Katherine to Kununurra – 30th July
We leave Katherine and head west towards WA.
It was with no little trepidation that we set off from Kununurra to the turnoff to the Gibb River Road.
First stop was at the eastern end for a group shot.
Then off down the road towards the Cockburn Ranges.
The bitumen didn’t last long and we stopped just past the El Questro turnoff to lower our tyre pressures to something more suitable for running on the rough stuff. We dropped ours to 24PSI for the cruiser and 28PSI for the van. Had no tyre problems at all.
The Cockburn Ranges are spectacular.
And the road was not too bad.
We arrived at the Pentacost River crossing
I was the first across.
We all crossed safely and headed further south.
We stopped at a Photo-Op location just past Home Valley Station. We were doing one of our routine checks on our hub temperatures when I found one of my van hubs was running hot.
The Management sorted it. We got the hub off after letting it cool down. Turned out the brake shoes were on a little too tight. We adjusted the brakes, bunged a little more grease in the bearings put it all back together and set off again.
We found a great camp not far further down the road that had a view over the Cockburn Ranges, the Pentecost River and the confluence of the rivers at Wyndham. It also had decent Telstra connection, the last on the Gibb River Road.
It was my birthday so we applied our skills with the camp ovens and cooked up a dinner of lamb shanks and a chocolate cake, with candles, for desert.
I thought it was an appropriate occasion to have another cigar. A Cohiba Behike. Very nice.
The Gibb wasn’t too bad, but some of the roads leading off it were pretty rugged. This was the road to Ellenbrae Station and we’d pulled up to help a couple of guys in a Prado. They said they’d heard a bang and then some thumping noises. I had a look and found a blown shocker on the front driver’s side wheel. The rest of the management agreed with the prognosis. We told them to lower their tyre pressures and slow down a little.
Ellenbrae Station was a pleasant green spot and we stayed their for lunch.
We circled the wagons at Russ Creek that night. A good camp spot well back from the road and nice and flat.
We turned right at the Kalumburu and headed on up to Drysdale Station. The road was pretty rough so we kept the speed right down.
We came across an 80 Series Landcruiser abandoned and being stripped on the side of the road. Apparently a local bloke died in it and it was left there to rot.
We arrived at Drysdale Station and settled in for a few days.
We arranged the vans in our “Circle the Wagons” configuration. No power, no water, $15 per person per night.
The place was quite busy with a large number of motorcycle riders camping there. Beer was around $8 a stubby.
The Kimberley Burger was pretty tasty, and should have been for $18 for lunch or $26 for dinner (with chips).
We cooled off in Miner’s Pool just up the road from the station.
We cooked up a side of beef in the camp oven.
For Terry and Rosemary’s Wedding Anniversary.
We thought the road out to Mitchell Falls was just a little too rough for comfort so we booked a flight.
The countryside was pretty arid.
And some great ranges.
And closer up.
And the Prince Regent River.
We flew along the river.
Heading towards St. George Basin.
The river turned a little turbid and green as it became an estuary.
There wasn’t much water going over the King Cascades.
Mt. Trafalgar stood out.
Or this might have been Mt. Trafalgar. It was just next door to the last image.
Lots of bays along the Kimberly Coast.
And lots of cliffs and beaches.
It would be a great place to go with a boat.
We arrived over the Mitchell Falls and did a few orbits.
It was a pity the gorge was in the shadow.
But we were pleased that the falls we running.
Judy was enjoying herself.
We had a good view of our “Circled Wagons” on the landing approach.
We left Drysdale Station headed off back to the Gibb. Along the way Terry called up to say he had a problem. A broken spring.
We strapped the axle up and slowly headed back to Drysdale.
The Drysdale Station staff were very helpful, they gave Terry a number to call in Kununurra for the replacement springs and organised the shipment. Next morning the springs arrived by air at about 7:30AM and The Management set to work. We’d replace all the springs by mid afternoon.
And got pretty dirty in the process.
We set off early the next morning and we very pleased to arrive back at the relative smoothness of the Gibb River Road.
We motored on through the red dust.
And arrived at the Mount Barnett Roadhouse, gateway to Manning Gorge.
We set up camp at Manning Gorge, no power or water but the best ablutions block I’ve seen in a bush camp.
Next day we ferried across the Manning River for the trek to the gorge.
It’s a little over an hour across rocky ground and small gorges.
With wonderful views if you remember to look back at where you’ve come from.
Coco accompanied us and enjoyed a refreshing drink stop along the way.
The gorge was delightful. Plenty of water and full of fish.
I’d love to have a house on the gorge rim.
The waterfalls didn’t look particularly good in the image, but they were great being there.
The water tasted pretty good as well.
We were lucky to see so much water so late in the dry.
This was pool we went swimming in.
We swam over and under the falls. There was quite a stream of water falling.
Lots of Boab trees around. Some were extremely large.
The Manning River was only a couple of hundred metres from our camp and we went down for a swim the next day.
We left Manning Gorge and filled up the next day at Barnett Station. $2.50 litre for petrol or diesel. Ouch.
So back on that wonderful red dust
and corrugations again. But the vistas were amazing at every turn.
We crossed a number of ranges.
and lots of rocky terrain.
We stopped at Imintji for an excellent lunch an the diesel boys refilled at a somewhat cheaper price.
A little further down the road we were passed by a “hiker” looking somewhat tired.
There’s a lookout spot not far south of the turnoff to Bell Gorge that provides a great outlook over the Kimberley countryside.
We camped for a couple of days at March Fly Glen.
Rather poor name, but a lovely location surrounded by escarpments and full of tiny birds.
Continuing down the road we stopped for some great photo ops in the King Leopold Range.
Queen Victoria’s Head on the right down the road is an interesting rock formation.
It’s a little more obvious up close.
We set up camp next to the Lennard River.
And the intrepid travellers set off next day to Tunnel Creek.
The tunnel goes for about 750m
Parts of the tunnel have collapsed allowing a some daylight in.
There was quite a deal of water to wade through.
And some aboriginal art on the rock walls at the south entrance.
Rob adjusted the water temperature
Next morning we went to Windjana Gorge.
Large numbers of fresh water crocodiles.
Surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs of old coral reefs.
Some of the “freshies” were quite large.
And while it is claimed they they are relatively docile and harmless, will still rip you leg off if you upset them.
The entrance/exit to the gorge is through a narrow cleft.
We left our campsite and headed to Derby. A fairly easy run over a mix of bitumen and smooth graded gravel roads.
And celebrated our adventure with a glass of french champagne at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park.
We leave Katherine and head west.
First stop is Victoria River Roadhouse where I had a very tasty Buffalo Burger for lunch.
Pushing on we camped overnight at the Big Horse Campground on the Victoria River west of Timber Creek.
There was a great sunset across the Victoria River
Followed by a great camp oven stew, to get rid of all the vegetables before we hit the quarantine checkpoint into WA.
The WA border and the quarantine checkpoint.
We arrived in Kununurra and checked into the Hidden Valley Caravan Park. Its surrounded by sandstone crags and the sites are spacious and grassy. Facilities are basic but a very picturesque park to stayWe took a flight over Lake Argyle, the Bungle Bungles, the Argyle Diamond Mine and the Cockburn Ranges. It was by Kingfisher Tours and our pilot, Scott, provided a wealth of information about the area we flew over.
Lake Argyle was a wide expanse of blue in the red landscape.
There were a large number of islands and rocky outcrops.
It was like flying over a sea.
The Bungle Bungles appeared below.
We’ve been there a few years ago on the ground but from the air you can really appreciate the vast expanse of them.
Our plane flew a slow “S” across the sandstone domes.
The range was laced with narrow canyons, that appeared as little more than cracks in the rock,
to vast canyons with what appeared to be river beds in the base. It would be a spectacular view during the “wet”.
And even more.
We flew north over the Argyle diamond mine.
It’s no longer “open cut”. The mine is now underground chasing the diamond bearing dirt very deep down.
The geologists calculate it will list until around 2021.
We flew over the Cockburn Ranges
Which appeared quite green.
We got a god look at the exclusive El Questro homestead
Flew over the mudflats outside Wyndham
Overflew Ivanhoe Crossing on the Ord River
Had a good look at the vast farms irrigated by the water form Lake Argyle
And then landed back at the Kununurra Airport.
No visit to Kununurra is complete without a visit to the Hoochery.
We sampled their range of various proof rums. Unfortunately I was the designated driver and could only partake sparingly.
The following day we took a trip out to Wyndham on the dirt road. We stopped to look at Ivanhoe Crossing on the North side. Unfortunately, the council have blocked the crossing with huge boulders so you no longer have the fun of driving across the causeway. This picture shows just part of the crossing, there is about another 75% past the rocks.
We stopped at eh Mambi Island boat ramp and spotted our first wild “saltie” of the trip. Big bugger, at least 4 metres long.
The Marigu Billabong is a haven for birds. We saw quite a variety including a few brolgas.
A short way down from the bird hide an egret was standing on the back of a croc. It flew off and stood in front of it by the time I managed to snap a pic. Probably end up as dinner for the croc.
A feast of barramundi at the Wyndham Town Hotel was next on the agenda. Very tasty.
The port area is pretty sleepy.
And the port area itself is not too inviting being at the confluence of 5 croc infested rivers. The tide was ebbing while we were there and the current was pretty vicious.
The view from the lookout was spectacular.
The Kununurra Rodeo was on. We got there early and set up next to the ring.
They ran out the bulls and raised a lot of dust.
The ladies showed vast skills in the barrel races
And the stockmen got bounced around on the bucking horses. Unfortunately the rodeo was held late in the afternoon and evening and the light was too low to get images of the bull rides.
But I did get a chance to wear my new Akubra.The weather was great for a cruise on Lake Argyle.
The Management were having a great time.
The lake is immense, there are places were you cannot see the other side.
On little island was inhabited by a family of rock wallabies, tiny little creatures.
There are a huge number of fresh water crocodiles in the lake.
We stopped for lunch and a swim on a little island. The water was around 24C.
We climbed back on our cruise boat.
On the way back we passed a small rock outcrop in the lake, the nesting place of a Jabiru, naturally called Jabiru Rock. It contains he nest of a pair of Jabirus, who mate for life. Tragically the female didn’t return a couple of years ago and the male has been forlornly waiting for her. Apparently he’s now showing interest in another female.
We returned past the relatively tiny dam wall and took the bus down to the other side.
It looks somewhat bigger from this angle.And the exhaust from the hydro turbines made quite a splash.
My Stone Stomper took quite a beating up some of the rough roads earlier in the trip so we decided to spend the day repairing it.
A lot of the damage was caused by barbed wire and other detritus dredged up from the roads by the low hanging curtain.
A few metres of shade cloth, some glue, some clamps and some heavy cord saw it returned to a serviceable state.
Ready for the next stage of the trek down the Gibb River Road.
Arrived in Katherine
And checked into the Riverside Caravan Park. Nice sites, shaded in the morning. It’s getting pretty hot here. Lots of shopping to stock up for the next stage.
Next day, Rob led the troops on a spirited climb up the escarpment at Edith Falls.
The climb was worth it. A swim in the pool was very refreshing.
Especially under the falls.
Rob had some difficulty negotiating the rocky shore but was ably assisted by Rose.
The round trip return walk had some excellent lookouts.
Cutta Cutta Caves just south of Katherine is worth a visit.
Though it can be squeeze in spots.
The bats had moved from Mataranka, obviously they’ve taken up residence at Katherine Gorge. Very smelly.
We did the two gorge tour along the Katherine River.
Lots of spectacular scenery.
The second gorge.
And Jedda’s Leap (from the 50’s film Jedda – must see if I can find it on-line)
Lots of wild life including a relatively scarce Great Billed Heron
And a not so scare Fresh Water Crocodile.
The hot springs at the back of the Caravan Park are a great place to relax.
The Ghan was in today, so we went up to the station for a look. It was a little late because the rail south of Alice is blocked from an earlier derailment. The supermarkets are starting to run out of some items as they’re normally brought up by train from Adelaide.
We left Daly Waters
Had a lunch stop at the quirky Larrimah Hotel
And then moved on to overnight at Mataranka and float for a while in the hot springs.
Fortunately we weren’t plagued by incontinent bats this time but there were a number of semi-tame roos wandering around the park. Much to Coco’s consternation.
Hooked up and waved ta-ta to Birdsville.
Off into the desert again on the road to Bedourie.
Stopped for a look at the Cacoory Bore. Boiling water pouring out of a pipe and down a channel to a holding pond for stock.
Came across the remind of a dingo down the track. Serious teeth.
Arrived at Bedourie in time for the Camel Races. A respectable crowd in attendance.
There was a wood chopping competition.
An old man’s walking race, that’s me in the blue check shirt, I should have won but got pipped at the post by a local who broke into a run.
A catch the piglet event for the kids. It almost got away.
A Bedourie Camp Oven throwing competition.
And of course the Camel Races.
I place numerous bets, but apart from one I placed for Rob Farrington lost the lot.
We picked up a stack of T-Shirts from Queensland Tourism. I thought it was something to do with taking the pledge, but apparently it’s about visiting the remote Queensland outback. Which we were happy to do.
On from Bedourie via Boulia and Dajarra to Mt. Isa.
Gave us a chance to undertake some repairs to the van. Here’s Rob Farrington planning the new base for my battery box.
Followed up by some cutting and drilling.
We didn’t do a great deal of tourist stuff at Mt. Isa, we were mainly there to repair and restock, but we did a bit. The sundown view from the lookout was spectacular.
And Lake Moondarra, though low, was well worth a visit.
Next stop was Camooweal were we picked up some lunch and fuel.
We backtracked a couple of ks to the Camooweal Drover’s Camp and were conducted on a tour by an old drover, Jeff Simpson. He was absolutely fascinating describing the history and life of the drovers from the Kimberley to the west of NSW. If you are ever up that way, don’t miss him.
That night we camped beside the Georgina River, just over the bridge west our of Camooweal.
With fair winds behind us we headed across the Barkly Highway to the Barkly Homestead lunched and filled up.
After lunch we headed north on the Tablelands Highway and overnighted at the Brunette Downs Rest Area. Marvellous sunsets. And it’s getting warmer.
Continued along the highway through vanishing horizons.
Stopped for a coffee at the Kinana Station Rest Area
Arrived at the Heartbreak Hotel in Cape Crawford for fuel $2.2o / litre!!! Dropped in enough to get us to the Stuart Hwy and continued another 10K west.
To the Little River Rest area.
A delightful spot next to a clear spring fed river.
Large water monitors
And even larger bulls in attendance. We stayed a couple of nights here. A delightful spot.
Off west along the Carpentaria Highway.
To our camp at the Daly Waters Pub CP.
We went down to the Daly Waters Pub
And had a beer in the bar. This time it was line with bras rather than hats. Makes a bit of a change.
The weekly Pyjama Party was scheduled that night and Rob and I turned up in out onesies and won first prize. It was a great night.
We set off from Betoota along the Birdsville Development Road.
And sometimes the road was good, but mostly it was like the desert, pretty rough and rutted.
My Trailer-Mate Jack support bungee broke along there and ploughed a significant proportion of the road. Thought it was my hitch doing the ploughing as the bottom of the jack was hidden under the stone guard. Didn’t spot it until we went to drop the van off at the Birdsville CP. One rather bent jack and jockey-wheel clamp. (Replaced at Mt. Isa)
We had some more excitement on this leg. I’d slightly underestimated the distance from Innamincka to Birdsville and after adding the 5 litres left in my generator can, the 5 litres in Terry’s generator can, the 3 litres from Rob’s chainsaw can and the cup of fuel from my chainsaw, we pulled up next to the pumps at the Birdsville Roadhouse and the motor died. Tanks totally empty. Biggest fill I’ve ever done.
It was pretty busy as the Big Red Bash was on with a large contingent of entertainers performing out at the Big Red Sand Dune. The caravan park was very crowded and we managed to get our three vans in a sort of “U” across 2 sites. Very cosy.
Had pies from the famous Birdville Bakery for lunch
It was pretty cold out there, cold winds blowing in but we bundled up and braved the elements for our normal communal dinner that night.
The Birdsville Hotel was an interesting spot.
Nice seats to sit on and watch the passing parade.
And a typical outback bar for this part of the world, full of hats stuck to the ceiling and a variety of outback paraphenalia. Beer was pretty expensive, but on the plus side I discovered Cooper’s Pale Ale. Great stuff, now my tipple of choice. We ate in the hotel one night. Not your typical outback tucker.
Other nights we stayed back at camp and cooked up excellent meals between us. Fry-ups, pizzas. We’re all eating too much.
Toured around town, not a great deal to see.
The old hospital.
An example of what typically happens to a vehicle transiting the roads to Birdsville.
And the bore that provides the town water.
No visit to Birdsville is complete without climbing “Big Red” the highest sand dune in the Simpson Desert.
There’s quite a view from the top.
Of course I had to drive the cruiser up to the top.
Back at camp, Coco continued here mooching rounds of the caravans. Here she is mooching for sausages at Rob’s caravan.
Broken Hill to Milparinka 30th June 2014
We left Broken Hill early Monday and headed north on the Silver City Highway.
We soon hit the dirt, but it was generally smooth and comfortable to travel on.
We arrived at the Packsaddle Roadhouse around lunchtime
And had a huge hamburger in the colourful bar.
Arrived at Milparinka and circled the wagons.
Then settled down for a happy hour in the desert evening.
Milparinka to Cameron Corner 1st July 2014
Some magnificent wedge-tailed eagles enjoying the fresh food along the way. Not much road-kill in evidence yet. Must have been good rains in the area.
First stop is Tibbooburra for a tank fill and a bite of lunch and then off onto the rougher stuff toward Cameron Corner.
We pulled up on a dry lake bed for some afternoon tea.
And snapped a picture of three of the four vans in the team.
We crossed the gate in the Dog Fence at Cameron Corner from NSW to SA.
Then back into Queensland to the Cameron Corner Store.
Coco was not to sure of standing on the post but she persevered and straddled three states, NSW, SA and QLD.
We only straddled two states.
We had a drink in the standard outback colourful bar.
Collected some firewood along the dog fence, a 5600km fence to keep dingoes and wild dogs from getting to the other side. I’m not sure which is the other side.
The flies were pretty bad and fly nets were de rigueur. I think this mob were trying to spell out a message on Ray’s back.
Cameron Corner to Innamincka Attempt 1 – 1st July 2014
After lunch we set off again bound for Innamincka. We were slowed down by a large drive of cattle crossing the road at Bollards Lagoon. As you can see there were a few corrugations on the road.
About 26Km west of Cameron Corner we lost track of the team. Got a call on the radio that Rob (Rob Farrington) had a jammed brake back down the track and had pulled off the road. We turned round and headed back.
The locked wheel left quite a furrow on the road and the roadside before Rob pulled up.
The van was jacked up and the hub removed to reveal a minor disaster. A wheel bearing had overheated and seized, welding itself to the stub axle and the hub. The hub and wheel was replaced and we limped back very slowly to Cameron Corner to complete repairs.
Cameron Corner 1st July to 4th July
We settled back into Cameron Corner and ground the failed bearing from the stub axle. Local mechanic didn’t have any of the correct size so replacements were ordered from Broken Hill. They were scheduled to arrive on the 4th July.
We made the best of the situation and happy houred round the camp fire every night.
And enjoyed the outback sunsets.
The crystal clear skies made for a perfect night for enjoying a cigar, a Romeo and Juliet Commemorative Edition Churchill, courtesy of a Qatari prince, accompanied by an excellent 2007 Maurice O’Shea Shiraz courtesy of my mate, Steve Shipley.
Finally the new bearings arrived and were fitted. Lots of grinding and sanding and bashing involved before we had finished the repairs.
Friday night we had dinner in the Cameron Corner Store.
And farewelled the crew at the Cameron Corner Store.
Cameron Corner to Innamincka Attempt 2 – 5th July 2014
A short way down the track we stopped to check undercarriage on Rob’s van. His was OK but Ray’s was showing one wheel very hot.
A quick wheel and drum removal revealed a brake magnet had dropped off . This was disconnected and wheel replaced before setting off again across the 139 sand dunes between Cameron Corner and Innamincka.
A few beef started appearing over the dunes, but it was too early for a BBQ.
Turning right onto the Old Strezlecki Track. We were told it was better than the new one through Moomba. And it wasn’t too bad.
A few oil pumps along the way.
And a strange skeleton beside the track. Probably a southern Min Min.
Arrived at Innamincka.
And it was Terry’s shout at the pub. $38 for four beers. He’s still complaining about it.
We set up camp on the banks of the Cooper Creek at the Innamincka Town Common. Great spot, plenty of room and $5 per van.
A chilly night but the excellent BBQ meal and the wine fended off the cold.
View of Innamincka from the rubbish tip.
The two masters and the apprentice. Take your pick.
Visited Burke’s Grave just out of Innamincka.
Then went out to the Dig Tree and set up camp for a couple of days.
Ray went fishing and caught one. Unfortunately not quite big enough for all of us.
The Dig Tree, quite poignant.
I tried a bit of fishing. Quite futile actually.
Headed off up the Arrubury Track towards Birdsville. Not bad conditions, recently graded and stretches of bitumen over the steep bits.
The vanishing horizons at the end of the Arrubury Track, we turn right and head for Birdsville.
We camped opposite the abandoned Beetoota Hotel. Great camp spot, toilets, shelter, fire pits and visitations by the ghost of the publican.
Had a great campfire dinner that night.
And in the morning headed off past some very modern rock art to Birdsville.
Last couple of days in Broken Hill have been bitterly cold and windy.
Yesterday lazed around the town and had crowded happy hour in the van. Too cold to be outside.
Today we headed out to Silverton.
Pulled up at the iconic Silverton Hotel, location for a number of movies under a variety of names.
The boys enjoyed a convivial breakfast ale in the bar before heading up the road for an excellent lunch at the local cafe.
After lunch we spent some time touring the extensive museum at the local gaol.
And the girls obtained some welcome relief.
Drove from Hattah to Broken Hill today. Severe headwinds all the way. Fuel consumption about 25% more than normal. Arrived in Broken Hill and met up with the Bartons and Nunns. We’re camped at the racecourse. Nice green grass, unpowered $15 per night. Water, showers, toilets. Fairly basic but clean. We’re now happy houring at St. Patricks bar next to the grandstand.