Blog 27: Western Australia & Northern Territory - Wyndham to Katherine
This is a tough one. This week has been highs and lows, the oscillation of our enjoyment and excitement around our adventure has reached a new amplitude. It has been hard to set the tone for this blog, so you are probably going to get a mish-mash of awesomeness and suckiness. Here is the map:
This adventure is as much about the people we meet as the places we go. We have met some of the most interesting people of our adventure this week.
Lately having limited control over our environment has been bothersome. We are still having an awesome adventure, but are increasingly looking forward to the stability of being in one place. And the control of our home environment that comes with it (no cooking meat smell, no brainwashing idiot box, no cigarette smoke, no single use packaged stuff).
It will also be nice to feel useful again. A life of travel is very self indulgent and has little to no impact on the community you don’t live in and doesn’t do much to improve the life of others. Without meaningful work that impacts the lives of others or benefits the environment around us, travel like this gets to feel a little hollow for the soul. Full time nomad-ism isn't for us.
We departed Wyndham via the jetty, the rushing water of the massive tidal excursion just like Derby, but significantly muddier. The brown waters rushing northwards making eddies and whorls around the jetty piers. We climbed the big hill just north of the town (in Gary) to the Five Rivers lookout. Stunning vistas in every direction. Tidal mangrove mud flats and mountains and rivers.
Then Gary decided that he didn't like his rear air suspension inflated. An hour or so under the car and Adam bypassed the compressor and manually inflated the airbags for a temporary fix. With the road into Purnululu reportedly very rough, we decided to make for Kununurra and more mechanical repair options instead.
We parked up on the banks of the man made Lake Kununurra and were lucky enough to catch a bit of evening music from a singer songwriter playing on a little deck, surrounded by a grassy area, adjacent to the water. The Kimberley cacophony of birds, the white flowers on the water and the warm dusk air let our worries melt away.
Pulling apart, cleaning and reassembling the air compressor and solenoid valve block seemed to fix the problem with the air suspension. We met a couple of teachers from Tathra and a guy in an awesome Land Rover Defender 90 who we crossed paths with at Kata Tjuta and had since spend a couple of weeks exploring far east Arnhem Land.
Adam also had a great chat to Dougall - an 82 year old farmer from outback New South Wales who decided he was having an adventure - threw his swag in the back of his 20 year old farm Ute with a few supplies and drove the Madigan Line across the Simpson Desert. He lamented that his 50 year old daughter and son in law have no sense of adventure, described his wonder at the beauty of this country and was a little playfully contemptuous of all these Caravanners who carry WAAAAAYYY too much STUFF. We commiserated about the large number of heavily laden heavy camper trailer towing ultra modern vehicles with all the accessories he saw powering their way up the dunes of the Simpson Desert and totally destroying the track for anyone who followed them.
One of our wedding gifts (thanks Uncle Denis!) was a helicopter flight over Purnululu (The Bungle Bungles). Unfortunately we couldn't get out there, so instead we took a fixed wing flight from Kununurra.
Sam (who's name may be Tim but we forget sometimes) our pilot was a young bloke from Melbourne out for the dry season. We climbed into a little Cessna and took to the air. Sam was still super excited about the Kimberley, his spiel felt fresh and engaging the whole flight.
We flew south from Kununurra over the precise geometry of the irrigated landscape around lake Kununurra (Ord Stage 1). The rolling hills (actually mountains) passed beneath us as Lake Argyle started to consume the horizon. Such a large expanse of water, technically an inland sea. Hidden waterfalls, striated metamorphic rock and cattle stations passed beneath us until eventually the rippling red and black domes of the Purnululu National Park appeared. We criss-crossed the gorges and domes, got some sense of the scale of the place and lamented that we wouldn't get to hike down there... this trip at least.
A northward turn took us over the Argyle Diamond Mine pit. We saw some more of the Ord Irrigation Scheme then landed after two hours in the air. Such a different way to experience the landscape that our usual driving. The Kimberley is a beautiful, beautiful place. Thanks Uncle Denis!
Back on solid ground we set about checking out The Hoochery, Kununurra's Rum Distillery and the Sandalwood Factory. The rum was pretty good, but Adam still prefers Whisk(e)y.
From there we drove out to Lake Argyle to stay a couple of nights. As we wound our way in to the village at the dam wall we realised that on the ground the mountains we had flown over were WAY bigger than from the air. Then Gary decided that the air suspension was, in fact, not fixed.
Intermittent faults are THE WORST to diagnose. After some tinkering Adam isolated the issue to the right height sensor. Sensor bypassed and height manually set for now until we can get a replacement.
Lake Argyle Resort has a very nice infinity pool. The best view we have ever swam in.
We hung around a couple of days to enjoy the Sunset Cruise on Lake Argyle - some people we met a while ago (can't remember where) said it was their favourite experience in all of Australia!
Being out on the water gives you a true sense of the immense scale of the Lake. Mountains-turned-islands rise out of the water. Fresh water crocodiles pepper the banks of the lake. At dusk we jumped in the water, floated around on pool noodles and enjoyed a beverage as the island-mountains turned red. It was a really great experience.
We shared out boat cruise with a group of kids and sponsors from the Clontarf Foundation. Great kids and some interesting adults.
From Lake Argyle we turned eastwards and crossed back into the Northern Territory. Shadowing the Victoria River we made our way to Katherine. Today we had a great chat at a coffee shop caravan with a couple of local guys who had moved here from Tasmania.
Loads more stuff happened this week, people we met and the smallest and grandest of experiences. To be honest we are a bit weary though, so this blog is a little scant.
Days on the Road = 188
Distance Driven = 26 027 km
Mean Distance per Day = 136 km
Mean Fuel Economy = 13.75 L / 100 km
Best Fuel Economy = 12.17 L / 100 km (Port Lincoln to Port Augusta)
Nights Free Camping = 36
Nights in Roof Tent = 165/187
Coffees Purchased = 52
Instagram Posts = 397
Instagram Followers = 170
Geocaches Logged = 32
Gary Breakdowns = 0.35
Drone Flights = 2
Videos Made = 0
French Land Rover Drivers Scared = 1
State or Territory Borders Crossed = 14
Bucks Parties Accidentally Crashed = 1
Vegan Vanilla Slices Eaten = (Adam 2, Ruth 1)
Times Set Up Camp after Dusk = 4
Chairlifts Not Used = 1
Waves Returned by Tasmanian Land Rover Drivers = 2
Cups of Tea Made for Strangers = 1
Tasmanian Short Walks Completed = 10/60
Rounds of Lost Cities Played = 80
Longest Continuous Sleep in Roof Tent = 11 hours
Gary Oil Changes = 2
Blood Donation Dates = 1
Sick Days = 4 (Adam 4, Ruth 0)
Australian Deserts Visited = (5/10) (Strzelecki, Perdika, Great Sandy, Gibson, Great Victoria)
Cattle Stations Camped On = 4
Iconic South Australian Track Completion = Oodnadatta 100% (617 km), Strzelecki 26% (122/475 km), Birdsville 0% (0/517 km)
Uluru Climbs = 0
Tyre Punctures = 1
Tasmanian Job Applications = 5 (Adam 3, Ruth 2)
Babies Met = 5
Boat Rides = 10
Songs Swap Sessions with Strangers = 1
Most Consecutive Days with No Phone Reception = 6
Fixed Wing Aeroplane Flights = 3