Category Archives: Australia – Touring SA, NT and WA 2022

Day 81 – Saturday, 13 August 2022

Happy birthday to my mum who would have been 112 years old if she were alive today.

We left Fitzroy Crossing at 9:01am. The road to Derby is very flat, with open grassland in may places, bushes and small trees dotting the landscape, and very few hills to talk about along the 258 kilometres we travelled.

However, 34 kilometres outside of the Crossing it changed completely, something we have come to expect on our travels. We were back to seeing red soil with taller trees in the savannah grasslands.

A very long stretch of roadworks was encountered. The full extent was over 35 kilometres long, but they appeared to be actively working in 2-kilometre lengths. We were shepherded through the working area by a Pilot Vehicle on two occasions. They appear to be adding wide shoulders to the existing narrow road, although the road surface is in a very good condition.

We started to see more boab trees again. They were few and far between around Fitzroy Crossing. The ones today were much taller and bulked up. Some of them still had their covering of leaves.

By 10:30am the temperature had reached 32 degrees.

We had to stop for our leg stretch break at a truck parking area because the small vehicle Rest Area at Ellendale had been appropriated by the road crews. They had huge, heavy machinery parked there and they had transported several dongas as office and accommodation areas.

Today, there is not a cloud to be seen in any direction.

After we passed the turn off for Camballin Road the Great Northern Highway turned onto a north-westerly direction for some time, and the vegetation was also different once again.

The passing traffic are getting friendlier. It is the first time that the majority of those passing us in the opposite direction returned our waves (including drivers of cars without vans), and the overtaking traffic either waved or honked as they went past.

At midday we turned north onto the Derby Highway and passed the RAAF Base at Curtain. It was interesting to note that the predominant species of trees on this highway are Black Wattle.

We pulled into the Dumbari Burru Caravan Park at 12:30pm. Of particular note is the fact that they close and lock the gates at 8:30pm each evening, and they are not opened again until 6:30am each morning.

The town of Derby was founded in 1883 and named after Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby, who was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time.

During World War 2 Derby was bombed by the Japanese because their air base and jetty was used by the Australian Forces. More recently, refugees were housed at the Curtain RAAF Base, but the detention centre was closed in 2014.

Derby has a population of 3,325 people – 47% of whom are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of the only three towns in the Kimberley to have a population over 2,000 people.

It is located on King Sound and has the highest tides in Australia with the difference between low and high tide reaching 11.8 metres (39 feet).

Derby was famous in the 1920s as the terminus of the first scheduled aviation service in Australia, Western Australia Airways, which began with their first flight on 5 December 1921 and crashed near Geraldton.

At one time the Perth to Derby service was the world’s longest passenger airline route.

In 1968 a $900,000 beef road from Glenroy Station to Derby was completed to assist with the development of beef processing, an industry where many of the Derby population was employed.

A $2 million steel and concrete jetty was built in 1965 to provide adequate port facilities for the shipment of live cattle.

The Kimberley School of the Air is located in Derby and provides education to isolated Primary school-aged children living on cattle stations and in remote Aboriginal communities, scattered throughout the 423,517 square kilometre Kimberley Region.

There is oil in Blina, diamond mining at Ellendale, granite is quarried, and lead, zinc and iron are mined around the Derby area and provide employment opportunities. Tourism bolsters the local economy during the dry season, while during the wet season Derby can be affected by severe tropical cyclones.

The original Derby Wharf was built in 1894 and was a wooden T-shaped structure located at the northern end of the present-day jetty. It was linked to the town of Derby by a horse-drawn tramway, crossing the mud flats via a causeway where the present-day road is located.

In the early days wool and pearl shell were the major exports. The last passenger ship visited in 1975.

The Boab Prison Tree is located on the outskirts of Derby. The tree is believed to be 1500 years old and was used as a staging point for prisoners being walked into Derby is the early years.

The Prison Tree is a registered Aborigine site. Visitors are requested to respect the cultural sensitivity of the site and not climb into or approach too closely to the tree.

Boab trees are a protected species in the Derby Shire so you can find them located in some unusual places, and roads have been diverted around them.

The ice-cream van came around the sites and there was a line up to be served. Russ and I had soft serve sundaes, and they were yummy.

Day 80 – Friday, 12 August 2022

We set the alarm for 8:00am and woke up when it went off. We had a bit of a scare last night when kangaroos raced past the van outside but made a heck of a racket in the fallen leaves as they did so.

Before we left the caravan park, I booked a vet visit for Solly to have her nails clipped as they are clicking when she walks on the tiles. I also asked them to make a note on her file that I would ring them in the later part of the day to pay for the service as we are unsure of when we will get reception.

We arrived at the Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park, which is 21 kilometres out of the town, with plenty of time to spare, so we were able to have a good look around at the displays in the Reception Centre.

The motto for the National Park reads “Danggu Geikie Gorge is Danggu Geikie Gorge-ous!”

Dan͟ggu Geikie Gorge was carved by the Fitzroy River through an ancient limestone barrier reef. It’s mind blowing to think that around 250 million years ago much of the Kimberley region was an ancient sea.

The limestone rocks derived from the ancient barrier reef have been sculpted by rain, flood, sun and movements within the Earth’s crust.

Spinifex grasses find protection here from fire. Their cylindrical, spine-like leaves reduce water loss, and the hummock growth-form mulches the ground.

Rock figs send their roots down into crevices for moisture. Kurrajong trees, boabs and kapok bushes lose their leaves to avoid water loss in the dry season. Birds of prey and insectivorous bats roost in the range.

The short-eared rock-wallaby, sandstone shrike-thrush and some lizards restrict themselves to the range and forage for seeds, seedlings or insects among the rocks.

Adjacent to the range are extensive savannah woodland. The grasses attract seed eating finches and pigeons, native rats and mice, which in turn attract predatory birds and the Black-headed python.

Parrots and nightjars nest in the hollows in the scattered eucalyptus trees.

The Devonian Period in geological time extends from 410 to 350 million years ago.

Around 350 million years ago a large area of sedimentary rock known as the Canning Basin was covered by a tropical sea that extended inland from the current Western Australia coast near Port Hedland almost to the Northern Territory border and then back to Derby.

In the warm shallow waters, marine life flourished. Over time, reef-building algae, and the now extinct coral-like stromatoporoids built a remarkable “Great Barrier Reef” over 1000 kilometres fringing the Devonian mainland of the King Leopold Range and the Kimberley Plateau.

Torrential rivers flowed from this ancient mountainous area, carrying huge amounts of sedimentary sands, rocks and boulders.

Over the next 50 million years, with the changes in the sea level and the subsidence of the ocean floor, reef building organisms accumulated to establish a reef nearly two kilometres deep.

Within the tropical Devonian sea was a remarkable diversity of fish species, and other marine life evolved. Today, this is an internationally significant Devonian marine life fossil study region. Kat mentioned during our tour that one of the fish fossils discovered had begun to develop limbs.

The eastern bank of Geikie Gorge is a wildlife sanctuary where access is prohibited unless you are lucky enough to be invited to enter by one of the traditional owners.

The Devonian reefs are prominent today as a series of limestone ranges in the eroded landscape because limestone is more resistant to weathering than the ancient shales and other soft sediments that were laid down in the ocean basin in front of the reefs.

The Napier Range, Oscar Range and Geikie Range are all part of these ancient reefs. The Brooking Gorge and Geikie Gorge Rivers have continued to cut through the limestone range sculpting them even further.

Bunuba Aboriginal people are the traditional owners and are joint park managers. Their connection with this land goes back to the Dreamtime. The Bunuba call the gorge Dan͟ggu which means, where the water is very deep under the cave. The towering white and grey walls of the gorge are breathtaking, and the white rounded sections of limestone are aptly called the meringues!

The national park covers more than 3,000 hectares of land and is also home to a riverine forest of river red gum trees and paper barks. Some areas are covered with wild passionfruit vine (a weed).

Geikie Gorge National Park is the most easily accessible national park in the Kimberley and is situated at the junction of the Oscar and the Geikie Ranges.

When the Fitzroy River is in full flood during the wet season it covers the whole national park. The floods rise over 16 metres up the gorge walls and the continuous rise and fall of the water has left the bottom of the walls bleached white, an unusual sight very popular with photographers.

Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park is a day use park only. Camping is not allowed, but there are picnic shelters and barbecue facilities, water and toilets.

There are three walks in Geikie Gorge National Park.

The Reef Walk is the longest and takes you about 1.5 hours to follow the trail across the floodplains to the point where the western gorge wall meets the river, and to return along the riverbank.

It’s apparently the only walk that allows you good views of the bleached eastern gorge walls.

The Rarrgi Short Walk is a short loop walk, branching off the first part of the Reef Walk, and takes you up into the limestone rocks and through a different habitat and vegetation. It’s about 20 minutes long and can be done while waiting for your cruise to depart.

The third walk is called River Walk and also takes about 20 minutes.

It leads down to a sandbank on the river where you can have a fish, maybe spot some freshwater crocodiles, and if you’re brave you can even go for a swim. (Freshwater crocodiles are harmless as long as you don’t threaten or annoy them according to the people who are supposed to know these things.)

One person who writes a blog about the Kimberley said, “The main interest on these walks is supposed to be the riverine vegetation and the abundant wildlife. To someone who doesn’t know the Kimberley the thick greenery may seem appealing, but I was shocked.

I know that the Fitzroy River has serious problems with infestations of noxious weeds along its banks. I know that introduced weeds are one of the big environmental threats the Kimberley is facing, and that it’s a

battle that we are losing. But it’s one thing to read about it, and quite another to see firsthand a place where the battle was lost years ago.”

Our boat guide, Kat, also spoke about the problem they have with weeds. Before the wet season begins everything in the park is packed away above the flood water levels. By the time the rangers arrive back for the dry season the weeds that were so assiduously poisoned and removed during the previous dry season have then returned.

The wildlife eats many of the fruits from the weed species and thereby spread seeds over the whole park. It is an ongoing problem and a mammoth task in front of the Rangers.

The Fitzroy River has 20 tributaries, and its catchment occupies an area of 93,829 square kilometres, of which half is above the township of Fitzroy Crossing within the Canning Basin and the Timor Sea drainage division, extending from Halls Creek and the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges in the east through to Derby and King Sound to the west.

It often floods extensively during the wet season and is known as the major remaining habitat for the critically endangered sawfish.

Three shires, Wyndham-East Kimberley, Halls Creek and Derby-West Kimberley are found within the catchment area. The catchment area of the Fitzroy river was in 2012 found to be extensively pegged by mineral exploration companies

Most of the land is under pastoral lease holding with about 44 mostly cattle stations operating within the catchment area.

Extensive flooding during the wet season created a need for an adequate crossing. It was because of this that the town of Fitzroy Crossing was founded.

Flooding occurred along the river six times from 1892 to 1903. The 1903 flood washed away telegraph lines and “great numbers of cattle and sheep were drowned”, with bodies of animals later found hanging in trees. The heavy rains experienced in the area were the remnants of a cyclone.

In 1935, the Fitzroy got its first bridge – a low-level concrete structure, which was built up into a wider structure in 1958. This bridge could be closed for several months at a time during the wet weather and travellers were then forced to use a flying fox, which operated about 200 metres south of the crossing.

When a new bridge was erected in 1974, the focus of the town grew away from its original site. The current town of Fitzroy Crossing is one of the fastest growing in the Kimberley region and over 80% of its population are Aboriginal.

The river flooded after heavy rain events in 1949 and 1954. The 1954 event came immediately after a drought and the swollen river washed away stock from both Noonkanbah and Liveringa Station. At the height of the flood the river level was 3 metres above the low-level crossing. The mouth of the river was estimated at being over 11 kms wide as it discharged the floodwaters.

Record floods occurred in 1983, 1986 and 2002 with a height of the river approximately 13 metres of water over the old concrete crossing. The flow rate down the 15 km-wide flood plain at Fitzroy Crossing was estimated to be 30,000 cubic metres per second, which must be an awesome sight. In flood, it is possibly the largest river in Australia, and is believed to be the second largest in the world after the Amazon, in terms of the volume of water that passes through it during the wet season. At this time during the wet season, it would fill Sydney Harbour in just six hours!

The Fitzroy River was diverted in the 1950s as part of the failed Camballin Irrigation Scheme to store the water to irrigate crops of cotton, sorghum and other feed crops. This part of the river covers an area of 12 hectares when full.

The Fitzroy has been called the “world’s last stronghold” for the critically endangered sawfish. In December 2018, the largest mass fish deaths since the monitoring of the fish in the Fitzroy River occurred.

Associate Professor David Morgan of Murdoch University said that the fish had died due to heat and a severe lack of rainfall during a poor wet season. They also become more vulnerable to predators such as crocodiles when water levels are low. This raised concerns about plans

by Gina Rinehart to divert water on her Liveringa property, but I cannot find any other info on it.

Our boat was only about half full of tourists, so we had a good chance to move around while we travelled. It would be one of the quietest boats I have ever been in. I was thinking electric motors, but Russ assures me they weren’t electric but inboard ones and very powerful.

The Gorge is exceptional, and very different to all the others we have explored. The water erosion on the limestone cliffs is an incredible sight. We saw a few freshwater crocodiles, some birds (but we already had them), but overall, it was a very interesting tour.

Our boat guide and Ranger was Kat and she told both the Dreamtime story of the River along with the current scientific thinking, so no-one could take umbrage about anything.

An amusing account was of the “Old Man” of the river – two rocks which from particular angles look like an old man relaxing in the water with his knees raised. It is said that when you arrive in the area at the Park to work you should collect a small rock, rub it under your armpit to gather your essence, then you go to the cliff top that overlooks his position in the river and throw the rock to him while you introduce yourself. In this way you become part of country and the Old Man looks after those under his care. I thought it was a lovely story.

Of interest:

We had to travel down Russ Road to get to the National Park;

Crocodiles, like dogs, breath through their open mouths to regulate their body temperature;

Geikie Gorge is 14 kilometres long with up to 60-metre-high limestone walls partially polished by floodwaters; and

The Kimberley pastoral industry depended on an indentured (think slave) labour force of stockmen and station hands until the late 1960s

and into the 1970s. I’d have liked to see how the Europeans would have coped with that. During the time of the establishment of the early pastoral stations there was systemic slaughter of the local Aborigine people. In current times the remains of over 300 people have been found in mass graves.

The Fitzroy Crossing Inn is the oldest pub in the Kimberley region, opened by Joseph Blyth in 1897. It is nestled on the banks of the Fitzroy River and close beside the original low-level crossing for the river.

The road that leads to the original crossing is now closed, and the pathway is heavily overgrown on either side. This was the one and only road in and out of the town, also originally established at the crossing point, but now several kilometres away.

With flood levels from bank to bank the only way to get supplies to the other side of the raging waters of the river was a flying fox.

It felt quite prosaic to return to the caravan park after the tour. However, tomorrow we move on and there was washing to complete, photos to be combed through for some gems, and a diary to be updated!

Day 79 – Thursday, 11 August 2022

We had a wonderful night’s sleep, and a sleep-in. After showers and breakfast, we printed out the diary (or tried to), but we have run out of Toner.

We rang ahead to Broome, and they have one in stock at Office National, so we have paid for it and they will hold it until we can pick it up in a few days’ time.

We headed out to BP and refuelled. There were heaps of kites and other raptors overhead of the service station, but I had to go inside and pay when Russ finished at the pump. By the time I got back to the car for the camera they had all skedaddled when the service guys started the ride-on mower.

Internet coverage is a bit hit and miss depending on how many in the park are trying to use it at the same time. After a lot of frustration Russ finally managed to get the photos uploaded onto the website, and sent out the weekly email, but he was unable to put up the latest blog as yet.

The bird life around the park is amazing. I did get some lovely shots of a whistling kite who sat on the power lines for me to take his photo. Russ has some Double-barred finch photos. The birds were on the leaf matter at the side of our van. They are the tiniest little bird. He also scored a Grey-crowned Babbler and a Yellow-tinted Honeyeater – all new birds to us.

He took some shots of some Red-tailed Black Cockatoos but accidentally deleted them when he was trying to download onto the computer. Luckily, they came back later while he was sleeping, and I got some shots using his camera of the adult feeding the juvenile.

The number of people who stopped or came over to where I was with the camera, was interesting. One guy is from Charlton and another lady is from Sale. I have to tell them all that Russ is the Twitcher and I just learn from osmosis, but I always recommend the Pizzey and Knight Bird App to anyone who shows an interest.

Washing all done except for the bedding which will be finished tomorrow. The washing machines here are $5 and $6 to operate.

It was a marvellous day here with a cool breeze blowing and keeping the temperature down to the middle-to-high 20s.

We went to the Restaurant for tea and sat outside on the patio. They have mood lights and mosquito candles all around the perimeter and it was great. The hostess, Kim, is a young girl from Vietnam whose English is impeccable. When I complimented her on it, she said I had made her day as part of her time spent in Australia is to improve her language skills. She worked in Robinvale for three months before accepting the position up here. She has another six months to go on her visa.

The meal was upscale, but nothing to write home about. Russ and I both ordered the Chicken Supreme with Pumkin Puree (and I didn’t eat the vegetables). For dessert I ordered a Crème Brulee (made from a packet and cold) and Russ had the Sticky Date Pudding with ice-cream. His was hot, but he said it was also probably premade and heated in the microwave.

While waiting for our meal to be served we discussed options for tomorrow and I booked a Boat Tour to Geikie Gorge, beginning at 9:30am.

Fitzroy Crossing is a small town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 400 kilometres east of Broome and 300 kilometres west of Halls Creek. It is approximately 2,524 kilometres from the state capital of Perth. It is 114 metres above sea level and is situated on a low rise surrounded by the vast floodplains of the Fitzroy River and its tributary Margaret River.

At the 2016 census, the population of the Fitzroy Crossing town-site was 1,297; with a further 2,000 or so people living in up to 50 Aboriginal communities scattered throughout the Fitzroy Valley. Tourism, cattle stations and mining are the main industries in the area.

Fitzroy Crossing and the lands and valleys around it were the home for a number of Aboriginal language groups. When Fitzroy Crossing was established, the main group was the Bunuba people, their land stretching from the present-day Brooking Springs and Leopold Downs Station to the Oscar, Napier and Wunaamin-Miliwundi Ranges. The Bunuba are the river and hill people.

One of the first European explorers of the Kimberley area was Alexander Forrest and his party in 1879, following the Fitzroy River to its junction with the Margaret River at Geikie Gorge. The party then travelled east as far as Darwin.

Following this exploration, around 1882, the first sheep stations were established around the mouth of the Fitzroy and the next couple of years saw the stations move out west, with Noonkanbah and Quanbun opening up in 1886.

The area was finally settled in 1886 by Dan MacDonald when he set up the Fossil Downs cattle station. This was following a three-year, 3,500-mile trek from Goulburn, New South Wales.

Fitzroy Crossing received its first bridge in 1935 which was built up into a more substantial structure in 1958. However, this bridge could be closed for months during the monsoonal summer. In 1974 a new bridge was built 3 kilometres south of the crossing, which moved the focus of the settlement from its original site.

The town was gazetted in 1975 but was shown on maps since 1903.

Prone to occasional flooding, the town was inundated in 2002 and 2011 following heavy rain events in the region.

In 2006, the Fitzroy Crossing Bull Sale, an annual national bull auction with participants from as far away as Queensland, was established.

In 2009 the only grocery store in the town was demolished after fire destroyed it. A new shopping centre was built and opened in 2011. (This might refer to the local IGA store, but we have found nothing that would be described as a shopping centre as we would understand it anywhere in town).

The local high school was closed for two days in 2014 after four children, three of whom were under the age of ten, extensively vandalised the school twice in a week, causing over $50,000 worth of damage.

From 1951 to 1955, S Preston Walker, a missionary with the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) on loan to the Department of Native Affairs,

opened up a novel Fitzroy Crossing Feeding Depot-Mission, which was handed back to the Junjuwa Community in February 1987.

He and other UAM missionaries set up a basic school, a health centre and store which was later taken over by the WA government and expanded to where it is today (2008).

In February 2008, a Coronial inquest described the living conditions for Aboriginal people in the Fitzroy Crossing area as “a national disaster with no disaster response”. Though the coroner noted a co-ordinated government response to the problems of Fitzroy Crossing to be lacking, local leaders have taken some action.

In 2007, a restriction on alcohol sales was campaigned for by members of the Indigenous population and early indications suggest the restrictions were positive for the town.

At a community meeting in 2020, called by a group of senior men, concerns were raised about the high levels of alcohol abuse, associated gambling, fighting, domestic violence and family dysfunction which resulted in a number of children wandering around the town at night and getting into trouble.

Despite the 12-year ban on sales of full-strength alcohol, there were sales by “sly groggers” at inflated prices. Various solutions were suggested at the time, including safe houses for children, elders becoming mentors to children, more infrastructure for youth, and opportunities to give them hope for the future, but I have found no info about the results of the meeting.

Fitzroy Crossing serves as the hub for the communities of the Fitzroy Valley and is also home to many regional service providers because it is a central location to these communities.

The township of Fitzroy Crossing contains most amenities with two roadhouses, a self-serve 24-hour diesel station, supermarket, post office, newsagent, clothes shops, accommodation, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and cafes and restaurants.

Fitzroy Crossing also has a swimming pool, covered basketball courts, a grassed Australian rules football oval, and many grassed areas around the town for public use.

The Central Kimberley Football Association is centred in the town, six clubs from local communities play in a regular season. The competition was formed in 1991.

There is Wangki Radio, a small Aboriginal community radio station that broadcasts on 936AM to the townsite and most outer communities in the Fitzroy Valley. It provides the latest news, weather, road reports and music to people in the remote parts of the Kimberley.

ABC Radio also broadcasts two radio stations in Fitzroy: ABC Local Radio 106.1 and ABC Radio National 107.7. Fitzroy Crossing also receives all regional Western Australian digital television stations.

Fitzroy Crossing has a climate that is in transition between a tropical monsoon climate and a semi-arid climate. The climate is very hot, with the average maximum temperature ranging from 30 °C in July to 41 °C in November.

The highest temperature was recorded on 1 January 1969, when it reached 47.9 °C. The lowest minimum was recorded on 27 June 1971, when the temperature dropped to 0.6 °C.

Day 78 – Wednesday, 10 August 2022

What a night!!!!!! It stayed very humid, and there was almost no breeze at all. Barry came to see us while we were eating tea at 6:00pm. He is the station rep who collects the site fees – $15.00 per person, per night.

We paid for one night only, with the plan in mind that we would re-assess the situation when we woke up this morning.

After tea, with all the windows and skylights open, it was still oppressive. The camp was dark and quiet as most seemed to have retired already.

After our long journey we were both tired and were in bed (sweating profusely) by 8:30pm. By this time Russ was experiencing very hot feet, none of which helps him cope with his anxiety, even with the invertor on and the fan blowing. I filled the red bucket with water and he often sat up, put each foot in the bucket, then laid down again to try and sleep.

We did nod off, but it was most uncomfortable. I woke up about 11:36pm (and couldn’t believe I still had most of the night to try and get through) and went to the loo and had a drink of water. Unfortunately, I was wide awake but overtired. I lay there for ages and then the most unexpected event occurred. It started to rain!! We probably only got between one and two millimetres, but the breeze that came with the rain turned into a wind.

I woke Russ up to close the skylights in the main section of the van while I attended to the ones in the ensuite. We had to close two of the windows but were able to leave the others open. We didn’t even need to put the awning down as the wind was on the opposite side of the van.

Russ informed me that he had received an email from Fitzroy Crossing that said they were not taking bookings but had plenty of available sited if we turned up. Wow, we had a plan with power and water.

After that Russ promptly went back to sleep and I grabbed my little lightweight blanket. I finally fell asleep once again about 1:30pm.

We woke up to a humid, but much cooler morning. We were all packed up and ready to move out at 9:37am. We are unable to get a site before 11:00am at Fitzroy Crossing so there is no hurry.

Russ spotted a bird in the tree as we were moving off and grabbed my camera to get some shots. It turned out to be a Paperbark Flycatcher, another bird we have not seen or photographed before.

The temperature was already hovering around 31 degrees as we left Larrawa. We had a short break along the gravel road to take photos of wildflowers, and then continued onto the highway.

The landscape began to change once again. The travel is never boring as we spend our time on the lookout for noteworthy photos, be it rock formations, road surfaces off into the distance, floodways, one lane bridges, and let’s not forget the birdlife. I am just amazed at the quality of some of the pictures which have been taken from the moving vehicle

and through the front windscreen during our long journey. I love my camera.

The landscape changed from very hilly to flat plains, fat termite mounds instead of tall ones, no large trees but plenty of saplings, and savannah grass as far as the eye can see. There are also the ubiquitous spinifex bushes (and yes, mum, they are still sharply pointed as I backed into one while getting my wildflower shots earlier). To add insult to injury I also got bitten by a green ant which hasn’t happened since the days in Townsville.

Yesterday I took 579 photos and today I added another 250 to that.

The Ngumpan Cliffs were passed about 10:30am. They are spectacular rock formations dotted with clumps of spinifex bushes.

After the cliffs we dropped down onto a plain, and we then had trees instead of bushes, and a thicker understory. We also encountered much more traffic than all of yesterday, going in both directions, which is weird as we are still travelling the Great Northern Highway.

A lot of the journey was spent travelling in a northerly direction, but sometimes the road turned enough to register north, and north-west.

As we got closer to Fitzroy Crossing, we once again came across a couple of one lane bridges. At least we didn’t have to contend with traffic from either direction as we crossed.

Directions from Wikicamps had us turning off the highway about four kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing township. The Fitzroy River Lodge is a fairly extensive operation. They have over 100 caravan sites with power and water available, two large unpowered areas (most of those lack shade), a large safari tent area where we think they hosted school groups before Covid, 45 rooms in the motel style lodge built around a swimming pool (which other park users can also use), studio apartments overlooking the Fitzroy River, tennis courts, bar and restaurant. It is a slick operation and the ladies at the reception desk were delighful.

We paid our fees for the next three nights – $52 per night -(which will bring our schedule back into line), we were given a map, shown the few sites we couldn’t use as they are for larger rigs and more expensive, and told to put our receipt onto the dash of the vehicle and pick whatever spot we liked to park and set up.

We were able to drive through onto our chosen location and it has shade and is not too far from the laundry facilities. They also gave us a voucher which would give us a 5% discount at the local IGA store.

Once we were inside with the air conditioner going Russ took another look at the schedule (a big mistake to have let him see it) and he requested that I try to get an extra day at the start of our booking at Carnarvon.

We were lucky that the office could oblige us so I really need to revamp the schedule so it is up to date (and then I may have to hide it!). However, this stop at Fitzroy Crossing does give us the opportunity to see Geikie Gorge which hadn’t been on our list until now.

We have lots of birds in the trees around us, and still has some humidity in the air, but it is not as hot as they last few days.

The internet is very slow so I am hoping that it will manage to speed up just a bit tomorrow morning when less people are using it. This should enable us to update the blog and photos before we print the diary and send it off. If not, we will head into town and find a Telstra Air spot to do our business.

Day 77 – Tuesday, 9 August 2022

We woke up before the alarm had a chance to go off this morning, and by 8:18am we were travelling through the gates of the caravan park and onto our next adventure. It was already 28 degrees.

We had already travelled the first section of the Victoria Highway when we went to Wyndham, so at 8:56am when we turned onto the Number 1 – Great Northern Highway – and started heading south, we were in new territory.

One of the truckies we spoke with earlier in the piece had commented that this section of the Kimberley was the very best part. He said that as you came over the hill there was a change of scenery, and it was a stunning new vista and absolutely spectacular. He said when you turned a corner you never quite knew what to expect except that it would probably be jaw-dropping. He was right!

At the beginning of the highway, we had the Saw Ranges on our right-hand side, and they were magnificent in their stark beauty. On the left-hand side we had the Deception Range. If you climbed up and went over the top of this range, you would be staring at Lake Argyle.

At that point we were still in savannah country and there were plenty of kapok trees heavy with blooms.

The country was very hilly, which we had not expected, and at this point the road was in excellent condition, apart from the fact that when they had upgraded the highway, they hadn’t upgraded their bridges and we kept coming up to signs in red saying “Reduce Speed”. After that you became very aware of the fact that they bridge was narrow and one lane only. You needed to be able to stop if someone was already approaching the bridge and then wait for your turn to continue.

One van travelling behind us may have almost had a heart attack as all we saw was the dust raised when he had to slam on his breaks. The traffic coming towards him was a road train.

The floodways in this section of the road are very long ones – six and twelve kilometres of them in a stretch. It is understandable once you

have seen the ranges on either side of the road, and you can easily spot the black marks on the rocks of the cliff faces which is an indication of where the waterfalls teem down once the rainy season begins.

Arthur Creek Bridge (bridge number 1305 in Western Australia) was the first of the narrow one lane bridges that we encountered. Then we met Mistake Creek, then Mabel Springs Creek, followed almost immediately by Rocky Creek before we met up with Frog Hollow Creek. These are the main ones that I took particular note of, but there were several others later in the day.

As we finished crossing the bridge at Mistake Creek, we met a four-carriage road train approaching from the other direction. Those guys are big, and the bridges are very narrow. I am glad I am not driving.

Deception Range petered out to be replaced by the Carr Boyd Range on our left. We then sighted Pompey’s Pillar, which is about 46 kilometres from Warmun at Turkey Creek and rises 319 metres above sea level. The annual rainfall here is about 700mm. However, that’s about all I could learn about the pillar and how it got its name. There are apparently several Pompey’s Pillars dotted around the world and it seems to have originated in Egypt.

After that came Mt Nyulasy. The scenery is stark and breathtaking.

Originally our schedule had us staying two nights at Warmun with the idea that we could safely leave the van at the roadhouse caravan park and travel south to see the Bungle Bungles.

Russ had a brainstorm and said let’s not stay at Warmun but go onto the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park which has good reviews on Wikicamps. So, I rang them, but they are short staffed and unable to answer their phones. You have to email them with your booking request, which I did, asking for two night’s accommodation with power and water. Keep in mind here that the signal for the phones goes in and out constantly, and you never have a really strong signal unless you are in a town.

We passed through Warmun after that and saw the vans already lined up waiting to get into the caravan park there. At Warmun it is first in, best dressed and they do not take bookings of any kind.

From Warmun to Muluk’s Rest Area the roads are not in a very good condition, and there are no shoulders on them to make life easier or safer. Thank goodness a shoulder was not required for us.

We then came across a ‘Roadworks Ahead’ sign and were directed onto an alternate gravel road about 500 metres to the left of the highway, which had been created to allow unrestricted access to the construction crews on the highway. We travelled on it for about two kilometres before we were back on the main drag, but it has been made for two lanes of traffic so no need to stop and wait for any signals.

We also saw where the gravel stretch reached back about four kilometres before the actual work area, so it appears that a much longer stretch is to be fixed and has been planned for different stages.

There were huge water pipes assembled on site, and even larger corrugated iron pipes to be used under the new road surface.

About five kilometres before the turn off to the Bungle Bungles Caravan Park (and we still had not received a reply to our email) we encountered another long, narrow one lane bridge across the Tickalara Creek.

The Bungle Bungles are a part of the Purnululu National Park. We had to travel a short gravel road with a few corrugations (not happy with the van on the back) before we got to the entrance of the caravan park.

We were warmly greeted by Miles who saw our Victorian registration and said, “Only Collingwood supporters allowed in here.” He was amazed, and mighty chuffed, to find out we were not only supports but members as well and had our Collingwood sticker on the back of the car.

Unfortunately, his good cheer didn’t travel as far as the office where the two ladies – one of them in training – were unable to accommodate our request for a site.

So, now we are two days ahead of our schedule and nowhere to go in a short distance. We continued on our way to Halls’ Creek to refuel and get some internet coverage and discussed our options as we went.

The next step was to email the ladies at Derby to see if our booking for one day could be extended to four days, but they informed me they were completely booked out for at least the next fortnight.

Hall’s Creek has a caravan park, but the town does not have a good reputation. The reviews on Wikicamps tell the story of problems with indigenous youths travelling in packs and ransacking any car or caravan to which they can they get access, stealing any item that is not locked down.

We refuelled at Shell there, which just happens to be next to the Police Station, but we could see the youth groups wandering around. Luckily, one policeman was in the store getting his cup of coffee while we were there, and the police car was at one of the bowsers. I think it would be fair to say we did not feel very safe in the town.

So, we still had no concrete plan for the night, and were definitely ahead of our scheduled stops, and had travelled much further than had been intended. We also didn’t get to see the Bungle Bungles which has now made our list for the next time we are here (and we will book ahead!!!)

Once we left Hall’s Creek the country started to level out more. There were far fewer hills to climb, and the land started to include flat plains. It reminded us of the country between Alice Springs and Coober Pedy.

Our next plan of attack, after further consultation with Wikicamps, was to send an enquiry about booking two nights at the caravan park in Fitzroy Crossing, and we travelled ahead to stay at Larrawa Station Nature Stay. We were a few days ahead, but at least this stop was on the schedule. However, the station does not have power, and you can

only use a generator in the daytime until 7:00pm. However, re-fuel for the generator is at Fitzroy Crossing – 120 kilometres away. It was already 36 degrees and very humid, and the weather forecast says it will not dip below 20 degrees overnight. We were starting to see clouds!!

We arrived at Larrawa Station about 4:00pm which is much later than we generally stay on the road. It was well past Russell’s sleep time, and I did not think he was going to handle the heat at all.

The road to the station leaves the highway, and you “travel four kilometres on an all surface, well-maintained gravel road.” It actually was like that, too.

It didn’t take us long to set up. We put on the jockey wheel to level the van but left the chains attached to the vehicle.

It was getting very cloudy by the minute and the humidity had not let up. The sunset was spectacular – lots of reds and orange. For the first time on this trip, I have unpacked my summer nightie.

Day 76 – Monday, 8 August 2022

The alarm went off at 6:30am and by 7:38am we were heading to the hairdressing salon once more. Brooke was lovely when I finally met her, and my haircut was excellent. Both Brooke and Elly commented on my hair colour and were impressed with Vinnie’s artistry.

While I had my hair cut Russ went and washed the car, filled the jerry can and the car with diesel and then came to pick me up. We bought extra water, milk and bread at Coles and then went to the chemist to pick up Russell’s script. They didn’t have enough and were waiting for the truck to arrive from Adelaide, and it was expected before lunch time, so we will come back.

When we were going through the checkout at Coles the young indigenous guy who served us commented on how impressed he was with Russell’s indigenous polo shirt. He made several remarks about it, but we pointed out it would swim on him.

We bought the shirt at Lowes in Mildura, so we are now assuming that the print on it tells a story and is authentic to indigenous culture. Good call on Lowes behalf. There were several people waiting to go through the checkout after us, so we were unable to ask about it.

Back at the van we attended to some last-minute chores such as cleaning out the inside of the car, for one.

After lunch we headed back to the chemist who was still awaiting for his deliveries so he decided that he would do an emergency fill with the

tablets he had in stock, and then he deleted the script from his computer so that the icon will still be active when we get to the next reasonable big place for a refill.

The photos and blog have been updated on the website., and before tea we took down the awning, swept and cleared the leaves and twigs from it before folding it away. Russ attached the tow bar to the vehicle and folded and stowed away the table and chairs.

We had tea and retired for the evening.

Kununurra has been an interesting experience, and if we had been able to leave on our original time frame, it would not have been as hot and humid as we experienced.

Hannah, our next-door neighbour at the caravan park, told us that it was building for an early wet season. Hannah is a regular resident of the park and has been there for about ten years now. She is also employed to do the cleaning of the laundry and bathrooms, and she does a wonderful job. They have always been clean and fresh smelling when I have used the facilities.

She also explained to us that the caravan park and the hotel over the back fence were built at the same time, so the workers had a place to stay during the construction phase. This explains why the park is next door to the recycling area of the hotel as there have been many mornings when we were awoken by the sound of bottles being dropped into the bins for haulage away.

Russ says that we were probably there a few days longer than was required in order to see all the things we were interested in, but I was happy to be able to plant myself for a whole fortnight, even if I did need to get up early to get things done before the heat.

Day 75 – Sunday, 7 August 2022 

This morning we set the alarm early (6:30am) as we wanted to go for another visit to Lily Creek Lagoon and surrounds before it got too hot. 

Headed out at 7:30am and it was already 21 degrees.  

We love this little area of Kununurra, as do a lot of other people who use the walking tracks throughout the park. We also saw a lot of people taking photos as they continued to stroll along, and quite a few people launching boats out for a spin. 

We got some photos of birds new to us – a pair of Tawny Frogmouths, a Nankeen Night-heron – as well as more photos of other birds we have – a Green-backed Greygon, a Red Goshawk in flight, a Great Bowerbird and a red dragonfly, but unfortunately the photos of the dragonfly are not a good quality at all. 

Once back at the van I did the washing, cleaned the floors, filled the Engel from the cold food in the fridge, and Russ cleaned all the dirt from the air conditioner filter. He last did it in Darwin and was surprised how filthy it was again. 

We had a mostly relaxing afternoon catching up on photos and the diary. 

Day 74 – Saturday, 6 August 2022 

Today we had a bit of a lie in before commencing the list of jobs to be completed before we move on come Tuesday.  

Russ checked out the wiring on the caravan to car connections to make sure there were no loose wires (all good), then replaced a fuse in the engine bay for the battery box in the tub, which also supplies power to the caravan fridge when the van is attached. 

He also cleaned out the back of the vehicle and re-arranged things for a better fit, and I checked all my cupboards bringing some items to the front as they will be needed sooner than others. 

I spent more time cooking a chicken casserole and some spaghetti casserole. After we had finished that, and while the food was cooking, we sat down and watched last week’s game between Collingwood and Port Adelaide. 

When the game had finished (we won again!) I took the cold items from the fridge and put them into the Engel before placing the cooled items into the fridge to get them cold. 

Hopefully, we are almost organised. Tomorrow, I have my haircut and we get water and milk. I am unable to fit any ice into the Engel so may have to get some as we go along. 

After Russ had asleep while I worked on photos and the diary.

I have checked the footy draw and Collingwood plays Sydney next Sunday. Thank heavens for that as we will probably be totally without any coverage until Sunday when we get to Derby. We will have power at Warmun so will print out the journal for Mum and Trish there, and then we will post it in Hall’s Creek when we stop to refuel.  

Russ has said he will put the Collingwood scarf out the window when we go through Hall’s Creek as young Ash Johnson (Collingwood player) comes from there

Day 73 – Friday, 5 August 2022 

The alarm sounded all too early at 6:30am. We travelled back to the NT to visit the Keep River National Park and needed to do it before the weather got too hot to be comfortable. We left Kununurra at 7:23am and the temperature was already registering 22 degrees. 

We arrived at Keep River NP at 8:04am. It is three kilometres past the NT-WA Border. 

Keep River NP has a long and complex geological history. You are driving through the Cambridge Gulf Lowlands and see the hills and escarpments of the Victoria River Plateau to the east and the rounded bee-hive formations of the Hall’s Creek Ridges to the west. 

Closer inspection reveals more rock types and geological structures. 

Complex geology gives rise to many different habitats within the small area occupied by the Park, which is approximately 700 kilometres squared. 

The stone country contains a diversity of specialised niches within. The lowlands comprise habitats typical throughout Northern Australia. 

Rocky habitats host more specialised wildlife that are less likely to be found in surrounding areas. 

The bright orange and blue Leichardt Grasshopper occur only on the Pityrodia bushes associated with the sandstone habitats. We are still waiting to see one of these. 

Less specialised, but still restricted to the stone country, are the white-quilled Rock Pigeons and Short-eared Rock Wallabies. It is also only in the rocky habitats that you can hear the melodic call of the Sandstone Shrike-thrush (and I wouldn’t know it if I heard it). 

Keep River NP is also renowned for its diversity of frogs. 

We travelled the gravel, corrugated track suitable for 2WD vehicles but I wouldn’t travel on it in one, and it was bumpy – not as bad as Parry’s Lagoon track though. However, the two furthest walk tracks were long ones and for experienced walkers and above our comfort level, so we didn’t venture in too far. 

The scenery was outstanding, however. Also of some amusement, are the names given to the creeks along the way – Bail-Me-Up Creek, Hazard Creek (where we stopped, and I filled up the bird dish from the watering point) and Cockatoo Creek just to name a few of them. 

We then went and parked in a bit of shade at Ginger Hill and proceeded to walk up to the top where you can see an authentic indigenous hawk catcher. It was a fascinating look at another method of catching food. 

The structure is made of flat stone in a semi-circle with slim sticks and leafy branches placed across the top of it. The hunter lights a small fire nearby then sits inside the structure. As the smoke attracts the birds of prey, the hunter pokes a lure made of feathers through the sticks covering the top. 

The hunter twirls the lure, attracting the birds to the structure, and as the birds swoop for the lure it is pulled back inside. Then, as the bird perches on top of the hide looking for its prey, the hunter snatches it through the hole in the sticks. It is a great photo of the structure. 

On the way back down the hill we saw some Kimberley heather in flower. It is a beautiful sight when it is freshly bloomed. The butterflies also love it, and we took some fabulous shots of the Common Crow Butterfly around the bush. 

After that we headed towards the Ranger station and took the track to Cockatoo Lagoon. It was 9:30am and the temperature had climbed to 31 degrees. 

Cockatoo Lagoon is a constant source of water for the birds and animals of the park, and although it shrinks during the dry season there is always some water that remains. There are also crocodiles, so you don’t venture past a signed point on the rocky shore. 

I was slowly walking back along the track when there was a big splash behind me which scared the dickens out of me. I caught sight of ripples close to the bank of the water and didn’t waste any time getting much further away. 

The Cockatoo Lagoon was very pretty but the sun was shining at the wrong angle to get photos that were any good. 

We drove back to town and went to the chemist for Russ to put in his script. It turns out they have none in stock so he will have to return on Monday. 

We then went into Coles for supplies, especially meat so that I can do some cooking over the next two days and have the meals frozen in the Engel for our coming travel in areas that are very isolated. 

Once back at the van I started the air conditioner first off as I would be using both the oven and the cooktop throughout the afternoon. I made casseroles, both beef and chicken, some chicken pesto and an oriental fried rice with chicken sausages. 

I had my tea early so that I would not have to be interrupted during the game which started here at 5:50pm. Russ made his own buns later on, and in the true Cox spirit, spilt it on the sheet. 

He studiously watched a movie while I barracked watching the game. He firmly believes that if he watches the game live, he mozzes the team. 

Another incredible game of football! I can understand why the media have begun to call them the cardiac kids. Bandaids are required on fingernails while watching. Stef retired to her bedroom for the last quarter and sent Laila (another Collingwood supporter) out to Jeannie in the loungeroom for updates whenever she screamed, which was a lot as the game was on a knife’s edge. 

So, a happy little camper I was when the final siren went and we were still in the lead.  

I spent some time after that reading in an effort to relax before trying to go to sleep. 

Day 72 – Thursday, 4 August 2022 

I woke up at 6:30am and got up quietly to read while Russ continued sleeping. He woke up just before the alarm went off at 8:00am. I had my shower while he had his breakfast then showered, and we were ready to head off and find the hairdressing salon. 

Elly was the lady who cut Russell’s hair – No 2 at the sides and extremely short on the top. It should be a long while before he needs to think about getting another haircut, and he will definitely save on shampoo and conditioner. 

Elly is from Ireland and has been in Australia for 13 years. She still sounds Irish to us but apparently, when she goes home for a visit, her family tells her she sounds like and Australian. 

Brooke hadn’t contacted me to reschedule my haircut like she said she would, and I mentioned this to Elly and told her we would be leaving Kununurra on Tuesday. Elly promised she would contact Brooke and I would get my appointment. True to her word, she rang me back about ten minutes later to say the Brooke would cut my hair on Monday at 8:00am I thanked her and said I would be there with bells on. 

I went into one of the souvenir shops in the arcade for a look-see. They had some lovely items, and very reasonable priced. I bought a hematite and pearl bracelet and some sparkling hematite globe earrings. 

Next door to the souvenir shop was Argyle Diamonds. Russ had been looking in the window while I was shopping. It is one of those places that does not display a price tag in the window and if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. 

Russ asked me if I liked the necklace in the window that had a lovely gecko on it. I replied that I preferred the tear-drop with stone in it. He said, “That’s good, If you had liked it, I would have bought it for you. It only costs $750” – more Cox humour! 

Washing is done. Sheets, doona, pillowcases, towels, clothes – you name it, I washed it. 

Russ spent the time putting in a new isolator switch for the two batteries in the car. 

Otherwise, we ended up having a quiet day catching up on odd jobs.