Monday, May 30, 2011

Rainbow Bee-Eater

While in Kununurra we have gotten to watch a new bird flit around the trees. 
The Rainbow Bee-Eater is multi-colored which is a little tough to tell in the picture but he is blue, green, yellow, and orange.  They are so graceful in the air and eat insects including bees.  Their voice is described as "soft musical trilling" in our bird book.  We have added him to our bird list on the right side of the blog.  We are up to 92 birds and hoping to hit 100 by the time we leave Australia.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kununurra

We've been in Kununurra the past few days.  This is a smaller city near the border with the Northern Territory.  It was created in the 1960s when a nearby dam was built to create Lake Argyle and supply the ensuing irrigation project.  More on that later...


On our first day in town we visited two art galleries.  Our first stop was at the Lovell Gallery, a terrific gallery with scenes from the surrounding Kimberley region.  Amazing art.  Our second stop was Artlandish, an Aboriginal art gallery.  Another terrific find!  We've been looking for the right piece, but haven't quite found it yet.


On the second day in town we stopped at Mirima National Park and did a couple of short walks.  It's a peaceful spot and close to town.  It has smaller cliffs and rock formations that are similar to the Bungles.  However, the walks were completed too quickly and fairly disappointing.  We made up for this by finding a spot for pizza!



On our third day, we rented a canoe from our caravan park and spent several hours paddling with the crocs!  We paddled out to Lake Kununurra, between the Diversion and Argyle dams.  We spotted a couple of freshwater crocs and Leigh managed to keep us from capsizing and swimming with them!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kimberleyland Holiday Park

Another great view from the caravan park:

We even saw a freshwater croc right along the water's edge.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wyndham and Around

On our way to Kununurra we went to Wyndham to make a couple of stops.  The first was the Grotto.

We walked down 140 steps to this 300 foot deep pool surrounded by rocks and trees-quite beautiful and peaceful.  There were fish swimming around in the clear water and we even saw a couple of monitor lizards.

Next we had to add another "big thing" to our list-the big crocodile.

 He's twenty meters long and in the second picture Ben is wearing his new Aussie Bush hat, dad.  My dad has been asking if Ben got an Aussie hat yet.:)

Our last stop was the Five Rivers Lookout.

We are in Kununurra now for a couple of days.  We will probably check out another National Park and maybe go canoeing.  I also found a really good running trail right outside of the caravan park that I ran on last night and will probably run on again today.

Km today: 348
Total travelled: 5234

Bungle Bungles

We knew we wanted to see the Bungle Bungles, also called Purnululu National Park, but it wasn't going to be easy to get there.  You have to have a four wheel drive vehicle and drive down 50 km of rough road to get there so we opted to take a tour.  We left with two other couples and our tour guide at 6:30 in the morning.  The drive took a very long time with multiple creek crossings.  We finally started to see the "domes" or "beehives" the park is known for.


These domes are made of layers of white sandstone.  The black bands are cyanobacteria and the orange bands are iron oxide.  We took a walk to Cathedral Gorge and had lunch.

Algae and sand silt make this stream look golden.

Another amazing part of Australia to get to see but we probably wouldn't recommend the tour.  Our guide was great.  He was very knowledgeable and passionate about the area.  He identified lots of plants and broke off pieces of mint, lemongrass, and citronella for us to smell.  What we didn't like though was that it was a twelve and a half hour tour and we were only in the park for two and a half hours.  It was a LOT of driving and very expensive.  It was a fun day though and we really enjoyed talking to the other couples in our group and sharing caravan trip tips.

Km today: 458
Total travelled: 4886
(this is just what we drove to get to Warnum where we took the tour from, not counting all the riding we did on the tour)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Freshies!

We arrived in Fitzroy Crossing on Sunday and Monday morning went on a one hour boat trip through Geikie Gorge.  The gorge has been cut by the mighty Fitzroy River and the walls are limestone rock of the Devonian Reef.  The park only opened back up after the flooding of the wet season two weeks ago.  Unfortunately we are going to have to skip a couple of parks we wanted to go to (Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek, and part of the Bungle Bungles) because they still aren't open due to flooded roads.  We were glad Geikie Gorge was open though. 


We got to see lots of freshwater crocodiles (called freshies) basking in the sun on the banks of the river.  They aren't as dangerous as estuarine (saltwater) crocodiles and have a narrower snout.


We also saw Fairy Martins and their unique nests made of mud and saliva.
We even saw a rock that looked like Nixon.  We thought it was funny that our Australian tour guide pointed this out.


Km today: 458
Total travelled: 4428


Monday, May 23, 2011

Stop...Camel Time!


One of the classic Broome experiences is to ride camels on Cable Beach.  This is a huge beach on the Indian Ocean and several companies offer late afternoon camel rides.  We went with Broome Camel Safaris.


Camels were introduced into Australia in the mid-19th century to help open up the arid interior.  In the early 20th century, the combustible engine made camels obsolete and many were released or escaped.  Since then, these feral camels have thrived in Australia and as many as one million camels are estimated to be roaming the interior.  In some areas, they have become a nuisance and pest.



Australia is now the only country in the world with wild dromedaries.  As such, a business has sprung up exporting camel meat and live camels for racing to the Middle East.


"Isaac"
Camels are feisty animals (even domesticated for riding) and we were cautioned several times not to spook them.  We opted for the pre-sunset ride and enjoyed 30 minutes of beach scenery from a saddle on Isaac's hump.  We even managed to stay camel spit-free!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Staircase to the Moon


We were fortunate to be in Broome during the episodic event called the "Staircase to the Moon."  This phenomenon occurs in different locations along Australia's northwest coast, but Broome capitalizes on it with night markets.

It occurs when the rising full moon is reflected at low tide off the tidal flats.  It's an incredible sight, made even better by not having to leave our campsite!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Northwest Australia Tides

This part of Australia is known for large fluctuations between high and low tides.  While we've been here, the difference has been about 8 meters (25 feet).  That's measured vertically, so depending on the topography of the shore, the horizontal difference can be huge.  Farther north, the tidal difference can be as large as 11-12 meters.

Here are two pictures taken from the same spot with the same zoom settings at high tide and low tide.  Many of the mangroves are submerged when the tide is in.


Broome with a View

Check out the view from our campsite-amazing!


We are over 200 posts now!  Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Slip into Broome Time

Broome is the most tropical of the places we've been on this segment of the trip.  The temperature has been in the 80's and there are tropical flowers blooming everywhere.  There is a saying "slip into Broome time" which means just relaxing and soaking up the tropical atmosphere.  We've been liking Broome so much we decided to stay a couple of extra nights from what we were planning on originally. 

We've been swimming at Town Beach, into town twice once by foot and once by bus due to the heat, enjoyed the Staircase to the Moon (more on that in a future post) and night markets, I went for a run, and Ben even got a haircut. 

In the 1800's the first European settlers found beds of silver-lip pearl oysters, otherwise known as Mother of Pearl shell, on Eighty-mile Beach at low spring tides.  Mother of Pearl was in high demand in Europe and America for making buttons.  Once the beds were depleted, diving for the shells began with the local indigenous people free diving up to ten meters.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Japanese divers were recruited.  They wore heavy dive suits, copper helmets, and lead-weighted boots.  Many of the divers died due to the dangerous conditions and lack of understanding about the bends.  Many of them are buried in the cemetery in Broome.

At one time there were 400 pearling luggers along the shore.  As plastics became popular for buttons, the demand for Mother of Pearl decreased but around the same time the first cultured pearl farm began.  There are still many pearl farms around Broome and lots of places to buy beautiful pearl jewelry.  We stopped at the Pearl Luggers Museum and saw two of the boats (luggers) used for diving and learned some of the history.



Km today: 638
Total travelled: 3970

Video of Whale Shark

video

This video shows the chaos of swimming with nine other people and one 25 foot long fish!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Manta Ray Video

video

Salty Port Hedland

From Karijini National Park, we returned to the coast at Port Hedland.  This is a major shipping port for iron ore which is mined in the surrounding Pilbara region.


There is also a salt production facility with a gigantic pile of gleaming white salt.  (Everything else in the area is a dark red color from the soil!)  This facility uses a complex of evaporation pools to concentrate seawater into table salt.

Now I just need some chips (french fries)!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Karijini Day Two

On day two in Karijini we got back on the sealed roads and saw a couple more sites at the other end of the park even though it was raining quite a bit.  First stop was Circular Pool.
We also went to Fortescue Falls and did a very rainy hike down to the bottom where we also saw Fern Pool.  Can you spot the falls in the picture below?

We drove to Port Hedland for the night before making the 5-6 hour drive to Broome.

Km today: 448
Total km travelled: 3332

Odds and Ends

After more than two weeks on our epic road trip, there have been many episodes or events that have not quite earned their own blog post.  To compromise, we've posted a list of noteworthy occurrences here. 
  • Cows as roadkill.  Many huge stations (farms) encompass different highways.  Because of the great distances, these stations can't prevent their cattle from crossing the road.  Thus, there are some old leathery roadkill cows.  We've counted 8 so far.
  • Hair treatments.  This guy is getting his hair cut near Eagle Bluff.  A lady at a recent caravan park was getting her hair dyed by her husband...
  • Camels.  We saw a guy leading two loaded camels alongside the highway.  We were at least 100km from any civilization that we know of.
  • Roadhouses.  The distances in Australia are so great with a relatively small population.  Thus, there are roadhouses at various intervals (around 200km) where you can get fuel or something to eat.  Often, they're like tiny villages with a caravan park onsite.
  • Dingos.  We saw our first dingo in Karijini National Park.  They can be dangerous (mostly to children), so it made us nervous going to the bathroom that night!
  • Waving.  It's customary to wave at every passing vehicle while driving, especially in more rural areas.  (This was also true on Kangaroo Island)  The typical wave just involves lifting one or two fingers off the steering wheel.  A kind of road-warrior salute!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Karijini Day One

We drove several hours to Tom Price from Coral Bay.  After one night at a nice caravan park there we drove to Karijini National Park.  There were two areas we wanted to explore.  One was down several kilometers of unsealed road.  We asked at the visitor center and were told we would probably be fine with our vehicle based on the road conditions.  We stopped first at the Knox Gorge lookout.

Yes, more gorges.  These were even better than the ones we saw in Kalbarri though!  We went to Joffre Falls next and hiked down to the bottom.



We saw Junction Pool Lookout
and ended the day hiking down into Weano Gorge.
We stayed in a caravan park that had no powered sites and it poured rain most of the night.  We left pretty early the next morning for our second day in the park.

Km today: 778
Total travelled: 2884