Let’s see some interesting details around the Munurru rock art site.
A fig tree with its web-like roots searching for water.
A tiny little wildflower in the midst of the long, dry grass.
Colourful fungi in the sunshine. I’m guessing by the colour that these are poisonous.
At the end of a long day, we finally made it to our campsite at King Edward River, or as the locals call it, Munurru. It’s a tranquil place with big skies and waterholes lined with pandanus and gums.
This was definitely the deep bush – you can’t escape the dust here.
The following morning, we ventured nearby to look at the rock art under the sandstone overhangs.
This area obviously had great significance for thousands of years since there were even the art of two separate peoples. The most recent clans painted the wandjina, or spirits.
But long before that, other people painted these very different paintings, which are now called Gwion Gwion. Much debate rages about who and when these were painted. Some think they’re of Asian, Melanesian, even African in origin.
The camp is my picture of the day.
We turned off the Gibb River Road on to Kalumburu Road northwards, and that was when the fun started. My goodness, weren’t we bumped around in the bus! The road was very straight for the most part, but the corrugations on the road were jarring and constant.
Plus, there were quite a few water crossings.
No big vans up there!
Eventually we reached the turn-off to Mitchell Plateau. Our campsite for the night thankfully isn’t far away now. This road to nowhere was my picture of the day.
The next day was a very long and arduous drive from El Questro to the eastern edge of the Mitchell Plateau. Along the way, we visited Ellenbrae Station – another million acre property that is still a working cattle station.
We learned from the young manager Logan that things can get very expensive out where they are – everything has to come by road train or plane! So to attract visitors they have a small camping ground and cream tea. That morning it’s been specially baked by his mum, and it was a good scone.
Apparently they’ve attracted so many takers that they can hardly keep up with the demand.
The Outback is full of novelties. We found one in the car park at Ellenbrae – their public phone (and me in my ‘Steve Irwin’ get-up).
At El Questro we camped by the Pentacost River. It was a little oasis, and the first thing in the morning was the best time to capture this tranquil setting.
However tranquility was no more by mid-afternoon. As the temperature climbed past 30C, everyone was interested in a freshwater dip.
The tranquility of the morning was my picture of the day.
The Cockburn Ranges are most accessible at the various cattle stations that line its route. We stayed at El Questro – a million acre former station, now tourist enterprise.
At Emma Gorge, we walked right into the range. The sandstone cliffs there were a very bright shade of ochre.
And there was also again some interesting geology. These are ripple marks from 450 million years ago – evidence of an ancient shore line.
The local flora was also very striking. This is the Kimberley Rose.
And the shadier and cooler it got, the more palms we saw.
It’s certainly a diverse landscape.
The Gibb River Road is an old stock route, but these days it’s a highway of sorts. Despite it being only 50% or so sealed, road trains, tour buses, and hundreds of four-wheel drive vehicles with camper trailers run along its length every day in the Dry. You get a good idea of how busy it can get at Pentacost River crossing.
It’s a pretty enough place, with the Cockburns in the background, but it is sure busy! Nevertheless, it inspired me to paint a few works. The first is the crossing with a sunset sky (yes, Kimberley sunsets are that colour) which I did on tour.
The second is a larger painting that I did once at home. I could help but put a few boabs in for good measure.
After Wyndham, we returned to those distant hills, and as we drew closer we saw that it was a sandstone range – the Cockburn Range.
These mountains formed much of the backdrop to the first half of Australia – they’re very distinctive. It also lines the first part of the Gibb River Road – the 660km old drover’s route between the ports of Wyndham in the East Kimberley and Derby in the West Kimberley. We’ll travel down its entire length during the tour.
They’re so distinctive that it became my picture of the day – with the now obligatory boabs and a few whistling kites for good measure.
Down at sea-level, we perused the one-street town that was Wyndham.
The salt pan attracted a few people.
And there were plenty of rusty remnants from bygone days. Since the closure of the meat works and the mine, there’s really not much work at the port, or anywhere in town.
Aside from these attractions, it had a jetty, a big (fiberglass) crocodile, a museum, a grocery shop, a gift shop, and a surprisingly good cafe. We tried looking for saltwater crocodiles at the jetty, but all we saw was endless mangroves.
Hugh, Nic and Baz were in the area to shoot Australia, but that’s 10 years ago now. Let’s hope that Wyndham gets back on its feet someday.
We followed the Ord River north-west until it flowed out into the Cambridge Gulf, near the town of Wyndham, 100km of Kununurra. It’s not the only river that flows out here – it’s also the mouth of four other rivers. We had a good look from the (aptly named) Five Rivers Lookout, high above Wyndham.
The landscape here was enormous. The rivers, the gulf, the ranges, and the salt/sand/mud flats seemed to go on forever.
Wyndham used to be a busy port, but the demise of the live cattle industry and mining ended that. On the day we visited, it was receiving its last nickel-ore-carrying ship.