Well what a couple of weeks. I think we have found the worst road in Australia. More on that later - back to the beginning of the last two weeks.
Wyndham: Smaller then I was expecting but quite a nice little place –very hot!
It reminds me a lot of Weipa but smaller – very spread out. The Five Rivers Lookout is great
but I think we saw a better sunset from Anthon’s Jetty.
There is a great little café just down the road from the caravan park called the Five Rivers Café that does a great barra burger for lunch.
We also went out to see the Prison Boab.
We went out to Marlgu Billabong where we saw lots of birds and a saltie just cruising along in the water. Thankfully we were on a boardwalk and not near the water’s edge. On the way to Marlgu Billabong we passed Telegraph Hill. Not much left there now except for lots of boab trees. There was a telegraph station there during the First War which intercepted and decoded radio messages.
Old Telegraph Station
Before we arrived in Wyndham we had heard a story on the local news about the export of mahogany timber from Wyndham to Asia. These mahogany trees were originally planted as host trees for the sandal wood but that little experiment was not successful so they let the mahogany trees grow and have now harvested them. It was the first time timber had been exported from the Wyndham port and was a new experience for them so when we arrived in Wyndham of course we had to go down to the port to see the operation. Actually there was not much happening so whether they had loaded the ship or were working under the cover of darkness we don’t know. A day later the ship was gone so I guess they had finished loading it. There is still a pile of timber there so it won’t be the last ship they will load with mahogany.
Billy the resident donkey at the Wyndham Caravan Park. A bit of a pest but if you chased him away he he was okay.
On the way to the Gibb River Road, we called into the Grotto about 20 kilometres south of Wyndham. Quite a pretty spot – you park at the top and walk down to a pool at the bottom of what is usually a waterfall but due to the dry was not flowing. The walk down consists of 140 steps (although Phil counted only 136) down the side of the cliff and I mean the side of the cliff (!!!) and no hand rails or even a chain or wire. If you suffered vertigo you would not walk down it.
Steps to the Grotto
We then stopped into Emma Gorge Resort for morning tea and don’t they know how to charge. $26 for a cup of tea and coffee (a cup not a mug) and two slices (not huge slices either) of cake supposedly fresh but tasted like it was fresh out of the freezer that morning. There were a lot of people out on the Gibb River Road that morning and I think we met every lunatic driver who has never driven on a dirt road and some very rude tourists.
There was not very much water flowing over the crossing at the Pentecost River – there was very little water in most of the creeks and rivers.
We ended up camping at Ellenbrae Station - $15 per person per night for a spot in a very basic camp ground (no power). At least there was a flushing toilet.
It was an easy drive next morning down to the turn off to Kalumburu as they had just graded the road but quite a different story once we turned onto the Kalumburu Road. I don’t think is has been graded in the last five years!! Some of the corrugations were so big they had corrugations on them and you couldn’t drive in the table drain as that had corrugations as well. After we turned off the Kalumburu Road to go into Mitchell Falls Camp ground believe it or not, the road got worse. We stopped at the King Edward River Camp Grounds (which turned out to be a blessing) as it was getting late and we still had 78 kilometres to go.
Crossing the King Edward River
Next morning we decided that as the King Edward River Camp Ground was so nice we would stay there and do a day trip up to the Falls and a day trip it was!! It took us two hours to drive the final 78 kilometres the road was so bad, then discovered that we had picked a day when not one but two tour buses were up there so we didn’t have Buckley’s chance of getting a helicopter flight. So we did the walk into the falls which they say is 3.5 kilometres and takes about 2 hours each way but the distance depends on who you talk to – some say 3 kilometres while others say more like 5 kilometres. It was a nice walk but we rushed it a bit as we kept thinking we still had a two hour drive back to the camp site and Phil really didn’t want to drive it in the dark. It was a very badly sign posted walk. You actually pass the Little Merten Falls (where some people were swimming) then a cave/overhang that has some aboriginal art (but you only see that if you know it is there or you take a wrong turn like we did), then some quite spectacular falls which we later learned were the Big Merten Falls but I am surprised more people have not gone over the edge – there is no such thing as safety barriers up here. To continue on the walk you have to cross the top of the Big Merten Falls – thankfully we were able to rock hop across as there was not much water but usually you have to wade across and it is very close to the edge. After walking a bit further you come to what we learned later was the top of the Mitchell Falls. You really can’t see much of the falls unless you are in a helicopter or aircraft but as there was very little water flowing I think the flight would have been a waste of money. I will just have to come back after they have had a good wet season but I will be taking a flight from Kununurra or Derby. I have no desire to travel that road again.
Little Merten Falls
Big Merten Falls
Top of Mitchell Falls
On the way up we broke four eggs securely packed in their carton in the esky (thankfully they were in the esky so the mess was contained) and the cherry tomatoes were mush. When we got back to Wyndham what vegetables we had left had to be thrown out as they too, had been pulverised. Other than a crack on the inside of the esky which I think was caused by some cans on the way home we don’t seem to have suffered any other mishaps. We did see a couple of vehicles coming back on the back of recovery vehicles but the way some people drive I can understand. We came all the way back to Wyndham in the one day (a very long day and Phil says his hands were aching from holding the steering wheel when we got back) as the resorts (Drysdale Station, Ellenbrae Station and Home Valley Station) aren’t very appealing for just an overnight stop. There isn’t anywhere else to stop.
We did spend an extra day at the King Edward River Camp ground. There was a lovely swimming hole there
The Swimming Hole complete with steps.
and also a waterfall
The Waterfall on the King Edward River
which was just a short walk down the river. The walk down the river was over some very polished rocks – quite unreal. I wouldn’t like to walk on them though if it was wet as they were incredibly smooth.
The camp ground was really nice and well maintained although the surrounding country was burnt thanks to a neighbour’s fire. The camp sites had been slashed so did not burn and were a decent distance between each camp site. Each camp site was quite large with a fire ring. There were only toilets there but they were very clean. The only water was from the river which you had to collect yourself but that was easy enough. The camp grounds are on aboriginal land but are administered by the National Parks. They have a camp host there during the tourist/dry season and the couple there now are really good. They go around the camp area quite a few times checking that everything is in order and as most people do what we did and do a day trip up to Mitchell Falls they keep an eye on your camp site while you are gone. Also about two kilometres on either side of the camp ground are Aboriginal Cultural Sites. Some of the art is probably the best I have seen.
The first one we visited the path also takes you past a burial site which surprised me as they normally do not allow tourists or anyone to see these sites.
The Windjana Man
We had a day in Wyndham to wash unpack the camping gear and repack everything. We then went back to Kununurra for a day as I needed to do quite a bit of grocery shopping – replenish our fruit and veggie supply. There is only one small grocery shop in Wyndham and it seems every expensive. It was good if you just needed to buy one or two things and friendly staff.
Whilst at Kununurra we also took a drive to a couple of waterfalls/springs which we had missed. Valentine Springs was not anything more then a puddle of water but at Molly Springs the water was still trickling over the falls and it was a very nice green oasis with a small swimming hole at the bottom of the falls.
We saw some Kimberley wild cattle. This one looked in good condition but most looked very poorly. I think most of the cattle are wild - they only muster once a year and we have seen very few fences. There will be a sign saying the boundary of one property but no fence to separate it from the next property.
Next day we left Kununurra bound for the Bungle Bungles Caravan Park. It did not take us all that long to reach the caravan park and after checking in we had an easy afternoon – mainly watching the helicopter take off and land.
It was an early start next morning – we had to be on the bus by 7a.m. for our full day tour of the Bungle Bungles. It took us two hours to reach the National Parks Information Centre which is 3 kilometres inside the National Park Boundary (a total of about 52 kilometres from the Caravan Park). It is all very interesting. The caravan park is actually on Mabel Downs Station and is technically called a ‘home stay’ as Mabel Downs is a grazing leasehold property and cannot conduct any business on the property except grazing. Because of this and the different departments of government there are some strange rules at the caravan park. Such as - none of the buildings can be permanent structures and everyone has to take their rubbish with them as the park staff can’t collect rubbish. All the grazing leases in Western Australia are due for renewal at the end of this month and apparently there have been changes made to the leases to allow tourist operations – it will be interesting to see how these changes are going to affect these tourist operations already set up. They should be able to provide better facilities but probably at a cost. The Bungle Bungles are a National Park but have no public access road to them. The road that goes into the National Park is on Mabel Downs Station and the owner of the station apparently told National Parks that he would allow public access to that road providing the National Parks maintain it. It is a shame they don’t do a bit more maintaining!! When we did the helicopter flight you could see the corrugations from up in the air they were that big.
The Beehive Domes
Our trip into the Bungle Bungles was an awesome trip. I have not seen anything quite like it. The banded honeycomb domes (cone karsts) were massive – much bigger then I was expecting. We firstly went to the southern end of the park where it is prominently made up of the honeycomb domes and went for a walk into Cathedral Gorge. The walk is down a fairly narrow (dry and sandy) creek bed between these massive banded cliffs to the end where there are these massive sandstone overhangs.
We then had lunch at the carpark before boarding the bus again and driving (bone rattling) up to the top (northern) end of the park. The northern end is quite different – the cliffs at the northern end are still sandstone but made up of conglomerate and not banded like the southern end. At the northern end we did the Echidna Chasm walk – again it takes you up a dry creek bed this time over river rocks (yes, this time they were river rocks like the ones we have at home and not massive great jagged boulders). The further in you walk the narrower the walls get until you get to the end. In some parts there is just enough room to walk single file and other parts it opens out into quite wide chasms. Here there are also quite a few palms growing in the creek.
Walking into Echidna Chasm
Did you know that Australia has the World’s third largest fault line? I didn’t - but it is right here in WA. The picture below is of the fault line which apparently stretches from up near Darwin down to somewhere near Kalgoorlie. It is a very stable fault line (if there is such a thing) and there are only a few minor tremors when the plates crash together.
Next day we were booked for the helicopter flight which was great and gave a completely different view of the National Park. It was only a little helicopter - took the pilot and 3 passengers and it had no doors!! It was certainly a bit windy – almost blew my head phones off at one point. It was also quite windy as it buffeted the helicopter about a couple of times. Phil got upset as it really messed up his hair.
After the helicopter flight we packed up and drove further on down the road – all of 9 kilometres - to Leycester Rest area (a 24 hour free camp) for the night. Quite a nice stop situated on the Ord River and had some very quiet, mainly braham bulls wandering around and through the camp.
Tomorrow we go into Halls Creek – about 100 kilometres further on – we are really settling into the grove of this grey nomad lifestyle!!! I will probably have to send this blog from there as the mobile reception here is not great.
AND the Boab tree for this week is: