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.: Darwin - Kununurra WA January 2013

This will updated most nights except if we don't have mobile reception and that happens a bit in the Outback also if you have just joined us, please read from the bottom up.
Day 10: 2 Feburary - Pine Creek to Darwin - 230km - Total 2533 kms

Well this was our last day, had a bit of a sleep in , we were slow in packing up and then we left for Adelaide River. We pulled into the Adelaide River War Cemetery to have some lunch and a cuppa. It is always a pleasant stop, good shade and immaculate grounds.
The last leg into Darwin seemed to take forever, there were a few storms hanging around but we missed them. On the way in we usually stop the give the caravan a tub. There is a car wash in Palmerston that we are able to get the van into. It is a damn side easier than trying to give it a wash at home.
It was a good trip, we always enjoy the Kimberley. It really is the ancient land and quite different from around Darwin and it was quite amazing driving through the Savannah looking so lush and green. The only downside of the trip was the very hot days which did curtailed our activities somewhat.

Day 9: 1 Feburary - Katherine to Pine Creek - 173 km - Total 2303 kms

First off, I had a couple of sales calls to do in Katherine which took me to around 10am. We packed up and hit the frog ‘n’ toad. The shortest run of all, 90km’s to Pine Creek with a stop at Edith Falls on the way.
Edith falls is about halfway and part of the Katherine Gorge National Park. Usually a beautiful swimming hole but currently closed as there is a possibility of Saltwater Crocodile that may have come upstream from the Katherine River. The water level is the lowest I have ever seen, especially considering we should be in the middle of our wet season. That just goes to show how little rain we have had. It was interesting that floods from Boxing day 12 months ago shifted a heap of sand and rock to form a new sandbar in the pool, also we were looking a debris in the trees some 15 – 20 ft above our heads. Now that is a lot of water.
As we approached Pine Creek, there were a few storms lurking so we got the van set up and had some lunch. A shower came through and I took the opportunity to catch up on some work.
We took a bit of a tour around Pine Creek looking at a fairly menacing storm which came to nothing. As it was our last night on the road we decided to have a meal at the Lazy Lizard Tavern. I also wanted to get some night shot shots of the pub as it has so much character. The meal was huge (and delicious), I guess they are used to feeding hungry miners.

Day 8: 31 January - Timber Creek to Katherine - 343km- Total 2130 kms

After packing up, we went to refuel and again tried to pay for the site but a lady had a look at a book and said “it is all good, you don’t owe anything”, can’t say we didn’t try.
A quick run through to Victoria River, about a 90 km trip. Once entering the Vic River Valley, it is beautiful with high, red escarpments lining the river and roadway. We stopped at the Vic River Roadhouse as Josie wanted to pick up a couple of shirts. On the way out I check the price of their diesel….$1.86 as opposed to $2.03 at Timber Creek, I know where we will be stopping next time.
We stopped at the Mathieson stop for lunch. I noticed a small bird in the tree above us, grabbed my camera and then could see that it was a Gouldian Finch. A beautiful little Finch that is on the endangered species list. A pair of them came in and they appeared to be checking out a nesting spot.
We cruised on to Katherine and booked into Knots Crossing Resort. Got set up but had issues with setting up the satellite. I spent about an hour and a half with no success, probably due to the amount of trees about. We had to resort to the old wind up aerial.
We went for a bit of a drive looking for storms all to no avail and ended up down at the Low Level Crossing for a very pleasant beverage.

Day 7: 30 January - Kununurra to Timber Creek - 244km - Total 1787 kms

Packing up was a bit of an issue after last nights storm, the awning and ground cover were soaked so, we needed to clean and dry them before we could pack up. Got it done, fuelled up and hit the road. There was little traffic on the highway, it seemed like we had the place to ourselves.
We stopped at Saddle Creek for lunch, it is a nice stop just below some great looking escarpment with the added bonus of a loo. Another hour or so saw us arrive at Timber Creek. I went to book in and a young Irish lad said “Yeah just take a site, I am out of receipt books and can’t be bothered sorting out the paperwork”. Glad he doesn’t work for me!
There were a few storms about but none of them amounted to anything. We went up to the Timber Creek Lookout for sunset and he usual cool beverage.    

Day 6: 29 January - Kununurra

Nothing much to talk about today as I spent most of it working. Josie did a little shopping and a nice storm came over a little before sunset. I tried to get some photo’s but the huge outflow was buffeting the camera and tripod so much it was hopeless. As soon as the rain started, we went back to the van park. The winds had started and we had secure the table and chairs and pull down the side awning before it cut loose.

Day 5: 28 January - Kununurra

Today started off very pleasant, quite a bit cooler. We had a bit of a slow start, first of all catching up with these notes. It was also my birthday, so I have a heap of great presents from my wonderful wife. These were on top of a new BBQ that is at home.
We packed up lunch and just went for a drive, again we thought there might be some Australia Day activities but to no avail. So we just went for a bit of a rubberneck. The area around Kununurra is normally a patchwork of Sugar Cane, Maize, Mango’s and many other food crops but it appears in the last few years a lot of the farms have been bought out and replanted with Sandalwood. They use the oil to manufacture perfumes and cosmetics.
We drove along the new irrigation channel which when completed, will go for another 32 km’s opening up further 15,200 hectares of irrigation land. Travelling down this road gave good views of Cave Springs Range.
We had our lunch down at one of the lakeside parks which was quite pleasant. We then went looking for a place to have a “Birthday” dinner but there was very little open so choices were very limited. We settled on the Chinese. After that we went to Hidden Valley – Mirima National Park. It is a small park on the outskirts of Kununurra that has some unusual rock formations not unlike the Bungle Bungles.
A photographer friend dropped in for a beer, it was good to catch up with Peter. We then went for a very nice dinner at the local Chinese with a good red.   

Day 4: 27 January - Kununurra

This morning was a little less eventful. We decided to go to the Wyndham for the day, it’s about 100km’s north of Kununurra on a great road.
First stop, we pulled into the Gotto, a waterfall (when the stream is running) over the escarpment and into a natural amphitheatre. It would be a good walk down to the pool at bottom but at 38 Degrees….no thanks. From there we travelled through some great country with lots of Boab trees.
We went through to Wyndham Port where they were loading an Iron Ore ship. It was an unusual set up, Road Trains were transporting the ore from some 200km’s away, and they then unload in a yard near the port. A couple of loaders load the ore into a hopper and onto a conveyor belt. The belt takes it to a barge, once full this barge gets taken out to the ship where the ship uses its own cranes and buckets to load. It seems to be a very slow and laborious process.
It was getting close to lunch so we headed up to the Bastion (5 rivers lookout) where there are fantastic views over the Port, Town and the Cambridge Gulf. It is called 5 Rivers Lookout because you can see 5 of the major northern rivers, the King, Durack, Pentecost, Forrest and Ord.
It was 42 degrees but at least there was a nice (fairly warm) breeze and a great view. We couldn’t be there too long as the heat was getting to Malibu, we had to wet her to try and cool her down, when we thought the best place for her (and us) was back in the car with the A/C going. We trundled off to have a look at the historic town.
It is West Australia’s most northerly town established in 1886. The port helped open up the north to mining and cattle and still provide the service to this day. It is an interesting mix of an Aboriginal community and government service town.
After leaving Wyndham we called into Marlgu lagoon which is a great spot for birds. On our way in came across a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels. They were running flat out in different directions then, coming back, I thought there might be a nest close and sure enough, these guys had a very basic nest on the roadway. Their behaviour was funny to watch as they would run away from the nest as a decoy and pretend to be injured, very clever.
Marlgu lagoon has great bird watching facilities with a couple viewing platforms and a very comfortable hide, lots of birds including a couple of Brolgas. We spent about 20 minutes there and had to move as the heat was getting too much, it topped 44 soon after that.
There were a couple of storms around so we decided to try Ivanhoe Crossing on the Ord River where we got a great view of a very active Thunderhead but unfortunately, most of the lightning was contained within the cloud.

Day 3: 26 January - Kununurra

About 1 o’clock in the morning we woke to an incoming storm. Managed to get the table and chairs put away before it hit and it was a doozy. It lasted until sun up, Josie went for a shower and then the best of it hit, rocking the van a fair bit and just after Josie made a dash back, it stopped.  
Talking to a lady from the park, she had had her car stolen during the storm. They had broken into her van and grabbed her keys and flogged her car. She got it back with a broken window and a couple of dents. I am beginning to think that caravan parks are not the safest of places. We had a small  issue, I had left the van keys behind but thought, “no big deal, we are in a van park”…wrong!
We went to the local hardware stores looking for a replacement lock to no avail. Gave a local locksmith a call, he came around, cut a new key for us and we able to lock up again.
It is Australia Day and we thought we would see what was happening, saw a heap of cars at one of the parks but when we called in, they all had boat trailers and were out fishing. After a bit of a trek around town, we went down to Lake Argyle, about 70 K’s away. It is a place that always amases me. It really is the ancient land and rock formations with their red colour are really pretty awesome.  Lake Argyle is the largest artificial lake in Australia at some 1000 square kilometres at capacity.
We had lunch in the park below the Dam wall. A nice park but still pretty hot. We headed back to Kununurra, hoping for a bit of a storm with no luck. At the caravan park there was a rather large cane toad in the entrance to the toilets, Josie wasn’t very comfortable with that so I had the job of removing it. Just near the loo’s is a large box especially for the toads to be put into and somebody collects them each day for a humane despatch. It is such a shame that the menace has made to the Kimberley.
In the park there are about 4 Barking Owls and I was lucky enough to get some great shots of them. Just on dark we were watching them hunting near our van and listening to their trademark call “Woof Woof”.

Day 2: 25 January - Pine Creek to Kununurra - 595km - Total 813kms

Awoken by the hoards of birds in the trees of the park, we packed up the van and made a quite exit. On our way out we came across what looked like a juvenile Red-winged Parrot but I noticed the Turquoise underbelly....ah ha! we had a Hooded Parrot. A beautiful bird, that is only found around the Pine Creek area. Soon the adult made an appearance and I was able to get fairly close for some great shots.
A quick run through to Katherine and a fuel stop, then west we head. About 60 km down the road we pulled up at a roadside stop for a sandwich and coffee. While we there, I decided to check the airbags as the Pathfinder wasn’t handling as it should and I found that one airbag had no pressure in it at all. I corrected all of that and once we got going again, it was so much better.
The next part of the journey took us thought the beautiful Victoria River region and into Boab country. Stopping for fuel at Timber Creek and costing a mere 203.5 cents a litre. I was very hot there, around 40 Degrees, but after we left Timber Creek the mercury climbed to over 45 degrees. THAT’S BLOODY HOT!!!
At the border there is a Quarantine inspection point, we arrived there at 5.30, spent about 10 minutes being checked for fruit and vegetables and left at 4.10.
After that time change, we coasted into the Lakeside Caravan Park and did a basic setup before going into to town for some supplies. We returned to the park and had a beverage at the lakes edge watching a distant storm and there was a Barking Owl that had taken a big interest in Malibu.
We had a bit of an issue with the ablution block as it had no lights, but after a a chat with management, the issue was sorted. At 6.30 it was still 38 degrees.  

Day 1: 24 January– Darwin to Pine Creek– 218km

After catching up with some work in the morning, we had everything packed and got underway around 2 pm. It is a very tight fit for the van now that we have had the shade structure put up. There is about 1-1/2 – 2” clearance to the wall and less when you take in the downpipes and the various bits that protrude from the van. Got it out … just but, a can opener would have been handy.
There were a few showers around but nothing to slow us down.
First stop, Adelaide River and at last they have finished the road works there. It had been a real pain whilst those were going on. We did the usual comfort stop at the War Cemetery. I used this time to fit the rest of my Christmas present from Josie. It is a Tyreguard that has sensors that are fitted to the valve stem of each tyre on the car and van. They send the pressure and temperature reading back to the monitor on the dash. It is great and lets you know if there is a problem, especially on the van. I have seen so many caravan hubs worn down to spokes, especially with tandems, when the driver does not know that they have a flat.
All refreshed, we headed south again (not too many other ways to go from Darwin), there was a lot more water around compared to when we were down this way in November. We saw Egrets, Spoonbills and Brolgas alongside the road which was great.
We were staying at the Lazy Lizard in Pine Creek, a nice park with heaps of birds. When I was setting up the satellite dish a heap of Red Collard Lorikeets arrived into the tree above me, making a hell of a din and I could not hear the sat finder. I was just hoping they were not coming in to roost for the night. Luckily they moved on.
As we left the park to go for a drive, Josie saw a heap of what looked like birds take to the sky, on  a closer look we could see that they were Flying Fox’s (Fruit Bats), there were literally thousands of them. I got a few shots but missed the mass. We went for a bit of a drive around town, which always includes the Sewerage ponds. Saw the usual species there along with a few Hardheads,  Eurasian Coots and couple of Grey Teal. On our way back to town the sky was nearly black with the Bats.
We headed up the town lookout for a sunset drink, a great breeze and view. As the sun went down the bats started to head out on their nightly sorties looking for food. Well, I have seen a lot of bats in my time but this was unreal, we watched many thousands of these guys fly past. They were flying past in these numbers from around 20 – 30 minutes or so. There must have been millions of them and all come out of town.
They are a major issue, apart from the fact that they urinate over themselves during to keep themselves cool and absolutely reek, drop bombs as they are flying that destroys the washing on the line and peels back the paint on your car quicker than brake fluid, they carry disease. The worst being Hendra Virus, that infects horses and then humans. Not good.
We decided to have a meal at the Lazy Lizard, great little pub with a heap of atmosphere and  a steak burger from hell.

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