Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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Monday, 26 June 2017

Kununurra - second stop




Date:
18 - 22 /05/2017
Location:
Kununurra (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
110 km
Temperature:
Min:
13.1

Max:
35.0
Bucking broncos ridden
0!

During our last day in in El Questro, after we’d packed up and said goodbye to our little campsite, we spent the remainder of the day at Emma Gorge (see last post for details). Having explored the gorge fully, we then drove the 110 kilometres back to Kununurra, where we arrived just after the sun went down. Luckily, the campsite reception was still open and we could pick up a swipe card for the boom gates and rescue our little trailer from its holding pen at the back of the site. Picking our way slowly through the throngs of caravans and camper trailers, we arrived at the foreboding hidden lots (tucked out of sight from the rest of the campers), where forlorn vehicles are sent to rest while their owners are away.

As we pulled up, I swear I could hear the faint muffled sound our little trailer saying: “SPUNGLE THUMBLESUMM, NOJUNGLE RUMBLES… ERRR… WOT WAS IT? BUNJIL FUMBLES…”.  As we appeared from the darkness, our little camp trailer almost seemed to smile at our friendly – albeit dirty, stinky faces. “OH, UMM, HI GUYS. HEY, WHAT WAS THAT THING YOU WANTED ME TO SAY?”

“G’day old chap,” I replied, with a twinkle in my eye (perhaps betraying my need for a decent night’s sleep) “Don’t give it another thought”. “Let’s get you hooked up,” I cooed, as our trailer lowered gracefully onto the towball of our car. “You look like you could do with a change of scenery”

“OKEY DOKEY”, replied our little trailer. And so, in the dark, we hooked our little home on wheels and dragged it through the campsite to our allotted spot.

As we would be staying for the better part of a week, Nat had booked us a site right on the banks of Lake Kununurra. Unfortunately, there would be no time to enjoy the view of this splendid lake until the next day, as we had a bit of work ahead of us to get the trailer ready before we could prepare dinner and get the boys into bed. Being late, dinner consisted of a precooked chicken from the local supermarket, along with some salad and crusty bread… Driving back from Emma gorge, we had thought of treating the kids to ‘proper takeaways’; but in Kununurra, the options were pretty limited… not to mention exceptionally deep fried and a little too yucky for our liking.

The next day, having slept like logs on soft comfy mattresses, we woke up from a perfectly tranquil rest in our wonderfully darkened trailer. To hold back the offending daylight, all the curtains had been drawn tight, in the hopes that we may sleep until the semi-decent hour… We made it to 7:08. Not bad!

Bleary eyes, we drew open the zippered curtains and gaze out at the world that was hidden from us in the dark of night when we arrived. In the bright light of day, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves looking straight out over Lake Kununurra. The view from the boys’ window was particularly spiffy. A short, manicured lawn led to the banks of the lake. From there, lifting one’s gaze upwards, we were treated to about 50 metres of lily pads; floating near the edge of the lake (many of which were in full bloom). From there, the water stretched out to the horizon and wa punctuated here and there by skeletal fingers of submerged trees branches, like hands grasping towards the sky from the depths of the lake.



Lake Kununurra – not a bad spot to park your camper trailer…

We didn’t have much planned for today. But, that suited us all just fine… In fact, the majority of our day was spent cleaning, sorting, restocking, car washing, reading/playing, and generally chilling out.


Coffee in hand, I headed outside and took a look at our sad little car. It was a just a tad on the dusty side and could probably do with a wash. Draining my cup of Joe, I grabbed a bucket and a couple of rags from our utility box and gave the car a sound going over. After such a short time on the road (at least since its last wash in Lake Argyle), it was amazing how deeply the red dust of Australia had penetrated every nook, cranny and hard to reach crevice of our poor vehicle. Every seat was impregnated with the stuff. Hinges and locks were caked. Doors squeaked and groaned in protest when they were opened. The boot, where our most prizes possessions were stored (i.e., our food), was covered in a patina of red on all surfaces.


Filthy, simply filthy!

Once I cleaned away this red vail from our car, it quickly became apparent that some feathered beast had left a calling card for us on the roof. Unfortunately, this splurge of nature had been quickly covered by the red dust and therefore was surreptitiously hidden from sight. As such, by the time I’d found it, there was now a nasty bird-poo stain that had eaten clean through the paint, leaving the bare metal exposed. “Bugger…” I thought to myself, as I gingerly cleaned the now permanently embossed mark on our new paint work. “…What the hell do these Western Australia birds eat?”

With the car and trailer all spruced up (I even took a few moments to drain and refill the water tank, which had become inhabited by ants - probably while sitting in storage over the past few days), we sat down to enjoy an afternoon by the lake. As the day went on and evening began to approach, the peace and tranquillity was soon marred by an onslaught of Kununurra bugs. Living just a stone’s throw from the lake brought with it incredible beauty during the day. But as the sun went down, the beauty was quickly replaced by relentlessly marauding critters. Every lily pad and picturesque clump of reeds suddenly revealed themselves to be the trojan horses that they were. Not only were they exquisite treasures, but they were also filled to the brim with a crepuscular payload of itching and biting doom!


Draining the water tank - a bit of a soggy situation...

Being built of sturdy stuff, we took up the gauntlet and fought back against the invading armies for some time… However, after a while, Nat and the boys threw up their hands in surrender and went to bed. It was a shame, as the bugs did eventually die down (but not until about 10:00). Yet, there were audio books to be listened to (“House at Pooh Corner” made an appearance tonight) and the lure of warm PJ’s soon became too strong to ignore.

The next day we determined that the Lake and Its hidden bugs need to be tamed by any means necessary. And so, like all true explorers, we marched up the office and hired a couple of canoes. Yes, we decided to venture out and met our night-time foes head on. Donning life vests and grasping paddles firmly in our hands, we set our sights in the direction of the hidden hoards, and trooped bravely towards the boat ramp to pick up our magnificent (albeit soggy) vessels.

Avast, ye flying scum. We’ll send thee to the bone locker!

Dodging a pint-sized fresh water croc which made the boat ramp his home, we stepped aboard the canoes and pushed off to explore the grand lake.

We spent many hours tootling around; exploring the byways and side branches of this massive body of water. Aside from the occasional speed boat, which cast an unnerving bow wave in our direction (made ever more hair raising by the knowledge that this body of water is home to many a snappy freshies – and perhaps a salty or two – lurking among the thick throngs of pandanus along the banks), we had a lovely time/

Lake Kununurra was, it must be said, a little eerie in parts; particularly given that it had been flooded in the recent past by the construction of a dam wall (“DAMN WALL” chirped the kids – “Oh, be quiet, will you?!?”). The resulting rise in waters smothered massive trees, which once grew quite merrily where the lake now sits. Their formerly glorious branches were now dead and bare – yet they still stretched upwards towards the sky, seemingly trying to claw their way out of this watery tomb. Still, it made for interesting canoeing. We meandered for hours through what would have once been the upper canopy of this underwater forest.  In the end, we had covered a vast distance – more than I imagined when we first set off. But, as our arms grew tired, and the speed boats continued to pummel us with rocky waves, we decided it was about time to head back to shore for lunch.

Petrified trees of Lake Kununurra – clawing at the sky

While there was still more of the lake to explore (although, not too much; given the distance we’d travelled in the morning), our desire for further exploration was quelled by the promise of an altogether very interesting night. For this evening, dear readers, we were heading to a real live rodeo.

Yup, in our carefully planned itinerary, Nat had managed to weave her magic and ensured that we would arrive back at Kununurra just in time for the Ord Muster. This annual event is the highlight of the Kununurra calendar. Cowboys, and cowboy wannabees, flocked from rural towns throughout Australia, to compete to see who was the ‘bestest cowboy’ of all.


Ord Valley Muster - Rodeo!


I remember, when I was a youngster in New Zealand, I went to my very first (and, until now, only) rodeo. I went along with my folks, my brother, and mate Kelly (I originally thought it was another awesome friend of mine, Vidaal; but I’ve since been corrected! [see comments, below]). I’m a little sketchy on details, but I do recall heading out of Auckland to somewhere dusty. I know that I’d also been excited and curious to see what it was all about. However, I remember having woken up on the morning of the rodeo feeling a little under the weather… And, by the time we arrived, I was feeling absolutely awful! Now, when I say awful, I mean migraine awful – the first of just two migraines (thankfully) that I’ve ever had in my life. Light was unbearable. Sound grated on my very soul. And, the musty smell of horses made me run back to the car as quickly as my wobbly legs could carry me. Yup, that’s where I spent my first rodeo – probably 20 years (or more) ago – while my family and best mate ate hot dogs and cheered the lads and lasses as they were put to their paces by rage filled steeds and bulls.


This time, however, I was determined to see it through…

Heading out of town in the late afternoon, we arrived at Kununurra’s dedicated rodeo stadium. Well, stadium may be grand word for this modest venue. But, dedicated it surely was. So too, were the locals and tourists that came to gawp at the bulls and horses trying their best to free themselves from the cowboys who clung to animals which had no desire to take their burdensome passenger for a ride.


Hang on there cowboy!

Heading for the family section of the arena (i.e., no smoking, no alcohol, and definitely no overly raucous Whooping or shooting of guns into the air allowed [you know, al la Yosemite Sam]), we took a seat in the bleachers and watched a bunch of dudes and dudettes race horses around barrels placed throughout the arena. They moved their steeds quickly through this obstacle course and the crowd seemed to love them.


Soon, these racers were replaced by burley men riding heaving bulls. These chaps tried to stay on for as long as they could. Until, inevitably, each rider was emphatically thrown aside. At this point the hapless riders hoped to be rescued by a trio of rodeo clowns, before they were trampled to death by hooves (attached to tonnes of angry beef) raining down on them from above. Soon, the bulls retired for the night, clearing the stage for the Bucking Broncos. These were followed by the whip-crack broncos, rope-tie races (resulting on one unlucky competitor needing medical attention and being whisked away in an ambulance), and then the finals of each of the earlier competitions took place before the evening drew to a close.


A night at the Kununurra rodeo.

All in all, it was an interesting night (yet slightly confusing at times). None of us knew any of the rules, and Nat and I couldn’t quite answer the boys’ questions about why the animals were so mad (Ropable, one might say). But, I’ll leave that to you and our old pal google to figure out… all I know is that there was a lot of rope and strings of cow bells left of the field after each animal left.

With our nostrils filled with the smells of the rodeo (which we much more pleasant than I remembered from my first migraine-filled rodeo experience), as well as bellies stuffed with hamburgers, chips and multicoloured slushy drinks, the boys both had a good time. I was somewhat surprised to learn that there was a rodeo school for kids (as young as 6 years old) in Kununurra… but, for a community where this is not only a big deal, but also a way of life, I guess it made sense. However, I tried my level best make sure the boys didn’t get wind that this school existed – otherwise we may never have left!!

Our last couple of days in Kununurra were spent exploring the Mirima National Park, as well as a couple of dried up water holes, and visiting the treacherous Ivanhoe Crossing.

Situated only about 1 – 2 kilometres from the heart of Kununurra, Mirima National Park was really impressive. Stacks of rocks towered around us like piles of thick pancakes. We made our way along an impeccably constructed and maintained boardwalk, which raised us off the canyon floor and allowed all manner of wildlife to roam freely underfoot. The raised paths meandered alongside groves of native trees, river beds and cliff faces. Unfortunately, no live specimens of native fauna were spotted – but there was a plethora of freshly laid tracks to hint at what had passed this way recently.

 
Tracks left by all creatures, great and small...



Leaving the well-constructed boardwalks behind, we ventured up the tall hill at the centre of the park. Along the way, we were treated to grand vistas overlooking rock faces that hinted at the beauty in which we would be immersed a few days time. That is, when we arrived at the Bungle Bungles (aka Purnululu) national park.



Mirima National Park – So delightful

Leaving Mirima National Park, we headed towards Ivanhoe Crossing (the site of many a car disaster), to see if anyone was attempting this fool’s errand of a voyage tonight. Ivanhoe crossing, it turns out, was a road submerged under a ridiculously fast flowing river. During the late part of the dry season, the river is purported to dry up enough to allow vehicles to cross. But, at this time of year, the crossing was blocked by a couple of concrete blocks, with all manner of warning signs posted to herald the dangers ahead.

Not being a draconian road lord, Western Australia has made the decision to leave the choice of whether to pass this treacherous stretch of river (or not) to each individual driver. As such, the traffic sign pointing to the watery confluence proudly stated that it was “Open”.

Parking up our little grey chariot along the banks of the river, we had a chat to a few of the locals who were casting a line into the fast-flowing river. When asked if anyone had crossed here today, they all laughed and simply pointed towards the water with a knowing glance. No one seemed to be game to take up the challenge of fording this river tonight. For all I knew, there may have already been a fleet of cars down there waiting for the flood waters of the wet season to subside so they could be pulled out.



Ivanhoe Crossing - a road for the brave!

Our final day in Kununurra was spent exploring a few of the short gorges and water holes of the region. Unfortunately, these were not a highlight of the trip. Heavily corrugated tracks led to boggy and sandy tracks (one set of which just caused us to turn around and head back the way we came). Unfortunately, most of the waterholes at this time of year were either dried up or presented a stinky morass of mud and or scummy water. In the end, we found a river where a few others were swimming. Checking it out, we decided to let the boys plunge in. They roamed together around the pool for an hour or so, exploring the rock islands that had been exposed by the shrinking waters. But, soon enough, it was time for us to head home and pack the car for our next off-road trip – deep into the heart of the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu national park).

Drawing on our experience of our previous tenting trips, we now had packing down to a fine art. However, it did take us the better part of the evening to rearrange things to optimise our humble possessions and fine-tune the ratio of ‘useless to useful stuff’ we decided to take.

But for now, as the sun sets on Lake Kununurra, we are content to chink together a glass of wine and enjoy some nibbles as the sun goes down.

Tomorrow will be a big day!

A taste of things to come...

Bye ‘d bye

Gregg

4 comments:

  1. I reckon I was at that Rodeo with you. I got interviewed for the local paper who made up a load of crap about what I said. First taste of the press...

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    Replies
    1. Oh wow, Kelly, was that you? Like I said in the blog post, the whole day was a bit of a blur. Man, I was trying to wrack my brain to figure out if it was you or Vidaal. I had a vague suspicion I was wrong, but now you mention the news reporter thing, it does come back to me. Oh bugger, that would mean I was even younger than I thought… Crikey, we must have been only nine or ten (but, didn’t you leave NZ when you were ten?). So, my estimate of the rodeo being 20 years ago is off by about a decade. Oh goodness, I feel very old now…

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    2. I might have been 9 :D We are turning into old codgers...

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    3. ...Ah, but young of heart!

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