Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Barkly Tablelands

Having left Daly Waters, we continued south to Three Ways, where we finally turned left (amazing, after so many hundreds of kilometres of straight road) and headed east towards the Queensland border. The land is very flat and dry, with untidy scrub, and very few trees. What watercourses we passed were all dry. 

The cattle are a specially developed breed - Droughtmasters, which are best suited to the poor conditions. They are basically Brahmans (the Indian sacred cows) crossed with regular shorthorns. Very little of the land is fenced, so it's not unusual to see them grazing along the roadside. At least they seem more road smart than the poor kangaroos. It's depressing how many crumpled Kangaroo carcasses we had driven past - Poor buggers. We camped at a cattle station called Barkly Homestead, and shared our plot with this beautiful boy!

Over the border and into Queensland! We're racing a bit at the moment, to allow for some much needed travel-free time with friends soon. We did have a quick look at Winton, the birthplace of Banjo Patterson's Waltzing Matilda.

Wayne's 50th Birthday

We headed off from Kununurra after a trouble free time with the mechanic - wonderful man! While waiting for him to finish, we were compelled to shop for Argyle pink diamonds. I loved them, but alas, the card would bounce far too high! Statistics are as such:
One in 10,000 diamonds is pink.
They cost 20 times that of a white diamond
95% of the world's pink diamonds come from the Argyle mine near Kununurra

A warm day in the car took us to a VERY dusty spot on the Victoria River, and we have now marched across the Northern Territory to our northern most point in the trip at Katherine. We are now heading south for a bit before heading east for Queensland.

Today, being Wayne's big 0 birthday, we have sought out a suitably quirky place to celebrate. We stopped for an ice-cream at the Larrimah Pub - bright pink, and suitably odd, but too early in the day to stop. It is also the highest altitude pub in the Northern Territory, and sports a giant Stubbie outside.

We ended up at the Daly Waters pub, which is totally jammed full of ANYTHING anyone could think to collect, from bras to coins to dutch clogs.
Had a blissful soak in their pool and then a yummy meal. Only problem was that they felt some live entertainment was in order. We lasted under 5 minutes before retiring for an early night. Daly Waters has a very interesting past, having been a telegraph station and post office for the region. It was then the perfect spot to refuel the early QANTAS planes heading from Sydney to Singapore. That really put it on the maps, and it was then integral in Australia's air defence during WW2. These days it has a permanent population of 18 souls, although it would seem there is a nightly population of about 500 travellers!!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Kimberley - Part 3

Our last few days in this region was spent at Lake Argyle, relaxing, doing some homework and exploring while we waited for the mechanic in Kununurra to be able to fill the mystery substance into the mystery tank!

Lake Argyle is the biggest man-made lake in the southern hemisphere. It was formed when the Ord River was dammed in the 1960's. It has a capacity 21 times that of Sydney Harbour. The down side is that vast tracts of significant Aboriginal grounds were flooded - without any discussion with their elders. The up side is that it produces hydro-electric power for the region, and assures permanent water for irrigation for the Ord basin around Kununurra and Wyndham. There is SO much water!! They only ever use 5% of the yearly catchment, so lots is just released regularly to flow out to sea 120km away. In fact, during the 2010 wet season they released enough every day to service the needs of the whole state for a year! There has been talk of a pipeline, but it has been dismissed as too costly/ infeasible.

Sorry - can't work out how to rotate!


Would love to stay longer, but must roll on into the Northern Territory...

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Kimberley - Part 2

We had a lovely day yesterday. We set out from broom nice and early. The countryside was once again arid and scrubby - Broome's tropical gardens were soon forgotten. We are seeing more and more Boab trees. I just love them - they are so full pf character. Some of the old giants are huge and gnarled, and they seem to grow in "families" with grandparents, parents and kids all around each other.

Having reached Fitzroy Crossing, we travelled out of town to the Geikie Gorge, where we took a DEC boat tour. It was so peaceful. The gorge is a left-over from the Devonian Era, when this whole area was underwater and part of the sea. It's not hard to imagine these rocks as a reef.

We saw our first crocs! These were the smaller, and "safer" freshwater crocs. We have yet to meet their Estuarine cousins - not that we are in any hurry!

We finished our day off having yummy pub dinner with Terry and Faye who had been on the boat tour with us. They were good company, and we enjoyed swapping notes as they travel south and we continue north.

Tonight we have arrived in Kununurra with a bit of a cloud over things. Some little warning light of impending doom has appeared on the dashboard. The manual assures us that we must have an accredited person sort it out, or risk voiding our warranty. As far as we can find, the closest person would be in Darwin, which will add 600km to our trip, and cost us precious days. Roll on Monday morning when we can make some phone calls. 

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Kimberley - Part 1

We've seen our first wild camel, the cattle look strange:

and there are all these odd birds, including tame peacocks at Sandfire!. 

The weather is hot!! We're now in the far north west. Yesterday we arrived in Broome. It has a fascinating history, and we spent some hours going through the museum looking at its life as capital of the pearling industry, its WW2 years, and then its decline. 

Roebuck Bay

The Famous Cable Beach

Our new problem

It has since been resurrected by the tourism - in a really big way! It is now famous for its pearl shops, and its resort life at Cable Beach.

Mother of Pearl Carvings by Aboriginies

 This one is worth $100,000. Unfortunately, the VISA card bounced!

This is the Japanese Cemetery in Broome. Hundreds of Japanese divers lost their lives diving for Pearl Shells prior to WW2.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Pilbara

Another BIG to add to our list before leaving the coast for the day.

Then from one extreme to the other! Pristine & natural to huge scale mining and gas. The land is so arid, with endless kilometres of barren scrub over the deepest of red gravelly soil.

In places, the rocky outcrops are so full of iron that they actually shine in the sun. All the river and creek beds are dry, and I can't imagine what this area must look like in the wet. The weather is warming up now - Alice and I can tell, as Wayne is complaining! It's 8:10 and he's threatening to have a second shower.

Last night we made it through to Dampier. We took the obligatory photo with Red Dog (an Australian icon for my O/S friends).

Despite the traffic jam with the end of shift miners, the place is ruggedly beautiful and peaceful. We drifted off to sleep....for 5 minutes... and then listened to them loading a huge ship with iron ore for the rest of the night!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Ningaloo Reef

Having spent a long day on the road, we collapsed in a very full caravan park in Exmouth. Next morning we rounded the north west cape to explore the Cape Range National Park. It is so arid, with a line of rocky barren hills close to a pristine white coast. 

Just off the coast (walking distance in places) is the Ningaloo Reef. It is the home of nesting turtles (not now), thousands of fish, heaps of coral, and whale sharks out beyond the breakers.

Would have loved to have spent more time here (not in school holidays), but really enjoyed taking ourselves snorkeling, and also going on a glass bottom boat/snorkeling tour.

Much better value for money than Monkey Mia!!

Shark Bay Region

Having left Prince Leonard, we travelled through towards Monkey Mia. We spent a night beside the stromatolites at an "interesting" caravan park. The stromatolites are the old living species on the planet. The most amazing thing about these rock-like structures is that someone thought they might be alive! They have survived here as the water is super-salty and their predators could not survive.

Next we made it up to Denham and Monkey Mia. Although it was pretty and the dolphins are wonderful, we were disappointed in the tourist rip off factor. Everything was great, but over-priced as they have a monopoly. The conservation authorities on the other hand were very informative. We had expected to swim with and touch the dolphins, but this practice has been stopped in the best interests of the dolphins.They did come up into the very shallow water, and we loved being that close.

We also went on a catamaran trip to see the wildlife in deeper water. Unfortunately, the dugongs and turtles were on holidays, but we saw lots of dolphins. The area is home to over 4500 of them.

Sadly, we said goodbye to Andrew here. It's really hard to spend 3 weeks driving your son out into the remote desert, and then speeding off without him!