Saturday, August 23, 2008

days 22 - 25 - broome

5 days just kicking back, relaxing and doing tourist things. during the week we have visited souvenier shops, pearl shops and tourist shops. we ventured out to gantheume point to see the dinosaur footprints and the lighthouse. we have done some geocaches and had dinner on cable beach while we watched the sunset. we have sat out on the edge of roebuck bay and watched the world pass and we've done some of the bush walks around the bird observatory. it has been good doing nothing and not be on the move all the time but as the week draws to a close i'm starting to feel like i want to get back out on the road.

our original plan was to tackle the gibb river road from here but we have decided to do just the first 150 odd kms to winjana gorge and to then drop down past tunnel creek to fitzroy crossing. after fitzroy we'll do halls creek and wolfe creek before heading up to purnululu and kununurra. we'll then take a half day to drive out to el questro so i can say i've been there and so we can do a geocache that is in need of being found.....

song for the week: we're all going on a summer holiday

day 26 - broome to winjana gorge via derby

stopped at derby for fuel and to do a geocache at the derby wetlands project where they have turned the town's water recycling / treatment area into a wetland area for birds. they seem to have been very successful as there are literally millions of birds hanging around. everything from crows and ducks through to raptors and water birds.

from derby we headed out the gibb river road and then turned off to winjana gorge. the campsite here is amazing with showers and flushing toilets......

winjana gorge is also pretty special with towering rock faces and huge break away sections of rock guarding the almost subteranean entrance to the gorge. the river that lies along the bottom of the gorge is full of fish and freshwater crocs, so we got to see our first wild crocs of the trip. the fish include archer fish which shoot a jet of water at passing insects to catch them and then feed.

once through the narrow entrance, the gorge opens out into a wide river plateau which is currently mainly dry so we could walk along the river bed and get up close and personal with the crocs. very cool.

song for the day: elton john's crocodile rock

day 27 - winjana to fitzroy crossing via tunnel creek

tunnel creek is awesome. ciaran and i walked its length. it is a 800m underground section of river that has a number of breakout sections where the roof has dropped in, leaving the tunnel open to the elements. there are a number of sections where you have to wade through. at this time of year the water didn't ever get much deeper than knee deep, but in the wet season the tunnel can fill completely making it impassable. the signs at the entrance to the gorge talk about wading through chest deep water and even of having to swim sections. i don't think ciaran would have coped with that but he did very well all the same. you have to have a torch for some sections as it gets very dark and in one section, not only is it dark and you have to wade, but you also have to contend with thousands of screaming ghost bats who aren't very happy with the fact that you are invading their home.

having done tunnel creek we moved on to fitzroy crossing where we stayed at the incredibly delightful fitzroy crossing lodge caravan park. compared with the town caravan park this place is heaven.

song for the day: dire straits' tunnel of love

day 28 - fitzroy crossing

geikie gorge today. this gorge is different to all the others in that it is wide and open with the river running down one side of the gorge and a wide sandy flood plain taking up the rest of the gorge floor. it was a long walk through - about 4kms - and not as spectacular as the others we have seen so far, but it was interesting, and dec have put a lot of effort into providing information along the walk trail to make the hike that bit more interesting. dec also do a boat cruise up the river but we chose the walk this time.

probably the most interesting thing about the whole gorge experience was the signs at the gazebo where dec sell their tour tickets and souveniers. the signs show the level where the water has peaked when flooding in the wet season since about 1985. the highest / deepest was at the very top of the roof which is about 5 metres high. they have aerial photos showing the area during the flood and you cannot see the top of the gazebo at all.

song for the day: how deep is your love

day 29 - fitzroy crossing to halls creek

fitzroy crossing was a dump but the caravan park was really nice. halls creek looks nice and the caravan park is a wasteland. dust dust and more dust - should have camped by the road at mary pool like we were going to cos there was way less dust there.

not much to say except that every piece of room based accommodation in halls creek is taken unless you wanna pay $179.00 per night for something that amounts to a motel room with an extra bed in it and the caravan park is near on empty hmmmmmm.

turns out that the caravan park isn't all bad. it is relatively clean and the nights were good and quiet - oh well.

song for the day: warumpi band's i left my heart behind in fitzroy crossing

day 30 - halls creek - wolfe creek crater

having spoken to numerous people about the top end of the tanami desert road, we'd heard various descriptions from, "good road" to " worst road i ever drove on". so it was with some trepidation that we set out on the 300km round trip from halls creek to the wolfe creek crater and return. it turned out that while the road was quite corrugated in some places, it was pretty easy to sit on about 90kmh for most of the way.

the crater itself was very spectacular. at 850ish metres in diameter and some 20 - 30 metres deep it is the 2nd largest identifiable meteorite crater in the world. in terms of impact, pieces of the meteor that caused the crater have been found over 4kms from the point of impact. we climbed the outer ridge and then dropped down into the crater itself. once down, we did a geocache that is there and then wandered out to find somewhere close to the centre of the crater's circle.

the climb out was very steep but not too daunting .

the day's other highlight was that we finally managed to get some decent photos of an eagle - even if it was eating road kill.

later in the day we drove out to the china wall, about 15kms out of halls creek on the duncan road. it is a surreal looking "wall" of quartz that has withstood the effects of erosion due to its hardness, whilst the softer surrounding rock has succumbed. the white quartz seam stands in stark contrast to the surrounding red rock and it looks like nothing so much as a chunk of the great wall of china.

song for the day: when you wish upon a star....

days 31 and 32 - purnululu national park

majestic, otherworldly, towering... the list could go on. the bungle bungle range really is one of the premier destinations in western australia and from all accounts, australia.

for days leading up to our visit to the park, we had been hearing horror stories about the road in. you can buy stickers and magnets and hats that proclaim "i survived the road into the bungles." the road in to the park is 53 kms long and we had heard varying comments on the time it would take to traverse the road from one a a half hours to three hours. the most reliable comments seemed to come from a family we met at fitzroy crossing who were similarly aged and kitted out to us. they said it took them 2hrs to get in and around one and a half to get out again. they also commented on the various river crossings and significant drop offs we were likely to encounter. in the end the road turned out to be the toughest we had travelled so far, but not really super bad in my opinion.

corrugations, high sitting rocks, and tight weaving sections of road turned out to be the worst of it. none of the 4 river crossings or 2 large puddles really presented any great problems. the spare tire sitting on top of the car tried to commit hari kare about half way in but a bloke coming the other way pointed out the imminent demise of the tire and we saved that. the only other drama was our front number plate trying to detach itself. again, we caught it in time before it fell right off.

the park is basically in two sections. the northern end with echidna chasm and mini palm grove and the southern end with cathedral gorge and the picaninny creek walk and gorge. each end has a campground and there is roughly 50 kms between the ends. our original plan was to camp at the northern end on night one and then head to the southern end for night two. we actually only ended up needing one night as we left halls creek quite early and by the time we drove to the turn off, dropped off the camper trailer (we could probably have taken it in without too many problems but chickened out based on the descriptions we had of the road), and got into the park proper, it was still only about lunchtime. so we headed to the northern end and knocked off echidna chasm and the lookouts in time to get back down to the southern end and set up camp there.

echidna chasm was ruth's favourite of the park. it is a long, narrow chasm with huge walls up either side. the chasm is open at the top for nearly the whole length, letting light in and creating some stunning effects in the colouring of the walls. there are some seriously large boulders that have been caught high up in the chasm as they have fallen from even higher up and they present something of a sobering view as you pass under them, hoping you're not going to be the one they choose to fall on. the boulders are made of what they call conglomerate - a mix of rocks and mud that looks like nothing so much as giant chunks of gravel.

local legend (spread by tour operators cashing in on the naivete of japanese tourists with long socks pulled up to their knees and large german tourists with three different digital cameras none of which they can use without help from unsuspecting passers by!!!!!!!) has it that touching the wall at the very end of the chasm will bring good luck. liam considered the fact that the boulders didn't choose to fall on our heads after we touched the wall, as proof of the truth of the legend.

after echidna chasm we checked out some lookouts which provided amazing views of various sections of both the bungle bungle range and the osmand range. we then headed to the campsite.

just before dinner, i went off to take some sunset shots of the ranges. while waiting, the helicopters and planes were all returning from their late afternoon scenic flights and at one point there were no fewer than 4 helicopters and 1 plane in view and in fairly close proximity to each other. it reminded me of the beach scene from apocalypse now, and is therefore the reason behind my choice for song of the day.

we bought a little three man tent in halls creek because a.) we weren't taking the camper into purnululu and b.) it was the biggest tent we could find that didn't involve taking out a loan with the reserve bank of australia.... we spent a rather cramped night with the four of us squeezed into the tent sleeping on a mattress made of blankets and towels. at least we were fairly warm, because it was pretty jolly chilly outside.

the next day we were up quite early and off to see cathedral gorge and do the domes walk. the beehive domes are spectacular with red/orange and grey/black banding. the red is iron oxide and the grey is cyanobacteria. the domes are not only stunning to look at but are also huge in size and seem vast in their spread across the land. they actually take up a very small part of the purnululu park but from the ground they seem massive.

cathedral gorge is so named because of its acoustics which are said to rival those of the sydney opera house. again, the gorge is magnificent, with massive stones and enormous walls that defy credible explanation and which cannot be truly captured in a photograph. there were quite a few others with the same idea as us, to be up and at it early, so while not crowded, there was a steady stream of people through the gorge while we were there.

having donemour gorging and walking for the day, we headed off for the spring creek stopover to collect the camper, grabbed some fuel at turkey creek (our first $2.00/litre), and proceeded to make way to kununurra. what is it with these places and their "u" s.

groovy fridge magnet of the day: i survived the road into the bungle bungles.

song for the day: ride of the valkyries

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

from the reef to the range

day 14 - coral bay

quiet day today. ciaran woke with a very sore tummy and then proceeded to throw up. spent the day looking after him and just lazing around the campsite. quite a peaceful day really - all things considered.

song for the day: white stripes - icky thump

day 15 - coral bay

ciaran much better today. this afternoon we went on a glass bottom boat tour of the inner reef just off coral bay itself. truly amazing what you see under the boat. the coral here is hard coral and so is mainly brown and dark greens with the odd splash of other colours. there are four main coral types here; brain, cabbage, staghorn, and a word starting with 'p' that eludes me right now. within these four main types there are over 150 different species of coral found in the bay. there were also heaps of fish - from enormous norwest snapper down to tiny little electric blues. according to the guide on the boat there are over 600 distinct species of fish to be found on the reef. the tour lasted an hour and we were moving the whole time and we were over the coral the whole time too. the reef really is huge and in good health.

we all went back down tot he beach late this arvo to catch the sunset. it sets right over coral bay and is a most spectacular view. there must have been 50 or 60 people down on the beach to see the sunset - all with cameras - so i'm not alone in that.

ruth and the boys watched a movie on the laptop and i wandered down the road to look at the stars away from the town lights. the night sky is so much clearer and brighter up here away from the light pollution of the cities and towns. saw several "shooting stars" and 5 or 6 different satellites. i find it incredibly comforting knowing that wherever i am in australia, home is just to the right of the southern cross.

song for the day: nothing specific but it would have to be something by dave graney and the coral snakes surely....

day 16 - coral bay to tom price

back to another long day in the saddle after some days with less travel. 540 plus kms with the last 100 or so on gravel. we could have travelled via paraburdoo and stayed on the bitumen the whole way but that would have added another 50 or kms to the trip and it wouldn't have been half as much fun. lots of cows and eagles and hawks along the way.
got into tom price late in the afternoon, got set up and then headed out to buy tea. the only place we could find open was a chinese restaurant so we bought dinner there - 5 minutes after we bought the chinese we found a takeaway joint hidden behind some other shops and in a really odd spot. that would have a been a much better option for us considering ciaran's allergies - but hey thems the breaks. btw the chinese was actually quite delicious.

song for the day: U2 - red hill mining town

day 17 - tom price

went out to hamersley gorge today after doing a bit of shopping in the morning. the last time i was here was almost 20 years ago - and nothing's changed. it is still as beautiful and as awesome as ever but with perhaps a few more tourists now. hamersley has become a bit of a forgotten place. with the closing of wittenoom there is really no need for people to travel on the road that passes hamersley gorge unless they are specifically going there. the other end of karijini national park (about 60 kms away) is where all the action is with all the other major gorges in that area. still, imho, no visit to the karijini is complete without a trip to hamersley. we had planned to continue out to wittenoom but the road was quite bad and the kids really weren't that interested so we gave it a miss.

when we got back to tom price we drove to the top of mt nameless which just happens to be the highest peak in west oz with vehicle access. the view from the top is spectacular, overlooking the mine and the town with views to mt bruce (2nd highest peak in wa) and mt meharry (highest peak in wa). the road to the top is single lane and 4 wheel drive only, due to the steepness of some sections. it gets a bit hairy when you meet cars coming down as you're going upespecially on some of the tighter corners.

after nameless we went to do a geocache at kings lake. i was in tom price when the lake was officially opened. it was the parting gift of the current mine manager of the time and he created a lake with grand visions of people swimming and boating and windsurfing without ever having to leave town. unfortunately his plan was fatally flawed with no allowance being made for cyclone run off and the whole thing being built way too close to the town's water treatment plant. these days, kings lake is a very pretty picnic spot with lots of green grass and a little bit of water contaminated with effluent from the treatment plant. too bad really, cos the official opening was a party to behold. they trucked in more booze than you can imagine and had food and music and all manner of other entertainment for a one day splurge to rival the best of them.

spent the evening sitting out under the stars watching the universe go by. again saw lots of satellites and shooting stars. very cool.

song for the day: the church - under the milky way

day 18 - tom price

today was the other end of the karijini. circular pool, fortescue falls, joffre falls and oxers lookout. ruth and the boys thought joffre was the most spectacular spot of the day. but after hamersley from yesterday, i reckon circular pool takes the cake for wonderful. circular pool never sees sunlight on its surface, so the water is incredibly cold. back in the olden days - when i was younger and more resilient - the caper was to climb down to the pool, swim across and back (preferrably without dieing from the cold) and then climb back up to the car park to get your circulation going again. not only did i mange the swim, but i did the climb in bare feet. needless to say there was much blood from my sliced up feet and the shock of diving into the cold water is an experience i will never forget.

we dropped in to the karijini visitor's centre which is quite an amazing place. the outside is like some retro futuristic cyber punk fortress made of huge sheets of rusted steel. think blade runner or one of the many australian movies of the mad max ilk and you'll be getting close. inside was all sorts of art and an interpretive section on the changes the karijini has seen over the years and the changes in the roles that the local aboriginal people have had in the use of the area.

groovy sign for the day was one that read: wirlankarra yanama. yurlu nyinku mirda yurndarirda: go with a clear open and accepting spirit and the country will not treat you badly.

song for the day: the eagles - rocky mountain way

day 19 - tom price - indee station

we had planned to jump all the way from tom price to eighty mile beach but after the last 500 plus km day we decided that trying to do 700ish with kids and trailers in tow was just gonna be asking for trouble. so we opted to stop and spend the night at indee station and it turned out to be a great decision.
the station was pretty primitive - dongas for ablution blocks and a camp kitchen but the people were really friendly, the place was incredibly quiet and the surrounding area was fascinating. indee station has in its boundaries a spot called red rocks which is a largish group of (funnily enough) red rocks that sit on the edge of the turner river. the rocks themselves probably aren't anything special but they are home to a bunch of very old aboriginal carvings and engravings which are fascinating. it is also very close to the site of a commercial airliner crash from the 60s and there is a memorial to the people on that flight right near the rock. whilst we were scrambling about looking at the aboriginal carvings we saw what looked like a fire in the distance. turned out that it was actually a quite large twister - biggest one i've ever seen - that lasted a good 5 or 6 minutes winding its way through the bush.

the road out from the station to red rocks passes through the station's 'boneyard' where they have all their cars bodies and stuff dumped. in the middle of it all is a whole pile of old dongas and infrastructure, the remains of the station from a cyclone last year which pretty well destroyed the place. the evidence of the damage was mind blowing. the cyclone must have been a screamer cos the twisted carnage it left behind was intense.

song for the day: greenday - boulevard of broken dreams

day 20 - indee station to 80 mile beach via port hedland

another day on the road, another bunch of geocaches under our belts, another day of amazing sights and interesting facts. really just travel travel travel at the moment.
80 mile beach caravan park is stuck out in the middle of nowhere, right on the beach and yet has over 200 powered caravan bays plus cabins and unpowered sites and even a small camping area just for tents. its huge and when we got there at 3pm in the afternoon there wasn't a powered bay to be had. we got a nice spot in an unpowered site but strike, what a lot of people in the middle of nowhere - its incredible. sunset was quite amazing made perhaps even more so by the fact that there must have been 300 people stretched along the beach fishing, collecting shells, sitting having a quiet drink, all watching the beautiful sunset.

song for the day: john cougar - small paradise

day 21 - 80 mile beach - broome

well i finally feel like we're getting some decent way in to our holiday. so far its been amazing, so many interesting places and so many stunning sights to behold. i just love it. but when you get to broome and look at the map you really can see that you are a long way from home and its a good feeling to know that you are making some headway into your planned travels.

got into broome about lunch time and went and did a few bits of emergency shopping that needed doing and then headed out to the broome bird obseratory for a few days in a chalet rather than in the camper. the bbo is a bit primitive and the facilities are quite minimalistic but we have walls and a roof that don't need pulling down or putting up and we've got space to put our junk and the tardis that our trailer has become can be stripped out and cleaned up and repacked in a few days time.

we've extended our stay here by one night as it looks like we're going to have to get the car checked out because the airbag light has come on and won't go off. hopefully we have just jarred a connection loose on the gravel somewhere and it won't be some major job that needs doing.
no plans for tomorrow, just to sleep in late in a real bed and then relax for the day.

song for the day: pigram brothers - johnny walker's shoes

rain... did somebody say rain????

day 11 - exmouth

the plan for today was to do a quick trip out to charles knife road, grab a cache and then have a quiet relaxing time for the rest of the day. you know what they say about the best laid plans....
25kms out of town to the turn off only to find the road closed. funny - other people we talked to said it was open yesterday... oh well - mark it down as a did not find....

back in town and over to the shire to double check on the road closure. the guy they need to ask is out of range but they'll let me know when they know. over to the visitor information centre to look at souveniers and their sign says the road is open but with caution. oh so confusing. 20 minutes later the phone rings - its the shire saying that the road is open again. it had just been closed while they checked on its condition.

back out again and up the road to the first lookout where the cache is hidden. WOW....
i've been lots of places and seen lots of things but this is really a special place. the cape range is a jagged uprising of rock that creates a division between the eastern and western sides of the north west cape. the western side of the cape is the famous ningaloo reef, the eastern side is the stretch of water that separates the cape from the mainland. in close it is called the exmouth gulf.
from a distance the cape range looks much like any other australian range of hills. lowish in height, grey green in colour and relatively smooth and rounded undulating from end to end. however, once you get up into the range, the story changes completely. the smoothness and the grey green disappears replaced by jagged cliffs and enormous canyons in all manner of colours from dark reds to wind warn greys. the rock is a mix of limestone and what would appear to be volcanic type stone. the wind and water erosion has created a stunning vista that words and photographs really can't do justice to.

given the right light and the right conditions, the potential for amazing photos would be unlimited. unfortunately we scored another overcast and threatening sky so while the view was truly magnificent, the photos are somewhat muted.

we drove through the ranges to a spot called the thomas carter lookout which was something of a disappointment when compared to some of the other views on offer but still pretty special all the same. on the way back down we stopped about 20 times for photos much to the disgust of liam and ciaran.

song for the day: U2 - in god's country

day 12 - exmouth to coral bay

only 155 kms today so we started out by tightening the bearings on the trailer wheels and then played a round of mini golf at the exmouth mini golf place. of course being pack up and travel day, it was raining again so golf was a bit damp, but not too bad - could have been considered excellent even seeing as I won. there was a large group of ladies at the place enjoying scones and stuff for morning tea. half were inside but the other half didn't fit, so they were sitting outside under a very meagre cover. they were all sitting at a long table with their umbrellas up having a great old time. i took a photo of them and we had a laugh about the weather. so the rain wasn't able to dampen everybodies' spirits.

the trip to coral bay was very wet, but by the time we got there the rain had pretty well passed and the sun was beginning to show itself a little. the rest of the day was spent setting up and just hanging around and looking around town (1 pub, 2 sets of small shops and two BIG caravan parks).

song for the day: fats domino - i'm walkin'

day 13 - coral bay

went snorkelling on the inner reef today. the coral here on the inner reef is hard coral and is all browns and dark greens with the odd splash of electric blue and dayglo green. there were heaps and heaps of fish. not being a fish expert i can't really tell you what I saw but there were at least long toms and sargeant fish and norwest snapper.

shaggy - if you read this, be pleased to know that word from the experts here suggest that both the inner and outer reefs are in good health and look to have an excellent long term future.

song for the day: cyndi lauper - waters edge