Sunday 27 October 2013

L is for Luxury

The motel at Halls Creek was welcome respite for two very grubby, travel weary warriors.

Whilst sitting in the bar nursing my numerous blisters and bites and feeling a tad sorry for myself, Hubster returned with a brochure from the motel reception.

"Wow look at that! It would be awesome to stay there!"

"Why don't we?" Hubster exclaimed.

Could we justify it? A 3 night stay here would double the cost of our whole holiday. This was beyond extravagant.

Another glass of wine and rumblings about you're only 50 once and Hubster whipped out the plastic.

This happens when he goes into "Eff-it Mode". I wasn't going to protest.

Berkeley River Lodge is located north in the beautiful Kimberleys. It is so remote that there is no road access at all. The only way to get there is by boat or seaplane.

A long drive to Kununurru (we had fun pronouncing it too!) and we parked up the beast and boarded the seaplane on the huge lake there.

It was a magnificent scenic flight and it took us just over an hour before we landed at the mouth of the Berkeley River.

We were whisked away in an open topped landcruiser across virgin white sand up to the lodge.

High upon the dunes, the view was incredible. It felt so serene and any tension instantly melted away soon to be replaced by waves of sleepy relaxation.


The infamous red sands of the North
Just leave me right here!
That first day we did very little but lounge around, relax and occasionally remember to pick our jaws up off the floor.
However, in the few days to follow, we certainly made the most of this unspoilt haven.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Bungle Bungles

The last 140km into Fitzroy Crossing were on tarmac (sealed) roads so we zipped along lickety split.

If we had not diverted to Windjana Gorge then Fitzroy would have been our stop over for the night. What a good call that was!

Fitzroy Crossing is exactly that, a crossing place with folks shifting from East to West and vice versa. It has a roadhouse, a supermarket and outdoor supplies places.

It is also an Aboriginal township.We do not know enough about the situation with the indigenous peoples of Australia so no opinion will be made, we are not qualified. What I will say was what we saw was not nice at all.

There were groups shuffling around rather than walking, hanging around the supermarket, slumped in doorways around the roadhouse or under trees with cans and bottles of alcohol with seemingly absolutely nothing to do with their day. They all looked haggard and quite ill. Toddlers in soiled underpants ran about with candlestick runny noses. A strong, sour pungent smell knocked you out when a group of people walked past you. I am in no way being judgemental or derogatory but factual. It made us sad, this was truly third world or was it?

The dichotomy was this: in the queue in front of us was a lady with bare feet, baggy, raggedy clothes forking out $138 on fried chicken and chips and paying in cash!

Something is askew here.

Anyway after a quick coffee, we hit the road. I got behind the wheel for the first and only time as it turned out and did the last 200km into Halls Creek. It was hubster's turn to have a doze.

The Butchers at Halls Creek.
Marketing with reverse psychology - brilliant

This poor fella died of thirst. We kind of appreciated how that could happen!

Even the cemeteries are pretty stark out here.
In Halls Creek we stocked up once more. We ditched the van for the night and stayed in a little motel. It felt like heaven, cotton sheets and a great shower.

It was here we came across a brochure for the Berkeley River Lodge and recklessly decided to go right off piste once more. The imminent promise of the most ultimate in luxury bucked us up no end as did the thought of getting off the beaten track once more, away from people, back to nature in the outback.

We headed into the Purnululu National Park. The home of the incredible Bungle Bungles.

The stars were amazing that night as we stared in wonder through the mesh of our tent. The next morning we were up once more at first light. It was blisteringly hot here, so early morning was the only sensible time to go and see this incredible rock formation, now a world heritage site.



Without doubt a really moving experience. How tiny, insignificant and humbled we felt in this place. We were rendered speechless as we stared around in awe in the middle of the amphitheatre of Cathedral Gorge.

Huge termite mound!


It was one of those places where I could hear Dad's voice loud and clear.
"Hey Ratbag, take in every second sweetheart, make sure you do - for me"
Then there were tears.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Hotter than a snakes ass!

The camper van could sleep 3 people - technically. Two up top in the pop up roof tent and one squeezed down below next to the cupboards and whirring fridge.

Unless Hubster was going to shrink to 8 stone wringing wet overnight, there was no way we could sleep up top together.

However, even with himself up top and me below, hugging the fridge, it soon became apparent that sleeping in the van was becoming nigh on impossible.

It was damned hot, "hotter than a snakes ass in a rattle pit". We couldn't sleep with the doors or windows open for fear of hissing Sid looking for a night time cuddle.

The temperatures were creeping ever closer to 40 degrees in the day and only dropped a few degrees at night without a breath of wind. The bush fire rating was set to EXTREME!

Our next stop after Cape Leveque was Derby. (pronounced Durby)

We promptly found a camp shop and purchased a pop up mesh tent. This is basically a mossie net attached to a tent frame.

However, it allowed us to be together, where we could stare at the stars through the mesh, capture what breeze there was and whistle na na na na na to all the bitey things outside. (However there was zero privacy as you can see!)

After a delicious sunset meal of Barramundi and salad on the Wharf, we had the best nights sleep so far in Derby.

Earlier, on our arrival into Derby, we came across the famous Boab tree, deemed to be 1500 years old. It is 14 metres in circumference and was once used as a holding bay for Aboriginal slaves being moved to work on cattle stations in the North. I really don't like that thought but I am sure this tree has a tale or two to tell. The Boab trees of W.A are really a beautiful sight on the arid landscape.

The following morning after a cuppa, fried egg and beans, we were at the airstrip in Derby at 7 am. Here we boarded a baked bean tin with a propeller and set to the skies with our pilot John who looked about 12!

We soared across the Buccaneer Archipelago, Cockatoo Island and the Horizontal Falls. Here there was a massive cluster of over 1000 islands and some had been given over entirely to Iron Ore mining. Really not a bad spot to work I'd say.

That same day we drove to Windjana Gorge, mostly in silence, both lost in our reveries from our scenic flight and looking forward to our encounter ahead with the largest concentration of fresh water crocodile in Australia.

It was 43 in the shade by the time we reached the Gorge. The heat haze simmered above the ground like steam and so there was only one thing for it; get under the awning and doze with a cold one because even reading a book was too exhausting.

The next morning we were up with first light. By 5.15am we were booted up, armed with 4 litres of water and heading off into the gorge. Any later and the heat would have been too much. We had about a 2hr walk ahead of us. Almost immediately we spotted the "freshies" bathing in the warmth of the early sunlight, they were everywhere. We stopped counting at 120, it was quite a sight. Freshies are not deemed to be dangerous to humans unless of course you try and get up close and personal so it really was amazing to be within a metre or so of these prehistoric beauties.

The gorge was stunning and it was hard to believe that within weeks the arid river bed would become a huge torrenting river gushing through the valley. The wet season was imminent.

Can you see him?

Bats stink!!

Windjana Gorge was never on our original itinerary, how mighty thankful we were that we diverted our course.

We had to hit the road once more, this time to find a small outback town to refuel the van and us. That next stop would be Fitzroy Crossing.