Still heading west.
Camooweal to Three Ways in one day and the only other place we ‘went through’ was Barkly Homestead Roadhouse and a small bushfire. Most dots on the map are just roadhouses that can become destinations in themselves. Then we turned north on the Stuart Highway to another roadhouse cooking their own pies, yum. Best so far. We had had days and days of long straight roads, with cows on unfenced roads, agile wallabies by the thousand, dancing Brolgas, HUGE Wedge tail eagles and crows by the dozen. It was time for a break. Katherine Gorge might be a good place for that.
We had been through lots of indigenous communities which means that the stores have more than packets of chips and 2 minute noodles which is usually all you can get at a roadhouse. That, or greasy take away. At least we could stock up at these stores, except for methylated spirits for our little stove, no way can you buy metho within 500 km of an aboriginal community. Most grey nomads bring everything from home in their mega travelling mansions “because everything is so expensive”! But I am happy with my flavoured milk and a fancy straw and a freshly made pie, yum, under the shade of a ‘Camooweal apple tree’. No idea what these trees are called, but that is what I called them.
Next there was Daly Waters pub which is actually in a proper town. All 9 residents plus 3000 tourists and the backpackers working behind the bar.
We were spending the night at Mataranka and looking forward to a dip in the hot springs. Firstly though, after a long hot day, the first port of call was to the pub and a chat with some of the locals. They are very matter of fact about all their problems dealing with alcohol abuse and what life is like for their children. Back to camp before it got dark and down to Bitter Springs. How beautiful. Nearly everyone had gone by this time and I floated around watching the stars come out. Wow! This is the highlight of the trip so far.
The next day was just a short ride up the highway to Katherine so we didn’t need to rush. First we stopped at Cutta Cutta Caves, and walked through these dry, humid limestone caves with some incredible formations.
We had planned to have a rest day each week so we wouldn’t get too tired and Katherine would have been a place to do this but it was too hot to just sit around, so we did the dawn cruise up the Gorge the next morning and then packed up and headed further west.
It had been one week since we had left Townsville and we were still heading west. From Katherine, it felt like the point of no return. Once you have turned west from here, the only way home is to keep going, the long way home. We were doing great, though the chains had started to stretch after getting that gritty red dirt into them no matter how much lube we had put on them.
We had a few ‘dry’ camps along the top passing through Victoria River and on to Western Australia. They have the tightest quarantine restrictions and I made sure that all of our fresh food had been eaten as they will go through your stuff and check. We had been having some rather nice spaghetti bolognaise that I had dehydrated before leaving home but even that was gone by now. As you can imagine, my little lunch box for food didn’t hold that much, so food was bought on a ‘get only what we need when we can find it’ principle while we were on the road.
Kununurra was a big town built on the excitement of having a bloody big dam on the Ord River, built to provide irrigation to feed the world. Which it would except a few pests and diseases ruined the first crops they planted. Now they have extended the dam and Lake Argyle is classified as an inland sea and a few high value crops which will survive have been planted but these aren’t necessarily much use in feeding the world, like Sandalwood. Eventually it might work though.
We were DEFINITELY having a rest day here, so I found a nice caravan park by the lake and it had a swimming pool and a bar and a restaurant. Cheers! And it was time to do some more touristy stuff, so we booked a flight and tour to Bungle Bungles. This was pretty impressive considering Grandpa’s aversion to flying in little planes and dislike of walking. We had a fantastic day and saw the most awesome scenery. Not necessarily a restful day though.
Leaving Kununurra we turned south around the Kimberley even though we were still technically heading west. It is a bit depressing looking at the road sign that says 1200km to Port Headland! My god that is a long way and it was still hot. I had all the liners out of my jacket and pants and all the breather zips open and I could feel the back of my neck getting sunburnt. We passed through Hall’s Creek and Fitzroy Crossing and had some more ‘dry’ camps on dry riverbeds. We were heading to Derby into the sun and it was exciting seeing all the red rocks and hills after so much flat land.
Two weeks and 5000 kilometres since we had left Townsville and finally we were on the West coast! We lashed out on a room in a motel at Derby and you should have seen the red dust getting washed off in the beautiful white shower. We were feeling pretty good until we went to the bar and bought 2 beers – $19.50!! We near choked. Anyway didn’t matter, we were thirsty and it was time to turn another corner.