16 August to 21 August Wednesday to Monday
Well time is going very quickly. It doesn't seem almost a week since the last blog. We arrived in Kununarra on the 16th after a short drive from the Bungles. We had about 6 caravan parks to choose from but when we read about the bats at the ones on the edge of town we opted for the one in town which is right behind the pub. I have a small electrical issue that I need to sort out before we tackle the Gibb River Road and we need a powered site.
We set up camp and then we're off the Coles to stock up which we did. We decided that we would spend the next 3 days at The Argyle River camp to rest up before the Gibb River Road part. We had an early night and next morning after filling up with fuel headed off on the drive to the Ord River Scheme. We arrived there late in the morning and got a powered site for 3 nights which was close to all the amenities including bar and bistro. What a great place. The swimming pool is perched on the edge of the cliff with views over Lake Argyle (the unofficial name for the Ord Irrigation dam) At 4.30 the resident musician sets up and sings Ballards till the sun sets. Bliss. We went down to book into the sunset cruise on the lake but Friday was booked out so opted for the Saturday afternoon sunset cruise.
Friday we took easy and did some exploring around the area. We visited the Durack homestead. The Durack’s moved there in the late 1870’s after driving 2,800 head of cattle from south central Queensland. They planned to take 6 months but in fact it took 2 and a half years. On the way they lost about half their heard, but arrived in the Kimberley's and set up their farm. Their original holding in now under the lake and the only thing they were able to salvage was the main homestead building which has been rebuilt in its present position from the original materials. It was the grandson Kimberley Durack who came up withe the idea of damming the Ord River. He did all the research and cost benefit analysis and convinced both the state and federal governments to build it. Unfortunately he died just before it was finished and never saw his dream fulfilled.
The amazing thing about this project was the speed from the decision to build to completion and the cost. Just over $23 million (about $325 million in today's money) and 3 years to build from first sod to opening. ( they planned 5 and did it in 3) it is the largest single dam in Australia and at the moment the surface area Is 19.5 times that of Sydney Harbour. The dam wall is small compared to similar sized dams in the world. In those days there were no EIS studies or taking into account people's wishes. While initially a success the project since has had problems but they are over now and there is an expansion under way of land under irrigation around Kununarra and also in the Northern Territory. It is the main source of melons to the Australian market.
We drove across the dam wall and was amazed by the evenness of the rock walls.
When we got back to the resort we headed for the pool. Coming from Blackheath were the temperature at this time of the year is 10 degrees on a warm days we are taking a while to acclimatise to the 35 to 37 degree days. The pool was envigorating. Being Friday night it was footy night on the big TV and the Swans playing the Cats so off to the pub we went. Well you can't have everything. The big screen was a projector withe the top half sort of in focus and the bottom half totally out of focus. At half time we had had enough and went back to the Tvan. Well wait till the morning for the scores… really the afternoon as that is when there is access to wifi.
Next morning we took things easy as the sunset cruise starts at 2.15pm. We had lunch and set off on the cruise as planned along with 60 odd other people. The cruise gives you a better idea of the vastness of this waterway and over the whole 3 hours of cruising we only covered a small part of it. We were taken to the largest island in the lake. On it was a colony of wallaroos. Kangaroos without fur but hair instead. When the lake was being filled Harry Butler and Malcolm Douglass got together and salvaged As much wild life as they could and moved it to the island. Snakes lizards, wallaroos etc and that is why they are there today. What a legacy. No one asked them - they just did it.
At around five the boat was moored in the middle of the lake, the drinks and nibbles came out and those that wanted to could jump in for a swim, with a buoy decked out with beers champagne and nibbles for those in the water so they didn't miss out. The rest of us watched the fun and kept an eye on the setting sun.
We returned to the resort at six with the sun set and everyone had had a great afternoon. Louise and I were a bit tired from all the activity so an early dinner and to bed were the order of the evening.
On Sunday morning we packed up and set off for Kununarra again as I have mail to pick
up and may need the services of an auto electrician. We returned to the caravan park in town and we were lucky we were early as we got the last spot in town. We left Connie(Tvan) and headed off to the Zebra Stone factory. They find a stone here that is rather unique and
fashion it into all manner of things including jewellery. We then headed out to Wyndham which is about 100 Klms to the north. Once there we saw the ghost of a former town. This was once a thriving port, gateway to the Kimberley's but not any more. It hasn't been the same when a mine closed down in 2015 and over 2/3rds of the town was put out of work. At its peak the mines employed over 4000 indigenous workers and now all those jobs are gone. Only a few hundred people live there today and the main activity appears to be the live export of cattle to Indonesia.
On the way out of town we went to the lookout which is about 500 metres directly above the town. What spectacular views.
Back to town, we topped up the shopping. Coming out of the supermarket there was an aboriginal woman doing the most intickate of calving on a boab nut with a butter knife. She had almost finished it so I bought it after she calved her name on the back and the date. You'll see a photo of it in the gallery. Back at camp it was again another early night. Jeez we are getting boring in our old age.
Monday we were up early, one of the benefits of an early night. Louise is cooking today to replenish our store of frozen meals for the next leg of our adventure. I got some parts I needed and was able to sort out the electrical problems so we should be right for the next leg of our trip.
Again it will be early to bed and then off to El Questro tomorrow for three of four days of riverside bush camping.