Welcome to Day 8 of an exciting 12 day adventure traveling overland in the Kimberley region of North West Australia. We’re in the Eastern Kimberley at Kununurra camping in a beautiful site near a lake.
If you’ve never been to The Kimberley then I can only say, Go! It’s still one of the great, remote outback destinations of Australia, but it’s been getting worldwide accolades, so it’s probably safe to say that tourist numbers to the area will increase. You can go overland with a tour company as we did, or on a cruise – the latter is still on my bucket list.
If you’d like to catch up and read days 1 – 7 of our tour with Adventure Wild, then please scroll to the end of the post, because I’ve added all the previous links for you to enjoy the whole story so far.
Most of us are up shortly after the sun rises, and we hear tour guides, Choccy and Greg clunking pans preparing their usual breakfast feast. As we’re eating a cooked breakfast fit for kings and queens, Choccy informs us that we’ve gone through 17 loaves of bread already.
I don’t know why I remember that really but, Jeepers! That’s a whole lot of wheat in 8 days!
It’s lucky that Kununurra is Choccy’s stock-up town, and I’ll never forget the sight of her pushing not one but two full trolleys of food out of the local Coles Supermarket to replenish our supplies.
It’s cooler here
It’s cool and fresh this morning and everyone is wearing fleecies and telling tales of how they stayed warm in the night. Funny really, you don’t expect to feel cold in this part of north western Australia at any time of year.
“The trick is,” Choccy tells us, “To put your blanket in your sleeping bag, not over it but in it, because it traps the air and forms a layer of insulation.”
I think about the Duracks and other pioneer families mustering cattle in the old days, how did they keep warm as they trekked for months on end across the outback? No sleeping bags in those days, and I wonder what tips they passed on to each other.
Kununurra was only gazetted in 1961 when the Ord Irrigation scheme was being implemented, so it’s still a relatively new town, and allegedly the youngest in Western Australia. The dam was built as part of an irrigation scheme to drought proof the area.
After breakfast we enjoy walking around the lake which adjoins the campsite, and then wander into town, around quiet wide streets which are shaded by big eucalypts, ghost gums, frangipani trees in abundant bloom and beautiful fuschia coloured bougainvillea.
Some of us visit a diamond shop and marvel at the Argyle Pink Diamonds some of which cost around $100,000 and I wonder what it would be like to own one – could I ever justify spending so much money on one shiny object – Never! Oh alright then, go on, if you’re buying!
But for me the whole question of the morality of such an expensive sparkling piece of rock on one’s finger is suspect when so many people around the world don’t have enough food to eat.
We have coffee and cake (pricey $6 for a mug of cappuccino) at the charming Kimberley cafe. There are horse bits and farm equipment strung on the walls, along with a saddle, saddle bags, harness, bridals, horse shoes. Tables depict the different Kimberley stations and their histories with pictures.
The Lovell Art Gallery tempts me with its defining big pink bow on the outside, and its interesting outback art within. I’m particularly taken with Nadeen Lovell’s paintings of Boab Trees, because Boabs have been such a memorable part of this trip and will forever remind me of the Kimberley.
I leave Dave at the crossroads. He’s decided to brave the sun and walk up Kelly’s Knob (don’t you love Aussie’s descriptive place names!) to the lookout at the top, and later on like my hunter protector he brings back photos to share with me of an expansive panorama peppered with green trees, a surrounding rugged landscape and Lake Kununurra in the distance.
Ord River Cruise
At around 11.30am we’re picked up by coach and taken on a 70km bus journey to Lake Argyle with Triple J Tours. We’re going to do a ground tour of Lake Argyle (the Ord River Dam), including a visit to the historic Durack Homestead after which we’ll be on a 55km boat cruise to Kununurra along the Ord River.
Did I mention that we’ll have tea, coffee, scones and cake on the riverbank in the shade along the way? Yum!
The Ord River is an amazing river system. The development of an irrigation scheme in the 1960′s changed the fortune of the Kununurra region forever and a successful agricultural industry was born along with a destination geared for eco and nature based trips.
Our guide Grant tells us that two dams were built. The Dam that we walk over was built in 1972 to irrigate the Carr Boyd Range. It lets around 50 – 80 tons of water per second flow through its sluices. The beautiful blue expanse of Lake Argyle created by the dam equals in the vicinity of 21 Sydney Harbours full of water.
Tip for the cruise
Don’t Forget: Camera, sunglasses, jumper (May to September) and bathers (October to April).
I’ve written more overland travel tips on other Travel Blogs here; 21 Travel Tips to ensure your overland tour is tops and a post about 5 Gorges to see before you die
If you do get the the chance to do the river tour then it’s well worth it.
But first, we visit the small shop at Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park where there are cabins for hire. It’s a beautiful spot, perched on a hilltop overlooking the lake.
“Lake Argyle Caravan and Camping Park is situated 35 km off the Victoria Highway at the end of a sealed road. The Park covers an area of more than 5 hectares with over 100 shady powered van sites and ample room for unpowered camping. Shaded by large hills to the west in the afternoon, the park is set in a peaceful location surrounded by breathtaking scenery.”
There is an onsite restaurant, bar and shop with basic supplies such as bread, milk, ice, bait, gas and fuel. A range of souvenirs are available from the shop as well as cold drinks, ice creams and snacks plus an Information and Tour booking centre.
Then we drive on to the historic Durack Homestead which takes you back in time to the times of the pioneering families who trekked through these parts and made their homes here. The small house is fascinating and I’m transported into days’ gone past.
As we leave we spot a Bowerbird in the bushes, and he’s collected lots of little bits of colourful mosaic. Darn! I didn’t take a photo. Just goes to show you should take a pic of everything, and cull later.
All aboard and we’re off, speeding pretty fast along the river. It’s exciting zipping through the high cliffs that rise from the river banks which display another show and tell lesson of the earth’s history, and we only slow once we start to explore the small creeks.
We’re in Cooliman Creek. Grant shows us a green tree ant nest, picks off an ant and eats it. “They’re good tucker.Very citrussy. Full of vitamin C,” he says.
“6 – 7,000 freshwater crocs inhabit the +-50kms of river between the Kununurra Diversion Dam and the Ord Dam. The freshies are harmless to humans unless you step on them or antagonise them. They’re actually scared of humans – they eat insects and small stuff, ” says Grant. “Sooty Grunter and Silver Cobbler are found here too – the little creeks like this one are good for Sotty Grunter,” he continues as we motor quietly up the small creek.
Along the river we spot bright flashes of colour skulking in the creeks . Canoes! You can apparently book an exciting 3 day trip to kayak along the river with designated camps set up along the way.
We pass a white bellied sea eagle’s nest.
“Eagles eat the turtles – there are 4 species of turtle in here – it’s a big part of their diet.” says Grant.
We see cone crested jacanas and a rufous night heron.
But it’s the sunset that takes the Oscar. It’s fabulous and a photo frenzy ensues as the palette of colour changes by the second. Then a huge colony of flying foxes fly over head darken the blood orange sky. You can just about see some of them in the photo towards the top right.
“About 2 million bats live in the bush around here,” says Grant.
The sky is full of them as they mass overhead and the smell is rank. The sunset is speckled orange and black, and it feels weird, as if I’m in a dream – but Gah, the smell tells me otherwise!
“They’re nectar feeders – won’t hurt you – true fruit bats – they cross pollinate on a massive scale,” says Grant as the sky almost turns black above us. I read later that that they have large specialised eyes that allow them to forage and navigate at night. They omit ultrasonic signals and are able to navigate and locate prey without seeing. Amazing.
Kimberleyland Camp Site
Much later we arrive back at camp and our wonderful guides have been busy preparing the evening meal which consists of Barramundi with Lemon Chive Sauce (served with salad and potatoes.) I begged Choccy for the sauce recipe, and she kindly let me have it – here it is.
Lemon Chive Sauce
3/4 cup of water
1 chicken stock cube
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp cream
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbs chopped chives
Melt the butter in a pan, add water, sugar and stock cube, mix well. Add lemon juice and combined cornflour and cream. Stir until sauce boils and thickens.
Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes uncovered. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped chives.
TIP: We drank a few drams of wine – some of us had stocked up at the bottle store in Kununurra (when we visited there were restrictions - takeaway is between midday and 8pm, no sales on Sundays, and takeaway wine and spirits are limited to a bottle per person per afternoon).
And so to bed
But nobody is late to bed tonight and a fairly subdued bunch of adventurers hit their pillows well before the moon reaches its zenith in the sky.
After all, tomorrow promises to be another exciting day, and nobody quite knows what’s in store.
Disclaimer: My trip was courtesy of Adventure Wild
Links to my previous Kimberley Posts
Day Two – Three Awesome Gorges in the Kimberley
Day Three – Wild Hibiscus and Bobtails
Day Four – 13 Reasons to visit Outback Australia
Day Five – Bubbles and Baramundi
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