Days 8 9 10 and 11 Kununurra and Wyndham

DAY 8   MONDAY 30TH  JULY 2012


Comb-crested jacana, also known as a lotus bird, a new sighting for us.

The interesting feature of this bird is not only do they walk on lily pads, but the adults put chicks under their wings when threatened, carrying them with the chick’s legs trailing behind.  Haven’t seen this remarkable feat though.

Last night was extremely cold. According to the weather on the iPad it was 11.7 degrees but because of the wind chill factor I reckon it was around 7 degrees, which is cold in these parts.  The coldest recorded is 6.2 degrees and that was during the first week in July this year. I don’t know how the mangoes and paw paws like this sort of temperature.

Mucked about the camp most of the day. Fortunately for us we are on a finger of land running into the lagoon, with a neighbour on one side only so our view to the west, north and south is unimpeded.  Kayaking on the lagoon late this evening had rewards. We spotted four new water birds, the wandering whistling duck, comb-crested jacana (this chap has big feet and walks on water lily leaves),  Radjah shelduck and an Australian shelduck.

Lily Lagoon camp. Our camp is the white spot on left between the two hills.

Waterlily on Lily Lagoon (Nymphaea species).

Nymphaea comes from the Greek term “Νυμφαία”, possibly related to “Νύμφη” meaning “nymph”. The nymphs in Greek mythology were supernatural feminine beings associated with springs so the application of the name to delicately flowered aquatic plants is understandable.  Note: I have Greek words in this description as I’m practising for when we visit Greece during this Odyssey.  It is going to be a challenge drawing maps with Greek lettering but I’m looking forward to it.

 Not a lot of boating activity on the lagoon as weed fouls outboard motors, it’s OK for kayaking though.  There is a main channel kept open so fishermen in their tinnies can gain   access to the Ord River proper and once on the river they can travel a few kilometres down stream to a diversion dam or upstream for around fifty kilometres to the Argyle Dam.

Lagoon weed chomper

This ‘unco’ looking machine is fitted with paddles for forward motion and chomps through the weed (the business end is on the right) and deposits it in a barge.  The collected weed is then used as fertiliser.

Visited Kununurra CBD this afternoon and went to the local supermarket expecting to buy local produce, but nothing available.  Food here is more expensive than on Groote Eylandt and that is saying something.

As I write I can feel the cold coming down.  We won’t be long out of bed. 

DAY 9    TUESDAY   31ST JULY 2012


Australian shelduck. To see one of these at Kununurra is unusual as it is on the extreme edge of its known range.

If this cold weather keeps up we are going to have to go north. The only place to go to keep warm is Bali, which is what the family next to us have just done.  Our neighbours are travelling with four children in a big rig. They come from Melbourne and have taken six months to get this far. They thought a trip up to Bali would be good for their kids’ education.  I suggested to the parents that they might like to consider doing what Bev and I did when travelling with our two boys in Australia and overseas years ago. We buried time capsules as we went, thinking that one day they might travel to the same places with their children and dig them up. What excitement it would be!

Today we did the tourist thing, climbed a staircase to a lookout. Getting a bird’s eye view of a town is really the only way to get a handle on where you are.

Kununurra town

Later today we visited a sandalwood plantation and therein lies a fascinating story.  If you are not interested in botanical matters skip the next couple of paragraphs.

 Sandalwood oil is sought after by major perfume manufacturers, not only for its aromatic qualities but sandalwood oil sticks to the skin longer than other oils so if it is mixed with aromatic substances it lingers longer on the skin.  The major source of sandalwood  (Santalum album) is India but because of overharvesting and poaching trees there are now classified as an endangered species.  So an Australian company about nineteen years ago saw an opportunity to establish a plantation.  Sandalwood requires water and a hot tropical climate so there was no better place to establish a plantation than alongside the Ord River.

The story now gets interesting. The Indian sandalwood species being grown on the plantation we visited today is a parasitic plant, sucking its nutrients and moisture from a host tree, so to establish a plantation you need to plant not only sandalwood trees but host plants as well including Sesbania, Alternanthera, Cathormium and Delbergia.  After fifteen years the sandalwood tree including roots are removed from the ground and chipped and the oil is removed using a steam extraction process.

Sandalwood tree growing in association with host plants. The sandalwood is the darker green tree wedged between the lighter green host trees..

Cross section of sandalwood tree. It seems a shame to not make furniture out of such a beautifully grained tree.

No sandalwood trees have been chipped from the plantation yet but in a couple of years they will be, in the meantime the products manufactured (hand creams, balms, beauty products) by the company responsible for the plantation establishment use Australian native sandalwood (Santalum spicatum).  A great entrepreneurial story; what fascinates me is how long did it take to work out what host trees to plant.

After the botanical experience we stopped off at the Kununurra Hotel for an old time’s sake beer.  Ian and I had a beer in the beer garden of the pub in 1972 en route to Darwin from the Pilbara.  After talking with the hotel receptionist I realised the beer garden had change little since 1970.  Amazingly I remembered where we sat, even the direction I was facing.

Kununurra Hotel beer garden, 43 years on.

Back at camp tonight, it is cold again. We have our bags for the overseas part of our Odyssey packed and stored on the roof rack of the car. In the bags we have feather dumpers (coats) and are now considering breaking them out.



You probably don’t want to hear about the weather again so all I will say is we now have our feather jackets on.

Arrived Wyndham around midday. It hasn’t changed much from when Ian and I were here in the 1970s.  After finishing our second stint surveying the iron ore railway we passed through Port Hedland to Derby.  At that time we were advised the Fitzroy River was in flood and it would remain so for another three months, so not wanting to drive back down the coast road and east across the Nullarbor we put our Landrover on a state ship and had it transported to Wyndham.  At the time, state ships were carrying the bulk of freight from Perth to Darwin and calling at ports along the way.  The ships also carried passengers so it was a first time sea voyage for us.  The journey from Derby to Wyndham aboard the flagship MV Kangaroo took two days and one night.


MV Kangaroo, the ship in which we travelled

In the 1960s and early 1970s state ships were doing a roaring trade as the road network in the north of WA was basically gravel for most parts. It was much more comfortable to travel by ship.  Travelling in a state ship was like going on a cruise, the service and accommodation excellent so a lot of tourists made the journey.  On our voyage there was a prostitute who would attend to the needs of not only men in the ports but the needs of the crew as well. Unfortunately she fell down the companionway and sprained her ankle and because we had a vehicle the captain asked us to take her to the hospital and wait while they plastered her ankle then bring her back to the ship.  We obliged but the one thing I remember about her was her cheap perfume, a smell I have never forgotten.  Often in shopping complexes a woman will walk past exuding the same perfume and I immediately think of the Wyndham event.

Low tide at Wyndham wharf

Due to the enormous tide variation in the Kimberley region state ships had flat bottoms so when the tide went out they sat level.  Tide variation can be as much as ten metres.

Four locals and two dogs on a lump of bark. This is how the locals travelled before the advent of the tinnie.

The previous three images by courtesy of Wyndham Museum.

The west arm of the Durack River

The MV Kangaroo came up the river here and dropped us and our Landrover off at the wharf (behind the trees) from where we continued to Darwin.

Wyndham port where we disembarked in 1970

At the port today ships are loaded with iron ore transported by road from about two hundred kilometres away.

The previous two photographs were taken from the Bastion, a mountain overlooking the port of Wyndham.  In the 1970s when we were in the area there was no road up to the lookout.

Main street Wyndham Port

The business centre of Wyndham Port has changed little, the only time its tranquility is disturbed these days is when a road train carrying iron ore thunders through.

The defunct general store in Wyndham Port

Tonight we are staying in a very low-key caravan park in Wyndham town. There are no boom gates, few signs telling the visitor what to do or what not to do, there is a fireplace at our site with wood supplied and a proper camp kitchen nearby.  I asked the owner could I sit in the kitchen and write and charge my laptop, I offered a couple of dollars for power usage but she wouldn’t hear of accepting money.

Our campsite in the Wyndham Caravan Park

Bev thought she spotted an owl here, which later turned out to be a brown goshawk.   We made a mistake of telling the caravan park owner about the sighting, she told a resident twitcher and he turned up in a very excited state wanting to know where Bev had seen it.  In future if we see what we think is a rare bird we will keep it to ourselves.

Day’s end on top of the Bastion. This couple were from Switzerland.

DAY  11       THURSDAY  2ND  AUGUST 2012


 Last night we both slept well.  First job today was to adjust the alternator belts as they are squealing. It is not unusual for new belts to stretch and need adjustment soon after fitting.  All attempts to loosen the alternator pivot bolt was futile as the dude who fitted the belts in Katherine had butchered the bolt head and there was no way of loosening it without a little heat or a special tool.  A donkey came and offered advice but I still couldn’t get the bolt undone.  It looks like a return to Kununurra tomorrow and a visit to the Toyota man.

THE OLD DONKEY.  He said if I didn’t have a replacement bolt I shouldn’t take the butchered one out. If I did I might not be able to get it tight enough to get us back to Kununurrra!

Readers of this blog will remember that early on in Leg 1 Bev said we should stay two nights at the good camps from now on. Well, this is what seems to be happening.  It’s easy to fill in a day sitting around the campfire reading or even going back into the tent and having a snooze during the day.

Having rest days like today makes one feel we are travelling well.  It brings truth to what Buddha is quoted as saying; ‘It is better to travel well than to arrive.’


About tbeartravels

It's been said that I know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about little things. I hope I can share some of this knowledge with you as we travel.
This entry was posted in Odyssey #1 2012: Australia Europe. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Days 8 9 10 and 11 Kununurra and Wyndham

  1. Daniela says:

    Greetings from the Swiss couple 🙂 Have a safe trip and we look forward to hear more of your travel experiences!

  2. Sara says:

    Xave wants more pics of mama bev and mama Fred, to ‘have a taste’ of the beer, and see more t bear pics!

  3. Raymond McLaren says:

    This is wide ranging blog, Fred, and vedry interesting, you arelike a travelling encyclopaedia the way you can link local finds to the wider world of our culture and technology.
    I have always felt about travel as Buddha says, and this is one of the great things about travelling and camping in Oz
    Safe next stages


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