A Travellerspoint blog

July 2012

Day 83 - Friday 27 July 2012

Fitzroy Crossing to the Bungle Bungles Caravan Park

As we had a booking at the Bungle Bungles we made a leisurely start to the day and were on the road at about 9:00 am. The trip was about 380 kms via Halls Creek. Our first stop was the Ngumban Cliff Lookout for a morning coffee - the lookout was very exposed on the top of the cliff and would not have been a good spot for an overnight stop.

Ngumban Cliff Lookout

Ngumban Cliff Lookout

Ngumban Cliffs

Ngumban Cliffs

View from the Lookout

View from the Lookout

View from the road between Firzroy Crossing and Halls Creek

View from the road between Firzroy Crossing and Halls Creek

At Halls Creek we decided to stop for fuel and find some lunch. After refuelling we went to the Information Centre that had a small cafe next door, where we both had toasted sandwiches and a coffee. At the Information Centre we found out about Halls Creek Alcohol Policy - nothing stronger than light beer is available in the town. Halls Creek was settled as a gold mining town in the 1890s, and a display outside the Information Centre recalls the exploits of "Russian Jack" who wheeled his sick mate 300 kms in a wheel barrow across almost non-existent tracks looking for medical attention.

Stationary steam engine from the gold mining era.

Stationary steam engine from the gold mining era.

Russian Jack

Russian Jack

We arrived at the Bungle Bungles Caravan Park at about 2:30 pm and were allocated a large powered site at the far end of the caravan park - one of the advantages of being a 5th wheeler. The caravan park only opened in June last year and is still being developed. It is located on Mabel Downs Station and is only one kilometre of gravel road from the Great Northern Highway. We also booked ourselves on the 4WD bus tour into the Purnululu
National Park (the Bungle Bungles) the next day. We had no phone or internet access at the caravan park and were unable to update the blog.

Posted by TwoAces 05:57 Comments (0)

Day 82 - Thursday 26 July 2012

Fitzroy Crossing

Having done the Geikie Gorge cruise yesterday we have a free day today. Given the plentiful supply of water at Fitzroy Crossing we decided that it was time to give the caravan a good clean. When we were in Broome we were next door to a caravan that looked brand new even though it was more than five years old, and had had many owners. The present owner gave us the secret - regular cleaning with "Gumption" cleaner, which is excellent for cleaning sealant joints that get dirty very quickly. It may look strange but the implement of choice is a tooth brush! It took all day but the van is nearly as good as new. Di was using David's tooth brush but she did not know that he had a second secret toothbrush! While we were cleaning the van we had regular visits from some Bower Birds who were roosting on a nearby shed.

After our cruise yesterday we now understand why all of the buildings in the Lodge vicinity are built on small islands as protection against regular floods.

Where's the food

Where's the food

Bower bird looking for food

Bower bird looking for food

Our camp site

Our camp site

Another view of our camp site

Another view of our camp site

Entrance to the Fitzroy River Lodge

Entrance to the Fitzroy River Lodge

Fitzroy River Lodge

Fitzroy River Lodge

Amenities building

Amenities building

After a hard day working on the van - it now looks like new - we decided to reward ourselves with dinner at the Lodge. They have a lounge bar with bar meals, and a restaurant - as there were not too many people in the restaurant we decided on a bar meal. When we ordered our meals we also ordered a bottle of red wine - at which point we found out about the alcahol policy in Fitzroy Crossing.

There was no access to take-away alcahol unless you were staying in the Lodge. Even then it was a six pack and one bottle of wine per day - however no take-aways for the people in the caravan park. When you ordered a bottle of wine you were served with one glass each and the bottle was kept behind the bar until the meal was on the table. It seems that you can not be trusted with a whole bottle of wine! We both had a rib eye fillet steak with mash and vegetables, which was excellent.

It was interesting to note that there were no indigenous people working working at the lodge. The only coloured person was a young fellow from Zambia - he had been in Australia for 9 years and was working the dry season at Fitzroy Crossing before returning to his home in Perth. Phil would have been in his element here - all the bar staff wore T-shirts extolling the virtues of Boags Draught.

Posted by TwoAces 04:53 Comments (0)

Day 81 - Wednesday 25 July 2012

Derby to Fitzroy Crossing

Up at 6:30 am today for a full pack up to get away early - we were on the road by 8:15 am for our trip of 265 kms to Fitzroy Crossing. We arrived at 11:15 am and were allocated a shady powered site for 2 nights - they do not do reservations at the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge for caravanners, and it is first come first served. As we left Derby we realised that we would not see the ocean again until we get to Darwin in a couple of weeks time.

By the time we had done a full set up it was 35 degrees in the shade under our awning. Once we were set up we headed off to the Information Centre to book a Geikie Gorge cruise for tommorrow. When we got to the Information Centre there were 2 signs on the door - "Closed from 12:30 to 1:30 pm", and "No Geikie Gorge Cruises on Thursday". Shock - Horror - What are we going to do now! We walked around the corner to the shopping centre - an IGA supermarket, a Newsagent with yesterday's papers and a Post Office. We bought ourselves a can of Baygon surface spray as the ants in the park are Singapore Ants and they get into everything. It works as we have seen no ants in the van!

Back at the Caravan Park we went into reception to find out what else was available for the intrepid tourist in Fitzroy Crossing, only to find out if we hurried we would make it for the last Geikie Gorge tour of the day. As we had a 4WD they sent us on a gravel road via the low level crossing (the original crossing) of the Fitzroy River. We arrived in plenty of time for our cruise and chatted to other travellers - just about everyone else that we talked to are going the other way (south). The Cruise rotunda had flood markers up the frame, however the 2002 and the 2011 floods were 1 metre and 500 cms above the roof, which itself is about 6 metres high.

A dusty approach to the crossing

A dusty approach to the crossing

Fitzroy River Low Level Crossing

Fitzroy River Low Level Crossing

Fitzroy River refections from the Low Level crossing

Fitzroy River refections from the Low Level crossing

More reflections on the Fitzroy River

More reflections on the Fitzroy River

Geikie Gorge Cruises Rotunda

Geikie Gorge Cruises Rotunda

Our tour guide was a young indigenous woman who was also the skipper of the boat, which was 2 flat bottom boats connected together and each able to carry about 25 people. The cruise lasted for 1 hour and is operated by the Department on Environment and Conservation and was very informative. Our indigenous guide was very knowledgeable and able to point out all the features of the Gorge that are important to the local indigenous people.

Boarding the cruise boat

Boarding the cruise boat

Nearly ready to go

Nearly ready to go

The part of the Gorge where the cruise operates is above a large sand bar that holds the water back, and that part of the Gorge has a water depth up to 18 metres against the rock walls. In the week before our tour the rangers had found a drowned 2 metre long King Brown Snake floating in the river - it had swallowed a small crocodile and bit off more than it could chew!

Balancing rock on cliff top

Balancing rock on cliff top

Balancing rock up close

Balancing rock up close

Gorge cliff face

Gorge cliff face

Cliff Face - White rock shows highest flood level

Cliff Face - White rock shows highest flood level

Fresh water crocodile

Fresh water crocodile

The cliffs along the Gorge are sandstone and are white from the water up to the highest point of recent floods, and much darker above that level. At one point 2 logs were jammed against the rock wall to show the levels of 2 of the most recent floods. In 2002 and again in 2011 Fitzroy Crossing was completed isolated by flood waters. While it had not rained at Fitzroy Crossing the water flowing from nearby mountains had risen by more than a metre an hour. At the caravan park water had flowed more than waist deep through the park at at 50 kms per hour.

Eroded lower cliff face

Eroded lower cliff face

Rock islands

Rock islands

Colourful cliffs

Colourful cliffs

Rock island

Rock island

Fresh water pandanus

Fresh water pandanus

Logs show high water marks from 2002 and 2011 floods

Logs show high water marks from 2002 and 2011 floods

View down river

View down river

River bank

River bank

Sand dunes

Sand dunes

Tree clinging to life

Tree clinging to life

Hope that it does not fall

Hope that it does not fall

Cliff erosion

Cliff erosion

Swallow mud nests

Swallow mud nests

Weeping Rock

Weeping Rock

Coolabah Tree

Coolabah Tree

River Red Gums

River Red Gums

Large F W Crocodile

Large F W Crocodile

River gums

River gums

Bird life

Bird life

another crocodile

another crocodile

Cliff face

Cliff face

More colourful cliffs

More colourful cliffs

Rock island

Rock island

Even more colourful cliffs

Even more colourful cliffs

More cliffs

More cliffs

South American passion fruit vines (a weed)

South American passion fruit vines (a weed)

More Passion Fruit Vines

More Passion Fruit Vines

Posted by TwoAces 23:41 Comments (0)

Day 80 - Tuesday 24 July 2012

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek

We were up early this morning for our trip to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek - a round trip of 362 kms. Last night David let the Nissan tyres down to 30 lbs in the front and 35 lbs in the back for the gravel roads - we normally travel at 40 in the front and 45 lbs in the back. We got away at about 8:45 am and called at Woolworths for some rolls for lunch. The road to Windjana Gorge took us along the Gibb River Road for about 120 kms - about 45 kms of normal sealed road, 40 Kms of single lane sealed road, and about 35 kms of fairly good gravel road. The signs at the start of the Gibb River Road assured us that all roads were open.

Gibb River Road is open

Gibb River Road is open

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek Road is open

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek Road is open

When we turned off the Gibb River Road we had about 20 kms to go to Windjana Gorge - the first 10 kms were terrible - badly corrugated, and the rest was still corrugated but not so bad - we were able to travel at about 70 kph without too much trouble. Windjana Gorge is a National Park with a good camping ground with toilets, showers with solar hot water and fresh water available. While there were a couple of caravans who had braved the road, it was mainly camper trailers and tents. A lot of the passing traffic towing camper trailers were going as though there was no tomorrow - many were hired 4WDs which probably explains their haste - if they break it, its not theirs. We would not take our van over such a badly corrugated road!

We walked through the Windjana Gorge which was spectacular, and saw lots of fresh-water crocodile sunning themselves on the banks. Windjana Gorge is the remains of a coral reef that was formed millions of years ago then thrust up from the seabed. It is mainly sandstone with lots of fossil remains of sea creatures. After walking throught the Gorge we came back to the Navarra and had our lunch before moving on.

Windjana Gorge cliff face

Windjana Gorge cliff face

The river through the trees

The river through the trees

Crocodile lazing in the sun

Crocodile lazing in the sun

Two crocodiles keeping their distance

Two crocodiles keeping their distance

A quiet pool in Windjana Gorge

A quiet pool in Windjana Gorge

Looking across the pool

Looking across the pool

Another view across the pool

Another view across the pool

View looking up the Gorge

View looking up the Gorge

Nice spot for a swim?

Nice spot for a swim?

Another view up the Gorge

Another view up the Gorge

View across Windjana Gorge

View across Windjana Gorge

Not many birds around

Not many birds around

Across the Gorge

Across the Gorge

Di at Windjana

Di at Windjana

After having our lunch we drove on to Tunnel Creek - a further 35 kms of corrugated gravel road - mostly in rough condition. Tunnel Creek is also a National Park but has no camping facilities. Tunnel Creek is a cave system that has a fresh water creek flowing through it. We went into the entrance of the cave but did not walk though it as we did not have any good torches - it was pitch black inside the cave. The colours of the rocks were very interesting - an almost rose coloured quartz. At this time of year the creek is knee deep in places but very dark.

Approach to Tunnel Creek cave

Approach to Tunnel Creek cave

Rocks at the entrance

Rocks at the entrance

Tunnel Creek entrance cave

Tunnel Creek entrance cave

Looking into the Tunnel

Looking into the Tunnel

Too dark without good torches

Too dark without good torches

We returned to Derby the way we had come as the alternative of going on through Leopold Downs to the Great Northern Highway would have been slightly less gravel road, but about 100 kms more overall.

Back at Derby we picked up a paper and some more milk at Woolworths to keep us going for a few days, and filled up with diesel to take us on to Fitzroy Crossing tomorrow. Back at the caravan park David pumped up the tyres again to our travelling pressures and also pumped up the air bags to 45 lbs. The Fitzroy Crossing Caravan Park does not take bookings so we will be up early tomorrow so we get there before lunch to get a powered site for a couple of days. We plan to do the Geikie Gorge Cruise while we are there.

Posted by TwoAces 01:37 Comments (0)

Day 79 - Monday 23 July 2012

Broome to Derby

We were up early for trip from Broome to Derby - a distance of about 220 kms. It was a nice sunny day with a forecast maximum of 28 degrees. Most caravan traffic on the road seemed to be going south and we had a generally uneventful trip to Derby. Not a lot of road trains in either direction and we were only passed by one road train heading north. We stopped for a morning coffee at the Nillibubbica Rest Area which was about 60 kms west of the Willare Bridge Roadhouse.

We arrived at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park at about 1:00 pm and were allocated a large grassy site. After setting up camp for 2 nights and having lunch we went for a drive to explore Derby. Derby is a small town of about 5,000 people and was the first town to be settled in the Kimberleys in the 1880s to service the nearby cattle and sheep stations. The Derby wharf first built in 1894 for the export of of wool and pearl shell and later live cattle, and is now used for the export of Zinc and Lead Concentrates from the Western Metals Mine located to the east of Fitzroy Crossing.

Derby Wharf

Derby Wharf

Derby Zinc Concentrate Loader

Derby Zinc Concentrate Loader

The ore is transported from the mines to Derby by road train and loaded on to barges at the Derby Wharf. The tidal variations at Derby can be as much as 11 metres and the ore is transported to ships waiting offshore by a barge and a tug that have a 5 hour window around high tide to come into the wharf and load, before moving back out to sea to transfer the ore to waiting ships. Last night the barge came into the wharf at 3:00 am to be loaded. A fish restaurant is located next to the wharf, but we hope they get their fish from somewhere else as the water is very muddy.

Fish Restaurant at Derby Wharf

Fish Restaurant at Derby Wharf

Another tourist attraction at Derby is the the Boab Prison Tree where aboriginals who had been kidnapped for the pearling industry were held on their way to the coast before the establishment of Derby. Should that be slavery? The Boab tree is now an aboriginal heritage site, and is located next to Myall's Bore and Frosty's Pool. Myall's Bore and its long concrete water trough was established in1916 to water and rest cattle on their way to the Derby Wharf. Nearby is Frosty's Pool that was built in 1944 by Australian Army personnel who were stationed in the area. No sign of Frosty though!

Derby's Boab Prison Tree

Derby's Boab Prison Tree

Di at the Boab Prison tree

Di at the Boab Prison tree

Myall Bore stock watering trough

Myall Bore stock watering trough

Myall Bore - Derby

Myall Bore - Derby

Frosty's Pool - no water Frosty

Frosty's Pool - no water Frosty

Back at the caravan park we sat in the sun reading the papers until the sunset having a quiet little drink for happy hour.

Sunset at Derby

Sunset at Derby

Posted by TwoAces 03:09 Comments (1)

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