The Kimberley - Purnululu to Wolfe Creek WA

Thursday, Jul 20, 2006 at 00:00


Thursday 20th July
Wolfe Creek National Park

We were out of bed at 6:00 a.m. to a brisk but sunny morning. It was a very snappy breakfast and pack up to follow. As I suspected, the 3.7 kg bottle was indeed light on when last filled and was showing signs of emptying imminently. Thankfully we should be able to fill it at Halls Creek. Johnno drove the first leg out of the park today. As fate would have it, the same bleep s we followed on the way in were ahead of us on the way out so we made no bones about it and passed them early in the piece. We ran into Don (of El Questro fame) and his wife again being pursued by a large semi with a container thereon. T’was a hell of a big rig to be driving about these roads. While it was a very scenic drive, I must confess to being a very nervy passenger in my own car. I think it’s called “sidewall anxiety”. Anyway I managed to keep silent and Johnno acquitted himself well reaching the bitumen at a little before 10 o’clock. Two hours for the trip. Rubbish was duly despatched at the first bin we sighted and we then cruised the 120 kilometres into Halls Creek arriving at 11:30 a.m.

Halls Creek is a very impressive place, if only for the roaring trade the small shopping centre was doing. We were a little way into the shopping when it dawned on that it was in fact pension day so that went a long way to explaining the crowds. We got into the servo and filled up with diesel which at $1.579 per litre was quite reasonably priced I thought. Mind you that was after the 4 cent discount at Shell had been applied). From there it was groceries and after a bit of a chase, a gas bottle refill was secured at the local caravan park. Having to wait until 1:00 p.m. to have it filled, we went to the local information centre and had a bite to eat at the attached “Road kill café”. I took the opportunity to make a few last minute phone calls while we had mobile coverage and then at 1:15 p.m. we were off on the Northern Highway out of town.

It’s 16 odd kilometres to the Tanami turn off which you can easily drive past as it is indicated by only a small pointer board saying “Alice Springs”. Initially, the road is in good nick with minor corrugations making 80 kph an easy and safe speed. It soon goes to pot though as you head through the last of the small rocky ranges that I presume to be the precursors of the Kimberly’s. It’s rough, rugged and dusty but improves in condition once again at the 90 kilometre mark as you approach Mabel Downs Homestead. The number of cattle wandering the roadside is impressive and they are all fit and healthy looking beasts which appeared to be mostly of the Brahman variety with a few Santas thrown in. We saw one roo only, the wildlife being far outnumbered by the dead vehicles littering the roadside. Most prominent was a late model Pajero lying burn out along with a 60 series cruiser. All, the usual suspects were present along with an historical element, EH, HQ, HZ, Falcons etc. We passed, and were passed by a variety of battered vehicles heading both into and out of Halls Creek. It’s hard to get lost out here as every 6 kilometres there is a pile of empty green cans by the roadside and at every 50 kilometre mark there is a discarded VB carton lying squashed and forlorn in the middle of the road.

At the 120 kilometre mark we turned left and started the rough 20 kilometre track into Wolfe Creek Crater. The road was very heavily corrugated but we arrived a tad after three o’clock and wasted no time setting up camp. At 4:30-ish we walked the 500 metres or so to the top of the low hills that make up the walls of the Wolfe Creek Crater.

It’s hard to discern the true extent of the crater from the outside because from any viewpoint other than from the air, the walls simply look like a rise of low hills. Once on the top though with the crater stretching 850 metres across in front of you, there is no doubting its origins. The actual crater was formed when a wayward chunk of rock, somewhere around the 50,000 tonne mark, slammed into the plain at 15 kilometres per second about 300,000 years ago. The resulting blast vaporised the meteorite and sent ejecta up to 4 kilometres outwards and leaving a crater 120 metres deep. The crater bottom is now only 20 meters lower than the surrounding plain, the last 300,000 years of wind and erosion having filled in some 100 metres of its original depth. It’s still something to behold though and that we did…until a scotch and coke called.

We had an early dinner while there was still a bit of daylight about and I took advantage of dusk to shower. As my luck would have it, a late arrival at the campsite got more than he bargained for in the glare of his headlights. Hope his kids recover from the shock! Dinner was steak and veg with desert of fruit and custard. It’s not yet seven and we’ve watched the fading hues of gold on the western horizon give way to darkness and stars. The International Space Station made a stately appearance across the skies at 6.15 p.m.

We spent the evening leaning back in the chairs staring at the heavens, often with the binoculars, discovering just how many stars and constellations exist out there. Both of us were awed.

Thought of the day: “Wolfe Creek. Not a place to be standing 300,000 years ago!”

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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