I have already said that we had seen fires over several days and particularly on the journey into the Bungle Bungles. They had come considerably closer. Word came through that the rangers had been fighting the fire until 4.30 am. The track was still not open.
We packed up from the camp suite and drove out onto the road to the Ranger’s office. Here there was a large Road Closed sign.
As it turned out, we waited there about 3 hours by which time we had been joined behind the barrier by a number of independent tourists and another Overland trip truck. (This was the group who should have been our fellow travellers. They were more of our age – but so glad we weren’t part of their party!) At about 10.00am the Ranger drove us out in convoy.
You could see and smell the fire.
Close to the road controlled burnings had taken place to try to hold the fire back from the road and it’s combustible traffic. We travelled some way and then the fire started up again on the road in front of us.
We stopped and waited for it to be cleared. We moved forward again. This pattern was repeated several times before we were waved off by the Ranger. The hills off to our right were covered with smoke and fire and the blue sky had turned grey with smoke. In addition to the fire the track continued to switchback and forward and put boulders in the path of the convoy. The dust thrown up from the vehicles in front mixedwith the smoke to form a chocking smog.
The black kites which we have seen all along the journey were very much in evidence swooping over us to take advantage of the small rodents running ahead of the flames and the charred remains of those who did not make it. A fire truck passed. We travelled on for a few Km’s more and the fire was over for us. We had outrun the it. Sadly the fire fighters would have to continue their battle ……. all because of some thoughtless fire lighting in an area tinder dry.
We were now back on track but somewhat late for the sunset cruise on Lake Argyle due to start at 3.15. It was definitely ‘at risk’. The bone shaking track continued for about another 45 minutes before we were back onto a metalled road. We had got in and out of the Bungle Bungles. We were effectively retracing our steps back as far as the Doon Doon road station. From there we headed for Lake Argyle.
What an experience.
We eventually came to the sign to Kununurra, the town established from the activity involved in the damming of the River Ord to create Lake Argyle, the largest lake and reservoir in Australia.
There was a really noticeable transition from the bush to urbanisation as we crossed the dam and entered the neat town. We had pounded away the kilometres to get to the cruise and, although late, we skidded down the path to the lakeside. The sun, though slipping down the sky, had not set. Shuddering to a halt at the jetty the beer Eskie was quickly offloaded on to the boat. It was well after 3.15. We were very late and the sun would not wait. We were off!
Lake Argyle is 20 times the size of Sydney harbour. It is man made, as I have said, by damming up a bulge in the river Ord. The dam took only a couple of years to build in the late 60’s and, surprisingly, there is no concrete in it. It has created a lake 70 Km long and 45 Km wide. Freshwater crocodiles up to 4 metres long live in it.
Rock wallabies live on its rocky shores.
Spot the wallaby!
We were inches from the shore before the beer was liberated. Our jolly skipper gave a hasty version of evacuation procedures and a few facts and figures – he was obviously providing us with a whistle stop tour of his usual dialogue for these tours, constantly keeping an eye on the sun.
It was a beautiful lake.
The sun did eventually sink and very beautiful it was too.
We stopped for the water babies to swim and dive off the boat
– we just drank a beer, nibbled on dips and enjoyed the scenery.
It was in the end time to go. It was dark by the time we had returned to the jetty. There was the faithful Jodie waiting for us.
She drove us up the winding path away from the lake to our penultimate camp site, our time together is running out.