Cairns to Broome and Back
Road trippers Graham and Shirl
I once had a dream – it would be that I could just live my life and be free. Free to be and to seek peace in worldly realms inside and out. Our Motto: Our Replacement Theory Æ This is as good as it ever needs to get – but sometimes it just gets better. BUILDING THE DREAM It was the second Monday in June, flights were booked for a weekend away in Brisbane. Graham and I were off to the 2010 Caravan Camping Expo. For years it seemed, Graham and I had always talked about the desire to travel. Would this be the start to immersing ourselves into a lifestyle for it? For three full days we gloated, imagined, visualised and deliberated our potential travel modes. How baited we were – destined for a road trip or two. Would we do it in style – Bloody Betcha!!! Would it be a Winnebago - maybe a fifth wheeler, off road caravan, pop top, Avan, slide on or camper trailer?? Choices were numerous – but what would be the ultimate decision? Bewildering it was to decide what would support and sustain our travel style for immediate travel plans and travel plans for the future. One thing was decided though – our first trip would be to the Kimberley. Camping and heading bush has always fulfilled a yearning for freedom – a getaway from the everyday reminders of things to be done. Over many years Graham and I shared good times off camping with long-time friends as our children were growing up. We knew we’d enjoy a road trip. Having heard a story about a couple who had travelled around Australia in their old four wheel drive we were both open to the idea of low budget travel. Money saved on the swing can be spent on the merry-go-round and so it was decided to take our rig for the trip. “Reggie Rig” seemed like an apt name and it was now a given - we would be roughing it a bit. Wheels in motion – ideas flowing, The road trip determined can’t wait to be going Like a snail we will carry our abode on our back Climbing the ladder each night to hit the sack. With unencumbered mobility our primary objective narrowed things down and we became the proud owners of a roof top tent. Achievable steps and the vision grew we could build this dream we could make it come true. A road trip for two Cairns to Broome and back the adventure was beginning and we hadn’t even started to pack. Bring it on...
The Dream is On On the 29th July, 2011 our diesel powered Toyota hilux - Regi Rigg with 291,000km on the Speedo ticked over beautifully. Already we had deciphered what we wanted to take, what we needed to take, what we definitely couldn’t take, and what we couldn’t bear to leave behind. Already we’d taken too much. Like a snail it was carried on our back. With anchored trust in this mechanical mystro we set off. Regi would carry our wares, be our humble abode and take us to places we have never been. Navigational sights were set on Atherton where we spent a night with Mum and Dad (Helen and Snow) before setting off on the way. Timely it was and I was also able to catch the song writing workshop in Atherton as part of the Queensland Arts Festival Song Trails. 30/07/2011 - No sleeping in today. Breakfast, some happy snaps fresh produce from the garden, food for the day and we were ready to roll. It was a bit misty heading through Upper Barron but once over the Great Divide to Ravenshoe it was a clear day, the grass was dry from the frost and we were now on the way – the Savannah Way actually. Already there was a sense of freedom and how good was that? Oh we were real comfortable with it actually. All settled in - shoes off, cd selections made, smiles, chats, and uke on the ready as we cruised along. At Archer Creek free camp a number of caravans had their solar panels out soaking up the sun. It was advertised in the Camps 6 – Australia Wide - The Ultimate guide for the budget and freedom conscious traveller. While Archer Creek is not a designated stop on our route across, we will certainly be sourcing free camps from our Camps 6 Guide as much as possible. Passing through Innot Hot Springs Graham points out the turn off to the dredge and Nettle Creek where he, Kobi and Kirin had had weekenders for motorbike riding. Innot Hot Springs was certainly going to be a considered stop on the return journey to soak in the hot springs. Bliss!! Travelling past Mount Garnett Race Track rekindled some old memories. Besides the annual races, winter and summer solstice events in more recent times have been known to draw the avid party goer out of the woodwork. Numerous three dog trailers were on the road carting dirt to and from road works nearby. Passing Gunnawarra station turnoff, Graham pointed the way to Glenn Eagle where he, Kobi and Kirin had met with Bruce Henry to do some camping and fishing there some years ago. In my younger days, I’d had a guest singing spot at a private function at Gunnawarra station. Snow and Dick used to go fishing and camping out there too but these days they prefer to go to Glenn Ruth.
We noticed a lack of the old grids across the new road between Ravenshoe to Mount Garnett, where there’s just a line drawn across the road. Apparently, it bluffs the cattle. I wonder how long their memories will continue to process it that way. There was plenty of blue. The sky was blue and we’d been hearing a bit of Maddison Blues pumped out by George Thorogood. Life was truly good and it made us feel blessed each and every day. Catching a glimpse of a tree kangaroo in the area was characteristic. It was dark grey with thick fur and a white tip on its tail. Previously I’d only ever seen the red variety out that way. Before long we were travelling along the Lynd Road which was a stretch with bitumen in the centre, soft edges, dirt and really dry grass. There was plenty of wildlife around with crows and galahs flying overhead, emus crossing the road and pigs in the road kill. An eagle picked up a dead magpie from the road but it was too heavy and it dropped it before our eyes. A review of the power conversion set up indicated that all was working fabulously. Plugged into the cigarette lighter the converter was driving the power to an electrical power pack plugged up to four devices for recharging. It was a situation that worked much better than I had envisaged would be possible. With a smart phone that was power hungry it could be recharged constantly along with the camera, laptop computer and rechargeable lights just while driving along. Space was the minor compromise - Graham and Snow crafted the shelf that held all the gadgetry. No complaints – early days! We stopped at the Lynd to fuel up and it was realised that the notoriety of the place was the shortest bar – must be the shortest bar in the world???..... You’ve got to check it out if ever you pass through. We grabbed a chat with fellow travellers – a young Italian couple who had been in Aussie for 10 months on working visas. They were also headed for Porcupine Gorge. Because it was 100 km dirt road to Hughenden they were intending to drive there via Charters Towers in their rental car. Quite a long way round actually. There was still plenty of water about, top knot pigeons and plenty of red dirt. We’d come prepared for the dirt roads – our trusty set of wheels negotiated the few bumps and jumps and the refreshing waterways easily to get us to Porcupine Gorge. We cruised along listening to the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Bonnie Rait and JJ Cale mixed up with some jazz numbers. As Graham was driving it was my job to be the DJ extraordinaire and I just kept the music rolling. Porcupine Gorge is a national park. It is the traditional country of the Yirendali Aboriginal people and is 60 kilometres north of Hughenden. The
lookout from above the sandstone gorge was amazing and we could see where Porcupine Creek had cut deep into the landscape. From the campsite the walk down into the gorge to touch the water and see what was called the pyramid was all achievable before the setting of the sun. On our arrival back at the campsite the roof top tent was set up in record time - just two minutes. Rufous Bettong (x2) crashed our party as we celebrated our first official night on the road. While it would have been cute to feed our guests, I’m afraid we were not very hospitable. As we know feeding animals in the wild is extremely discouraged for many obvious reasons. They did attempt to help themselves and one was very forward in thinking it might help itself to my dinner plate on my lap. Once we’d sorted that out they just became bystanders to our blissful evening there with Taylors, some rum, cooked dinner and duelling ukuleles... (Did we say it was the food they were after – could have been the music??? We do amuse ourselves sometimes!!!) It was a cold night and we were early to bed for sure, but it was not as cold as it was in Cairns earlier in July when we set the tent up in our back yard. No telephone coverage at Porcupine Gorge so no communication in or out. Before our departure from the campsite we met a fellow from Yorkeys Knob who was a professional photographer on the return trip from Lake Eyre where he had completed a journalistic shoot for a German magazine. We were always amazed at the people you’d chance to meet when travelling. That’s something that both Graham and I enjoy as part of the travel experience. Solar powered telecommunication outlets along the way from Porcupine Gorge to Hughenden were intermittent and some contact was made with Gladys (my sister-in-law from my first marriage) to firm up our arrangement to meet her and Cuffy in Hughenden. By fortunate chance they happened to be headed from Cloncurry back to Sarina at the time we were heading out along the Flinders Highway. For a couple of hours we yarned and did plenty of catching up. Took some happy snaps and felt really pleased that we had been able to connect again after so many years. While in Hughenden I took note of the fact that there was a Hughenden & District Family History Society inc. As it was a Sunday it was not open. More recent research into my grandmother’s family name – Shardlow had revealed a Great, Great Uncle Samuel (Shardlow) had owned and operated business interests in Hughenden in the 1800’s. Venturing forth we travelled the road from Hughenden to Richmond – although it was bitumen there were potholes, bumps and unpredictable jumps – due care was required along that stretch of the road. Beauty could be seen everywhere – notably the different terrain, flat plains and graduated sheens of the grass.
Richmond now had a manmade lake. It was a tidy town and was a perfect spot to drop the tail gate and pull some lunch together. With easy reach to the esky and the implements in the slide out draw in the back of the vehicle this make shift kitchen worked a treat. Before road tripping again though we will laminate the tailboard to facilitate a bigger surface area than the cutting board. Headed towards Julia Creek we were reminded that the late afternoon was the worst possible time to be travelling west into the sun at dusk. There was the presence of kangaroos and they were fairly big ones – mainly greys. Julia Creek According to the Camps 6 there was a free camp on the way into Julia Creek so we sniffed it out to stop for the night. In less than six minutes Graham erected the tent, dinner was on, the wine was poured and the beer consumed like a medicine. Graham serenaded with the ukulele while Shirl tapped some notes into the laptop at the waterside location. There we were breathing in the fresh air, relishing in the moment. The world was our oyster. Waking up in the middle of the night in Julia Creek was well worth any inconvenience to come down that ladder. The experience to view the night sky at that particular time in that location was priceless. The moon was nowhere to be seen and with no city lights to overpower the spectacular view that shines out there each and every night the night sky had really turned it on - just for us – of course. Cloncurry Cloncurry is situated on the Overlander Way. In 1867, only 6 years after the Burke and Wills’ ill-fated expedition, copper was discovered in the region by early pastoralist, Ernest Henry. It was a multicultural mining community that was born. It was over 35 years since I’d spent time in Cloncurry. Alan was the only Douglas family member still living there. I had a chat with him before leaving Cairns. He was working in Winton at the time we were passing through. On our approach into Cloncurry there were many new houses since I’d been out that way. As we drove past places I remembered from days gone by some were still standing while others I failed to recognise. The Post Office Hotel was still standing. During my college years I did silver service waitressing in the dining room there. I was pleased we were able to have a few drinks at the Central Hotel with Junior Biffen who was a long time friend of the Douglas family. We had already been to visit the graves for old Frank, Kathleen, Michael and Frankie. They were in the lawn cemetery and easy to find from the description Gladys had given us. The John Flynn Museum in Cloncurry is where history tells about the inception of the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service. John Flynn who was interested in the health of people living in the outback was a Presbyterian minister. Together
with prominent business people he started flying injured persons from remote areas to hospitals. Woolworths in Cloncurry had prices relative to Cairns as compared to Richmond where we had paid through the nose the day before for Sakata rice crackers. The local library was a good option for internet access as we passed through and needed to process some transactions. Standard payphone also processed 1300 telephone number for a standard call charge which was better than using the mobile phone. Graham caught up with Mick Grant, an old school acquaintance who was living in Cloncurry. Graham was a Winton boy and went to boarding school in Charters Towers so he remembered a few people he had known from out that way. There were plenty of travellers in the caravan parks. We stayed at the Oasis Caravan Park. Graham was getting the roof top tent down to a fine art by this stage – usually only taking about 3 minutes to erect and some 10 minutes or so to pack it away. With a powered site we got ourselves fully recharged, hot showered and sorted. Fellow travellers Margaret and John from Burpengary were heading west and off to Mount Isa at the same time as us. They mentioned a deal with the RSL in Mount Isa – where people who ate at the RSL could stay free at the block behind if suitably self sufficient. Departing Cloncurry we crossed the Cloncurry River over the Ernest Henry Bridge. A short distance outside the Curry there was a monument to acknowledge that we were passing out of the Mitakoodi tribal lands and into the Kalkadoon tribal lands. I’d like to learn more about these two tribal groups, their traditional past and surviving cultures. On the way to Mount Isa the landscape was quite different - the country was hilly and rocky – unlike the terrain we had crossed to get out here. We passed Dajarra turn off which used to be a rail head for cattle. Apparently there was a phosphate mine out that way at a place called Duchess. Mick Grant talked about five mines around the Cloncurry area – being gold, silver, lead and phosphate. Mary Kathleen of course had the uranium but had been closed down for some time. Mount Isa was a place where we replenished supplies. We didn’t stay but continued on to Camooweal. To get to Camooweal, we travelled across sparse plains to get to the gateway to the Northern Territory. With a population of 310 we increased it by two for a night. It was quiet when we arrived and came through the main street.
Drover’s Rest a tourist attraction there had just closed for the day. We spoke with Jeff Simpson who was a drover there. He took people through the centre passing on knowledge and information about the droving days. As it turned out Jeff Simpson knew Graham’s Grandfather Fred Holm who was also a drover in his day. Jeff’s brother Bruce Simpson had written the book Where the Dead Men Lie in which a photograph of Graham’s great Grandfather - Fred Holm’s grave was pictured as having been found out Thargomindah way. Free camping along the Georgina River was where campers were set up for miles. The river was 100 metres across and the bird life abundant. Who would have thought Camooweal would have such a wonderful sanctuary on offer. Plenty of brolgas, herons, ducks, water hens and many bird species we had no idea of. In the coolabah tree above our camp a galah and its baby were nested in the hollow. Cattle grazed in and amongst the campers. The Brahman bulls reminded us of the Cattle Camp out on the Walsh River many years ago. We could have done with the binoculars and bird book both of which we had left at home!!! – They are definitely on the list for next time. The video zoom came in handy though as a compromise. Just magic!!! We woke to the morning sun, birdcalls and brolgas dancing and flying along the water’s edge outside our tent window. It was the sort of place we thought we’d probably get on down the track and wish we’d stayed for a bit longer. ….but we were on a roll so one night was all we allowed ourselves there. The Drover’s Rest tourist attraction had been established by past drovers from the district and entry was free. Information was provided by volunteers who were running the attraction and we found it very informative with an impressive display of old drover painted portraits. Graham gathered the appropriate forms to apply for Fred Holm to be acknowledged also upon the drover’s board there. Leaving Camooweal we were about to leave Queensland and enter the Northern Territory. Avon Downs was a small place at the edge of the Northern Territory border where there was a police station. Speed limits in the Territory were open to 130km per hour but we were not about to push our trusted rigg beyond its limitation so we continued to just cruise. Roads in the territory were pretty good and at that stage there was not a lot of traffic. There was blossom on some trees and plenty of wild Grevillia. Intermittently there had been bushfires – possibly the result of some burning off. The soil was rich red and orange. The majority of vehicles on the road would have been travellers many who were grey nomads - like us. People were travelling in all sorts of style. There were Winnebago’s, all terrain caravans, ultimate off road camper trailers, campervans, mobile homes, four wheel drive pop tops, and roof tents too. With a lunch stop at Sudan Boar we were lucky to find a bit of shade under a
tree. Even so, some caravans were set up already for the night. Nothing but an old turkey nest there with overgrown bush. We were not impressed and not wanting to free camp there we ventured forth and opted to stay at the Barkley Homestead where we had access to hot showers, amenities and some shade. There were plenty of bindi eyes at Barkley Homestead. We had a visitation from a beautiful looking grey bull that eyeballed us before Graham sorted it out and sent it on its way. The temperature was still a bit cool in the evenings but during the day we were finding it quite mild. There was a restaurant there at the Barkley Homestead and it seemed to be a very busy little establishment. The park was well patronised with vans, cabins and camping. Travellers on the road were very friendly – most gave a bit of a passing indication. Our sights were set on Blanka Blanka as feedback had indicated that it was a good campsite with amenities, powered sites and a communal campfire. Free camps were plentiful and seemed to be about 60 kms apart. It was the lack of shade though that made them so non-appealing to us. Jack Johnston, Joe Cocker and Mamas and Papas were getting airplay. Grasses, shrubs, bushes and trees with various shades of greenery and grey were seen along the way some banksias and grevilleas included. Fuelling up at The Three ways was like central station – grey nomads everywhere. Travellers at that point come from the north, south and the east. Some young girls were there looking to catch a lift to Darwin. Between Barkley Homestead and The Three Ways we had noticed the transit of army vehicles including semitrailers carrying tanks. Apparently they were all heading back to Darwin after some training program they had been away on. Lynn lunches were always pretty good. Pita bread had been a goer, sun dried tomatoes, char grilled eggplant, castello cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion were like the staple lunch diet. Yum! At every opportunity we stocked up on fresh supplies. Fresh fruit and vegetables were less available in more regional areas – but usually service stations did have ice-creams!!! We were expecting to have to get rid of all fresh fruit and vegetables when we crossed from the Northern Territory border into Western Australia so we were mindful of that and not wanting to have too much wastage. Coming from Queensland into the Northern Territory there was no problem and food disposal if required was not evident to us. The fridge/freezer system we had going worked really well. The freezer made the ice which was replaced in the fridge (esky) each day. Just before Harward Creek we drove through a willy willy whirlwind. Termite mounds were notable and as we headed north the landscape held a bit more
interest with lots of brush, trees and hills visible on the horizon. As we arrived at Blanka Blanka we were pleased to see some big shady trees and there were washing machines. The telephone service was limited to a pay telephone box – no service on our mobile phones. With hoards of caravans pulling in it was a busy place. A common area with a microwave, toaster and BBQ top was available for tour buses and everyone to use. A bus with young tourists headed from Alice Springs to Darwin made its arrival. A highlight of the place was coming together with everyone at the common campfire. All campers were encouraged to come across to the campfire and to bring musical instruments. We didn’t need too much encouragement as we were looking forward to a bit of a jam. There was a harmonica player who I jammed along with for a few songs and then I was it for the night. We had a receptive audience and it was a good time. Daley Waters was our next destination. There were many orange rocky outcrops in the landscape along the way and the sides of the bitumen road were rich red dirt. Apparently the orange is broken down basalt while the dark red soil indicates the presence of iron (Ferris Oxide). Sparse areas, small hills and slight gullies changed the monotony along the way. Like most grey nomads we were on the road by or before 10 o’clock. There were some clouds in the sky but it was looking nothing like rain. As we arrived into Renner Springs we were getting a dose of Joe Cocker. Along the way we tuned into some music from Junior See Poy and the Rock and Roll CD set. We approached Elliot where there were many hawks hovering around in the sky. Daley Waters Æ Daley Waters was a memorable little place. We had been advised by others that it was worth checking out. Beef and barra night at the pub was an attraction but so was the entertainment. Starting at four o’clock there was a Toss the Boss – Happy Hour. Toss to pay or not to pay for your drink. The night’s entertainment moved on to a guitarist playing along to midi files and singing old time rock and roll songs. He was followed by Chilli who was a local variety artist. He lifted the show with a bit of bush poetry, singer song writing and then his antic was to spin a few jokes and yarns. It was an entertaining night. At Daley Waters we met fellow travellers – Jill and Colin from Sydney and Chris and Steve. Our tent was almost up in a tree there where it seemed like a rigi didge tree house. Packing up the tent was not in record time there as the zip got stuck and as a last resort we had to cut a little nick in the flap to resolve the problem to get underway. Vehicles had been arriving there in Daley Waters for the Northern Territory
bush bash due to start on the day we were leaving. Some cars had arrived the day before. Two ladies travelling together were in a vehicle they called Brides of Station Owners. These ladies had done the variety bash the year before and were shaping up to do it again. Apparently they pay $5000 to enter – get as much sponsorship as they can muster up, then get up to all sorts of antics along the way to raise as much money as they can for the cause. Some of the vehicles included – a Rolls Royce, EH, HD, HR and a Fairlaine. One vehicle had horse heads at the front of the car, and a make shift wagon cover over the back – Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show it was called. All looked like a whole lot of fun. The publican at Daley Waters was a sponsor who put on a feed to raise money. They’d do raffles and take the hat around for donations etc. Sponsors would have paid the participants for signage on their vehicles as well. Now headed towards Halls Creek we were looking forward to the plane flight we’d be taking out to Wolfe Creek crater from there. The crater is the second biggest meteorite crater in the world. Travelling on the dirt, there was a bit of dust, some corrugation, some potholes and cattle on the sides of the road etc. Reggie handled it all pretty well. We figured it could have been a whole lot worse. The drive through this area took us through some dry, barren countryside. The mitchell grass looked as if it was dead but it was just the type of grass that it was. The cattle that we’d seen along the way were in good condition. There were plenty of native grevilleas with creamy white flowers. A lizard skedaddled across the road. It was lucky it didn’t get squashed. It had an armoured skin somewhat similar to a blue tongue lizard. The lizard was light golden and light brown in colour. We passed some huge lumpy termite mounds that were about three metres tall. Top Springs was where we topped up with fuel and we topped ourselves up with lunch. There were clouds on the horizon but they were non-threatening. The rock in the area as we approached Kalkarinji was quite shale like. Graham explained that this was a third level of metamorphic rock when sedimentary or igneous has gone to a second phase. They undergo a second change either through heat or by pressure and consequently goes from shale to slate. Marble is formed through a similar process apparently. Along the way that day, the ukulele was put into action and the start of a song was underway called Staircase to the Moon. Paul Kelly also got some airing on our travels that day. At Kalkarinji we got directions to the caravan park where we would be staying. Kalkarinji is near Daguragu. Daguragu was a restricted dry community. The language spoken in the area was Gurindji. We found people
friendly, approachable and willing to help with directions. At the time we travelled through there were about 900 people living in the communities of Daguragu on the banks of Wattie Creek and Kalkarinji formerly known as Wave Hill. Ted Egan wrote Daguragu Blues in the sixties. There was a history associated with that part of our country. The song written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody in 1991 From Little Things Big Things Grow tells the story about that history. Aboriginal stockmen who had always been the backbone of the Australian cattle industry were not paid equal to their white counterparts. In fact, it was illegal up to 1968 to pay Aboriginal workers more than a specified amount in goods and money... Led by Vincent Lingiari they set up camp in the river bed (Victoria River). The camp moved before the wet season of that year and in 1967 the Gurindji Aboriginal people settled some 30 kilometres from Wave Hill Station at Wattie Creek (Daguragu), in the heart of their traditional land, near a site of cultural significance. The Wave Hill walk-off was well supported and made headlines all over Australia. While the initial strike was about wages and living conditions it soon spread to include the more fundamental issue about their traditional lands. The Wave Hill walk-off had morphed into a land claim. The Gurindji Aboriginal people were claiming that this land was morally theirs because their people “lived here from time immemorial and [their] culture, myths, dreaming and sacred placed have been evolved in this land”. This was the first claim for traditional Aboriginal land in Australia. While Vestey’s company was prepared to hand the land over, opposition to this unusual and new ideas was very strong. In 2006 the NT government heritage listed the route of the walk-off. Nationally many people resisted the idea of handing back land to its traditional owners. Five years later (the government had changed too), on 16 August 1975, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (Labor) handed over title to the land to the Gurindji Aboriginal people – the first act of restitution to Aboriginal people and the start of the land rights movement. The Wave Hill walk-off had paved the way for the NT Land Rights Act which became law in 1975. In the same year the Gurindji people bought the pastoral lease. After the NT government threatened to resume the lease, the Gurindji lodged a land rights claim; In 1986 they gained freehold title to the waterhole of Wattie Creek known as Daguragu, which is located in the Victoria River Region of the Northern Territory.
In May 2004, a memorial to Vincent Lingiari was unveiled as part of Reconciliation Place in Canberra. Today 700 Gurindji live in the communities of Daguragu, on the banks of Wattie Creek and Kalkarinji, formerly known as Wave Hill. Source: http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/wave-hillwalkoff.html
The Freedom Day Festival was due to happen there in the forthcoming weeks and it was expected to be a big one. It would be the 45th anniversary since the Walk Off at Wave Hill Station. Arriving on a Saturday we had not realised that the store and the petrol bowsers would be closed. The store keeper did serve us and the price of fuel there was the most expensive to be encountered on the whole trip. The caravan park was right next to the store where the light and the generator went all night. Elizabeth Jones who was a pre-school teacher and John Gillingham from Hervey Bay came across for a chat. Elizabeth had been at the school for two years. The school had about 11 teachers. In the preschool sometimes she had 10 students. A school bus would drive around the community to pick up kids in the mornings. There was teacher accommodation by way of houses or two bedroom duplex style. Apart from the school, Caravan Park and store there was a medical post and an art centre in Kalkarinji. When the rain comes it can be isolating. The river near the Police Station had risen 17 metres in the last rain. Many people head out that way fossicking. Elizabeth mentioned a greenish colour stone they had found out that she polished up. The flies were really bad but they did diminish as night fell. In Kalkarinji each night at the club there was restricted access to alcohol. We had a quiet, peaceful night and were the only people staying at the caravan park. The drive through to Halls Creek took us through a vast expanse of rugged environment. It was dry and dusty while at the same time it held such beauty. The road into Halls Creek was expected to be all dirt â€“ and it was. Apart from the corrugation, the dust and some potholes a bit bigger than others it started out pretty good... The bush flowers were really interesting. Every now and then patches of grevilleas or thistle in full flower would fill the eyeâ€™s view with colour. Lots of white and purple wild flowers speckled through the bushland as far as could be seen. The bush colours were beautiful. Even the grass had sheen.
The soil colour changed from reds to grey to brown and the road’s surface changed to rocky. The hills were in the distance. Huge termite mounds were a deep red in colour while the ground surface was a greyish brown colour. What appeared to be giant desert rose trees were prolific. Some animal life on this stretch of the road included a plain turkey, black cockatoos, galahs and a five foot snake wriggling across the road. Sparseness had its own dimension. The monotony of nothing for miles even had a notable beauty. We knew it would be hard for photographs to truly do justice to what we were seeing out there. Like walking into a room that’s uncluttered – it seemed like everything had its place and each added to the beauty of the moment. Around Button Creek we spotted some horses out in the countryside off the road but not sure whether they were brumbies or stock on someone’s property. The rock through this area looked like a black shale and there were some broadleaf plants with flowers between the leaves that were quite notable. Up for a bit of fun, Graham and I stopped the car in the middle of nowhere to pan a 360 degree view of the landscape. We did a random video take of ukulele playing in the sparse fields, drove on and stopped further along to capture a rotating windmill in the paddock. 40 kilometres outside of Halls Creek and the road was pretty bad. The corrugation and rockiness of the road meant we had to travel with extreme caution. It was slow thereon in to Halls Creek. As we passed Palm Springs a bit of a water hole, there were a couple of vehicles pulled up. Some amazing countryside, it was slow going because it was through the rockiness of the hillsides and ranges. On passing through Old Halls Creek there were remnants of the Old Post Office. The significance of Old Halls Creek was that it was the first payable gold in Western Australia. There was a lodge there and some plaques to indicate where old significant sites in the town had been. Halls Creek After our trek along the dirt it sure was good to hit town and a bit of bitumen again. We drove up to the Bureau of Meteorology site where it registered the weather reading regularly each day. It was south of Halls Creek from where the Tanami Road goes through to Alice Springs. In the middle of town there was an information centre, two stores – IGA and Food Fresh, a butcher, Coles Express for fuel, hospital, Halls Creek Indigenous Radio, welding, electrical, auto and refrigeration. A large community recreation centre and aquatic centre were also noted.
We stayed at the caravan park and took a walk down to the information service where we made our arrangements for the flight to Wolfe Creek Crater. On the Sunday evening music was happening at the community centre which we considered may have been a religious service. A gentleman at the park there had arrived in Halls Creek to have some repairs done to his vehicle. Having travelled along the Gibb River Road it was now in need of repair. No one was working in Halls Creek over the weekend and he had to wait until the Monday. He was looking to travel along the Tanami Road through to Alice Springs. The airstrip was close to the town centre. There were a couple of airlines doing flights. Our flight was with Northern Regional Airways. Kieran was our pilot and tour guide. We boarded a small 6 seater plane which we had to ourselves. The aerial view was across the bottom of the Kimberly including the road west to Fitzroy Crossing and the Tanami Road that goes out through the Tanami Desert to Alice Springs. We crossed over private cattle properties and followed along Wolfe Creek out to the Wolfe Creek Crater. There was a camp ground at the crater. We circled the crater from both directions to capture a great view. Then we flew directly over the top. Wolfe Creek Crater Wolfe Creek in Australia was formed by a giant meteorite that crashed into the earth 300,000 years ago. The 50,000 tonne meteorite impacted with a speed of 15 km a second (!), leaving the second biggest crater in the world from which bits of meteorite have been collected. The crater measures 880 metres across. Wolfe Creek meteorite crater was discovered during an aerial survey in 1947, and scientists have intensively studied the crater. But the Djaru Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the area, have known the crater for thousands of years. They call it Kandimalal and have their own dreamtime story about its creation: Two rainbow serpents formed Stuart and Wolfe desert as they crossed the desert, and Kandimalal is the place where one of the serpents emerged from the ground. The crater that was left was probably 120 metres deep. Over the next 300000 years the wind gradually filled it wil sand and today the Wolfe Creek crater floor is 50 to 60 metres below the rim, which rises 25 metres above the surrounding flat desert land. Source: http://www.outback-australia-travel-secrets.com/wolfe_creek.html
Inside the crater there was a finer circle of greenery with an inner core of pale beige and white pigmentation containing high levels of sulphur. We took lots of
photos and some video. Again though it will be hard to capture the true essence of it all but it will give a bit of an idea. From the aerial view we captured colour perspectives, contours and features of the land. After circling the crater a number of times our trip back to Halls Creek was via Sawpit Gorge, Palm Springs Wetlands, an old abandoned nickel mine, Palm Springs and Old Halls Creek Areas. Other great views included seeing China Wall and Sturt Creek areas. The trip took 2 hours. Our trip out there had followed a wet season when Kieran spoke about the isolation of Halls Creek township as all the area was under water. Provisions and supplies had to be air lifted in. He spoke of a couple of Indigenous communities in the region reliant on fuel for generators and how this impacted on them. Onward we journeyed leaving Halls Creek to head towards Fitzroy Crossing. On the outskirts of Halls Creek we grabbed a photo opportunity with a large termite mound there. A little further on and there we snapped a photo of the McLintock Range. On the 8th August we stopped at Mary’s Pool. Lots of caravans pulled in, some pulled out again. Shade was becoming sparse and the camp had filled up fast. Coming from Halls Creek we were stocked up with fresh fruit and vegetables enough to get us to Broome. We were eating well. The frozen lentils always teamed well with a bit of bacon, with some rice and lots and lots of vegetables. Mary’s Pool was a free camp. There was an environmental loo there and a dump spot for caravans. Campfires were allowed so lots of people collected wood for their fires that night. The bushland there reminded us very much of the Walsh River, a riverine system with plenty of cows, crows and white cockatoos. Can you believe it we were ready to go to bed by six o’clock and in bed by eight o’clock? Two hours behind Queensland time at that point. No telecommunications service at Mary’s Pool so unable to telephone, text or search the internet. There we met Ted and Elma from Mareeba. Elma works at the Mareeba High School. Ted was a retired council worker. They pointed out some rocks in the pool where spears would have been sharpened in traditional times. Tipsy Jipsys were on their way to Darwin looking for work in the entertainment industry. Heather and Esa were a duo from Esperance in the South West of Western Australia who we met at Mary’s Pool. As we set off from Mary’s Pool we were headed for Fitzroy Crossing from where we headed out to Geikie Gorge. On the way we saw an airstrip that seemed out in the middle of nowhere. With four Indigenous Communities nearby it was realised that the airstrip would have serviced the communities.
As we arrived at Fitzroy Crossing, there were three choices of Caravan Park – all were relative in price. We ended up staying in the middle of town with a powered site to recharge the freezer and the second battery etc. It was census night so of course we had to fill out our census form. Flood levels in 2011 hit significant levels – As with Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing was an isolated community. In its flooded state, the Fitzroy River system is one of the largest in the world. Fitzroy Crossing is 114 metres above sea level and is surrounded by the flood plains of the Fitzroy River. Aboriginal language groups in the area included: Bunuba people – the river and hill people. Gooniyandi people – on the opposite side of the river; Nyigina – plains Aboriginal people, Walmajarri – the people of the Great Sandy Desert. Aboriginal enterprises in Fitzroy Crossing included Tarunda Supermarket, Crossing Inn and Ngiyali Roadhouse. The Crossing Inn opened on July 5th 1897. It was the oldest pub in the Kimberley and it was still operating. Before setting up for the night we did explore the likes of the Fitzroy Crossing Inn – saw the artwork on the building as produced more recently by high school students. Geikie Gorge was a significant feature in the area and it was a national park. It was18 km north east of the town. The road to get there was sealed. We arrived at Geikie Gorge early and took the 2.4 kilometre walk along the edge of the Fitzroy River before we did the boat cruise. It was sandy and there were plenty of bindies. The riverine environment reminded us again of the Walsh River out the back of Dimbulah – North Queensland. The 350 million year old Devonian Reef at Geikie Gorge was such a highlight of the boat trip. Many crocodiles were sighted along the way, in the water and on the edge of the water. There were over a dozen on the 3 o’clock cruise. They were all Johnson crocodiles. The Reef is all limestone and it originated from under the sea. It was a reef formation different to other reefs as it was formed by the decomposition of Algae converted into limestone. The white underlying colours of the gorge indicate the water levels in the gorge. The black was oxidisation of the rock and the orange-red was the leaching of iron-oxide. Mud nested mutton birds had build their nests under the rocks like they do every year. There were visible signs of erosion from the pressure of the water over the years and white calcification could be seen as it leached out of the monolithic structures in places. At the van park in the evening we were parked beside some travellers from Europe.
Lorenzo and Merce were from Italy. Merce was from Barcelona in Spain. She was of the Caledonian people in Northern Spain. Travelling with them also was Margarita who was from Venice. They were headed off to Darwin. They joined us after dinner for a night cap and some stories were exchanged. Making our departure from Fitzroy Crossing it was not too early and not too late. We were fuelled up and on our way. With a lunch stop at the Willare Bridge Roadhouse I purchased the Di Morrisey book – The Songmaster. The story is set in the Kimberley. I also bought a little booklet called Mayi – Some bush fruits of the West Kimberley. A very notable feature of the drive from Fitzroy Crossing across to Broome had been the Boab trees. In days gone by, I’d also heard of them referred to as bottle trees. Some of the locals carve the boabs and offer them for sale. Internet service we have found tends to last for up to 30 km on the way out of town. Arriving in Broome our first port of call was the information office where we made bookings for our plane flight up to Mitchell Falls, Horizontal Falls and Cape Leveque. A whole day’s excursion would include plane travel of 4.5 hours all up. That was our treat for all the wedding anniversaries we know we’ve missed over the years. We needed to make this booking early because apparently they book out in advance and could mean an extra time to have to stay around Broome which is not really what we were wanting. Our time frame included staying in this area for the Stairway to the Moon which included Monday, 15th, Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th. With our excursion flight booked for Wednesday 17th August the plan was to set off for Derby on Thursday 18th August. In Broome we had the time to stay in one place for more than the usual one or two nights. We were pleased about that. Caravan Parks book out pretty fast in Broome and there are three overflow parks used in the high season. The Broome Cup race meeting was on and it was expected to get quite full. Staying at the PCYC there were basic facilities, no laundry but there was a Laundromat in town. In shifting from a nonpowered site to a powered site we were put in the back block. A powered site meant we could deal with any battery recharging while the vehicle was more stationary so it was a requirement. We walked into town and back seven kilometres on a number of occasions. The walking was enjoyable. Broome was a smaller place than what we’d expected. There were heaps of pearl shops in Broome and we came across a factory where they sold the pearl meat for $120 per kilo frozen. Apparently, it tastes like scallops. There was also a classic old picture theatre - The Sun Theatre. We didn’t seem to do a whole lot each day but we were finding that we got tired fairly easily so we were early to bed most nights to then wake at our leisure. The park was pretty dry and dusty. The colour of the ocean was
magnificent especially with the contrasting red red dirt. Already we had sussed out areas indicated as the best vantage points for the stairway to the moon. We’d have three nights to see it so hopefully we would get a show. One never knows with Mother Nature. It was Friday and we set off to check out the beaches near Broome. Well we were not disappointed. It was there we found the magic of Broome – Cable Beach….without a doubt is the best beach that I have ever walked upon. Magnificent Ocean, colours, wide beach, fast tide, cool crisp water to swim in. We loved it. At the end of the main part of the beach, vehicles had access and we drove along about 20kms or so, found our own little spot and spent some blissful time – lunch, swimming and mulling around. Later we took a trip to Gantheaume Point passing the racecourse along the way. At Gantheaume Point there was a lighthouse where an osprey was on its nest. There was also a lighthouse keeper’s house. The contrast of the beautiful ocean and the coloured soils and rocks was amazing. From Gantheaume Point we travelled down the dirt road to the wharf where we had heard they have oysters at a pretty good price. We enjoyed them but they were a bit overrated. The oysters came from an aquaculture farm nearby. We had oysters a la natural, Japanese oysters and oysters baked in ginger and soy. After a bite to eat a stroll along the jetty was magic. It was twilight and a number of people were fishing there. The moon was rising to its fullest and the colours of the sky were impressive. Back at the camp we pulled together with some people nearby and got some music happening pulling up a few old songs. Bernie was into some of the old favourites of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, CCR and the Beatles. Graham had the wood skin out and tapped along. We all enjoyed the time together and had some fun. We graduated from the back block of the PCYC across to Roebuck Bay Caravan Park where we had a powered site for less money than the PCYC with laundry facilities and a much better aspect than where we were before. While we didn’t actually have a beach front view it was just a short walk away so we were impressed with that. George Sommerville was living in Broome. George worked at the TAFE in the Indigenous Lead Centre in Cairns before he and his wife Katie and daughter Matilda went to Broome. We had breakfast with George, Katie, Matilda and further addition to the family, Arthur at Matzo Brewery. It was lovely to catch up with George and his young family. It was a bit early to be tasting the different brews so we thought we’d just have to come back some other time to try a few. Matilda was full of personality and quite a communicator for her age. Arthur was a charmer – happy, placid and had a beaut big smile. We planned to catch up with George, Katie and the family again on Sunday night when we
would share a meal together at their place. George was working for Kimberley TAFE where he was doing some literacy teaching along with some resource development. He was enjoying his work there. The TAFE moved them out here for the contract which had since been renewed for another year. They were renting a TAFE house which was roomy and well suited to the climate. Katie was a West Australian girl and her family were living in Perth. There was a market on just behind the Courthouse. Apparently it was a fairly big one possibly because of the races. No local produce but there was food, wares, music and massage. We were happy and a tai massage for Shirl brought some balance and wellbeing after the road trip travel. Tripped into town, caught an internet café, downloaded paperwork to apply for a VSP offer from the TAFE. Another seven kilometre walk in and out of town was great. At Roebuck Bay Caravan Park in the evening we had the washing sorted, Graham was playing on the ukulele, vegetables and dinner was underway. Chores were done. By jove!!!! It was tough living like that!!!! Someone has to do it. How precious were the moments to be still, let the dust settle and let the pressure and stress of everyday living just melt away? Sunday morning and a visit from a blue tongued lizard had the camera clicking. It was amazing – hardly inhibited by our presence. This was its territory and it just went about sunning itself and moving across the way to where it was going. The Broome markets were in our sights again. There were a few buskers there on the day pulling a bit of money in. We discovered also that there was a suburban shopping centre where we sussed out options for internet capability on the laptop and stocked up our supplies. At McDonalds we lucked out with the internet unable to connect. Apparently at McDonalds it is too slow. With an internet café nearby we set up the laptop and gained access to some free internet for a short time establishing also the wireless connection is enabled and functional on the laptop. Sunday evening was spent with George, Katie and family and we shared a lovely meal and some time together finding out about the places they have been and their recommendations for places we could consider going to. Katie’s mum and dad arrived home after being down at town beach to view the staircase to the moon. It was Monday and we dropped into the information office and made our booking for the flight and walk around the Bungles. This we were planning to take from Kununurra. We headed north on George and Katie’s advice to check
out some of the beaches just a little into the Cape Leveque Road. As we would be flying into Cape Leveque we had decided that we wouldn’t need to fully travel the road to Cape Leveque at this time but we would head up for a bit of a look at some of the other beaches closer to Broome. The first part of the road was quite corrugated and a bit rough. Once we got our bearings and found the correct road to be heading out on we figured we had it sorted. We passed a band of protesters with their flags at the entrance to Willie’s Creek. At the time it didn’t register that such was the turnoff also for Quandong Point and Price Point where we were intending to head for. Graham continued to drive further north some 50 kms along the road taking no heed of the navigator of the trip (Shirley) who was protesting profusely – telling him he needed to at least look at the map... Eventually the delusion of self righteousness gave way and with a bit of humble pie we did get to go into Willie Creek where the water was as blue as we’d seen across this way. Willie Creek was a Pearl Farm where they did information tours and apparently there was some tasting of the pearl shell meat with one of the tours. Quandong Point and Price Point though have to wait for us to see them another day. In the evening we headed down onto the spit to be ready for this month’s major event – Staircase to the Moon. Watching the glow of a golden round moon coming up on the horizon was notable – the staircase was not as distinguishable as I would have expected. The difficulty was being able to hold the camera still enough to be able to capture the moment. At the night markets there after there were local photographers with their magic shots available. Fingers was a young guitar/didgeridoo/harmonica player who had the crowd entertained. His music was a little along the lines of Xavier Rudd and also Kim Churchill, I thought. We enjoyed a glass of wine down on the forefront of the caravan park before retiring for the night. On a previous night we had noted an interesting looking bird that seemed to be some type of owl. All devices were recharged ready for the Mitchell Falls excursion. Supplies and shopping had been finalised for a ready get away then on the following day. Time was allocated to redefine the car organisation to be prepared for the next stage of the trip. Some social connections were also made to convey our presence out in that part of the world. Mitchell Falls Plane Flight Wednesday morning and the Broome taxi picked us up from Roebuck Caravan Park and we headed off to the airport. There were two planes flying together that day and we were seated with Viv and Ken and enjoyed the day’s adventure with them. Our airline pilot was Board and he was from Norway. The other plane had a group of four people who were travelling from England. We took the flight with King Leopold Air and we were off to see some wild and
remote attractions of Australia’s North West and The Kimberley. With seating arrangements sorted out we set off for Mount Hart taking in an aerial view of the coast of Broome on takeoff. The colours of the ocean on both sides of Broome are magnificent. Across the landscape we flew over the red dusty road to Cape Leveque we had driven some way along the day before. The magic of the colours from the air was manifest and throughout the day it just got better and better. On our way towards Derby the Fitzroy River basin and Kings Sound was amazing. The manifestation of brown and white colour formations with the shades of green, water as it flowed, the land and the vegetation was so picturesque. The camera was snapping it up big time. Meandering rivers and creeks, spotted hillsides with vegetation and rocks were very visual. On arrival at Mount Hart, there was morning tea at the Wilderness Lodge and a bit of a wander around the lodge. Heading north past Walcott Inlet and the Harding Range we came to Kings Cascade waterfalls. Gorges, waterfalls and waterways were viewed all along the way – across mountain ranges then onto the remote Mitchell Plateau for a light lunch and comfort stop. Some boats and swimmers were seen in some of the areas enjoying what the remote environment had to offer. On arrival at the Mitchell Plateau the Livistonia Palm foliage was notable. Apparently there are 18 different species of Livistonia Palms and this was one fairly unique to the area. At Mitchell Plateau we picked up two additional passengers who were on their way back to Broome. A young university student Liz had been out at an Uncles’ property on an archaeological dig. Mitchell Falls were spectacular. We passed over the falls in both directions before heading south to the Hunter River. As we flew on our way towards Kuri Bay the northern coastline of Western Australia was absolutely magnificent. The colours were something else – quite different to the crystal blue water around the west coast of Western Australia. Flying over Boneparte and Buccaneer Archipelagos the water was more opaque and teal to turquoise in its colour. It was just stunning and some of the most incredible coastline I have ever seen. Apparently Kuri Bay is home to the largest pearl farms in the southern hemisphere. We passed over the Paspali Pearl farm – a number of others were pointed out along the way also. Across Collier Bay and Montgomery Reef breeding grounds for the humpback whales. I spotted a whale breaching in and out of the water. I did get to share the sighting with Graham however there was not enough time to capture a photograph of it – the plane was also quite some distance away. Kings Sound and the Horizontal Falls were amazing parts of this trip as we crossed the Dampier Peninsula. The Dampier Peninsula is the most northerly point and is resplendent with sparkling waters and pindan cliffs. The horizontal falls are a natural phenomenon created by one of the highest tides in the world flowing in a white-water plume through two narrow openings. We flew around these in both directions so everyone could get a
good view. We then flew over a pearl farm at Talbot Bay and the many hundreds of deserted islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago and the large open cut iron ore mines of Koolan and Cockatoo Islands. Cockatoo Island was at some stage purchased by Alan Bond with the prospect of turning it into an upmarket resort – it is however a mining community again these days. Another really popular way to view the Horizontal Falls is to fly out in a seaplane, transfer to a boat and I have heard that some people have ridden across the falls. Landing at Koojaman on Cape Leveque we had time to stretch our legs walk down to the beach and refresh ourselves before our return flight along the Indian Ocean. At Cape Leveque there was an eco tourism venture apparently quite expensive but almost always booked out. Cape Leveque is renowned for the red cliffs meeting the pristine white sandy beach and the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean. The flight back to Broome was along the many bays and beaches of the Dampier Peninsulas’ west coast where many features included: One Arm Point – the southern tip of the Buccaneer Archipelago which is an aquaculture hatchery, home to turtles, tropical reef fish and trochus shell. Willie Creek pearl farm, Beagle Bay Aboriginal Community where the church is famous for its amazing pearl shell altar. Whale Song is a campsite area along the way with few tourists that frequent it. Broome’s northern beaches and points of interest on the way up to Cape Leveque included: Willie Creek, James Price Point around which there currently has been a lot of controversy around the gas pipeline that looks like going ahead in the area. As we flew overhead there was already a drilling rig in the ocean taking samples from beneath. According to the archaeologist Liz who was travelling with us there have been roads mapped out up to 7 lanes wide into the area to be able to service the vehicles and machinery required for the operation. Around Broome there have been many protest signs against the proposed operation. Broome and the Kimberley may never be the same again if it goes ahead. After a magnificent day, the coastal trip was a spectacle of coloured landscapes in the wilderness as we flew low over rays, turtles and sharks all the way back to Broome. Cable Beach was spectacular and just to top it off we arrived home in time to see the sunset camel rides. Safely returned to the caravan park we ventured off to Mangrove Resort for the second viewing of the stairway to the moon. It was more spectacular than the night before. Plenty of people were around as the variety bash had arrived at their destination in Broome. After the viewing of the moon we set off for the Sun theatre – a quaint outdoor
movie theatre where we watched the movie – Bridesmaids. It was entertaining. As it was our last night in Broome we dined at Matso’s Brewery where we also enjoyed live entertainment from the bluesy duo Ask Dad. It was great. We savoured the moment some more as we walked back to the caravan park. Thursday morning and we were packed up and on our way. We set off for our next adventure along the Gibb River Road. On arrival into Derby we stopped to view the Prison Boab Tree – a place where Aboriginal people were chained in days gone by. A significant site – it was some 1500 years old. It was also noted that termite mounds were significant sites – in days gone by it was not uncommon for bodies to be placed in the mounds when someone had passed away and the termites would build the nest around the body. The tourist boards in Western Australia provided lots of information both about the pastoral history and Indigenous history. Notable information was passed on about people, the history and flora and fauna of the area. Our visit into Derby was fairly short. We visited the wharf driving across it to experience the sight of the water movement from the incoming tide which was quite a swell. Not a jetty to ever swim off I would reckon. Some telephone calls made to Kobi and Kirin prior to heading off on the Gibb River Road as we expected to fall out of service once along that road. http://www.derbytourism.com.au/pages/gibb-river-road/ As we set off from Derby, the time was later than we had expected. We did call into the Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre 4 km up the Gibb River Road from Derby where we watched a very documentary film about the Spirit of the Wandjina. There we found out about the Worora, Ngarinyin and Wunumbul people of the Mowanjum community near Derby in the Western Kimberley and the Wandjina the supreme spirit being, the creator of all life. It was explained to us how the ancestors of the people had been painting Wandjina and Gyorn Gyorn figures on rock walls and bark for millennia, and now on canvas and paper. ` According to the information we received the Owl is a sacred animal. As the story goes: There were 2 boys pulling the owl’s tail feathers out and they threw it up in the air and said, “See if you can fly now Ha Ha Ha”. The owl disappeared into the air because it was really the Wandjina. Ta Ta lizard told on the boys. The two boys who did wrong ran into the boab tree and it closed up on them. The Wandjina got angry and sent a storm down and everyone got flooded and washed away except for a girl and a boy who got rescued by a kangaroo. They grabbed it by the tail and it took them both to high ground. The two who were left had to create all the new people.
Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre is a 100% Aboriginal owned non profit organisation which provides significant income to many community members through the sale of art. From the air the Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre appears as a giant Wandjina, and features a gallery, art studio, museum space and outdoor performance area. Apparently they have a Mowanjuk Festival in July each year. [www.mownajumarts.com] I bought two books there –Rock Art in the Kimberley and Yorro Yorro which tells about things from the perspective of a local artist from the area. By the time we set off from the art gallery the time had gotten on. We were on our way to Windjana Gorge. We had anticipated that the road would be bitumen for the initial stretch along the Gibb River Road to Windjana Gorge. Such was not so... In hindsight it would have been preferable to travel the road during the day as there was no certainty about the condition the road would be in. It presented some difficulty – the trip was slow and tiring. Eventually we arrived at our destination safely, we cooked up a feed and vowed we wouldn’t travel along the Gibb River Road again at night. Along the way we were overtaken by a couple of vehicles, there were some cows on the road (minimal really) and an occasional wallaby. Spotlights would definitely be a consideration for future travel. Wallabies I had noticed were not very frequent in that part of the woods – certainly not like the Flinders Highway and other parts of Queensland. Road kill on the sides of the road was also relatively minimal. Windjana Gorge was similar to Geikie Gorge in that it was a Devonian Great Barrier Reef some 300 million years old. A pleasant walk through the riverine system amidst freshwater crocodiles and other wildlife there enabled us to experience its pristine features. The gorge was monolithic and big enough to dwarf the size of each of us. From Windjana Gorge we proceeded on to Tunnel Creek. Tunnel Creek was well known as the hideout of Jandamarra – also known as “Pigeon.” He was a rebel who had been likened to the character of Ned Kelly. Jandamarra killed an officer to free his people. Tunnel Creek was a cave system we walked through from one side of the Devonian Reef to the other. The water was cold and deep and within the cave itself it was dark with minimal visibility – torch light was required. Well worth the effort to walk all the way through the cave with water levels waist deep in places. We set off on the road to Silent Grove national park camp grounds where we
stayed the night before venturing for a walk to Bells Gorge. The road into Silent Grove was rocky, corrugated and combined with the sun in our eyes when travelling this was a more arduous part of the journey along the Gibb River Road. At Silent Grove we were parked next to some amazing Boab Trees we pulled the guitar and ukulele out and had a night’s jam. In the National Parks out that way there were facilities – some better than others. Some charge more money than others. Here at Silent Grove it was necessary to pay per person for camping and then per vehicle access into the gorge as a day visitor. The showers at Silent Grove were not very good. The pressure was poor and there was no hot water. The reward for driving into the place was Bells Gorge. It was different terrain to what we had previously experienced. It was a red rock structure with a magnificent waterfall. We approached it from the top of the waterfall and we walked along the rock ledge to view the waterfall. Here Graham saw a quoll which is a spotted carnivorous marsupial. Passing through Imintji we fuelled up had a snack and ventured forth. On the same day we proceeded onto Galvin’s Gorge where we had lunch. Leading into Galvin’s Gorge there were ponds of water with waterlilies – very serene. The gorge was small but significant. A rock painting of a Wanjina was viewed on a protected rock face. Young school students from Mount Barnett School were fishing there. One of the girls caught a small fish and she kept it to take home. Some tourists were sunbaking and others were swimming. Galvin’s Gorge was small but notable. It was August 20th - Graham’s birthday and we were heading to Manning Gorge to camp. We accessed Manning Gorge by coming through Mount Barnett Station. Mount Barnett Station was owned and operated by the Kupungarri Aboriginal Community. The roadhouse provides a range of grocery lines, some fuel but NO MECHANICAL OR TYRE REPAIRS. It was the gateway to the pristine Manning Falls located at the end of an adventurous bush walk from the tranquil campsite on the bank of the Manning River. Manning River was a riverine water system we had to cross to get to the walking track to the falls. People swam in the river which incidentally had 7 resident crocodiles – fresh water crocodiles (that were sighted on the day). The local school had a fundraiser with a donation for the use of the styrofoam boxes or the boat to get across the river. They were raising money for a trip to Darwin. In the evening Aimen and Sonya – two German tourists travelling in Australia joined us for the meal of fish (Big mouthed nannygai – a la Peter Todd) and so we celebrated Graham’s birthday. It was the coldest night that we had had so far – having to get back under the doona and covers to keep warm. Even a few rumbos and red wines were not enough to warm us up... In the morning we took the walk into Manning Falls. Manning Falls were quite
significant. At Manning Falls there was some rock art on the wall leading into the waterfalls. The waterfalls were quite notable with people swimming and enjoying the location. It was quite a lengthy walk into the falls up and down the hillside along rocky pathways. Showers at Manning Falls were some of the worst we have had. The pressure was minimal and there was no hot water. Packed up and ready to venture forth but in the middle of the Gibb River Road where Mount Barnett Roadhouse clearly indicated that they did not offer any mechanical repairs, the telephone service was only by pay phone at the Roadhouse - we were at the campgrounds about 10 kms from the roadhouse and our car decided that was the day that it was going to have a little spack attack. Not sure why it happened but when we were ready to push on – old Reggie Rig was not. There seemed to be some problem with the fuel pump. Graham was trouble shooting and had tried all that he knew to be able to resolve the problem but it was not enough. Brian came across to assist and offered to help Graham. Brian’s partner June stood chatting for agers while they were trying to resolve the issue. Brian and June had been ready to depart and venture forth on their trip but very kindly offered us some assistance. In places like this people are very helpful and all efforts to try to assist us at that time were truly appreciated. It must have been about 3 hours though that they had been working on the car, problem solving and trying to resolve the situation. It was not until Steve came. He saved our mutton and got the car going with some bush mechanics. At that point we decided it was time to head off – keep on going to get as close as possible to Kununurra where assistance would be available if it were to do the same thing again. At that point we were not assured of what our situation would be. While part of me was envisaging the need to possibly spent time in Kununurra to get repairs to the vehicle another part of me held faith that whatever presented itself we would be able to resolve and work through it. It was quite a trek into the night. While we had planned to get to Ellenbrae and stop there for the night we actually missed the turn and kept going to Home Valley Station. It was quite a relief that we had been able to push on to the extent that we did. We had not contemplated though ever travelling the Gibb River Road again at night... The night was adventurous and it kept us on our toes. Of course we had the road pretty much to ourselves. You certainly don’t pass much traffic at night on the Gibb River Road. A notable moment as we travelled that night though was when we came upon a pack of dingoes. First there was one, then two, three – four. One of the dingoes got caught up in the moment and the vision of the night lights from the car. It was as if it was racing us. If we accelerated, then the dingo did too, when we slowed down it did as well. It raced along in front of us for a couple of kilometres before it made its way off the road.
Home Valley Station was an interesting place. We stayed the night there. It was owned and run by the Aboriginal Land Corporation as a 615000 acre cattle station Indigenous training facility and premium tourism destination set at the base of the Cockburn Range. Apparently the Aboriginal Land Corporation was established in Paul Keating’s time as a way for Aboriginal people to find an alternative way to regain the use of their land when Native Title claims failed. There at Home Valley Station I was impressed to see a program that was set up for further educational development of Indigenous people. There were numerous activities that provided potential for training in hospitality, tourism, horticulture and land management. Equestrian and fishing tourism activities were also offered. With a well established bar and a local entertainer most nights of the week, a swimming pool and showers that had steaming hot water it was quite desirable after some of the places along the Gibb River. The smell of the stables was the only downside. Graham turned the engine of the car over many times that night. The issues seemed to have been resolved. Website for Home Valley Station is: www.homevalley.com.au From Home Valley Station we set off for ElQuestro. We purchased our park permit to enable us to venture into the ElQuestro Park and covered us for Emma Gorge also. Fortunately the vehicle had not looked back and all seemed to be A – OK with no problems since our incident at Manning Gorge. We were feeling a bit blessed about that. ElQuestro was an interesting place. It was its own wilderness park and park permits needed to be obtained to venture in. Our first port of call was to Zebbity Springs which we thoroughly enjoyed. It was a thermal pool and like bath water we lolled around in it until the park ranger asked us to leave which was at 12 o’clock when the resort provided exclusive access to bus tours. Here we met Jan and Graham and they were travelling in the Trail master caravan from Melbourne. From Zebbity Springs we went to ElQuestro. While there were a number of gorges that could have been explored from here – in view of the fact that we were still a little concerned about the car we certainly didn’t get around them all. We had earmarked Emma Gorge as one that we would like to do and so set forth to do it. Some feedback that we had from others was that ElQuestro gorge was a bit overrated. It also was quite a long walk to take in the best features of the walk and Champayne Gorge no longer provided access to the rock art that previously had been a feature. This was as a result of the rains that in 2011 had been a record year. Part of the gorge had been cut off. At ElQuestro there was an artist in residence and there was a common campfire at the bar area. ElQuestro Wilderness Park was considered a unique holiday destination. It was a million acres in size and it extended for approximately 80 kilometres.
We left the ElQuestro camping area to go to Emma Gorge. The walk into Emma Gorge was pleasant – scrambling over rocks with a slightly elevated climb. We came upon the English tourists who we had travelled to Mitchell Falls with on our flight in the Kimberley. When we arrived at Emma Gorge there were quite a few people there and some already swimming. Graham proceeded to take a swim and lasted a whole 30 seconds. He found the water so cold his feet were becoming numb. I was a squib and didn’t go in at all. Apparently there was a warm thermal pool on the right hand side on the way in. It was a very small pool and people were already enjoying the warmer water there. Our next destination was – Wyndham. The road getting out of ElQuestro was one of the worst that we had travelled. An explanation for this has been that more vehicles have been accessing this part of the road and so the corrugation on the road is considerably worse than other sections of the Gibb River Road. While there was a grader on the road, it was weird that it would do a section of the road somewhere along the track – and you would end up with a good section in the middle of nowhere and on either side the road would be questionable. We also found that sections of the road that had detours were probably some of the best along the way - maybe they need to do a lot of detours each year. Anyhow…. as we were off the Gibb River Road and on the road to Wyndham when we stopped by at a place called The Grotto. Here there were manmade steps down into a small gorge – where according to some other locals the water was not desirable for swimming. The view down into the gorge was interesting and we had lunch overlooking the gorge before pressing onto Wyndham. The water gets washed annually by the waterfall that flows during the wet when it becomes a local swimming spot at the base of the 140 steps. The mountain range coming from ElQuestro into Wyndham was spectacular they were called the Pentecost Ranges and were quite notable in their topography. Wyndham is West Australia’s most northerly town located in the Kimberley region. In Wyndham we checked out the lookout where we saw the five rivers running into the gulf - pretty spectacular. The panoramic views from the top of the Bastion were spectacular. A bronze plaque showed where the Forest, Pentecost, Durack, King and Ord Rivers entered the Cambridge Gulf. You could see where the cattle were being yarded for shipment and there was the aerial view of the crocodile farm. Trucks carting iron ore from a mine 180 km away had creating stockpiles ready for export. Along the road to Wyndham the trucks were quite frequent. We viewed the Aboriginal Dreamtime sculptures in the middle of town. The monument to the Indigenous heritage of the region made quite a statement.
We headed out to the caves near the Moochalabra Dam to view the cave paintings. Scrambling over rocks we eventually found our way and took some photographs of the rock art. The rock art was located along a rocky escarpment. Much of the artwork was on the underlying surfaces where it was most protected. On the way out of Wyndham we called into an art gallery and although we were right on closing time we were allowed to check it out. Some interesting pieces there. The art was regional and not Indigenous specific. Had a good look around in Wyndham we decided to venture forth to Kununurra and we found accommodation at the Hidden Valley Caravan Park. Kununurra was an interesting place to visit. Located at the eastern extremity of the Kimberley region Kununurra is the largest town in Western Australia north of Broome. At Kununurra the Ord River Diversion dam and the Ord River Dam provide an abundance of fresh water for tropical agriculture crops. Tourism and mining also play an important role in the region. At the caravan park we met a number of people who had travelled to Kununurra, found work and had stayed on. Next to us in a van there were Susie and Pete a young couple travelling from Germany. They had been there in Australia since May and were working in Kununurra. Behind us there was Jane who was from Melbourne and she and her husband also had jobs there. They quit their jobs in the city and took off for a year’s travel. They had both found work in Kununurra – they were still there and deliberating their next move. Another couple, Jane and Sue arrived with their Avan from Brisbane. Jane’s brother was turning 60 and they were both heading out to Western Australia to celebrate the 60th birthday with a camp out. From Kununurra we were able to reorganise ourselves, have a bit of a cleanup, have a look around from the Kelly Lookout and check out the local Aboriginal Arts Centre to view some local art. A trip out to the Zebra Rock Art Gallery was just in the nick of time to view some beautiful pieces of work. Graham purchased a pendant for me made from the zebra rock. The zebra rock is apparently totally unique to the area and has been placed at 600 million years in the Upper Proterozoic era or Pre-Cambrian period. The only known deposits in the world have been discovered in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. It consists of fine grained siliceous argillite (indurated siltstone or claystone) with rhythmic patterns or red bands or spots contrasting sharply with a lighter background. It is not known how the regular patterns were formed but the red stripes are coloured ferric (iron) oxide. Geologists have investigated Zebra Rock without producing any valid explanation of its’ origin.
This siliceous silt stone with markings like that of a zebra has red/brown bands or spots on a white or cream background. The red/brown colouring is due to the presence of iron oxide (haematite) which is lacking in the white/cream material. Source: http://www.ozrockscreations.com.au/zebra_rock.html
We checked out the Diversion Dam overflow which we had noted at night on our arrival. The Celebrity Tree Park had many trees that had been planted by celebrity people at different times over the years. Cooked up a meal and met some other travellers at the Hidden Valley Caravan Park where we were staying and did a bit of grocery shopping ready for the next stint of our journey. It was an early morning start to catch the bus out to the airport for the flight over the Bungles. The trip was Grahamâ€™s birthday present for the year. Congregated at the airport there were quite a few people heading off at the same time with Crocodile Airlines. On leaving Kununurra, the flight took us out over Diversion Dam and Lake Kununurra, from where we could also view the township and the outer lying areas, local crops of mangoes and sandalwood trees. We set off over the expanse of the Argyle Dam flying across its greatest length. This is a really large dam. Apparently there are cruises that can be taken on the dam also. The aerial view of the countryside was amazing. We also flew over the wave formation of the Osmand Ranges which were pretty amazing. When we landed at the Bungles, Graham and I were picked up by Stu who was to be our tour guide for the day. Stu drove us to the Kimberley Wilderness Lodge where we had a cooked breakfast, gauged some information from the boards there before setting off on our adventure to view the Domes, walking through Piccaninny Creek and Piccaninny Gorge onto Cathedral Gorge, Echidna Chasm and Osmand Lookout. For thousands of years the Bungle Bungle Range was extensively used by Aboriginal people during the wet season, when plant and animal life was abundant, however very few Europeans knew of its existence until the mid 1980â€™s. In 1982 an enterprising journalist began filming a documentary on the cattle industry in the area and captured the amazing beauty of the Bungle Bungle ranges on film. After public viewing, the bungles received widespread media coverage followed by an extensive publicity campaign. In 2003 Purnululu National Park was recognised on a global stage, becoming a World Heritage listed site for its outstanding universal geological value and its exceptional natural beauty. The Bungle Bungle ranges are an outstanding example of cone karst in
sandstone and owe their existence and uniqueness to several interacting geological, biological, erosional and climatic phenomena. The sandstone towers of the Bungle Bungle Range are an outstanding example of the geomorphic process of weathering b wind, rain and flowing water. The towers have been formed over millions of years from sandstone and conglomerate. They were laid down as the intertidal sands and gravel that formed a bay on the shores of the Ord basin about 360 million years ago, the East Kimberley was uplifted probably by stress caused when the supercontinents of Gondwanaland and Laurussia collided. A period of prolonged erosion followed and several kilometres thickness of rock was removed as erosion continued until about 20 million years ago. The beehive shaped domes have formed case hardened skins, helping to stabilise the rock surface. The skin has a striped appearance, with layers of orange and dark grey, resembling tiger skin. [for more information .. Alligator Airways information brochure.] Source: www.alligatorairways.com.au
The Bungles were absolutely amazing. The rocky creeks and the erosion over many years were absolutely fascinating. The world heritage listed beehive type structures were amazing. They were in the Purnululu National Park. A landscape of orange, grey and black domes were elevated as high as 570 metres above sea level and stretched for kilometres. The icons were not extensively known about until the 1980s. It was in 2003 that they were Heritage listed. Some Aboriginal Rock Art was viewed on the way to Cathedral Gorge. In walking through these monolithic structures I was reminded of the Lost City of Petra – another amazing place in our world of standing ancient antiquity. In places they also reminded me of orange licorice allsorts. The Bungle Bungle Range was renowned for its striking beehive shaped domes, the world’s most exceptional example of cone karst formations. They were made of sandstone deposited about 360 million years ago. Erosion by creeks, rivers and weathering in the past 20 million years has carved out the domes, along with spectacular chasms and gorges, creating a surreal landscape. The domes’ striking orange and grey bands are caused by the presence or absence of cyanobacteria. Dark bands indicate the presence of cyanobacteria which grows on layers of sandstone where moisture accumulates. The orange bands are oxidised iron compounds that have dried out too quickly for the cyanobacteria to grow. In our travels throughout the day we got to see a water monitor – very similar
to the goannas we have at home but somewhat smaller. We also viewed a lizard which was not of the ta ta variety. Birdlife was abundant but there really was not a lot of animal activity otherwise to be seen on the day. Plenty of plant species to be seen notably another species of Livistonia there at the Bungles. The stones along the creek beds as we walked were absolutely amazing – the colours included reddish, pinkish, mulberry type tones amidst the general greys, whites and light sandstones colours. One could be very tempted to take a rock as a souvenir of this place however – being a sacred place and along with the beliefs of the Indigenous people it is a site to be respected from which all who visit there are required to respect the wishes of the local people to take nothing away. There was connection between the Indigenous people, the land, the flora, the fauna and all within the natural environment there. There were some areas within the Bungles that people were forbidden to visit because of the significance of sites to the local people. There were two public camping sites available for tourists and there were two main groups doing tours in the area. It was quite a treat to have our lunch inside Echidna Chasm. It was a space caused by faults in the earth, it was cool and we relished the moment to be in such a place. Apparently 11 o’clock to 12 o’clock was the best time to view the Chasm and we could see why as the light from the sun shone down into the shaft there. As we were departing the Flying doctors aircraft had arrived. It was there to pick up a tourist who had put her hip out in the course of her activities there at the Bungles. On our departure the pilot flew us over the top of the Bungles for an amazing overhead view of the gorges and aerial view of the landscape. Again we flew over the Osmond Ranges which are located just south of Texas Downs Station and appear as two separate waves about to break over a reef system. A unique formation the result of ancient volcanic plate activity associated with the formation of the Argyle diamond pipe and the Bungle Bungle ranges. The volcanic plate system was a two plate arrangement, one moving north and the other moving south. Caused by earthquake activity, the movement had forced the southward moving plate up above the northward moving plate, forming a variety of rock creations. On the return trip our scenic flight took us for a flight around the Argyle mining site which was far bigger than we had imagined. Flying overhead gave us some perspective on the size of the operation there. Apparently workers at the mine are well catered for and it was pointed out to us that the diamonds transported from the mine for security purposes were flown out on random days. Apparently there lies a considerable dig under the airstrip which will be
dug up when the lease on the mine expires in some year’s time. As the story was told, diamonds were discovered by accident when a geologist thought she had found some test diamonds onsite. We flew back over the Ord River and the Ord River dam – some amazing landscape. From my understanding though the development of the dam meant a displacement for the local people there whose livelihood relied on access to river before it was dammed. Apparently after the damming of the Ord River – the local people make their way to the lower Ord River to meet their fishing requirements. The Ord River Irrigation area commenced in 1961 and was completed in 1963. Situated at the base of the dam wall was the Ord Hydro Power Station, the largest generator of renewable energy in Western Australia. The Ord River Power Station provided power service to Kununurra, Wyndham and the Argyle Diamond Mine. As we flew over Lake Argyle it was also pointed out where Zebra Rock was found on the outskirts (the mine was currently underwater) of Lake Argyle which was a unique rock formation known only to that area. Lake Argyle has been described as around 23 times larger in volume than Sydney Harbour. As the largest manmade lake in Australia it has been classified as an inland sea. The vast rugged Kimberley was one of Australia’s last great wilderness areas. We explored its beauty amidst a dimension where it has been relatively unhindered. What a fortunate opportunity. Arriving back at the Kununurra caravan park after such a day – it had been full on and after an early morning start it was quite tiring and we were to get ready for our exit the next day….. Onto Katherine. Back through the Northern Territory Our trip to Katherine landed us across the Western Australian border back into the Northern Territory and with that we lost some 1 ½ hours of time. In the territory we were now only ½ hour behind Queensland. On entering the territory the ranges in the countryside were notably different by their rich red colour. The escarpments were also quite notable with mountain ranges running for miles alongside the road. We noted that the Pinkerton Ranges as we arrived into the Northern Territory seemed to run for miles and miles. Katherine was a modern town the third largest town in the Northern Territory. The first people of the area were the Jawoyn and Dagomen people.
The Katherine River provided an abundance of food and water. The first European to pass through that country was Ludwig Leichhardt. On arrival at Katherine we stocked up with some supplies and then headed out to the Katherine Gorge to camp for the night. At the campsite we were joined by a number of wallabies grazing on the grass in the camp grounds. Nearby the screeches of the bat colony could be heard. We were careful not to park under trees they would consider attractive. The Gorge camping area had a resort pool and a facility for buffet meals and a bar. We booked a morning cruise for the Katherine Gorge. We cruised through the information centre for the Nitmuluk National Park which provided good information about the Aboriginal culture in the area, the activities and the geology. Katherine Gorge was located 29 kilometres from Katherine and consisted of 13 natural gorges carved through sandstone by the Katherine River, with rocks and boulders separating each gorge. The cruise took in two of the many gorges that could be visited in the area. Our tour guide Justin provided an entertaining commentary all the way along the gorge. In the first gorge many people were canoeing and fresh water crocodile nesting areas were pointed out. No crocodiles to be seen though. Departing the first gorge, we passed by a rock art site of notable interest before boarding the second boat in the second gorge. Fish could easily be seen in the water from the boat and we observed catfish, garfish, archerfish, black brim and freshwater swordfish all in a matter of minutes. The sheer cliff used in the movie Jedda was pointed out and the notorious Katherine Gorge that is depicted on every gorge postcard. Bottle swallows were trilling in and out under the rocky ledge overhanging the water busily building their nests. It was the expanse of the Katherine Gorge that was impressive stretching for some 40 kms. Edith Falls also known as the Leilyn are picturesque waterfalls providing the backdrop to a swimming hole and well known feature of the Jawoyn-owned Nitmiluk National Park. A 2.6 km trail looped walk goes to higher levels of the waterfall beyond which the trails continue. The water was refreshing and of course a number of people were there appreciating the value of time in the water out of the sun. On the outskirts of Litchfield National Park we stopped at a small caravan park called the Banyan Tree. Here we had a powered site for $22 for the night. Each time we call into a park it is an opportunity to chat with neighbouring travellers to find out the places they have been and their comments about their adventures. Before setting off around Litchfield National Park, telephone reception kicked in and we got the news from Mum that Aunty Betty had passed away. In contacting Mum and Dad they had both been recovering from a bout of the flu.
Litchfield National Park was an ancient landscape shaped by water. It featured numerous stunning waterfalls which cascade from the sandstone plateau of the Tabletop Range. The park covered approximately 1500 sq km. The intriguing magnetic termite mounds were renowned for facing the north south direction to maximise their capacity to draw heat and energy from the sun. Unlike other termite mounds their termite mounds are built above the ground. Within a field these outcrops were consistent in the direction that they faced and each outcrop in the distance looked like a cemetery tombstone. Florence Falls, Buley Waterhole were well frequented by travellers keen to catch some fun and action in the waterways. A visit to Tabletop Swamp was where we saw waterlilies floating in wetlands with some birdlife about. The weathered sandstone pillars of The Lost City was quite intriguing as we looked within the structures for the various types of stone formed and shaped by the elements of nature. While these outcrops were nothing more than eroded rock remnants it certainly did give the sense of some type of lost city with walks in and through many of the rocky outcrops. Tolmer Falls were yet another pristine waterway in the Litchfield National Park. From a high platform looking down into a gorge below the waterfall had a long drop to the cascading creek flowing through Carpentaria palms. A break in the rock above the waterfall was where water flowed down near a cave where it was home to micro bats. Wangi Falls was a place where plenty of people were swimming. First we took a walk up to the treetops where we saw a big ugly toad, plenty of Carpentaria palms, bat colonies in the trees and a golden orb spider somewhat smaller to ones we’ve previously seen at home. Plenty of people were hanging about just relaxing, soaking up some sunshine, swimming and enjoying what the falls had to offer. Within the water fish were evident but fishing was not allowed. They looked like black brim. Wheelchair accessibility meant these falls were relatively easy to get to and check out. Aboriginal people have lived throughout the area for thousands of years. It was important to the Koongurrukun, Marranunggu, Werat and Warray Aboriginal people who’s Ancestral Spirits formed the landscape, plants and animals and still considered present in the landscape today. Heading out of Litchfield we took the dirt road to Berry Springs. We were heading for Darwin and keen to get there. We were ambitious in thinking that the information centre would be open on a Sunday. It wasn’t but there was plenty of activity in the centre of Darwin around the pubs nearby. We caught
a night market at one of the beaches there, grabbed a feed and strolled onto the beach to view the sunset where we chanced to meet again with Sonya and Armin who we had met in the middle of the Gibb River Road and who joined us for a meal on Graham’s birthday at Manning Gorge. Now what would the odds be…… Having been in cruise mode … we didn’t materialise the need to book caravan park accommodation until we were done with Darwin that evening. Most places we had been had operated on a fairly laid back approach to be able to just cruise in at any time of the night. In Darwin, however the caravan parks close early in the evening. Painstakingly we drove around to a number of caravan parks to find the same demise. Having driven out to Palmwoods in search of a caravan park we had considered camping along the way into Darwin at an information area – however someone else was already running with that idea. Heading back into town we drove around behind one of the parks we had considered we would have liked to stay at – just on the off chance that there might be somewhere nearby open. We pitched our tent at the back of the caravan park in a quiet street in suburbia and oh yes… it was an early start the next morning to be up and gone and out of sight. Back into Darwin to spend the day, we walked the Esplanade and checked out the water park. It was a small world, as I recognised Kathy Pope from the TAFE as we came out of the lift at the water park. Strolling through the mall we had lunch, stocked up – checked out Fanny Bay and headed for Kakadu. On the way to Kakadu we passed through Humpty Doo – we didn’t blink – we saw it. At Windows Wetlands there was an informative display and interactive activities at an information centre there. Pressing on, we stayed at Corroboree Park Inn where we got a powered site – recharged, got organised and ready for the next leg of our journey. Kakadu was a world heritage listed National Park. Kakadu was home to one of the largest concentrations of Aboriginal rock art in the world. An entry fee applied to all interstate and international visitors into the park. With an early start we set off for Kakadu stopping along the way at Mamukala where there was information about the seasons in Kakadu and the wetlands – a lookout over the large billabong, and a walk where we were able to view the flocks of magpie geese on the waterways. Bowali was a Gun-djeihmi name for the local area and creek on land owned by the Mirrar clan. The building’s design was inspired by an Aboriginal rock shelter. At Bowali Visitor Centre we gathered some brochures, watched a film and headed for Jabiru.
Jabiru was a small mining township with a wide variety of services located in the centre of the national park. There we found a shady spot alongside the Jabiru Lake for lunch. There were seven regions of Kakadu and they included: South Alligator region, Jabiru region, East Alligator region, Nourlangie region, Yellow Water region, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls Gorge region and Mary River region. Off to Ubirr for the afternoon sessions with the ranger there who talked about the art sites. Aboriginal people had lived in the Ubirr area for thousands of years and it was one of Kakadu’s most famous rock art galleries. The art sites were quite significant and there was quite a realm of notable rock art. Sarah was the ranger who spoke about three different cultural topics in association with the rock art on the day. First she spoke about The Rainbow Serpent – relationships and kinship systems. Next she spoke about A Home through the Ages – elaborating on the depiction of art in relation to the location of their home. The final talk was about – People and The Floodplains which was conducted from the lookout on sunset. The emphasis was on the connection to country and the land and the spiritual associated to all things in that country. The talks were excellent and complimented very much the place we were in and the culture within that context. The sunset was outstanding. The view from the lookout encompassed sights of various landscapes from a 360 degree aspect. Many people were there to view the sunset and enjoy its beauty. The moon was waning and it was just about a new moon, staying in the caravan park at Kakadu Lodge there were too many lights there though to be able to view the night sky of Kakadu at its best. Nourlangie was another art site that we visited. Nourlangie Rock Art Site served as a shelter and canvas for thousands of years, providing windows to a rich spiritual tradition. Paintings such as Namarrgon (the lightning man) explore the relationship of Aboriginal people to their country and beliefs. Within that art site the focus was on the way that local Aboriginal people lived in the area through changing times. Environmental and social changes were reflected in the rock art and in the ground, where archaeologists have uncovered over 20 000 years of Aboriginal occupation. The paintings in this gallery were painted by Nayombolmi. Also known as Barramundi Charlie. Nayombolmi spent many years working for balanda (non aboriginal people) Rock art was extremely important to the Aboriginal owners of Kakadu. It was also an important historic and scientific record of human occupation of the region.
Rock art has been damaged by many natural processes as indicated by the Rangers in their talk – weather, animals and dust are just some ways that can deteriorate these works of art. For me, Nourlangie was the most significant site that I had seen so far. The examples were of a high quality even though they had faded and deteriorated somewhat. Once again the talks that went along with the displays of artwork were exceptional and certainly gave much more depth and relevance to what we were experiencing and gaining knowledge about there. Anbangbang was a notable billabong with paperbarks, fringing woodlands and sandstone plateau scrub. Bininj used the plants in these habitats for food tools, weapons, shelter, decoration musical instruments and medicine. Some plants were also part of Bininj calendars. Calendar plants signalled changing seasons and showed Bininj when certain animals were ready to be hunted and eggs were ready to collect. We arrived at Cooinda where we would stay the night and catch the Animal Tracks Tour. Animal Tracks Tour Animals Tracks was a safari on the land of a local family of traditional hunter gatherers. With the tour we were able to discover the wild Kakadu in a unique and authentic hands-on interactive experience. Departing Cooinda in our open-sided safari vehicle we set off to access an exclusive wildlife rich area of 170 kms in the heart of Kakadu National Park. We searched for wildlife including buffalo and discovered facets of Aboriginal bush life including gathering bush foods, medicines and fibres. The focus was on people participation with stories and information provided all along the way. Sean was the tour operator who had an extensive knowledge of Aboriginal Culture. He provided relevant information for the culture and country that we were experiencing. Arriving at the property, we picked up Patsy the Aboriginal guide and her sister Sandra. Patsy was a traditional owner who throughout the afternoon provided us with the unique opportunity to experience firsthand the way that the people of the land had in days gone by sought out and found bush tucker from the land. First we experienced Patsy gathering the bulb and stems of the water lily – the stem tasted crunchy somewhat like celery and the bulb was full of seed like matter which was tasteful and crunchy. A saltwater crocodile was observed along the edge of the billabong entering the water. Even though waters may appear to be quiet and inactive –
potentially there were always crocodile lurking. Fish and bird life were also observed in the billabongs there. Underneath the freshwater mangroves (also the itchy trees because of the itchy caterpillars that are seasonal in these trees and when touched can make one very itchy.) We all were in search of mussels or long neck turtle. Some mussels were gathered to cook up for all to taste. Buffalo were observed as we came relatively close to a small group on the property. While buffalo was banned by the government some years ago, the local people still maintain herds. Everyone was armed with a hammer or an axe to seek out some water chestnuts from beneath the rushes which now lay in the dry cracked mud in the paddocks. Leaves were gathered from the palms to later do some rope making which the locals have done over the years creating woven bags which incorporated dyed colours from the root of a plant in the vicinity. As we arrived at the location where we would be cooking up for the night, the birdlife on the billabong was exceptional having never experienced so many birds together in one place before. Preparations for the evening meal were made â€“ the magpie geese had to be plucked, the fire set up with the stones on top â€“ then the laying of the food for the cooking, the addition of water to create a steaming effect and the grevillea type plant and the bark overlay and soil on top to maintain the heat of the fire for the cooking. At that time, the damper was made and a fire was prepared specifically for the billy and the damper. The sun was going down and it was a magnificent landscape for taking photos across the lake with all the birds. The water chestnuts had been cooked and were up for tasting. They tasted a little like a macadamia nut. The mussels were up for tasting. They were very muddy in their taste and not to my liking. The buffalo, the damper and the magpie goose were ready for tasting. The tongue of the buffalo was also on offer to taste on the night. It was great to have the taste of all these foods, see how they were prepared in the traditional way and interact with the local ladies to talk about the way they prepare them.
The excursion was well worth while, a notable, authentic experience with knowledge and information about culture included at every opportunity. Dead beat at the end of the day, we were getting ready to pull out the next day so we had to get ourselves organised. At the lodge at Cooinda where we were staying there was a restaurant, an internet café, a resort style swimming pool and an outdoor café. Many tours were organised from that spot including the cruises on Yellow Waters. On the way out of Cooinda we called into the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre which was fantastic especially after having completed the tour Animal Tracks. The shape of the building represented a Warradjan which was a Gundjeihmi name for pig-nosed turtle. The cultural centre was owned by the Murumburr clan. Developed by Bininj/Mungguy, the display provided detailed information about local Aboriginal culture particularly in relation to the connection with families and their land. The displays were fantastic and activities and information was very informative. Some displays included information about the fauna and flora of the area, kinship relationships, the 6 seasons of Kakadu, landscapes and habitats. I purchased some wilder bead earrings from the centre made from seeds collected in Australia maintained in their natural form. Onto Yellow Waters which was a wetland with flora and fauna where we took a boardwalk walk around sections of the Yellow Water billabong. There were numerous bird species co-existing with the large saltwater crocodile population. There was a crocodile on the edge of the water, plenty of fish moving about in the water, insect life and bird life. A cruise boat was out on the water but otherwise it was relatively quiet in the area. Tours for the boats could only be booked from Cooinda. On the way out of Kakadu we passed through Mary River region and we had lunch at the Bukbukluk lookout there. Coming into Katherine the second time we headed for the shops to catch them before they closed. There was a place for rare rocks which would have been an interesting place to drop into but we didn’t get back there. We made it to do both the shopping and visit the information centre. There was plenty of activity in and around Katherine. We made it just in time to the Riverview Caravan Park where we were able to walk down to the Katherine Hot Springs for a swim. Most of the springs that we have experienced have had luke warm water – certainly easier to step into than some of the waterways along the Gibb River Road. Before leaving Katherine, it was off to the Katherine School of the Air where tours were scheduled for 9.00, 10.00 and 11.00. I caught a session along with another couple who were from the Sunshine Coast. It was interesting to see a
teacher in action and the technology that they were using for the broadcast and interaction with students in the outback. The teacher was in a sound proof room with three camera devices from different angles. The broadcast was with an early age group of learners and they were doing a movement class. From the screen we were viewing it was apparent that it was a web conferencing type program that was being used – with what appeared to be similar features to Elluminate, the technology would have been more involved though. Students had one lesson each day and then on their properties they had a tutor who worked with them to further support their learning and development. As I enquired regarding Indigenous students it was indicated that the communities were visited twice a week by teachers who go there. I did get to slip out the back and got a glimpse of teachers in their offices where ongoing work processes were being undertaken. A website is in the making apparently and will be available soon. A relatively short drive that to Mataranka region where there were many warm springs for swimming. Mataranka Township sits on the upper reaches of the Roper River. The area was made famous in the Jeannie Gunn novel – “We of the Never Never” written in 1908 about nearby Elsey Station. The station was now administered by local Aboriginal people. Mataranka was the traditional country and home of the Mangarayi and Yangman Aboriginal people. At Territory Manor caravan and camping grounds we called by to see the Barramundi Feeding. Large barramundi were fed by hand. Information was provided about these fish including the interesting information pertaining to the fact that all barramundi fish are born males. When they reach a particular size and when they again enter the saltwater then they turn female producing many eggs on 7 separate times in their life after which they become a cow and unable to produce any more eggs. When feeding the barramundi it was explained how these particular fish were trained to be hand fed and the man feeding them demonstrated how he is then able to lift them out of the water and put them back again as part of his show. Young children and spectators were encouraged to participate and also have a go at feeding the barramundi. There was also a long necked turtle which came in for its share of food also. After lunch we set off to Bitter Springs Thermal Pools which it had been indicated to us was worth seeing. Bitter Springs was incorporated in the Elsey National Park. A tropical spring-fed thermal pool it was just 3 km from Mataranka Township. Set among palms and tropical woodland, it was a shady location to relax and enjoy the warm water. At the springs there was a 1927 Franklin vehicle which was doing a Franklin Cannonball Run to raise money for Care flight. The aim of the charity run was to be the first circumnavigation of the Australian continent by an air cooled American Franklin car (in the spirit of Edwin Cannonball Baker). We took a
couple of photos of this impressive looking Bonnie and Clyde style car. We tried to get to the Never Never Museum however it was not open as indicated and we were ready to push on. We had telephone calls to make prior to being out of service for the next few days – Graham got onto Daph OK, however phone was engaged in Atherton and so I sent through a text for message to be passed on to Dad for Father’s Day as it was probable that I wouldn’t get to call him in the next few days. Set off along the iconic Savannah Way the Australian adventure drive that links Cairns to Broome across Australia’s north – stretching a total of 3699 kilometres. Headed for Booroloola it was a 549 kilometre journey from Mataranka. We called into Roper Bar some 180 km from Mataranka where we got fuel at Limmen National Park. Getting fuel in some of these places on the weekend can be tricky so always having to make sure we were topped up. The countryside for Mataranka to Cape Crawford was typical savannah country. The road was dusty, potholed, rocky and corrugated with plenty of creek crossings. Butterfly Springs was 4kms off the road and worth the trip in for a swim along the way. It was a fresh waterway with waterfall still running and some people were set up and camped there for the night. BBQs were available for campers. 20kms down the road from Butterfly Springs and we arrived at Southern Lost City. The camping ground was 20 metres away from the rock formations they term the lost city. Apparently there are numerous lost city formations in the area. From Cape Crawford helicopter tours operated flying out over the Western Lost City which was of considerable size. We took a walk up to the lookout at the Southern Lost City and through the impressive rocky outcrops before setting off on our way towards Cape Crawford. Cape Crawford lay at the intersection of the Carpentaria and Tableland Highways. Our spot at Cape Crawford – Heartbreak Hotel was spacious and shady and so we decided to stay two nights to catch up with ourselves and reorganise for the next stint of the trip. We met a fellow traveller Mark Zanker who was a retired public servant from Canberra where he worked for international immigration. We got into some ukulele, guitar playing, development of Dad’s story, did some washing and resting all as part of the course of the day. Working there at Cape Crawford was a young girl from Estonia who was travelling in Australia. She spent time in Darwin and came to Cape Crawford because she had a job offer. She was putting some money together without spending too much of it – like she would do if she was in Darwin. Her name was Lisa and she was doing the cleaning and house maiding at the hotel. In the grounds of the campground there was a bower bird that had built its bower and so we needed to be wary of what we were leaving about as it was
looking for things for its nest. At Cape Crawford there was a helicopter pilot keen to take people out for a flight over the Lost City formation. On the second night in Cape Crawford, Mark joined us and we had a card game night just playing UNO. Set off from Cape Crawford with fresh supplies a little low and hopeful to be able to pick up some bits and pieces in Booroloola which was the next town we were headed for. Booroloola Booroloola was a township in 1885. It was a place where illegal activities such as smuggling and illicit grog running proliferated. It was a remote township fully serviced and a base for many fishing expeditions in the region. While Cape Crawford was just a refuelling, camping and hotel outpost with very minimal supplies, Booroloola was a relatively larger town centre with a greater number of services and amenities. Apparently lots of keen fishermen head out around Booroloola area for some good fishing. In Booroloola we fuelled up and got some additional supplies. Communication services were back on so able to pick up some messages, make some telephone calls and make some posts on face book. We worked out some details with Helen and Snow re our connection in Croydon. Booroloola was a 245 kilometre drive towards the Queensland border. It was a challenging and remote drive accessible in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Robinson River The road on from Booroloola was heavily corrugated in places - some of it being the worst road we had travelled on. The traffic was occasional probably for that reason. A couple stopped along the way had a conventional trailer and they were paused to rectify the damage that had been done travelling on the road. Some young lads were travelling with a boat and they stopped at a number of waterways to test the water for fish. Plenty of flood ways along the way - not enough splash to clean our rigg though which was pretty dusted and dirty. As we pulled into Robinson River a free camp weâ€™d been told about there was already a couple camping there and two additional vehicles ended up staying there the night. A relatively uneventful night, we set up on the top side of the river which was up on a hillside as estuarine crocodiles are known to be in that neck of the woods. Further along our way we had an overnight at the Gregory River Station. There were lots of campers on the river. Here we met Marie and Barry who were from New South Wales and we found that they were heading out to Lawn Hill also. It was a free camp and it was not until the next day that we found out that there was a free public shower and toilet in the middle of town but no supplies. When we arrived at Adeleâ€™s Grove we made contact again with Mark Zanker
and his friend Michael who had already arrived there. They had plans to stay there for about 6 nights. Adele’s Grove was just outside of the National Park; its facilities included a restaurant and bar, ensuited accommodation as well as camping. The waterway ran through the site there and really was quite pretty. In the water the archer fish were abundant. We also observed black brim, garr fish and a turtle. Supplies were minimal and there was no fruit or vegetables. Lawn Hill Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park was a scenic national park situation in the remote north-west highlands of Queensland. The park featured spectacular gorge country, sandstone ranges and World Heritage fossils. Lawn Hill Gorge was formed by Lawn Hill Creek, which was fed by the underground freshwater springs of the Georgina Basin that underlies the Barkly Tableland. Sandstone cliffs lined the gorge and the water and surrounding vegetation attracted wildlife. The red, hard sandstone was originally a blanket of sand deposited in a shallow sea about 1560 million years ago. Ripple marks from the ancient seabed were visible in the sandstone along the walking tracks. About 530 million years ago when another shallow sea formed, primitive marine animals with hard shells accumulated to form layers of grey limestone. In the Riversleigh area, much younger pale-grey limestone, deposited between 24 and 15 million years ago lay on top of the older Cambrian limestone now famous for the fossil vertebrates it contains. Lawn Hill really was a special place. Apparently it was well frequented especially in the school holidays. Out in the middle of the outback the national park was a place of significant beauty in Queensland. There were numerous walks in and around the gorge and canoes were available to canoe up the gorge. The Waanyi people who were the Aboriginal Traditional Owners know the country as Boodjamulla or Rainbow Serpent country. According to the Waanyi people, Boodjamulla formed the Lawn Hill Gorge area and created the permanent spring water. Aboriginal occupation at Lawn Hill dates back at least 17000 years. On arrival we set off to do some walks and we checked out the rock art at Wild Dog Dreaming. The face of the rock and the colour of the rock was a rich red. The bloodwood trees were seeping a radiant rich red colour sap as well. The height and magnitude of the rocky outcrops was awe inspiring. The Island Stack walk was well worth the effort to get up there - the climb up was interesting though - lots of little steps shimmying up the side of a hill to reach the plateau to see majestic views from all sides. It was a 1.7 km stroll around the ‘table top’. Water continually alters the landscape. Porous, brittle rock known as tufa had built up into fragile formations which were evident within areas of the park.
In the evening there were plenty of calls from the birdlife around – we particularly noted the barking owls which we had also heard on numerous occasions along the Gibb River Road. We were camped alongside Peter and Michael who were from Wollongong. Peter had made his own slide on caravan - saving a considerable amount of money in the process. A father and son team they were on a fishing and drinking holiday. Marie and Barry who we’d met at Gregory Downs Station were also staying at the Lawn Hill camp. We had a music night together there with Graeme a retired school teacher and Lois who was visiting from America. Graeme bought across his ukulele, tin whistle and he played guitar also. It was a cool night as the wind howled through the gorge. Before leaving Lawn Hill we hired a canoe and set off up the gorge for a couple of hours. It was magic. We didn’t see any crocodiles along the way however we did view 8 turtles, a shag on a rock and lots of fish in the water. We arrived at the first set of waterfalls and exchanged canoes - thereby not having to carry the canoe around for the second set of falls. We did the walk up to Indarri Falls afterwards. Riversleigh World Heritage Site was the next place we visited. The site covered 10 000 hectares in the south-east section of Lawn Hill National Park. The Riversleigh fossil deposits were among the richest and most extensive in the world, with some fossils dating back 25 million years. The fossils had been superbly preserved in limestone. At the Riversleigh D Site there was an information centre telling about the fossil evidence, the geology and the animals from the region. There were many mud wasp nests suspended from the ceiling. The walk took us around the hilltop to view some fossil remains still encapsulated in some of the rocks. The view from the hilltop was well worth the walk. In 1994 Riversleigh in the south-east section of Bookjamulla and Naracoorte in South Australia were jointly inscribed as the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte) World Heritage Area. Headed for the Miyumba Bush Camp on the Riverslea Station property we crossed over the Gregory River - which had strong currents and slippery rocks. It was an anxious moment when trying to keep the distance away from the actual water fall, it was over compensated and the vehicle slipped off the causeway. It was hair raising for me but Graham had it in hand and got the vehicle out without any drama. With levels of anxiety a bit high it was realised that the camp site was back on the other side. When we arrived at the campsite there was another couple camping in a caravan there for the night also. As we were leaving the camp the next morning we crossed the Gregory River again only to find that the electricity lead had been left behind at the campsite.
The river had to be crossed at least two more times. Still a little apprehensive, I waited and took some photos as Graham came across it yet again. He’d mastered it though and wasn’t going to slip off the causeway again. While I was waiting for him to come across another four wheel drive towing a trailer came across and I had full observation of the same incident occurring with them. They got across ok too. Mount Isa As we were so close to Mount Isa we decided to drive through there to spend a couple of days with Kobi who had started work out there since we had left. He was staying in an air-conditioned ensuited donga – one in a set of four. The room was small and had a small bar fridge. Kobi made use of the camp kitchen at the campgrounds to cook up his meals. He had settled in fairly well particularly in knowing that he would be required to stay longer that he had initially expected. We set up camp at the Moondarra Camp grounds just near Kobi’s donga. Kobi drove us out to Lake Moondarra; we shared some time together, had a picnic lunch and we were joined by many pink and grey galahs. We patronised the Barkley Hotel for tea and Kobi’s friend Nick joined us. Nick had just arrived in Mount Isa prior to heading off to Cloncurry for some work with a mine there. Black Star mine was one of the mining interests that Nick had mentioned. He would be doing his induction etc there in Mount Isa prior to going to Cloncurry. Before leaving Mount Isa we took care of some telephone calls, photo uploads on the internet, grabbed supplies and were headed for Lake Julius on our path towards Burketown. It was fortunate that we did decide to come to Mount Isa. Noises that had been noticed in the car were more evident and on getting the vehicle checked out there was a need for back shockies, bearings and brushes to be replaced. Fortunately the parts required were available so we checked into a motel for an additional night in the Isa. Having been given the heads up on Lake Julius we decided to take the inland road via that spot to check it out. It was a dirt road and it was fortunate that we had followed in the trail of a grader. Initially we went too far along the road and we caught up with the grader driver on the road to Gunpowder. He redirected us and we reset our direction for Lake Julius. The closer we got to Lake Julius the rougher the road got. We had passed no traffic along the way. It was fairly secluded and obviously no major thoroughfare for traffic. They run school camps at Lake Julius – the camp though was closed. There was a lookout, sprinklers were running but there didn’t seem to be anyone about until we drove down to the boat ramp where a boat had just pulled in. Graham got the driver’s attention and he reinforced the fact that camping was prohibited even though our map had indicated otherwise. It was signposted as a day recreation area. It was early evening and we had no intention of heading out until morning as there was nowhere close for us to travel to before nightfall. The night was
remembered for the sense of isolation felt in being there. Early morning we headed for Kajabbi. Road signs along the stretch of road from Lake Julius through to Kajabbi were the worst for the whole trip. It wouldn’t have been hard to take a wrong turn in that neck of the woods. We took the second access road into Kajabbi, had a quick drive around and found it to be a relatively quiet place with not much happening. While there had been a craft store advertised (may have been the old railway station) – it was not open. Some signage indicated some mining interests in the place. After Kajabbi we set our sights on getting to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse, we fuelled up and pulled over for lunch with the biggest challenge being able to find a shady tree. We passed through Gregory Downs again and were on our way to Burketown. Burketown was an isolated town along the Savannah Way located on the Gulf of Carpentaria. A small township with a school, a pub and other local services it was quiet when we passed through. The local museum was not open and so we pushed on to Leichardt Falls where we planned to free camp for the night. When we arrived at Leichardt Falls about 70 km south of Burketown there were a number of campers already there for the night. With a nice view of the falls we positioned our vehicle for the best aspect. Across the river cockatoos filled the trees. The realisation was setting in that we were on the homeward leg and travelling again along the Savannah Way. We were surprised to find that the road from Burketown to Normanton was dirt and not bitumen. Headed towards Normanton we captured glimpses of many eagles with their magnificent stature. We also came across brolgas, a plain turkey and some wallabies. Arriving in Normanton we went to the information centre and looked through historical information there about Normanton. I did find mention of my grandmother as a teacher at the Normanton State School. A comment was made there by a past student of hers. Normanton provided information about a town walk and we checked out a number of the items featured on the walk. We easily found Val and Keith’s place in close proximity to the caravan park. We enjoyed catching up with them and Lesley and John who were staying there as well. Val introduced us to her Uncle Jack who lived next door. Jack was a Smerdon. He was a nephew of Bessie Smerdon who was married to my great Uncle Jack Shardlow. I had particularly been looking forward to catching up with Val to see what family connections I could put into perspective. Val is a great niece to Bessie Smerdon and I am also a great niece to Bessie Smerdon so we found that we have a common relative. Val shared with me some of the paperwork that she had on the family re: details of brothers and sisters of Bessie etc. and we also went to visit Stella who was at the time in hospital. The visit was helpful to clarify the Smerdon connection to our family. This information I have been able to pass on to Dad who was Bessie’s nephew.
While in Normanton, we took a drive out to Karumba. Many brolgas were sighted along the way. We also saw a pelican. Karumba was a popular holiday destination where there seemed to be two sections to the town - the old wharf area and Karumba Point Beach. We saw boats on the water and people enjoying the beach. Of course we bought some prawns. We shared two evening meals with Val, Keith, Lesley and John enjoyed their company and Val set us on our way with pawpaw and pawpaw relish. Yum... Off to Croydon where we were intent on checking out the Shardlow family history. The plan was to spend a couple of nights there with Mum and Dad (Helen and Snow) joining us. The famous Croydon General Store was quite notable featuring a counter and shelving that had been there since they were built. The Croydon information centre was very informative providing displays and a theatrette with renowned audiovisuals of Croydon. Having had previous contact with Chris Weirman from the genealogy centre there at the council’s information office I had let him know that we would be coming and that we were keen to find out information pertaining to the Shardlow, McGuire and Patten family history there. Croydon Shire proudly promotes its history. There were significant heritage places that had been restored and conserved. We enjoyed wandering through the Croydon Heritage Precinct which included many old restored buildings and displays for people to wander through and to gather information from. Croydon with its splendid heritage started with the discovery of gold in 1885. An afternoon’s drive and we went to Lake Belmore, checked out the lookout and visited an outdoor mining museum and a restored miner’s homestead there. A booming gold-mining town my grandmother was born there and it was also where both her parents were laid to rest. With the assistance of Chris Weirman and the genealogical information we were able to locate the grave where both my great grandmother and my great grandfather were buried. They were buried in the same plot along with a third person James Dripps Caroline Patten. Leaving Croydon we felt satisfied that we had covered our bases there and pleased that we had made the effort to spend the time to visit Croydon. It helped to put a little more family history in place. Passing through Georgetown we visited the Ted Elliott Mineral Collection. The collection was notable and included many specimens that had not previously been available. At Mount Surprise we stopped for lunch in a local park. Then we were on our way to Innot Hot Springs.
Innot Hot Springs The Health and Leisure Park at Innot Hot Springs had a range of thermal pools for swimming and soaking in. A visit to Innot Hot Springs would not be the same without a visit to the pub. Mum caught up with someone from a family she had known in the El Arish area. Graham cooked up a storm and joined by a family staying next door we shared a bit of music together. In the early morning, the steam was rising over the exposed outside springs as we looked out from our motel unit. With a short stop in Atherton we were keen to hit the home trail. 300 950 on the Speedo - We had travelled 9 950 kilometres. Home Sweet Home....