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