DAY 5 27th JULY 2012
STREET SWEEPER CAMP to DRY GRASS CAMP (East of Victoria River)
Will I ever cease packing? First job drag the kayak trailer out and repack and tidy up, a bush rat had made a nest in our gear, I hated evicting it but that’s how it is in the peck order of humans and rats. After the trailer tidy up it was to the supermarket for last minute stock up.
The scenery for first hundred kilometres after leaving Katherine in the direction of Kununurra is nothing to rave about, dry Savannah country and most of it burnt bare. The only highlight at this time of the year is the flowering Kapok tree. Amazingly it loses its leaves in the dry (winter) but it flowers in winter, as does the Kurrajong in this country.
I reckon nature has designed the kapok to flower in winter when the trees have no leaves to make it easy for insects and birds to find the flower.
The country changed as we motored west into the Gregory River National Park, quite high basalt hills dominated the landscape, it’s an almost black landscape, definitely not picture postcard stuff but interesting.
As the day crept on we started looking for a bush camp, there were a number of designated camps but they were full of grey nomads.
The first spot we stopped at today was OK but a bit worn and we could be seen from the road. The second spot, where we are now camped, is much more acceptable. We are well off the road, dead grass under feet on the edge of a lagoon with magnificent river red gums standing guard. If we had overnighted at the first spot we stopped I would have considered sleeping on the roof rack so as to avoid the bushfire soot underfoot. There are a number of good reasons why sleeping on the roof rack is a good option: if the ground is too rocky or muddy under foot to move around comfortably, if there are leeches or the odd crawly, if it is hot, being up high catches the breeze and a final advantage, if you are sleeping illegally, such as in a car park, no one knows you are there. I built the roof rack so one of the cross bar fits between the bottom of the rib cage and the hip.
DAY 6 28TH JULY 2012.
DRY GRASS CAMP to BOWER BIRD CAMP (Sixty km east of WA border)
I read a story about a bloke who had a dream that a snake had crawled into his sleeping bag during the night. It turned out it wasn’t a dream. When he woke he realised there was a brown snake curled up on his chest, it obviously came in for the warmth. As you would expect, he was petrified. He dared not move. Fortunately a mate slit the bottom of the sleeping bag open and forced smoke from a fire into the bag. The snake, sensing danger, crawled out. You would need nerves of steel not to freak. You are probably thinking this is a bush myth; maybe it is but at least if a snake gets into your sleeping bag you know how to deal with it.
This morning we watched the sunrise on the river red gums, a pheasant coucal dropped in and a mob (murder) of crows came and cast their beady eyes over us. After taking a GPS reading of the camp (you never know, we may pass this way again one day), we hit the road. Beautiful day to be on the road too, there is a cool breeze keeping the temperature down to around 25 degrees.
Soon after leaving camp we crossed a mountain range and one big mesa beckoned us to climb.
It’s hard to believe that this was once a marine environment and that the tops of these mesas were actually at the lowest point in the sea.
Our second stop today was at the Victoria River Roadhouse. Not for vittles but to walk across the disused low-level bridge and the new multi million dollar replacement. The last time I was in this part of the world was when Ian and I were returning home from our overland journey from Perth to London and working in the Pilbara region of WA. I can’t remember going over the old bridge but I guess we did.
Around 150 kilometres east of the NT/WA border we began looking for a spot to have a fire because in error we purchased vegetables in Katherine forgetting that there is a ban on taking vegies and fruit into WA. Our thinking was if we cooked the vegies before crossing the border any nasty bugs would be well and truly incapable of taking up residence in WA.
Today boab trees began to appear. We managed to find an isolated one to photograph. Along the road verges today we found a number of plants we were familiar with, the kapok bush, fruit salad plant, Bishop’s crown and the cockroach bush. We get a certain sense of achievement from the fact that we can identify plants, trees and birds as we travel. It makes me wonder what people who are not interested in natural history achieve out of travel.
Brought into Australia by the Afghans and used as a source of padding for their camel saddles. When the seed pods burst copious amounts of seed disperse into the air.
Crush the flowers and it is easy to understand why it is so named.
The cockroach bush (Cassia notabilis) is what I call a volunteer plant, meaning it’s the first to go in and start revegetation of disturbed land. Often found in table and spoon drains along the side of the road.
The boab, sometimes called bottle, tree is a native of Australia and from my observations it is a pretty adaptable tree because I have seen them growing on barren mountains of scree, standing in water and on salt flats. They are easily transplanted too.
Around sixty kilometres from the WA border there is another sandstone range with huge vertical cliff faces facing the west. We stopped for a closer look at a sandstone cliff and now we find ourselves camped near the base of it waiting for the sun to set. A moon hovers overhead so tonight is going to be one of those nights we will not forget.
This belongs to a Greater bower bird. For readers not familiar with bower bird antics it goes like this: the male of the species gathers material objects and decorates the entrances to his bower with them with the plan to lure a female through the bower so she can see how conscientious he is in being a provider. Bower birds in isolated locations such as this one usually have no human objects in the bower other than a couple of pieces of broken glass. In more populated areas they gather all manner of objects including bottle tops, tech screws, cable ties, colourful electrical clips, in fact any piece of colourful object they can get their beak around.
Note that this bower has no material objects to attract the female. The male belonging to this must think having a beachfront location is sufficient to attract a female. The act of a female passing through the bower indicates she is suitably impressed and is prepared to mate. I have been called a bower bird because of my habit of collecting stuff for recycling.
DAY 7 SUNDAY 29TH JULY 2012
BOWER BIRD CAMP TO KUNUNURRA LAGOON CAMP
This morning we awoke to a breezewhispering through the trees carrying with it the distant howl of a couple of dingoes. I expected to hear from dingoes here as the surrounding cliff faces are dotted with caves, just the sort of place for lairs. There seems to be little evidence of wildlife around for dingoes to prey on, I expect they live mostly on road kill. This morning Bev and I went for an early morning walk through recently burnt country and because there was no grass the country was laid bare, skeleton-like. I have no need to write a description of what the landscape looked like, the following photographs do the talking.
The big event today other than poking around the burnt boab country was a visit to the Argyle Dam. The wall is not Hoover Dam in mass or size but it is impressive and it does hold back a mass of water, twelve times the amount in Sydney Harbour if that means anything to you. The geological formations surrounding the dam are awesome; it is impossible to imagine how much force was required to sculpt the countryside.
I don’t have enough knowledge of geology to explain how these mountains were formed. If there is a geologist reading this blog I would appreciate an explanation.
After the dam it was into Kununurra. When I was last here in 1970, there were only a few houses and a pub but now the town has grown relative to the irrigation development surrounding the town.
Sometimes we have no alternative but to stay in a caravan park in a town because there are certain domestics to be attended to. The park we chose is on the edge of the Lily Lagoon an artificial lagoon created by the backup of water behind a diversion dam on the Ord River nearby.
From our very excellent camp on the edge of Lily Lagoon we can watch activities around us.
I’m amazed at the number of dogs people are carting around, some huge and others small like these two. Unfortunately not all dog owners pick up their dog’s doo. It’s a pain when you have to pick up dog crap at a caravan park site before you can set up camp.
If backpacker types camp next to us we usually end up talking with them about travel experiences. Camped next to us tonight is a Dutch brother and sister, Linda and Peter, they are travelling in a graffiti-strewn Wicked van.
I would love to decorate my car like this, not with this sort of image but with some of our best photo images.
Linda and Peter have asked us to stay with them in Holland if we pass by their way. They want to take us canoeing around the Frisian Islands in northern Holland. They have made this offer because we took then kayaking on the lagoon at sunset. Linda was hesitant to go as she had an extreme fear of water so with gentle encouragement I convinced her to have a go. I put her in the front of my kayak and reassured her as we went. Upon return to the shore she exclaimed it was the greatest achievement of her life, overcoming her fear of water.
Went for a shower after kayaking but didn’t really enjoy it as the water was cold. I can understand why because there are around 300 sites in the park and all but a few are taken, not with simple tent campers like us but with large rigs. There is big money in the grey nomad world. Some might suggest we are grey nomads but this is not the case as we don’t travel from town to town staying a week or two at a time, as seems to be the definition for a grey nomad. I once asked a nomad what sort of a day he had. His reply was lousy because he got a stone chip in his car and would have to take it to a spray painter to have it fixed. Some are quite pedantic about their rigs. It amazes us how clean the grey nomad cars are even in areas where water restrictions apply and there is no car washing allowed.
Extremely cold tonight, it’s 7.30 and we are in bed already.