Millstream/ Chichester National Park

When I enquired at the Karijini Visitor Centre about Millstream, one of the rangers felt that the NP was one of the most underrated places in Australia and she wished more people would go there. Having assured us that there was little corrugation and most of the roads were sealed, now, we decided to go, but had to camp at Point Samson, to avoid taking the back road which was the dirt track we had been travelling on in Karijini and which we knew our caravan wouldn’t survive.

To travel the road to the National Park, I discovered we needed a pass from Rio Tinto. At that late hour, I went online and actually learnt some stuff but most of the road we would travel is now sealed, so a lot of it was unnecessary. I met people who didn’t bother with the pass, but it is free and if there’s a chance of being turned back, why not? The journey to the NP was picturesque, with many changes of scenery and foliage. The wildflowers were a colourful patchwork carpet over much of the land and we believe it’s due to the huge rainfall this year.

The road out was bitumen, with short dirt paths to some of the attractions and from PointSamson it took 2 hours each way. We attempted to do the wetlands walk once we arrived, but it was closed due to heavy rain and damage recently. Instead, we looked around the 1919 household and its very old desks for wireless, wood oven, wireless rocking chair and other artefacts. It’s a beautiful building, well made and maintained.

A few campsites surround the old homestead, nestled in the bush, and there were several vans and tents, which led us to think about staying here, another time. We drove to the lookout and marveled at the breadth of the River Fortescue and how healthy it is.

There’s a path along the cliff top, part of a longer walk to the homestead and back, that takes you along the river and to different landscapes. A bird of prey flew over us and came down pretty low at one point, possibly keeping us from their mate.

From here it was a short drive to Deep Reach, where the original inhabitants believe the Rainbow Serpent, creator of all life, lives. The carpark, where we met a goanna that needed the sun more than an escape from us, led to a short, paved path to the river and shade and tables.

We had lunch, then went and sat on the steps that lead to the water, cooling our feet and enjoying the fish and damselflies. It was enough for me, as I thought the deep river, whose reeds reached up out of the water, was a bit scary. I thought I could see a current and was not sure how strong it would be. This was a beautiful spot and we could see how it might be visited frequently if you camped in the park, also doing some of the walks. However, with some walks closed due to the wild weather earlier in the year, we weren’t sold on this park as a destination, yet.

We both thought we’d save our swim for the magical Python Pool, on our return journey, and the initial turnoff was dirt, as we were told, but shockingly corrugated. We attempted it for about 5 km and then could see no end to it so, wanting the unpleasantness of shaking and rattling to end, we turned around and went back. Later, we met a couple who took a different road (that we thought was off-limits to non-Tinto people) and entered Python Pool from the North, saying the road was really easy and the Pool was amazing.

Another location to put on the ‘next time’ list.

One of the sights on this road is the iron ore train, with carriages that go as far as you can see in each direction. You can’t go on until it’s finished, so why not get out and take photos?

Check road conditions before you head off. Rio Tinto provide daily updates if you do the online training.

Travel safe, with your permit, hat, water and sunscreen.

Broome or Barn Hill?

I think most people around the world have heard of Broome, the pearl region of north-western Australia that guarantees a stunning sunset. But as we headed here, so many travelers told us about Barn Hill, that we changed our plans. Our memories of Broome, that it was almost dead in late October but had some fabulous beaches, had been tarnished by the reports this year, of overcrowding and price rises due to Covid-19. As it was the beach we most sought, we decided on a shopping stop in Broome and then to travel the 110km to Barn Hill Station,  a cattle station that offered a campsite on a cliff over the beach.

Broome was actually lively, with varied shops open and people moving about purposefully. We decided to do our grocery shopping first and then sit for a coffee, where we could get internet and search a few of the locations we were hoping to visit in the future, but hadn’t quite decided on, or booked for that matter.

I rang our sons to let them know where we were (why were they not the least bit concerned?) and when Alan returned from his obligatory secondhand book hunt, we went  to Barn Hill, the last stretch of which involved a 10km dirt road that was a little corrugated but softened by the red dirt.

It is a great campsite, a little ramshackle and with basic amenities, but we had power and water for half the price of Broome, and a short walk down to the beach, with its red cliffs and layered rock formations.

We were expecting the water to be warm, but it was cool and had a strong pull into the ocean. Earlier, the neighbours said that there had been a small shark sighted that morning and everyone had to get out of the water. It made me a bit nervous, and I kept looking around for a fin, while resisting the undertow. I saw a brown jellyfish, the size of a large bowl and that had me exit for the day. A late afternoon walk brought us to some great rock formations, some scuttling crabs that hurriedly dug holes (and some are way too big to think about), and a beautiful sunset.

On our return, we saw people sitting in readiness for a show of some kind. Apparently, the entertainment was a no-show, so they contacted two guys who played the previous night, and they stopped their fishing and put on a show. It was quite good, really, with mostly 70s soft rock/LA sound stuff. Lucky for us, we got a good seat.

The next morning I went for a walk to the beach and thought that this coastline was a lot like Aldinga, in South Australia, with the sandstone cliffs. In fact, I’m beginning to think most of Australia’s coastline e is sandstone. But this place has had a lot of erosion, creating pillars of rock and sand, along with familiar rock pools and exposed reef.

We had our morning café then strolled to the market, where clientele were selling their wares in stalls erected in the community gathering area. There are always pens for goats and horses and children who aren’t kept busy with this or the ocean are on the few items of play equipment.

This is a very relaxing campsite, with entertainment, a bar/café that can provide occasional internet and all the environmental features you’d get in Broome. The facilities are basic but very clean and the hot water in the shower is reliable. There are washing machines that work and the sites are shaded and large. There is the choice of powered or unpowered, but the unpowered seemed to have little shade.

Have a little adventure and come to Barn Hill, with your hat, sunscreen and fishing rod.

Walks and icons #5 – Leliyn

Once called Edith Falls, but known to the Jawoyne people as Leliyn, this is one walk I’d encourage everyone to do.

Situated about 1 hour from Katherine, it is part of Nitmiluk National Park. You can get a campsite if you’re very, very lucky, by asking at the kiosk, first thing.

There is a relatively short and easy walk from the start of the carpark, by which you can return or a longer return, 2.6km, affording views of the falls and the gorge, giving a ‘bigger’ view of the whole.

The top falls provide a refreshing swimming opportunity that is usually less crowded, as many don’t take the walk. You can sit under that short (4m?) fall, or swim nearby, and there are several access points, not all being slimy!

The different return trip, while providing views, can be slippery in parts, with dusty rocks or rubble.

Once you’re at the base, you cross the bridge that looks out onto the major gorge, with the 12m falls in the distance.

A few people had noodles to assist them in the swim there, but it’s less than a km, with little current.

Be aware of water pythons, as my husband had one swim against his legs as he was approaching the ladder to get out. I don’t think they have us on the menu, and it was pretty small, but it can be a trifle unexpected.

Enjoy a relaxing stretch in the sun or shade while you have lunch, buy something from the kiosk, or walk back to the carpark, reading the information boards as you go.

But do go.

Hat, sunscreen and plenty of water.

Emma Gorge

On the notorious Gibb River Road, near the Kununurra end, is a place called El Questro. It is a resort and was once only accessible by a rough dirt track, that is now a bitumen road. However, places that lead off from here are via dirt roads, that may be corrugated if the grader hasn’t been through. Emma Gorge is one such place and it is a jewel worth risking the bumpy 2km track.

Once at the carpark, there is a magnificent information bay, with restaurant, accommodation, toilets and permits to visit the park. We had bought a park pass, that gives us access to WA parks for a month, as we thought it could be more convenient than having correct change, getting permits printed, etc., so we went directly to the start.

This was a mixture of terrain, with rocky bits, smooth path, climbing sections and a couple of creek crossings, where the water as very low. Birds and butterflies flit across your path and the sound of gurgling water comes from somewhere near, either seen as a brook, or hidden by reeds.

It is such a beautiful sight that greets you after about 40 minutes, I don’t know where to begin. The gorge rises ahead of you and up maybe 100m. The walls are orange and laced with ferns or marked with patterns of erosion.

Water cascades down from a point on the left and bounces off rock ledges to splash into the centre pool of water. The pool is maybe 40m in diameter and on the right a rock ledge hangs over the water, dripping onto those who venture there, and the water there is warm, as I think it is thermal.

The edges to the pool are sandy and you can see the bottom, which becomes rocky and pebbly. Towards the centre it is very dark and you cannot make out what is down there. The temperature is pretty cool, but not quite cold. As you float towards the rock lip, looking up, you see an oval of blue sky, lined with a garland of ferns and rocks. It is so tranquil and beautiful.

This is a long way from anywhere, any time. It is ancient and unspoilt and majestic, like everything in the Kimberley. See it, breathe it, feel it and carry some of its magic away with you.

But take water, hat and sunscreen so that you live to tell the tale.

walks and Icons #3 -DALY WATERS PUB

Professing to be the oldest pub in the Northern Territory, the Daly Waters Pub gained some iconic status for travelers at least 40 years ago. Strewn across a line above the front bar is a wide selection of bras, with messages on them. Out the back are collections of thongs (the footwear) and hats and other paraphernalia, also with messages. But this hotel started life as a trading post and played a significant role in WWII.

Explorer, John McDouall Stuart, named the area Daly Waters in 1861, on one of his many expeditions from South to North. Ten years later, the overland telegraph made its way following the same path and connected Australia to the rest of the world. The Pearce family, in 1920, opened up a Drover’s Store, which forms part of the current pub. The indigenous people in the area helped to build the store, but are no longer in the area.

The Pearce family fed passengers and refuelled aircraft when the Daly Waters Airfield opened up to the England to Australia Air Race. The same airfield was the rear guard base in WWII when the Japanese bombed Darwin from Feb 1942 to Nov 1943.

Now, its quirky and a place to get a cool drink and a bite to eat, with great entertainment on offer most nights. When we were there, Lou Bradley and Phil were playing and they were well-received.

Old buildings and historical plaques on the town walk

There is a park behind the pub, with amenities, and one across the road for unpowered sites. Cabins are also available if you’re looking to break the long drive from Alice to Katherine.

Quirky planes, helicopters and animals are also in residence.

Bring hat, water and a sense of fun.

Ay Karumba!

We pressed on to Karumba, from Croydon, which took about 2 hours. At one time we had considered stopping in Normanton, which is a much bigger town that we passed through, but as we talked about the overall path, we thought it made more sense to go to the farthest extreme and work back the next day, than the alternative. As it’s almost exclusively Telstra out here, access to the internet and phone coverage is difficult so we’d had no internet for two days. Sometimes, we’d be driving along and hear our phones going off, or sitting outside and hear our phones, on the inside, suddenly get a wave of wifi. I know, third world problems.

Karumba Point is lovely. It was about 32C when we arrived at 4 and were desperate to get to the pool. It was fabulous and the warm breeze in the evening, like a piece of soft silk brushing my skin, was so refreshing. A poolside conversation led to us quickly leaving the pool, grabbing our crackers and hummus and heading for the point.

All seats taken at the pub

Here, just outside the hotel, we planted ourselves on a bench, as people sat on the beach, held up their glasses and watched a beautiful sunset. We took great photos and had a drink, along with our dip. It was very special and felt like the Broome sunset routine.

Alan said that, apparently, this place can have some extraordinary rolls of cloud in the morning, so we planned that. We were contemplating staying an extra night, as it was really nice to have warmth and a great caravan park with clean, substantial amenities. Even the Cane toads liked it.

But with tips about Gregory Downs, Lawn Hill and Cloncurry after that, we decided to decline the advice about visiting the Barramundi Discovery Centre, Museum or Normanton’s town walk, and after a beautiful sunrise, we headed for the point and walked along the beach, scabbing shells and feeling the sun start to heat up.

No cloud rolls. Constantly spying for crocs or turning at rustling, I thought we’d best go, and the slithers in the sand didn’t help, either. We went to the coffee shop that heralded itself as the best in the area and managed to get a tomato ($1.80) and half a lettuce ($2.90), which was an improvement on yesterday, where, in Croydon, lettuces were $8.30 each.

A cool little cafe with a view of the beach and fresh veggies on sale.

Then off we went. We passed groups of birds at the water’s edge of ponds and swamps, and they were grey, with red bands on their heads that covered their eyes. They were tall and leggy and ran from us when we stopped the car to take a picture. A lunch stop was by the side of the road and we met a couple on their way to Cloncurry, who had traveled this area 30 years ago, when it was dirt! Off we went to Burke and Wills roadhouse and then on to Gregory Downs and after experiencing single road use for some kilometers, we were there by 4.

Stay tuned for Lawn Hill!

Water, water everywhere

And what else would you expect to find on one of Australia’s iconic drives – The Great Ocean Road?

Popular with surfers and the location of International Surf Carnivals, the region also boasts The Twelve Apostles and other limestone features that are accessible by safe walkways and carparks.

Ridgeback
Arches
Bays

For Jez’s Water Water Everywhere challenge. this 243 km stretch includes World Heritage areas.

Kinda erosion

Rounded boulders are common at Karlu Karlu

North of Alice Springs and South of Tennant Creek is Karlu Karlu, which means round boulders in the language of the first nation’s people of the area. They’re my entry to Becky’s squares.

Once anglicized as Devil’s marbles, most people are changing to the traditional name.

Despite their appearance of having been dropped or hurled there, the boulders have been formed by wind, heat and water erosion over millions of years.

It is believed that a large granite mass, of which they are a part, was formed by volcanic activity, 1700 million years ago. Fissures in the mass allowed the erosion and the rounding of the blocks occurred.

Stunning at sunrise and sunset, I’ve tried to select photos that are not culturally sensitive to the Arrernte people. If you come this way, do stay overnight for a small fee (it was $3.30pp) and do walks, enjoy the vibe, learn some stuff.

Cape Palmerston

Recommendations are constantly made, when you are on the road, about good, cheap places to stay. One such suggestion we received was for Cape Palmerston. We were told it was beautiful and, as part of Queensland’s national parks, the rate to camp is $6.50pp/night. It was unforgettable.

How hard could it be? The road to Palmerston was dirt off the highway, which was now sugar cane country, but reviews were good and nothing to indicate any special skills or vans, apart from ‘recommended with a 4WD’. So off the highway we ventured and tentatively followed signs until the final turn-off, where we saw two people inflating their tyres. Uh-oh. We stopped and had a conversation, during which they advised driving over the hill, keeping well to the left, following in others’ tracks, unless we could ride their rise, stay well away from the water, watch the tide so we did’t get caught in quicksand (did she say ‘quicksand’?) and we should make it to the first camp. Stay there.

It would be accurate to say we had some reservations and the woman suggested some sand driving would stand us in good stead. Over the rise we drove and saw some other cars, to either side, well back from the beach. We decided to have lunch and then head back where we had come, then forward in our journey, but when one couple came over and said they were moving on and we could have their spot for a camp…well, we moved in.

I’m still uncertain that Queensland Parks intended this spot for a camp, but I got online and paid our fee, and soon we were exploring the beach.

The tide was about 40 m out from our camp and receding. We had taken maybe 30 steps when a movement on the sand caught my eye. Crabs! But no ordinary crabs; these were travelling forward (not sideways) and carrying bulbous blue heads/bodies .

If we approached them, they stopped and spun themselves under the sand in a second. They travelled in groups, alone, in a line and in any direction. The sand was alive!

The entertainment having lasted a good hour, we explored some more and found very unusual jellyfish nested in the sand (waiting for unsuspecting tucker?)

then tucked into dinner. As the sun set, our neighbours fished at the water’s edge, our cameras s clicked and we noticed the waters beginning to return towards us. No cause for alarm, the signs of last night’s high tide were at least a metre from our door. And the others were in a tent, further forward, so any cries of alarm would alert us in time.

Sunrise was lovely and, although we had both spent some of the night listening to waves lap near our door, we awoke high and dry. A little trouble with midgies, which were also new to us.

Plenty of cars had taken to the sand trail the day before, during the late afternoon and early evening, speeding off in other people’s tracks or on their rise, way off to the point, where we hoped they avoided the quicksand and made it around to the first campsite.

An unforgettable experience, nonetheless. Sorry Queensland National Parks if we took a liberty. Cape Palmerston is for the more adventurous and experienced and by all accounts is excellent for fishing and beaching.

Take your hate, sunscreen, water and 4WD manual.