Wildflowers in the Pilbarra

Our eagerness to get back to Perth after having been away for nearly two and a half years has trumped our desire to travel slowly through the Pilbarra on our last leg of this trip.

Iron-ore rich, red Pilbara country.

Iron-ore rich, red Pilbara country.

Balancing Rocks.

Balancing Rocks.

Our planned four day trip has been condensed into two days. We left Broome, travelled through Port Hedland and took the Great Northern Highway via Newman towards Perth. First stop was a roadside stop approximately 280kms north of Newman.

Tonight, our second night, we’re in Cue, 1582kms south of Broome. Tomorrow we’ll travel the remaining 646kms and will be back in Perth at our favourite Perth caravan Park – Karrinyup Waters.

Those distances no doubt sound horrendous to both my overseas readers, and to some of my interstate readers. BUT – in WA, those distances aren’t difficult, even with a fifth wheeler trailing along behind. Since leaving Broome we haven’t been through any traffic lights, and we’ve only been through a couple of intersections ( both in Hedland). We’ve only had two road turns, the first as we left Broome and turned onto the Great Northern Highway, and then again as same Highway turns south just after Hedland.

Being a mining area, the superb roads are maintained to a high standard for the huge road trains. The road train drivers travel at a good speed on the flat or down hill, and are very courteous when they’re on an uphill grind. We have a CB radio which we keep tuned into the truckie’s channel. The truck drivers have a long, clear view of the road ahead, and give us the all clear when it’s safe to overtake. A constant speed of around 95kms an hour is easy to maintain.

A road train with three carriages, (some have four carriages and can be up to 53metres long.)

A road train with three carriages, (some have four carriages and can be up to 53metres long.)

Before we depart in the morning (at around 7am) we fill our thermos for coffee, and we pack our snack and lunch cooler bag to keep in the car between us. Paul drives, and it’s my job to keep him fed, watered, and entertained. A good supply of fresh fruit, nuts, and crackers with cheese, between sips of iced water keeps us sustained throughout the day. The iP0d provides entertainment with a good selection of our preferred music.

We usually have one fuel stop a day, and perhaps a couple of loo stops, at which times we fill our travel mugs with coffee, and on the road again.

So, that’s how we manage the long travel days – easy.

A sea of pink bursts from the red earth.

A sea of pink bursts from the red earth.

Not so easy, bi-passing Karijini National Park, and only snapping all the gorgeous wild flowers from inside the car as we zip past. Promise to ourselves – a slow trip next year over the same route taking time to enjoy all the pleasures whizzing past us this time round.

The sun sets on Cable Beach

What can I say about Cable Beach that hasn’t been said before. The turquoise waters, the white/gold sands, the blue skies, the gentle breezes, the sunsets…….

Our favourite beach.

Our favourite beach.

We’re on our last night of only a three night stay this time. We’ve swam in the ocean. We’ve enjoyed lovely beach walks. And we’ve relaxed between both on a hired sun lounger in the shade of a beach umbrella.

We’ve eaten fish and chips on the beach at the days end as we waited for sunset.

Clouds forming as we eat fish and chips waiting for the sun to set.

Clouds forming as we eat fish and chips waiting for the sun to set.

We’ve walked amongst the rock pools when the tide was out.

Exposed rocks when the tides out.

Exposed rocks when the tides out.

We’ve seen the sun lighting up the palm trees as it descends towards the ocean.

Palm trees lit by the setting sun.

Palm trees lit by the setting sun.

We’ve watched the camel trains return from their nightly sunset walk.

The iconic Cable Beach Camel Trains.

The iconic Cable Beach Camel Trains.

We’ve watched the sun dip into the ocean.

The sun sinking into the Indian Ocean.

The sun sinking into the Indian Ocean.

We’ve wandered amongst the rock pools as dark approaches.

Rock pools to add interest to an evening beach walk.

Rock pools to add interest to an evening beach walk.

We’ve watched the sun set turn to yellow.

The golden afterglow from the setting sun.

The golden afterglow from the setting sun.

And then to red.

The red fire-glow before the dark.

The red fire-glow before the dark.

We can’t wait to return and do it all again.

What a pleasure!

Sunset cruise and swim in Lake Argyle’s Infinity pool

We arrived at Lake Argyle around lunch time on Friday, and spent two nights there. We’ve visited before, but have never stopped over. Last time we visited, it was June 2014, and the famous INFINITY POOL was freezing – way to cold for us to venture in even for the sake of a photo. Not so this time.

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Lake Argyle’s Infinity Pool.

It was gorgeous and pleasantly warm, only just cool enough to be refreshing. The pool is considerably above the lake but is designed so as to look as if it is almost part of it. What a delight.

Having heard good things about the SUNSET CRUISE, we decided to give it whirl the next afternoon. First a 45 minute video on the making of Lake Argyle. It’s the largest man made lake in the southern hemisphere, and was built over a three year period from around 1970 – 1973. It’s absolutely massive, with a surprisingly small dam wall. In fact if I recall correctly, it’s the smallest dam wall in the world for the volume of water it’s supporting.

Then a coach picked us up and took us out to the boat. Jack the tour guide, and the skipper were great. What Jack didn’t know about that Lake, and Kununnura mustn’t be worth knowing. He was open to questions, and provided a wonderful insight into the nature of the dam, the spillways, the wildlife, and facts and figures on the Kununurra farms and plantations it supports.

The lake is over a hundred kilometres long, so we only cruised a small section of it. The cliffs surrounding it, and islands in the middle of it are typical of the  Top End and the East Kimberleys – red and glorious.

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Mirror reflections in the lake.

After a small stop in the ‘Bay of Islands’ we moved on for our sunset swim.

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Loved this shot Paul took as we powered along.

About half an hour before sunset, we all jumped, dived or floated off the end of the boat into the water, all with a water noodle to drift around on as we waited for the sun to set. A life ring was floated out to us loaded with glasses of wine and champagne, and with a platter of cheese, dips and crackers. For the beer drinkers, Jack tossed out cans. I finished my glass and floated back to the rear of the boat to see if a refill was possible. Not only was it possible, but Jack was poking the neck of full champagne bottles into small pieces of cut noodle and tossing them into the water for us to refill our own glasses in the water. With the noodle covering the neck of the bottle they float upright. What an experience.

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Floating on yellow noodles as I sipped champagne and Paul slurped beer.

Then the sun set!!!

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Wow!

I’ve seen lots of sunsets, but none whilst swimming in the middle of Lake Argyle with a glass of champagne in my hand. If you have Lake Argyle in your sights for a visit – don’t miss this experience.

But wait, there’s more….. This next part isn’t a usual part of the cruise. In fact, I believe it was a first. There was a full moon rising that night, and Jack knew where it would rise. So, for those of us game enough to get into the water with our cameras Jack told us when and where to have our cameras poised so as to capture the moon and it’s reflections in the water. Similar to the famous ‘Staircase to the Moon’ for which Broome is famous, I don’t think I quite captured it at the right moment. To have had the opportunity to try was something I’ll never forget.

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Stairway to the Moon from Lake Argyle.

The next day we departed for our two day trip to Broome.

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More of the top end’s majestic scenery to entertain us throughout the trip.

Lake Argyle’s sunset cruise – Up there with the best of pleasures!

 

The Majestic Top End

We spent our last afternoon with Kelv three days ago. While a roast was cooking, he proudly showed us around the farm – It’s absolutely huge.

Kelv couldn't be prouder of his mangos if he owned the farm himself.

Kelv couldn’t be prouder of his mangos if he owned the farm himself.

Avenues of trees stretching for miles in every direction.

Avenues of trees stretching for miles in every direction.

The farm now has the contract to provide Coles, one of our biggest supermarket chains with mangoes this year.

Just some of the boxes in packing shed waiting to be filled.

Just some of the boxes in packing shed waiting to be filled.

I can’t believe how much his own home patch has grown. I’m sure the palms are a good 15cms higher, and there’s green lawn now showing where last week it was just red dirt.

Remember this sand patch less than a week ago!

Remember this sand patch less than a week ago!

It was sad to say good bye, but time moves on, and so must we. Friday saw us heading down the Victoria Highway, which forms a section of the Savannah Way, one of Australia’s great drives.

The Victoria River splits the Gregory National Park, home to some of the majestic scenery in Australia. Hundreds of miles of panoramic scenery, so stunning I’m sure my heart missed a beat a couple of times. It was like watching an enormous nature movie, the windshield our giant screen….. Breathtaking.

Majestic.

Majestic.

Breathtaking!

Breathtaking!

More at every turn in the road.

More at every turn in the road.

I believe theres even more stunning scenery to be seen on side trips from the Victoria Roadhouse, which is smack bang in the middle of it all. We didn’t stop this time, but mental note to myself, ‘stay a night or two to explore next time’. A definite must.

After around five hours driving we arrived in Western Australia, then only a short distance further and we were at Lake Argyle. More on that tomorrow.

After almost two and a half years we're back in WA.

After almost two and a half years we’re back in WA.

What a pleasure!

The Spotted Bower Bird

Bowerbirds are small, rather slim birds approximately 30cms long, closely related to birds of paradise.They’re unremarkably blackish-brown, apart from a lilac, retracting crest at the nape of the neck of a mature, bower owning, male. The lilac crest is vivid in colour, but only when he chooses to display it. They’re predominantly an eastern states bird, but we’ve seen quite a few in and around Katherine.

The lilac crest displayed on a male Spotted Bowerbird.

The lilac crest displayed on a male Spotted Bowerbird.

They’re well known for their complex mimicry vocalisations, including mimicking a dog barking, or the noise of a bird of prey should they feel threatened.

The male bowerbirds use twigs to weave a courtship tunnel (or bower). At both entrances to the bower he builds an intricate, colour co-ordinated, display court. Some of these bower sites may be retained by successive generations for upwards of 20 years.

Twigs used to build an intricate bower approximately 400 cms in length.

Twigs used to build an intricate bower approximately 40 cms in length.

There are several different species of Bowerbirds, and each builds their display courts in their own colours.

The richly coloured, yellow Regent Bowerbirds decorate their avenues with snail shells, berries, pebbles and leaves in colours of red-black and yellow-brown. Satin Bowerbirds decorate with blue coloured objects, and Spotted Bowerbirds construct neat piles using white, silver/grey and pale green objects.

Very close to where we’re camped we’re fortunate enough to have a Spotted Bowerbird busily tending his bower and court. He’s fascinating.

If you look closely at the objects in the mounds you’ll see lots of white and silvery grey pebbles, pieces of silver paper, white snail shells, broken pieces of green glass, a few nuts and bolts (most of which have green heads on bolts), and there’s even a 20 cent coin. There’s green leaves and small wild green lemons and green baby mangos.

Note the green heads on the bolts, and the 20cent coin near the left of the courtyard.

Note the green heads on the bolts, and the 20cent coin near the left of the courtyard.

Shiny pieces of crumpled aluminium foil.

Shiny pieces of crumpled aluminium foil.

A clothes peg, and piece of broken glass carefully chosen to colour co-ordinate

A clothes peg, and piece of broken glass carefully chosen to colour co-ordinate

Even the small wild lemons are chosen according to their colour.

Even the small wild lemons are chosen according to their colour.

I’ve raided my sewing box and have placed some small pearly buttons, some green buttons, and a few other pieces of shiny beads etc nearby. It’ll be interesting to see if these pieces take his fancy and end up in his display.

He’s managing to attract a few females to his bower using his special courtship style. This involves walking in wide circles with a raised head, open beak, cocked tail and drooped wings. He often uses props during his display carrying either brightly coloured leaves, pieces of fruit, or items from his courtyard.

He’s a joy to watch, but I’m not so sure he’s finding it such a joy to have us watching him. We’re distracting from both his house keeping, and his courtship. Sometimes nature provides entertainment for which there is no man-made equal.

What a pleasure.

 

Gardening in Katherine

We’re having lots of catch up time with Kelv here in Katherine. His transportable house was finished within a day or two of us arriving. Not good timing for him as the mango harvest isn’t far off beginning, so his work days are becoming longer.

He managed to get a 1/2 day off work last Friday. His new motor bike was ready in Darwin (a replica of Steve McQueen’s bike in The Great Escape), and his house needed curtains and blinds before he could move in.

So, we had a trip into Darwin with him, firstly to pick out blinds and curtains, and then we dropped him off to pick up his bike and choose his helmet. We headed back to Katherine with all the shopping, leaving him to test drive his new bike to a friends house Darwin. It was already almost almost 5pm by this stage so to dangerous for a 300 km motor-bike trip home on the dark country roads – too many wallabies, kangaroos and cows on the roads in the dark for safe motor-cycling. So, he stayed in Darwin seemingly doing justice to celebrating both his new house, and new motor bike.

He’s bought some basic furniture to get himself started and has now moved in.

This week he’s pulled out all stops to get the front lawn started before his work season starts to demand his full and undivided attention. The front sand patch needed levelling before he could plant lawn seed. After several days of raking and watering it was in reasonable shape – no mean feat after a days work in 37 degrees with increasing humidity. The lawn seed’s now in, along with a small, fast growing tree.

Lawn seed and one small tree has been planted.

Lawn seed and one small tree has been planted.

The back lawn was nothing but a sand patch with a few trees a week ago. With no shortage of water, the sprinkler’s been running constantly. I can’t believe the difference a week of sun, fertiliser and water has made. It’s almost half way to being green now.

What a difference a week of water, sun and fertiliser  makes to a sand patch.

What a difference a week of water, sun and fertiliser makes to a sand patch.

We’ve been doing our bit to help, including planting a small group of golden cane palms, and some small hibiscus to form a hedge.

The mango orchard forms a pleasing back ground from Kelv's back verandah.

The mango orchard forms a pleasing back ground from Kelv’s back verandah.

The beginnings of an Hibiscus hedge.

The beginnings of an Hibiscus hedge.

It’ll be great to come back next winter and see how they’ve all grown.

And after all the gardening, a bike ramp was needed. With the carport yet to be added to the house, and with no garage, the next best place for a motor-bike to be housed is seemingly on the back verandah. As a woman, I couldn’t really relate to this logic, but it made full sense to all the men. So a bike ramp was built, a full days job with both Paul and Kelv working on it.

Kelv adding the final cross plank while his two 'supervisors' look on.

Kelv adding the final cross plank while his two ‘supervisors’ look on.

Then time to test it out.

Going up!

Going up!

And the big test - coming down!

And the big test – coming down!

Coming down was a little hairy!  It only just has enough clearance, and could perhaps have been a little less steep. But he managed it, and I’m sure it’ll get easier with practice.

And now, onto some news of our own. It’s been an eventful week. Firstly,  Paul’s dads ended up back in hospital following a fall. He’s been discharged now, but is again in Butler Green, an intermediate care facility. I think he’ll be home again soon, but it’s looking more like permanent care could be on the agenda soon.

Next news, Dad’s house went to auction last Tuesday, and sold for considerably more than the reserve price. What a relief to have that sold. It was a worry.

And finally, some news all of our own, drum roll please……. We’ve bought another house! In Busselton, beachside and very close to where we had our block of land in Abbey.

Kelv and some friends from Perth were with us for dinner a few nights ago, when Kelv asked us if we were going to be renting this one out too.  He went into hysterics when we explained we’re not, and the reasons why.

Our reasoning is as follows: We love Tassie, we love the Northern Territory, and we love Western Australia. We’re sure there’s no better place in the world to spend summers than in Busselton, with Tassie  a close second (but Tassie does lack Busselton’s more consistent summer climate). And for the winters – for us the Kimberleys and NT beat anywhere else by an Aussie country mile. The consistent weather, the wide open spaces, with room to move and air to breath.And with the biggest surprise for us in this whole road trip being that what we’ve so far seen of the east coast, it doesn’t get a look in, in comparison to the west.

With our love of the East Kimberleys, and the NT, and with Kelv living in the NT, this is where we want to head to for winters. With the boat access from Tassie being so expensive and so restrictive, it isn’t such an appealing place to use as a permanent summer base.

So, there’s been a downturn in the Busselton market, which  seemed like to good an opportunity to pass by. And it was such a good buy that we don’t have to rent it out.

However, we do still have our house in lovely Deloraine, and we do still intend to spend some time there – one day……

And why was Kelv, and Bruce and Wendy in hysterics. Because we’re going to use the Busselton house as our ‘summer house’, for approximately six months of the year, and the rest of the time we’ll keep travelling around this wonderful, vast land. They thought, ‘our summer house’, sounded so toffee nosed. So, for evermore now, it’ll be ‘our summerhouse’.

What a week. What a pleasure!

 

 

Dunmarra Road House – worth a stopover

We left Mt Isa and headed for Katherine with two stops on the way. The first was uneventful at Barkley Homestead. The second at Dunmarra Road House had us socialising with some special locals.

I’m not sure what it is about cows and us. A lot of our more special memories from this road trip involve bovine creatures. We had read that Dunmarra has a few resident water buffalo, and if you’re lucky enough you may see one or two wandering between the caravans.

However, the water buffalo seemed to make a beeline for Paul ‘the cow whisperer’, and stayed nearby all afternoon and well into the evening.

Check out the span of those horns.

Check out the span of those horns.

Sharing an apple.

Sharing an apple.

I thought she was going to come inside.

I thought she was going to come inside.

Enjoying a head scratch.

Enjoying a head scratch.

We thought she was going to join us for a beer with the neighbours.

We thought she was going to join us for a beer with the neighbours.

But no, she just wanted another scratch.

But no, she just wanted another scratch.

There were two others that we managed to get close to as well, but these two were the most photogenic. We had a lovely time at Dunmarra. What a pleasure!

We’ve been in Katherine for more than a week now catching up with Kelv, and also our friends Bruce and Wendy. It’s been a busy time with lots happening. We look like having a spare day tomorrow,  so I’ll try and post again and bring you all up to date. There’s lots of news, and I promise – no more cows.