The Final Leg of our Trip

After leaving Carnarvon we stayed overnight at Hamelin Pool. Our Cowaramup neighbours are on school holidays and on their way north for some warmer weather. They timed it well and called in to have their lunch with us and we walked down to the boardwalk to see the stromatolites,‘living fossils’, one of only two places in the world with living marine stromatolites. It was pretty cold and windy and we made it just before the rain set in.

Our next few of days we spent with family on the farm at Ogilvie, near Northampton. We had time together, the kids toasted marshmallows and walked and swam in the creek. Such fun!

We stayed in Perth for a couple of days to catch up with more family and go to the footy on Friday night. WCE lost by 1 point and Jamie sustained an injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks, so not such a good game for us.

It was fairly chilly as the sun went down but I must say it is a very impressive stadium.

We have arrived back home today to a very lovely winters day in Cowaramup. Heater is on now, the chooks are safely away for the night and we have our feet up and are enjoying a very nice drop of local wine.

Thanks to our neighbours Lisa & Joel and Bec & Maz for looking after our chooks. We really appreciate it.

Trip stats:

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Source: WikiCamps Trip Planner

11,153 kms – the distance travelled between towns.
13,450 kms – the total distance travelled including sightseeing.

We have been away for 2 months and definitely need to return to enjoy it all again.

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Karratha & Carnarvon

After leaving Broome we stayed overnight at a camping spot on the De Grey River. Great place to break up the drive to Karratha.

Since leaving the De Grey the countryside has changed and it is much greener now.

The Yule River has a little bit of water – the cocky’s screeched in for a morning drink without disturbing the other birds who were just relaxing in the sunshine.

Karratha is a surprise, we haven’t been here for years, and the high rise buildings are new. It has certainly changed.

It was so lovely to catch up with our neice Zora, Will and the kids, who live in Karratha. We dined out at the yacht club and got to watch the footy on Saturday with them. It was a good win, especially since Jamie kicked the winning goal for WCE. Yeah!

Will took us on a tour of the port at Dampier and the Burrup. He works out at the port so had all the local info for us. Primarily the port services the export facilities for the mining, gas and salt industries.

The rock formations around Karratha and Dampier are quite different to anywhere else we have been….some appear to have been dumped by a tip truck, but apparently they are natural formations.

After leaving Karratha we stayed a couple of nights at Yannarie River, a free camp about half way to Carnarvon. The lovely white river gums are such a contrast to the riverbed.

Sunset and sunrise were just a spectacular.

It was here that we noticed our first tyre puncture on the caravan for the trip. Somewhere we have picked up a nail but fortunately the tyre deflated while we were in the camp.

It is amazing how much the weather can change in 300 kms. Arriving into Carnarvon we have had to dive back into the wardrobe to find the jumpers. Much cooler now and more to come.

The fishing boat harbour was busy – I know you can’t tell from the photos – but the boats all had workers busy with nets, equipment or the boat itself.

On the fertile banks of the Gascoyne River a large variety of fruit and veges are grown along North and South River Roads, known as the ‘Fruit Loop’. Several have stalls so that visitors can purchase freshly harvested produce.

Our final touristy thing was a visit to the Space & Technology Museum. The museum houses two main exhibits. The Carnarvon Tracking Station was built to allow communications on NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions. During its eleven year operation from 1964, it was the largest manned space flight tracking station outside the USA and at its peak had a staff of 220 people. The OTC Satellite Earth Station was opened in 1966 to house the Casshorn antenna which transmitted the first pictures live via satellite to London from Australia. Subsequent upgrades allowed NASA to relay communications across the Pacific Ocean.



The good weather is still holding out for us – but the reports are showing rain tomorrow.

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Derby & Broome

Derby was the base for our Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventure so we had a couple of days there. The main street is lined with boab trees.

Derby’s claim to fame is that it has the highest tides in Australia, with approximately 11 metres difference between low and high tide.

It is also close to the start or finish (depending you which direction you travel) of the Gibb River Road. This road is a 660km 4WD track from Derby to Kununurra and has some spectacular gorges and sites along the way. At the moment we have heard that the gravel road is very, very corrugated making it quite difficult and slow travelling. We did not take this road.

The scenery on the highway between the two towns was much the same we we have seen previously. The termite hills stand out in the paddocks like headstones in a cemetery.

And then we arrived in Broome and are staying near the beautiful Cable Beach.

It has been years since we last visited Broome; it has changed so much. The Main Street has just undergone a facelift. New alfresco dining areas, improved parking and the streetscape has been updated. Looks great.

The Sun Picture Gardens is the world’s oldest picture gardens still in operation. Currently featuring two films a day, patrons watch from canvas deck chairs, in an open theatre. When we visited a film was about to start so I have used a photo from their website to show you the seating.

Image from Sun Pictures internet page.

Image from Sun Pictures internet page.

Along with hundreds of others we enjoyed a picnic dinner on the beach with our friend Carley and the kids. It was fun to watch the camel trains make their way up the beach and then back again at sunset. Fabulous way to end the day.

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Horizontal Falls

From Derby we have had the highlight of our trip so far. Getting to see the Horizontal Falls from both a seaplane and helicopter, a super fast jet boat up through the falls and an overnight stay out on a houseboat, anchored in the very calm Talbot Bay. Amazing!

Flying from the Derby airport, our scenic flight took us over King Sound and the Kimbolton and McLarty Ranges.

Landing in a seaplane was a first for both of us. Talbot Bay is such a tranquil place.

Our first experience out at the houseboat and pontoons was to swim in the shark/croc proof cage while the crew fed a few sharks.

Then it was into the 900hp jet boat for a cruise down Cyclone Creek to take in the rock formations and mangrove creeks.

The exhilaration of going through the Horizontal Falls on the outgoing evening and then again on the early morning tides was awesome. The power of the water rushing through the two narrow gaps was unbelievable. As usual, the photos don’t really capture the reality of the force created by the tides.

Back at the houseboat we watched the sunset and had a lovely dinner.

Next morning we were up at 5:30am for breakfast before a helicopter ride over the area.

On our morning trip to the falls the water coming through at the narrow gap was too dangerous to manoeuvre. The one and a half metre high wall of water on the outgoing tide was creating a large basin at the entrance so definitely not safe to pass through.

The return trip to Derby on the seaplane took us for one more look at the falls then we flew over the barramundi fish farm and back across King Sound.

If you ever have the opportunity to do this tour, we would highly recommend it!

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Kununurra to Derby

There is ever more amazing scenery as we make our way around to Derby. The landscape constantly changes from flat plains to these lovely hills and ranges.

We enjoyed a sit around the campfire chatting with fellow travellers.

On the way we stopped off at Geikie Gorge on the Fitzroy River. It was a very peaceful afternoons cruise amongst the colourful cliffs.

Seeing the lovely reflections on the water was the perfect end to the cruise.

As the sun was setting interesting clouds formed in the later afternoon sky.

You could never say you were bored with the scenery up here in the Kimberley’s.

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Kununurra

We are finally getting some relief from the unseasonally hot spell up here in the Kimberley’s. It is starting to cool off and we are certainly appreciating the change; especially the overnight temperatures.

Apparently, Kununurra is the newest town in Australia, established in 1961 on the Ord River, when the first diversion dam was built to create irrigation for new farming opportunities.

Today, Sandalwood plantations, chia, melons, pumpkins, sugar cane, quinoa, legumes, chick peas, bananas and other crops are grown on the Ord River Irrigation Area.

We cruised on Lake Kununurra into the late afternoon.

The much older port of Wyndham in the Cambridge Gulf, established in 1886, is surrounded by five rivers. The Durack, Pentecost and King rivers to the south, Forrest River to the west and Ord River to the north. The port initially serviced the gold mines of Halls Creek, then from 1919 – 1985 the Wyndham Meatworks. Today it’s the port of call for general services into the east Kimberley.

Not a lot of water was flowing over the Ivanhoe Crossing. The concrete causeway over the Ord River is just north of Kununurra and is really only suitable for 4WD’s to cross. Locals recommended it as the perfect spot for barramundi fishing, however saltwater crocodiles inhabit the area, so fishing from the causeway and banks is at your own risk!

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We have arrived at Lake Argyle

The trip from Katherine to Lake Argyle is very scenic, especially at Victoria River. The red rocky cliffs make for a dramatic change after the flat plains.

We stayed the night at Timber Creek in the company of some smallish freshwater crocodiles.

The trip into Lake Argyle was another great trip. The country up this way really is spectacular.

We have just returned from the afternoon and sunset boat cruise out on Lake Argyle. The lake is so huge, we only went about a third of the way down the lake on the four hour trip.

The colours in the rock are ever-changing in the sunlight.

The water seems endless.

Just before sunset we had the opportunity to have a swim in the lake.

And then we watched the stunning sunset from the boat with beers, bubbles and nibbles.

Another great day!

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Highlights of Katherine

Although the temperature is hot, 37 deg with a bit of humidity, the blessing is that there are no flies. You can open your mouth without fear of a fly or two going in!

We took a cruise on the Katherine River through the spectacular Nitmiluk Gorge (Katherine Gorge) in the Nitmiluk National Park. The highest peak of the gorge was a towing 60 metres above the water line.

We saw a couple of sunbaking freshwater crocs.

We also visited Edith Falls but due to the lack of summer rain this year the falls are just managing to send a little bit of water down the falls. This wet season the area only received 300 ml, a little under a third of their average annual rainfall of approx. 1,000 mls.

The area around the visitors park was lovely and green.

The lower pool glistened in the morning light.

Along the climb the view opened to the Nitmiluk National Park.

The bright yellow flowers of the Kapok trees have just about finished flowering and the ripe seed pods are bursting with the white fluffy kapok.

We walked to the Bemang Lookout to see the middle pool and the main waterfall. At this point we turned back due to the heat and didn’t complete the 2.7 km walk.

The rest of the time we have spent relaxing around the caravan park swimming pool and chatting to fellow caravaners. My goodness, you hear some stories!

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From Alice to Mataranka

One of our greatest challenges has been the change in weather. In Alice Springs the temperature was about 15 deg during the day with a very cold wind and 0 deg overnight and two days later we are in Mataranka with daytime temperatures of 34 deg and overnights of 19 deg. Not sure yet which is better!! We do have air conditioning so that should solve the problem, but only when we are plugged into power!

Leaving Alice Springs the buitmen road heads north going from one range to the next. They are endless but the scenery is lovely….very different to south of Alice. Small white trunk gum trees are everywhere and when you can see the next horizon from the top of the ranges, it is miles off in the distance.

Small termite hills reach for the sky.

Cattle wonder the ranges and ferral donkeys and horses are roaming around. Most of the photos on this post are taken from the moving car so may not be as clear as I would like.

Large windmills bring water to the stock.

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The flies are horrendous.

We stayed overnight at the Devil’s Marbles.

A visit to Daly Waters Pub on the way through was worth the stop. We arrived at about 9:30am so didn’t try the Barra & Beef Burger or have a beer but did have a coffee, which was very good for a ‘help yourself’ machine coffee. The pub is adorned with all sorts of memorabilia.

The drive into Mataranka is very scenic. The gums trees are a different variety and clouds float about – offering a bit of relief from the warm sun.

We are staying here for a couple of days with friends Richard & Helen from Perth at the Bitter Springs Caravan Park. After a couple of long days on the road it was nice to be able to luxuriate in the warm natural thermal springs, a short walk from the caravan park.

Along the nearby Roper River Richard tried his hand at Barra fishing – no luck this time.

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Butterflies were plentiful along the banks.

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Next stop is Katherine.

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Alice Springs & the West MacDonnell Ranges

We have arrived in Alice Springs during one of the busiest weeks on their calendar. Every caravan park is booked out. We wanted to stay for 4 nights and so have had to spread our stay between 3 caravan parks. Such a nuisance to move but at least we have the chance to have a good look around.

The largest annual sporting event in the Northern Territory, the Finke Desert Race is on, and the town is absolutely packed to the rafters with visitors. The race is a two-day off road multi terrain event featuring bikes, buggies, quads and cars/trucks through desert country from Alice Springs to the small town of Finke 233 km down near the SA border. The official opening was tonight in the Todd Street Mall with a display of some of the race cars and bikes and stuntmen from Showtime FMX doing daring jumps. Although the photos are not all that clear you get the idea of the event.

Anyway, back to sightseeing around Alice. Nestled in the base of the MacDonnell Ranges the town is nicer than we expected; the streets are lined with gum trees and it is a generally neat and tidy town. The Todd River is dry as a bone. The view from the Anzac Hill highlights the ranges.

Yesterday we took the West MacDonnell Ranges tourist loop and travelled about 430 km exploring the gorges and lookouts along the way. It was a long day be well worth it. Following the ranges we head west.

Our first stop was Simpsons Gap.

The view from Mt Sonder Lookout.

Ellery Creek Big Hole

The Neil Hargrave Lookout

The Ochre Pits

Glenn Helen Gorge

Tyler’s Pass Lookout with the enormous Gosse Bluff in the distance.

From here we are making our way to Katherine.

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Kings Canyon

Our next stop is at Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park about 300 km from Uluru. Fortunately the roads are all bitumen and in good condition.

The cold wind is still blowing. The skies are bright blue. The redish colour of the rock formations and canyon walls contrast with the river gum trees and the sky. And the flies are unbelievable!


We returned at sunset to see the colours change.

Next stop will be Alice Springs.

 

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Uluru & Kata Tjuta

Yalara is made up of approx 1,000 permanent residents; of which about 300 are indigenous who live in a small community on the edge of Uluru and the rest are employees of Ayers Rock Resort and it’s servicing businesses. During peak season it caters for an additional 6,000 visitors per night, making it almost totally a tourist town.

Visiting Uluru and Kata Tjuta has been a fabulous experience and a highlight of the trip so far.

It has been pretty chilly since we arrived and the strong cold winds have closed climbing of the rock – except for a few hours this morning.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) from the ground.



And from the helicopter flight.


Kata Tjuta (The Olga’s) from the ground.

And from the helicopter.

Sunset tonight was a bit of a fizzog – there was no clouds or colourful skies but we braved the cold and joined the crowds to get a good view anyway.

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Lake Eyre

Today we joined the WrightsAir scenic flight from Coober Pedy over to Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre and on to Anna Creek Painted Hills. It was spectacular to see from the air but unfortunately the photos don’t do it justice. Such a shame you can’t open a window to take the photos. The reflections on the windows make it very difficult to photograph the scenery below. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful flight and would recommend it if you are coming this way.

Setting off from Coober Pedy the opal fields are a standout.

They do it big out here!

Flying north east we cross Nilpinna Station which is on the Oodnadatta Track and has an area of 5,658 square kilometres. All the creek beds are dry after 5 years of drought.

The Davenport Ranges, with Mount Margaret as its peak, is the boundary of Nilpinna Station.

East of the Ranges is Anna Creek Station which is spread over 15,746 square kilometres.

Both stations are owned by the Williams Cattle Company which breeds and fattens cattle depending on the seasons. Our guide told us that Anna Creek Station can carry 44,000 head of cattle in a good season.

So far the flight has taken just over one and a half hours and we can finally just see Lake Eyre on the horizon.

Crossing the Neales River we continue on to the Warburton River which enters Lake Eyre on the north eastern side. It is from here that over 85 percent of the water enters Lake Eyre. The Warburtons major tributary is the Diamantina River which starts its flow in Queensland. This year Lake Eyre has filled to approx. 80 per cent which is the highest level since it actually filled in 1984. It is very clear where the Warburton flows into the Lake.

Once over Lake Eyre the enormous expanse of water is appreciated. Salt crusted shorelines and small islands made it an amazing sight.

We land at William Creek for some afternoon tea at the pub. Apart from the pub there is a campground and WrightsAir also have an office out here.

Next we fly south west to take in the colourful Anna Creek Painted Hills which rise up out of the desert landscape. Made up of sandstone, clay and iron-oxide the rocky outcrops are protected and are not accessible by road. The only way to enjoy their ever changing colours throughout the day is by air.

From Coober Pedy we will make our way to Uluru Ayers Rock.

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The road to Coober Pedy

From Adelaide we travel back to Port Augusta and turn north. After following the west side of the Flinders Ranges for a while we then get to treeless plains.


At our overnight free camp we are treated to a lovely sunset.

Surprisingly, the road from Woomera to Coober Pedy has few trees. Not what I expected….but then again, perhaps I hadn’t given it much thought.

There are several large lakes up this way…but due to the drought conditions here there is very little water in them.

The exception was Lake Hart…and we were one of many caravaners who had stopped to enjoy the scenery.

Coober Pedy is a town of seasons. During winter the cooler months bring locals back to the area to cater for the hugh influx of tourists heading north. Over summer when the temperatures can get into the 50’s only the die-hards stay on. Most businesses close and those that stay would probably live underground in dugouts. The above ground houses are occupied by the local aboriginal community or by locals who return only for the winter months.

This is one of the nicer entries to a dugout. Above the limestone hills flues to vent the underground rooms are evident.

This is every locals dream front yard….spare parts everywhere! You never know what you might need one day.

We decided on a tour of Coober Pedy and its surroundings with Stuart Range Outback Tours.

We first visited a local ‘new build’ that will be featured on Grand Designs Australia at some stage. The home is a typical dugout and so far the only work done has been the excavating by the tunnelling machines into the hill – this is how most people live up here in Coober Pedy – underground! With temperatures reaching up to 58 deg. C in summer and -2 deg. C in winter the best place to be is underground. The major walls and roof retain the roughness left by the tunnelling machines and will be a feature, but coated with Bondcrete – a waterproof sealer that will seal the surfaces to stop dust, water and erosion problems. The colours are beautiful. The openings will be glass to allow some natural light – with a large verandah out the front to keep the sun off the glass.

Jim was interested to see the 18 hole golf course. Hard to tell where it is! The only clue is the oil scrapes (greens).

Next we passed through several of the opal fields. These photos are taken out of the coach window as we were not allowed to leave the coach due to the dangers of mine shafts.

From here we travelled out to The Breakaways. This natural landscape was once an inland sea. Today the scene is very different.

The Dog Fence stretches approx 5,300km from the south Queensland to the Great Australian Bite. It is the longest continual construction in the world and was built to stop the Dingo’s from traveling south into the sheep farming areas of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It is generally considered to have been a success in controlling the wild dogs in these areas. Out here the landscape is more like a moonscape.

Our final stop was to visit the Serbian Orthodox Underground Church which was built in 1993.

We also visited one of the many opal shops for a look at some of their precious collections and a lot of tourist jewellery.

Such an interesting place to visit.

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Thank goodness he was right for the footy?