Mitsubishi

Leaving Fraser Island heading south

Fuel is expensive on Fraser island, as much as $2.15 a litre (a good 90 cents cheaper than back on the mainland). We had come well prepared with an additional 60l in Gerry cans, but on the day we left I was doing calculations to see whether we would need to buy some diesel to get off the island safely. It was 65km from the camp back to Hook point where the ferry left from and then almost 10km back from Inskip Point to Rainbow Beach where there was a petrol station. Taking off our confidence was high as the sand below the high water mark was not at all soft, but with a tide coming in fast the last few kilometres were challenging. We had no fuel for backtracking and chose to continue along the beach rather than take the soft inland track to the ferry. The last few kilometres are particularly soft and challenging and fuel economy plummeted, then my heart sank when we saw that the tide had reached the dead trees that litter the beach near the point. With a quick weave between trees above high water mark and a last sprint across the sand as the waves receded we made it. We didn’t want to become another Fraser Island automobile tragedy today. No cars came that way behind us on that tide.

A full capacity 80l of diesel was required at Rainbow Beach to refuel, proving our calculations may have been a little too close for comfort on this occasion.

Next stop Mitsubishi in Gympie to find out why the transmission warning light had been flashing for a week. Pacific Mitsubishi had an engineer, Tom, who generously came out of the workshop to look at the car, plugged in the diagnostic computer and told us we were stuck in 2WD due to a switch failure. Had we known this on Fraser Island we might not have been so adventurous with our exploring, but it proved the Pajero is a truly a workhorse that could conquer the sand in 2WD, never even coming close to faltering. Tom gave us top customer service – thanks very much Tom.

We pressed on to Tewantin for a couple more days with my cousin, where we walked out to Hells Gate in the national park and Amanda got to shop on Hastings street

Then it was on to the Gold Coast to catch up with a long-time friend of Amanda. Charmaine and John have a resort style pool that kept the kids busy for several days and a sizeable piece of land that Sydneysiders only dream of. The kids even got to ride John’s mower (some work had to be done to pay for our stay!).

We caught up with Amanda’s relatives too who live in the area, those we never see as often as we should, and had some quality family time with them.

 

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Categories: Adventure, australia, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Offroad, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Fraser Island (Part 1)

After over a week’s unscheduled stay in Noosa it was time to revisit our last major 4WD challenge of our trip, Fraser Island.

Having visited twice previously the plan this time was to explore beyond the typical tourist attractions. Previous trips had been restricted to 3 days and had seen us staying on the south east side of the island exploring only half of one side of the island.

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

The ferry terminal at Inskip Point is a beach of soft sand 100m from the unsealed road. As we drove onto the beach the ferry had just departed, but as I accelerated across the beach the skipper must have seen us, reversed and returned to pick us up. The ferry was empty so we got our own personal ferry service which made it seem worthwhile considering the rather pricey cost for a 5 minute crossing. The deckhand joked that he would save us a place on our return trip in a week’s time.

We had timed the tides well and drove from Hook Point along the beach and up the eastern beach, some 65km to Yurru campsite, just north of Cathedral Beach camp. The beach is under normal road regulations with a speed limit of 80km but following recent rain the unwary can be caught out at this speed with washouts.

Despite being the largest sand island in the world, over 100km long and 20km wide, there is no shortage of static and flowing freshwater and the erosion of beach sand caused by creeks can cripple the suspension of even the most sturdy cars if hit too fast.

Driving up the beach we were treated to the sight of two inquisitive dingos, then as we approached the Eurong settlement six dingos including young pups were running around the vehicles of some fishermen. Nothing beats the traditional dingo welcome to Fraser island. A ban on dogs on the island has retained the pure-bred status for these dingos as inter-breeding often occurs back on the mainland.

Shortly before Yurru camp the majestic wreck of the Maheno emerged through the sea spray in the distance.

The Maheno sank in 1935, washed ashore in a cyclone, but sufficient remains make it an interesting stopping point for tourists. Original wooden decking still lines some of the wreck, even after exposure to daily tides and the occasional cyclone storms over the last eighty years.

On our first day a transmission warning light came on and when actions recommended by the car manual failed to rectify it we were in a bit of a quandary. It still drove so we chose to ignore it until we got off the island again!

With a very changeable and wet long range weather forecast we chose to explore as much as we could in the first two reasonable days.

The northern forests scenic drive took us initially to a lookout over Knifeblade sandblow where the tops of overrun treetops poked starkly out of the sand. Lake Allom, further inland offered a warm refreshing swim amongst the freshwater turtles. We then took a couple of tracks to explore the western coast, Awinya and Woralie creeks. With a prevailing easterly wind, it was nice to experience calm beaches with no surf on the western side of the island. The camp at Woralie was very attractive though the creek crossing was very deep and not one that we were prepared to attempt. We were half way across when I decided it needed to be waded and when the water reached my chest I was glad I hadn’t proceeded.

Woralie Creek beach

Woralie Creek beach

It was fun to watch a car coming the other way, without a snorkel, as the bow wave poured over the bonnet and up their windscreen.

We explored another track that headed towards Moon Point but not being the scheduled track resulted in many scratches and a nasty ding in the side of the car. To add insult to injury the last 7km to Moon Point were closed.

The track leads through magnificent forest, where mature trees dwarf the cars as they pass through. Giant Kauri trees give way to lower scrub and the outlook continually changes. The narrow roads are restricted to 30km and constantly keep the driver busy negotiating the way through natural obstacles and fallen trees can easily halt progress.

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The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 4)

Having had time to check the vehicles were ok and contemplate how we would complete the river crossings on our last day on the Old Telegraph Track (OTT), we left with mixed emotions. I was excited at the prospect of quite a few challenging water crossings, Simon was more concerned, suggesting he might not accompany us the whole way, and Amanda displaying some trepidation at the prospect of having to do this “solo”.

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The first ten kilometres beyond Eliot offer three water crossings and a log bridge crossing then beyond that Nolans Brook offers the deepest crossing on the track, often over one metre in depth. Simon had also heard of another crossing, Logans Creek, innocuously labelled as a ford on the map, that was reputedly as deep as Nolans Brook. We decided to assess each crossing before progressing.

All electronic gear had been moved as high as possible in the car, and recovery gear made easily accessible for this day. Amanda seemed to think water would be flooding through both car and trailer so had moved essential clothing to a safe height too. Really? We are not driving a sieve! I cut up a tarp to cover the radiator to help create a bow wave when crossing deeper water too. We also wanted an early start so we got a good look at crossings before they were silted up by traffic. Most clear pretty quickly but we wanted to be sure.

Canal Creek was fairly straightforward, avoiding the deep sections then crawling up a steep section on the far bank. Then Sam Creek and Mistake Creek past with no incident, the challenge being avoiding potholes and steep entry/exit points.

The log bridge at Cypress Creek didn’t look too bad until half way across when loud wooden cracking noises sounded beneath the car. Knowing that we were a tad overweight a touch on the accelerator got us quickly across before anything collapsed beneath.

Arriving at Cannibal Creek I had flashbacks to Palm Creek. A steep descent into the creek looked fine but a deceptive steep drop off the rock platform into the creek was unavoidable, followed by a horseshoe turn across the thigh-deep creek and a steep exit. It would be difficult to exit back out should Logans or Nolans Brook prove to much of a challenge, and at this point Simon and Hilary reluctantly chose to turn back and take the deviation road but I felt we could still do it. As a result most of the coverage is video format rather than photos

The rock drop-off took its toll as one of the support struts was broken of the Camprite. Not a critical part and easily fixable when we return it was put in the car and off we went, Simon offering to provide support at Nolans Brook from the opposite bank when he got there.

Very soon we arrived at Logans to find a deep channel and an ankle deep crossing so we took the easy route. Then came the signs offering towing and recovery assistance, so we knew we had arrived at Nolans. A quick wade proved it to be waist deep but I was confident the Pajero and Camprite would easily do it. Just in case I rigged up the winch and a strap.

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Just as I jumped into the car a car pulled up behind us and two guys jumped out with cameras. I could see dust clouds not far behind indicating further traffic arriving. I took off before they arrived keeping hard to the right of the main crossing, the bonnet sinking fast, but seconds later I emerged, pulled out of the creek, pulled over, left the engine running and checked for water – nothing inside.

By the time I walked back to the creek 7 cars were lined up waiting to cross. Apparently our early passage had caused everyone to quickly pack up to avoid having to cross in softer sand as more vehicles pass through. The fourth car, a Landcruiser took the central line, briefly disappeared and only partially re-emerged from the water. Stuck in two-wheel drive it needed a tow to exit and as he did the doors were opened to let water gush out from the front and back doors – lovely to watch especially as it wasn’t us. They hadn’t moved the shopping bags off the floor either which could have been disastrous.

Everyone cracked open a celebratory beer once over the creek except for me, who had run out a few days prior. It is actually quite hard to buy alcohol in Cape York and there are strict restrictions to protect the local indigenous communities.

 

We all jumped into the creek for a swim and the kids made the most of a rope swing over the water while we waited for Hilary and Simon to arrive from the opposite side. We had lunch at Nolans then convoy again we drove north to the Jardine River to our camp on the south side. We camped at what used to be the river crossing but after too many people got eaten by crocodiles attempting the crossing, a ferry crossing to the west was mandated. Looking at the crossing at the end of a very dry year I believe we could have made it but was happy to go swimming in the water with the kids instead. That may sound dangerous but we always send the kids in first to be sure it’s safe!

The Jardine River was approximately 50m wide here, with gin clear water flowing up to a metre over sand. It was delightful to see such a major waterway in pristine condition. Birdlife again was bountiful with kingfishers, a fawn-breasted bowerbird, honeyeaters and many more inhabiting the forest and scrub close to the river.

Clouds formed in the sky and threatened rain but at the end of the day we had a gorgeous campfire on the riverbank with 110 around Oz and talked about the OTT and our other journeys to date.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 2)

Having made the decision not to risk trailer and car at Gunshot Creek, we had bypassed to the camp at Cockatoo Creek, some 10km north, then drove back hoping to see less conservative people prepared to risk their vehicles.

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It was quiet when we arrived with only another family there awaiting some action. We walked down to the creek where the Hall of Fame tree lies adorned with wreckage from the cars that didn’t make it, bragging notices and a lot of rubbish. On one side there are three main crossings, No.1, the original path offering a vertical drop some 3-5m into a muddy pool. With only centimetres either side of the car it leaves no margin for error and only the brave or foolhardy attempt this. Ferns grow out of the cliff walls on either side. No.2 and No.3 are not much different, offering only slightly less than vertical entries, with longer deep muddy exits. On the other side some 4 or 5 “chicken” options are available where the car’s entry can be controlled to a certain degree. We ended up seeing two cars do this side before we left, both performing the crossing relatively effortlessly, though the first Patrol lost both taillights on the descent. The secret to an easy crossing appeared to be suspension lift and large mud tyres. Without these a winch is the necessary accessory to get out.

Sizing up No.2

Sizing up No.2

No.1 birds eye view

No.1 birds eye view

It was only later that we discovered we missed out seeing the five cars that completed No.2 later in the afternoon when they turned up at camp in the evening.

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The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 1)

With the Lenovo seeming dead I have adopted an Apple to continue blogging!

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The Old Telegraph Track(OTT) is a very popular 4WD track that heads north up Cape York from Bramwell  Station to the Jardine river and beyond with the Telegraph terminating at Cable Beach near Punsand Bay, only 20km or so from the most northerly point of mainland Australia.

We left Morton Telegraph Station early, quickly drove 42km to Bramwell Station, keen but unsure what to expect at the first challenge Palm Creek.

A small wooden sign, not worthy of a photo pointed the track past the station and we pulled up at Palm Creek behind a big tour bus and a couple of other cars. Their eyes lit up and everyone reached for their cameras when we said we were going to cross.

It was certainly a bit more challenging than I was expecting but the word was if you can do this crossing you can complete the track. The entry into the creek was a two step, narrow muddy track with the tiniest bend towards the base. Total drop was possibly ten metres.

With other people arriving behind I jumped to it, handed cameras and video to people and started the GoPro running.

In the excitement of the moment I then made a number of rooky errors. Firstly, the GoPro was in camera mode so I got a photo of me looking at the camera – oops. Secondly, feeling the pressure of people waiting to cross I forgot to reduce my tyre pressures.

The descent was relatively easy as you just have to get your tyres in the tracks and keep them there while descending in low gear. The opposite side offered two exits and we chose the direct one. Naively thinking we could savour the moment with a slow ascent, I underestimated the traction on the slippery incline and sheepishly descended backwards after getting only the car nose to the top. On the next attempt I made my third error trying to ascend before the low range gear had engaged properly. The third time I beckoned to Amanda to grab the winch, put it round the nearest tree and 5 minutes later we were out. The tourist bus was happy with the spectacle but it was a very amateur effort indeed as the next cars showed us, roaring past in one attempt.

The ice was broken and we were on our way at last. Three kilometres later we arrived at Dulcie Creek, where track notes indicated care required to avoid deep holes. A muddy puddle sat in the middle of an otherwise dry river bed so this obstacle was passed with relative ease.

Dulhunty and Bertie rivers provided more water but these were more a case of avoiding deep holes in the rocky bed, nothing a quick wade in the crystal waters couldn’t solve.

One thing we did notice was that there are very few intact telegraph poles remaining. Souvenir hunters have bent the metal poles to remove the porcelain insulators along the entire track. There were some older wooden poles standing but these too lacked any porcelain adornments. They would look more impressive on the poles than sitting forlornly on people’s

The infamous challenge on the OTT is Gunshot Creek and we chose not to do this challenge as we were towing a fully laden Camprite trailer that we still needed to live in for some time. We bypassed this and setup camp at Cockatoo Creek, another crossing where deep holes in the riverbed need to be treated with respect. We camped above a deep waterhole and the kids spent the afternoon fishing and swimming. I spotted a big barramundi whilst spotlighting that night, and a quick well placed cast landed a 70cm fish for the next evening’s dinner.

Up early in the morning I took Oscar for a fish, still seeking his first barramundi, and landed a 72cm Sarotoga on my second cast. Unfortunately Oscar only caught some good-sized grunter. We also got a visit from the rare Palm Cockatoo which is a magnificent bird with a huge beak, black with red cheeks and a huge array of long feathers on his head.

So far the Camprite trailer was holding up very well and all was good. As the sun rose we prepared for as visit to Gunshot Creek.

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East Arnhemland (Part 4 – Cape Arnhem)

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A special permit is required to enter Cape Arnhem, over and above the transit permit required to travel there. Only 10 vehicles are permitted at a time with no trailers, width, height and weight restrictions also exist due to some of the tracks passing through low hanging bush, between trees or over soft sand. This meant having to abandon our beloved home, the Camprite trailer, and pull the emergency tents from the roof pod. We even bought an esky for the trip to keep our food cold.

The trailer was parked at Chris and Emi’s house in Nhulunbuy and Amanda was excited at their kind offer to do a clothes wash for us while away.

Entrance to the Cape was via a rugged dirt road along an escarpment with glimpses through the forest of beach and mangroves below. A lookout several kilometres in is where the fun starts. Having taken in the views up and down the coastline the road drops steeply down the escarpment into the forest below, weaves through narrow gaps between tall trees before becoming sandy. Taking no chances I dropped tyre pressures below the recommended 20 PSI and pressed on. Without a map there were a surprising number of trails leading off, though most of them return to meet, and without too much difficulty we headed in the right direction. There are over 50 sacred sites on the Cape, the main one known as Twin Eagles, where visitors may drive by but not stop to picnic, camp or fish. The drive north up the Cape involves beach and dune work, sometimes particularly soft and there was plenty of evidence of “boggings” along the way.

The sandy beaches looked attractive on approach but our hearts sank somewhat at the volume of sea-borne debris and detritus that littered most of them. Then sadness turned to dismay when we spotted a bottlenose dolphin washed up on the beach. We pulled over and dashed to see if we could save it but it looked like it had only recently died. Not knowing what had killed it (no obvious visible cause) we paused and walked down the beach collecting thongs (flip flops for those reading in the UK) that covered the sand. Over one hundred were recovered and placed on the car roof. Most of the debris has been brought from Asia by prevailing winds and ocean currents, or dumped from ships passing.

We found a campsite known as the Penthouse, at the furthest point north that visitors are allowed, set up camp and then found a dead turtle on the beach below. Some rangers had obviously stayed prior and had enjoyed a feast of mud mussels and turtle eggs, judging by the discarded remnants on the edge of the camp.

A small crocodile swam in to shelter behind the reef as the rough ocean was still being stirred up by strong easterly winds.

The hammock was brought out and we switched into relaxed desert island chilling mode. The kids explored, we fished (Oscar was happy to catch a queenfish) and Amanda sat in the hammock reading.

The next day we wanted to make a further impact and we chose the same beaches, this time targeting cigarette lighters. Over 300 were retrieved and disposed of. The children were somewhat distracted by their search for Chambered Nautilus shells that they had started to find but all helped fill the bucket. We noticed the difference but we couldn’t collect all the ghost nets, toothbrushes, light bulbs, and a plethora of miscellaneous glass and plastic bottles, jars and other items. And all the time the winds were bringing in new items. We found two more dead turtles too on the beaches. Others had obviously tried before us and had left the debris in a tree. We chose to dispose of it.

On returning to camp Xavier found a fossilised chambered nautilus in rocks nearby making us all ponder how long these animals have been around, long before humans polluted these beaches.

The sandy tracks allow a couple of days exploring. To the south there is another camp near caves beach and whilst folk do swim the crocodiles are there as we saw so extreme precaution is recommended if entering the water.

Despite the rubbish on the beaches this is a great place to escape and experience the beauty of Arnhemland.

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Garig Gunak Barlu National Park (Cobourg Peninsula)

Clutching our recently acquired permits to visit the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, we couldn’t wait to cross the famous Cahill (Alligator River) crossing and enter Arnhemland. The crocodiles were off duty so no need to loiter there (they perform best at high tide catching mullet when the river and fish breach the road causeway) and we pressed on. From exiting Kakadu the campground at Garig Gunak Barlu is approximately 320km and there are no fuel stops or shops. All Jerry cans had been pre-filled and all was set for a fun trip. The corrugation torture began early and a strange rattling outside caused us to stop by some wetlands that surpassed anything we saw in Kakadu for birdlife. Magpie geese were everywhere. A few loose screws were tightened on the newly fixed awning fitting and we were off again.

Rock art could be seen clearly under many ledges as we passed through the Arnhemland escarpment, though none is available for public access.

There were numerous bushfires along the edge of the road as we progressed. Once the Woollybutt tree flowers it’s the season to burn, and burn they do very well up here. Even the black and whistling kites, that predate on animals, flushed out of these burning areas, have developed an interesting behaviour that we witnessed. They swoop into the burning flames with long pieces of dry grass in their beaks, set it alight then drop it in an unburnt area to start a new fire. We have seen hundreds of birds circling, swooping and diving around the fringes of bushfires. The intensity of the fires is less than those experienced in the south and eastern states due to lower amounts of fuel.

A side effect of the fires though is that some trees become unstable and collapse across the roads. We weaved our way through a maze of trunks and branches strewn across the road until we met a large tree straddling the road completely. Once side of the road was in flames, the other was strewn with trunks presumably from previous fires. With no axe, or chainsaw using the winch or towing was an option but the trunk was wedged the wrong side of two trees either side of the road. The prospect of turning around was not attractive so after a quick inspection of the smouldering fire we decided it could be negotiated and the Pajero was briefly turned into bulldozer mode and vehicle and trailer deftly steered through (literally) the bush, Amanda trying hard not to melt her new thongs.

From there on all we had to avoid were the abundant hazards, indicated by strategically placed red triangles, giving no indication of what the upcoming hazard was, and often placed in the middle of the road.

Only 20 vehicles are allowed into the national park at any time, and the campsites are huge and private. The park is populated with water buffalo, many saltwater crocodiles (no swimming allowed here), wild pigs and banteng. The latter were introduced from Indonesia where they are now endangered, but have proliferated in the park, where they are tolerated because of their status in Indonesia. They look like stocky cattle but have a characteristic white rump. The ranger shared the bird list with us and it didn’t take long to spot a few new species for the list.

The campsite sits amongst a number of billabongs hidden behind thick bush and pig and banteng tracks disappeared through the middle of them. Xavier and I followed some and stumbled upon what we reckoned were a couple of large crocodile nests, conical sand mounds, several metres high in the middle of swampy ground that would be water in the wet season.

We had enough fuel to explore the wetlands track that traces around the edge of the largest billabong, the coastal track, where Xavier found a dead crocodile on the beach, Smiths Point and Caiman creek for a spot of fishing. Funny how the incorrectly named Alligator rivers and Caiman Creek names have stuck – yes we only have crocodiles here!

Cobourg is also a breeding ground for 6 of the 7 species of marine turtles. Amanda was excited about seeing them laying but only one was spotted in the water all week. No-one caught a glimpse of a dugong here either, another animal that is abundant here and eaten by the locals.

With a boat there are further options to explore up here and judging by the fish being caught it wouldn’t take long to fill your freezer.

Once Hannah had fulfilled her fishing challenge (catching a fish in every state) Oscar and I decided to get serious and went looking for bigger fish. We almost landed a large shark, that shook the hook only a metre from the shore but when the crocs came in to the beach at dusk (to sleep) it got interesting. Sitting well up the beach we watched a croc zigzag ever closer, then just as it reached the shore it appeared to cross my fishing line. Not wanting to entangle a croc I quickly retrieved the line but as it splashed past the croc exploded into action lunging and grabbing the float. “Time to go” was all I could muster as I grabbed everything and followed Oscar, with the croc still chasing the float, dragging along the beach behind me as I ran. A good croc safety lesson for Oscar, as the kids don’t seem to heed our warning them not to go too close to the water. Fascinating to watch just how quick they can be.

A week passed quickly with fishing and shell collecting on the beaches but Cobourg hasto be up on the favourites list and a place that needs to be revisited in the future. On the return trip my recently fixed awning broke due to metal fatigue induced by corrugations, so I’ll be back to Bunnings when we pass through Katherine next.

Our final stop in Arnhemland was the Injalak Art centre, where there was an excellent collection of paper and bark painting and weavings, well worth the short diversion before crossing the river again. Ironically, we finally bumped into another family with kids at our school. They live around the corner at home, were doing a similar trip to ours and we bumped into “Our Roaming Home” finally at Injalak.

 

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Natural World, Northern Territory, NT, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Halls Creek and Wolfe Creek

The trip to Wolfe Creek was rushed due to a late departure from Purnululu, with only a brief stop at Halls Creek to refuel. The Tanami Rd was not too bad as unsealed roads go, though the last 20km once we turned off was back to “death by corrugation” torture.

We arrived just as the last of the orange sunset faded to dark. Clouds filled the sky concealing a full moon that re-appeared sporadically as the clouds passed by.

Wolfe Creek is the site of a meteor crater. Approximately 300,000 years ago a 50,000 tonne meteor smashed into the earth here, pushing the surrounding rock some 30-40m upwards on the rim of the crater. The rim itself is just under a kilometre across, and approx. 3km around. Given that this is a particularly flat piece of country makes the crater look all the more impressive. Known to the local tribes as Gandimalal, the crater, according to dreamtime stories, was formed by rainbow snakes emerging from the ground.

As dawn broke with the chattering of birds in the surrounding scrub I quietly left the trailer, grabbed my camera and walked up to the rim of the crater. Two young lads were emerging from their swags after the cold night. By the time I had walked around the rim the rest of the family were racing up the sides and we all descended the steep path into the middle for an entirely different perspective. Kangaroos had been scratching in the saltpan for water that collect during the wet season. It was pretty hot and dry now though and we could only see a few damp patches in the deepest diggings.

With little else to do at Wolfe Creek we headed back towards Halls Creek. We planned to return north via the Duncan Road that passes to the east of Purnululu national park and the China Wall is a giant natural vein of quartz, just 6km out from Halls Creek, that stands some 2-3m above the surrounding hill, reminiscent of the Great Wall of China. A brief stop at Caroline’s Pool allowed a cooling dip in the murky green water at lunchtime then it was off towards Sawpit Gorge, stopping briefly once to look at Palm Springs. Palm Springs in the outback is actually a pleasant palm-lined crystal clear spring with a few camping spots.

Sawpit Gorge was a couple of kilometres down another dirt track. We arrived at an uninviting dustbowl at the end, however, a quick river crossing saw us ensconced in a beautiful spot elevated a few metres above the river, overlooking the sheer cliff opposite, at the edge of the gorge. Once camp and a fire were set, an obligatory swim in the river was a perfect end to the day. The full moon rose casting its light into the gorge, together with the thousands of stars visible in the now cloudless sky, and as the campfire died down slowly as another silent outback night descended on the camp.

 

 

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Gibb River Road – Part 6 (South again to Drysdale and back to the Gibb)

The road back south was uneventful but painful as we had to relive the corrugations between King Edward River and Drysdale station. The Mitsubishi Pajero was feeling it too, as the windscreen cracks spread towards my view, and then the dashboard started playing up. First the speedometer stopped working, then the fuel economy gauge started climbing every minute until it hit 99.9l per 100km. Amanda was stressing that we wouldn’t have enough fuel to make Drysdale but unless we were leaking (a quick check discounted that) the other readings of range and the fact the fuel tank gauge was ok, led me to think it was an electronic problem (loose wire with the corrugations?). When the engine warning light came on I had to pull over and look it up in the manual. “Blah blah …. you should still be able to drive for a while. Get it checked up as soon as you can” sounded good to me as the Pajero was still running fine. Then the odometer stopped working!
I wasn’t prepared to drive beyond Drysdale after a long day’s drive and the bar was beckoning (yes there was a bar there with Sydney prices).

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The next morning a cattle egret came looking for frogs in our washing tub at breakfast. No matter how patiently it stood on the rim peering through the soapy bubbles the frogs didn’t show and it moved on after fifteen or more minutes. I was hoping it might have helped the washing up but without opposable fingers it would have been hard. A quick look at the other campsite, called Miners Pool was much more tranquil and less crowded by the river, but without the facilities 2km back at the station.
Back on the GRR we had a look at some rock art with crocodiles then headed north and east again. Lots of finches, rainbow bee-eater, and other birds were here in and amongst the pandanus and other trees that line the riverbanks.
We drove on past more carnage on the road starting with a boat trailer that had collapsed. Its owner patiently sat in his car awaiting the recovery truck. On the unsealed roads they charge by the hour and a car that had broken in half near Kalumburu had cost over $5,000 to tow to Kununurra for repairs. Then we saw Marty with a flat tyre. We pulled over to assist, though he had it all under control and he was soon off again. As we helped the recovered boat and trailer passed us on the back of the recovery truck. Five minutes further down the road he had stopped to pick up two people who had taken a corner too fast and ended up hitting a tree. They took their belongings and rather glumly climbed into the cabin of the truck.
The Gibb River Road, like any other unsealed road needs to be driven carefully, with tyres sufficiently deflated for better grip on the rough surface, and watching your speed as loose gravel on some of the corners are like marbles allowing little traction in places. “Drive to the conditions” is the best advice we continually heard to avoid mishaps.
Late in the afternoon we drove into Home Valley Station on the Pentecost River. The drive down the hill to the station turn-off commands spectacular views of the Cockburn Ranges and at sunset the colours on the cliffs turn many shades of red.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Waroora Station

The drive between locations has started to increase and the drive to Waroora Station included a brief pit stop in Carnarvon for restocking of fuel and food. We had a brief lunch by the water next to a kid’s park with an impressive flying fox. Some energy expended in the park means less to vent in the car (in theory anyway).

When we finally found the Waroora station turn-off it was corrugations for the next 45 minutes or so. Interestingly, Google and Apple maps did not agree on the directions, as Amanda and I didn’t, and some time later we arrived at the wrong campsite! We had heard wonderful things about Maggies but ambiguous signposts lead us to 14 Mile beach. On the way we admired a vista of giant red termite mounds, rising up to 3m skywards scattered across the pastoral landscape.

The grey nomads appeared to be well established there, with all their neatly lined up caravans facing the ocean, many with boats. Flags were hoisted, TV aerials in place, and many seemed to be set for long stays. The camp host directed us down to the “blow in” campsite, ostracised from the main sites, beyond the car turning point. It was exactly what we wanted, away from the rest, with only beach beyond us and metres from the lapping ocean.

It was our chance to try out our own chemical toilet, researched prior on the internet, as you are required to have one, or rent one from the homestead. We were all pleasantly surprised at its success, and with a dump point nearby it passed with flying colours.

The water here was beautifully warm and for the first time the Ningaloo Reef was tempting us, just out of swimming range, maybe half a kilometre out. The intention was an overnight stay but after an early morning walk down the beach revealed a small reef closer to the beach we decide to stay and try it out.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the flies were at their most revolting here. This is where the flies were so thick we had to eat dinner in the car to control their numbers as we hadn’t bothered using an awning!

The reef was fun, quite small with a bit of a current but we all saw turtles, plenty of fish life and first glimpses of coral. The kids scoured the beaches looking for shells, and built houses in the sand dunes as the sun went down. The sunsets were marvellous, though we still haven’t witnessed a green flash sunset yet.

Interestingly, in July the 99 year leases on the land expire and for the first time the Department of Environment will not be renewing the coastal land. It looks like it will go under National Park management, resulting hopefully in better waste management and proper toilet facilities, rather than the makeshift open site provided by the homestead.

 

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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