Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kununnurra to El Questro

After a fun but full-on 3 days canoeing, we had a pretty relaxed couple of days in Kununurra. It was getting pretty hot though - 37deg days, and inspired by our canoeing trip, we bought ourselves a new tent to sleep in as the van was becoming a sweat-fest at night. The tent consists of a mozzie dome inner - just mesh all the way around, with a separate fly over the top. Its designed for summer and most nights we don't even bother to put the fly on. So much better!

We went for a 45 minute tourist drive around the outskirts of Kununurra. We drove to the Ivanhoe Crossing but didn't go over in our van. In fact we didn't even get out of the van as we knew it was saltwater croc territory and we weren't keen on getting eaten.

Road to nowhere:

We went to a great gallery with Zebra Rock stone and purchased a necklace for myself and Sha. The next stop was a fruit and vege shop where we had a lovely mango icecream puree.
We then called past the Hoochery Distillery:

These guys mainly distil rum (not our favourite drink!) but also do some whisky and liquers. Not to my taste but Dave had a few:

I did feel bad for them as the huge tax on alcohol meant that the price for a bottle was pretty hefty ($50 plus) and this was off-putting for many people I think. Not really fair that the smaller distilleries still have to pay the same tax as the mass producers.

On our way back into town we spotted a pretty cool tractor:

We drove back into town and had a swim at Swim Beach. Later that afternoon we drove up to a lookout which was quite nice:

The next morning we woke at 5:30am to walk into Mirima National Park which is right next to the caravan park we were staying in (Hidden Valley). It is supposed to be a mini Bungle Bungles with similar rock formations. It was only a short walk around and we were back at camp by 8am.
After packing up camp we drove into town and went to the Lovell Gallery where we saw some great art including the HUGE 18m x 2m painting of the Bungle Bungles. Truly amazing.
We went to a framing shop and bought a set of three boab prints to get framed when we get home. These prints are by Al Mason and are caricatures of Boab Trees in different poses - check it out here to have a look. Now wherever we see Boab Trees, we can see them doing different things, because they do indeed look so human-like!
We drove out to Wyndham and had a look around the port area before buying some Stones Ginger Beer and setting up camp at Wyndham Caravan Park. Drank ginger beer, swam in the pool and ate 2-minute noodles - luxury!
The next morning we were woken by hundreds of noisy galahs, however it was 8am so we were being a bit lazy. We went up the Five Rivers Lookout which was pretty impressive. We then checked out the aboriginal dreamtime statues. We had seen a picture of these in a brochure....

... but didn't realise how big they were!
We also stopped at the big croc in preparation for our visit to the crocodile farm:
Now the Wyndham Crocodile Farm is just amazing. It is actually a working crocodile farm, where they are farmed for meat and skin. They also have to accept any rogue crocodiles that are caught out in the wild which are causing problems to humans so many of the crocs are pretty aggressive. The farm looks a little dingy from the outside - its definately no Australia Zoo and we later met a couple who thought it looked a bit dodgy for the $18 entrance fee but it is very much worth it if you want a close up view of some enormous crocodiles. Just make sure you are there for feeding time as at other times they don't tend to be moving around.
We got there at about 10am and walked around for a while before the 11am feeding.
The first croc we saw was Jethro and he was HUGE:

Feeding time - look at those mean eyes!

There are a couple of videos at the bottom of the blog - check them out they're pretty amazing!
We drove towards Parry's Lagoon and stopped at the bird hide at Marlgu Lagoon - it was a pretty spot with plenty of birds, lillies and even some barramundi!

The hide was great - a well shaded spot to quietly check out all the birdlife and info boards on everything you could see:

We then managed to get lost on a very dodgy 4WD track that the pig was most definately not made for. We turned around and made our way back the long way to Parrys Lagoon Farm.
We met a resident Brolga there.
She seemed very friendly and we were able to get quite close, but she later chased Dave as we were coming back from the swimming pool. She looked down at his toes and I think she thought they were big fat juicy grubs and next thing you know, the chase was on! Quite funny to watch but then I wasn't the one being hunted!

We checked in and got ourselves a nice spot under the shade of a mango tree:

It was a very relaxing stay - we had takeway Barra and Chips for dinner. Later that night on the way back from the bathroom when it was dark we got ambushed by the Brolga again. Dave showed off his chivalrous side when he leapt into the van and locked it behind him, leaving me out in the dark with the Brolga. Thanks Dave!
The next morning we drove back out to Marlgu Lagoon and spent abut an hour in the bird hide by ourselves. We saw lots of great birdlife. Does it mean I'm getting old when I start naming all the birds I can see and wish I had a pair of binoculars so I could see them better?
We managed to spot a croc on the opposite bank:

He ended up swimming right over to us and we were enjoying watching him when a busload of noisy tourists arrived - one of them was even singing! Needless to say the crocodile and all birdlife disappeared and the tourists all wondered why there wasn't much to see. Time for us to leave!
On the way out from the lagoon we saw a lone boab:

We drove back into Wyndham where we purchased a slab of VB cans (eugh, but not much else on offer!) Nothing sounds more refreshing than the "Tchhhh" of a cold can of beer being cracked open (even if it is VB!)
We drove towards Diggers Rest Station where we were going to stay the night - recommended by my Uncle - JB. We stopped at some Aboriginal Rock Paintings along the way:

We also saw another boab prison tree:

We arrived at Diggers Rest which is a working cattle station in the East Kimberly at the eastern end of the Gibb River Road. It is surrounded by the beautiful Cockburn Ranges and Baz Lurhman and his team were based there for a time while they filmed scenes from Australia. We haven't seen this movie yet but are keen to now (despite its appalling ratings) just to see the scenery that we have now encountered.

Alida and Roderick own Diggers Rest but Roderick was away. We met Alida and friends of their's Sue and Steve from Nowra, who were all lovely and we then set up our tent. We hung out for a couple of hours trying to avoid the heat and decided to do a horse ride at 4pm when it was a bit cooler. We had a bit of a look around, enjoying the welcoming homely feel of the place.
There were heaps of goats and kids around:

... and we even spotted JB:

Well not quite....

At 4pm we set off on our horse ride - Dave on Cat and myself on Moses:

Dave was a bit wary of riding as the last two times he's been on a horse he was thrown off, however we just took it at a leisurely pace. Moses was being lazy and didn't want to move no matter how much encouragement I gave him so our guide had to put a lead rope on him for some of the way (just like the pony rides at the fair!) Cat was funny as he always wanted to go second so he kept trying to get in the middle which was quite difficult with the lead rope between us! We rode out to "The Island" and enjoyed our surroundings and the late afternoon sun on the trees around us.

At one point a bunch of horses came over to us to investigate.:

These ones were a bit wilder and they gave our horses a fright and they decided to bolt. Luckily we were able to control them and no-one came off. Phew!
We came to the "Kissing Boab" which is a huge boab tree and is in the Australia movie - anyone seen it?

We found a poor weak kid goat under a tree and took it back to join the four other kids who weren't doing soo well. He wouldn't take the bottles of milk that were offered to him and died the next day, poor little thing.
We enjoyed the sunset from horseback on our way back.
One of the two Emu's on the farm:

The next morning we woke up and decided it was such a great place that we would stay another night (and reading the guest book I think this is a common occurance!)
We met a couple of families here and the children just loved giving the kids their bottle feeds.
One of the (much healthier) kids:

Over breakfast we swapped travel ideas with Marco, Birgit and family who are travelling in the opposite direction - great to exchange stories on places to go / not go.
Moses and Cat hanging out with the crew:

We met Bill, and older man who had been coming to /diggers Rest for years. He did beautiful Boab nut carvings:

We had an early lunch and then Big Al kindly offered to take us on a drive in his "Safari Truck" so all 11 of us - 7 adults and 4 kids - piled in:

This was great fun and the truck was able to take us pretty much anywhere. We drove all around the property and had a great view of the Cockburn Ranges:

We stopped again at the Kissing Boab so the others could have a look:

River View:

On the way back to the house the Emu appeared and decided to race us back - if you've ever seen an emu run at full tilt you'll know what a funny sight it is (Meat pie on legs)!
We arrived back to find that the chooks had made themselves at home beside our tent:

We went for a swim, had a shower, downed some beers and went to watch the sunset:

When we got back and were cooking dinner, Sue came in and found a tree frog on one of the dinner trays:

Dave had a few more beers and watched the footy while I went to the tent and promptly fell asleep.
In the morning we said our goodbyes to Alida and the gang:
Thanks to everyone we met - Alida, Sue, Steve, Rita, Big Al, Bill - for making our stay such a memorable one.

We then drove onto the Gibb River Road towards El Questro Wilderness Park. We stopped at Emma Gorge where we paid the entry fee ($17pp) and did the gorge walk.
This was a fairly easy walk past lovely pools:

Which ended in a great plunge pool where we had a refreshing swim - a great relief in the intense heat of the day:

We headed towards the township and had to do a river crossing to get over - luckily the pig made it with no dramas but when we arrived in the township we noticed that we were the only 2WD there and got a few stares. A video of the crossing is at the end of the blog.
We bumped into Marco, Birgit and the kids and put up our tent next to them before going for a swim in the waterhole.
We had the Saturday night BBQ which was a buffet BBQ dinner and entertainment by a guitarist / singer and Buddy the whip-cracking cowboy. We had a few drinks and headed back to the campsite about 9:30pm - party animals!
The next morning we woke up early at 5:15am to pack up and head to Zebedee Springs which are hot springs only open to the public from 6am - noon. We met Marco and family there and managed to have the place to oursleves for about an hour:

We then drove onto El Questro Gorge but had to stop part way along as there was a deep water crossing we definately could not make it across. We waited for the others and they were very kind to let us squeeze into their 4WD and take us across to the start of the walk.
We did the walk together and it was lovely.

The first part was easy and then at the halfway point there was a pool to swim across and clamber over some rocks to get to the other side.

We continued walking, rock-hopping our way to another gorgeous pool at the end which again we had all ot ourselves for a while:

The Hoefers had to be back for a boat hire they had booked so we got ourselves moving again (having a laugh at a tour group we passed wearing matching hiking outfits and looking very hot, while we went past in our casual clothes and togs).
The Hoefers at the rive crossing:
Thanks so much for allowing us to intrude upon your holiday! You've given us a glimpse into the future travelling with a family in tow - I hope our children will be as polite ansd friendly as yours are.

We headed back to Kununurra to get more supplies and wait to hear from Renate regarding a lift into the Bungle Bungles. We checked in to Happy Valley Caravan Park (again) and gave the Space Pig a really good wash - she certainly deserved it.
The next day was very chilled out - washing, shopping and lazing by the pool. Heard back from Renate and organised to meet on the 4th of September, giving us another 3 days to fill in (shouldn't be too hard!)
The next day we packed up and headed just over the NT border to Keep River National Park. We stopped at the Ranger Station where there was some great info, had a quick look at Cocktoo Lagoon and then did a short walk to Ginger's Hill (or is that Leroy's Hill?) Here we saw a small stone and stick structure used in the past by the aboriginal people. Any idea what it is?

It was used to catch birds of prey. A person would light a fire and hide inside. The birds would be attracted by the smoke and the person would push a sharp stick up and spear the bird. Pretty clever, huh?

We then drove to Jarnem Camp where we set up the tent and blobbed around for a bit as it was far too stifling hot to walk.At about 2:30pm when it was a little cooler we set off to do the Jarnem Walk. We saw similar formations to the Bungles but again, much smaller:

Back at camp we decided to set up the camp shower for the first time. Dave used some ropes to rig it up while we were watched by a family with some amusement.

However they weren't laughing when they saw us rinse ourselves off under the cool water!
The next day we did the Jinumum Walk along the (dry) river bed to a site once used as a wet season shelter. We then did the Gurrandalng walk from the second campsite which weaved through the sandstone formations.
We then drove out and back across the border, stopping at the quarantine station. We told the guy we had only come from Kununurra the previous day and he asked to see proof. However we'd thrown out our receipts from the caravan park. Luckily I was able to show him our diary which he read and let us pass through without going through all our stuff.
We did a few things in Kununurra and then drove out of Kununurra towards Turkey Creek where we were booked in to do a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungles and where we would meet Renate.
Next instalment: Bungle Bungle Adventures!

River Crossing at El Questro:

Jethro having a feed:

Doc: Just because you can't see a croc, doesn't mean its not there:

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