West Australia

A Pink Lake in WA

 

The brilliance of the Pink Lake, also known as Hutt Lagoon, near Port Gregory in WA grabs your attention as you drive past. We had to stop for a closer look.

The colouration is caused by an algae that tolerates high salinity and produces carotenoids that give it the pink hue that changes dramatically depending upon the light.

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Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Road trip, West Australia | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Wave Rock, Hyden, WA

As a kid growing up in the UK, the picture books I had of Australia displayed magnificent photos of places with magnificent rock formations like Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Wave Rock. When you actually visit these places the impact is often greater, particularly spiritual places like Uluru and Kata Tjuta, but despite not being in a rush I felt I had waited long enough and was drawn directly to Hyden, and Wave Rock at the western end of the Nullarbor. When many folk reach the township of Norsemen they usually head north towards Kalgoorlie, or south to Esperance. Our map found what turned out to be a beautiful dirt road heading straight for Hyden so off we went. Along the way we found pristine quiet campsites by the side of mountains, and one called the breakaways with gorgeous rock colourations, even a “mini” wave rock (yes, there are more than one).

The rock itself did not disappoint from sheer height alone, and despite being a busy tourist spot, it was clean and never seemed overcrowded. The kids tried out their best surfing stances on the rock face, and with a lifelong dream met we sat and contemplated where to go next.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Road trip, West Australia | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Eucla – Jetty and Telegraph Station

The modern day settlement of Eucla lies half way across the Nullarbor Desert, 11km from the border of WA and SA. a few kilometers away, below the escarpment, advancing sand dunes have marched on the old telegraph station. Not far beyond, the remnants of a sturdy wooden jetty on the desolate beach, final fragments of a port established in the 1870’s, cling to their structure. The telegraph line followed shortly after in the same decade and the settlement became an important repeater station on the line between Albany and Adelaide.

Ironically, it was a plague of introduced rabbits in the 1890’s that ate all vegetation that led to destabilisation of the dunes that went on to engulf the settlement, that was relocated  to the nearby escarpment.

 

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Cape Levique

A magical peaceful place to pause, in a land of beauty, and rich in culture

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Explore, Explore Australia, Offroad, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, WA, West Australia | Leave a comment

Flashback to Cape Levique

As the weather deteriorates here in Sydney, with the arrival of winter imminent, our thoughts returned to those warmer places we visited last year as the temperatures started dropping. One of our favourites was a small eco-resort called Goombaragin, where we camped for a few days with two other families we had met on the road. Our hosts Cathy and John were very welcoming, showing us some of the local ways and putting on a communal campfire in the evenings for everyone. The area is magnificent to explore, and it is even safe to swim here from the beach. Heed the crocodile signs in this area though, particularly around the rivers and mangroves. It’s a rugged road from Broome but still relatively accessible if you drive carefully.

Look out for the Ardi festival around June, when many local artists from across the peninsula display their talents.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, WA, West Australia | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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.

 

 

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

Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park) and beyond

Soon after a restock, and refuel stop in Kununurra we headed south for Purnululu National Park, or the Bungle Bungles. Stopping briefly at an overnight rest stop where a little spotted snake visited our camp, we headed onto the fairly corrugated road early next morning. We past a Ford Triton with three wheels in a dry creek crossing, another victim of the corrugations, and set up camp.

 

The Bungle Bungles are irresistible and unforgettable. With every twist and turn of the painfully corrugated road going into the Purnululu national park you are looking for the famous orange and black stripey beehive shaped hills. When you finally get there, at least an hour’s drive from the highway, the sheer magnificence of the outcrop demands that you stop and absorb the visual feast for a few minutes. It’s nonsense to believe that it can only be appreciated from the air and many of the walks within the park allow the visitor to appreciate the narrow gorges and other gems hidden from an aerial view.

We chose to spend our limited time in the park exploring, as usual, as much as possible, which meant a lot of footwork. Eight months into this trip our footwear was looking pretty sorry for itself and we are all promising that the next big city, Darwin, will bring new shoes. Xavier has even resorted to walking barefoot through some rocky gorges, whilst the rest of us hobble through with runners sporting gaping holes in the sides or sandals with more holes than when we bought them.

Echidna Chasm is a narrow gorge, in some sections barely a few metres wide, hidden behind a stand of palm trees, that penetrates a bastion of rock for hundreds of metres. A resident great bowerbird has its bower on show right next to the footpath near the gorge entrance. These ritual display sites are artistic masterpieces, built and used by the male to attract a mate. They run back and forth through the arch made from carefully positioned upright twigs. At both ends the bower is decorated with silver, white and green artifacts, the latter placed either side of the bower entrance. Often white objects will also be placed in the centre of the bower. Broken glass, bones, plastic, snail shells, tin foil, paper, seeds and even metal pipe can be found lying amongst the debris. The kids have tried placing yellow flowers amongst the objects and watch in delight from a distance as the bird grumpily discovers and removes them promptly.

For a couple of hours around midday a shaft of sunlight penetrates the gorge, and the resulting warming orange glow is a visual spectacle not to be missed. A chamber inside the gorge lights up at this time making it a popular place for photographers. Beyond the chamber the narrow gorge continues to wind its way through the rock but becomes impassable due to massive boulders.

Travelling back south from here we stopped to walk to Mini Palms gorge, again accessed via a palm forest concealing the entrance.

At the other end of the park lies Piccaninny Gorge, and within this area there are a number of walks. An easy introduction was a 400m walk to the Domes, ending at a small murky puddle in an enclosed chamber. Despite looking hard we couldn’t find the rock art here. Further down the track was Cathedral Gorge. Xavier counted 37 dead cane toads in the dry creek bed, solid evidence of the alien invasion that the Kimberley is experiencing, and destroying the local fauna. The pool at Cathedral Gorge was bigger but equally uninviting due to a layer of scum on the top. Bored tourists tossed stones into the pool to break the scum layer. The immense rock roof, supported only from the surrounding walls, almost totally encloses the space, giving it that cathedral feeling.

Beyond Cathedral Gorge, some longer walks take you up Piccaninny Creek, and Snake Creek. Piccaninny Lookout and the Window were all we could manage before I realised I had misplaced my camera tripod. Despite retracing my steps without luck, our time here had run out and we had to leave the park to head south.

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, West Australia, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wyndham to Kununurra

Although the Gibb River Road had formally ended when I dashed to Kununurra to get a battery replacement for the car, leaving El Questro we turned north towards Wyndham, home of the Big Croc, with the intention of seeing the five rivers lookout. It was nice to be driving on bitumen again.

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The Grotto is a deep pool in a small gorge just off the road to Wyndham. Over a hundred steps take you to a little swimming oasis. Steep cliffs line the sides of the Grotto, and the tree-lined dry creek bed leading from the pool was full of birds, including the Gouldian finch. We spotted red and black-headed varieties. Mosses and ferns covered one wall, tree roots clinging to the rock descended down to seek water below. The scene was somewhat reminiscent of the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The Big Croc greets all visitors entering Wyndham, and we took a quick photo opportunity, trying our best to dodge the locals selling their carved boab nuts (which, incidentally are quite finely done, just not within our budget).
The local caravan park purported to have the biggest boab, a big claim that couldn’t be bypassed.

The Big Croc in Wyndham

The Big Croc in Wyndham

Five rivers lookout lies behind the town at the top of a steep winding road, 355m up. With a view covering more than 180 degrees and with a bit of looking you can see the Pentecost, Ord, Forrest, Durack, and King rivers. The salt pan near the docks was decorated with patterns we referred to as contemporary local art. Clearly visible from the lookout someone clearly had taken the trouble to literally leave an impression in the sand.


The King river is muddy, and low tide reveals extensive mud-flats. Whilst the port, not so long ago, was a busy point for loading iron ore onto ships, today very little activity could been seen below. We drove back down to the fishing jetty, and witnessed a large saltwater crocodile cruise underneath.
Turning off the main road towards Kununurra, Parrys Lagoon Nature reserve was the next destination. Marglu billabong hosts a bird hide and a number of sizeable saltwater crocodiles too. We watched eagles, pelicans, a jabiru, egrets, grebe, and much more there.
Along this road a chance turning led us to Buttons Crossing, the rocky bank along the Lower Ord river providing a peaceful camping opportunity, where we could watch both types of crocodiles from a close but safe distance. Oscar tried out his frog lure and kept catching Sooty Grunter. Hannah made a humpy from all the wood she found, and Xavier fossicked for stones and animals. Amanda had time to create another of her artistic creations from stone on the riverbank.

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The next day brought us to Ivanhoe Crossing an impressive curved ford, some hundred metres long, that has been rendered impassable by the council who have placed boulders in the middle of the road to prevent mishap. Clearly the “fun police” were misguided in their calculations as there were fresh tyre tracks when I waded across for a photo. It was tempting but I didn’t want to risk any unnecessary damage so close to Kununurra.

Categories: Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gibb River Road – Part 8 (El Questro)

With the end of the Gibb River Road adventure in sight (100km to Kununurra) we had one last planned stop at El Questro station. We were all excited about crossing the Pentecost river too so we packed up camp early and jumped in the car …… the engine wouldn’t even turn.
Our neighbours obliged and after a long charge on the battery finally got us going.
The river crossing was easier than expected, actually being quite shallow. We secured a private camp down by the river, one of the nicest campsites we’ve had with not a soul in sight.

Pentecost river crossing

Pentecost river crossing

The station, like Home Valley has much to offer the visitor, with the usual helicopter and plane rides, horse riding, 4WD tracks, hot springs, fishing, gorge cruises, exclusive accommodation and quite a few bush walks in stunning gorges.
Our first morning saw us up early to enjoy the hot springs before the hordes arrived. Even at 7am there were a handful of others already there at Zebedee Springs. Basically you pick a pool, the warmest being at the top of the cascades, getting cooler as the water descends. We hit the top two pools where a comfortable 32 degrees meant we could relax for what turned out to be three hours.

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Moonshine creek gorge was a little bit harder, but there was a fun deep water crossing getting there, water coming over the bonnet for the first time! Maybe I should have slowed down just a little. Our enthusiasm to conquer gorges was tempered by ill preparation in the footwear department and Amanda had to turn back halfway with a broken thong (flip flop to those reading in the UK) and took Hannah with her. The boys trudged on very carefully finally negotiating the rocky gorge.
Emma Gorge was just off the bitumen road on the other side of the station entrance. Another resort lies at the entrance to the gorge. A boab tree near to the carpark had a water tap poking out of the trunk, with an out of order sign hanging above it. I couldn’t resist, turned it on and there was water! Gimmick or maybe the trunk had engulfed an old water pipe?

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El Questro gorge was a challenging walk, requiring climbing up rockfaces, across waterfalls and wading up to waist deep water. Many people turn around at the half way mark but the reward for continuing is a secluded deep pool and falls at the head of the gorge. In the last 100m we encountered half a dozen golden tree snakes. Hannah nearly trod on one giving her quite a scare.

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With the kids exhausted after a number of walks it was time to test the 4WD tracks out on the station. The first involved very rocky crossing of the Chamberlain river to access Explosion gorge, and Brancos lookout. The lookout commands spectacular views from a precipitous cliff-edge along the river. It does require a steep climb to get to, making the drive more interesting. With a pair of binoculars we spotted a large saltwater crocodile downstream sunning itself with jaws wide open on a rock ledge by the river’s edge. On the opposite side upstream, a much smaller freshwater crocodile doing the same. Explosion gorge was another beautiful gorge, supposedly a good barramundi fishing spot where you can hire small boats.
Another 4WD track takes you out to another fishing spot called Pigeon Hole. We only went as far as the lookout, as by all reports it was a very rough track beyond this. A warning sign by the lookout confirmed what we had been told so we left this for next time. Finally we switch-backed our way up to Saddleback lookout which gives the visitor excellent views over the station and down the river beyond the river camps. Whilst not hugely demanding, the three tracks we drove allowed you to escape the crowds for a while and enjoy the outback expanse in peace.
One evening we teamed up with the “Grismacks”, Marty and Crystal, and “JKSJ”, a family from Newcastle that we had met at Emma gorge, in the Trivia night, coming in a close second place behind, believe or not, to two couples from the Northern Beaches in Sydney. One drives my local bus to the city, while his wife works at the kid’s school. Small world!
Oscar and I tried a little fishing, hooking several barramundi, but only landing a small one that was swiftly returned after a photo. Oscar nearly landed a legal size one but it snapped his line only two metres from the bank, then proceeded to jump clear of the water several times trying to shake the lure.
Having found out that we had lost a number plate I was concerned as to how we were going to replace it as the prospect of getting a single replacement plate sent to WA was highly unlikely. After a bit of driving around I deduced we must have lost it in the deep river crossing and decided to go in search. I drove out early to get there before any cars had gone through, when the water would be clearer but at 7.30am a single car track on the far bank meant I would be “bog snorkelling” in the murky waist-deep water. Running my hands through the sandy river bed with only swimmers on I was hoping no-one would witness the event. I felt a flat metallic object and quickly retrieved it with excitement. A South Australian plate! My heart sank a little. A few steps further and another plate emerged from the murky depths. Victorian this time. Another step and a Northern Territory plate emerged. The sixth plate retrieved was ours and this was from the first wheel rut. Had I checked the other rut I probably would have found more but I decided to get out before I needed to explain what I was doing to anyone. Chuckling in elation I headed back to camp, dropping off the spare plates at reception to the lady whose eyes nearly popped out when presented with five number plates from four different states.


El Questro left a very good impression with us, particularly as we came with high expectations and left with those expectations having been exceeded. This is a place we would happily return to, but with school holidays commencing we needed to move on to roads less travelled again.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Gibb River Road – Part 7 (Home Valley Station)

Arriving at Home Valley Station was quite exciting as we knew that the end of the Gibb River Road was approaching and we had every chance of making it without having to be recovered! The entrance gate to the station is a large iron boab tree with following very poignant words
“We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through.
Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow
And then we return home”

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The station is well set up for tourists running Heli-Fishing tours for barramundi, riding, boat fishing, a swimming pool, even a massive boat called the Bootlegger, a boat with an engine and propeller that sounds like an aircraft as it negotiates the tidal part of river and its tributaries. It also has a smart bar and exclusive (by our standards) restaurant that needs to be booked at weekends.
We camped at the river camp 4km away, with simpler facilities but views over the Pentecost River and Cockburn ranges that were magical as the sun sank in the late afternoon. The tidal movement was approximately 4-5m, with each low tide revealing a deep expanse of thick mud, lining each bank. In the afternoon sunshine a couple of saltwater crocodiles would haul themselves out and enjoy the solitude on the opposite bank, only interrupted by passing cattle and a myriad of wading birds including spoonbills, rajah shelduck, brolgas and much more.

Our friends Marty and Crystal arrived and we soon had the punt sitting on the muddy banks. Fishing the river was a challenge, because once you negotiated the knee-deep mud, the water movement was so great it was hard to keep a sinker with bait on the bottom, outside of 30 minutes around the change of tide. Undeterred Marty and I tried trolling lures in every corner with limited success over two days. When a crocodile over a metre longer than the boat floated past we decided it was time to call it a day!
Once again there was abundant birdlife on or around the river, and on a daily basis new birds I hadn’t seen before, would fly into the tree next to our site. The drive past the tip was always interesting as it would be mobbed by raptors, especially black kites, looking for scraps of food.
The kids spent time in the pool and playing with our friend’s (the “Grismacks”) children. One evening we drove up to the lookout over the Cockburn Ranges with them to watch the sunset and have dinner on a large stone table there
The station has plenty of bushwalks too, with several going from the station to nearby Mt Baldy. We explored Bindoola Falls and billabong, a short 16km drive back up the Gibb River road. A very short walk takes you to the cliff overlooking a pool inhabited by freshwater crocodiles. We saw a couple of very small ones, then decided to go for a swim as it was a hot day and climbed down the cliff for a refreshing swim. The freshwater crocs sank beneath the water and we didn’t see them again. Oscar threw snail shells into the water to attract archer fish and sooty grunter.
Bindoola Falls billabong

Bindoola Falls billabong

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Offroad, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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