Monthly Archives: July 2022

Day 67 – Saturday, 30 July 2022 

We left Kununurra at 7:48am and took the drive to Lake Argyle to determine how long we need on Monday to be there in plenty of time to begin the lake cruise at 8:00am. The drive took us 50 minutes, but Monday will take longer as it will not be very light so we will drive more slowly.

We passed the entrance of the Lake Argyle Caravan Park and all the vans waiting to get in – hope they had a booking. The park covers and area of more than 5 hectares and has over 100 shady sites. There are even more without shade, and I wouldn’t like to be in one of them. However, the scenery would be magnificent.

It is a bit pricey during the dry season, and although it has a restaurant onsite, there is nowhere to buy fresh food and veges so you would have

to travel the 70 kilometres to Kununurra to do your shopping. If you have just come across the border and have had to give up all your produce it would be an expensive day all round.

According to Wikicamps they are short staffed like everywhere else up here, so a lot of the cleaning is not being done to any standard, and maintenance is outstanding on several items also.

It looked fairly jampacked to us and you would end up being close to your neighbours whether you wanted to be or not. At least the people who have stayed there loved the music each night (another reason for me to stay away, I think).

We checked in at the Lake Argyle Cruise office to see where we could park the car while we are cruising. All that is now in hand so some of the anxiety about a new trip has been taken care of for Russ and me.

We went up to the top lookout, then drove along the Ord River Dam wall. Checked out the water outlet pipes in full roar and took photos too numerous to mention – in the 400 range, and still to be processed.

Work began on the Ord River Dam on 10 April 1969 to supply irrigation water for the agricultural properties in the area.

The Intake Tower structure is 57.9 metres high, and the span of the access bridge is 51.9 metres long. It has two outlet tunnels with a combined length of 615.4 metres, and the diameter of each tunnel is 4.42 metres.

The controlled discharge of water is up to 42 metres per second for each of the three 1.98 metre Howell Bunger type regulating valves. It is an amazing construction.

On the way back we stopped off at the Lake Argyle Homestead which was fascinating. We enjoyed Peter’s Billabong ice-cream for morning tea, and we were back at the van in time to watch the Collingwood versus Port Adelaide clash at the MCG.

Another nail biter with a ripper finish. Jeannie has said she is going to invest in a defibrillator to cope with her heart attack that she is sure will happen soon if they keep playing like this.

Lake Argyle Homestead – The original site of this pioneer homestead, Argyle Downs Station, was established in 1886 when Patrick (Patsy) Durack sent his sons Michael Patrick and John Wallace from Queensland to set up the station. Patsy arrived in 1887 to help his sons and his wife Mary arrived in 1889 after a financial disaster left his Queensland interests in ruin.

Mary died at Argyle Downs Station from malaria on 24 January 1893.

Grieving over the loss of his wife, Patsy built a new homestead for his family in 1894, from handcrafted limestone blocks with crushed termite mounds as mortar, and wide verandahs paved with flat riverbed stones.

Patsy Durack died on 24 January 1898, exactly five years after his beloved wife.

The site of the original Argyle Downs Station now lies beneath the waters of Lake Argyle. Retrieved stone by stone and numbered for reassembly and remained in storage in Kununurra awaiting funding. A grant for $98,330 was received from the Federal Government and $30,000 from the WA Government.

The homestead has been reconstructed with faithful attention to historic detail 16 kilometres from the original site, and is located on a hilltop above the shores of Lake Argyle.

The walls are at least a metre thick and there are doors on all rooms which allows a cross flow of breeze from wherever it may be blowing. It was noticeable cooler inside the homestead than standing out on the lawn, even if you managed to get a patch of shade.

Like most homestead construction the front and back door are in line with each other, and the rooms radiate off each side of the hallway. Each of the rooms (There are only a total of 6 all up) has a doorway to a wide verandah, and in the homestead when it was used as the family home there were curtains hung across the interior doorways, no doors.

In 1979, the Western Australian State’s anniversary year, the rebuilt homestead was transformed into a museum of pioneer history as a memorial to the vision and courage of the families who first settled the vast Kimberley region. The key to the front door was presented to Dame Mary Durack, granddaughter of Patsy and Mary.

The Argyle Homestead Museum is managed by the Kununurra Visitor Centre with caretakers in residence from April to September.

Generations of the Duracks were born around Magerareagh, originally Galway in Western Ireland, until 1899 when it was moved within the boundary of Clare. It is told that the Duracks fought beside Brian Boru, High King of all Ireland, against the invading Danes.

It is quoted in the history of County Clare as amongst names existing before the fourteenth century and was known as “O’Duracks”.

When Henry VIII set about the conquest of the Irish nobility by granting confiscated monastic property to his supporters, created earls and granted further estates, the O’Duracks, for their stubborn refusal to bend the knees to a Protestant overlord, were stripped of all privileges, even the O’ prefix to their name.

For thousands of years the Duracks had tilled their fields and pastured their stock on the green banks of the Shannon at Ogoneloe.

One of the Durack descendants, Michael, married Bridget Dillon in 1831, and took up a farm on the Clare side of the Lough Derg, which land had been of the original family holding of Ogoneloe.

The bitter blight of 1845 struck deep at the roots of the Irish life. Never before were there so many people starving in the midst of plenty since cattle and other produce must be sold to meet the crippling rents and ‘famine rates’ that was ‘squeezed’ out of the tenants. Emigration was on everyone’s lips.

In 1848, Michael’s brother, Darby Durack married Margaret Kilfoyle, scraped together enough money for emigration and set sail on the ‘Duke of Roxborough’ from Plymouth in 1849 to ‘the colony’.

On August 28 Darby, with his wife and infant daughter, Bridget (born on the ship), faced their first inland journey in the new colony with mingled

sensations of relief and apprehension, and found a home with James and Caroline Chisholm at Kippilaw estate, 12 kilometres west of Goulburn, NSW (recently sold in 2014 for $6.2 million and now an Airbnb). Darby would end up fathering thirteen children.

By the end of 1852 Michael Durack also faced the fact that he and his family must emigrate or starve but they had virtually nothing with which to make even a small down payment on their fare.

Eldest son, Patrick (known as Patsy) as a seventeen-year-old, aided a rich Lordship and was rewarded with a sovereign which produced enough money from their rewards off their farm to emigrate them all to Australia.

By 1853, Michael and his wife ‘Mammie’ Amy and their seven children arrived in Australia and were proudly greeted by Darby, now a father of three children. They were able to become part of the Chisholm’s Kippilaw Estate workforce.

Michael and young Patsy were returning to the homestead after collecting a dray load of wood, when a kangaroo startled the blinkered horse. Michael was hit by a piece of timber and fell across the track, while the dray lurched backwards and jolted over him with its crushing load. Michael died instantly.

He left a widow and eight children, and left Patsy (now 18 years old), with the cares of the world on his shoulders, a child one day and a man the next.

Patsy quickly organized his family and with his Uncle Darby’s disapproval set out for the gold fields, where 18 months later he had made £1,000. He returned to Goulburn and eventually, with Darby, obtained land on Dixon’s Creek in the country of Argyle and settled into farming.

Patsy Durack, at the age of 28, married a pretty, spirited Irish girl named Mary Costello in the spring of 1862, despite the fact she was a Protestant. And much to Patsy’s delight other branches of the Durack family had now come from Ireland, some to settle in the Bathurst district, others to go into a hotel business in Sydney.

In 1867 he took up a pioneering cattle property on Cooper’s Creek in southwest Queensland, establishing a homestead at a waterhole he

named Thylungra. By 1877 his cattle empire had increased from 100 to about 30,000 head of cattle. Always mindful of the risks of drought, as well as the needs of his expanding family, both immediate and extended, he continued to seek more dependable land.

In 1870 Alexander Forrest led a party of eight men to explore the remote north. He named the lands he found the Kimberley. An initial condition of the lease of this new territory was that the land had to be stocked within two years, later extended to three years.

Patsy was excited by these reports of the newly released Kimberley land and the rush for leases forced him to apply for land unseen. He and his younger brother, Stumpy Michael, set off in 1882 on an expedition of his holdings.

The Duracks were not alone in driving cattle across northern Australia to stock the recently released Kimberley land. At times they crossed the tracks of the renowned bushman, Nat Buchanan, who had been the first to bring cattle in the Kimberley region, stocking the Ord River Station in 1883.

The Duracks also had contact with brothers, Charles and William McDonald. The McDonald brothers left NSW with a herd of cattle on a journey of 5,600 kilometres to the West Kimberley area where they established Fossil Downs Station in 1886. This cattle drive remains the longest cattle drive recorded in history.

The family tree, updated in 2019, contains the names of over 750 descendants of the brothers, Michael and Darby Durack.

As we entered the boundary fence of the museum, we gravitated to a tree on the corner fence post where we could hear a bowerbird.

There is a sign on the fence near the tree which introduces a Great Bowerbird named Patsy, who is considered to be the bowerbird in residence at the museum.

The sign goes on to educate all by saying:

“I collect a variety of white, green and silver objects to put in my nest, and when I am calling for a mate, I have a lilac crest on the back of my neck.

This nest is my bower. It is not a nest but a display area for luring my partner. If you upset it in any way, my potential partner will not visit me and I won’t be happy.

I really don’t like people chasing me up and down the hedge. If you wish to take a photo of me, please sit on the grass and wait patiently for me to appear.

Enjoy your visit to the museum and many thanks. (Signed) Patsy

We didn’t have to sit on the grass as Patsy very kindly appeared in the tree for Russ to take his photo.

Day 66 – Friday, 29 July 2022 

The alarm went off at 7:00am and by 7:55am we were out the door. First, we headed back towards the NT border to the BP Truckie Fuel Station on the outskirts of Kununurra. Fuel here was $2.26 per litre. 

As we approached the pumps, we saw a big road train had pulled up on the other side of the bowsers. He asked if he could use both of the pumps at the same time as he had four fuel tanks to fill before he could be on his way. He indicated it would probably only take about five or six minutes and we were quite happy to oblige him. 

We chatted with him while the fuel was pumping, and he told us he had a load of carrots to go a feed lot at Mataranka. The fuel would get him all the way there and then into Darwin. 

By the time he was finished there were another two vehicles waiting to use the bowsers. 

We were finished by 8:13am and headed back towards Kununurra and beyond, and the temperature was already sitting at 25 degrees. There was some considerable traffic heading into Kununurra along the highway, and we thought they might be people on their way to work. 

At 8:42 am we came across a floodway on the Victoria Highway that was six kilometres long. That’s a lot of water! The road surface was undulating but in good order. 

The Victoria Highway joins up with the Great Northern Highway at Cockburn Rest area, where there is a dump point, and 24-hour camping is allowed. This is where we will begin our journey south when we leave Kununurra. 

We stopped off at The Grotto for a look. It is a deep-water pool at the base of a rocky ravine. There are 144 steps to the bottom, and it is a popular year-round swimming hole. In the wet season it hosts some spectacular waterfalls. 

In the pool at the bottom of the steps (which we did not climb down) the water is over 100 metres deep. It is an important location for local Aboriginal people as there are rock art sites in the area. The carpark had a number of vehicles in it and some of them were on their way down the rocky steps – in thongs! Russ took a photo of a new bird. 

After this detour we headed back onto the Great Northern Highway and on to Wyndham, which is Western Australia’s most northerly town, and where the Great Northern Highway ends. It is 3,330 kilometres from Perth (a long way yet for us to go) and 929 kilometres from Darwin. 

Wyndham is situated on the Cambridge Gulf where the King, Pentecost, Durack, Forrest and Ord rivers meet. It is surrounded by spectacular landforms, rivers and wetlands. 

Wyndham has the third largest tidal movements in the world, and the hottest average temperature in Australia. Over a full year the average daily maximum is 36 degrees. 

It has a fascinating timeline of events. 

45,000 BCE the first Indigenous people arrived. The sea level was probably more than 120 metres lower than today, and the coastline extended much further out into the Timor Sea. 

In 1819 the first European, Captain Phillip Parker King, arrived. He stayed for three days and surveyed the coastline. He gave names to the Bastion Range (due to its similarity to a castle), Cambridge Gulf and Adolphus Island (named after Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge, son of King George 111). 

1882 saw Michael Durack land at Cambridge Gulf looking for cattle country, and in 1884 cattle arrived at Ord River, and gold was discovered at Hall’s Creek. 

Wyndham as first established in 1885 – Gold fever was the catalyst. Within a few years approximately 5000 miners had passed through on the way to the goldfields of Halls Creek. Numerous hotels and grog shanties sprang up. Only two remain – The Six Mile and the Wyndham Town Hotel.  

Anthon’s Landing was built in 1894 and was named after Captain Anthon. It was the name given to the Port before it was officially gazetted Wyndham in 1886.  

The T-shaped construction of Anthon’s Jetty was the first indications of Government recognition of Wyndham as a seaport. It included a cattle ramp, so live cattle could be shipped to the Fremantle market. 

It was the first jetty in Wyndham and built to handle the first cattle shipments into the area. Socially it became the hub of activity whenever a ship arrived. The jetty was destroyed by fire in 1944, the cause of which was never discovered.  

Pylons from the original wharf built in the 1880’s can be seen at low tide. 

Nearly seventy years later a new award-winning recreational fishing jetty was built in its place and was officially opened in February 2012. 

By 1893 the Telegraph Line opened from Hall’s Creek to Wyndham. 

1918 began construction of the Wyndham Freezing (Meat) Works and wharf. 

The Wyndham Meat Works and Wyndham Wharf opened in 1919 and cattle processing commenced. The town then became the major service centre for the region. Historic buildings still stand as testament to the early days of Wyndham. 

1929 Charles Kingsford Smith was lost and found again near Wyndham and in 1930 the first airmail arrived. 

By 1931 Kingsford Smith had broken the world record for the Wyndham to London flight. He did it in 8 days, 4 hours and 44 minutes. 

German Aviators became lost on the north coast in 1932. Miraculously, they were rescued alive 38 days later. 

In 1934 the first air passenger service began, and this was followed in 1936 by the establishment of a Flying Doctor Base. 

Then came the World War 2. In 1942, due to the fear of attack by Japanese forces the town was evacuated. The Meat Works were closed from 1942 -1945. The Motor Vessel (MV) Koolama was bombed. 

MV Koolama was an Australian merchant vessel that sank as a result of several attacks by Japanese aircraft in February–March 1942.[Control] 

Koolama was built in 1937, in Scotland, for the State Shipping Service, at a cost of £250,000, and was registered at Fremantle. She was 348 feet (106 metres) long, with a beam of 54 feet, and had diesel engines driving two propellers.  

Koolama could accommodate about 200 passengers and 90 crew, 500 live cattle and had a freezer hold for cargo such as meat. She was used mostly for passenger and general freight transport on coastal routes in Western Australian (WA) waters.  

In January 1942, following the outbreak of war with Japan, Koolama carried members of the ill-fated 8th Division and their equipment to Ambon and West Timor, in Netherlands East Indies. On the return voyage she carried Dutch refugees to Darwin.  

On 10 February 1942, Koolama – under Captain Jack Eggleston – sailed from Fremantle, bound for Darwin with Australian Army personnel and equipment, as well as some convicts on work release and regular civilian passengers.  

Although the soldiers on board were armed only with rifles, the ship carried a 50 mm (1.97 in) gun on its rear poop deck, which was intended for use against submarines and could not be aimed above level for anti-aircraft purposes. Koolama varied Vickers 0.303-inch machine guns mounted on each side of the bridge.  

At 11.30 am on 20 February 1942, a day after the first Japanese air raids on Darwin, Koolama was off the coast of the Kimberley, when it was attacked by a Japanese Kawanishi H6K flying boat near Cape Londonderry. Three or four bombs landed near the ship but caused no damage. Eggleston reported the attack by radio and continued towards Darwin.  

At 1.30pm, three Kawanishis – led by Lieutenant Commander Tsunaki Yonehara – attacked the ship again, over a period of 30 minutes. Three bombs hit the ship.  

One 60 kg (132 lb) bomb, dropped from a height of 800 m (2,625 ft), went through wooden decking, struck a civilian passenger, Raymond Theodore “Bluey” Plummer, glancing blows to his head, arm and foot, before falling into an engine room and exploding.  

Plummer was facing down and a tailfin on the bomb struck the back of his head, peeling away the scalp as far as his nose, along with a piece of his skull. Although Plummer’s brain was partly exposed, he remained alive, albeit unconscious. The bomb also caused injuries to his arm and foot. Two other passengers were also injured.  

Koolama was severely damaged. Later that afternoon, with the ship taking water at the stern, and its steering and internal communications out of action, Eggleston decided to beach the ship in Rulhieres Bay (later known as Koolama Bay).  

He sent an SOS by radio and ordered that the ship be evacuated by lifeboat but did not officially abandon Koolama. The following day, as the evacuees awaited help in an inhospitable area of mangroves, inhabited by many saltwater crocodiles, Japanese planes attacked again without effect.  

Eggleston and his first officer, Ken Reynolds – who was also a qualified ship’s master – disagreed regarding the best course of action. The captain wanted to re-float Koolama, using the high tide, and head back to the small port of Wyndham; he believed that the ship could pump out enough water to survive 48 hours at sea, and could be steered with its engines. However, Reynolds believed that Koolama should be abandoned. The crew split into two factions along these lines. Because of this, some people later accused Reynolds of mutiny.  

While they waited for assistance, the crew undertook some repairs to the stern.  

On 25 February, a lugger crewed by Benedictine priests and Aboriginal people from the nearest settlement, Drysdale River Mission (later known as Kalumburu), almost 100 kilometres (80miles) away, arrived to take the sick, wounded and women passengers to the mission, a journey of 24 hours. After enduring a week on the shore, most of the passengers and crew members began to walk to Drysdale River, guided by a priest.  

By 1 March, all possible on-site repairs had been completed and the badly damaged Koolama, with Eggleston, 18 crew members, three civilian passengers and two military personnel, was re-floated and set off for Wyndham. The bomb damage, including blown rivets, was worsened by the stress of movement, and as Koolama approached the port on the morning of 2 March, about 24 hours after leaving Rulhieres Bay, its pumps could no longer keep up with the inflow of water. 

By 7pm, Eggleston and his party had unloaded most of the cargo, including army vehicles and other military equipment. The pumps were run throughout the night and unloading resumed at 6.00 am. However, the pumps were becoming clogged with mud and the ship was still taking water.  

Just after 7.00 am on 3 March, eight Japanese Zero fighters, led by Toshitada Kawazoi, made a strafing attack on Wyndham. This air raid caused no apparent damage to the Koolama, but Eggleston and his crew remained on shore for the rest of the day, in case follow-up raids occurred.  

By 4pm, Koolama was down at the stern and listing to starboard. At about 4.45 pm the ship rolled onto its side in the shallow water. It was written off.  

Meanwhile, some of the crew and passengers at Rulhieres Bay were rescued by flying boat, and arrived in Broome on 3 March 1942, just after a devastating air raid on the town. A further 19 men had to wait for the return of the mission lugger.  

On 5 March, Plummer was flown from Drysdale River to Darwin, for more intensive medical treatment. He underwent more than 40 operations resulting from his injuries but lived until the early 1980s. 

One man had died while walking to Drysdale River and he was buried at the mission. He was the only fatality resulting from the attacks on the Koolama.  

Later in 1942, a Marine Board of Inquiry exonerated all the crew members of any wrongdoing. Both Eggleston and Reynolds had long careers, including positions as Marine Superintendents, with the State Shipping Service.  

In 1947, an attempt to re-float Koolama was unsuccessful. The hull was raised the following year, only to clear Wyndham harbour. It was towed out to sea and scuttled.  

In 1954 the Morgan expedition surveyed the route from Gibb River to Kalumbaru, and the Gibb River Road was completed in 1956. 

In 1965 the original two-storey Wyndham Hotel was demolished, and the Swan Breweries Hotel/Motel was built. (It is a very sad sight today.) 

In 1967 the Meat Works was sold by the government to Northwest Beef, and in 1968 Wyndham’s Mile became Wyndham, and the township at the port was renamed Port Wyndham (another very sad sight in the township). 

By 1971 the Moochalabra Dam was built to provide the township with a water supply, and Parry’s Lagoon was designated a Nature Reserve. (We tried to go there but the road was so badly corrugated that we quickly gave up and headed back to the highway. It is a real shame that this gravel road is almost impassable (if you care about your vehicle), and we would have loved to have had lunch while birdwatching. 

In 1977 the bulk loading facilities were installed at the Port, which ended the era of trains. 

In 1979 Diamonds were found near Lake Argyle; in 1981 satellite television was installed; 1985 Commercial television was available (and at that time most of us were already watching colour tv!). 

The Meat Works closed in 1986. It was built by the Western Australia government and was the largest meatworks in the Southern Hemisphere at that time. 

The site included a jetty, power station, freezing works, cannery, rail system, engineering and carpenter workshops, stores and canteens, staff housing, dance hall, outdoor picture theatre and tennis courts. 

The staff included slaughtermen, butchers, boilermakers, barrel makers, hide preparers, machine-shop workers, packers, engineers, carpenters, cooks and bag makers. 

The workers arrived by State ship (like the Kalooma) each year for the season which was 16 – 20 weeks from May through to September. 

The stock were walked into the meatworks from cattle stations via a range of stock routes – NT and Ord River to the east, Hall’s Creek and Kurunjie stock routes to the south. 

Most of the beef and the by-products were exported, and due to their “Empire preference” tariff policy, Britain was the main market. 

Over 62 seasons, 2,072,049 beasts were processed at the meat works. Only the cattle yards continue to be used today. 

In 1987 the ‘Big Croc’ was erected at the town entrance. First erected by a group of students and volunteers, the frame was formed from 5.5km of steel rod, surrounded by 10 rolls of bird mesh and covered in 6 cubic metres of concrete. 

In 1988 the Dreamtime Statues were erected at Warriu Park, and in 1991 El Questro was opened for tourists. To complete the timeline, in 1999 the Home Valley Station was purchased by the Indigenous Land Council. 

The historic town of Wyndham, now known as Port Wyndham covers a small area of land between Mt Albany and the Cambridge Gulf. It is unable to expand due to the tidal mudflats located at both ends of the main street. 

The daily tides rise and fall up to 8.3 metres. For this reason, in 1968 the town was moved to Wyndham 3-Mile. 

In 1918-19 when the L-shaped timber jetty was built to service the Meat Works, trains delivered good to and from the jetty.  

In 1959 the jetty was extended to form the existing u-shaped wharf. The length of the wharf available for ship berthing is 314 metres. 

With the introduction of shipping containers in 1979, the wharf was concreted, and trains were replaced by tractors. 

Wyndham Port exports live cattle, minerals, crude oil and agricultural products in response to market requirements. Imports include bulk fuel and fertiliser. Its imports include bulk fuel and fertiliser. 

The Five Rivers Lookout is the highest point of the Bastion Range (330 metres). It affords a birds-eye view over the Cambridge Gulf including the surrounding Durack, Pentecost, King, Forrest and Ord Rivers. 

Panoramic views from the top of the range are spectacular with breath-taking sandstone escarpments, expansive mud flats, woodland and boab outcrops surrounding Wyndham. 

We made our way up to the top of the lookout up a very steep, winding road with hair pin bends and a “No caravans past this point” sign. 

The view lived up to its hype, as did the understanding of the history from the placement of the remains of old buildings and businesses as seen from the top. 

There was a tour bus at the top with a lot of chatty people. The tour guide commented on Russ’ bright yellow towelling hat, and it looked like she would have been popular with her group as she had a sense of humour. 

We then headed back into town and went to see the Pioneer Cemetery (1886 – 1922), which is an historical reminder of the harsh conditions of the remote location, and the determination of the people who settles here. 

It was the first cemetery in Wyndham and was known as “The Bend Cemetery” due to its location on a bend of the main highway. Graves here include early pioneers and meatworks construction workers (1915 – 1917) who died mostly from heat exhaustion. 

It was closed due to a lack of space and erosion of the graves by high tides. The last burial at this cemetery was Charles Bridge, aged 23, the owner of Springvale Station, and he died on 18 July 1929. 

There is no official burial register for this site and the cemetery includes many unmarked graves.  

When we go out for Russ to do his geo-caching, I generally take along my ereader as he can be a while trying to find the cache.  

I was a fair while taking photos of mudflats (that didn’t do the sight justice), the cemetery and surrounds and some of the mulla mulla plants (pussy tails). As I got back in the car Russ said, “If I had known you were going to take that amount of time, I would have brought my ereader”. The Cox humour at work once again. 

The Gully Cemetery (1922 -1968) is nestled at the foot of the Bastion. Before Wyndham 3-mile township was established in 1968 most residents lived in “The Gully” or “The Port” and this was the town’s cemetery. 

The Afghan Cemetery (1919 -1942) commemorates the cameleers who delivered freight to remote East Kimberley stations, prior to the arrival of motor transport. 

From the 1860s to the 1920s thousands of Afghani cameleers with camels were transported to new Australian colonies to have a critical role in providing transport and trade in the Australian outback.  

Their camel tracks connected coasts with deserts and formed an extensive network across the continent’s remote interior. Their multiple contributions of assisting in early exploration, carting supplies to scattered pastoral stations, carting wool, copper and gold to international ports, carting materials for telegraph lines and for vermin fencing, and carting water to goldfields were significant in Australia’s founding development.  
As they established significant settlements and delivered exports, they formed relationships with Australia’s diverse Aboriginal people. They brought their religions, cultures and traditions with them enriching Australia’s cultural diversity.  

Though their arrivals decreased after the Restricted Immigration Act of 1901 their descendants continued their influence which is felt in Australia today, from camel racing to date palms to family names, to the famous Ghan train’s logo, Afghan cemeteries and the first mosques.  

Their descendants give substance to their history through launching memorials, gathering for reunions, and giving interviews to various media people.  

Camels opened the great central expanses of Australia. For more than 50 years until the 1920s, camel trains radiated into the outback from railways that gradually extended into the interior, or from points near otherwise isolated, inaccessible parts of the country.  

In long strings of up to 70, they sustained human life and new endeavours in the emerging outback communities. They carried building and railway materials, food, furniture, water, mail and medicine to the pastoralists and mining ventures, returning with the products of those inland enterprises – baled wool and oil.  

Camel cartage bases were formed at railheads or near ports, and ‘Afghan-towns’ developed on their outskirts. These became known as Ghantowns. 

The cameleers were Muslims who adhered faithfully to their religion and built mosques wherever they settled. They brought with them no women, and although some married European or Aboriginal women, their families always lived in the Ghantowns and rarely mixed in Australian society.  

Camels were singularly superior to horses and bullocks in the dry centre, and the Afghan cameleers were better suited physically than the Europeans to the harsh conditions in inland Australia. 

Among the first were those imported in 1860 for the Burke and Wills Expedition that was the first to cross the continent from south to north. Their use on that expedition led to the later imports. 

The Port Augusta wharves were where the first commercial shipment of camels and their handlers disembarked, from the steamer Blackwell, on New Year’s Day 1866.  

The shipment was arranged by pastoralist-entrepreneur Thomas Elder, who was determined to establish a carrying business and camel stud at his Beltana property in the nearby Flinders Ranges. 

A great crowd had gathered on the wharves to watch the unloading of such strange cargo with their exotic, turbaned handlers.  

It is ironic that although Alice Springs has been popularly and romantically linked with camels and Afghans in recent years, Alice was the last place where the cameleers settled. 

Camels are curious, intelligent, strangely endearing animals. Today only a few second-generation descendants of the original Afghans are still alive in Australia, most being in their 70s or older.  

A few still live in their original Ghantown houses, with Muslim mementos of camels and turbaned men on their walls. They have a quiet dignity and reserve; their houses smell deliciously of curries, they keep the pork taboo and many remember a few phrases in Pushtu or Dati, or a few prayers in Arabic. 

It was 32 degrees at 11:15am. We thought we might take the Parry Creek road back to Kununurra, stop off and see The Telegraph Station on the way, and take a lunch break at Parry’s Lagoon. However, the corrugations in the road were so horrendous that we turned back to the highway after only a kilometre. It was a very slow and bumpy ride, and we both mentioned getting an unexpected massage on our derrieres (bottoms for those that don’t know some French). 

We also saw a Russncar Boab tree (you are gonna love this one. Its another Cox humour example, but this one was romantic). It was two trunks of a boab tree joined together, forever, and one was a lot taller than the other. 

We climbed 336 metres to get to the Five River Lookout and Wyndham township is at 8.4 metres above sea level, The round trip was 247 kilometres from start to finish. 

Day 65 – Thursday, 28 July 2022 

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, and I am still working on NT time. I woke up at 6:30am and lay there for a while before quietly getting up and checking my emails. 

The air conditioner working on fan last night worked a treat with most of the windows closed. Russ slept like a log. 

The mornings here are lovely but once the middle of the day arrives the heat starts to build. I do not think I would handle the wet season very well at all, and I like the heat. 

We talked to a young lady in Coles yesterday and she told us that she had been sent up here from Mandurah (south of Perth) to help fill staff shortages. There are ads on all the doors and windows of most places. 

I read today in the ABC News that Mildura has the second highest number of Covid cases per capita in Victoria. Probably time to start wearing masks again. 

We couldn’t fix the washing machine. It comes up with an E4 error which indicates that the pump is not working, so possible it is the motor. We won’t find out though until we get back home and try to get it fixed. 

I have finished the rest of the week’s washing over at the laundry, and met our next-door neighbour, Hannah, who is a permanent here at the park. She is employed to do the cleaning, so we nattered while I was in the laundry. She tells me that Kununurra has a system for recycling much like Mildura. They have a community group who has the permit to check out the tip drops and use anything that can be recycled, much like Around Again at the tip at home. 

We are having a quiet day today and taking the opportunity to relax after the stresses of yesterday. We picked up a few brochures from the Info Centre and have read them with an eye to organising a type of itinerary for the ones we want to do or visit. 

The first item on my list was to book tickets for Monday morning to do the Lake Argyle Cruise which starts at 8:00am. It will be a very early start for us as it is a 70 kilometres trip from Kununurra to the dock before we even get on the boat.  

We decided that tomorrow we will head out and visit Wyndham, a trip of 100 kilometres each way. 

Day 64 – Wednesday, 27 July 2022 

Well, this is an interesting caravan park. Over the back fence from us is the Kununurra Hotel and it is lit up like Guy Fawkes Night so last night there was so much light around us that we ended up closing the shades. It made it a bit stuffy, but it does get cooler so not to worry. 

Russ had trouble sleeping because of the compressor at the hotel which cut in and out all night. Tonight, we have decided to close the windows and put the air conditioner onto fan to see if that will stop the noise from interfering with a good night’s sleep. 

On top of that, the water was turned off at 9:05am and I had washing in the machine. I ended up going over to the office just before lunch time to ask what was happening. Vikki assured me that the water had been turned on again about 10:30am so we should not be having any problems. The office ladies were less than impressed with the Water Corporation as they had not given any notice about the interruption of water supply. Their washing machines cost thousands and are prone to problems if interfered with during the cycle. 

Needless to say, my washing machine will not pump out the water and therefore it can’t finish the cycle. I had to wring all the clothes out by hand and use the dipper to get all the water out of the machine, before using an old towel to remove the last of it. I am not a happy camper now. I am also not permitted to put up my portable clothesline either, so I am glad that the park clotheslines are just across from us. 

Russ spent some considerable time, and a lot of swearing and frustration, trying different things but nothing was working. He even read the manual, Mum! Finally, we unplugged it from the power source and will wait until tomorrow to try again. 

We did manage to get the water flowing once again. It seems like we had a bit of an air bubble in the hose connection. 

I have even logged onto Facebook and asked the members of the Brilliant Caravan Group id any of them have experienced this problem and asked for suggestions. Unfortunately, we had already tried the suggestions that were made so we are back at first base. 

I finished re-writing all the lost parts of the diary yesterday. I also caught up on the photos. Russ then uploaded everything to the website, sent off the email with the latest edition, and we printed out two copies for mum and Trish. 

After we put away the printer we headed into town, which is not very far away, posted the letters, visited the Visitor Information Centre (a slight improvement on Darwin, but still a glorified booking agency) and finished the trip at Coles where we bought fresh fruit and veges. They had no multigrain bread so I couldn’t top up on that. Russ also couldn’t get his Royal Gala apples so has bought a couple of Bravo apples to try. 

The temperature reached a high of 33 degrees and it is expected to get down to 16 overnight. The sun sets very early here at 5:15pm. It is weird. 

I have an appointment for my haircut next Wednesday at the oh-so-early time of 8:00am and it is only going to cost my $70. Russ has an even oh-so-earlier appointment for Thursday at 7:45am and his will cost $40. 

After tea we decided to chill out so opened Kayo on the computer and watched Collingwood versus Essendon game. It really was a ripper. I think they went to sleep in the second quarter. 

Day 63 – Tuesday, 26 July 2022 

We woke up just before the alarm was due to go off at 8:00am. By 9:05 am we were leaving Victoria River Roadhouse after handing over our excess apples, avocado and honey as we are not permitted to take them across the border into Western Australia. 

Today, we have clouds!! 

During the night a car alarm went off and blared loudly for at least a minute. The noise then stopped but the lights continued to flash on and off. We ended up closing the shades so we could get back to sleep. 

Another idiot overtook us today, across double lines once more. This one had his car registered in Western Australia. 

We topped up the diesel at Timber Creek and were happy to see the price was unchanged at $2.41 a litre. By 10:30am the temperature had reached 28 degrees so it looks like today will be a warm one. 

After Timber Creek the country became flat plains. Our lowest point of the journey was at 12.2 metres above sea level at Timber Creek. The highest point was 143 metres above sea level southeast of Timber Creek, so we did quite a bit of climbing before dropping into the Timber Creek valley. By comparison Kununurra is at 55.4 metres above sea level.  

Our course changed from a north westerly direction to a south westerly direction then to westerly and back to north westerly and continued on like that until we crossed the WA border which is approximately 50 kilometres from Kunnunurra. 

Along the way Russ got to use the UHF radio. We had a big, converted bus towing a car following us who seemed hesitant to pass. Russ called them (Greg and Ros) and Greg explained that the bus took some time to wind up to speed so he would let us know later when he considered he had plenty of room for the manoeuvre. 

After we had slowed down to assist their passing Russ wished them a safe journey and they reciprocated before leaving us in their dust. 

We had lunch in the car about 12:08pm NT time with 87 kilometres still to travel. A lovely lady dealt with us at the border protection point. She asked several question, took the registration of car and caravan before looking into the Engel and our fridge in the van, then wished us well. 

We gained an extra one and a half hours by crossing the border, so it was only 11:45am again. 

The scenery changed dramatically once we left the border station. The rock formations are now totally different and absolutely awesome in their grandeur. 

We passed many flowering plants during our journey today. There were black wattle trees in full bloom, kapok trees aplenty, eucalyptus trees in flower, mainly the white ones, and the boab trees just got bigger, and they look older than the ones we saw in NT. 

We arrived at Kununurra and are staying at the Town Caravan Park. It is surrounded by wire fence, and we have a key to open the big, heavy metal gates to come and go during our two weeks stay. 

The ladies in the office were a hoot and quickly had provided us with the information about the caravan park and how to get to our site – #25.  

The set up for their vans is interesting. They have a gravel surface to both sides of a concrete strip. The van goes onto one gravel area, and the car goes onto the other gravel area. The concrete pad is the area for the awning and chairs etc. However, there is a big, thick bit of concrete that you have to go over from the road level which made life interesting while positioning the van. 

Catastrophe!!!!! The diary did not save, and I was unable to recover anything so will have to re-write all the entries tonight and tomorrow before we can print it out for posting. 

Kununurra has far too many u’s in it. Having said that it is a relatively new town that was established in 1961 as a service centre for the Ord River Irrigation scheme after the success of the first stage and lots of investment. The name from the Miriuwung word translate to ‘meeting of the big waters’. 

Initially, Kununurra sustained a population of 400 people. Today, it has a transient population that ranges from around 7,000 to more than 14,000 people during the dry season. This number is set to increase as the area becomes more important with further investment into the Ord River Irrigation Area. 

Agriculture is one of the biggest industries here. Tourism, unsurprisingly, is a major employer for the town and region, with visitors coming from around the world to see the wonders of ‘Australia’s last frontier’. (I am sure the Northern Territorians would have something to say about that title.) 

There is certainly plenty to see and do here, and Wyndham is only about 100 kilometres away and has a raft of things to do and see also. There are several National Parks in the area as well. 

The MG Corporation receives and manages the benefits transferred under the Ord Final Agreement to the Miriuwung and Gajenong people, who are recognised under Australian law as holding native title over a determination area spanning almost 14,000 square kilometres of land in the East Kimberly region. 

I spent time after tea re-writing a lot of the diary that had been lost. Thank heavens I write notes to myself as well as enter info in the paper diary to jog my memory. 

Day 62 – Monday, 25 July 2022

Another cold night here at Victoria River. There is no breeze today, but the sun is shining brightly, and we are listening to the birds in the trees making a lot of noise. Some of them we have been unable to identify as yet. 

The caravan park wasn’t anywhere near full last night, and most of those have left early this morning. We can actually hear traffic on the highway as it passes, and we are well back from the road. 

Some washing today, and housekeeping to be done, and Russ wants to clean the vehicle. The birds have left a mess on the paintwork. 

The photos were completed, and we now wait for an internet connection to put them onto the website. The diary has also been brought up to date. 

Later in the afternoon we went for a walk just before sunset along the highway to the bridge across the Victoria River. We took quite a large number of photos as it was the ‘gloaming’. 

By the time the sun had almost set we went back to the roadhouse and ordered our tea. I had a beef schnitzel with chips, and it was very nice. Russ ordered a Scotch Fillet steak with chips and enjoyed every mouthful.  

We had a lovely, relaxed evening before heading off to bed and looking forward to our journey to Kununurra tomorrow. 

Day 61 – Sunday, 24 July 2022

We got a good sleep after our neighbours finally decided to shut up. It was very cold overnight, but the sun was shining with a gentle breeze when we left the van. It was 24 degrees by 10:00am and finally reached a top of 35 degrees when we got back to the van later in the afternoon.

We left the Roadhouse at 9:30am to go see parts of Judbarra or Gregory National Park, whichever title you want to use.

On the way we saw wonderful countryside with magnificent towering ranges. It is very like the ranges at Alice Springs but on a larger scale. The termite mounds are considerable smaller and are made from the deep red-brown earth.

We headed to the furthest point of interest which was Gregory’s Tree past Timber Creek. There was a lot of traffic on the highway both coming and going.

We made an unexpected stop at Bradshaw’s Bridge. This bridge allows authorised people access to the Restricted Base area across the Victoria River. The bridge is not open to the public, but you are encouraged to park your car and use the pedestrian walk on the bridge to get a good photo of the Victoria River itself. So we made use of it before heading out to the Tree.

Judbarra has an extensive history of occupation which dates back for over 50,000 years. During this vast time period the region would have undergone fairly immense environmental changes but would have been a hunter-gatherer’s paradise, rich in natural water and food sources.

Today, the Traditional Owners of this land, the Nagrinyman, Karrangpurra, Nungali, Malngin, Wardaman, Ngaliwurru, Bilinara, Gurindji and Jaminjung people continue their active involvement with the Park through Joint Management, continuing their strong ties with country.

Judbarra/Gregory National Park protects part of the Victoria River catchment and spans across a region where the climate gradually changes from wet/dry tropics in the north through to the semi-arid zone in the south.

The Park contains large areas of tropical woodland in the north interspersed with scattered pockets of monsoon forest, while spinifex grasslands dominate the southern sections.

The Park provides important habitat for the endangered Gouldian Finch. The ongoing protection of wet season feeding grounds from fires and feral animals is vital to their continued survival.

The rugged landscapes of Judbarra are the result of marine depositions 1,500 million years ago, and their subsequent uplift and erosion in more recent times. Vast tracts of generally rugged terrain that include spectacular sandstone escarpments and gorges, mesas, limestone karst formations, rolling hills and alluvial plains define the Park’s character.

The sheer extent and geographic location of the park is reflected in the diversity of plants and animals found here. The diversity also makes it very important from a conservation perspective as it contributes greatly to Australian biodiversity, protecting a wide variety of species in a range of habitats.

The healthy waterways of the upper Wickham, East Baines and Humbert Rivers and the significant Victoria River catchment all provide valuable habitat for aquatic plants and animals as well as species that they sustain.

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is easily identified from other wrens by its purple cap. It can be found along the margins of rivers in canegrass, pandanas and freshwater mangroves. Its status is rare and it can be seen, although more often heard, in the Park along many sections of the Victoria River. (We didn’t get to see one, but will keep our fingers crossed for WA.)

Declared as Gregory National Park in 1990, the Park protects some 13,000 square kilometres of country. Originally named after the explorer Augustus Charles Gregory, the Park was renamed in 2010 when the Traditional Owners agreed on the name ‘Judbarra’ in recognition of ‘lightning dreaming’ which is important throughout the Victoria River District.

In 1839, Captain John Wickham and his lieutenant, John Stokes, sailed HMS Beagle into Queen’s Channel, the mouth of the Victoria River. There they discovered a river deemed “worthy of being honoured with the name of her most gracious majesty the Queen” and so it was name Victoria River.

Augustus Charles Gregory led the first full scale land exploration of the Victoria River region beginning in 1855. His supply ship “Tom Tough” was a 112-tonne schooner which sailed 145 kilometres up the Victoria River to unload supplies and establish a base camp. On the hazardous journey its keel snapped, and the inrush of water destroyed some of its cargo.

Timber for repairs were later cut from trees at a place 10 kilometres upstream which is now called Timber Creek.

The base camp was established on the west bank of the Victoria River. A carved boab tree marks this heritage listed location, which is also a registered Aboriginal sacred site. From this base camp Gregory led two trips into the unknown interior, up to and beyond the headwaters of the Victoria River.

The major result of Gregory’s exploration was the tremendous extent of prime grazing land discovered – land for which the Victoria River country is now famous.

Thomas Baines, the expedition artist, carved the boab tree with the arrival and departure dates of the expedition party. This was a common practice in European history, but today it is realised that carving boab trees may harm them and possibly lead to their deaths.

Official exploration of the Victoria River district ended in 1879 with the crossing, from west to east, by Alexander Forrest. On the way Forrest discovered and named the Negri and Humbert Rivers and confirmed the areas pastoral potential.

At least a year before Forrest made his crossing, people were rushing to secure options over large areas of the Victoria River region. Much of this appears to have been land speculation, and stocking of the various holdings did not occur until 1883.

The first cattle to arrive went to the Wave Hill country taken up by the famous bushman, Nat “Bluey” Buchanan. Stocking of other stations was rapid – Victoria Downs in 1884, the Durack properties and Auvergne in 1885 and Bradshaw in 1894.

Augustus Charles Gregory was a practical bushman, an animal lover, innovative and mechanically skilful. He invented a pack saddle that replaced the old English horse furniture that then became standard use in the bush. The saddle allowed the animal to sweat and made it possible for packs to be bucked free if the horse stumbled.

Gregory also dehydrated and compacted food to lighten the load of his pack horses. However, his most innovative design was the “Gregory Patent Compass”. This compass could be used on horseback, so it gave him the ability to move faster through the bush.

Gregory’s diary of 12 April 1856 recalls how they “commenced our return up the river and in examining the ford my horse trod on the back of a large alligator (read crocodile), which seemed to be as equally astonished as the horse at this unexpected meeting”.

The base camp for Gregory and his party was a key strategy in his successful exploration of northern Australia. At the camp his fellow explorers could rest, refresh their horses and supplies, consolidate their surveys and collections and plan their next journey.

By leaving most of their supplies at the base camp and loading the pack horses with only the essential supplies, they could travel light and fast on the explorative surveys. Gregory brought fifty horses with him to cart supplies and ride on the Expedition’s surveys.

At the camp small homes were made from local timber and other bush materials. Sheets of paperbark were used as walls while leafy branches and grass provided the thatched roofs.

Beds were made of sacking stretched over a frame of branches. A mosquito net was strung above. Barrels and crates made handy seats and tables.

A smaller boab tree that grew next to Gregory’s tree was felled while making camp. The stump made a fine table and the hollowed trunk was used as a drinking trough for the horses.

A store shed was constructed from the scavenged timber of the redundant horse drays – made redundant because the draught horses that were to pull the carts unfortunately drowned when they were unloaded from the ship. Gregory also shipped two hundred sheep to supply fresh meat but many of them did not survive the arduous journey.

Camp provisions for the party of 19 men consisted of flour, salt, pork, preserved beef, potatoes, rice, peas, sage, sugar, tea, coffee, vinegar and lime juice.

Ferdinand von Mueller was the expedition botanist. He described and named the boab tree at the camp site (Adansonia gregorii) after the expedition leader.

He collected nearly 2000 species of plants on the expedition, 800 of those were new to Australian botany. He corresponded with other eminent scientists of the time, including Charles Darwin. His publications are numerous, exceeding 1000.

Latrobe, in 1853, described von Mueller as ‘a german, drunk on the love of his science and careless of ease and regardless of difficulty in whatever form it might present itself. Gregory mentions how very often he needed to change horses and von Mueller caused more trouble for horses than other horses carrying more weight.

Boab trees in Australia are different to those found in Africa (Adansonia digitata) which are called Baobab trees. Australia trees are smaller and do not live as long as their African counterparts.

Boab trees are amongst the longest living (and largest) plants on Earth. It is very difficult to determine the ages of these trees because they form a number of rings each year, and sometimes no rings in a given year at all. This makes traditional ring-counting methods obsolete. The only accurate method for age detection is radiocarbon dating. For many years the only samples tested were the remains of dead specimens.

Using the new technology some African trees were tested using specimens taking from the cavities of the trunks of a joined tree. It was discovered that the cavities were grown at different rates. The smaller stem was dated as 1,060 years old, plus or minus 75 years, while the larger stem was dated at 750 years old, plus or minus 75 years.

The smaller stem is still growing while the larger stem has slowed down consistently over the past 250 years.

The Boab tree stores water in the fibrous tissue of its trunk. It is native to the northwest of Australia in the Kimberly region. It is sometimes called bloodwood. Australian boab trees do live to be 500 years or older. The average height is 15 metres (50 feet) and their circumference averages at 17 metres (55 feet).

Rock wallabies and kangaroos feed on the fruit of the boab and disperse the seeds. Scaly-tailed possums feed on the leaves, flowers and fruit. Flying foxes and fruit bats, who roost in the branches, eat the flowers and pods.

Birds observed either eating, resting or nesting in boab trees include crows, black kites, magpie-larks, grey-crowned warblers, kestrels, fork-tailed kites, zebra finches, white-faced herons, black-breasted buzzards, honey-eaters, corellas, owls and owlet-nightjars.

Reptiles such as goannas, geckos, skinks and green tree frogs may also use the tree as habitat.

The gum and the pollen of the tree is used by the indigenous people to make glue. Young plants have a large edible tuberish taproot.

The gourd-like fruit pods contain an edible, lemony dry pulp that can be chewed alone, mixed with water and sweetener as a drink, mixed with edible gum from other plants, or may be cooked into custard or a kind of bread. The leaves can be eaten.

We slowed down as we went back through Timber Creek and saw that the price of diesel was a lot cheaper there than at Victoria River Roadhouse. So, we topped up the tank on the way through and determined it would be a good idea to top up again when we pass through with the van.

On the way back from Gregory’s Tree we diverted to the Policeman’s Point Lookout. The road was a bit rough, and we considered turning back before it smoothed out somewhat. The Lookout was a great spot, so we had our lunch. While drinking my coffee I went for a bit of a wander and told Russ to get his telephoto lens NOW! We had found a Jabiru, actually a pair of them but in different spots on the river.

The female was fishing and was accompanied by a Greater Egret downstream, while the male was wandering upstream. We met a couple of fellow twitchers here also and were very envious of their photographic equipment. They were armed with the new mirrorless Canon camera, an R5. Each of them also had the new zoom lens on their cameras. They are much more modern than ours and lightweight. The gentleman got a shot, from near where Russ was standing taking his photos, of the female catching and eating a fish. Russ said it was ultra-clear so now we have to win Tattslotto so we update our own cameras (‘cause that’s the only way its ever going to happen, lol).

We checked out the Old Victoria River Crossing and went out onto the ford area. As we were reversing to come back and the car was stopped to change gears Russ said, “Oh, no”. I immediately jumped to the worst conclusion that we had got stuck on a rock and couldn’t go forward. So, with heart pounding I asked him what was wrong. He pointed to the

NAVMAN which showed we were in the middle of the river. I hastily reminded him that I don’t do the unknown very well, particularly when it comes to river fords, and that it would have been much better for him to display his warped sense of humour once we were moving again. Sometimes, travel can be so stressful, all brought on by yourself.

We also detoured in the Joe’s Creek Picnic Area as it is surrounded by high and rugged escarpments and is a marvellous sight. It had palm trees growing out of the walls all the way to the top, and they look like there is no ground to support them at all. I hope the photos do it justice.

Once back at the van Russ had his sleep and I read for a while. About 3:30pm I headed up to the roadhouse to buy some ice-creams for dessert. The TV in the bar area has the NRL game playing. The guy who served me had his phone with him, so I asked him if he knew the scores for the AFL (the staff have internet access, but it is not available to the public).

He asked what game I was after, and I told him. He replied that he had been watching it on the TV before he switched it over to the NRL game. He said he would be happy to switch it back if I wanted to watch it. I replied that I would put the ice-creams in the freezer and be right back.

True to his word, when I arrived back again, he turned the game over and it was halfway through the third quarter. Apparently, we had been well in front and then Essendon had come back at us hard, and the game was on a knife’s edge. What a ripper of a finish. Jamie Elliott kicked the winning goal after the siren! It must have broken the hearts of many Essendon supporters.

I rang Stef on the way back to the van, but she was obviously still dancing in the lounge room and couldn’t hear her phone ringing. I left a message to tell them I had managed to watch part of the match.

I thoroughly enjoyed my ice-cream even more.

Day 60 – Saturday, 23 July 2022

We left Katherine at 9:00am. It was a cold 11 degrees this morning.

Along the Victoria Highway we encountered a stupid driver towing a caravan whose registration was from South Australia, and he proceeded to overtake us across double lines while going up a hill. I will never understand this sort of idiocy.

There were a lot of areas being burnt off today along the highway, and it caused a considerable smoke haze. By 11:00am the temperature was already 24 degrees.

A big thank you to Kaye who gifted me with a peanut pillow she had made. I was able to throw my old lumbar support into the bin as it had broken and was no longer very comfortable.

We stopped at Mathison Rest Area to stretch our legs and were very surprised to see not only a thunderbox, but a dump point as well. Kudos to the Council who supplied this one along the way.

After the turn off to Willeroo Station and the Delamer Air Base the road got very bumpy. The surface was in good condition but had many undulations. The closer we got to Victoria River Roadhouse, the bumpier the road got. When we finally arrived at our destination the temperature maxed at 33 degrees before cooling down for the night.

Victoria River Roadhouse is a very pleasant area alongside the Victoria River. It is a large caravan park with lots more unpowered sites than powered ones.

The lady I dealt with while booking into the park for the next three nights noted that we were from Mildura and said she was from Swan Hill. I said, “Good people” to her with a smile to which she replied, “Almost cousins” with a big grin.

Russ and I ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ for a time while travelling in circles to find the best spot. There are no designated sites, so it is a matter of finding the flattest spot next to the power and water supply. We also wanted a bit of shade.

Once we had chosen the spot it didn’t take us very long to be set up, and I was able to pit my feet up while Russ’ slept. However, we have no phone signal, no texts, no internet at all.

After tea we walked up to where the Telstra phone boxes were at the front and rang mum to tell her we would be unable to call her on Sunday night and would ring her instead on Tuesday.

I tried to ring Brett but was unable to get through to him so rang Stef and Jeannie to advise our lack of internet access. Jeannie called it very poor organisation on my part as I will be unable to watch the Pies game on Sunday. However, they very kindly texted Brett for me once again.

Heaps of people kept arriving throughout the afternoon and into the evening. It looked like the park was actually filled to capacity. We had a motorhome which arrived after dark and set up just down from our position who then proceeded to sit outside and chatter until well after midnight. I am sure that we were not the only people unimpressed by their lack of consideration.

Day 59 – Friday, 22 July 2022

We had a good night’s sleep. Once the sun goes down in Katherine it gets very cool quickly.

I woke up at my usual time of 8:00am and quietly read until Russ woke up at 9:30am. I did not unpack my dressing gown from the overhead locker last night, so it wasn’t available to me this morning as I didn’t want to wake Russ up.

Instead, I wrapped myself in my big towel to keep warm – but not very successfully. After my shower I ended up experiencing about 15 minutes of pins and needles ion my fingertips and hands. It was very disconcerting to say the least.

I have updated all the photos ready for Russ to upload to the website, cleaned the flywire screens with a damp cloth (they were disgustingly dirty), and brough the diary up to date.

Russ did some work on the Anderson Plugs on the second battery as he has a suspicion that one of them has a faulty connection. It is causing the fridge to turn off when we are travelling.

Of course, there is always housekeeping and washing.

In the afternoon we headed into Katherine to top up our groceries with bread, plain flour, breadcrumbs and water – enough to get us to

Kununurra as there is only bore water available for the three days at Victoria River Roadhouse, and it is not very tasty.

After that we relaxed, had tea and were able to keep an eye on the footy scores. The internet is intermittent, so it is pure luck if you get some of the bandwidth.

Day 58 – Thursday, 21 July 2022 

We left Humpty Doo at 9:16am this morning. We are feeling somewhat sad at saying goodbye as we have appreciated and enjoyed Kaye and Bruce’s hospitality and company. 

It is really weird to be on the road towing again and not heading back towards Darwin at the end of the day. 

The temperature this morning was 24 degrees when we left. There was no breeze to speak of, and a fair amount of smoke haze adding to the humidity. 

Bruce left very early with the truck and trailer to set up at the Mindil Beach Market, but I am not sure if Kaye and Tyler went with him, However, we did not see them as we left. 

The road between Darwin and Katherine today was very busy with traffic heading in both directions. I reckon that one in every three vehicles was either towing a van or was a motorhome. 

There were heaps of kapok trees in flower which added a marvellous dash of colour amongst the green of the trees, the red dirt edges and the bright pink calytrix bushes. I named these as Kimberly Heather in the photos, which is what they are called in Western Australia. However, they are called Turkey Bushes here in the NT. 

There are several uses for this bush. Among the indigenous population parts have been used for medicinal purposes. The crushing of the flowers and leaves before applying to your skin acts as an insect repellent. Also, the leaves and the flowers can be mixed with hot water to create a liniment for sore muscles. 

The wood is excellent as firewood and is also used to craft indigenous clapsticks, woomeras, and prongs for spears. 

Turkey bush, when distilled as an essence brings about a desire to express yourself and allows creativity to flow. (Who knew?) 

Another little snippet from the Blyth Homestead that I didn’t write about is to do with Cassava – the settler’s spud. 

The cassava is a tuber used widely in South America. Harry Sargent was given some cassava plants by the superintendent of the Darwin Botanical Gardens. 

Every part of the cassava plants contains poisons and needs to be treated correctly before eating. Early settlers could tell when the plant was ready to harvest by the leaving going off. 

As soon as the root was dug up it was put into water and the bark removed from around the edible root area. It was part cooked by boiling, dried like a mango and put away in a dark place. Settlers then had a supply of a potato substitute all year round. 

The dried cassava could be used in stews with fresh beef, soaked overnight and fired like potato chips, and minced with meat and made into patties. 

The dried roots were lightweight so very easy to carry in saddlebags for travel. 

Back to our day’s travel. We took a break to stretch our legs after climbing through Weaver’s Cutting. I forgot how hilly the country around Katherine and parts north was from our previous trip.  

There were big roadworks taking place just before Emerald Springs. The traffic was kept waiting for almost eight minutes before being waved through. 

Emerald Springs Roadhouse is temporarily closed and has been put up for sale. Hayes Creek Wayside Inn has been permanently closed. I am sure that Covid played a big part in their current situation. They are only fifteen kilometres apart, but with both closed it is now 110 kilometres with nothing to provide any service between Pine Creek and Adelaide River. 

Both of these locations are bases to explore tourist attractions like Douglas Daly Hot Springs and Butterfly Gorge, so I hope they find a buyer for Emerald Springs. 

The closer we got to Katherine the clearer the skies become. It was getting hot as we approached the turnoff to the BP Pre-Paid Truck Stop just north of Katherine. There was considerable traffic at the service station and a line up to use it when we got there. We averaged 15 litres per 100 kilometres for our trip to and from Darwin. We had a big tail wind on the way up and no wind at all on the way back. 

We finally arrived at Manbulloo Station Homestead Caravan Park about 2:00pm. The guys were working the office today. I am not sure where the girls were. I am being very generous in calling them girls as one would be in her later 40s or early 50s, and the other lady would be about my age. The men were in the same age brackets, the older man possibly older still. 

I had the office to myself when I paid Craig for our two days stopover and ventured out to find site 101. Unfortunately, a gentleman was already occupying the site and the one next door, and he did not have to vacate until tomorrow. 

So, back to the office to discover that five caravans had arrived in that short space of time, and I was at the back of the queue. This time I was served by the older gentleman who was probably Craig’s father or father-in-law as it is a family concern and there is enough resemblance between some of them. 

We headed back to where we had come from only this time, we were looking for site 109. It was actually an easier site as far as access was concerned and Russ had no problems backing into the space. It is not quite as shaded as our previous site here, but only staying for two days means we are put into the short stay area with many comings and goings. 

It didn’t take us very long to set up and the first item on the agenda once power was connected was to turn on the air conditioner and switch the fridge to power. 

We have watched the overflow area which is not very far from our spot but on the other side of the boundary fence. All the property belongs to Manbulloo. I would hate to arrive without a reservation and be put onto this area. The road runs through which is used by all vehicles coming and going from the caravan park proper. It is dusty and crowded without any facilities and absolutely no shade at all. 

Tea was Oriental Fried Rice with chicken and able to be heated in the microwave, so we finished it early with minimal dishes and were able to relax. The van next to us was a motorhome and there were children attached to it. There was some form of game played in the early part of the evening and it sounded like they were having a ball. They also went to bed before 9:00pm so silence descended early.