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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Lake Argyle - The lake so nice, I blogged it twice!

10 - 11/05/2017
Lake Argyle (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
572 km

Border crossings:

Phew! Now, that was a long day…

Waking early to pack up the van, we set off from our lovely sheltered oasis of Edith falls. As it turns out, there hadn’t been a rush on tent sites, and the park coped just nicely with us moving into the ‘inner circle’ of shade. So long kiosk dweller, you can have your site back now.

Toodle loo Grinch Lady!

Goodbye to Edith Falls, goodbye glorious water holes, goodbye sandy river fronts and playful rapids. Goodbye tranquillity. For, today we were heading west, chasing the dying sun across the changing landscape. However, before we could catch that setting sun, we had a few stops to make first. Not only did we have to cross into Western Australia, we also had to make a quick pit stop in Katherine to make sure we had enough supplies for the next few nights.

Scooting down the road, we arrived back in Katherine an hour or so from our restful spot near the river. As we approached, it was amazing to see and feel the contrast as we drove into this township. Over the final twenty kilometre stretch leading into town, the feeling of peace we had been drenched in whilst lying on the sand at Edith falls began to leave us. We started driving past police cars and abandoned vehicles on the side of the road. Oh yeah, that’s right, I remember Katherine now…

I dropped Nat and Ben off at the supermarket and headed to the petrol station with Daniel. Having filled up for the lengthy journey ahead (making sure to throw a bar of chocolate onto the counter to sweeten the deal for my youngest son – to share with the family later in the day [if the boys were able to give us a few moments peace along the way]), we headed across the road the to a hefty carpark outside the tourist information centre. While Nat and Ben shopped, I was charged with the mundane task of heading to the chemist to pick up a number of unguents and lotions to fix the various ailments that were beginning to plague our travel worn bodies. Second on the agenda was to pick up a bottle of wine or two for the next few nights, then open up the van and pick out the remaining pieces of forbidden fruit that had been squirreled away before we made our crossing into Western Australia.

Petrol filled, windows squeegeed, oil checked, lotions collected, I then experienced a painful reminder that we were in a dry community – when I was met by a very closed bottle shop. Oh well, it’s probably not a bad thing… And so Daniel and I returned to the Tourist Centre car park to scour the van for remnants of any vegetable matter that could result in a hefty fine, or being detained for much longer than necessary at the border. Yup, it was that time again, border crossings! And, it seems that Western Australia has taken a lesson from its feisty little sibling ‘South Australia’. These guys have set up even stricter quarantine laws than the other states we’ve passed through (check out these websites to get the low down on the veggie net that cordons off WA from the rest of the country – as well as the reasons why: http://www.kimberleyaustralia.com/western-australia-quarantine.html, https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/exporting-animals/quarantine-frequently-asked-questions). Given that there are only a handful of roads into WA, despite the relatively massive land area this place covers on the globe, it seems that it is surprisingly easy to police. To get into the state you either head in from the bottom, meander in from the top, or sidle in from the east. Unless, of course, you want to take a completely off-road route and enter from whatever direction your bushwacking heart desires… but for the sake of a few bananas, or replacing a couple of carrots, who could be bothered doing that!?

Puling into the tourist information centre car park I cracked open the trailer just enough to send Daniel in to the dark abyss. Ferreting his way through the nooks and crannies on a seek and destroy mission, he was on the lookout for any pieces of forgotten produce we may have missed the night before. Making his way over a morass of pillows and bags of clothes, Daniel weaselled his way into the far corner of the van where he found a stowaway Mr Potato and a wayward clove of garlic. “Gotcha”, I declared with glee, as Daniel emerged from the tangle of odds and ends lining the interior of our van. As I scruffed up his hair, in a fatherly show of affection for a job well done, I had sudden flashbacks to the book “The story of Ping”, which I remember reading in Mrs Howell’s class as a nine-year-old. The story of Ping was a tale of an errant duckling which ran away from home and met diving birds in Asia, which were forced to swim underwater and bring fish back to their master. To stop them eating any of the fish they caught, each bird had a narrow metal band fasten around its throat, and their master would reward them with bite sized pieces of fish when they returned to the boat with their catch in its beak. “Great job”, I told Daniel and promised him a finger of Kit Kat later in the day. The parallels were striking… But my little diving bird didn’t seem to mind.

So, with the van picked clean of all vegetable matter, Nat and Ben soon returned ladened with groceries. These were quickly stowed away and off we went on our long journey down the Victoria Highway. Luckily, I had a few minutes before we left to quickly download another audio book from the Yarrra Plenty Library, “Doctor Procter ‘s Farting Powder”. A truly excellent read for anyone who doesn’t mind a smirk or two at the odd fart joke that has been thrown into a thoroughly gripping story of scientific breakthroughs, industrial espionage, diminutive heros, tails of burgeoning friendships, and – most of all – a powder that allows one to pass massively explosive flatus seven seconds after it has been consumed.

This quick download was, as it turns out, the saviour of our long car trip. The boys listened intently to the saga of Nilly, the dwarfish silver-tongued Norwegian, throughout the entire 600 kilometer journey. Even the all too frequent wee stops were kept to a minimum, and were finished in record time, in order to move on to the next instalment of this tall yarn.

So, as the dulcet tones of the narrator soothed the savage breasts of our children (I must admit, I had a giggle along the way too!), we pressed ever closer to the WA border. At about 3:30 in the afternoon, we started noticing a scattering of road signs announcing our imminent arrival at the border between the Northern Territory and the great state that lay to the west.  Pulling over briefly at one last fuel stop, we disposed of the last remnants of our lunch (BLT rolls, eaten on the fly, while listening to Dr Proctor).

Then the border was upon us. I was suddenly gripped with doubt… “What had we missed? WHAT HAD WE MISSED??!” I thought to myself, shifting a little uncomfortably in my seat.

And there it was, “Farewell from the Northern Territory” one sign announced. “Welcome to Western Australia” a second sign read. Then almost incongruously:

Welcome to Western Australia: A great place (to be probed relentlessly)!

We pulled up at Border Control (a solidly built building, that oozed efficiency rather than style). I rolled down my window and gave a casual “G’day” to a man who was furiously scribbling down our car’s licence plate (and possibly other details – but then again, I’ve probably just watched too many episodes of the X-Files to have an objective opinion on this...). I glanced furtively towards the car parked to our right. I gulped as I noticed that it had been thoroughly turned over by a border control officer. Possessions strewn across the asphalt...

I even took a second horrified look when I noticed that even the car jack had been stripped from the car and placed on the road for inspection. “Bugger,” I thought, “This could take a while….”.

But, it as luck would have it, the officer that approached our car was either a very friendly chap (possibly at the end of a very long shift), or he had simply missed his calling as a tourism agent and really just wanted to chat about the awe-inspiring scenery we were about to encounter. This seemed to be his main interest, so rather than searching our van in fine detail for hitherto undiscovered vegetable matter, we were pretty much waved on our way. Needless to say, we were exceedingly happy to have met him. Nat did a brilliant job of chatting away to him, as I unclasped the van long enough to allow him to glance half-an-eye inside our fridge. I did, however, confess to having a handful of carrots, which hadn’t had their ends topped and tailed. I handed these to him as neither Nat or I could be bothered digging out a knife to slash off the offending ends of this small bag of plaintive root vegetables.

With a few more anecdotes about the humbling beauty of this region, as well as a few local tips on how to get a smattering of cell phone reception a few kilometres down the track, we were on our way.

“By the way,” our new found friend called to us as we began to drive off (“gulp,” I thought, “I knew it was too easy” – this guy had obviously studied his craft by watching too many episodes of Colombo)… “If you want an photo of the border, you might want to do a u-turn down there. Take a few snaps and come back this way – I’ll wave you through”.

Dubious, as I often am when interacting with fellow human beings, I through caution to the wind and decided to take him at his word. We “chucked a yoo-ee’ (that’s a u-turn for those folks reading this in the northern hemisphere – although, that’s my best guess at how you might spell it… probably yew-eey might be better…. Yeah, that works…). Having taken a few piccies with our boys at the border, we headed our back across state lines for the second time in 10 minutes. Being good to his word, our friendly border control officer waved us through… And to my surprise, we were on our way!

Snap! Now, get back in the car before our friendly customs agent goes off duty!

No more than a stone’s throw from the border (well, perhaps a stone that had been thrown by some super Olympian athlete – who had been fed a steady diet of steroids, as well as a cocktail of other performance enhancing drugs since birth) we turned off the main highway onto the road to Lake Argyle.

As soon as we turned off the main road, the scenery changed dramatically and suddenly; like some cheap computer game shifting from one area of terrain to the next (for those non-gamers reading this, you might want to go ask a gamer to explain what that means – or better yet, play some computer games… Oh man, I miss computer games).

Scenery changing across the WA border.

Over the course of the day, the view out the window had changed dramatically. It started off as spindly, ragged trees surrounded by flax-like pandanus plants in the morning. This changed to lush green vistas of grasses and acacias around lunch time. Then, by late afternoon, we were treated to dense green grasses and boab trees (complete with names of people and local businesses carved in their swollen trunks) strewn across the landscape.

The geology also changed spectacularly. Pulling off the highway, we were treated to red rocky escarpments, which towered skywards above us; each of which was glowing red and orange in the dying afternoon light. The man at the border had said he was finding the weather chilly; but at 31 degrees, without a lick of humidity, the temperature was perfect for me!

Soon we came to a one way bridge over the Ord river. These wide, shallow and rocky waters were a sight to behold in the dying light of the day. “If I get chance,” I thought “ I’d love to come back here tomorrow and throw a line in!” But, with only one full day here at Lake Argyle, who knows how much we might be able to squeeze in…

The Ord River

Arriving at the campsite, we checked in and were shown to our allotted site by a very enthusiastic gentleman on a bike (with calves like steel, I casually noticed as he rode in front of us). True to form, as soon as we pulled into our shady spot, the kids we away like a flash (quickly discovering a gaggle of other kids they had met earlier in our trip) and didn’t reappear until after Nat and I had struggled for quite some time to find a mostly flat piece of turf upon which to park our trailer. The short planks of wood that I had picked up from Gareth and Rosie came in invaluable once again (as, I must admit, they have at most campsites); but, this time, I found myself wishing for at least six more pieces of timber to level up the trailer on this deceptively uneven ground. In the end we dug a hole in which to sit one wheel and we piled dirt under the other. Not feeling overly stable, we gathered a mass of stones to prop up the still sagging side of the van, until all was level and we had achieved the requisite degree of flatness. Once our mission (nearly impossible) towards a level piece of earth had been completed, it was time for a hard-earned beer to wash away the sins of the day…

With the promise of tomorrow being a fun day around the lake, including time to bask in the infinity pool overlooking this grand body of water; not to mention spotting freshwater crocs and (perchance, time permitting) a few moments to fish for an elusive barramundi… we headed to the bar to have a second cool and refreshing drink, before cooking a few sausages on the barbie and listen to the last chapter of “Dr Procter” before the kids and Nat went to bed.

Lake Argyle: infinity pool at night

As for me, I’m still sitting outside – basking in the cool breeze blowing off Lake Argyle. It’s now 12:32 pm and the temperature is a balmy 28 degrees. When the wind picks up, it feels like a warm hug creeping up from behind.

A lady we met earlier who was tending bar in this lakeside piece of tropical paradise had proudly informed us that due to the large body of water that makes up Lake Argyle, the change in temperature between day and night is only about 5 degrees. If it stays like this, I think we’re in for a real treat. What’s more, there are only a smattering of bugs circling the light and not a single mozzie has so much as buzzed in my general direction!

Bye ‘d bye


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