So many pictures to choose from and this hardly epitomizes the Kimberly but I’m finding it hard to pick a photo which sums up the Kimberly for me so far, or perhaps my quality control standards and just a bit too high and I’m finding fault with some aspect of most pictures. Up here the sun is harsh and photos tend to be washed out with stark contrasts between light and dark. Everything’s harsh up here, the light, the weather and the landscapes. Harsh but beautiful.
I’d left Kakadu and was on a run to the W.A. border with a stopover in Katherine to get my car checked. Since my service in Darwin there had been a wobble at around 80-90km/h that I’d been trying to ignore as best I could by going either faster or slower than that. I stopped at the tire place in Katherine and they said all my wheels were out of balance so they balanced them all and I was good to go, but heading out of town I found the wobble was still there.
Camped just outside Judbarra (formally Gregory) national park, I was up before dawn, there was an escarpment walk above the Mary river about 30km away and I’d read that it was worth climbing up there to watch the sunrise.
Unlike some of the other quintessential photo spots I’d visited, there was no one here, no crowds to jostle trying to find a good position, you can see the troopy down there by herself down in the car park. It was worth the early climb to see the sun rise. The Mary river was quite beautiful and varied in places from being wide, still, dark and deep, to some lovely shallow rocky sections where you knew there were no crocs because you could see into the water.
Continuing on passed Timber creek the Boab trees began to appear.
I’d never seen boabs before so this was a real treat, but people, whats with the vandalism? I was soon to find that every decent sized boab tree near any main road would be scarred with names and dates. One tree that was even marked on Wikicamps had a huge love heart carved in it. Come on, if you love it, don’t scar it.
Before long I hit W.A. and for those who don’t know it’s my home state, strange to be back here after being away for almost two years. Crossing over the border I was reminded of the bad habit I have of stocking too much food as two days earlier I’d stocked up with loads of fresh fruit and veggies in Katherine, none of which I could bring in. Now ok I can understand the fresh fruit and veggies but my almost full jar of Tasmanian leatherwood honey? The crazy thing is that I bought it from a supermarket in Victoria, and you can buy the same jars of honey at most W.A. supermarkets.
One of the first sites to see up the top end is the Ord river dam which creates Lake Argyle, it’s actually a rather small dam wall considering the amount of water behind it holds. It’s the second largest man made water supply in Australia behind Lake Pedder in Tasmania, though some may argue that Lake argyle is the largest because Lake Pedder is actually two dams joined together by a canal. Lake argyle is definitely the most efficient dam in Australia when you consider the amount of water it stores compared to the size of the dam wall.
I was surprised by Kununurra, I quite liked it here. Although it was hot, they had so much water that it was pumped onto the ground everywhere to green things up, and there were plenty of beautiful grassy places around town. The caravan park I stayed in was lovely, the non powered area was shady and covered in green grass with an outlook over the back onto a national park, almost a mini Bungle Bungles right behind.
It was lovely sitting in the shade watching the sun set against the red rocks, and nice to not have marked bays but rather pay $15 and “just find yourself a spot down the back”. There was a walk trail from the caravan park into the national park, and the park was truly impressive with spectacular rock formations.
And this is basically in Kununurra.
But, places to go, things to see, time to leave Kununurra and head to El Questro just over 100km out of town. El Questro is a massive station, some 700,000 acres which contains stunning gorges and countryside and more recently they have been focusing more on the tourism side of things rather than cattle, and judging by what I saw here, they’re doing alright out of it. The campsite was huge, there were helicopter rides, a restaurant, bar, cabin accommodation, luxury tents, numerous tour vehicles going out multiple times a day loaded up with tourists to see the different sites.
It’s the only caravan park I’ve been to that has water crossings on the way into the main camp. Who needs pesky bridges. First day there I booked in for a couple of nights before heading off to the Zebidee springs.
These were amazing, warm thermal springs gushing out from the side of the hill in numerous different spots with palms growing all through the area. It was packed with people when I arrived and all the little pools were occupied but I was determined to come back early the next day for some better pictures and maybe some video. Well, that was before things happened. Oh yeah, things happened.
I Left the springs headed for Moonlight gorge, there was a 4km walk once I arrived which was ok, nothing spectacular but a nice enough walk. It was quite a long track out here quite an easy 4×4 with one long, deep water crossing, but hey even these guys made it through with their city cars.
No problem for the troopy with a 2 inch lift. This is the water crossing.
As I came out the other side the motor was wobbling around. I headed straight back to camp and checked things out.
Three blades snapped off. Luckily there’s a mechanic out here, but of course with my luck, he was about to go on 6 days leave so couldn’t fix it, best he could do was take it off to stop the wobbling. Managed to sort out someone in town to have a look the next day (Friday) and headed of early with no fan. On the way into town the fuel light came on, I guessed maybe that was the fuel filter warning. Then I stopped for a pee and had to turn the car off because there was no fan. When I tried to start it again the battery didn’t sound to great, it was a bit slow turning over, or was I just imagining things.
Left it with the mechanic and he couldn’t start it, the battery had died, so new battery, new fan, new fuel filter, and then the wobble. Well considering that I’d supposedly had a wheel rotation and balance by Toyota in Darwin, then another balance 1000km later in Katherine, can’t be the wheels it hadn’t even done 2000 since Darwin and hadn’t been on a rough road since Katherine, must be the steering damper. Replace that, but while it’s up on the hoist, gee the shockies are leaking.
Ran out of time to do the rear shocks, that would have to wait until Monday, but the wobble was still there. Back in Monday to replace the rear shocks and two rod ends in the front, there was a little play in them perhaps this would fix it. Nup..! Over $2500 spent and still a wobble. Back to a tyre place because I needed a wheel alignment after the works he had done, while there check the balance. All 4 wheels were out of balance. Twenty minutes of work and $80 later problem solved.
Oh well, at least there’s so much done to the front end now that I shouldn’t have any troubles for a long time. But I decided after all these woes that I would not be doing the Gibb river road and perhaps I might even give the Bungle Bungles a miss for now. Damn I liked the idea of some simple bitumen and no problems for a little while.
I’m starting to really enjoy early mornings, quite a special time of day with the birds being so active and sometimes you strike interesting cloud patterns. Hmm, there’s really no segue from clouds into termites but the termites here in W.A. are different to the Northern Territory. In the NT you have two main visible types, magnetic with their tall fan shaped homes always facing north south, the the Cathedral termites with their huge mounds reaching for the sky like robust castles. Here in W.A. we have the blobby termites.
(The following sentence needs to be said only like Rowan Atkinson could)
Big blobby mounds that look like some huge pile of animal dropping melting in the sun!
Apologies to any termite lovers, I really have been in awe of the shear number of them over the top end, thousands of kilometres of mounds as far as the eye can see, all going about their complex lives living completely sustainably within some of the harshest environments. It’s like an enormous spreading metropolis with billions of ants, I wonder if anyone has calculated how many there might be?
The drive from Kununurra down through Halls creek and Fitzroy Crossing was spectacular in some areas with majestic scenery and plenty of wildflower starting to bloom. I may have timed things well as I head down through the W.A. wildflower areas.
Into Geikei gorge just out of Firtzroy Crossing this was a bit special, the weather was warm but the clouds complimented the crazy rock formations so well.
On this 4km walk I came the closest I’ve ever been to suffering from heat stroke. It was scorching out there with most of the walk in full sun and I only took less than a litre of water with me. By the time I got back to the car I was seriously overheated, it took me a good half hour sitting in the car with the air conditioner running drinking almost 2L of water before I started to come good and ready to dive out of there. A real wake up call for me.
I really need to stop. I wanted to end the post with Broome as that’s where I am now, but this has gone too far already. I’ll finish with one last picture. When I first began travelling in the troopy way down in Victoria and Tasmania, it was an oddity to see another one and when you saw someone it would almost always involve a stop and chat, especially if it was a troopy camper. Up here in the north? Well, they’re a bit like termite mounds, everywhere.