Our Outback Workshop moved from Kakadu/Litchfield, over to Kununurra via Katherine. Moving across the boarder into Western Australia brings a change in the landscape from speargrass savannah to rocky outcrops and giant Boab trees. The landscape was unusually dry for this time of year. Normally creeks are full, waterfalls are flowing and the landscape is greener but, unfortunately, the last wet season was almost non existent.
Spectacular, close up view of Katherine Gorge
Kununurra sunset changes the landscape completely
Couldn’t resist painting this old Studebaker truck at El Questro Station
Rock Wallaby keeps watch over Chamberlain Gorge
Distorted landscape around Lake Argyle
After the Outback Workshop finished, Dianne and I collected our truck we had stored in Kununurra and headed of down the Gibb River Road via Wyndham and Parry Lagoon
Bell Gorge – one of the many waterholes along the Gibb River Road
Water Monitor – Bell Gorge
At the end of the Gibb River Road is the Napier Range. A spectacular band of twisted Limestone running East West across the Southern Kimberley. We spent a few days camped under the range painting, walking, sketching and photographing
Bee hive in a cave in the Napier Range
I was fortunate to cross paths with Jamie Nicolaou while we were in Western Australia. Jamie is the son of long time friends we stayed with near Manjimup. He has an amazing passion for photography, a great eye for a good shot and a humble attitude to his wealth of knowledge.
It was inspiring to go out with Jamie and watch as he shot a panorama of the family farm just as the light faded to dark. I then followed him through the process of turning it into the image you can see on his blog. The incredible thing about this image is that it’s resolution is high enough to produce a print measured in meters not centimeters!
Approaching the NT border towards Docker River, the country changes into a series of spectacular ranges. Reading Herbert Basedows 1903 journal of exploration through this area made it all the more fascinating. There were no tracks and the journey took him 8 months with a team of 18 camels.
All along the Great Central Road are herds of wild camels. This old fellow was standing under a shady tree just outside Docker River.
Approaching the NT WA border through a cracked and bug splattered windscreen.
We camped the first night back in the Northern Territory between sandhills with a great view of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).
Ayers Rock (Uluru) is an awesome sight. Photos are useless, it is so massive – the only way to appreciate it is to visit it.
These strange characters, walking up to a viewing platform near Kata Tjuta, wore bags over their heads to annoy the flies!
Around 50 kilometers east of Uluru is Mt Connor. It is like the poor cousin to Uluru, given just a passing glance thanks to it’s famous neighbour.
I climbed to the top of a high sandridge to get a photograph of Mt Connor. In the distance to the north I could see a large salt lake half filled with water. An unusual sight in Central Australia.
We traveled East to the Stuart Highway then turned South through gathering storm clouds to South Australia.
The Great Central Road skirts the Gibson and Great Victoria Deserts so water is pretty scarce. There are, however, a number of rockholes with permanent water scattered throughout the region. Whenever we saw one marked on the map we would seek it out with the aid of a GPS.
Some we found contained the bones of camels.
As we approached one of these waterholes we spotted a dingo running away. We didnt think much about it until we reached the hole and found this poor old camel trapped and struggling.
A steel frame covering the hole to keep animals out had somehow been collapsed and pushed aside
He was exhausted and badly cut from fighting to extract himself.
If we left him he would have soon become a meal for the dingoes. We decided to try and pull him out of the rockhole. The caravan was unhooked and the car moved close to the waterhole. I managed to throw a rope over his neck and pull a snatch strap around him.
With the car in low range we slowly hauled him out. I expected him to lay there for a while recovering but as soon as I undid the shackle attaching the rope to the car he jumped to his feet, shook himself, then took off.
He was last seen disappearing into the desert with a snatch strap and rope. I followed him for five minutes expecting the rope to fall off, but by that time he was half a kilometre away so I left him to it. A good excuse to return and search for the strap one day.
The Great Central Road runs from Laverton to Yulara, passing through the aboriginal communities of Cosmo-Newberry, Warburton, Warakurna and Docker River. The road takes in part of the old Gunbarrel highway to cover the 1500 kilometre distance.
Most of the road is good, graded dirt with a few stretches of corrugations and some sand drifts around Docker River. Apart from the great scenery, camels, birds and kangaroos, there are hundreds of wrecked cars scattered along the road. Here are a few victims of speed, fatigue, alcohol or neglect that caught our attention…
Gwalia, once the second biggest gold mining town in WA, is now almost deserted. The “Sons of Gwalia” mine closed in 1963 and the population of over 1500 disappeared overnight. The first mine manager, 23 year old Herbert Hoover, brought in cheap Italian labor to help make the mine profitable. Hoover went on to become the 31st president of the USA. Most of the abandoned cottages built by the workers are still in good condition thanks to the hot, dry climate.
Gwalia’s State Hotel was the first state owned pub in WA. Built to counter the sly grog trade in the town, it is a stark contrast to the makeshift dwellings of the workers.
The Sons of Gwalia mine has since reopened and, judging by the size of the hole in the ground, must be doing fairly well.
Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie are the two major towns in WA’s Southern Goldfields. They are both typical of the over the top gold mining towns of the late 1800’s. The banks, government buildings and, most noticeably, the pubs are all very impressive and contrast sharply with the humble dwellings constructed by the miners.
One of the more spectacular gardens in Coolgardie relies less on water and more on discarded junk to keep it vibrant and attractive
The main streets in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie are wide enough to land a jumbo jet on. Apparently they had to be that width to turn a camel train around.
Frightening statue of man trying to turn around a camel train. – Coolgardie
Interesting tall corrugated iron building – Coolgardie
Attractive stone government building – Coolgardie
Coolgardie RSL and Marvel Bar Hotel
One of Kalgoorlie’s more spectacular hotels
Exchange Hotel in the center of Kalgoorlie
Metropole Hotel in the Boulder district on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie
Court Hotel – Boulder
A couple of hundred kilometres north of Kalgoorlie things are a little less opulent. The Kookynie hotel is the only remaining business in town. The faded for sale sign on the wall suggest its days may be numbered.