A Travellerspoint blog

Port Hedland

Red dirt, iron ore and salt

31 °C
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Port Hedland (pop 15 000)

Port Hedland and South Hedland are actually 18km apart. The port is the one of the busiest export ports in the world.

This is not a pretty town. That is me being kind. It is important though, as a lot of Australia’s income comes from the iron ore exports (there is offshore gas and a huge salt works as well). The is a layer of red iron ore dust over all of this town.

Amazing numbers that blow the mind: Seeing the trains in this town blow the mind. We stopped at a viewpoint on a bridge and watched two trains, each 3km long, pass underneath. That took quite a while! Each ore car carries 138 tonnes (in 62 cubic metres). Most have 232 cars, take 160 to load up and unload at the port with two cars tipped at a time in a 88 second cycle. Trivia: On 21 June 2001 BHP set a world record for the heaviest and longest train. It weighed 99734 tonnes and formed 682 wagons that ran 275km. The train was 7.3km long and carried 82 000 tonnes of iron ore, hauled by 8 locomotives.

We stopped at the special viewing point provided by Rio Tinto to see their salt mine in action. It covers 102 sq km of operational area. See the photo of the salt mountain. When harvesting, they do 1500 wet tonnes per hour. They pump up to 1640 metres of sea water per minute into a nine-pond concentration system. Average evaporation is 408 000 tonnes of water per day. Average shiploading rate is 2500-3000 tonnes per hour.

Not a pretty town, as I said, but important to our economy and all of our pensions (even for those that complain, but are happy to still receive the dividends). We only stayed for one night. That meant we saw all that we deemed worth seeing, did all our grocery shopping, and filled up with the cheapest diesel in the last 5000km.

Where the iron ore is

Where the iron ore is

Train 3 km long

Train 3 km long

Ships waiting for iron ore

Ships waiting for iron ore

Port Hedland - South Hedland is south of this

Port Hedland - South Hedland is south of this

Mountain of salt

Mountain of salt

Mountain of salt Dampier Salt

Mountain of salt Dampier Salt

Big ships waiting

Big ships waiting

Posted by ChrisHenriette 06:21 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

De Grey River free camping

Bull sharks and amazing bird watching

26 °C
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De Grey River Free Camp

For those who are not familiar with free camping: All through Australia there are thousands of free camp sites available (some official and government serviced and some as simple as a little loop next to road where you can pull over and have rest). Our smart phone app (Wikicamps) gave us a lot of information to make informed decisions. Typically toilets and bins are provided. Sometimes there are showers, fresh water taps, and BBQ’s.
We camped at De Grey River on the road to Port Hedland. What a great spot this is. The government (through the Royalties for Region Program) have enhanced camps like this with numerous sites over a huge area. I think it was possible to camp 4km from someone else in this tree rich site. It stretched between the main road and the disused Goldsworthy mine rail line with spill overs across the river and opposite the main road. This means we camped with a hundred or so similar families/couples without feeling crowded. Our closest “neighbour” was around 30m away. We were able to walk along the river (in both directions) for kilometres, catch up on messages from friends and family (free wifi provided at the picnic area), BBQ and catch up on reading. We identified 23 bird species on this stop.

This was the change in weather that was overdue. It went from 32 to 26 in a day! And we arrived after rain. We still haven’t seen rain 8000km or so. We changed our doonas to the winter ones.

A 3m Bull Shark sighting in the river a few days ago meant we wouldn’t have a swim even if it was warmer! Then a second smaller one (2m) was spotted as well, so we went onto the bridge to get photos. Large parts of the river has dried up so the two sharks are trapped in a 4km long stretch until it rains again. This is 30-40km from the ocean, so it shows how adaptable these beasts are.

Yellow tinted honey eaters in abundance

Yellow tinted honey eaters in abundance

Second bull shark is 2m long

Second bull shark is 2m long

Rainbow Bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater

Our spot where we camped for 3 days

Our spot where we camped for 3 days

Ok so we're not swimming

Ok so we're not swimming

Free camp is from bridge to bridge 2km long

Free camp is from bridge to bridge 2km long

Black Swanson the De Grey River

Black Swanson the De Grey River

Black swans at sunset

Black swans at sunset

3m bull shark trapped

3m bull shark trapped

Posted by ChrisHenriette 22:51 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Broome and the staircase to the moon

Camels on Cable Beach and dinosaur prints

32 °C
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Broome (pop 16000)

Just before we entered Broome, we reached the 10 000km mark since leaving home.

Broome is by far the biggest town in the Kimberley. William Dampier landed here in 1699 on HMS Roebuck. The town was established in the early 1880’s following the discovery of rich beds of pearl shell in the area (explains the 919 Japanese graves, most connected to pearl diving). Within 8 years Broome was supplying 75% of the world supply of pearl shell. The discovery of plastic (for making buttons) eventually put an end to that.

We’ve been to Broome before (a decade ago) but felt a second visit was worthwhile. It was also our second experience of the “staircase to the moon”. What a wonderful coincidence.

Lesser known facts about the Second World War: On 3 March 1942 Japanese aircraft from Timor mounted a raid on Broome. More than 50 people were killed. Some estimate that it might have been more than 100 as 15 Allied flying boats carrying Dutch refugees were also destroyed (some remans can still be seen at very low tide in Broome). Derby, Kalumburu and Wyndham were also attacked during the war.

We also used the opportunity to vote early at the town hall (as we won’t be home on voting day). Unfortunately all the other caravanners had the same idea, so it was the first time we stood in a queue for more than 10 mins to vote in Aus. FYI: We did not vote for the Sex and Marijuana Party ;-)
We went to see the 170 mil yr old dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point. Last time we visited Broome, we missed this as it just above the low tide mark and only visible for an hour or so a few days per month. My dear dinosaur-fanatic wife wanted to put her hand into the footprint!

The Staircase to the Moon: This is a special event that happens only three times per month when the full moon rises over the ocean at low tide. Because of the big tidal change, the wet beach glimmers and reflects the beams of the moon, making the ripples in the sand look like a staircase leading up to the moon. We camped right next to it. As special as ever! We went twice.

Broome is also famous for the camels at sunset on Cable Beach (truly one of the most special beaches in the world). In 1889, an undersea telegraph cable was laid from Broome to Singapore, connecting to England. So it was named: Cable Beach.

Staircase to the moon

Staircase to the moon

Staircase to the moon 100s waiting

Staircase to the moon 100s waiting

Playing with fire

Playing with fire

Our caravan park and beach where we swam

Our caravan park and beach where we swam

Not only raod trains are big

Not only raod trains are big

Markets of food music and stalls

Markets of food music and stalls

Mangrove trees live in sea water

Mangrove trees live in sea water

Japanese pearl divers

Japanese pearl divers

Japanese cemetery

Japanese cemetery

Ganthaume Point where dinosaur footprints are

Ganthaume Point where dinosaur footprints are

Cities of ants

Cities of ants

Camels ar Cable Beach sunset

Camels ar Cable Beach sunset

170 mil year old dinosaur print

170 mil year old dinosaur print

Posted by ChrisHenriette 06:43 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Derby and visiting a unique aboriginal community

Went in to meet the Mowanjum peole

32 °C
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Derby (pop 5000)

The drive to Derby was long because there are not many interesting stops. We did see an amazing Boab tree (a “very special” one compared to 100’s of just “special” ones) and a Western Brown snake crossing the road (6 foot plus).

Derby is at the end of a low, flat peninsula almost surrounded by mud flats and mangrove inlets. The area is known as King Sound (sound made by rivers Fitzroy and Murray Rivers come together into the ocean). This town is best known for its 11m tidal variation (no typo!) This is the highest in Aus and one of the highest in the world. See the photos taken from the same spot at the wharf to compare (and the sunset one was taken 2 hours before full low tide). From here (in the Buccaneer Archipelago) to the north there are over 1000 islands, with only Cockatoo Island inhabited because of an iron ore mine. If I was rich, I’d love to have a decent boat to explore this!

We stayed two nights, partly to allow us to visit the Mowanjum Aboriginal Community. This community is known for its unusual art (no dot painting) and we loved it (one of the big processions in the 2000 Sydney Olympics were theirs). We went early enough to allow us to attend worship at their church behind the art centre (4km outside of town on the Gibb River Road). It was a wonderful experience in hospitality and we made friends with Rev Joe and his wife Losana that ended in a great dinner at their place (Barramundi… yum). What great people that do such an amazing job. Small example: Something like teaching this community to eat tomatoes (in the morning tea sandwiches), which they hated, may seem like a small thing, but it has allowed many of them to reduce malnutrition.

On the way back we stopped at the waste water wetland and bird observatory.

We also stopped at the Boab Prison Tree. Its girt is 14.7m and it is believed to be 1500 years old. It is shocking that aboriginal people were held there many years ago to take them into slave labour.

Myall’s Bore next to it is 322m deep and feed the 120m long trough (the longest in the southern hemisphere.

We needed to leave early (7.00am) because word is that Broome is getting fully booked by grey nomads and backpackers (partly because it is time for the “staircase to the moon”)

The yellow line from right to left is our journey

The yellow line from right to left is our journey

Termite in WA have different styles

Termite in WA have different styles

Sunset at the wharf

Sunset at the wharf

See vertical stick at low tide 10m lower

See vertical stick at low tide 10m lower

See vertical stick at high tide

See vertical stick at high tide

Rev Joe and Losana

Rev Joe and Losana

Prison tree

Prison tree

Mud skippers with wings

Mud skippers with wings

Mowanjum morning tea after worship

Mowanjum morning tea after worship

Mowanjum kids at worship

Mowanjum kids at worship

Mowanjum Community worship

Mowanjum Community worship

Main street in Derby

Main street in Derby

Cattle trough longest in southern hemisphere

Cattle trough longest in southern hemisphere

Posted by ChrisHenriette 19:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Halls Creek, Mary Pool and Fitzroy Crossing

Small towns and birding paradise next to river

33 °C
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Halls Creek (pop 1600)

This is the Kimberley’s most inland town. Our map book called it “not the prettiest town you’ll ever see”. That is true. There is a great visitor centre and it has free wifi reception, so we were able to catch up a bit on email and facebook, etc.

There is a wonderful story in this town about a bloke named Russian Jack (Ivan Fredericks) who famously pushed his friend in a crude, home-made wheel barrow for more than 300 kilometres through the Sandy Desert to a hospital in Wyndham. His friend was there and a doctor took two weeks to get to him when he died of an unrelated illness (malaria). This was part of the inspiration to Rev Flynn to start the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Such a beautiful story of Aussie mateship deserved a statue in town.

Halls Creek is a dry town, the same as our next town, Fitzroy Crossing. Only low alcohol (2%) beer is allowed to be sold here. We were saddened to see so many Aboriginal kids of school going age wandering the streets.

Mary Pool river side free camping
We discovered a beautiful free camp next to the Mary River, well maintained by the shire of Halls Creek. Amenities, great riverside sites, pits for a wood fire (BBQ in our case) and amazing gum trees. This truly was a bird watchers paradise, causing us to linger for an extra day. We saw a red/black/white mistletoe bird, around 150 Corella Cockatoos, small flocks of Cockatiels (Weiros) and many more.

Fitzroy Crossing (pop 1500)
This is a small town, with most people of Aboriginal Descent (in the Valley there are more than 40 communities combining five language groups). In the Wet the Fitzroy River can rise to 13m over the crossing (26m over the old concrete crossing). In peak flows, it reaches 27 300 cubic metres per second (enough to fill Sydney Harbour in about 5 hours). This is one of the longest rivers in Australia with a catchment of 90 000sq km.

We used this as a base to explore Geikie Gorge National Park. This NP is one of only two parks in the Kimberley to be accessible by sealed roads. After the beauty of Carnarvon and Katherine Gorges, this was small but worth a short visit.

Trivia about the Kimberley: 350 million years ago large areas where we will be travelling were once part of the tropical sea. So some of the cliffs we encountered were actually old coral reefs (if interested, Google the Oscar and Napier ranges and the wall like limestone ridges northwest of Fitzroy Crossing).

The Dressmaker, Van Loveren CabSav and ribs

The Dressmaker, Van Loveren CabSav and ribs

Russian Jack and his home made wheel barrow

Russian Jack and his home made wheel barrow

Our home among the gum trees

Our home among the gum trees

Our caravan from opposite side

Our caravan from opposite side

Night Heron

Night Heron

Mary River next to our free camp

Mary River next to our free camp

Jabiru

Jabiru

Geikie Gorge

Geikie Gorge

Geikie Gorge reflection

Geikie Gorge reflection

Entrance to free camp

Entrance to free camp

Egret hunting at sunset

Egret hunting at sunset

Cormorants drying at sunset

Cormorants drying at sunset

Cockatiel

Cockatiel

Around 150 Corella Cockatoos around us

Around 150 Corella Cockatoos around us

Another 2000 year old Boab next to the road

Another 2000 year old Boab next to the road

Posted by ChrisHenriette 04:37 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

The Bungle Bungles are the best

Nature's miracles require serious 4x4 driving

32 °C
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Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles)

Purnululu (the Kija Aboriginal word for sandstone) Park is home to one of Australia’s most unusual phenomenons. There are not many times we get excited about driving off road for 100’s of km’s, but to really see the Bungle Bungles, we were willing! The tours were expensive, flying was even dearer, so ….we drove in. This was a challenging drive. We were especially worried about our two back tyres as they are getting near the end of thier life span. Twin axle caravans are not allowed and only 4x4's allowed. We did 200km of off road driving that most describe as tougher than the Gibb River Road.

What a highlight this place was! 300 meter high domes (“beehives”), rising above savannah plains dominate the landscape. The orange bands are oxidised iron layers and the grey bands are composed of cyanobacteria growing on the layers of sandstone where moisture accumulates. Cyanobacteria are single celled organisms that represent some of the oldest life-forms on earth. We think (admitting our bias) that if had a full choice, we would still prefer driving and walking it all rather than flying over it!

We did Echidna Chasm Walk (2km) the Domes Walk (1km) and the Cathedral Walk (3km). We stopped at lookouts, and took more photos than I want to count (almost 300 actually). This is the stuff of bucket lists!

It made for a very long day. We left at 6am (the weather changed overnight and went as low as 12 degrees at sunrise) and came back at sunset. The car is brown, we crossed a number of muddy creeks, but we just loved it. It is so hard to explain how special it is. Being in Echidna Chasm at midday and seeing the sun’s rays turning everything orange inside…You just needed to be there!

With a very dusty car and a caravan in need of a wash, we left on the Great Northern Highway again.

We did the Bungle Bungles

We did the Bungle Bungles

Typical roads

Typical roads

The Bungle Bungles

The Bungle Bungles

Spinifex grass can be beautiful

Spinifex grass can be beautiful

One of several creek crossings

One of several creek crossings

More Bungle Bungles

More Bungle Bungles

Map of the Bungle Bungles

Map of the Bungle Bungles

Inside Echidna Chasm

Inside Echidna Chasm

Grey Goshawk

Grey Goshawk

From Kununurra mountains upon mountains

From Kununurra mountains upon mountains

Even more Bungle Bungles

Even more Bungle Bungles

Entering Echidna Chasm

Entering Echidna Chasm

Entering Bungle Bungles road at sunrise

Entering Bungle Bungles road at sunrise

Echidna chasm at noon

Echidna chasm at noon

Dusty roads 200km in a day

Dusty roads 200km in a day

Cathedral Dome

Cathedral Dome

Bungle Bungles

Bungle Bungles

Bungle Bungle walks

Bungle Bungle walks

Bungle Bungle walk

Bungle Bungle walk

Posted by ChrisHenriette 15:03 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wyndam views and Prince Harry's playground

We slept in an Aboriginal Community

35 °C
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Wyndham (small town most northerly in Kimberley)

We travelled form Kununurra towards Halls Creek, but 10km after the turn-off, we stopped at Wuggubun Aboriginal Community. We camped there for one night, using it as a base to unhook the van and drive up to Wyndham and back for the day. That saved us from towing the van 55km and back. Waggubun’s became famous when Prince Harry visited last year and played soccer with the kids. It is a beautiful spot between mountains (only 3km dirt road). There isn’t much in terms of camp sites, but the amenities look like they were built for the prince’s visit and I got the impression we were the first white folks to visit this year. We enjoyed Aimee telling us that young Harry (she calls him) thought that Wuggubun was nicer than nearby El Questro.

Wyndham’s major tourist attraction is the Five Rivers Lookout, so we had to go there. On top of the Bastion Range (300m up) there is a spectacular view that encompasses the West Arm of Cambridge Gulf, as well as the Ord, King, Pentecost, Durack and Forrest Rivers. We couldn’t stop talking about the view, out to the Cambridge Gulf and the distant Coburn Ranges. We saw long land edges of mangroves where the ocean pushes in and salt plains and the views were better than photos can describe. Down below you could also see the remains of the old Meatworks which was a massive abattoir that operated in the 1950s and 1960s.

We also visited Parry Lake Park where we sat for a long time in a bird hive next to a billabong and simply watched all the birds come and go. We may have each had a power nap there ;-)

On the way back (40km south of Wyndham) we climbed down 140 man-made steps into the Grotto, a lovely deep little canyon, for a swim. It was nice to have no one around so I didn’t need to get my bathers wet to swim.

The next morning we were off early to camp outside Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles). The park fills up and we need to prepare for a rough day out on the 4x4 tracks.

Wyndham from viewpoint

Wyndham from viewpoint

The Grotto going down

The Grotto going down

The Grotto below

The Grotto below

Sleeping over in Wuggubun Aboriginal Community

Sleeping over in Wuggubun Aboriginal Community

One of five rivers coming together

One of five rivers coming together

Narrow winding road through 100s km of mountains

Narrow winding road through 100s km of mountains

Five rivers join and go to the ocean

Five rivers join and go to the ocean

Boab from the time of Jesus

Boab from the time of Jesus

Bird watching

Bird watching

Bird watching at billabong

Bird watching at billabong

Bird watch at 1km long billabong in dry plain

Bird watch at 1km long billabong in dry plain

Aboriginal statues in Wyndham

Aboriginal statues in Wyndham

20m cement croc in Wyndham

20m cement croc in Wyndham

5 rivers come together at Wyndham

5 rivers come together at Wyndham

Posted by ChrisHenriette 04:35 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Kununurra is green and surrounded by water

Green and mountains and rivers

34 °C
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Kununurra (pop 6000)

Upon entering WA, we had a quarantine check of the car and caravan (no fresh fruit, veggies or honey) as there is a bacterial risk that can be carried by bees and infect pure stocks in WA.

Our camping spot was next to the beautiful Kununurra Lake. The park is visited by many water birds and finches.

Using this as our base, we spent half a day to do two short hikes in the 2068ha Mirima National Park (Hidden Valley) just outside Kununurra. The interesting rock formations are smaller, similar versions of the Bungle Bungle Range. One hike takes you to a lookout point overlooking Kununurra and the Ord River Valley, surprising us again about how green and lush this town is.

We also visited the Hoochery Distillery, the Sandalwood Factory and a metal work artist outside Kununurra. The distillery is the oldest legal still in WA and the only one that makes rum. We don’t drink rum, but enjoyed just having a look and driving through beautiful irrigated farmlands.

We enjoyed visiting Ivanhoe Crossing where the opening scene to the movie “Australia” was shot (driving over with a model T Ford). I wasn’t successful in convincing Henriette that we should cross (she was thinking what would happen if we got stuck in the middle – croc lunch?). Actually, significant parts of the movie were shot in this area.

The weather is finally starting to change. The air is dryer, and I've had my first hot shower of the year (in Hervey Bay I switch to hot water on 11 April, my birthday)

The plan was to use this as a base to explore Wyndham and then go south, but a booking bungle by the caravan park made it impossible for us to extend, so we decided to move on and go towards Wyndham.

Welcome to WA

Welcome to WA

Rum distillery outside Kununurra

Rum distillery outside Kununurra

Our view in Lakeview Caravan Park

Our view in Lakeview Caravan Park

Nor Paarl winelands but Sandalwood outside Kununurra

Nor Paarl winelands but Sandalwood outside Kununurra

Mirima Nat Park view of Kununurra

Mirima Nat Park view of Kununurra

Kununurra

Kununurra

Ivanhoe Crossing

Ivanhoe Crossing

Ivanhoe Crossing where opening scene of movie Australia was shot

Ivanhoe Crossing where opening scene of movie Australia was shot

Hidden Valley Mirima Nat Park

Hidden Valley Mirima Nat Park

Drop off cane toads for humane disposal

Drop off cane toads for humane disposal

Posted by ChrisHenriette 05:38 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Gregory National Park and Zebra Rock Mine

Our final few days in the Territory

35 °C
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Gregory National Park and Zebra Rock Mine

Our Trivia game: We had a gut feeling that the caravan and motorhome crowd outnumbered the road trains by 2 to 1. So to test this theory, we started counting vehicles coming towards us as we travelled from Katherine to Timber Creek (300 km). And we counted 63 caravans and motorhomes versus only 23 road trains, so the grey nomads and tourists won!

The stretch from Katherine to Kununurra was a bit too much, so we decided to break it up by visiting Gregory National Park and an interesting mine area. So on our first night we camped at Big Horse Creek in Gregory National Park ($3.30pp) where the creek joins the huge Victoria River (outside Timber Creek). We timed it so we can attend the slide show by the local ranger on the National Park, hoping for interesting insights from the Aboriginal ranger. Unfortunately he forgot the USB at home, so he ended up showing us his own slides of his previous years at Mary River in the northern part of the Territory. Because we had already visited the area a few weeks ago, we found it interesting anyway to watch and listen.

What was amazing about this area, was how quickly the vegetation and landscape could change. We were excited to see our first Boab tree of the trip, and within 10 kilometres we saw literally hundreds. The boab is a relation to the boabab of Africa and Madagascar. They are fast growers and live for over 1000 years. We learned to suck the fruit’s white pith (see the photos below) of the seed for lots of vitamin C.

A highlight for us was to discover a bower, built by a Great Bower Bird (see photo of the bower and the pair of birds below). This is built by the male to impress the female. When he stands in front of it, she can appreciate how talented he is as a builder, collector, and decorator. Then she goes off and builds the flimsiest of nests some distance away and they start a family.

On we went to Zebra Rock Mine Camping Site next to Lake Argyle. We took two days to relax and plan our next stage through the Kimberley towards Broome and further. It was also our opportunity to eat up all our fruit and veggies before passing through the quarantine inspection at the border with WA. We donated our left over honey to campers going in the opposite direction.

The three people (and their little girl, Opal, running around with her pet python – as you do) who are running this mine are a unique and enterprising bunch. They secured the lease and now run tours in their mine and on Lake Argyle and operate the caravan park to fund their Zebra rock mine. It makes for beautiful jewellery and table tops. We really enjoyed the abundant bird life and amazing jam and cream scones. We were very excited to see so many Double Barred Finches, Red-backed Fairy-Wrens, and White-throated Honey-eaters. We camped next to a rocky creek, and my patience next to the water hole paid off.

Trivia on Lake Argyle: Biggest man made fresh water lake in the Southern Hemisphere (depending on water levels). The dam wall in the Ord River was completed in 1963. It covers 2000 sq km and holds up to 54 times the volume of Sydney Harbour. 12 000 ha (80 farms) are under irrigation, producing sunflowers, pumpkins, melons, mangoes, bananas, sugar cane, cotton and more. There are around 25 000 fresh water crocs and birds species (in 1986 they recorded 180 000 birds of 59 species) in the man-made lake.

And so it was time to say Bo Bo (goodbye in the local Aboriginal language) to the Territory. Now we enter Western Australia (into the Kimberley) and turn our clocks back 90 minutes.

Zebra rocks

Zebra rocks

Zebra rocks are special

Zebra rocks are special

Where Big horse Creek meets Victoria River

Where Big horse Creek meets Victoria River

Victoria River is huge

Victoria River is huge

Tour entering Victoria River

Tour entering Victoria River

Sunset in the Kimberly over the border

Sunset in the Kimberly over the border

Scereny changing every 15 minutes

Scereny changing every 15 minutes

Quarintine bewteen the states

Quarintine bewteen the states

Opening gates to the mining area where we camped

Opening gates to the mining area where we camped

Double Barred Finches and female red backed fairy wren

Double Barred Finches and female red backed fairy wren

Camping under the Boabs

Camping under the Boabs

Camping east of Lake Argyle then Kununurra

Camping east of Lake Argyle then Kununurra

Bower bird impressing his girlfriend

Bower bird impressing his girlfriend

Bower bird bower

Bower bird bower

Boab seeds fallen off

Boab seeds fallen off

Boab seed is edible

Boab seed is edible

Boab country

Boab country

A bit off dirt road to Zebra Rock Mine

A bit off dirt road to Zebra Rock Mine

Posted by ChrisHenriette 03:33 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Katherine Gorge is majestic

Doing this with friends is the best

35 °C
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Katherine Gorge

Travelling back from Berry Springs, we stopped over in Litchfield National Park for a second quick visit. This was primarily because our good friends David and Elna Kriel (from Perth) were joining us and we wanted to show them around. This park is so special we didn’t mind visiting again! And we got to swim at Wangi Falls (it was closed a month ago due to croc risk). Then we all went further south to Katherine Gorge. On our last visit to Katherine we skipped the gorge because we knew we were doing this with our friends.

We booked the tour into the first 3 of the 13 gorges. This meant a 4 hour experience which includes a bit of a walk in between and a swim high up into the third gorge. This was a truly wonderful experience. We went deep in and saw cliffs so high and with such deep colour that the photos don’t really do it justice. We saw beautiful fairy martins (small swallows) nesting, a freshie, and aboriginal rock art.
It was a great experience to do with friends. This tour is a very relaxing experience.

They treated us to a dine out, we went swimming 7 times in 3 days (nice for Perthonites escaping the cold). All in all, it was so nice to host friends in our little mobile home!

Now we change direction again and head towards Western Australia. A couple of national parks and then we’ll be in Kununurra.

Table top wetlands in Litchfield

Table top wetlands in Litchfield

Swimming at Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park

Swimming at Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park

Possum above our caravan

Possum above our caravan

Lilly Ponds Falls

Lilly Ponds Falls

Lilly Ponds Falls with expats from Durban

Lilly Ponds Falls with expats from Durban

Kriels shouting us Barramundi and Lamb curry at Big Fig

Kriels shouting us Barramundi and Lamb curry at Big Fig

Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge(ous)

Katherine Gorge(ous)

Katherine Gorge walks

Katherine Gorge walks

Katherine Gorge views

Katherine Gorge views

Katherine Gorge entrance

Katherine Gorge entrance

Katherine Gorge cruise

Katherine Gorge cruise

Getting to know the locals at Litchfield caravan park

Getting to know the locals at Litchfield caravan park

Friends admiring Cathedrals in Litchfield

Friends admiring Cathedrals in Litchfield

Can you see the wallabies in the mist

Can you see the wallabies in the mist

Buley Rock Pools

Buley Rock Pools

Posted by ChrisHenriette 19:30 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Berry Springs is a huge surprise

What a jewel that so few know about

35 °C
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Berry National Park

We were waiting for friends from Perth to arrive for a catch-up visit in Litchfield National Park, se we needed to kill some time. And we did hear that Berry National Park was nice, so we headed there (we passed the 7000km mark since leaving home). What an amazingly positive surprise.

We stayed in Tumbling Waters Caravan Park (my chiropractor in Palmerston insisted it was the best) and found it so good, we extended to 4 nights. Nice pool, abundant bird life, large palm tree lined sites offering privacy and shade, and even a croc enclosure and deck chair cinema (we saw shooting stars as we watched a Paul Hogan movie). No wonder so many grey nomads stay here for a month or more during the dry season.

And the surprises kept on coming. Berry Springs are beautiful and worth a long picnic (which we did three times!) swimming in deep, blue pools (amazing blue due to the high mineral content from water coming from deep down). Especially entertaining were the Archer Fish. These fish aim at insects perching on vegetation on the bank, and then shoot a stream of water two metres up to hit the insect and when it drops in the water, it pounces. It was lovely to play with them. It was difficult to capture this in a photo, but if you look at the one where Henriette held out a Dorito (corn chip), you’ll see it fly in to the left directly after the hit (the water shoots from his mouth at 6m per second through a specially adapted bottom jaw with a groove in it). I did take a 4 second video which I will try to post on facebook.

The biggest surprise, however, was the Territory Wildlife Park next door. The owner of our caravan park warned us to set aside 4 hours, but we ended up going from 9.00am to 4.30pm. What a wonderful day it was. There is a mini train that runs through every 30 mins and allows you to rest your legs as you go from one exhibit/enclosure/ attraction to the next. There was the monsoon forest walk, heaps of aviaries, a dingo enclosure, crocodiles, fresh water stingrays, hand feeding Wallabies and Wallaroos, and aquarium and a nocturnal house (we really loved the sugar gliders). The best for us was the flight deck with a brilliant rapture bird show. We learned so much and experienced so much. What a brilliant day.
Wonderful Wallaroo: Most of the animals in the park are “rescues” and therefore hand-reared. One wallaroo developed this peculiar behaviour whenever the feeding happens. When he hears all the human voices, he takes a nap in the midst of the meal! (See photo). By the way, they love fresh sweet potatoes.

Now we're going south again. Back to Litchfield for a quick stopover.

Where is my photo

Where is my photo

Wedge tail eagle is our biggest

Wedge tail eagle is our biggest

Wallaroo on left Wallaby on right

Wallaroo on left Wallaby on right

Tumbling Waters every site lined by palms

Tumbling Waters every site lined by palms

Train in park every 30 mins

Train in park every 30 mins

Thats the spot right there

Thats the spot right there

Territory National Park

Territory National Park

Tawny Frogmouth

Tawny Frogmouth

Tawny Frogmouth  up close

Tawny Frogmouth up close

Sleepy Wallaroo

Sleepy Wallaroo

Peeks out after 4-5 months

Peeks out after 4-5 months

Pandanum Spiralus

Pandanum Spiralus

Monsoon Forrest Walk

Monsoon Forrest Walk

Juvenile Heron watching fish

Juvenile Heron watching fish

Imperial Pigeon

Imperial Pigeon

Entering another exhibit

Entering another exhibit

Black-breasted Buzzard breaking Emu egg with rock

Black-breasted Buzzard breaking Emu egg with rock

Billabong at caravan park

Billabong at caravan park

Berry Springs water coloured by high mineral content

Berry Springs water coloured by high mineral content

Berry Spring cool down

Berry Spring cool down

Archer Fish with pronounced bottom jaw

Archer Fish with pronounced bottom jaw

Archer Fish shooting, see Dorito to left

Archer Fish shooting, see Dorito to left

Posted by ChrisHenriette 04:40 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Palmerston outside Darwin

WWII bunkers and the markets

34 °C
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Palmerston

The repairs to the caravan were more difficult than anticipated, so we ended up staying in a motel style room with an en suite in Free Spirit Caravan Park outside Darwin. Lovely park with great pool, but a rowdy aboriginal group staying next to us made sleep a faraway dream, to say the least.
We passed the time by going to Charles Darwin National Park for great views over the wet lands toward Darwin harbour. It was in this park that secret bomb shelter (for storage) were built during and after WWII. Reading information about the war was very interesting. I’ve included a few photos for those interested, explaining that the 2nd WW was actually 2 wars in one, and the shock of how big the area was that Japan controlled when it was in “expansion mode” in 1942.

Finally Jayco managed to fix the gas struts on our caravan, se we ended up going on our way again. We stopped outside Palmerston at Oasis Caravan Park.

Palmerston is a pretty satellite of Darwin. Not much more than a big shopping mall and lots of suburbs. We went to the nearby Coolalinga morning markets on Saturday morning. It was great to taste local and exotic food. It is such an experience to go to markets like these. You can buy anything from fresh fruit and Thai desserts (which we did) to fake crocodile for your fish pond, or real snakes (which we didn’t).

Trivia about the Northern Territory: The population of the NT is 245 00, which is only half that of Tasmania. This makes it the most sparsely populated of the states/territories. 30% of the locals are aboriginal, and the area is truly multicultural. Wikipedia: “The greater Darwin area is the ancestral home of the Larrakia people. On 9 September 1839, HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin harbour during its surveying of the area. John Clements Wickham named the region "Port Darwin" in honour of their former shipmate Charles Darwin, who had sailed with them on the ship's previous voyage which had ended in October 1836. The settlement there became the town of Palmerston in 1869, and was renamed Darwin in 1911.The city has been almost entirely rebuilt twice, once due to Japanese air raids during World War II, and again after being devastated by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.”

So off we go to Berry National Park. This will be a small detour before passing by Litchfield national Park again. We need to revisit to explore the roads that were still closed during the late wet season.

Where we were

Where we were

Wars won't stop Aussie humour

Wars won't stop Aussie humour

Two wars in one

Two wars in one

Shooting down a plane when exiting the shower

Shooting down a plane when exiting the shower

Ships sunk in Darwin harbour

Ships sunk in Darwin harbour

Saturday markets

Saturday markets

Inside the bomb dumps

Inside the bomb dumps

From Charles Darwin Nat Park to CBD

From Charles Darwin Nat Park to CBD

Darwin CDB

Darwin CDB

Black headed python giving me the squeeze

Black headed python giving me the squeeze

Black headed python for sale

Black headed python for sale

Backpackers belongings sorting before return to Germany

Backpackers belongings sorting before return to Germany

Area Japan controlled in 1942

Area Japan controlled in 1942

Posted by ChrisHenriette 02:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Coroborree Billabong

An hour from Darwin is this beautiful wetland

35 °C
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Coroborree Billabong

We had a gas strut pop out on our caravan’s roof, so we were forced to turn back to Darwin (our closest Jayco service centre) for repairs. I spent several hours trying to get the roof back down (needed to be square and with three struts it pushed sideways). After falling of my stepladder, and a lot of perspiration in 34 degrees, I managed to get it ready for driving 4 hours later.

We stopped halfway to go on a 2 hour wet lands trip at sunset at Coroborree. It is a beautiful, huge billabong with so much wild life to experience up close and personal.

The caravan park at Coroborree had a 4m saltie (named Brutus) and a fresh water croc in enclosures on site. See the photos for the clear differences.
The tour on the billabong was spectacular at sunset. We saw snakes hanging of several trees (three at one stop), more birds than we can recall, a big 5m croc and quite a few “normal” sized ones, learned much about lotus flowers and all trees that grow in and line the wet lands. We even ate lotus flower seeds and tasted green ants (Henriette skipped that one). It is so special being to close to the water (low boats) to experience it all so directly.

Then it was off to Darwin to get the caravan fixed (covered by warranty) and to head off to Palmerston. This is our amended plan to go back to Litchfield National Park.

White Bellied Sea Eagle

White Bellied Sea Eagle

Sunset snake basking at sunset

Sunset snake basking at sunset

Sunset over the wetlands

Sunset over the wetlands

Sunset over Coroborre billabong

Sunset over Coroborre billabong

Our flat boat on Coroborree billabong

Our flat boat on Coroborree billabong

Lotus flowers so thick crocs are everywhere

Lotus flowers so thick crocs are everywhere

Frshwater croc looks quite different from saltie

Frshwater croc looks quite different from saltie

For $250pn you can sleep amongst the crocs

For $250pn you can sleep amongst the crocs

Brutus the saltie at the caravan park

Brutus the saltie at the caravan park

Brutus is 4m so 50yrs old

Brutus is 4m so 50yrs old

5m croc approaching us

5m croc approaching us

Posted by ChrisHenriette 03:39 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Kakadu is magic

Free guided ranger walk make Kakadu special

35 °C
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Jabiru as base to Kakadu

We based ourselves in Jabiru to explore this vast heritage listed national park. This spans 20 000 sq km of wetlands, rock formations, waterfalls and amazing, varied, animal life. E.g. twice as many fish species as the Murray Darling (biggest river system in Aus) and 280 bird species. There are the rugged cliffs of the Arnhem Land escarpment that hide deep sandstone gorges and pockets of monsoon rainforests with vast low-lying wetlands. There are deep billabongs invested with beautiful lily’s, Jacana (long toed birds, called Jesus Birds) seemingly walking on water, and hidden saltwater crocodiles. Waterfalls cascade into crystal clear plunge pools fringed with Paperbarks and Pandanus trees.

We chose a caravan park that was more expensive, but virtually mozzie free. It had an amazing pool and the design of the park is special. It is built in concentric circles around the pool area. Every site is spacious and the trees provide heaps of shade.

We used the park as a base to explore in different direction across Kakadu.

Attending a sunset walk at Nourlangie with Kakadu ranger Christian Diddams was such a highlight, that we changed our plans to start “stalking” him. In three days, this guy taught us more about Australian bird, plant, animal life and the land, than we collectively knew up to now. So we went back to the bird hive the next day (30km going back) at Mamukala to join him on the 2.5km walk. He pointed out every bird, plant and explains what can be eaten, the 6 seasons, etc. E.g. The photo of him at the green bush is the only habitat for the red and blue large grasshopper that lives here. The photo of the dry resurrection grass is to demonstrate a plant that can turn green in 24 hrs if you pour water on it. Christian was so enthusiastic and teaches you so much that we stayed on for a slide slow of 2 hrs on the next evening as well. Amazing that all this can be free.

What a privilege this was. It made Kakadu a very special experience for us.

Trivia: If you have time, Google the Mercure Hotel in Jabiru for an arial photo. looks like a croc from the air.

We've had a technical problem with our caravan, so we're heading back to Darwin. More about that later.

When rangers perspire it is 36 degrees

When rangers perspire it is 36 degrees

Tents in our park in Jabiru for groups

Tents in our park in Jabiru for groups

Sunset looking towards stone country

Sunset looking towards stone country

Rock art walk

Rock art walk

Resurrection grass

Resurrection grass

Ranger Christian Diddams

Ranger Christian Diddams

pool in Jabiru Caravan Park

pool in Jabiru Caravan Park

Nourlangie rock art

Nourlangie rock art

Nourlangie Map

Nourlangie Map

Nawrlandja lookout sunset

Nawrlandja lookout sunset

Native rice across wet lands

Native rice across wet lands

Hotel in Jabiru built to look like croc

Hotel in Jabiru built to look like croc

Posted by ChrisHenriette 19:21 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Croc Action and Aboriginal Art

Ubirr and Cahil's Crossing

36 °C
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Ubirr and Cahill’s Crossing

We went to the north of Kakadu to see the aboriginal art at Ubirr, do the walk through amazing rock formations and climb to see the views across the wet lands. What a wonderful and inspiring experience.

We timed it to be around lunch time as we also wanted to visit Cahil’s Crossing nearby. This is the only road from Kakadu leading into Arnhem Land. Arnhem Land is 122 000 km in size (around 80% of the size of South Africa) with all dirt roads and only 16200 inhabitants. A harsh place. Even though the crossing is probably 40km from the ocean, the influence of the tide is quite profound. Within 30 minutes it went from calm to 60cm deep of rushing water. And then it turned around and the water rushed back from right to left again. This tidal change is the time when fishing fanatics compete with huge crocs for the Barramundi (lively fighting and delicious fish) in the raging waters.

And we saw some drama. A croc that came out of nowhere and caught a fish (see the fish in his mouth on my photo) taking in the debris with it. But we also saw a car that stalled and had everyone holding their breath as they pushed the car through the crossing with the huge croc less than 15m away.

Lots of drama. But such is Kakadu!

Wet lands and ERA uranium mine side by side

Wet lands and ERA uranium mine side by side

Unnusual rocks all over Ubirr

Unnusual rocks all over Ubirr

Ubirr walk in 36 degrees

Ubirr walk in 36 degrees

Ubirr in north of Kakadu National Park

Ubirr in north of Kakadu National Park

Ubirr art walk and climb to lookout over flood plain

Ubirr art walk and climb to lookout over flood plain

Not good for car to die with large croc 15m away

Not good for car to die with large croc 15m away

Long neck turtle painting 20 000 yrs old

Long neck turtle painting 20 000 yrs old

In the wet all this green is under water

In the wet all this green is under water

Croc speeding in to prey

Croc speeding in to prey

Croc comes up and catches Barramundi

Croc comes up and catches Barramundi

Cahil's Crossing on incoming tide

Cahil's Crossing on incoming tide

Barramunidi painting 20 000 yrs old

Barramunidi painting 20 000 yrs old

Posted by ChrisHenriette 05:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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