El Questro, Lake Argyle and Kununurra and into the Northern Territory. Week 18

Monday, Aug 12, 2013 at 21:48

Member-Heather MG NSW

Monday August 5th. El Questro.
An almost 10 kms return walk starting from near the campground and ending at Champagne Springs occupied our morning. It was through a variety of country, firstly along the sandy, rocky river bed of the Pentecost, and shaded early in the morning but very hot on the return. There were three river crossings over shallow running water, where we rock hopped and used tree branches to help support us as we stepped along the slippery and unstable logs. It was a little challenging for me but easier on the return trip! The second half was over rocky terrain, much more exposed and very hot, especially on the return, although there were great views out over the red ranges.

When we arrived at the springs and waterfalls we were able to enjoy them all by ourselves. This was unusual given the crowds at the other places recently, so after having a good look around, we decided to cool off, stripping off to our underwear and sitting on the wet, slippery rocks while the water splashed around and over us. It was lovely, so refreshing, and quite out of character for both of us, so we must have been feeling the heat. I joked about taking photos of us and then putting them on Facebook for our kids to see…our son would have been horrified!
On the return walk, we only saw one other walker, a young man, so it’s not exactly one of the most popular walks in the park, although one I would recommend if you enjoy walking. We didn’t have enough water or food and by the time we returned, a little after midday, I really wished we had packed more!
During the afternoon, John returned to fish at the river while I read and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the cool of the awning and fanned by river breezes. We didn’t have fish for dinner….don’t ask!
Tuesday August 6th.
This morning we packed up and, after dropping in the camping tag, and receiving the $10 refund, we drove back to meet the sealed Gibb River Road, where John inflated the Pajero tyres. Our drive to Kununurra was pleasant and on arrival we decided to get the van tyre repaired before checking into the Discovery (Big 4) Tourist park, so we didn’t have to try to fit it into the rear of the Pajero.
Within half an hour, and at a cost of $35, the tyre was back on the rear carrier of the van and we were checking in to this very busy park, joining a lengthy queue in the cramped driveway. A sign out the front advised that there were ‘No Powered Sites’ so I was very glad to have booked ahead, given temperatures already in the low 30’s. At a cost of $38, minus 10% member discount, we think this park is good value. Our site is partially shaded by a large tree and very spacious. There’s a car wash bay which will be useful, and the park is situated on the edge of the lake, with a cooling breeze off the water. Activities involving a small donation which will go to a charity, in return for food, are organised for two of the three nights we will be here, and they are always fun and friendly to attend.
Before we left to find a supermarket, I closed all the curtains and opened the windows wide up, however on our return it was close to 34 degrees indoors so we closed everything and turned on the air con.
During the afternoon we phoned Darwin Mitsubishi to organise a 60,000 km service (Thursday 15th) for the Pajero, and then a caravan park there (Big 4 because we are members) , from Tuesday which will give us 4 nights between Kununurra and there. We will see Litchfield on our way north and Kakadu then areas around Katherine when we start south.
We have also managed to book and pay for a cruise on Lake Argyle on Thursday with the same company we did the Bungles last week. At $100 per head we think it sounds like good value, and we were very happy with our previous tour.
Once the sun disappeared, the evening was pleasantly cool. We received an email from our ‘used to be’ travelling companions to let us know they were in Roma Qld. and that they expect to be home in Sawtell tomorrow night!
During the night my sleep was disturbed by the sounds of fruit bats overhead, then early morning the discordant, very close calls of blue winged kookaburras as they heralded the new day. Not long afterwards, there was the whine of small plane engines warming up at the airport not far away.
Wednesday August 7th
This morning we decided to take a look around Kununurra and drove out to Kelly’s knob to a lookout over the town and surrounding countryside. On the top there was a rather sobering memorial to three young women who lost their lives in a helicopter flight over the Bungles (along with the pilot). It reminded us that we take so many chances doing some of the activities along the trip.
Afterwards we drove to a two places where John fished, the first to Ivanhoe crossing where a permanently flooded causeway is apparently popular with the locals but where there is also reputedly a big estuarine croc, and the second to a river, West of the bridge. Here he landed a barra a few cms short of the legal length and of course, being the honest person he is, it was released back into the water! Bugger! It gave him a hunger however and he is planning on spending a few hours there tomorrow morning before we go on the cruise.
During the afternoon we cleaned the Pajero, John doing the outside at the car wash area, and me the inside front dash and seats. We didn’t want to have it serviced next week in the filthy condition we had managed to get it. It will now have to do until we get home. The van is still in an embarrassingly dirty state however theres little chance it will be washed unless we have rain somewhere!
Around 5.30 pm we joined many other park occupants in the BBQ area with a view over the Lake, and paid $10 per head for a camp oven cook out meal, the proceeds of which are donated to the Ambulance which in WA is staffed by volunteers. It was a friendly couple of hours, spent chatting with other travellers and it was lovely not to have to cook.
Thursday August 8th.
Up early this morning as John wanted to go fishing! I had a much better nights’ sleep having used ear plugs. I also had a load of washing going before 7am and spent a couple of hours doing some cleaning and re organising of the van while John fished. He returned before 9 having lost two lures and caught nothing! We filled the water tanks and got organised for tomorrows departure before getting ready for our pick up at 11am. for the Lake Argyle Cruise.
It was another great day and I’m glad we chose to see the Lake with Bungle Bungle tours as the guides are so friendly and relaxed. John, (JW) our driver/guide/chef was a funny man with a lazy drawl and a dry sense of humour and he related facts and figures about the Dam, its history and also about the Kimberley generally, interspersed with humour, on the drive out. Before boarding the big catamaran/sailing vessel we had time to have a look at the Museum housed in the Durack Homestead which was removed from its original location, now metres underwater, and rebuilt not far from the dam. Having only recently read ‘True North’ the story of Mary and Elizabeth Durack, I was interested in having a look at photos of them and also reading any information. Their headstones and graves are there too although I‘m not sure the bodies were moved.
In the garden I managed to photograph a male bower bird with his crimson tuft of head feathers on show, although he was partly obscured by limbs and branches.
The Kimberley Cat vessel was a lovely relaxing way to view the huge man made body of water and there was ample room for the twenty or so of us to walk around and find places to sit in shade or in sun, up on top or at the stern where there was seating and tables. Once we got out onto the water a way, the sail was hoisted, and provided welcome shade, although I think that’s where its usefulness ended as the quiet motors moved us along. Every now and then the captain, Rod, talked to us about the Lake and there were two opportunities to swim for those who were keen.
Lunch was very informal with wraps, salad, meat and cheese, which we helped ourselves to then ate wherever we wished to sit. Afternoon tea was also provided later in the afternoon.
There were some great photo opportunities with perfectly smooth water and fantastic reflections of landforms, also as the sun set and the ranges turned brilliant orange. They look false but took almost no editing and are quite unbelievable. The size of this waterway is absolutely incredible, yet we saw only one or two other vessels all day and really only saw a small portion of the lake!
On the return trip to our caravan parks, in the dark, John once again entertained us with his particularly quirky sense of humour, telling jokes, and had most of us roaring with laughter in appreciation!
Once again, I would thoroughly recommend this company to do the Cruise with. At $100 per head its pretty good value we thought.
Once home we had an easy meal of steak and salads, then I spent hours uploading and editing photos. It was lovely to come home to a cool van as we had left the air conditioning running all day in our absence.
Friday August 9th.
Big Horse Campground Gregory National Park.
Because we had crossed the border and are now in NT, we lost 1 ½ hour so it got late quickly today, and although we packed up as normal, this meant instead of leaving at 8.30 it was 10am! We decided to pull in and have a look at the Big Horse campground in Gregory National Park, only 10 kms west of Timber Creek, as one of my books says it’s a good place to launch a tinny or fish from the boat ramp and try for barra and catfish. It was very hot and the sites offered little in the way of shade, however there were quite a few to choose from and only a few other vans there. One was ok and level enough without any fussing around, always good!
It costs $3.30 a person to camp with an honesty box provided near the park, so I’m not sure how many people pay, despite the small cost. We did!
There are long drop toilets, not all that sweet smelling either, and I was glad we had emptied out toilet before leaving Kununurra, as it’s a far more attractive option! Generators are permitted during the usual day time hours and getting ours up and running was a priority!
We had lunch then took a walk some 100 metres to the boat ramp to view the mighty Victoria River, apparently the Northern Territory’s largest. John didn’t want to put the boat in the water but was persuaded to get the fishing rods out and later in the afternoon we both spent a couple of hours in the heat on the boat ramp, with me doing a good job of feeding fish! I only landed one small catfish! That was a better effort than Johns though as nothing could be persuaded to take his large assortment of impressive lures. There was a continual stream of travellers to talk to but I was surprised that no one else bothered to throw a line in. Also a few foolish people actually paddled around in the water, despite signed warnings (and mine) of Crocodiles (estuarine) frequenting the place, commenting that they wouldn’t come up the boat ramp or that any in the area would have been removed due to Public Liability and Duty of Care issues! Kind of interesting we thought, in a state where almost every day a croc story of some kind or another makes the front page of the Newspaper!!!

I wandered back to the van before dark to prepare our evening meal and left the air con going while I used the gas cooker outside to cook it. By now the campground looked pretty full and we had another van alongside quite close. While our generator was turned off well before 8pm, that of the neighbours continued to run until well after 9.30, kind of irritating! Maybe they couldn’t read the signage, or prefer to ignore it, I guess it’s just one of the perils of staying in a rest area close to the Highway, and we didn’t feel like saying anything to them, as by this time we were in bed and reading.
Saturday August 10th.
I had a good nights’ sleep having once again used ear plugs, however apparently I snored long and loudly which was more than a bit annoying to John! This morning I allowed him to sleep in and tried to be quiet, and he slept through the noise of other vehicles leaving and the neighbour coming and going from his van. I was more than a little shocked to see him empty their toilet cassette directly onto the ground, just metres outside the campground, having climbed through a fence into what was still National Park I guess. How I wish I were brave enough to have confronted him! With dump points located in Kununurra and at the roadside rest area further East, I reckon there is no excuse for this behaviour but if it has to be done, then at least use a shovel and dig a hole, and do it somewhere well away from a campground and a National Park!
Just earlier yesterday when John and I pulled up at space just off the road, for me to use the toilet, I stepped out of the car to a big area where someone had obviously tipped the contents of their cassette toilet and it wasn’t pleasant! It is also to us, embarrassing as travellers with an ensuite in our caravan as it gives us all a bad name!
Anyway, we were on the road around 8.30 (NT time) and stopped at Joe Creek day rest area, west of Victoria River Roadhouse, to do a short circular walk up to a rocky escarpment to view aboriginal art. It was around 1.7 kms in length I think and already hot when we were in the sun, but it was an interesting walk and must have been a popular place for the aboriginals to spend time at the base of the red cliffs as there were eroded examples of their work for quite a distance.

I found the countryside interesting along the road sides, with stretches of rugged ranges and also savannah grass lands with termite mounds and scrubby timber. For some time we followed the winding Victoria River too, until we arrived at the Roadhouse which bears its name, and bought diesel, then travelled over the big bridge.
We took a lunch break in another of the 24 hour rest areas (with toilets and dump point), parking under a small shady tree, and then continued to Katherine to buy more fuel. While there was a phone signal, I called the Big 4 Van Park in Batchelor and have booked us a powered site for tomorrow and Monday nights, as a base for us to explore Litchfield National Park. With our discount, it will be $36 per night, worth the cost for me to be able to put the air conditioner on! There are many other options for campers, including other Caravan Parks and the National Park campgrounds, however with generators not permitted and only Wangi Falls campground allowing vans, we decided we would rather have the comforts a powered site offers in such a hot climate.
I reckon until we get well south again on our journey home in September, we will opt for powered sites or generator friendly camps!
We decided to look for a place to camp for the night, north of Pine Creek, and not too far from there found a narrow track (unmaintained road) to the west, which we followed around 5 kms to a big flat strip of bitumen, (a runway) flanked by low scrub and trees. It was signposted as WW2 McDonald Airstrip. We pulled up with partial shade, around 4pm, a very long days travelling for us, and set up the generator which cooled the interior from 34 degrees to a very pleasant 24. We left it running until the generator ran out of fuel.
Sunday August 11th.
A very quiet night, with distant sounds of trucks on the Stuart Highway and just us to enjoy it! We felt so lucky and took our time doing the small amount of packing up with only a short trip ahead of us today. Before we left, we took a short walk along the dirt track which led off the bitumen behind where we parked, and found a number of good level clearings which would make great camp sites.
It was interesting to drive north and see the passing landscape of rocky hills and ranges, and lots of palms in the low lying areas…to us very different and tropical looking to the landscape where we live. Neither of us really had thought what it would be like this far north apart from maybe being very flat so we were surprised at the more hilly terrain.
Mid morning, we pulled into the Big 4 Park in Batchelor and were shown our site for the next two nights - our base to explore Litchfield National Park on a day drive tomorrow. The afternoon was occupied with numerous phone calls to family and then we put on the swimmers and had a short dip in the pool, very refreshing although the cool temperature was a bit of a shock (as is my rather noticeable t shirt tan line!) We left the air conditioner running until after I had cooked dinner and found the evening temperature quite pleasant, and had no difficulty sleeping.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
Lifetime Member:My Profile  My Blog  Send Message
BlogID: 5226
Views: 11927

Comments & Reviews(1)

Post a Comment
Blog Index

Sponsored Links