Diary—June 2006




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04 to 10 June 2006

El Questro–Home Valley Station–Kununurra

On our way out of El Questro we called into Zebedee Springs for a dip. These are thermal springs and so a bit warmer than the last few waterholes we have swum in. The water spills from the source into a series of pools, the higher ones large enough for a couple of people and the lower ones large enough for whole family groups. Working up the Zebedee pools closer to the source provides warmer water but even in the uppermost pool it is only lukewarm. Still it was a pleasant start to the day and so thought a few dozen other people (including locals) resting in the pools.

We crossed the mighty Pentecost River without much fuss. This is one of the major river crossings in the Gibb River road. The reports are that the water level was 450 mm which may have been at high tide. It is also a river that has crocodiles in it so the recommendation is that you don't walk the crossing. It is a wide crossing but on a firm rocky bottom and so was comfortable for a car but less so for a motorbike. We found the crossing to Branco's lookout was more challenging, still the Pentecost River crossing is a landmark.

We camped on the banks of the Pentecost River at Home Valley Station, lazing the afternoon away watching big 'salties' (saltwater crocodiles) cruising off the riverbanks. On dusk, Hutch tried fishing without success, watched by a few 'freshies' (smaller freshwater crocodiles) with only their eyes visible. Sunset provided a pastel colouring to the ranges but Hutch was too busy drowning lures in the river to take a photo. Apparently the cold (only 29 degrees) is putting the fish off the bite—even the locals aren't catching anything.

In the morning we headed off on the 'Pentecost loop track' marked on a mud map provided to us by the station. However the track disappeared about 100m past a difficult creek crossing. Calling the station on UHF they apologised for not telling us that the track was closed due to water levels and that we would have to return the way we came. Re-crossing the creek, Yoda slipped into a big hole on the edge of the track and was pretty waterlogged by the time we got out (lots of 'not happy' lights). We spent the rest of the day at the station campground: drying out the electrics, carpets and seats; checking all fuses and connectors; and going through two cans of WD40.

With a few 'not happy' lights still on we decided to return to Kununurra to clear the electrical problems. The next few days saw Hutch trace and correct these. One man in the caravan park was so impressed he asked if Hutch was an auto-electrician—he had a problem he wanted help with. The answer given was "no, but I'm learning to be".

As far as he could in the caravan park, Hutch checked the oils and such. We had to wait three days to get a mechanic to check some of the trickier bits and to confirm that the main engine, transfer and diffs were all OK but there was water in the transmission. It will take a further week for the super-special-not-available-anywhere-in-WA Toyota transmission oil to be shipped in to Kununurra. We are not very happy with Toyota engineers for the poor design of the transmission breather and with Toyota suppliers for not stocking oil that they have specified for the most common 4WD on the road. Oh well…there are much worse places to spend time than Kununurra.

God's provision has been evident in this—Ron was overjoyed we had returned. While here we have been able to help Ron a little further with his web pages. And we were able to walk in Mirima National Park where we found an astounding array of little (tiny) wildflowers on one section of one of the tracks. We also caught up with Bob and Betty who we met when last in Kununurra. They have gone on to Broome where we may get to see them again.

Week 10

Crossing the Pentecost River

Motorbike crossing the Pentecost River

Motorbike stopped in the Pentecost River

Bush Camp at Home Valley Station

View of the Pentecost River from the bush camp on Home Valley Station

Not quite crossing the waterway a second time

Goanna on Home Valley Station

Kununurra from a gap in Mirima National Park

Small flowers in Mirima National Park

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11 to 17 June 2006

Kununurra–(Talbot Bay)–Mary Pool–Broome

Still in Kununurra! Hutch dismantled and cleaned the connectors and fuel/water sensor. We now have most bits working except one of the electric windows and an airbag sensor. We got to go to church with our Kununurra family on Sunday. Many were sick with typical winter colds. It is hard for us to understand when it is still 28 degrees during the day but compared to summer this is cold.

Sunday afternoon we went to the oval to watch a 'polo-cross' match. We had no idea what was going on so one of the resting riders explained the rules to us. It seems to be a cross between polo and lacrosse and netball. With only one horse per rider it is cheaper than polo (four horses per rider). We then had someone to barrack for when his team took part in the finals.

Sunday night we enjoyed dinner at a local bistro with some fellow caravan park residents—Geoff and Ros from Sydney and John, Kate and Michelle from Queensland. We had a great time with these folks over the next couple of days. Geoff helped with some of the tests and activities around Yoda and Ros gave us some wonderful Rosellas (from hibiscus I think)—part jam and part syrup.

Tuesday afternoon we dropped Tim (trailer) off at Ron and Robyne's house (on the gravel that Hutch laid), dropped Yoda (car) off at the garage and caught a bus to Broome. This would be a 2200 km round trip on a bus so that we didn't loose a tour booking and the chance to catch up with friends (but it was worth it).

The bus trip ran overnight, 6pm to 7am, stopping at roadhouses and communities along the road to deliver goods, parts and mail as well as pick up passengers. Sometimes the stops were at dirt roads with a 44 gallon drum as the mail box. The bus seats were small and cramped—even for an ex-submariner (Hutch claimed the diesel rumble and fumes gave him a good night's sleep) but the drivers, who allocated seats, were generous and gave us two seats each so we could have a bit more room to try to sleep.

John and Jacki met us at the bus stop and drove us on a brief tour of Broome and gave us lunch before our flight. While on the tour, we bumped into Bob and Betty—they now have an answer for Betty's discomfort but have to travel down to Perth for further and more specialised medical attention. It was great to be able to see them off :)

Our flight to Talbot Bay was in a small seaplane. After a light afternoon tea at the live-aboard boat, while waiting for the right tide, we boarded a jet boat for a trip through the horizontal falls. With 7m tides, as the tide changes, water rushes into (or out of) a lake connected to the sea via a gap in rocks. There was a 2m difference in water levels which created an extraordinary force of water shooting out and swirling and 'boiling' around the gap. The boat handler (Lenny) let the boat be thrown around by the current to demonstrate its force then took us through the falls into the calm water on the other side. After a few minutes of photographs, we shot back over the falls. Great fun.

The live-aboard boat was very comfortable but unfortunately the spa was not very warm so Robin and Jacki didn't take the opportunity of a bubbly soak. We settled for champagne while watching the sunset. As a sign of the wild territory we were in, we saw a 2m shark while transferring from the plane to the live-aboard boat, then after sunset we counted up to eight sharks at once cruising under the lights at the rear of the boat. They were magnificent tawny nurse sharks. Apparently there was also a big croc named 'Mort' in the area but we didn't see him—but he did put aside any ideas of a romantic swim in the moonlight.

The return flight toured over the archipelago (however it is spelt!) before dropping back into Broome. Again, John and Jacki played host—driving us around before our bus trip back to Kununurra. Robin spent half the night talking to the drivers (easier than sleeping) they were fun and full of road stories. Night included a blood red moonrise, several fires in the distance and lots of near misses with roos and cattle.

Yoda has new, and undiluted, transmission oil thanks to Brad and the lads at Autopro in Kununurra. We said our third goodbye to Ron and (finally) left Kununurra. After the bus trip the night before we were tired and so stayed the night about halfway to Broome at Mary Pool rest area. There were about 35 other campers at this free camp. We finally drove into Broome on Saturday arvo. John and Jacki found us before we had finished setting up the annex and generously offered to cook dinner to save us the effort (good friends are a real treasure!).

Week 11

On our way into Talbot Bay—Hutch as co-pilot

Welcoming committee

The falls—with a 2m drop in water levels

Lenny driving us to the falls

Whirlpool created by the force of water

We were there :)

Night time visitors

Aerial view of the falls

On the road to Broome—the three witches of Boab

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18 to 24 June 2006


We are now settling into 'Broome Time'—a more relaxed time zone with allowances for getting stuck behind zombie tourists and time to get distracted by the sights. They even have radio ads telling the locals to be patient and nice to tourists! Some of the caravan park residents have been coming up here for over a decade—they have their own sites and even plant gardens.

Our site backs on to the site of John and Melva—two wonderful BCA nomads who are helping to run the Campers for Christ program in Broome. They have been so welcoming and friendly we feel like we have been adopted :-)

The local church is running the 'Introducing God' course. Very friendly people with many offers of dinner and places to stay. We even met the Bishop. It appears that our reputation precedes us—the first words we were greeted with were "so you are the ones that fell into the waterhole!".

YODA went in for a 20K service, so we hired a scooter for the day. A very relaxing way to see the town but 50KPH-downhill-wind-assisted was not fast enough for Hutch. However the scooter proved its value when we got lost (OK, OK it was due to roadwork detours) and we were able to cut across a dry creek and down some footpaths to get back into familiar territory.

We took the scooter for a scenic tour of Broome including the lighthouse out at Gantheaume Point, the Broome deep water jetty where we sampled local oysters, a cuppa overlooking Roebuck Bay and then down to sunset over cable beach. We saw lots of these beautiful sunsets. I guess it is unusual for we eastern states people to see sunset over water.

We went with John and Jacki on an pearl farm tour and on a pearl lugger tour. On both occasions, the guides were very enthusiastic and loved their jobs and Broome history. It was so much better than a dry lecture. We saw an $90K pearl. Amazing how something so beautiful comes from oysters that taste so awful.

Evenings here usually consist of 'five o'clockers' with John and Jacki and their travelling companions, Paul and Elaine, and an occasional dinner in town. One night we saw a local band, the Pigram Brothers. They were very entertaining, we may need to get an album. (Can we legally attach sound bytes?—I'd like to put in one of their songs and the sound of the wookie camel.)

No visit to Broome would be complete without sunset drinks on the beach and a camel ride. The camels were real characters but with a face that even their mothers would struggle to love. The tail-end camel (complete with L-plates) was very vocal about everything , with a voice like a strangled wookie, but was also a big sook and loved having his head scratched. Jacki got to do that a lot as she was on the back of the camel in front of him and he spent most of the ride drooling on her knee.

The camel owner was a delight—he loved his work and was full of stories. He came to settle in Broome several years ago and wanted a job that: he and his wife could do; was largely outdoors; and that he could grow passionate about. After the ride we had a slow, bowlegged walk back to camp.

That evening we were treated to a home cooked meal with Lachlan and Bec Edwards (part of the ministry team here) and their housemates Colin and Judy. They live not far from our caravan park and generously invited all of us for dinner, John and Jacki and Hutch and I. It was a really relaxing evening—thanks heaps Lachlan and Bec.

Week 12

Sunset over Cable Beach in Broome

View of the water through rocks at Gantheaume Point, Broome

Enjoying the sunset, with John and Jacki, having driven onto Cable Beach

Hutch in Pearl diver's helmet on Pearl Lugger tour

Ghan, our camel

John and Jacki with their friend the camel with a voice like a wookie

The long legs of the camels at sunset

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25 June to 01 July

Broome–Quondong Pt–(Canberra)–Broome

I know this is late but Robin hadn't been near this computer and near internet access at the same time for three weeks :) Next week is now up as well. :-)

Robin flew out to sort out end of year financials and a few staff changes and contracts. Hutch consoled himself by driving up the coast and camping on the beach.

North of Broome there are some camping spots where Hutch could place Tim overlooking the beach. These are free camping spots where you can stay for up to three days at a time. His diary reads: wake, walk, swim, nap, fish, sunset (five days in a row) along with some bits about missing Robin.

Hutch says it is hard for an engineer to capture the splendid isolation of this place. His lasting impressions are:

  • miles of beach with mine the only footprints
  • watching the sun set and turn the horizon red, while knee deep in the ocean trying to catch dinner
  • amazing tidal movements exposing hundreds of meters of beach at low tide
  • jupiter low on the horizon in the middle of the night, so bright it created a stairway effect on the water
  • very stubborn fish who didn't appreciate the food and lure that I was offering.

(Robin in Canberra)
On the way back to Canberra, in Perth, Robin met one of our friends who we only seem to ever meet in airport lounges—Nada. It was great to catch up and greet Nada's girlfriends who had been wine tasting and shopping with her.

Then on to Canberra and a 40 degree change in temperature going from 30 in Broome to -8 in Canberra. It was challenging to learn how to time activities around getting the car defrosted first. This was overcome by a very warm greeting from Veronica and from Sarabi :-)

Robin had a busy week working mostly flat out but did get to celebrate the new (financial) year eve with Veronica! They had been so busy Robin caught up with very few precious friends, much to her sadness. She did manage a restorative visit to the hairdresser. There are often hairdressers advertising in caravan park laundries but somehow it just never seemed right to go to bay 54 in the caravan park to get a hair cut!

On new (financial) year's day with a long hard week behind them she flew back into the warmth. We celebrated by having cocktails overlooking Roebuck Bay.

Week 13

Sunset in Hutch's fishing spot north of Broome

Single footsteps in the sand

James Price point cliff top camp

High tide

Low tide

Creek camp