We love our beaches, and Cable Beach certainly is a very beautiful beach with fine white sand, gorgeous turquoise water and glorious sunshine every day. Lots of people take their drinks and snacks to have on the beach while they wait for the famous Cable Beach sunset but I was more interested in photographing the iconic camel ride that wends it’s way along the beach in the evening.
I turned around as the sun was going down, just in time to see the full moon seemingly perched on top of the sand dune. It looked surreal.
Since I have always been a sucker for a nice sunset, I just couldn’t resist this shot where everything just came together at the right time.
Ladies Day at the Broome Races was a beautiful, sunny Tuesday and there were so many people there that I think the town of Broome must have been a bit empty! Lots of the ladies were dressed up and wearing hats that ranged from gorgeous to very, very ordinary. I did get dressed up in ‘the frock’ that I have with me, but thought my grubby sunhat wouldn’t really add to the look so I just braided my hair and put in a pretty clip.
Peter tried his luck with a few bets on the horses, I stuck to photos… much safer!
These two were neck and neck as they approached the finish line. Unfortunately neither of them was the horse we backed…
Who knew racing was such a grubby sport for the jockey, and look at the horse’s face, too.
At the end of the race
As the sun went down, we headed down to watch the sunset at Cable Beach
And lastly, another of the photos I took in Derby, of the Dinner Tree where the drovers used to meet for dinner when they arrived with their stock, ready for export from the Derby Jetty
We are in Broome for a bit longer yet, so I will head down to Cable Beach again to try for a photo of the camels on the beach at sunset. Stay tuned!
Last night we had the company of some very unusual vehicles! The W.A. Variety Bash was in Broome and camping at our campground, so we had the opportunity to meet some of the characters taking part in the Bash. Some of them have competed for over 20 years, and we were surprised to find a couple of all female teams as well. The cars are all pre-1985 (prior to this year the vehicles needed to be pre-1975) and it seems it is a labour of love as the cars need special gear and modifications to enable them to (mostly) withstand the tough conditions. These guys will be travelling along part of the Gibb River Road, which is designated 4WD only, in conventional vehicles and finishing up in Kununurra. Therefore it is important that they have the backup of the four vehicles for running repairs, and a ‘sweep’ car that follows in the rear and makes sure no-one is left behind at the end of the day.
The Wacky Witches were on their very first Bash, two women on their own and they would have been well into their seventies. Good to see, and they were having a ball (so far at least!)
The Wizard of Oz was another all girl team, driving a 1963 Valiant Safari
Out of Africa was a husband and wife team. He has done over 20 Bashes and this is his wife’s seventh. They were driving the same model Valiant Safari that we had when I was growing up, except we didn’t have the zoo of animals on the roof…or stripes painted on the sides…
This team was another African inspired theme, with the great white hunter and his herd of zebras. Must have been very warm in the long sleeve zebra suit (the girl made it herself from a doona cover)
One that really caught our eye was Betty Boop. This is another husband and wife team, and they told us they have different costumes to choose from each day. They have used this vehicle for the past seven years, and wouldn’t miss it for anything. Today they were dressed as Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty, and I think they would have been pretty warm too.
We had a great time at the Derby Rodeo. Teams from the cattle stations in the surrounding areas all come in to compete in all sorts of events. Outback Iron-man was fun to watch, it starts with a person lying in their swag, next to a horse, with their boots off. They have to get out, put on their boots, roll up and tie the swag then pick it up and run with it to the other end. They tag the next person, who has to roll a 44 gallon drum all the way back along the arena to the other end. The next person from that end has to shoulder a bag of horse feed and run to the other end, then the next person there has to pick up the saddle & bridle and race back to the other side. They have to saddle the horse and the last person gallops the horse back down to finish at the other end. The event was contested by about 5 teams, so it was bedlam with lots of people all doing different things at the same time.
Barrel Racing is fast and furious, where the rider has to manoeuvre their horse around a series of barrels then gallop to the other end of the arena and screech to a halt before they run into the fence. You can see that the riders spend hours and hours training their horses.
Then of course there was the steer riding, bronco riding and bull riding. I don’t know how those guys (and occasionally a girl) can do that. It’s amazing that they don’t get trampled when they come off, because the rider usually ends up being tossed into the air. The clowns and other helpers in the arena do an amazing job of looking after the riders.
Last but not least, there is the steer riding. The steers may be smaller but that doesn’t mean they are any less grumpy!
At Fitzroy Crossing we stayed at the old Crossing Inn camp ground. In the evening we took the Geikie Gorge sunset boat tour which took us along the gorge through the wonderful limestone cliffs. There were heaps of freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun on the banks of the river.
The white colour at the bottom of the cliffs shows the height of the water when the rains come. During the wet, there are no boat tours as the whole area becomes flooded with many metres of water and when the flood recedes there is around 8 tonnes of sandy soil to be moved again before the boat ramps and pathways can be found.
The limestone cliffs are eroded into artistic and wonderful shapes. There were lots of fairy martens nesting under the rocky overhangs.
Quite close to Halls Creek, off the Duncan Highway, is an amazing sub-vertical quartz vein that is visible as a light coloured rock wall, protruding up to six metres above the surrounding surface. The quartz is hard and resistant to weathering, and the China Wall lines the surrounding hills. The length of the wall is a mystery; it is visible from Halls Creek all the way to the Bungle Bungles.
The wall looks for all the world as though people have carefully laid the blocks of quartz
We camped for the night at Mary Pool, which is a free camp set a little way off the highway in a beautiful, shady spot alongside the river. We gathered some wood and lit a camp fire with some friends and enjoyed a lovely evening together. There are lots of 24 hour free camps along the highways up here, some are pretty basic, but others are in lovely spots like this one.
Well, we didn’t really go all that far down the Gibb River Road, but we loved the day we spent at Emma Gorge with our Phillip Island friends, Lyn and Jeff.
Lyn told me this was her favourite place, and I can see why. It is absolutely stunning, very beautiful and so peaceful. And the water is an amazing turquoise blue colour.
The other side of the rock pool is a pebbly shallow. Very inviting, but the water was quite cold.
The roads might be long in the Kimberley, but there is so much to see and so many amazing vistas that it is never boring.
We drove through this grass fire on the way to Wyndham and on the return trip as well, by which time it was burning on both sides of the road. It is very common up here to see burnt out sections of bush and grass land. Most of the fires only burn the grass, leaving the small trees, and ‘cleaning up’ the country, as the aboriginals say.
These are just a few photos I took at Hidden Valley in the Mirima National Park. I like them and I thought you might too!
This is the beautiful Ord River, snaking down from Lake Argyle towards Kununurra. As you can see, there is no shortage of water up here.
The striped beehive domes of the Bungle Bungles are awe inspiring to see, it is very difficult to capture their majesty in a photo. We were lucky to land in the middle of the Bungles while the pilot picked up a couple of extra passengers.
The area covered by the Ord River irrigation scheme is huge. There is still some experimentation about what crops are most suited to growing here. Vegetables and fruits grow well, but the cost of transport is prohibitive, so they are looking for high value crops, such as sandlewood, which seems to be thriving in this area.
This is our plane, banking to land at Kununurra at the end of our memorable flight. That is Peter sitting up front in the co-pilot’s seat (wearing his good hat with the crocodile skin band). And yes, the pilot did look at though he was barely out of high school!
Arriving in Kununurra, I was hoping for internet access to update the blog, but no such luck, so I don’t know when you will see this! Never mind, Kununurra is a lovely place and we found a caravan park right on the edge of the lake, so we had a great spot with water views.
Our camp site is by the edge of the lake, which is very pretty at sunset, and looks as though it would be ideal for kayaking…except that we didn’t bring the kayaks, and we are cautious of crocodiles so probably wouldn’t have gone anyway…
Kununurra is surprisingly beautiful, like an oasis in the desert. Lake Argyle is full to overflowing, so they are letting water out into the Ord River and there is water to spare there, so all the parks and gardens are lush and green.
Peter found a fellow musician in the park, so they enjoyed a couple of pleasant hours jamming at the edge of the lake as the sun went down, which lots of fellow campers enjoyed.
Subsequently they played together for ‘hamburger night’ at the caravan park (for a free meal!) and on the Saturday night Peter played again with Steve, who had a gig at the Pumphouse Restaurant. We were pleased to also have dinner there with Lyn and Jeff, who are travelling in the opposite direction to us. We figured we would meet them somewhere along the way and this was a great place for our meeting.
Well, we have crossed the border into Western Australia and lost another hour and a half in the process, as well as all our fruits and veggies. Our first stop was Lake Argyle which was stunning in it’s setting amongst red rocky outcrops, and the size of it is astounding. It was constructed on the station lands belonging to the pioneering Durak family, and the original homestead was relocated (it would have been submerged under the gigantic lake) and is now a museum.
We loved the caravan park there, which has an infinity pool that seems to be suspended above the lake. Only problem was that it seemed very cold after the thermal spring fed pools we had been enjoying in the Northern Territory.
Our solution was a quick dip then to partake of a sundowner from the lawn overlooking the pool and the lovely view, while we enjoyed the sunset. Very pleasant indeed.
Neither of us has been to the Show since we were kids, so it was good to be in Darwin for the Show this year. I was very tempted to buy fairy floss just for old times sake! Anyway, I resisted, but we loved the show and looking at all the exhibits from scarecrow competition to boxing tent, plus all the handcrafts, animals and home grown produce. There was something for everyone, and everyone was having a great time.
The pig racing was something new, and very cute to see, especially when the smallest pig leapt from the tower into the pool and quickly swam over to his trainer.
The boxing tent is the last one in existence in Australia. Somehow we weren’t tempted to join in for this one.
The under 16 girls’ polo cross team from Victoria was visiting, and we watched a match against N.T. Those girls are very talented horsewomen.
We were intrigued by this Northern Territory Police Rescue Vehicle. Not sure who it is intended to rescue, it had grills on all the windows and gun ports in the sides, plus binoculars sticking up out of the roof. It looked very serious, and in matt black looked as though it was not meant to be seen after dark.
We spent a day exploring the city of Darwin while the car was being serviced. We came across a man with reptiles in the Smith Street Mall so Mel and Peter had the experience of holding two of the snakes.
Peter’s snake was a rainbow serpent (can’t remember the other name) which was determined to make it’s way up the sleeve of his shirt.
Melanie bought lunch for us, we were looking for a nice restaurant that served local wild foods, but couldn’t find one. In the end we went down to the wharf precinct and had crocodile burgers and buffalo burgers, followed by gelati’s from Trampoline for dessert, which was all quite delicious. Buffalo tastes a bit gamey like kangaroo and crocodile tastes like a cross between chicken and turkey, as we had been told. I don’t know why, but it seems strange that such a huge and ferocious animal has white flesh.
Territory Wildlife Park is just up the road from our camp, right next to Berry Springs Nature Park. It was very interesting because the focus was on birds and animals from the Northern Territory with lots of interesting displays and well presented information about all the animals. It was a very educational day!
The park is very big, about 800 hectares I think, and an open bus runs around frequently so if you are sick of walking (it gets pretty hot) you can jump on the bus to the next thing you want to see. The birds of prey show was excellent, and following that we visited the Nocturnal house for owls, snakes, bats, bandicoots, frogs, wallabies and various other nocturnal beasts.
The Monsoon Forest walk features a monsoon storm with thunder and lightning as well as a huge walk-through aviary with all manner of local exotic and colourful birds, followed by a walk through the rainforest.
Our other favourite exhibit was the aquarium, which had a tank that you walked through, surrounded on both sides and above with lots of different sea animals including barramundi and whip rays. There were also crocodiles, both freshwater and saltwater, of course, and quite a few turtles, as well as tanks of brightly coloured tropical fish.
What a big day! We finished of with a cooling dip at Berry Springs Nature Reserve before heading home for dinner and a movie under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema that is held twice a week at Tumbling Waters.
No visit to the Northern Territory is complete without spending some time in Litchfield National Park, which is renowned for it’s lovely waterfalls and pristine creeks.
Rainforest creek in Litchfield National Park
Walker Creek was lovely, with three cascades flowing through a beautiful green rainforest setting. After a steep rocky climb of 1.7km to the top pool, it was refreshing but a bit tricky to wade back down the creek through the bubbling cascades and crystal clear rock-pools.
Wangi Falls is one place we had heard lots about, so we were disappointed to find when we visited it was closed for swimming due to a saltie in the area. The falls were beautiful and the water looked so inviting, but alas, no swimming there for us. We did have a lovely picnic lunch on the lawn, then a nap in the shade before having a walk to check out these beautiful falls.
At Tolmer falls, we contented ourselves with a walk to the lookout at the top of the falls. It was very hot, and these stunning falls dropped straight down into a deep black pool. Again, so swimming allowed. We heard there are over 100,000 crocodiles in the Northern Territory since crocs are a protected species.
After Tolmer Falls, we thought we might swim at Buley Rockhole but unfortunately the carpark there was full to overflowing, which meant the rock hole was full too…so on we went to lovely Florence Falls which is joined to Buley Rockhole by a crystal clear creek. We all took the opportunity to wade in the creek to cool off before walking up to look at the falls.
What a sweet life. We have spent lots of time relaxing this week. We visited Berry Springs Nature Park, just down the road a bit, and it was absolutely stunning with warm turquoise water and not too many people. There are three pools along the creek, with steps built into the bank. The first pool is fairly shallow and has a waterfall cascading into it, the second is much bigger and deeper, and you can swim from there to the third pool. The water was clear, warm and inviting, and best of all, apparently free of saltwater crocs. (We hope.) It was so lovely we decided to return another day to swim again.
We also visited a mango farm nearby and bought homemade mango icecreams, and mango cheek frozen on a stick. Very delicious and refreshing. We needed it after a hot walk across the dam wall of Darwin River Dam.
Mel and I have been doing a bit of weaving with pandanus leaves, we saw aboriginal women working with them at Springvale Homestead and decided we would give it a try ourselves. Maybe not very professional results, but it was fun and we learned a lot. Mel also bought a couple of booklets with aboriginal motifs and we had a go painting our own aboriginal designs and made a couple of bookmarks. A fun and relaxing way to spend the afternoon in the shade, in between swims in the pool.
Tumbling Waters is a very pretty park and boasts it’s own freshwater crocodile enclosure.
Our visit to the Mindil Beach Market luckily coincided with the annual Beer Can Regatta, so we were in for a great day in the lovely Darwin sunshine. The market has a great family atmosphere and lots of fantastic stalls selling all sorts of exotic stuff as well as yummy food so we spent the first couple of hours looking over all the goods for sale before making our way down to the beach to have a look at the entries for the beer can regatta. Most of the boats obviously had lots of time and effort put into making them interesting to look at as well as seaworthy.
Kelly and Clint (the didgeridoo makers) made an excellent catamaran style boat out of iced coffee bottles, complete with a big breasted mascot dressed in black leather. Their vessel not only looked good, the crew were all family and they won their heat as well.
In Darwin, we are staying at Tumbling Waters caravan park in Berry Springs. It is a bit out of town, but we like it because it is quiet and pretty and has lots of things going on, as well as being close to Litchfield National Park and various other wildlife parks and reserves.
Within an hour of arriving, we went to a Woop Woop didgeridoo making demo and watched Clint making a didgeridoo from a hollow branch. Clint and his dad, Kelly, collect the timber from the bush and use eucalypts, usually Woolly Butt, that have been hollowed by termites. The lengths are cut and the termite nest removed from the centre using a metal rod. The wood is soaked in water, to get rid of the rest of the termites, and the bark is beaten and scraped off with a hatchet before the ends are tidied up with a rasp. The outside is neatened up with a file, a mouth-piece formed from beeswax collected locally, and you are ready to play! Finally the finished didge is sealed on the outside only, so that the wood dries out slowly and doesn’t crack.
Mel ended up buying the didgeridoo that we watched being made. Clint took it with them to apply the sealing coats and dropped it in to us a few days later. We have been invited to go bush camping with them for five days or so, leaving on Thursday, but I don’t think it will work because Mel flies out on Sunday, which is a shame. It would have been fun.
Aurora Kakadu won the prize so far for having the greatest number of mozzies and midges per capita. We have invested in several mozzie coils and a new natural sandfly and mozzie spray, so we will see how we go.
One intrepid camper set up with just a mozzie net hanging from a tree branch with his bed inside. Not sure if he survived the night without being eaten alive!
The crocodile photos were all taken on a jumping croc cruise down the Adelaide River, which was a pretty amazing experience. They feed the crocs and get them to leap right out of the water which is incredible when you are sitting just a few inches away through the glass, or you can go up on the top deck and have a view from above. This was without doubt one of the best value experiences we have had on this trip.
This old male crocodile was absolutely huge, over 6 metres long and very dark in colour. His teeth were yellowed and many were missing. The guide told us that crocs can regrow their teeth over and over, but when they are very old (80 years?), the teeth don’t regrow any more and the animal won’t live a lot longer because he won’t be able to eat. This old rogue croc was new to this part of the river, and may have lost his territory to a younger male, and so been forced out on his own.
Fogg Dam is a wetland and refuge for thousands and thousands of birds, including magpie geese, herons, ducks, masked lapwings, and lots of other birds, but the most fascinating for us was the comb crested Jakana that has huge feet with very long toes that mean it can walk on water lily leaves, and it looks as though it is walking on water.
Wow, so many beautiful waterfalls and plunge pools to explore. Unfortunately most of them involve a 2 km hike up a sheer rock face to get there! It is hard going, but worth it when you arrive and see these beautiful spots. We are constantly amazed that these remote places are full of people when you get to the end of the corrugated dirt track, such as at Gunlom Falls where we bumped along over 35 km of seemingly isolated rough dirt track and then found there was barely a camping spot available when we arrived, and we also shared the campgrounds with a large group of school students from Aquinas College in Ringwood, which pretty much meant cold showers for everyone. But none of that mattered when we climbed up to the top waterfall and pool; it was stunningly beautiful and the pool seemed to drop straight down in a waterfall off the rock face.
After Edith Falls and Gunlom, it seems like a bit of luxury to spend a couple of nights at Gaguju Cooinda Caravan Park, which not only has power to recharge our batteries but also two lovely swimming pools to cool off in, without the threat of being attacked by a crocodile. It’s also a good chance to catch up on the laundry and clean some of the red dust off the car and caravan, as well as make some running repairs.
Every time we do a water crossing we look out for salt-water crocodiles, but so far the only ones we have seen are on warning signs that recommend that we don’t go near the water!
We visited Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre where we learned a lot about the Aboriginal culture in Kakadu; it is very well presented and informative with interesting and authentic displays. Mel was inspired to collect pandanus leaves, strip them and weave a circular mat.
Nourlangie is an ancient rock site where aboriginals took shelter from the rains during the wet season, and has many examples of aboriginal art. There is a circular walk with interpretive signs to explain the meaning of some of the amazing figures depicted on the rock walls and we enjoyed our walk around exploring the various art sites, and the great views of the Kakadu escarpment from the lookout.
I am sitting under a gum tree next to the billabong at Springvale Homestead, catching up on this before we leave Katherine and internet access behind. Springvale Station has one of the oldest stone homesteads in the Northern Territory and was named for the many springs on the property. The swimming pools here are fed by a freshwater spring and flow into the billabong which is part of a chain of ponds that extends for several kilometres alongside the Katherine River. Water lilies grow prolifically and there are ducks and guinea fowl along the edges of the billabong, as well as freshwater crocodiles, who sometimes make an appearance after dark on our side of the water.
Today we visited Katherine Gorge and did the walking trail that climbs up to the lookout, then goes around and along the ridge, completing a loop back to the visitor centre. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go on a cruise, as they were all booked out for today, but the views from our climb to the lookout were spectacular. We enjoyed seeing the thousands of bats hanging from the trees, the wild flowers, and the peculiar multi coloured bugs we spotted on a tree in the picnic area. After our long, hot walk it was lovely to get back to Springvale homestead and cool off with a swim in the pool.
‘We of the Never Never’ by Jeannie Gunn was written about Elsey Station in the Mataranka area. It is worth reading the book before you visit; it makes you really appreciate this unique place and it’s history. We were lucky that the Mataranka Homestead was screening the movie at lunchtime the day we visited, and the replica Elsey Homestead is also located on the property so we immersed ourselves in the story for the day.
Mataranka is an amazing area with lots of natural thermal springs in the surrounding areas. We stayed at Bitter Springs where there is a warm spring with a stream that you can float down a couple of hundred metres through the water lilies. It is very pretty, if you can get the thought of crocodiles out of your head! Luckily the only ones we saw were freshwater crocs that apparently don’t eat people.
We took a detour off the main highway to visit Newcastle Waters, which has a Drovers Memorial park and several historic buildings. It was a surprise when we crossed over floodwaters teeming with bird life and Mel and I spent quite a bit of time photographing the herons and other birds we found there.
That afternoon we arrived at Daly Waters, which was the birthplace of Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services (Qantas) and became the first inland international airport in Australia, as well as having the oldest pub in the Territory. Quite amazing when you consider that the Stuart Highway wasn’t even built yet.
On the road the following day, we stopped for lunch at the bright pink Larrimah Hotel, which has a zoo with heaps of birds and animals, including a couple of crocodiles, that you can visit for free. There is also a telegraph museum there with interesting things to see and read about. For lunch we bought one of their chunky and really yummy home made meat pies and that was just one more good reason for making a stop at the Larrimah Pub.
We wisely decided to move over to the side of the road when these monstrous trucks roared along the highway with their gigantic load. They were so big they took up both lanes of the Stuart Highway.
That night we stayed at Banka Banka Station, which had water to spare thanks to a spring on the hill behind the station homestead. We filled the van tank with fresh, delicious spring water and Peter was even able to wash the car and caravan. (And we all know how much he loves to clean the car!) It was also lovely to have a hot shower and wash our hair after several days of roughing it with no facilities other than long drop toilets.