outbackjoe

a camping trip of ridiculous proportions

wyndham jetty sunset


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Kununurra and Wyndham

From the Bungle Bungles we headed into Kununurra – our first major centre since Alice Springs a couple of weeks before. We were in need of a big shop and enjoyed relaxing at a green grassy caravan park with a flash swimming pool. Some time was had at the Hoochery Distillery tasting rum and getting ideas about future brewing projects.

kununurra from kellys knob lookout

Kununurra from kellys knob lookout

Mirima National Park from kellys knob

Mirima National Park from kellys knob

Kununurra is a pleasant, attractive and liveable town with nice green spaces, a lake, good shops, plenty of choice for eating out, heaps of activities and tours for tourists and delicious local rum. Wyndham has none of that and it’s awesome! It feels like you’ve stepped off the edge of the earth when you come into Wyndham. It’s hot, arid, inhospitable, dilapidated, surrounded by mudflats and nearly deserted yet we had a really great time there.

Before Wyndham is the Grotto – a deep, cold waterhole that’s fun to climb down into and great for a brisk cold swim.

the grotto near wyndham

Heading into Wyndham we first checked out the Wyndham prison boab tree then drove up the Bastion (big hill overlooking town) to Five Rivers Lockout. The view across Wyndham Port, Cambridge Gulf, the rivers and the vast country is really impressive.

wyndham prison tree opening wyndham prison tree from the inside

Wyndham Five Rivers Lookout (The Bastion)

View from Five Rivers Lookout with King River top left. At the top centre of image is a part of Cambridge Gulf called The Gut and is near the confluence of the Pentecost and Durack Rivers. Out of view of this image is also the Ord River and Forrest River.

After the lookout we stopped at the big crocodile.

wyndham big crocodile

Then we checked into the Wyndham caravan park and headed off to the social club for beers and pizza. We enjoyed chatting to the friendly locals, many having interesting stories to tell about life around town and how they ended up in Wyndham. Both the beers and pizzas were delicious and we had an excellent night.

Next day was spent wandering around exploring the various attractions, enjoying food and coffee at the one remaining cafe in town and fishing off the jetty. The pub and various other eateries have all closed down along with a mine that used to export iron ore at Wyndham Port. There’s an old video store / convenience store that’s still open where we went for icecream and enjoyed listening to the owner’s stories of being in the circus and touring the outback with Slim Dusty and local gossip about why the pub has closed. Unfortunately we missed the museum because it was closed for roof repairs.

We visited the Warriu Park Dreamtime Statues, a couple of old cemeteries, some historic buildings and the jetty. We fished the sunset off the jetty but had no luck, then headed out of town for a dodgy side of the road camp on the way to Parry Creek Road along the Ord River.

gazebo near statues in wyndham

Relaxing under the gazebo at the pristinely maintained Warriu Park Dreamtime Statues in Wyndham.

 

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bungle bungles


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Halls Creek and Bungle Bungles / Purnululu

Out of the desert and into the Kimberley region where we look forward to less dust and more fishing and swimming. We’ll be catching barramundi soon enough.

The Tanami Track finishes just south of Halls Creek where some friends of ours live. We stayed with them for several days. It gave us a nice base to explore the area and service the hilux, which ticked over 160,000km on our way up the Tanami. We visited a few of the local attractions like China Wall, Palm Springs, Old Halls Creek and the Kimberley Hotel.

From Halls Creek we headed up to the Bungle Bungles for a few days. The track in is rough, slow and hard on vehicles. I think it took us something like 5 hours to travel the 60 odd km to the camp grounds. Our favourite attraction is echidna chasm. The sun coming through the narrow chasm looks impressive and the walk is fun. Cathedral Gorge and all the other spots are pretty good too.

Back on the highway heading north, we stopped off at Warmun to look at the famous aboriginal art gallery. I started feeling dizzy when I saw the prices so I left Sharni in there and went for a walk to take some photos of white cockatoos hanging out in boab trees.

tanami road bitumen section


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Tanami Road

The Tanami Road starts as a nice bitumen road just north of Alice Springs but quickly turns into a typical dusty and corrugated outback track. There’s not much to see over its 1,000km length other than Wolfe Creek meteorite crater and the odd horse, but still is worthwhile to experience. There’s something relaxing and unique about travelling through the desert country.

It took us 3 nights to complete the track – two nights camping at gravel pits on the side of the road and one night at the Wolfe Creek camping area. We quickly checked in at Yuendumu aboriginal community on the way through to have a look at the art center.

The track condition deteriorates towards Halls Creek, becoming pretty rough as it passes through some rocky hilly country. A couple we bumped into a few times ran out of fuel, not anticipating the increased fuel use through the rough bit. There’s plenty of traffic and they didn’t have to wait long until someone with jerry cans stopped to top them up.

mt sonder


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West MacDonnell Ranges to Alice Springs

After Hermansburg we headed back west to loop around through the West MacDonnell Ranges. We stayed at Redbank Gorge camping area for a couple of days, checking out Redbank Gorge on one day and climbing Mt Sonder on the other. Then a day trip to Ormiston Gorge before driving past Ellery Creek Big Hole where we camped at a few years ago and finally a couple of days in Alice Springs.

The truck museum in Alice Springs was interesting. It’s massive. So many trucks, so much reading material. Anyone with a thing for trucks could spend days going through it.

We filled in most of the gaps that we missed the first time we came through the Uluru / Alice Springs area although would have liked to do the east side of Alice and down to Chambers Pillar. But with the desert country getting cold and the Kimberley waterholes nicely filled and flowing fresh from a good wet season, it was prudent we head up the Tanami Track to the warmer areas.

kings canyon


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Kings Canyon, Palm Valley and Hermansburg

Kings Canyon is a gorge a few hundred kilometers from Uluru that we didn’t get to see last time we traveled through. Actually we missed a whole chunk of spots in the area. This time we left Uluru and did Kings Canyon, then the badly corrugated Mereenie Loop Track up to Hermannsburg and Palm Valley.

kings canyon 2

Kings Canyon

Palm Valley in Finke Gorge National Park was a standout. The awesomeness starts immediately with the track going in. The track is easy so doesn’t feel like you’re hammering the crap out of your car, but still feels like fun offroading as it follows the Finke River through some hills and arid landscapes. Often the track is actually the Finke River itself. It’s not often you get to navigate a river in a car!

Driving on Finke River

Driving on Finke River in Finke Gorge National Park

The camp grounds are also great. It’s set among some beautiful red hills and cliffs and has good facilities: water, gas bbqs, flushing toilets and even warm showers. This is all at standard Northern Territory national park prices. There’s a nice little walk out of the camp grounds to Kalarranga rock formations.

Kalarranga rocks 2 Kalarranga rocks

Then Palm Valley itself is also awesome. The short vehicle track from the camp ground to Palm Valley travels through some nice red cliffs and rock formations and through a few steep dry creek crossings. It’s much rougher than the first track into the camp grounds but it’s only a few km long.

driving to palm valley

Track into Palm Valley

palm valley rocky track

Steep rocky section of track

The Palm Valley walk is easy and a bit different than your usual gorge walk. A lot of the walk is in the river valley itself, which is a piece of cake since the valley is bed rock worn smooth by the water flow a few years ago. The palms and dark red cliffs and smooth river valley make it a unique walk.

palm valley walking trail

Here is an artistic photo of the red cliffs with the shadows of the palms on the cliffs. Most people just take photos of the actual palms.

palm valley cliff face

After a couple of nights in Palm Valley we visited Hermannsburg – an old aboriginal community that started as a Lutheran mission in 1877. We grabbed a pie at the bakery, coffee and scones at the cafe and checked out some of the old buildings.

uluru base walk cave


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Uluru and Kata Tjuta

We we’re a bit rushed last time we visted Uluru so we had to have another look. This time, with a baby in tow, we decided against the steep, treacherous and sometimes deadly climb to the top and instead did the 10km base walk.

On the base walk we found some sandalwood bush plum. They weren’t very sweet, tasted bitter and sour with possibly a slight hint of plum flavour.

uluru bush plum sandalwood bush plums found around ulurusandalwood bush plum

The different perspective of the base walk was great. We got to see lots of different views of the rock that we had never seen before. The next day we did the valley of the winds walk through Kata Tjuta / Olgas and had a fancy dinner at Yulara Resort.

On the way out of Uluru we stayed at Curtin Springs road house. We ended up having a big night out at the bar, drinking beers and chatting with the owner of the Curtin Springs cattle station until late. In the morning we felt a bit ginger so decided on another visit to the bar for a bacon and egg sandwich before heading off for Kings Canyon.

empress springs descending ladder


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Back On The Road

Apart from the occasional short trip out of Perth, recently we’ve had a serious shortage of camping missions and outback exploring. The blame lies solely with our participation in the rat race. Fortunately this situation has been corrected and we’re back on the road for some proper long term travel around oz.

This time round we’ve made some improvements to our setup. I’m not going to list them all here, but the main change is to our solar panel arrangement, making it lighter, simpler, more aerodynamic and easier to deploy. Oh and our two person team has expanded to three.

hilux with new solar panels

Our hilux  keeping beer cold with the new solar panel setup.

new team

The new three person team.

We’re a bit behind on the blog and have already made it to Broome. This post covers from Perth to the WA border via Great Central Road.

Our route has taken us to Kalgoorlie, Menzies, the Lake Ballard sculptures, Kookynie, Leonora, Laverton and onto the corrugations of the Great Central Road. On the way we found some bush banana. Tastes like peas.

bush banana prep bush banana

We detoured off Great Central Road, heading north on David Carnegie Road to visit Empress Spring. This spring saved the lives of David Carnegie and his party whilst exploring the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts a few years ago. They were out of water and nearly dead, so captured an aborigine, fed him salted beef and held him hostage until he led them to a water supply.

empress spring descending ladder empress spring

After a night at Empress Spring the plan was to continue north on David Carnegie Road and then traverse the Gunbarrel Highway across to Warburton where we’d rejoin the Great Central Road. We made it easily to Empress Spring and then a further 100km north but our efforts were thwarted by some deep washouts on the track. With only modest ground clearance, the washouts were pushing the limits on our vehicle’s capability. Falling into a big rut could have us stranded since we were travelling alone with no other vehicles to assist in recovery. I believed that with some minor reshaping of the track with a shovel there was a better than 50% chance of making it through, and if not we had plenty of food, water and beer on board. Sharni on the other hand chickened out and ordered an immediate u-turn.

david carnegie road ruts

Although it doesn’t look it on the photo, these ruts were probably half a meter deep.

So it was back south down the slow, rutted and spinifex laden track where we again picked up the Great Central Road from where we left it a few days before.

david carnegie road spinifex

Continuing east towards the WA border was uneventful apart from the ongoing corrugations. One of the hilux badges fell off our car and the CB radio antenna broke off (this is the second time we’ve had this happen). Here’s a few more photos of the trip up to Lasseters Cave just inside the Northern Territory Border. From here we continue to Uluru and beyond.