The next main destination for us was Kununurra but we made a few one night stops on the way. Some of the days involved long drives but we still would set up quickly then head off to see what the towns had to offer for travellers.
Driving into Derby we passed many huge boab trees and stopped to see one in particular which was once used as a prison.
We’ve crossed a few bridges over wide brown river beds, some with a little bit of water in them but the massive width of the river beds gives you an idea of how raging the rivers must get up here in the wet. We saw something we’ve not seen anywhere else before and that was the highway being reduced to a one lane road to cross over the bridges, prepare to give way if something is coming the other way. This is still road train territory too.
In Derby we visited the Norval Art Gallery. Wow this place was interesting as was the owner Mark Norval. The gallery has a historical collection of carved boab nuts as well as current paintings by indigenous artists that can be viewed and purchased in this amazing tin shed that reveals room after room of treasures. As well as the indigenous art there are pieces by Mark Norval who is the Kimberley’s most awarded artist and winner of over 50 major awards in Australia. His artwork is stunning and compelling and he had such an interesting story to tell we bought his book to take it all in. Buy the book containing his life story and examples of his work and he will also sign it for you and draw an original sketch inside. And let’s not get started on his record collection also on display, all 6,000 plus which still get played regularly. The fascinating characters you meet on the road!
From Derby you can either take the Gibb River Road or the Great Northern Highway to get to Kununurra. This trip we had always intended to go via the highway and just as well as due to a wetter than usual season, the Gibb River Road is still closed at the moment as are a few national parks. The Bungle Bungles is one of those parks which normally would be opening on the 1st of April but this year won’t be open until mid-April. The only way to be able to see them we were told was on a scenic flight, but even some of those aren’t operating yet.
We’ve been getting advice from locals too not to venture off to free camps that involve crossing a causeway just in case we are in for more rain which could see you getting cut off from main roads. So sticking to the highway and caravan parks it is, this time.
Even on the highway there is a lot of roadside water and damage to the road in some places.
We’ve passed a lot of stations and I take my hat off to the people that live and work in these isolated places, but they must also have some incredible country all to themselves to explore and enjoy. The countryside is stunning and there is always something of interest around every corner.
We stayed a night in Halls Creek after a long haul driving day and then up and off early the next morning to Kununurra.
The next leg of the journey was one of the most interesting yet, driving through rocky ranges, winding roads, big sky and vivid outback colours. This East Kimberley area is just amazing I don’t know how many times we said wow as we turned each bend of the road. Very tropical feeling now too with pandanus palms, big build up looking clouds and occasional dumps of rain, only to be followed by hot sun and blue sky and an ever increasing humidity.
To drive into Kununurra you drive over a dam wall where water was being released and pouring out the other side below. Kununurra is an aboriginal word for ‘the meeting of big waters’.
The Ord River was dammed in 1971 and created the biggest manmade lake in Australia, Lake Kununurra, on which our caravan park is situated. This makes for excellent reflections in the still of the mornings and colourful sunsets.
We took a drive one day to Wyndham around 100kms away especially to see the five rivers lookout which also overlooks the town and port. This really puts everything in perspective when you can see the Ord, Forrest, Pentecost, Durack and King rivers as they enter the Cambridge Gulf. Massive amounts of water, just mind boggling.
On the way back to Kununurra we found ‘The Grotto’. A little bit of a worry to start with, we had to walk down a path which was edged with tall grass, before coming to the edge of the cliff. Around 120 steps chipped into the rocks led you down to the water below complete with waterfall and for the brave, a couple of Tarzan swings. ‘There may be a few freshies (freshwater crocodiles) in there but they won’t bother ya!” Great spot, now to climb up again.
A couple of other diversions on the road back took us to Molly Springs and Valentine Springs with some interesting dirt roads to get to them, made even more challenging with a couple of hit and run downpours.
Last stop was the Hoochery Distillery, your one stop rum shop and some other interesting tipples, not to mention the rum spiked chocolate cake, oh yeah.
On our last day in town we started early to visit Mirima National Park, which is also known as the mini bungles. The daytime temperature was predicted to be 38 degrees and around 80% humidity, so off we went. This is a great park for giving you a good look at the rock formations, informing you of native plants and their uses and giving great views from up high and in the valleys.
Next stop was the Celebrity Tree Park, where visiting celebrities and people of note have planted trees. A nice park for a walk we found plaques from politicians and past governors to musicians, sporting identities, media personalities, movie directors and royalty. A really interesting and picturesque park.
Our last stop for the day was to Artlandish, an art gallery and shop selling indigenous art and other wares with money going back to the communities. Chatting with the owner, the usual small talk about where you are visiting etc… it came up in conversation that we were from the Adelaide Hills, and so was she originally and from our own town no less. It’s a big country, but even after 12,000km not so big that you can’t run into someone from home!
On our last night in Kununurra we are being treated to nature’s light show again, along with the sunset in the west we are also getting a continuous lightning show in the huge clouds to the east. Sadly we will also be saying goodbye to George, the resident ‘freshie’ at the park. George just lolls about in the lake near the BBQ area hoping for some fish or other scraps to come his way.