Katherine to Timber Creek (308 kms)
We had been having trouble with our campers awning as it was not folding away correctly all the time. With Keith's help we finally got it sorted and worked out we had been folding the support arms slightly incorrectly. Now it shuts like it is supposed to. After sorting that out, we headed off. The countryside was covered in ant hills, there must be a lot of termites in the world! The Timber Creek caravan park is old but has some lovely shady trees. In the afternoon the park owners fed the fresh water crocodiles that live in a creek bordering the park. The crocs put on a jumping show to get their snacks of meat but it wasn't quite as impressive as the Adelaide river jumping crocs we had seen. Keith had been given some Barramundi so we dined on Barramundi in beer batter with chips purchased from the roadhouse.
Timber Creek to Kununurra (228 kms)
Originally we had planned to stop over in the Keep River National park but with Corey's blistered feet we decided to go straight to Kununurra as he needed a rest from walking. First thing though was to cross the Western Australia border and the border check! We sailed though having prepared by eating all banned goods and were on our way. Once at Kununurra we followed Keith in a circulus route to the caravan park and were shown to our sites. Our site was a bit small for our camper so we asked to be moved. Decided on an ensuite site ($9 a night extra!) and moved the camper to there and setup. We enjoyed having our own shower and toilet but $9 is a fair premium once you multiple it by several nights.
Lake Argle (181 kms)
Went for a drive out to have a look at Lake Argle. Stopped off on the way at the Durack Homestead. Introduced the boys to a new term, the "ripoff". $8 to have a look at a house and the gardens was deemed a "ripoff" and they cottoned on to the term pretty quick. The lady manning the entry table and shop was kind enough to let Corey go to the staff toilet when he declared he was busting! She extracted a further $10 from us when we bought Glenda's Dad a book about a local stockman. Further up the road we hit a Whistling kite and it's flying days were over. We stopped on the way back and found it. It was a lot smaller and lighter than they look when flying. Pulled a couple of tail feathers out for the boys and through it into the bush to feed the plants and ants. Lake Argle was looking very blue and we stopped at several lookouts for photos. Back to Kununurra for some shopping then a swim at the caravan park pool.
Glenda and Corey went to the doctors to have someone look at their ailments, Corey had blisters on various toes and a sore on his ankle and Glenda a sore on a finger that was infected. Corey had his sores dressed and Glenda came out with a prescription for some penicillin derivative. Brendan and Nigel went shopping and got our missing Annual Parks pass replaced then used it by visiting the nearby park that has Bungle Bungle like rock formations. After lunch we drove out to the Ivanhoe Crossing to have a look. A grey Prado similar to ours went across and back and we took photos intending to say that's what we would have looked like but decided to have a go. Corey spotted a couple of crocodiles not far away which was interesting since there was a fisherman walking around in the water near the crossing.
Kununurra to Purnululu National Park [Bungle Bungles] (332 kms)
Packed up car to spend the night in the Bungle Bungles in our tent and after doing a few things around town, headed off to meet Marg & Keith (Glenda's parents) at a rest stop near the road into the park. They had taken their van to Fitzroy Crossing in preparation for our jaunt across the Gibb River Road. We had planned to meet at the rest stop for lunch at 12:30pm but after 400 odd km's, they were 1 min late! We ate lunch and then headed down the track. We had been told the 1st water crossing was the worst, being quite bumpy, and when we got there we got out to have a look. No one else was around so we couldn't watch another vehicle go through but we could see some tracks where others had been. We decided to follow them and proceeded without drama. We did decide it was a good idea to leave the camper in Kununurra although later we saw a few similar campers that had been through.
Bungle Bungles to Kununurra (362 kms)
After early breakfast drove to the Piccaninny Creek carpark and did the Domes Walk. This leads to the track to Cathedral Gorge which follows the creek bed into the amphitheatre that is Cathedral Gorge. Very hard to take a decent photo as it is so big and quite dark (in camera terms). Enjoyed the ambience and the boys found rocks to throw into the still pool of water in the middle. Boys will be boys, as a fellow traveller commented.
Decided Brendan's legs needed looking at by the doctor and after the visit he was prescribed the penicillin for
the infections. After lunch Glenda decided Corey's ankle needed attending to by a Doctor, so back to the Medical
Centre went Corey & Glenda. Corey was perscribed the same penicillian. Did some shopping ready for the Gibb River Road.
Kununurra to Home Valley Station (125 kms)
Set off to tackle the infamous Gibb River Road. Word around the caravan park was that the road was in great condition
but as we've found out so many times, it's best to keep an open mind and access conditions when you get there. Too
many times we've found the good intentioned advice was wide of our perceptions. However, this time things seemed to
be as described and we sailed along at 70-80kph.
That accomplished we continued on to Home Valley Station and since there was no powered sites at the homestead itself, we decided to camp at their riverside (Pentecost) campground. They said to camp anywhere on the right hand side of the road, as the left hand was too close to the resident saltwater crocodiles. On the way down the access track, we were stopped by a European dude driving a Landcrusier like the rental car it was. He wanted us to wait there for 10 mins while they filmed an overseas version of "Outback Jack". The contestants were parachuting in, so we got out and watched. Don't know how much training they'd had but they looked like professionals, spiralling down. Once setup by the river, well back I might add, we went crocodile spotting. There were several around.
Tea that night was our first cooking using an open fire and the BBQ plate we had been dragging around the countryside. Potatoes in jackets were cooked in the coals and the chops were superb, having that true BBQ aroma. Some salad was also on offer, but I don't remember that! We all ate in our camper to stay away from the mossies. Marg and Keith were consigned to the 'lounge' seating as they were less likely to drop anything. We also decided to attempt to cook a damper on the hotplate. It came out very nice with a great crust. To finish the night we toasted some marshmallows and went croc spotting.
Home Valley Station to Drysdale Station (245 kms)
Stopped off at Ellenbrae Station for morning tea. Freshly cooked scones were available ($3 each, including jam and cream) so we all had one, the boys sharing one as they were unsure if they'd like it. The scones were very nice. Not sure how many scones Glenda could make for $15 though! Drove on to Drysdale Station. The Kulumburu road had some sections with fierce corrugations but we made it into Drysdale Station with no apparent breakages. We did get some dust inside which we believe is coming in under the fridge. Nige bought some fuel ($1.98/L) and discovered he had left his credit card somewhere. It was traced back to Kununurra and a phone call established it was still there. More phone calls put a block on it for the time being as although the person we talked to cut the card up, one can't be too trusting! Once again tea was cooked on the open fire BBQ plate, this time steak with garlic butter, more jacket potatoes, some vegies all followed by damper and fruit. Nige and Keith dined alfresco while the others avoided any mossies lurking around.
Drysdale Station to Mitchell Falls (186 kms)
Packed up the car again for tent camping at Mitchell Falls. Was told it was about 5hrs to do the 180 odd kms so a day trip in and out was out of the question if we wanted to have time to walk in or out to the falls. We were intending to walk in and catch a helicopter out. At the Drysdale River we stopped to take a picture up the river and then one of Keith and Marg coming though. Keith went through fast trying to wet the camerman!
Mitchell Falls to Drysdale Station (186 kms)
Our helicopter flight was for 8:00am for we had our breakfast and did some tasks of packing up. Keith and Marg had
selected the "taxi" flight that takes you direct to the falls, does a couple of passes over the falls and lands. About
8mins according to the brochure. We decided to do a longer flight called the "Mudcrab" that was 18mins long and
flew downstream to Little Mitchell Falls then followed a tidal creek back to a gorge and finally did the passes over
Mitchell Falls before landing. As the helicopter had the doors off, Brendan got the front seat so Mum and Dad could
'flank' Corey in the rear seats. The seatbelts where standard aviation style as you'd see in a large passenger jet
and Glenda wasn't sure that was sufficient. During one banking turn, she was observed with all limbs jammed against
whatever she could reach. We all enjoyed the flight, Corey wanting to ride up front next time and Mum still making
comments about those seat belts.
Drysdale Station to Manning Gorge (172 kms)
Packed up and made our way back down the Kulumburu Road to the Gibb River Road junction and turned right towards Derby, however our next stop was to be Manning Gorge, the campsite at the Mt Barnet Roadhouse. At the roadhouse we bought petrol, pies, sausage rolls and hot chips. Nothing healthy, but very tasty! Went back in and bought some groceries and the camping pass that is needed to camp at Manning Gorge. Opened the camper to discover the usual dust and 1/2 bottle of olive oil spilt in a cupboard. Bottle wasn't broken, the lid had worked itself off. Fun job to clean up that took the rest of the afternoon. Went for a walk to assess the course to the gorge tomorrow as the mud map showed two possibilities. The first was to float yourself and any belongings across a pool of water using polystyrene boxes and the alternative was to walk around, crossing a creek that required you to take your shoes off. We walked down to the creek crossing and decided that was going to be the preferred path. Been trying to find a suitable boab tree for a sunset picture but yet to find one in a suitable position. Back at camp everyone showered (cold water only!) then had a meal of beef souvlaki, damper and fruit.
Manning Gorge to Bell Gorge (121 kms)
Got up at 6:30am, had breakfast and part packed up the camper. Got dressed in our bathers and walking shoes to tackle
the walk into Manning Gorge. At the creek crossing, Pa and Nige carried the boys across to save them getting wet feet.
The track wound it's way through varying terrain, some quite steep rocky sections. Took us about an hour. Once
there we viewed the waterfall then found a small waterhole for a swim. Water was as cold as usual. Walked back to camp,
packed up and drove up to the Mt Barnet roadhouse for lunch. This time hamburgers, sausage rolls and hot chips.
Bell Gorge to Windjana Gorge (145 kms)
Earlish start and packup so we could walk to Bell Gorge. You need to vacate your campsite by 10am so we needed to pack
everything up and drive to the carpark. Luckily there was suitable parking for us with the camper in tow. The map of
the walk was not too scale and it turned out easier than it looked. To get down to the plunge pool below the falls we
had to cross the river and we did this a bit upstream by taking our shoes off and wading through the water. A water
monitor gave us a fright when it shot across the water (we couldn't see it's legs at this stage) and out the river on
a rock. It disappeared before any cameras could be pointed in it's direction. It was a steep climb down to the plunge
pool where we had a swim. Very cold again, but quite enjoyable once in.
Windjana Gorge to Fitzroy Crossing (161 kms)
Went for a walk down the gorge to view the freshwater crocodiles that make it their home. There were about 40 in all, either sunning themselves on the bank and various vantage spots or swimming about. Unlike salty's, freshies tolerate each other and some even looked to be very good friends.
One the way to Fitzroy Crossing we stopped at Tunnel Creek and walked through. At the tunnel entrance we had a bit of excitement when Marg spotted a small black snake nearby and pointed it out to Glenda who was following. There was a loud squeal as Glenda hit top gear to get as far away as she could. Poor snake is probably now deaf. In the tunnel itself you have to walk through the water several times and it was pretty cold. One area had a warm spring coming out of the tunnel wall. In the water we spotted a fish and a yabbie.
Once in Fitzroy Crossing, Keith retrieved their van from storage to Marg's relief and we setup in the unpowered area as there were no powered sites available that night. Tea was some scrumptous burgers.
Fitzroy Crossing (6.5 kms)
Moved to a powered site before breakfast as it was a case of occupier owns the site, no site allocations from the office. Washed a heap off red dust of the car and the camper as the caravan park didn't mind you doing it. The boys made friends with 3 boys from Adelaide, Jack, Zed & Harvey and played with them for most of the morning. Went for a swim in the park pool and it was freezing. As usual, Corey took ages to get in but eventually managed it. We had a yummy tea of chicken snitzels & gravy, potato salad and tossed salad. Ice cream and fruit for sweets. Brendan & Corey invited their friends and their parents, Mel and Tony, over for an after dinner chat. The kids watched Sinbad and part of Wallace & Gromet before going to bed at 9:30pm, a bit later than their usual bedtime.
Fitzroy Crossing to Broome via Derby (499 kms)
Packed up in record time then decided to wash the camper roof and bed end flys. The red dust turned to mush and unexpectantly washed mostly away. We thought it might have stayed there. Ended up leaving at 8:50am. Along the way Glenda continued her obsession with taking pictures of termite mounds out of the car window. The driver won't stop anymore. She even managed to combine anthills with her new obsession, boab tree pictures out the car window. In areas where there has been a fire though, they really stand out. It is amazing just how many mounds there are, in a varity of shapes and sizes. There are a lot of termites running around.
The morning tea stop was under a large boab tree and Brendan climbed inside. He thought it smelled like a toilet, he was probably right. At the turn off to Derby, we turned right to go and have a look at the Derby Boab Prison Tree and the Derby pier. Marg and Keith continued on to Broome having been there before. Unfortunately but understandly, the prison tree had a fence around it.
Once we got to Derby we located the wharf and after some deliberation, decided we could drive around. The tide was coming in and quite turbulant as it raced under the wharf. People were fishing but I wonder how a fish could find a bait in the murky water. We were going to have fish & chips for lunch at the wharf cafe but it was closed for Monday lunch. We ended up getting hamburgers and chicken nuggets. Drove on to Broome and set up camp. Decided we'd go out for tea and selected a chinese resturant. for the six of us we ordered, prawn crackers, 4 main dishes, rice, 2 beers and 2 glasses of wine and one can of coke. It came to $155... welcome to the west coast! Will have a rant about the price of fish and chips soon!