short 100m walk, mostly straight up through a very narrow cleft of the chasm, over under fallen rocks, some of which had jammed in the cleft and you walk under them, and two short ladders to get up to the highest point on the chasm floor. We rested up here for over 45 minutes, waiting for the sun to reach the point where it would reflect down off the walls. Whole we were waiting we had some lovely conversation with another group of four from SA – we were everywhere! It was so cool in the chasm, but by the time we got back out we were hot and sweaty all over again – I’m talking about sweat pouring off, not just a bit of a glow – when I took my hat off my hair was as wet from sweat as it is when I come out of the shower!

We still kept walking though and trekked up to the lookout for uninterrupted views along the escarpment. It wasn’t too far. After the lookout we sat and had our lunch under one of the shaded picnic areas – still hot but better out of the sun!

We then drove the 15km back to camp to have a rest, but I have to say the heat and zoomers made it a bit – ok – bloody uncomfortable! To distract myself I decided to do some handwashing – there is plenty of fresh bore water and it was nice and cool (can’t believe I enjoyed washing so much!). Pete strung up one of our lines between the camping posts, we had to use our small ladder in the middle when it started to bow down too low! Necessity is the mother of invention! We had a good system going – I was on washing and he had the rinse bucket! Even though we didn’t wring it out real well, it was all dry by the next morning, saved ourselves at least $4 with that effort!

Once the sun went down it became delightful again, zoomers gone and we had dinner and watched another movie.

Sunday 31st May

Once again awake at 5.30 just before sunrise, we dressed and had breakky before driving the 40 min to the south end of the park, to Cathedral Gorge, The Dome, and Picaninny Gorge. The carpark at the south end wasn’t as well seat up, with fewer shaded picnic areas and only two sets of loos together (at Echidna Chasm carpark there were several loos dotted around the carparks and picnic areas).

The walk into Cathedral Gorge is also a moderate 2km walk with riverbed and soft sand, a little bit of climbing (not much). The cathedral is a natural amphitheatre carved out of the sandstone rock, with a waterhole underneath (not nice enough to swim in though). Whilst stunning, we didn’t see the colours that we had the day before (it was only 8.30 or 9 in the morning) we did wonder if it would have glowed more later in the day, but the morning sun was best for catching the colours of the domes as you walk in.

When we got into cathedral gorge we chatted with a family with two young girls, who had been travelling around Australia working, but got to Kununurra 6 years ago and stayed there! Then we met two of their friends from Kununurra who had ridden their pushbikes into the park – amazing on the dry and dusty roads and through the creek crossings. The women would have both been in their 60’s – can’t believe their tenacity and energy in the heat! It took them 6 hours to ride the 53km. Apparently they have also ridden the Gibb River Road – in 5 days!!! ( the GRR is over 700km long, all dirt road, with lots of cars and campers and 4WD and road trains!!) amazing women! We passed them when we left the park the next day, already halfway along the drive that would take us nearly 2 hours in the car.

After enjoying the Cathedral for a while, we walked back along the riverbank then diverted along The Domes 700m walk – a lot of which was along a sandy riverbed, just like walking on the beach. Yes, it was still hot! There is an off-shoot to the domes walk that takes you to another gorge and waterhole (nearly dried up though). We came across an older couple whom we had chatted to earlier – they had discovered some aboriginal rock art on the cliff face high above our heads, presumably done when the water levels were high during the wet season and they could swim or boat in. They had been told by the parks attendant in the visitor centre that there was aboriginal art there, but she had never managed to find it. We were thrilled to have it pointed out to us and to be able to take photos.

We decided against the longer walks up picaninny creek or to the lookout, had a rest for a bit of morning tea then drove back to the campsite for lunch. We used the time to try and boost our battery charge on the car – we had the car fridge going as a freezer and without driving long distances every day it wasn’t charging up the auxiliary battery enough.

When the iPad was in need of a charge I had to put it aside due to the low battery levels, and decided to get out my art supplies – my scrap sisters sill be happy to know I did some Zentangles! Of course I was inspired by the aboriginal art and the domes of the southern end of the bungles, once finished I may even upload a picture! I had my watercolour pencils and water brush too so the ochre colours feature. Sometimes its good when we can’t use our technology!

At sunset we walked up the short 200m walk from the campsite to the camp lookout, one of the best spots for viewing the sunset in the park, and managed to take some great shots. We arrived back at the campsite under torchlight, to hear our inverter alarm going in the kamper! We knew it has been running a bit low, as we were in the shade for a lot of the day it was hard to make sure the solar panels got enough sun. And we have to admit to flogging it for a couple of nights using the computer to watch movies too – maybe a bit of a luxury when running on batteries! Also we had been running the eutectic fridge for more hours of the day than we usually would, because of the heat. Anyway, luckily we both had torches and I had packed a portable LED camping alight as well, which was enough light to cook by. Meanwhile Pete backed the car up and connected the Anderson plug with the car running – just over 30 min was enough to bring the voltage back up again.

Monday 1st June

Time to move on! We were up and packed by 8, dropped in to the park office on the way out of the park. This time it only took us 1 ½ hrs from the visitor centre to the main road ((think we took 2 hrs on the way in). Yes, we passed the intrepid cyclers, slowing right down to lessen the dust they had to breathe. One of them was nearly cycling as fast as we were driving, she eventually stopped so we could pass her safely.
Once in Halls Creek we topped up with fuel – some of the comments on wikicamps suggested buying any groceries from the Coles express at the shell service station rather than the IGA, but we didn’t need anything except for some soft drink which was nearly $5 a bottle. We checked out the Visitor Centre and had lunch on the shady lawn in front. Before leaving town we detoured out on the Duncan Highway a short 2km to the turn off for the China Wall – a quartz rock formation jutting out of the hillside giving the impression of the Great Wall of China. Also a waterhole. Because we missed the signpost we ended up checking out the old township 16km out of town – mostly all fenced off, but a fantastic swimming spot along the river that some of the locals were enjoying.

Heading out of Halls Creek for 153km, we drive in to Larrawa station who have set up the Larrawa Nature Stay. Found on wikicamps, $20 a night for flushing loos and hot water – except my shower didn’t have hot water and there are no lights so have your shower before sundown. There are taps and running bore water for the sites – you just pull up wherever you want and the owners come over between 4 and 7pm to collect your money (cash only). Mozzies were bad, and continued after sundown. Great sunset and a short walk to a viewing area to watch the sun set over the ranges to the south. Shaded picnic area in the middle. We were the only ones there. We didn’t ask about it, but wikicamps users have commended the opportunity for the kids to feed the animals and baby roo. I don’t like being negative but we would have been better to keep going to Ngumban cliff rest stop a few km on and use our own shower and the drop loos.

Tuesday 2nd June

Up with the sunrise again at 6am ( my friends won’t believe I am doing this every day!) we were on the road by 7.20 as we had left the kamper hitched to the car, just backed the car up on wedge blocks to level out the kamper a bit.

First stop Fitzroy Crossing. We thought it was a more attractive alternative to Halls Creek, cleaner and tidier. We turned off the highway in the town to get to Geike Gorge, about 18km out of town on sealed road. We happened to arrive just in time for a boat tour of the Gorge. There are also walking tracks you can do. Boat tour was $30 pp, and ran for just over an hour. There are five tours a day,a running at 7, 8.30, 10, 2.30 & 4. Beware it is an open-topped barge style of boat, so don’t forget the hat and sunscreen.

It was a beautiful boat tour, taking you right up close to the rock walls. The gorge is unique in that part way up the rock face the limestone rock is bleached white from being under water in the wet season, with the darker grey and ochre rocks higher up. There were a few freshwater crocs sunning themselves on the riverbank, and the tiny bottle swallows (? aka fairy wren) that come up from SA in the dry season to build their nests on the under hangs of the cliffs. They make nests from chewing up dirt and spitting it out. The nests look like big wasp nests in the shape of bottles (hence their name). They were very active rebuilding their nests from last dry season (they usually get washed away each year but this year the wet wasn’t as plentiful as usual).

There are several plant varieties including the coolabah (bring on waltzing Matilda) which can be identified by its darker limbs at the bottom and whiter branches at the top. There are also pandanus palms, red river gums and river mangrove trees which the aboriginal people use for its medicinal healing properties, chewing it into a pulp and putting on wounds, covering with more mangrove leaves. It also has anaesthetic properties, and if you chew too much it can anaesthetise your mouth and cause you to drool!!! The aboriginals also used to use it to dope the fish by chewing and spitting it into the water, then they could easily catch the doped fish. If they doped too many, it would eventually wear off and the unwanted fish could swim away!

Our guide Jazz was very informative and able to answer lots of questions about plants and habitat and the rock formation. I commended her at the end, and she replied that it was only her second trip on her own! Great job!
The Fitzroy River is one of the longest rivers in Australia, with a catchment of 90,000 square km. Just north of the township the tributaries of the Leopold and Margaret/Mary rivers join the Fitzroy before continuing on the journey to King Sound and the ocean near Derby. In the wet season the level can rise 26metres above the concrete crossing and has an estimated flow rate of 30,000 cubic metres per second. Jazz explained that at the moment there is no irrigation being run from the river, but some people want to dam it which would mean no access to Geike – it would all be under water. Some others want the dam built in other places but there are no concrete plans at the moment.

Before leaving Fitzroy Crossing we checked out the Crossing Inn, intending to have a beer as suggested by Birget Bradtke in her e-book, Destination Kimberley, but we were just shy of pub opening time at 12 noon and decided to push on after having a look through the aboriginal art gallery on site.

Back on the roadagain we headed towards Broome, our destination for the next five nights and roughly 400km from Fitzroy. That gives me a few hours to sort out my photos on the iPad to upload along with the Blog.
I hope you are all enjoying the Blog, either family and friends keen to hear what we are up to, or people who have travelled this way before for whom it brings back (hopefully) fond memories, or those who plan to follow us in the future. I am trying to recall facts and figures as accurately as I can, but please forgive me if the memory or my sources aren’t as good as they should be! So that’s our second of 12 weeks! Have never taken a holiday any longer than 2 weeks before so its all uncharted territory for us. For family who are keeping track of our travels, we may head down the road a few 100km to the Pilbara after we leave Broome, since we are so close. You’ll just have to wait for the next blog update to see where we get to!

OMG!!! Just checked into Broome and got excited when the temp gauge in the car read 27 degrees – til we got out and were hit with the humidity! A mere 93% if you please!!!!!!!!!
Take me back to my home
To the spirit of the land that calls me
Colours and textures, light and birdsong
There I can breathe, and restore my soul
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