Blog based on Facebook posts made by Alex Reid during the Kimberley Trip: 16-Jun to 25-Jun-21

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Wednesday, 16 June:
Traveling to Broome, Western Australia from Qantas Departures - Perth Airport Terminal 4.

Having a lazy afternoon in Broome (nice and warm!! - but not too hot).

Broome main street:

Boab tree on main street of Broome:

Broome's outdoor cinema - the oldest in the world??

Town "beach" - mostly mangroves!

Lots of lovely, unusual flowers and flowering trees in Broome - beautiful!

Sunset in Broome! View from our motel room balcony...

Thursday, 17 June:
This morning, we visited the Japanese cemetery in Broome. A lot of Japanese came here to engage in pearl diving. The conditions under which they did this were dreadful by today's standards, and not just the Japanese, but other races, as well as Aboriginals, who were virtually enslaved to do this terribly dangerous bare skin diving (as it was at first). Of course, all the Japanese were interned at the outbreak of war...

Next, in Broome, we visited Cape Gantheaume (named as Ganteaume Island by a French explorer, then another explorer noticed that it was not an island, and then an "h" was added as that's how the locals pronounced it!). Regardless, some wonderful rock (sandstone) formations, and even dinosaur footprints, and Cable Beach in the background.

Reproduced dinosaur footprints (someone tried to chisel the originals out - only visible at low tide):

We also visited the Broome Museum, which was actually quite interesting, especially regarding the pearling industry.

Proper diving suits were later introduced for pearl divers:

There was even a superb shell collection, which had been visited by the Queen when she visited Broome.

More lovely flowers (not so wild, this time):

Parts salvaged from the wrecks of various seaplanes (this one a Catalina) destroyed by Japanese raids in March 1942.

Then it was the turn of the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Farm Park. Malcolm Douglas was one of these "larger than life" crocodile hunters/conservationists (like Steve Irwin). He died 10 years ago, but our guide was every bit as entertaining and informative. We saw (and had explained to us the difference between) salt-water crocs (strictly, "estuarine" crocs), fresh water crocs, and alligators. Salt water crocs can live in fresh or salty water - they have a duct at the back of their tongue that desalinates the water for them.

Salt-water crocodiles (there are 60-70 in that murky water somewhere!):

Fresh water crocodiles:

Alligators (whose teeth are hidden from view when they close their mouth):

Finally, today, fish and chips picnic on the beach at Broome's famous Cable Beach (named for where the submarine telecoms cable from Java landed). Once again, a lovely sunset made the visit especially worthwhile! Even a pearl lugger drifted by on the gently breeze.

Friday, 18 June:
We set off from Broome along the Great Northern Highway, heading for Fitzroy Crossing (where the road crosses the Fitzroy River!). We arrived in Fitzroy Crossing and checked into our ensuite safari tent at the Fitzroy River Lodge. Greeted by 3 smiling faces #treefrog. After flushing and with the help of the toilet brush, the receptacle was declared free of frogs. But they cheekily reappeared! We continued to battle with one frog the whole time (2 nights) we were here!

Our campsite at Fitzroy Crossing (Fitzroy River Lodge) was comfortable and well-appointed (even with friendly frogs in the toilet bowl, as I've already posted). Quite a bit of bird life, including barking owls (not seen but definitely heard - "woof woof"), black kite on a tree next to the tent, and a few noisy corellas.

Our tent, with view over the Fitzroy River valley (too steep, I'm assured, for "freshies" to bother us!):

Our tent, with En-suite box attached to the rear:

Only thing missing was the TV (no reception anyway!):
Black Kite:

After arriving in Fitzroy Crossing today (Friday), we went on a cruise of the Fitzroy River at Geikie Gorge (Darngku). Note the pale rocks on the bottom half of the rock walls - this is caused by the flood level, as is the eroding in those lower rocks.

Fairy Martin nests, which get washed away every year with the floods.

Boab trees are quite a feature of the Kimberley landscape. Of course, one has famously been used as a prison near Derby. We didn't see that one, but saw an equally impressive one out from Broome on the Great Nothern Highway. It had a decent-sized chamber within. Here are some samples.

Saturday, 19 June:
On this our second day in Fitzroy Crossing (Saturday) we traveled to Tunnel Creek and then Windjana Gorge. Here are some photos of Tunnel Creek, where many of us walked right through the tunnel (about 700m), and back again, including wading through water at times, and even a brief swim where the depth got too great. Torches essential, and ziplock bags for cameras, etc. Some aboriginal paintings at the far end, and a beautiful dragonfly.

The towering entrance to the tunnel - see the 2 puny humans at the bottom:

The entrance, looking back from within the tunnel:

The cave-in part-way along the tunnel:

At the cave-in:

Looking back on the cave-in:

The exit (far-end) of the tunnel, from within:

At the exit, looking back into the tunnel:

Aboriginal cave paintings near the far-end of the tunnel:

A beautiful red dragonfly outside the far-end of the tunnel:

We then drove on to Windjana Gorge (properly spelled Wandjana) which is further on from Tunnel Creek, towards and not too far from the Gibb River Road. Beautiful gorge, even with a supply of fresh-water crocodiles ("freshies").
The gorge looking West:

The gorge looking East:

Towering sides of the gorge:

Curious rock formation, with a fresh-water crododile in residence:

More freshies basking in the sun:

While driving around the Kimberley countryside (driving to/from Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek), we came across a variety of wildlife, as follows.

More black kites - this one interested in any scraps which we may leave behind after our lunch at Tunnel Creek:

A bustard beside the road:

An inquisitive cow and its calf (I love the sideways ears!):

A white-necked heron in a creek billabong:

Sunday, 20 June:
Today (Sunday) we travelled from Fitzroy Crossing to Halls Creek (lunch) and then on to the Bungle Bungle campsite. We had morning tea at Mary Pool, and also visited the old Town site of Halls Creek and China Wall, both a little way from Halls Creek. We have encountered a variety of wildlife on our trip (but not a lot, actually).

Friendly cows at Mary Pool:

Heron on the Mary River at Mary Pool:

Halls Creek main street:

Halls Creek IGA - lovely tin cows on roof:

Old Halls Creek, where some of the original buildings (made using bricks carved from termite mounds) are still preserved:

China Wall - a natural geological phenomenon of a quartz intrusion around which the other rocks have eroded away, exposing something that looks for all the world like the Wall of China. Seeing this alerted prospectors to the possibility of gold nearby!

We then drove on along Great Northern Highway until we reached the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park - still 52km from the Bungles, but where we'll stay for 2 nights. Dinner was served at 5:30pm, and woe betide anyone who was late! A good barbecue meal. We were accommodated in ensuited tents/cabins, except that (since Helen and I were the last to sign up to the tour) ours was without ensuite!

Our safari tent - minimal conveniences (ie no conveniences in the tent, but 40m away! And no power, so I'm sending this post (if it goes) by battery power and torchlight:

At least we have carpet on the ground, and comfortable bed(s)! I just hope I can make the dash to the loo in the middle of the night successfully!

Monday, 21 June:
Today we traveled from the campsite on the Great Northern Highway into Purnululu National Park to see the Bungle Bungle range. I was so impressed, took heaps of photos. It took 2 hrs from our campsite to get to the Visitor Centre (52km, but very corrugated road, and lots of Creek bed crossings - taken very carefully, slowly - some with unknown depth of water in them). Then another ~hour to the Bungles. We parked at Piccaninny carpark and walked the ~1km into Cathedral Gorge. Then walked back to the Piccaninny Lookout, and then back to the carpark - and then the bumpy ride back to camp. So, this took all day. But so amazing!

Map of Purnululu National Park (containing the Bungle Bungle range):

Selected "beehive" clumps, with Piccaninny Creek riverbed in foreground:

Selected "beehive" clumps:

Selected beehive clumps, with Wickham's Grevillea in foreground:

Approaching the entrance to Cathedral Gorge - note all the "lovely" spinifex grass:

Entrance to Cathedral Gorge:

In the gorge part of Cathedral Gorge:

View outwards from the start of Cathedral Gorge:

At the end (start? head?) of Cathedral Gorge, where there is a waterfall in "the wet":

View outwards from the overhang at the head of Cathedral Gorge - note the size of humans in the scene!

View outwards from the head of Cathedral Gorge - note the relative size of humans:

On the way to Piccaninny Lookout:

Selected clumps of "beehives":

Plenty of wildflowers about PLUS lots of spinifex grass, looking quite green and soft - Ha! Plus one example of dry creek bed.
Fan flower:

Fan flower (close-up):

Wickham's Grevillea:

Purple mulla mulla:

Purple mulla mulla (close-up):

Native hibiscus (h. syriacus):

Dry creek bed - note the pile-up on the trees of debris from when it was in flood:

Tuesday, 22 June:
We had a fairly quiet day today (Tuesday), traveling from the Bungle Bungles to Kununurra, stopping only at Doon Doon Roadhouse (Durack) for coffee. Our driver, John, had been suffering some pain from having his wisdom teeth extracted, so he booked in to see a doctor in Kununurra, while we had lunch. We then drove around the town a bit, and then visited the Hoochery distillery and Sandalwood (Quintis) shop (outside Kununurra), before checking into our hotel and having dinner.

On entry to Kununurra, we drive over the Diversion Dam and get a view of the Ord River downstream from the dam:

Kununurra Lake, essentially the swollen Ord River, above the Diversion Dam:

Kununurra is overshadowed by imposing mountains:

Catholic Church, with mountain backdrop:

Corn (maize) fields watered by irrigation:

Sandalwood plantations (looks less regular than most plantations because sandalwood requires a nearby host tree, often cassia):

Hoochery Distillery - oldest (legal) distillery in Australia:

An array of Hoochery products (we were given samples of 3 of them). The rum was my most preferred - they've won national and international competitions over several years. They also have Argyle pink gin, Out of the Ord (with a variety of ingredients), Whisky, Aniseed liqueur, Cane Royale, etc:

Wednesday, 23 June:
Today (Wednesday) we visited Wyndham, including the 5 Rivers Lookout (Forrest, Durack, Pentecost, King, Ord - anticlockwise from due North) - but the photo is just of Cambridge Gulf, into which they all empty. Also saw the giant croc, and the croc cafe, as well as the port.

View over Cambridge Gulf (the port below, iron ore jetty in centre):

Direction/Distance indicator at the 5-Rivers Lookout (Perth 2,160km):

Wyndham recreational Jetty:

The giant croc (a salt-water variety):

The Croc Cafe, Wyndham (they did sell croc pies - I didn't partake):

Later today (Wednesday) we drove back towards Kununurra, then turned off onto the Gibb River Road for ~50km to El Questro Wilderness Park to walk up to Emma Gorge - quite breath-taking! Took about 50 mins to walks the 2.2km from the Resort, some of which involves clambering over rocks - there was even a sign warning that beyond this point you needed to be "fit and able". I was up to the challenge! Well worth the effort!!!

Near the entrance, with quite a lot of tropical vegetation:

The entrance to the Gorge:

One of the walls of the Gorge:

The lower pool - nearly to the head of the Gorge:

At the head of the Gorge, looking back:

The head of the Gorge - a marvellous amphitheatre! Note the relative size of the human in the picture (that tiny topless bather to the R of the falls):

A Gilgie (freshwater prawn, aka cherabin) in the pool at the head of Emma Gorge:

Thursday, 24 June:
Very eventful day today, Thursday, but I only had time then to report on one event. But what an event! A flight over Kununurra, Lake Argyle, the irrigation scheme, and to crown it all - The Bungle Bungle range. I'm embarrassed by how many photos I took (no I'm not, every aspect is captivating!). But I've tried to REALLY constrain myself, and post just a *few*. But I think you'll get the idea! [more about today's other events later].

The plateau of the Bungle Bungle range is relatively flat, but criss-crossed by many crevices/gorges:

Many deep crevices in the mountain range:

Some seasonal rivers (like Piccaninny Creek, depicted here) rise in the range and then wander off (to join the Ord, mostly):

The striking dome shapes typically only form at the margins of the mountain range, where erosion creates those dome shapes:

The mountains are formed of sandstone. Laid down in successive layers over 360m years ago in the Devonian period. The grey layers have a cyanobacterium content (blue-green algae), while the alternating orange layers have dried out too quickly and then the surface iron content oxidised. Then erosion took place over the next 300m years:

Following our marvellous flight over Lake Argyle and the Bungles on Thursday morning, we went straight to a cruise on Kununurra Lake (basically, swollen Ord River, held back by the Diversion Dam). This dam was the first to be built here, and diverts the Ord River to irrigated fields; this worked well as far as it went, but did not provide enough water to make the whole Ord River Scheme economical. Originally it had to pump water into the irrigation channels, but now operates totally by gravity, including the supply of water from the later much larger Argyle Lake Dam (more on that later).

Cliff walls at times on the Ord River (Lake Kununurra):

The Ord River Diversion Dam, viewed from the river above it:

Quite a few Comb-Crested Jacanas on the lily pads, on which they walk with their elongated toes (also known as "Jesus birds" as they appear to walk on water):

Sea Eagle nest, with chick and parent poking out (though hard to make out!):

Fresh-water crocodile sunning itself, and holding its mouth open to cool its head so it doesn't "cook its brain"!

Fruit Bat colony alongside the lake:

The main Lake Argyle Dam wall, holding back 21x the capacity of Sydney Harbour:

Finally on Thursday we had a closer look at the irrigation scheme. Originally intended for cotton and rice, these proved not so viable, so now it's mostly fruit (eg melons, mangos) that are grown, but also sandalwood and a variety of other crops including sorghum. The Diversion Dam was finished in 1963 and provided water to the Ivanhoe Plains which had rich alluvial soil; initially, 11,500 hectares were serviced (now, with the addition of Lake Argyle, 45,000 hectares). We also visited Zebra Rock at Stonecraft where "zebra" rock could be bought (now most of the source of this rock is under Lake Argyle), and also the nearby crossing of the Ord - if you're game!

Example of the irrigated crops on the Ivanhoe Plains near Kununurra:

Two of the irrigation water wheels on the Ivanhoe Plains:

Ivanhoe Crossing (of the Ord River):

An example of "zebra rock" (most of the source of this rock is now under Lake Argyle):

Friday, 25 June:
Our last outing for our tour was Friday morning - a cruise on Lake Argyle (before flying back to Perth on Friday afternoon). The creation of the "second stage" Ord River scheme, with a dam further upstream from the Diversion Dam, was the dream of Kimberley Durack, descendant of the farming pioneers of this area (they drove a herd of cattle over 3,000 miles from Queensland over 2 years from 1879-1882). We saw lots of crocodiles (there are 30,000 in Lake Argyle). There are 26 varieties of fish in the lake - we encountered the 7-spot archerfish up close - one squirted me in the ear (sadly, no photo of that!). There are several varieties of catfish, but not very popular eating (one has been renamed "silver cobbler" to avoid that stigma!). Also saw a Jabiru on its nest and some rock wallabies.

The Dam was started in 1969 and completed in 1971 and filled in 2 years; the lake holds 5.8 gigalitres of water (21x Sydney Harbour). Only 80% full when we were there, but in 2011 the water level rose to be 9 metres above the "filled" level, when it held 10.8 gigalitres (41x Sydney Harbour). The primary aim of the 2nd dam is to ensure there is always water in Lake Kununurra, so the irrigated fields are never deprived. There's enough capacity to last 3 years with no rain. The whole system operates via gravity, ie no pumps needed. In 1996 a hydroelectric generator wad added, which supplies power to Kununurra, Wyndham and surrounds as well as the Argyle Diamond Mine (which took 30% of the power, but closed in December 2020).

Our boat - the "Silver Cobbler II":

The Lake Argyle dam wall. It is 335 metres long and 98 metres high, raised by 6 metres in 1996 when the hydro scheme was added. It is an earth and rock-filled construction, incorporating clay to act as "glue". It is filled with sensors to check for movement, drying out, etc:

Quite a cloudy, mild day, but what a vast quantity of water! There are places where you can't see land at all in certain directions (from the level of the boat). When we moored at a small island and given the chance to swim, no-one took up the offer! It was only about 27 degrees!

Amazing folds in the rocks bordering the lake:

Of course, this might also have been one of the reasons no-one opted for a swim! There's 30,000 of them in the lake, but not really a threat to humans - they have nasty teeth, but they can't chew so have to swallow their food whole, and humans are too big. But don't mess with a crocodile, whether "freshie" or "salty":

A rock wallaby on the banks of Lake Argyle:

Jabiru on its nest atop this rocky outcrop island:

Argyle Diamond mine - seen from the air the day before. Closed in December 2020. One diamond shop in Kununurra had a sign outside promoting itself as a "Wife Creche", complete with "fully qualified carers inside"!

And so we say farewell to our bus, the driver (John) and guide (Chloe, replaced for final day by Emily), the 22 other passengers (a companionable lot!), and to the Kimberley. A really enthralling and enjoyable trip!!

Alex Reid