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Friday 14th September

We had spent the night in a very commercial campsite. There were lots of motor caravans and large tents and caravans. There was a very up market toilet and shower block – it was a far cry from some of our experiences. It was also our last night in our swags.

We had a lie in. Breakfast was not until 6.15! I woke up to a dramatic sky the sun rising in front of me – a beautiful sunrise looming without getting out of bed! There were lots of squeaking and tweetings going on around us. A black parakeet could be seen in the improving light sitting on a tree nearby and squawked to his mate across the way. Something was cropping grass just beyond us – I later learned it was a kangaroo. I had to get up before the sun tipped over the horizon……

It was not with just a little sadness that I took a photograph of my swag before I rolled it up for good, but not before a passing dog had cocked its leg inches from my head!

After breakfast we struck camp and left the site at 7.00. We had to drop by and pay for the previous night’s boat trip (no time yesterday!) and took the opportunity to buy a small piece of the local zebra rock to remind us of a very special place. Just after 8.00 we crossed the border from Western Australia into the Northern Territories and clocks went on by over an hour. I think this is a very odd trait of Australia. It is like adjusting the time when you move from Kent into Sussex – why would you?!? There are also strict rules on taking food from one territory to another…… very interesting. In any event, we thought it polite to join in the celebration of the achievement.

We had a good few Km’s to go before we were to reach Katherine for our last night on the road. It sounded to be a very upmarket place with permanent tents. (As it turned out, although the accommodation was good, we got bitten to death there. That was later.)

The scenery stayed similar to that which we have seen for some time. A tree speckled savannah with hills in the far distance. We are back on metalled roads now and can move much more quickly.

Later in the morning we visited the Gregory National Park. The largest National Park in the country and it just happens to bear our name! Keith and I had come across this chap Gregory before. A very active explorer, he was to venture into all sorts of places. On this occasion, we spent some time in his National Park and stopped to look at a large Boab tree where, of course, he had recorded his passing through

He had been sailing up the Victoria river (as you do on the opposite side of the world from home in 1856) when his schooner’s keel snapped. He set up camp here in order to effect repairs to the ship and create a base from which he could penetrate deeper and survey the surrounding area. He was pretty well equipped – he brought 50 horses with him to cart supplies and ride. (He had set out with 200 sheep as well but many of them died on the way. It must have been a pretty big ‘schooner’!) Apparently there were 19 in the party.

They built homes from Bush materials using paperbark from the local trees for walls and made thatch out of leafy branches and grass. They cut down another, smaller, Boab near to Gregory’s tree (how dare they?) to make a table and used its stump as a water trough for the horses. It all sounds pretty cosy and permanent. There is an indication that they also created a garden where they grew radishes and mustard and cress (my favourite!).

Further along we found the twin Boabs where the explorers set up a forge. This exploring business does not cease to astound me.

On the road shortly afterwards, we were stopped at a traffic light!! A bit of a first! It felt like the middle of nowhere. We paused for what seemed ages when the light changed to green. No traffic had appeared the other way. A few minutes later a second red light appeared…. by this time the Victoria River was clearly visible to our left.

It was soon time to move off again. We had lunch at a lovely spot, an old crossing point of the river.

It was over 40 degrees and we were quite relieved when the planned walk was abandoned. I think if it hadn’t been there might have been a mutiny!

So on to Katherine. It immediately looked very clean and orderly. Before doing anything, there was a final dip in a warm pool, for those who wanted it and then it was off to the posh camp. It comprised of very smart, small, green huts with two double bunks in each…. we had one to ourselves!

It also had an amazing kitchen, where pizzas were concocted with wraps used as a base. They were surprisingly good. A last camp fire was made.

I was very touched when a cake was produced for me. I felt a bit damp around the eyes….. they are lovely people!

Keith joined the last game of Cards Against Humanity, while I adjourned to bed.

Darwin tomorrow.

Thursday 13th September

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.

Wednesday 12th September

We were up at 3.45 (we had all blind voted to do this the night before – a special treat offered by Jodie (she probably says that to all the groups, but we felt very special) to see the sun rise over the Bungle Bungles. It was still very dark when we got up and the stars were still in the sky. We all tumbled into the truck and Jodie drove into the night, up to the track leading into the dome area. There we watched the most amazing dawn light infuse the sky and the rocks. Another very special experience. It was well worth getting up for!

We watched in awe as dawn came and the Bungle Bungles came to life. We had breakfast as we watched. Amazing.

As the day lit up in response to the sun, we headed to Picaniny Gorge, the main Bungle Bungle site. The Bungle Bungles have only been a tourist site since 1983 when a film crew were shown it and it more or less instantly became a tourist favourite. We were heading to Cathedral Gorge. On the way Jodie pointed out the Holly Gravillea plant. Historically this was one of the only sources of ‘sweet’ food in the Aboriginal diet. The move from this to the processed sugars of the whiteman has been a major cause of health issues among the indigenous people.

The whole Bungle Bungle area is a sacred place of song, dance and ritual to the Aboriginals. The walk into cathedral Gorge was nice and shady and the path along the Gorge floor an unusually easy walk!.

The ‘cathedral’ is a natural amphitheatre created by the rock with amazing acoustic qualities. As we neared the end of the Gorge the vast mouth of the cavern appeared opened up in front of us. It had a sepulchral feel to it. It was huge. In front of the cave was a large pool of water.

Where the Aboriginal people have, over millennia, held major gatherings and ceremonies, now the modern Australian takes in an orchestra to take advantage of the sound quality and charges vast amounts for the privilege. A much more material approach and not at all in keeping with it’s origins, but it would be a sensational evening to attend!!

As it was still early (it was just after 7.00) and we had the place to ourselves, we sat in silence for a couple of minutes to enjoy the aura of the place. It was an amazing spot.Then, to show us the effect of adding sound, Jody went to take up a position at the front of the cave and behind the pool. She looked like a little pin head in the great gaping mouth, but the music was sensational as it echoed off the walls.

After a wander around the area and a bit of general singing to demonstrate the sound quality,

we left this magical place behind and headed back out into the sun and ever increasing heat. Despite this, young Jodie decided to demonstrate in the sand how the Bungle Bungles had formed, I was so in awe of her ability to do this in the blazing heat, I took nothing in.

Anyone interested could perhaps google ….

We then took another path off the trail to the Picanniny Lookout. This gave us a higher view of the landscape and another angle on the scene.

The day was very hot by then – it was 8.30. We were told of the opportunity to do a further walk – the Dome Loop – on the way back. I noted that no-one took the opportunity…… the heat does rather strangle ones energy and erode some of the dedication!! It certainly curbs my purist tendencies.

Next stop was to be (another!) highlight of the trip. Having lost out on the opportunity to fly over the horizontal falls in Broome, we had opted to to take a helicopter ride over the whole Bungle Bungle area. Helicopter flying was to be a new experience for us both! After a bit of health and safety stuff (eg not to put you hand out 😳, don’t walk into the blade at the back etc eeek!). We were collected by young Adrian (I didn’t like to ask for his credentials but he said it was to be his last day of work for the season – everything closes down before the wet season starts – so I guessed he would not want to do anything silly) who was to be our pilot. We were to be the only passengers. Having been escorted to our vehicle, (where were the doors!?!) and settled into our seats, final safety checks were carried out and we were off. It was hair follicle stimulatingly amazing! I left photography to an incredibly confident (no sign of vertigo!) Mr Gregory sitting up front with Adrian and just enjoyed the view.

He seemed oblivious to the increasingly distant ground which I was only too conscious of from my seat in the back row. I was happier just hanging on to the grab rail in front of me……. Enough of my angst.

We first flew over an area that was the site of Aboriginal graveyards, where tourists are not allowed to go. The view over the whole area was incredible. I had no idea the Bungle Bungles were so vast.

Looking down on the top of the striped domes gave a totally different perspective. After about 20 minutes and feeling more comfortable, I just loved turning into the wide fingers of the Giant Gorge. The helicopter banked so we could see deep into the chasm beneath us. I felt like I was riding on a giant dragon fly and getting a god like view of a true wonder of nature. We flew over the Picanniny routes beneath us where we had walked earlier. I loved it. Keith said it was not only a special experience of the trip but also a special experience of his life. I have to agree. Pretty special.

When we got back to earth, the heat really hit us Dear Jodie had set up lunch at the Helicopter station and was busy cooking crumbed chicken on a barbecue. (Of course). We were clapped in by the others – only a few had taken flights – they were a delight in their pleasure at our pleasure. This birthday celebration just gives and gives!

Lunch over and kit packed away, it was time to take off on a walk to the Echidna Chasm, but it was a step too far for Keith and me. Despite the assurance that the walk was quite shady, it was by now 40 degrees and we thought it was something we could miss. We sat at the Purnululu Park shop and I wrote and Keith dozed and ipadded.

After a couple of hours the others returned and we got back to camp at 3.30. We were to spend another night there.

A hose pipe was attached to the tap and the pipe thrown over a tree. An impromptu shower and naturally amazingly warm. Despite being in a desert and having been warned of the need to conserve water, some took the opportunity a hair wash – I guess it must have been a hair washing day. Some habits cannot be broken!

Early in the evening a ranger arrived to say that the bush fire we had seen a couple of days before and on the way in to the area, was still raging and that it was blocking the Spring Creek Track which we needed to take to get out of the Purnululu National Park. At that point there was no way out. It was hoped things would be better by the morning but we had to check with the ranger before setting out.

It had been a long day…….

Tuesday, 11th September

We headed out through the peaks and cliffs of the Carr Boyd and Duraack Ranges

(you see, the Durack have even got a range named after them!) en route to the remote outback town of Warnum, commonly known as Turkey Creek. Shortly after setting off we arrived at our first stop, the hot water Zebedee Springs. These are still part of the vast acreage that is the El Questro set up. It was amusing to note that the public is allowed to use the springs up until 12 noon. After that they are for the dedicated use of the El Questro Homestead guests……

One’s first impression of the area was the lush vegetation. It was truly tropical rain forest. The area’s water is fed from a fault line in the earth’s crust and provides a permanent supply of warm water to the springs from deep within the earth. The water temperature is constantly 28 – 32 degrees all the year round. The surrounding cliff faces and scree slopes are thought to be up to1800 million years old…apparently scientists have recently identified an ancient aquatic isopod crustacean (a white crab like creature to you and me) in the water which is only found here.

Our water babies immediately stripped off and wallowed in the warm water. Dedicated readers will be pleased to hear that I spent my time updating my diary……

After an hour at the hot springs we were back on the truck for the short drive to Emma Gorge. The walk started from another resort owned by the El Questro people – we still haven’t left their land! After topping up our water at a tap in a Boab tree (not really Boab water!),

we started our hike up to the turquoise pool which lies at the bottom of the waterfall in Emma Gorge. I think I would describe my effort as quite lacklustre. I think I am perhaps getting cumulatively tired despite my early nights! Maybe I have to accept that I am getting old. Whatever it was, I made a bit of a fist of it! After an initial period on a sandy path, the rocks started.

We crossed and recrossed the trickling water. The day was quite warm, although still early. Quite soon I was lagging behind – not least because the scenery was beautiful and I was taking photographs. I was conscious that the voices of the rest of the party were disappearing into the distance, so I picked up speed, tripped over a boulder and fell down on the rock. I picked myself up and dusted myself down and in my effort to catch up, missed the turning and lost the blue spots denoting the route.

Hmmmm thinks I. Not very clever. In the event I decided to sit tight in the optImistic hope that I might be missed. So I sat on a rock and watched the water meandering around the rocks at my feet, tum tee-tumming, and sure enough my knight in shining armour came back to find me. I was very pleased to see Keith’s face peering down at me😎! I was only a few feet from the path but had missed a very large sign turning right and I had turned left! Jodie had also returned to find out what had happened to this errant member of her flock!

Feeling somewhat embarrassed and woefully inadequate I was escorted up to the Turqoise Pool which wasn’t, in fairness, too far off. The others of course by this time shimmied up the side of the waterfall to the top. I was just happy to have made it to the Turqoise Pool and not be lost in the undergrowth.

In actual fact, the turquoise was something of a misnomer – apparently there was not enough water from the waterfall to give it the colour for which it is known. Having decided I had had enough excitement for the day, I just sat at the pool side for a bit before retracing my steps back. No harm done, just a bit of injured pride that I had been so foolish and a banged knee, the like of which had not been seen since my playground days…….

After a reviving drink at the resort bar – it was still only 10.30 so it was a very soft drink – we were back on the road and heading for the Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungles. It was along drive but we had great views of the huge ranges of mountains as we travelled along. We stopped off briefly at Warnum, or Turkey Creek as it is commonly known.

Post lunch we set out on the challenging terrain of Springs Creek Road, definitely requiring a 4 x 4 status vehicle. We lurched and swung along the windy road. The truck bucked and rolled. We had tied everything down before we set out, but nevertheless things started to roll about and fall off shelves in the back cabin. We saw further smoke in the distant hills. The fire we had sighted the day before was still going. Photos taken through the truck window……

After about an hour and a half of this, we turned into our camp site, described as having ‘basic facilities’. We were parked amongst trees. There was a surprisingly non smelling drop loo in a tin hut and nothing else. We were quite used to sleeping under the stars by now but it was the first time we had absolutely no other amenities on this trip. Back to the wipes!

We unpacked our bags and the swags but then dashed off to see the sun set over the Bumgle Bungles, the dome like rocks of the area.

The domes are made of multicoloured sand and limestone with the grey areas the-colour of a bacteria when heated by the sun. Clustered together they look like giant stripey rock beehives. Controversially, I think I liked them better than Uluru (Ayers Rock). We stood and watched the sun go down and after that the reds of sunset turn the rocks to deep reds and purples. It was glorious. When the purples had deepened again and darkness began to fall we headed back to our camp and supper. The food just gets better and better despite the facilities getting less and less. There was no lighting of fires here. As we had entered the Purnululu National Park there had been big signs to this effect. The word was that the fire we had seen from a distance had been started deliberately.

An additional treat for the day was when Tobin, our resident German astronomer talked us through the stars of the Southern Hemisphere which have given us such a wonderful show every night. It was fascinating and the numbers of lightyears involved I found mind bending. What an added bonus! Without the truck lights we have absolutely no light pollution. The night sky was just stunning.

Monday 10th September

We were up early as I usual and out walking by 7.00. As I have explained, because of the heat our cycle of life has shifted. We rise early but are often in bed (for this read swag) by 8.30. It is the way to make the most of the coolness of the early morning and evening. It is now regularly at least 37 degrees in the middle of the day.

The swimmers were off to do another action packed hike, but we decided to head off on a more sedentary track to a thousand year old Boab tree. The Korean ladies had also opted for our easier option, so the four of us set off as the rest left. We walked from the site, turning right just short of the Pentecost River which we were to follow for much of the walk.

Our route took us along the rivers edge, through the mixed vegetation of the river bank. Tall palm trees gave a sparse canopy. Lush green plants hugged the river shore line.

The track grew more stony but was well signposted and some time later we left the river completely. Initially the route was quite shaded but as we turned away from the water, the rocks became bigger and we were more exposed to the sun which was heating up by the moment it seemed. We could still hear the river gurgling along at this stage, but then we turned quite determinedly right and the gurgling disappeared. We were now in a more forested area and it was not long before a huge Boab tree loomed up before us. It was huge. Its root like branches thrust into the air.

On its side huge carbuncles had developed. Its bark had a very elephantine look, I thought. I find it difficult to contemplate that this tree would have already been well established when William the Conquerer shot Harold in the eye….. enough of these ramblings, we took photographs and two smartly dressed ladies (from the posher part of El Questro no doubt!) came along and took our photos all together which was nice.

It was soon time to start the scramble back. We retraced our steps and arrived back at the camp at about 9.30 having walked 10kms. All in all not a bad effort in the heat, but we were gasping. Despite the prices, we decided to have a drink at the alternatively named ‘El Costro’ bar which the Korean ladies kindly paid for – it was very nice of them and much appreciated!! We then had free time until the trip we had decided to go on that afternoon. It was advertised as ‘4 wheel drive and river sunset cruise’. It did not quite turn out that way…..

I have to say that when Keith first suggested going on the outing I was not overly excited and I was even less enamoured when we were picked up in a roofed vehicle covered in red dust when I had just summoned the energy to have a second shower and change of clothes (it was 2.00pm). In the end I was really pleased we went. Our very competent young woman driver took us out over the cobbled river beds and rocky route towards Explosion Gorge. On the way we visited another famous Boag tree, this one with the initial D carved in it by one of the pioneering Durack family, who I am reading about at the moment. I felt almost related – although it was very naughty of them. The white man’s habit of carving into these trees led to the death of many of them ( the trees not the white men).

The track was very rough going – not dissimilar to the back seat of the truck! – and we swerved and skidded over the terrain for nearly an hour before reaching the Gorge. Here were were offered water before joining our ‘craft’. I would not call it a boat.

At the current time the water in the Gorge is perhaps no more than three foot deep in parts (it rises to at least 15 meters deep during the rainy season). Having no accommodation for a ‘draught’, we travelled in a small oblong flat bottomed arrangement to which an outboard motor was attached. There were just 8 of us plus the driver and we bobbed along the Gorge with it’s clear water and cliff like sides soaring over our head.

The water over years has carved great gouges out of the red ridged sandstone giving an almost huge barrel like appearance. The waterway eventually becomes the Pentecost River and follows the route down to the coast a distance of 220 Km’s. Having bobbed along the Gorge for a bit, we returned to the riverbank and having abandoned our craft, we set off back along the bumpy track, this time heading up to a promontory looking down on the river and across at Burrell’s Bluff (Bill Burrell was the name of the chap who developed El Questro into the the multimillion pound operation it is today). En route we had passed the Homestead where you can stay for a cool $3,000 Aus per night.

Another of the best views of the trip, it was a terrific spot from which to watch the sun go down. Our driver had brought cheese and biscuits and drinks to share, so we had a very civilised half an hour looking over the beautiful view.

To finish it off, along the river we saw a five foot saltwater crocodile having a swish around. Apparently the true name of These crocs is ‘estuarine’ as they can move between salt and fresh water. They have a device within them that converts salt to fresh water to allow them to drink……. who would have thought it?

Back at the ranch we had supper but not before a cast iron Dutch oven had fallen to the floor and broken in half.

Very odd and slightly unusual. Following another excellent supper – despite the breakage – we had news of the next day’s activity. We were leaving the sophistication of El Questro station for the Bungle Bungles.

Can’t wait!!

Sunday

Although we were not going to join the others on their action packed walk to the Gorge, we duly got up at 4.30 and had breakfast as the sun rose just after 5.00.  Birds flew over head, corollas screeching as they passed over.  We decided that for our morning constitutional we would walk back to the road station, where the rest of the troops would be stopping on their way out of the National Park.
We set off at 6.00.  The blue sky was cloudless and the day already warm. We set off along the dusty track..it was a lovely day to be out. The occasional car passed us and enveloped us in dust, but for the most part we had Australia to ourselves, with just the birds for company. It was about 7 Km’s to the road house.
Early on we saw some rather desultory cattle, whose big heads followed us as we came into view, drew level with them and passed by.   I fear we were likely to be the most interesting thing to happen to them that day!  Seeing them did at least resolved the mystery of the hoof marks we saw in the sand, which until their sighting had posed something of a mystery!  We saw lots of birds, mostly unknown to us, but often of riotous colours. Another highlight was when a wallaby bounced across the road in front of us and, without missing a beat,  bounced over a fence that had appeared unnoticed by us on our left hand side.  Magic! It was a beautiful leisurely walk.
We eventually saw roofs on the horizon and soon the detritus of the road house back yard came into view. A couple of dogs appeared in the distance. A line up of old cars in various stages of dilapidation.
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A rusting cattle crusher.   We passed them all before emerging at the business end of the establishment.  A couple of petrol pumps and a shaded veranda with a few plastic seats and tables in front of the all purpose shop.
There were lots of notices – some giving details of events that had already long since taken place, others advertised jobs.   We arrived at 8.00, opening time, and settled down to await the truck. It was interesting to watch the customers.  All appeared from nowhere – young chaps in four wheel drives, families on holiday (towing their homes, snail like, being them). An older gnarled gentleman with faded head gear and aged denim and a face as lined as a walnut,  an aboriginal mother and daughter escorted by three dogs all very closely related.
Once the truck arrived and the usual purchases made and bags of ice were added to the watery wastes of the ‘eskies’,  we were off.  After several hours on the road we turned off into what looked like a stony field, but there under the rocks were amazing aboriginal paintings.
It was an aboriginal graveyard area.  Whenever we come across these sights there always seems to be an air of silent dignity. Whether it is the place itself or just the knowledge of its historic use, I don’t know.  There is a definite ‘aura’.
The next stop was a real aberration. It was the Ellen Brae Cattle Station.
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Not only was it a green oasis in a straw coloured landscape, but it served hot scones with jam and cream!!! Quite extraordinary but very welcome!  We put our orders in, had our truck lunch and then were show. To a long trestle table where the real thing was served.  Scones still warm from the oven!
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The young family who took over the station some years ago are quite remarkable. Husband, wife, small son and helpers run what is ostensibly a cattle station.  Having found that they could not make it pay many acres and thousands of heads of cattle – they have found they can make money from scones and currently are making about thousands of scones a year!  What enterprise!!  Add to this the fact that they are effectively ‘locked in’ for at least 6 weeks of the year, often more, when the heavy rains come, making the roads impassable they are certainly an amazing family.
It was difficult to imagine the quiet waterways we were passing developing into such raging torrents.
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Incidentally, as we were leaving,  I noticed a memorial to the two brothers who lived at the station in the 1990’s – one died in a ‘plane he was piloting and the other died when his motorbike had a fatal accident. The brothers Terry who it said ‘died doing what they liked best’.  Who could ask for anything more?
Our long drive was rewarded by a first sighting of the Coburn Ranges.  I think one of the best best views of the trip and what I expected the Kimberley to look like.

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 We looked out from a high viewpoint over a vast savannah with the mountain range as it’s back drop.  It was magnificent and awesome in the true sense of the word…….
Our sighting over and our awe duly quenched we drove on to our accommodation for the next two nights.  The El Questro resort.  Don’t let’s get carried away here – there was very exotic accommodation to be had here, but we were still in our swags.   I would not have had it any other way – I don’t think 😳
Originally a cattle station, El Questro (no Spanish connection just a misinterpretation of a local word) was turned over to tourism in 1991 and is thought to showcase one of the most beautiful parts of Australia.  Crossing the Pentecost River, we found ourselves entering a well ordered establishment. We passed a helicopter pad on our right and approached a bar and reception area – a far cry to our recent haunts!  Beyond this were chalets, caravan sights tents – and then our patch – a square patch of grass by the river.
We unloaded our luggage and swags (please note the neat rolling) and supper was soon on the go.
DC79E66D-C4F0-408A-BA2A-B3E3DD63C52FThe showers were good and we had the opportunity to use the washing machine facilities and the clothes line – no pegs of course!

Saturday 8th September

An alarm was not necessary as, promptly at 5.30, a host of white birds made a noisy fly past of screeching and wing flapping. It was just about dawn. It was time to be up. The white birds gone, the black kites flew into the sky space and flew lazily overhead.

By 7.00 breakfast was over, swags (remembering our rolling technique lesson and fearing to be found wanting) and bags were stowed away and we were off. Windjana returned to its peace and quiet and no one would have known we had been there. We left it to its peace and tranquility and occasional traveller. We were off to Bell Gorge, two hours away. After an hour, we stopped to look over a magnificent range of mountains that had appeared across the valley. This was the Leopold Range.

Over the lip of the road, a kapok tree framed our view. It had yellow flowers and lime coloured pods that apparently provided the stuffing for pillows. I think they would have struggled to make anything but a very small cushion from the few Kapok trees we saw on the whole trip. I guess you have to be committed to be purist about these things!

Back on the bus, we travelled further and eventually took the sign off to Bell Gorge. Having tumbled out of the bus we took a stony path down to the pool at the top of a water fall.

Keith and I set out to find a flat rock in the shade while some took to the water there and others climbed down to the base of the waterfall. We were just passing a rock when a large snake came into view. It was later identified as one of the famous Australian Browns, one of the deadliest snakes in the world……. ho hum! (Or you could read ‘screech’!). It did have a head, but Keith did not quite catch it.

The thinker perched on another rock……

It was a pretty spot.

We left after an hour or so. We had a lunch stop on the road and a late afternoon stopped at another pool where there was an aboriginal painting under a cliff and more swimming took place. I acted as court photographer! Totally disregarding the hullabaloo, a lizard sunbathed on a rock…….

We eventually reached Galvins Gorge our spot for the night. We had collected wood along the road for a camp fire and not long after we arrived, the fire was alight and cooking was on the way. This included ‘damper’ an Australian delicacy cooked Friday with hot ashes from the fire ina Dutch oven.

We were camped around a wonderful old Boab tree that seemed to watch over as the sun sank behind it.

We had it with an excellent ragu with the damper bread to dip in it for supper. Food on the trip has been excellent!

And so to bed – another busy day tomorrow.