Tuesday, 26 August 2014

17 - 25 August 2014 - Katherine, Free Camp, Karumba, Mt Surprise and Atherton

We stayed 2 nights in Katherine for a rest day. Worked through photos and walked along the river in the evening. Bird life was great in the park. We left Katherine and headed south and stayed at a cattle station called Banka Banka. Next day we headed to Three Ways where we filled up with fuel and headed east towards Queensland. We stopped for the night at a picnic spot and were the only ones there but found we had a slightly flat tyre. We found the valve stem had perished and was leaking so we put the spare tyre on and had the valve replaced in Mt Isa the next day. In the morning we saw flocks of budgies heading to the water and Zebra Finches building their nest.

We headed east then north to Karumba which we were told was a good spot specially for fishing - well that was from a fisherman's perspective and we found it rather a dump although there was a little billabong outside our caravan with great birdlife. We had dinner at a cafe on the sea with the sun setting over the mangrove flats - so Karumba was not that bad after all, specially after seeing a lot of Brolgas and a Whistling Kite trying to eat a cigarette lighter while its chicks called from the nest above.

The roads in this area are terrible with large sections of single lane bitumen and lots of bumps so it was like being on a rollercoaster for a couple of days. We ended up in Mt Surprise where we stayed at a lovely caravan park for two nights. The next day we took a tour into the Undura Volcanic National Park where we climbed a cone crater and walked through 3 different lava tubes. These lava tubes are the biggest and longest in the world and are 190 thousand years old - quite spectacular when you walk 600 metres into a pitch dark tube filled with bats!

Next morning we headed towards the Atherton Tablelands and Atherton itself. What a change of scenery! From savannah to mountains and cool air. This made for a great change after about 3 weeks of flat landscapes. We stayed in Atherton for two nights and visited a huge Curtain Fig tree which was almost impossible to photograph but we did our best. We went to a place where you are guaranteed to see platypus but they were closed :-(  so we took a shortcut back to the main road and almost immediately came across an echidna heading for thick grass. I jumped out the car and stood in his way until Vlasta caught up with the camera. Not the best viewing as he was half submerged in thick grass but very exciting anyway. Tasted some cheese and chocolate at the Gallo Dairyland factory on the way home.

Next morning we had the wheel alignment on the caravan fixed and headed for Cooktown where we plan to spend two days.

Rainbow Lorikeets looking for water in Katherine
Grey-crowned Babbler in Katherine
River in Katherine
Brolgas in Karumba
Whistling Kite at Sunset Tavern in Karumba
Sunset in Karumba
Path along the rim of the Kalkani volcanic crater in Undara Volcanic National Park
Entrance to a lava tube
Path through a lava tube
Curtain Fig tree near Atherton
Brush Turkey near Atherton
Platypus habitat - Atherton Tablelands
Whistling Kite with a cigarette lighter in Karumba
Bats in a lava tube
Group photo on the lava tubes tour
Staghorn Fern in Atherton
Curtain Fig tree

Sunday, 17 August 2014

15 - 16 August 2014 - Zebra Rock Mine, Lake Argyle and Katherine

We left Kununurra for the Zebra Rock Mine in the Northern Territory just 60km from Kununurra. Crossing the border into the NT we had to adjust our watches 1.5 hours ahead so lost part of the day in the process! The Zebra Rock Mine was established just 3 years ago. This unique 600 million year old rock is only found in this area and nowhere else in the world. Nobody knows how the rock is formed but is striped just like the stripes of a zebra.

The hosts of the mine were pet-sitting a Bearded Lizard, Matilda, and a Carpet Python, Derek. Matilda is so docile you can do almost anything with her. After settling in we drove to the lookout where we could see Lake Argyle in the distance. A short rest brought us to the time to go on the 4 hour Wetlands Safari on lake Argyle. The bus trip took '3 songs' to get there and the scenery that greeted us was stunning! So many birds you did not know which way to look. The first part of the safari was on the edge of the lake in shallow water with archer fish around the boat. Next we headed at speed to another section of the lake shore with beautiful channels with trees and very green grass lining the waterways. We stopped for snacks and a fishing rod was brought out by our guide Max. A catfish was duly caught and to our surprise was not thrown back but pumped full of air and then thrown back for the Sea Eagles to snatch from the water surface! With 3 eagles watching eagerly we did not have to wait long for the the fish to be snatched in typical fish-eagle style. We were fortunate to catch the action on video, not once, but 3 times!

The trip back to the bus brought a spectacular sunset and another '3 song' ride back for fish and chips around a campfire with fairy lights wrapped around the Boab trees ringing the camp.

After a peaceful but cold night we headed for Katherine almost 500 km east. We checked into the caravan park we last stayed at 7 years ago. We decided to have rest day, so Sunday we just relaxed and chose our best photos.

View of Zebra Mine area and Lake Argyle in the distance
Start of the Sunset Safari on Lake Argyle
Channels on Lake Argyle
Fresh water crocodile
Snacks with the Sea Eagles
Sea Eagle
Sea Eagles
Sunset over Lake Argyle
600 million year old Zebra Rock
Matilda the Bearded Lizard
Great Egret
Lake Argyle wetlands
Lake Argyle wetlands
Pied Heron

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

11 - 14 August 2014 - Kununurra

Left Derby and visited the Boab Prison Tree on the way out. Boab trees are very closely related to the Madagascan Baobab tree and it is thought they got to Australia via ocean currents. Boab trees looks almost identical to the African Baobab tree and the name is thought to be a shortened version of Baobab.

Had head winds all day which did not play nicely with our fuel consumption }:-(  We were both rather tired so when we saw a Farm Stay caravan park advertised and the writeup on Wikicamps was really good we decided to stay for the night. The place is called Larrawa Nature Stay and is a working cattle station. For those non-Aussie readers, a station is a farm! What a lovely place - no power but there was fresh drinkable bore water and hot showers. There were about 5 other vans with us so it was really quiet and peaceful. After a nap we went to feed 4 calves who had lost their mothers. The sheep were also brought in for the night and fed along with the pigs and chickens. All animals except for the cattle are for the table! The pigs are caught wild on the property so a good source of food and also help reduce the population ferral pigs which are very destructive in the wild.

The moon rose over our caravan so out came the cameras for some night photography. The farm is approximately half a million acres with +/- 10 000 head of cattle and is run by the farmer, his wife and one camp hand! Talk about efficient use of resources. The farm was started completely from scratch in 1989 by the current farmer and he has only just finnished doing everything he wants to do on the farm.

After a good night's sleep and a chat with the farmer and his wife we headed for Kununurra for a couple of days rest after all the travelling.

Male Red-Wing Parrot
Larrawa Nature Stay
Larrawa - Full moon over our caravan
Prison Boab Tree
Inside another Boab tree - room for 10 people

Sunday, 10 August 2014

9 - 11 August 2014 - 80 Mile Beach & Derby

Decided to take a look at 80 Mile Beach. The water was a stunning light blue colour which we could not resist so decided to stay for the afternoon and night. Bought a freshly baked loaf of bread and had a quick lunch after setting up camp in no time at all! Took a stroll along the beach with the water about 200m down the beach from the dunes. The beach was full of shells mixed in with thousands of sand dollars. Mixed in with the shells were live 'shells' scavanging the sand and thousands of tiny hermit crabs scampering around.

A sea eagle was chased to the sand by a seagull and then it took off, grabbed something off the beach then took flight chased by a kite.

Enjoyed the sunset with a bottle of Verve then a snack dinner before bed.

Drove to Derby where we had fish (baramundi) and chips with a bottle of white on the wharf.

Oyster Catchers at 80 Mile Beach
Lunch at 80 Mile Beach
Sunset at 80 Mile Beach

Friday, 8 August 2014

4 - 8 August 2014 - Karijini

Just spend an awesome 3 days in Karijini. Visited so many gorges and took so many photos that we had no time for much else.

We climbed in and out of 7 gorges (one twice) and found we are pretty fit from our morning walks and racing up escalators!  The gorges we visitied are: Joffre, Weano, Wittenoom, Hancock, Dales, Kalamina and Knox.  All the gorges are very different so you need to see them all.

The nights were cold (6 degrees) but the days beautiful.  We had a wonderful campsite at the Eco Retreat with a view over virgin bush towards the sunset.

Will be out of contact for few more days.

Weano Gorge
Hancock Gorge
Kalamina Gorge
Knox Gorge
Knox Gorge

Sunday, 3 August 2014

1 - 3 August 2014 - First 3 days

Well we are on our way. Left Perth on the 1st August in chilly 7 degrees but clear skies. We have not seen a cloud for 3 days now and are in Newman getting ready for a few days in Karijini.

Travel has been largely uneventful although we have seen a beautiful wild dingo and a lot of wedge-tailed eagles along with tons of Whistling Kites.  We spent the first two nights free camping - what a pleasure to have hot water and showers when in the bush!

Chatted to a truck driver about UHF radio etiquette which was quite interesting.  We did get a big star on our windscreen this morning from a stone thrown up by a passing truck :-(

Canola Field
Our Home for 5 months
First Night - free camping
About to leave