Outback Australia. An Adventure in the Kimberley – Kununurra Dreaming

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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.

Outback Australia

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.

Kununurra Dreaming

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.

Interesting Fact

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.

Around Kununurra

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.

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Kimberley Cafe

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.

Art Gallery

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.

Kelly’s Knob

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.

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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 

Fast Facts

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.”

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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.

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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.

The cruise

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.

Oh Yuck!

“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.

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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.

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“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

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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

30g butter

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

Salt, pepper

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 One -Why you should escape to the Kimberley in Outback Australia

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

Day Six –  An inside Guide to a Waterfall Wonderland

Day 7 –      A Billabong, 5 Rivers and a Hoochery

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Comments

  1. That sunset over the Ord River is amazing! I will have to put that on the travel itinerary.

  2. Definitely leave enough time for The Kimberley region, Kathy. There’s more to see and do than I could have ever imagined. The sunset over the Ord was incredible, and those bats – wow!

  3. Hi Johanna,

    I so want to visit the Kimberlys – surely it must be on everyone’s wish list but it’s oh so far away.

    The campsite looks gorgeous with the pool and the lake and I wonder if you can swim in the Ord River.

    I might not be visiting for a while but at least I can try the fish sauce recipe – yum!
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot recently posted..Personal Travel Map Arrives to Keep Memories AliveMy Profile

  4. Catherine says:

    Hi Johanna. I LOVE Lake Argyle, the Ord River, and surrounds, such a beautiful place! Thank you for sharing your exciting adventures with us.

  5. Amazing pictures… so colorful :)
    Muza-chan recently posted..Japanese superstitions, the broken getaMy Profile

  6. Another wonderful adventure and tour, Johanna! That Lemon Chive Sauce sauce sounds yummy but absolutely sign me up for that Ord River Cruise. My eyes were sparkling and I had a big smile on my face because that sounds right up my alley! Another great post :)
    Mike recently posted..What Do Vegan Zombies Say?My Profile

  7. Thanks Mike! I’m glad you enjoyed the virtual tour especially the Ord River Cruise – it was a lot of fun. Hope you manage to try the lemon chive sauce one of these days :)

  8. Thanks for reading Catherine! Hope the post brought back some happy memories for you too :)

  9. Thanks Muza-chan! Glad you like them :)

  10. There’s freshies in the Ord River – I think residents used to swim in there, but these days I’m not so sure. Yes, I hope you get to the Kimberleys one of these days. Thanks for commenting :)

  11. I remember when I first heard that Lake Argyle holds the amount of water equal to 21 fills of Sydney Harbour. It was hard to comprehend but seeing the agriculture area that it feeds makes it all worth while! Such a stunning part of the world. I really must get back there!
    jenny@atasteoftravel recently posted..Istanbul’s Stunning Chora MuseumMy Profile

  12. An incredible statistic, hey Jenny! Yes definitely time you headed back to that neck of the woods soon. Thanks for popping by today :)

  13. wow what a nice trip, i would love to take a boat trip down there, it’s stunning! Thanks for sharing Johanna.
    noel morata recently posted..20 travel tips and advice to make your foreign travel effortlessMy Profile

  14. I loved the whole post but that sunset just knocked me out of my chair! Beautiful post.
    Jackie Smith recently posted..South Pacific: A Tender TaleMy Profile

  15. I remember that red dirt well – it was falling out of the joints of our campervan for years to come. Lake Argyle is so beautiful. I remember reading Kings in Grass Castles and the homestead in that book was shifted to accommodate the dam. It is amazing that it’s capacity is 21 times larger than Sydney Harbour’s.
    budget jan recently posted..Kampot Sunset at The FrontMy Profile

  16. I still have to read Kings in Grass Castles, Jan, but I’m looking forward to it. Yes, I forgot to mention that the homestead was shifted lock stock and barrel to accommodate the dam. It’s great that they did keep it almost entirely as was – amazing how it’s done really.

  17. So glad you enjoyed it Jackie and yes, that sunset was a keeper. But I expect you’ve seen quite a few amazing ones on your travels too. Hope we can entice you to WA one of these days.

  18. Reckon you’d love the boat trip down the river, Noel! Can only imagine the wonderful photos you’d produce :)

  19. What a day full of adventure and beautiful nature! I don’t think I have seen a river so pretty in blue like River Ord. Lake Argle looks spectacularly blue! And yes, that stunning sunset certainly takes the Oscar! Really great shot!
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted..Bhutanese Mask Dances at a Festival in BumthangMy Profile

  20. You are making my mouth water looking at the photos – and all those slices of cake and cappuccinos too. Looks like an outstanding part of Australia to visit and one I’d definitely do if given the chance.
    Leigh recently posted..A First Timer’s Guide to Montreal’s IgloofestMy Profile

  21. I really want to visit the Kimberly now. I even started Googling cruises, but the Adventures Wild tour sounds fantastic, too. Unfortunately, I live in a different continent, so I will have to first figure out when I’ll get to Oz. The colors of the photos of the sunset and the lake are so brilliant and saturated. I love it!
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Modern Art and Confusion at the Pompidou CentreMy Profile

  22. Wow, that sunset photo is just stunning! It’s such a great way to see the sights and Ord River is just beautiful. That 3 day trip to kayak sounds so neat and I’m not even a camping type person. I can certainly see this is such a hot tourist spot.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Touring Biosphere 2: Where Science LivesMy Profile

  23. WOW. What gorgeous photos. Australia is one of those destinations my husband and I would LOVE to visit. We love kayaking, hiking, and the outdoors in general. You were extremely thorough with your review of the area. I’ve got the travel bug now – thanks!
    Beth Teliho recently posted..Inside A Man’s HeadMy Profile

  24. Jo, your pictures are like paintings. That boat ride has such a peaceful scene. I have to try that recipe and I’m sure a few drams of wine would be perfect for the meal. I don’t know how you crammed so much great adventures into this trip.
    Neva Fels recently posted..Robert Redford “In” a Cake at the Sundance Film FestivalMy Profile

  25. Thanks Neva :) Dave and I share the photography and we’re constantly trying to better each other, but often can’t remember who took which shot ;) An artist has recently asked if she can paint some of our pics of The Kimberley (which is lovely of her and very flattering), so it’s funny you should mention they look like paintings. Yes, we crammed a lot into this trip, that’s for sure. I hope it’s inspiring others to do the same. Thank you for popping by :)

  26. Hi Beth, Oh I’m so glad that my posts on the Kimberley are inspiring you to travel to Australia! Sounds like you would love the lifestyle :) Thanks for reading and commenting :)

  27. Thanks Mary! Yes the Kimberley has become one of the iconic places in Australia to visit. The 3 day kayak trip looks like quite an adventure doesn’t it!

  28. Hi Michele! I’m so glad my words and pics are inspiring you to visit the Kimberley – a cruise would be fantastic, but they are pricey because they are still so exclusive (no great huge ships in those parts yet). Meanwhile an Adventure Wild tour is more affordable, and we reckon you probably couldn’t do it much less expensively yourself. Thanks for your kind compliments about the photos.

  29. Thanks for reading Leigh – and as always I’m glad to introduce fellow travellers to WA and hope they are inspired to visit one day.

  30. Thanks Marisol! It was not a difficult photo to take, so I have to give full credit to mother nature there!

  31. I am amazed… there is so much to explore! Natural beauty with the combination of an art gallery too. I have been to Australia once, but I guess I need to be there again.
    Renuka recently posted..26 Reasons You Should Travel To India…My Profile

  32. Yes, so much to explore Renuka. And each State in Australia is very different :)

  33. I love that pink canoe! and you sunset shot is outstanding. Living in Korea, I am used to paying a lot of coffee when I go to the coffee shop. However, 6 dollars is way out there!
    Nancie recently posted..Chiang Mai — Massaman Curry with a Twist on Foodie TuesdayMy Profile

  34. Thanks Nancie! Interesting that coffee is expensive in Korea. Yes, we thought $6 was way over the top too.

  35. Samuel says:

    Very nice pictures and a beautiful place.

    First time here.

    Keep up the good work here!

    – Sam
    Samuel recently posted..13 Important Elements for a Successful Online Marketing PlanMy Profile

  36. Thanks, Samuel :)

  37. The Ord River and Lake Argyle, those shots are magical …
    Rachel M recently posted..Loiyangalani Desert MuseumMy Profile

  38. Hi Johanna,

    This is the first time I came across your blog. I am not a very frequent traveller , but I usually take couple of weeks every quarter to travel. As part of my trip I been to Queensland and had an amazing time. The blog and the pics that you have shared for the Western Australian region are lively.
    I hope to visit this part of Australia next time. It’s a helpful resource to plan a perfect trip for 2 weeks or so. Great info

    Thanks
    Susan

  39. That’s great, Susan! I hope that you do manage a trip to the West Coast – there is so much to do and see, and so very different to the East coast :) Thank you for popping by, please come back again :)

  40. Love the photos. Incredible!
    Aaron recently posted..Caving in Margaret RiverMy Profile

  41. Thanks Aaron!

  42. Super post Jo! I have been to the Kimberley, but it was a work thingy with no time or resources to get off the main drag. This is the perfect inspiration to make the trek north one more time. Great story telling with something for everyone.

  43. Thanks Wanda! Glad you enjoyed the story and it’s inspired you to head north again :)

  44. australia has lot of beautiful places, spcially for the beach,
    i love australia
    :-) . want to go there again, miss you australia

  45. This my dream!! Australia <3

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