Friday, October 21, 2011


After all the dirt roads and gorges of the Gibb River Road, we found a beautiful free campsite called Quandong Point, a bit north of Broome.  There are loads of places all along the headland overlooking the ocean.  We were lucky enough to get into a site with very easy access to the beach and spent 3 days swimming, beachcombing and lazing around enjoying the view.  We were also lucky enough to be given fish for dinner by boat fishermen who had caught more than they needed.

We didn't stay in Broome any longer than it took to fill up with fuel and groceries (to commercial and yuppy), then moved down the coast to the very popular "grey nomads retreat" of Barn Hill for two nights, then 80 Mile Beach,both with lovely beaches to walk along, but behind the sandhills, so not the view we had a Quandong Point.

Next we found another great free camp at De Grey River, not far from Port Headland, with a very friendly crowd camped there.  From there we headed inland to Marble Bar - very interesting rock formation across the river, actually jasper, but mistaken for marble by the first settlers, hence the name.

On the way back to the coast we came across Indee Station, another cattle station offering camping where the owners host happy hour in the homestead, providing the chips, nuts, dips etc for all their visitors.  Real bush hospitality - and an interesting drive through the property to their own big red rock.

We had a quick look at Port Headland, did some shoping and watched the ships leaving port on the high tide, saw the salt processing area and our first glimpse of one of the huge iron ore carrying trains - over 3 kilometres long.  After that we spent a few days in the Roebourne, Karratha, Dampier area, did a very interesting tour of the loading facility, where iron ore from the inland mines is processed and loaded onto ships.  More big flat areas extracting salt from the sea water, more very long trains carrying iron ore.   We also discovered the Red Dog monument at Dampier - they are hoping it will become as famous as the Dog on the Tuckerbox, a movie about Red Dog has just come out using his real life story with a bit of poetic licence.



After leaving Wyndham we made our next stop at Diggers Rest - not very far, but a lovely place to spend a day and night.  It is a farm and accommodation complex offering campsites adjacent to the homestead, or several riverside camps on their property.  We elected to have one of the riverside sites, and each site is allocated to you exclusively, so no crowding in, just your own private camp with a long-drop toilet in a beautiful setting.  It was very tempting to jump into the river except for the threat of estuarine crocodiles so it's just look and enjoy the view.  While there we experienced a very strong willy-willy. It sounded like a freight train coming and as it crossed the river, lifted water up to about a metre or more.  Luckily it was not right in the path of our camp, but at the time Ken was walking down the riverbank and had to run behind a tree to get out of it's path.

Next day we hit the Gibb River Road, bypassing El Questro as we'd been there before, so made our first stop at Home Valley, then Miners Pool (part of Drysdale Station) on our way to Kalumburu.

What a rip off!  Kalumburu Community charges $50 for a permit to be there, then $30 to camp at a very ordinary camping ground at Honeymoon Bay very shabby toilet, no working shower. Admittedly it was a pretty beach but no better than hundreds of others and the roads are all in very bad condition.  To add to that the information sheet was very vague about places and signposts were almost non-existent so we didn't find most of the "attractions" we were supposed to see.  They're so desperate for tourist attractions they suggest going to the sewage treatment ponds for birdwatching, and their scenic tour around the town includes a trip into the rubbish dump!  Probably only worth going there if you're mad keen on fishing, but nothing else.

We didn't bother going to Mitchell Plateau as we figured I wouldn't be able to do the walk, and we're not about to pay $100 for a six minute one-way helicopter ride up or back.  Ken has seen it from the air and the road in was reported to be in shocking condition - and by then we were nursing a tyre with 4 plugs in it, which was still leaking slowly.  We returned to Drysdale River Station that night and went on to Imintji and bought another new tyre.  Now we have two good "light truck" tyres on the back and consequently have had no more trouble - so much stronger than the cheap crap tyres you get on a new vehicle.

From there we went back to Mt Elizabeth Station, another disappointing choice.  Their station tracks were very rough and their map poorly drawn.  We ended up with heat exhaustion doing a walk that was a lot further and more difficult that we'd been led to believe. To make matters worse their amenities block was full of mosquitoes - day and night, and the hot water system was playing up so hardly anyone got a warm shower - for $30 a night.

Charnley River Station however was a welcome relief - lovely friendly hostess, good amenities, beautiful grassy, shaded camping area beside a waterhole teeming with wildlife - wallabies, many different sized lizards and dozens of different birds and the same price, $30 a night. Their station tracks were also in good condition.  We ended up staying three nights.

Mornington Wilderness Camp was good, but a bit over-rated.  Their tracks were in good condition, and a lovely swimming spot in the Fitzroy River as well as a few good gorges and waterholes to look at.  But they charge a $25 "entry fee" on top of their $35 a night camping fee and for all the hype, we didn't see any wildlife there.  If I was doing it again I'd just stay at Charnley and give the others a miss.

After that we did a quick in-and-out of some other gorges close to the road, then camped at Silent Grove to do the walk to Bells Gorge, then on to Fitzroy Crossing, bypassing Windjana and Tunnel Creek as we'd been to them before.  The highlight of  Fitzroy Crossing is the boat tour of Geikie Gorge, quite reasonable price and very well presented.  It's a fascinating place - huge white cliffs which were once a coral reef about 350,000 million years ago..


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


After leaving Katherine we next made camp at Flora National Park - followed the road right to the far end of the park where it comes to a dead end on the banks of a very wide, deep river - a nice place for lunch before going back to the camp ground and exploring a walk down the valley to see a couple of small waterfalls, nice to look at, but it was very hot and stuffy in amongst the palms with no breeze.

Next day we travelled on to Gregory NP, had a look around the old Bullita homestead and made camp ready to travl the Bullita stock route track the next day.  Two other families were also doing the stock route so we travelled in convoy as a safety measure in case anyone got stuck and needed winching out of somewhere.  We all got through without any problems, but it is a fairly heavy-going 4WD track in places, with no real purpose as the scenery is much the same as (and no better than) everywhere else around that area.  After covering the more difficult patches, the other two vehicles continued on but we decided to take a detour to Drovers Rest campsite for lunch and stayed the night.  Again a nice enough spot, but nothing special. All told, it was a bit disappointing as we'd been told how great it was and a "must not miss".

The next day we took a slow trip around Victoria River & Timber Creek having a good look at lookouts, the old river crossing etc, which we'd wanted to do for a long time as every other time we'd had to rush straight past on our way to somewhere else.

The very last place in NT (only a couple of kilometres from the WA border) is Keep River NP.  We spent two nights here, having a look around and doing a walk into some spectacular country - high rocky walls with lovely green "gardens" in the shadowed areas where they fold around.  Ken also went up to the lookout but I decided that was a bit much for me.

First stop in WA was Lake Argyle where we had a 2-day rest from the dust and heat in the lovely grassy caravan park, and found an entertainer performing there who we'd met in Queensland a couple of years ago.  Her name is Fina, and she does quite a good show, all kinds of music that we like.

After an overnight in Kununurra to get some groceries etc, we set off for Wyndham via the Parry's Lagoon Road.  A couple of nice waterholes and places off on side tracks, and finally the lagoon, with a great bird hide and lots of interesing birds to watch - from little ones that walk around on the lilly pads, and seem to almost walk on the water up to brolgas, and big black and white geese (who's name I can't remember tonight).  At Wyndham we watched the sunset from the spectacular "5 Rivers Lookout" where you can see five rivers flowing into the ocean.