Bungle Bungle bound…

We left Katherine after some much needed rejuvenation and some refreshing social interaction. While we have only been on the road for a month now it has surprised me how much I miss social interaction. Obviously Brandon, Charlotte and I have each other to talk to but there’s only so many conversations you can have about tufts of grass, Smurfs and wild animals. Spending time with Christine and Andrew and their kids was such a lovely change from the norm. But all good things must come to an end and we moved on from Katherine, headed for the northern WA border and Kununurra.

The scenery between these two towns was absolutely delightful. There were mountain ranges dividing our path, rocky outcrops and some different types of plants. After the many, many, many kilometres we’ve done in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory with much the same looking bleak, grassy plains with dust-covered trees, seeing these rocky outcrops was a huge joy. Before we knew it, we were crossing the NT/WA border. But this meant stopping at the quarantine station and handing in all our fresh produce and honey. I had already been warned of this so Christine and Andrew benefited from my recent stocking up on vegetables! Doh – I forgot I was going to need to give it all up when I was buying it at Woolworths two days earlier! All I was allowed to keep were my carrots – I just had to cut the greenish ends off them. But goodbye (to Christine) two bags of potatoes, two heads of broccoli, a few onions and some cherry tomatoes. I declared (and lost) my unopened Capilano honey bottle (still with the plastic seal on it – we bought exactly the same thing at Coles in Kunanurra the next day!). I’ve heard some people have had lots of issues with the quarantine folk searching every element of their vehicle but our quarantine guys were really good and mostly just took our word about not having anything. We probably could have stashed everything in our camper which they didn’t show any interest in making us open (thank god!) but we’re fairly honest folk and I really couldn’t be bothered! 😉

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The change in scenery as we neared the NT/WA border was a welcome relief.
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I have no idea what these trees are but they are everywhere – there isn’t a leaf to be found on the tree but it is full of yellow flowers. EDIT: They are kapok trees!
In total we spent 4 nights in Kunanurra. Originally we intended to go straight to Lake Argyle and spend our time there but we were told that really only needs to be a day trip and it was better to base ourselves at Kunanurra. Our caravan park was on Lake Kunanurra and we had a lovely shady spot (no grass – best get used to that). But as we drove into town I saw the word ‘pizza’ and then I wasn’t able to get bloody pizza out of my mind! When we checked in I mentioned my craving for pizza to the reception staff and they recommended a place to me. So after we had set up camp I rang them and lo and behold they delivered! Is it glamping if you are getting pizza delivered to your camp site? (for the record, don’t go to Valentine’s in Kunanurra – while it was great that they delivered to our site it was the blandest, most tasteless pizza I’ve ever had!).

The Kunanurra Hoochery Distillery was an interesting place to visit. Established by an American who was raised in a family that distilled original Kentucky moonshine, the Hoochery is a family run business and the first and oldest legal still in Western Australia. At one point we were in the storage room where all the kegs of rum are laid to rest and our tour operator (also the main brewer) mentioned that the room has the potential to make Brandon blow over the legal limit if we stayed in there too long! Charlotte thought that was a hoot 😉

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Charlotte was thrilled that her colouring in was put on the wall in the Hoochery 😉

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We thought this was a cute mural of a boab tree for Charlotte to have her photo taken. But if you look up close (second photo) we’re not really sure what’s going on there!
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Our camp site was inundated with water hens – we came back from a day trip away to find all our stuff covered in hen poop!

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Beside Lake Kunanurra
We did a day trip to Lake Argyle. This place is really a must do for anyone coming to this area – it was just amazing. This is the largest man-made lake in Western Australia (and second-largest in Australia) and while it’s not the biggest dam I have ever seen, the countryside around it was just stunning. We drove over the dam wall and had a picnic lunch next to the water. Some friends of Brandon’s family were staying at the caravan park by the lake so we stopped in to see them and caught a glimpse of the infamous Lake Argyle Resort infinity pool. We weren’t tempted to get in – the water may look impressive but it’s frigidly cold!

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The dam wall
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Looking back at the dam wall from the picnic area
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We restocked our food and alcohol at Kunanurra and set off for our next destination, Purnululu National Park or otherwise known as the Bungle Bungles (that name just brings a smile to my face whenever I say it – such a cute name!) This was on Brandon’s wish list – he really wanted to see these magical, striped bee-hive mountains. I hadn’t heard of them before he told me about them but it seems that I’m no different than much of Australia, as this is one of Australia’s newest national parks with the now-famous Bungle domes only being discovered in the late 20th century. We stayed two nights at the national park here and after the relative busy-ness of our Kunanurra caravan park, it was great to be in the peace and quiet of a national park. Again we saw some amazing scenery on our way to the park – and a bushfire that seemed to be left to just burn itself out. It was creeping half way up the mountain range next to the road but in a weird kind of way, it didn’t seem to be a threat.

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Slow-moving fire up the side of a mountain
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This is an image of ‘Pompey’s Pillar’ (with a termite mound in front). I feel I should write to the WA Government and alert them to their spelling issues…?
At the park we visited the Echidna Chasm, a large ‘crack’ in a mountain range that was created by thousands of years of erosion and water mixing together. The entire Bungle Bungle range is made of this incredible looking stone/pebble-sand mix. It’s hard to really appreciate how amazing this is until you are standing up against this giant cliff face and you realise the entire cliff is made of stones and pebbles embedded in sand. There are a number of signs warning of rock falls and the entire 500 metre walk from the car park to the chasm itself consists of scrambling over rocks resembling a dry river bed. Charlotte thought this was marvelous – I’ve never seen her more enthusiastic about a walk!

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Close up of what the entire cliff face is made of!
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Brandon got a great shot of this bower bird nest on the way to the chasm.

After the chasm, we drove around to The Domes, where the true Bungle Bungles can be found. These dome-like ‘bald’ structures are just stunning. Certainly worth the 2 and ½ hour drive in from the main road (well, it was 2 and ½ hours for us towing our camper, but the driving is substantially easier if you’re not towing anything).

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Brandon and Charlotte getting their Bungle on…
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Bungle selfie!
The side of the rocky outcrops and lower plateaus have these cute grass tufts growing out of them which Brandon noted resembled the rolled up trolls in the Frozen movie (he and Charlotte then had an amusing conversation about how their stone bodies were covered in long hair). From that point on, whenever Charlotte saw these tufts of grass she would say there were lots of trolls on the side of the mountain 🙂

We left the Bungle Bungles this morning and are on our way to El Questro and the start of the Gibb River Road. Interestingly, on our way out this morning we saw the same bushfire burning, only this time it had made it down closer to the road. Still no-one was attending the fire or seemed at all perturbed by it – how very odd!

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The fire on the mountain side is still going two days later…

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Now the fire has come closer to the road
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So far we have remained injury and accident free – let’s hope our luck continues as we make our way west along the Gibb River Road!

Nights on the road: 34

From dust to Lawn…

I was up early the morning we left Musgrave because I wanted to ring Bramwell Station and make arrangements for the return of our pole. I was rewarded with one of the most stunning sunrises I had seen in a long while. Almost made me forget I was surrounded by dust holes and corrugated roads. Almost, but not really.

Sunrise at Musgrave Roadhouse
Sunrise at Musgrave Roadhouse

After leaving Musgrave we drove south for about 20km and then left the PDR to travel cross-country to Normanton on a back road that would eventually meet up with the Burke Development Road and take us south west. I guess ‘cross-country’ is a relative term around here because every road feels like you are driving cross-country. In any event, this road had smaller dotted lines on our Hema map compared to the PDR, so I think of it as cross-country 😉

In fact, the road ended up being much better than the PDR, for the most part. We had first heard about it from watching The Big Lap DVD series and I suspect in the 10 or so years since that series was filmed, the road has been upgraded. There were still some fairly hairy places and at one point early on in the piece I actually did think our trip was about to come to a grinding halt. Brandon was doing a great job dodging some timber that was laying on the road when we both looked up and THUD – the car nose-dived into a small ravine crossing the road. I let out an almighty scream, I can’t remember what Charlotte did but knowing her she probably giggled uncontrollably because she’s her father’s daughter when it comes to off-road hijinks! We had landed quite hard and I was certain we weren’t going anywhere soon. Brandon got out to inspect the ‘damage’ and was pleased to report there didn’t appear to be any, despite the fact our front end was clearly in a trench and not on the road and our trailer hitch was touching the ground behind us. Cool as a cucumber, Brandon locks in the hubs, starts the car up again and slowly but surely drives us out of the hole we got ourselves into. We pull over a short way up the road to see if there was any missed damage or fluids leaking now that we were out of the hole and still nothing to be seen. Looking at the impact point, it seems the chassis railing and winch took the brunt of the hit, with a minor dent in the bullbar. Dodged a bullet there! (we are having problems with our dashcam or else I’d post footage of the incident – quite impressive really. Alas, we don’t have it recorded L )

Thankfully the rest of the drive was uneventful. As with every other road we have been on, we came across a number of stretches of road workers grading the road, and cattle. Lots and lots of cattle. And not pretty, soft cattle but drought-hardy, weary looking cattle. They look like they’re doing it tougher than me, that’s for sure. We saw the odd emu or two and plenty of other bird life, quite a few kangaroos and even a feral pig with some piglets! But other than that the drive really was quite boring. The scenery was far from picturesque – dry grass, brown trees that occasionally looked green. It’s such a tough country out here, I don’t know how anyone could live here and work this land. It would depress me too much. That being said, it was easy to see where the flood plain would go through in the wet season, based on how plants were growing and where the marshy areas were. Brandon and I commented to each other we’d like to see this area in the wet season to really appreciate it because it certainly isn’t much in the dry season!

The one part of the road that was a little different was when we had to cross the Mitchell River towards the end of this side road and approaching the Burke Development Road. During the wet season this would be an impassable stretch of water, and even in the dry season you need to take it easy. But they have a fiord in place and have laid rubber matting down on top to make the crossing much easier. I actually enjoyed the crossing and that’s saying something from such a scaredy-cat like me!

We stopped for lunch on the side of the road after crossing the Mitchell River. It was around this time I was grateful that we were carrying our own toilet! Admittedly it was strapped to the roof of the camper, but Brandon dutifully retrieved it for me and set it up beside the car so I could have a tinkle 😉 I’ve never been good at bush peeing – too OCD I suspect. But now we bring our own loo, I don’t need to be good at it! J Photo evidence not supplied LOL

Finally we reached Normanton. A nice little town, with phone reception (that is my new definition of whether a town is nice or not – does it have phone reception?) We pulled up to the caravan park and set up a quick camp site without the annex. It was nice to be back in civilisation for a while and we even had a swim at the pool! That is Charlotte’s new definition of whether something is nice or not – does it have a pool? 😉 The weather is still quite warm out this way – low 30s during the day – although it cools down in the evening to make sleeping in canvas quite pleasant.

Eskimo Charlotte in Normanton
Eskimo Charlotte in Normanton – despite the wrapping up, it was actually quite warm and pleasant.

From Normanton, we headed to Adels Grove in Lawn Hill National Park. It was (thankfully) an uneventful drive and we even managed to get away early! Yay us! On pack up days our intention is always to get going early and while the alarm is usually set for 7am or similar, we rarely jump right up and get going. Well, *I* do, but the rest of Team Hazelwood is a little slower off the mark! I usually look longingly at fellow campers who are all packed up and ready to drive off at 8am and wonder how they do it. But this time around, we were one of those campers and managed to hit the road by 8.30am. Unheard of.

The scenery around this area isn’t much to look at if truth be told – very dry trees, brown grassy plains. There are some lovely rock formations and mountains the look great in the setting sun as their rusty brown rocks pick up the sun’s rays. The nature walk you can do at Adels Grove was initially a walk over dry, dusty paths and I was beginning to lose faith with the ‘grove’ part of the name. But eventually we reached the creek and our view was transformed. The juxtaposition between the dry, arid surrounding countryside and the greenery around the water is quite remarkable.

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There are two camp grounds at Adels Grove and because we wanted to be able to use our generator we had to go with the ‘top’ camp ground that was a little more dusty and less pretty. If we’d been willing to be self-sufficient we’d have been able to camp in The Grove, which is right next to the creek and more picturesque. It’s also more shady though meaning less success with solar panels. So we erred on the side of caution and chose the sunny, dusty site. We had some good neighbours who made for interesting company around the campfire at night.

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We used the OzPig for the first time at Adels Grove so I could cook roast lamb in the camp oven. The pig takes a while to generate coals so we ended up just putting some flaming logs up on the camp oven to speed up the process!
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Roast lamb and baked potatoes with vegetables – camp fire cooking at its best!

We finally got the canoe into the water at Adels Grove! I told Brandon is he was going to all the trouble to bring the canoe, then it had to hit the water at least every second or third place we camped. Unfortunately crocodile warnings have laid rest to those plans, but here at Adels Grove the only crocs are 30-40 freshwater crocs that aren’t around the grove itself but further into the national park. They have canoe hire there if you don’t have your own so I took that as a good sign it was safe for the canoe to come off the boat loader 😉 We paddled up as far as we could go without having to take the canoe out of the water to go further upstream and hit some faster running water going back towards the way we came. We had to duck under the pandanas growing by the creek’s edge and struggled to keep heading upstream but eventually the current got the better of us and we shot back downstream! Later when I asked Charlotte what her favourite part of the day was, she said the bit when we went backwards fast in the canoe 😉

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You see some interesting sights on the water! 🙂

We also did a small cruise on the river and Lawn Hill Gorge in the national park itself and saw more of the waterways – quite stunning 🙂

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Walking back to the car from the cruise and we came across these catfish – Brandon was able to feed them by hand and scratch their noses!

The water has a very high calcium content and needs to be filtered before drinking – you can see the effects of the calcium on all the plants and water. A product called ‘tufa’ lays over everything – it is essentially hardened calcium deposits and means all the plant matter around these parts needs to be very hardy. For us humans the impact of the calcium is that it made everything really dry – you need to constantly apply moisturiser to cope with the drying effect on your skin. My fingerprint scanner on my mobile phone doesn’t recognise my fingers anymore thanks to the dry skin!

After 3 nights at Adels Grove, it was time to move on. But I’ll save that horror story for later – it really does deserve its own post!

Nights on the road (up to leaving Adels Grove): 20