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a camping trip of ridiculous proportions

El Questro

el questro swimming pool emma gorge

I always thought El Questro was just some fancy accommodation that people with a serious cases of status anxiety squandered thousands of dollars a night on. I was only partly correct. It’s also laden with tremendous natural scenery, gorges, waterfalls and waterholes.

We stayed a few nights at the camp grounds, paying the most we’d ever paid for unpowered camping, but it was worth it. The walking trails and waterholes and stuff are awesome. The bar at the camp is good too. One night some dude was playing his original electronic music coupled with lots of percussion and didgeridoo. He was good entertainment but I forget his name.

The closest us mundane common-folk can get to the fancy luxury is when crossing the Chamberlain River in our non-luxury 4WD. From this point views of the homestead can be seen further up the Chamberlain Gorge.

el questro homestead from chamberlain river crossing

Cape Domett

the needles rock formation cape domett

Some bloke at the cafe in Wyndham told us Cape Domett is an awesome fishing spot. He didn’t really explain that local knowledge is necessary to navigate there. The tracks didn’t match what we had on the map. It took us several hours of trying alternative routes and asking random farmers working near the side of the road before we even started heading in the right direction. A few more turns through various intersections and gates and a fair slog through some rough old tracks finally had us at our intended destination.

Cape Domett marks the eastern edge of the entrance to Cambridge Gulf. In the middle of the gulf is Lacrosse Island and the opposite cape is called Cape Dussejour. It’s a remote part of the country, not many tourists visit. A group of local campers were there when we arrived and we enjoyed chatting with them and getting some fishing tips. I managed to catch many small bream, which we ate, but nothing else.

There’s millions of tiny sand crabs at Cape Domett. They all excavate sand and roll it into little sand balls. Huge areas of tidal flat get completely covered with these little sand balls.

For every sand crab there’s a million more midges. I suffered huge midge damage by stupidly trying to repair something under the car right when the midge plague kicked up one afternoon. Midges are weak flyers and tend to stay close to the ground, making your feet and legs most vulnerable to attack. Lying on the ground presents your entire body quite nicely to millions of the pesky parasites.

Lake Argyle

lake argyle ord river dam

Catching massive barra is physically demanding. Time for some relaxation around Lake Argyle. Highlights include an interesting boat tour around the lake, the fancy swimming pool at the caravan park, and enjoying a few evening beers watching the house musician perform as the sun sets. Steve Case is his name and he has some entertaining original songs such as “Kimberley Casanova” and “Double Dick Derek”.

Big Ord River Barra

big barramundi ord river

We all know catching big barra is pretty manly and tough but what about when the barra is so big it’s illegal to keep? That’s what happened at Ivanhoe crossing on the Ord River near Kununurra. This barra had to be chucked back being over the 80cm legal limit.

big barramundi ord river

83cm barramundi ord river

Not just long, this barra was fat and heavy and difficult to lift. It slipped out of my hands and managed to get the lure hooks stuck into one of the thongs I was wearing. Thankfully my outback safety boots protected me from the hooks.

Apart from catching big barra, we also checked out some of the waterfalls and pools along Parry Creek Road – the dirt track alternative route back to Kununurra from Wyndham. Black Rock Falls was notable for the millions of butterflies flying about. I caught some undersized barra at a spot called Mambi Island but hardly worth reporting when I’m landing +80cm monsters.

Kununurra and Wyndham

wyndham jetty sunset

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.


Halls Creek and Bungle Bungles / Purnululu

bungle bungles

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

tanami road bitumen section

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.

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