Kununurra – Sun 21st & Mon 22nd
To the north of Kununurra lies Wyndham, where we had been assured the Five Rivers lookout was fantastic. There is the option of taking a dirt road, Parrys Creek, most of the way, sounded like a fun diversion. This goes across the Ivanhoe dam, just outside of town, the top of which forms a road which runs across the river in a curve at a depth of about 30cm. Sadly it is currently closed; the story is that large floods a few years back may have damaged the road, but the water has not yet dropped to a level where it can be checked.
Parrys Creek road is listed by Hema in their top 50 WA drives. It can only be for the dam crossing, as the rest of the drive was dull as ditchwater; there is a spring along the way and some lagoons for the birdwatchers but other than that it’s a boring, bumpy drive. We took the main road on the way back, it had much better scenery.
At Wyndham the lookout is perched atop a small hill called The Bastion. This was everything we had been told it was. Overlooking the confluence of the Ord, Pentecost, Forrest, King and Durack rivers the valley below is an enormous floodplain, it must be quite a sight in the wet.
On the outskirts of town can be found a very large crocodile, fortunately of the fiberglass variety.
Everyone has heard of Bundaberg, although its rum may not be to everyone’s taste. Kununurra has its very own rum distillery, The Hoochery, located just to the north of town; also known for its coffee and rum cake, which probably was instrumental in selling the visit to Hils. Its not like wine tasting though, you are required to pay for your tasting, with $5 getting 3 thimbles of your choice.
The comedy came when the lady tried to put ice in the thimbles. “No ice please” was met with “Sorry, we have to put it in otherwise they are shooters and we can’t sell those”. Good to see government focusing on the important stuff…….
The rum, by the way, was pretty rough, not so dissimilar to Bundaberg after all. Yes I know Bundie is an Aussie icon, I just can’t shift from Caribbean to QLD.
Back in Kununurra the library is very good, especially if travelling with book hungry children; attached to the local school it is well stocked, and allows short term membership – the Percy Jackson drought was broken.
Purnululu – Tue 23rd to Wed 24th
Driving down the Halls Creek road to the turnoff is one of those “are we there yet drives”, perhaps we have just got a bit spoiled by the wonderful places we have already driven though. However, once you turn off the main road and head to the park it’s a completely different matter, 53km of constantly changing landscape and road conditions.
The standard advice is 2-3hrs to make the drive, in reality its nearer 2 unless you drive like your great aunt. Dual axle vehicles are forbidden, apparently they damage the track; great big tour buses must float across the road like butterflies, as they are welcomed.
There are 2 campsites, Kurranjong at the north end and Walardi at the south. Kurrajong does not allow generators, so an easy choice to head there and meet up with Ben & Simone who had arrived ahead us – they had camped at the Spring Creek rest area just past the turning into the park; don’t arrive late as by midday it’s a hive of caravans. Noticeable however in the park was the lack of vans, it was all tents and trailers.
The attractions of Purnululu are like the campsites, split between each end of the park. At the north is Echidna Chasm, an extremely narrow split which winds its way back into the rock before ending at a vertical wall. The rock here is conglomerate, a mix of rocks and finer material, with the chasm created by water cutting through a fissure in the rock.
Just outside the mouth of the chasm is a great little lookout, across the valley to the Osmand range, plus an excellent example of a bower bird bower. Once an important aboriginal living area, grazing has driven out much of the native flora and fauna, however it is hoped these will return as the area is now destocked.
To the south lies Pickaninny, where Cathedral Gorge can be found. The nature of the rock here is different, leading to the famous beehive formations, rounded humps of banded black and red. The colours come from iron oxide and cyanobacteria.
Cathedral Gorge is amazing, at the head of a narrow valley in the rocks. It has been cut by a waterfall; as the water dries up after the wet the plunge pool is revealed. Undercut into the cliffs it has fantastic acoustics, like a natural St Pauls Whispering Gallery. It would be great to hear a string supported choral performance here.
Just behind our campsite was a handy little rock outcrop, well placed to watch sunset on the range.
Wolfe Creek – Thu 25th
Wolfe Creek meteorite crater lies on the Tanami Road, about 150km south of Halls Creek. I’m sure there are reasons to stay in Halls Creek, but no-one we had spoken to on our travels could name one. The people in the tourist office were, however, very helpful.
The Tanami Road enjoys iconic status in discussions of Australian Roads; which seems odd as it is essentially a shortcut between the Kimberley and Alice Springs, with reportedly little to see along the way. Perhaps it is the length of the road, at 1035km, and the isolation experienced along the way – if you break down you are a long way from the nearest mechanic.
We therefore set out with a healthy dose of trepidation.
We were fortunate the section we drove was in reasonable condition, bumpy for the first 10km or so but then smoothing out to a good solid dirt surface.
The crater is something to see, definitely worth the drive. Formed when a meteorite estimated at 50,000 tonnes smashed into the earth it is 875m in diameter and 60m deep. In reality it is deeper but drifting sand has filled in the crater, leaving a flat base with striking concentric rings of vegetation.
Sawpit Gorge – Fri 24th
Whilst impressive, once you have seen the crater and walked to its centre it is time to move along, plus its freezing cold overnight.
The wind had picked up from yesterday, swirling clouds of dust across the road, very American dustbowl.
The original road north from Halls Creek was the Duncan Road, built to service cattle stations in the area and offering no services until you reach Kununurra at the other end.
Leaving Halls Creek the first landmark is Old Halls Creek, home to the first WA gold discovery in 1885. We had hoped to get a photo of Pippa here, as one of her modules this term was the gold rushes – sadly the remains of the post office are locked away behind an ugly metal fence, presumably the locals are into a spot of vandalism.
Sawpit Gorge is a tiny camping spot further along, about 50km from Halls Creek with the road twisting and turning along.
Across a creek the campsite has about 3 spots, luckily 2 were free as we were travelling with Ben & Simone. The site lies on the side of a river, with a huge rock wall towering above, it is a beautiful place to camp, albeit completely without amenities.
Zebra Rock – Sat 25th
This was a site Hils had identified, home to the last remaining deposits of the rock that gives it its name. About 10km from the north end of the Duncan Road it made for a long day.
At first the road was in great condition, albeit it in the middle of nowhere. However in the later stages, especially after it starts to wind back and forth across the WA/NT border it became very rough with a lot of very rocky sections. It also had what could be the biggest bull dust hole in WA, there was just no way around it, with dust coming over the roof.
The campsite is a delightful little family run affair, their focus being very much on the personal rather than commercial. Also the best fish and chips of the trip so far, fresh caught silver cobbler from Lake Argyle.