09.06.2010 - 13.06.2010
We set out for one of three possible free camp sites along the highway, and finally grabbed a couple of spots at Saddle Creek free camp alongside the highway. It was a beautiful (but dusty) spot with a great view of the massive red cliffs around about us. Mary & I had arrived before Brian and Maureen, who had decided to look at another possible site, and we decided to set up for our sandwich lunch.
Shortly after we started eating a 4WD car towing a sizable caravan swooped in along the gravel roadway from the highway. I could hear an unusual sound as it sped into our tight little camp road, and is the driver turned around in a cloud of dust and gravel; I noticed that they had a flat tyre on the left caravan wheel. The driver just continued his rapid spin around at the camp entrance and sped back out to the highway with campers shouting out to the driver, and running after the fast disappearing vehicle. I jumped into my car and tried to radio on the UHF channel but no response as we observed the vehicle disappear up the road. A few minutes later Brian and Maureen arrived with tales of a large caravan, travelling at some speed, past them in the opposite direction, with sparks and smoke billowing from at least one caravan wheel!
We had a pleasant stopover there and enjoyed the magnificent cliff colouring in the sunset.
We set out early for Keep National Park, situated some 21 Klms off the main highway, and only a few Klms from the border with Western Australia. Having previously checked with the Park Rangers about 2WD access on a road described as ‘a dirt road’ I was a bit reluctant to go in, however, although it was quite corrugated for most of the journey we managed to keep ahead of the great clouds of red dust stirred up by our passage!
On arrival at the camp site we were very pleasantly surprised at the magnificent beauty that surrounded the camp. Different bird species that we were not familiar with were in abundance. There were two bush toilets that were welcome sights, even if not the odours. We set up camp on well-arranged van sites and settled in to a very relaxing two nights stay.
There was one bush walk, however, it was the accepted practice to do the hour and a half walk anti-clockwise in the morning, and in reverse in the late afternoon. This enhanced to effects of the sun on the spectacular rocks and cliffs and allowed more opportunities to see and hear different bird species – of which there were many.
Many photos later we enjoyed our dinner and spent the evening under the black skies filled with stars in all their created glory, although this was somewhat reduced by the fact that the van battery, which we relied on for powering our water pump for drinking and washing water had failed. To add to this frustration was in finding that the spare water container that I had bought in Katherine for the purpose of providing back-up water supply, had leaked about five litres of valuable water into the boot of the van. I was not happy!
Sometime in the very early hours of the morning my bladder decided to insist that I get up and visit one of the toilets, however, in the almost pitch dark, as I started towards the nearest toilet I heard a dingo howl, quite close to the camp site. The first was then followed by several answering howls from the rest of the pack! A very Alfred Hitchcock effect was all the incentive that I needed to head for the close by bush, complete my mission, and dive back inside the van!
After my rather restless night, we arose to prepare for our departure from the Park. After some confusion about departure time, we were ready to move out of the Park to our next destination.
Imagine my annoyance when the car battery refused to start the car! Brian suggested that I disconnect the power link between the car and the van (the van fridge was connected to the car to power the fridge while travelling), and thus reduce the power load. Fortunately this worked and we got under way, driving very slowing over the badly corrugated road back to the main highway.
Along the very dusty road we suddenly saw a sole brolga flying past us. Normally a part of the local fauna, but as it was early in the Dry Season, not many had yet arrived from elsewhere. A magnificent sight of a very large bird.
Along the way we stopped at a mystery point with a challenge to climb a small hill nearby to observe a most unusual Aboriginal feature. The brief walk revealed a very clever subterfuge employed by Aboriginal hunters to attract different hawk and kite species into a hunter’s ‘hide’ and thus the hungry of the tribe received a meal of reluctant hawks! Very clever indeed.
We made the rest of the way out to the highway and set off for the nearby Northern Territory/Western Australian border where a quarantine base was located to prevent the spread of cane toads and a range of fruit, vegetables and honey into WA. No problems emerged from either of our cars as we had ensured that we had cooked and eaten all potential hazards to WA before arriving at the checkpoint.
Putting our clocks back 90 minutes to WA time, we arrived quite early at Lake Argyle for a couple of nights camping. However, we shortly realized that we could not do justice to this beautiful place and so we immediately booked another two nights! Mary & I booked for the morning cruise to see more of this isolated oasis.
I spent more than an hour hand washing the (apparent) tonnes of red bull dust from the van. Dust was everywhere and literally got up your nose! Finally, having got the bulk of the cleanup done I made my way to the showers adjacent to our site. After three nights on the road and in the bush with no showers, that was one of the best showers that I ever had!
We enjoyed a fairly peaceful night although struggling to cope with the significant time change, especially relating to dawn and dusk.
Up early and surprised my hair with another shower! Breakfast and then down to the office for a pre-cruise video of Lake Argyle’s very brief history. Lake Argyle was built in the 1970’s to service the construction of the Ord River Dam project that the Federal and State Governments realised it was necessary to provide nearby farming districts with a reliable supply of water from irrigation. The Ord River floods every wet season and all the fresh water raced into the nearby ocean. The result of three incredible seasons of work (only during the seven to eight months Dry Season) was a 300 meter dam that holds back the potential for 80 Sydney Harbour’s worth of water. I have seen a number of dams around the world, and for the A$22 million it took to complete the project in 1972, it was a fabulous investment. A significant electricity generation system provides a full supply of electricity to the nearby Lake Argyle diamond mine – one of the world’s largest.
With a fresh breeze we enjoyed a two-hour cruise over a small portion of this lake that is large enough to be called an inland sea. We decided not to take the swim option when advised that an estimated 25,000 fresh-water crocodiles call Lake Argyle home! We saw several, so sat back, enjoyed the lovely morning tea and the fascinating flow of information from Scott, our skipper. A wonderful time that we all enjoyed.
Back for lunch, then some more detailed van cleanup before dinner. In the meantime we had tried to find a cause for the flat van battery, but decided to go the recharge route until we get to Kununurra, our next stop, where we hope to get this fixed once and for all!!
No TV reception so managed to get this up to date (on my laptop at least) before another attempt at catching a decent fish in the morning – crocs permitting!