OUTBACK WORKSHOP 3

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 3
It was interesting to see the landscape change as we headed west from Katherine.
The sparse savannah of the Northern Territory gave way to dramatic escarpments and weird vegetation as the West Australian boarder approached.
Boab Trees and Kapoks take over and spear grass is replaced by Cane grass.
Roadhouses are few and far between and the cost of diesel climbs as the distance from major centers increases. It appears there have been big changes at Victoria River roadhouse.
Temperatures were creeping up into the 40’s so we found a big sandstone overhang, just out of Kununurra and settled down in the shade for a morning painting.
We flew to the Bungle Bungles the previous day and walked into Cathedral gorge. Because of weight restrictions, we couldn’t take painting gear. This spot, close to Kununurra, offered similar rockforms and was only 10 minutes from town.
I love the contrast between transparent watercolour and flat, opaque gouache. I also used Burnt Sienna Ink and a sepia pastel pencil on this demonstration.
We left Kununurra by coach and headed down the Gibb River Road to El Questro. Being the end of the Dry, all roads were open. During the wet they can all be closed.
The landscape here is magnificent. The time to see it is just after sunrise and just before sunset. The middle of the day is hot and the light is flat and overhead.
On El Questro Station are Zebedee springs. They are a series of thermal pools, tucked under an escarpment and jammed full of beautiful Livingstonia Palms. We spent a while swimming there, but had to be out by midday. Guests from the Homestead (paying $3,000 a day) are then ushered in to relax without the distraction of folks paying less.
El Questro’s airstrip is a busy place. When we arrived there were a dozen small planes lined up.
Another impressive feature of El Questro is Chamberlain Gorge. We did a boat cruise up the gorge and were amazed at it size.
The Gorge is full of archer fish, Catfish,and Barramundi.
These two Barra were around a metre long.
Archer fish archering. I have never seen it before, except on telly. Thanks to a 12 shots per second frame rate, managed to get a photo of one. They can squirt water a couple of metres with pinpoint accuracy.
Our coach made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to climb the steep dusty track out of Chamberlain Gorge. Finally, with a long run up and no passengers it made it out.
…we were left to walk.
Our accommodation at El Questro were interesting, triple skinned tents with timber floors. Designed for the tropics, but struggling to cope with 40 plus temperatures.
The air-conditioned option is “The Homestead” but at $3000/night, a bit expensive!
Emma Gorge, where we stayed on El Questro, is a great walk and early morning swim.
Our last painting day with the workshop was at, or in, the Pentacost river behind El Questro township.
We started out packed into the shade of a large paperbark, but soon spread out into the river.
An endless supply of clean, cool water
The cattle couldn’t quiet figure out what was going on.
Farewell dinner at the Emma Gorge restaurant with the roof open.

KUNANURRA, EL QUESTRO

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It was interesting to see the landscape change as we headed west from Katherine.

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The sparse savannah of the Northern Territory gave way to dramatic escarpments and weird vegetation as the West Australian boarder approached.

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Boab Trees and Kapoks take over and spear grass is replaced by cane grass

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Roadhouses are few and far between and the cost of diesel climbs as the distance from major centers increases. It appears there have been big changes at Victoria River roadhouse.

.

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Temperatures were creeping up into the 40’s so we found a big sandstone overhang, just out of Kununurra and settled down in the shade for a morning painting.

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We flew to the Bungle Bungles the previous day and walked into Cathedral gorge. Because of weight restrictions, we couldn’t take painting gear. This spot, close to Kununurra, offered similar rockforms and was only 10 minutes from town.

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I love the contrast between transparent watercolour and flat, opaque gouache. I also used Burnt Sienna Ink and a sepia pastel pencil on this demonstration.

.

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We left Kununurra by coach and headed down the Gibb River Road to El Questro. Being the end of the Dry, all roads were open. During the wet they can all be closed.

.

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The landscape here is magnificent. The time to see it is just after sunrise and just before sunset. The middle of the day is hot and the light is flat and overhead.

.

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On El Questro Station are the Zebedee springs. They are a series of thermal pools, tucked under an escarpment and jammed full of beautiful Livistona Palms. We spent a while swimming there, but had to be out by midday. Guests from the Homestead (paying $3,000 a day) are then ushered in to relax without the distraction of folks paying less.

.

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El Questro’s airstrip is a busy place. When we arrived there were a dozen small planes lined up.

.

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Another impressive feature of El Questro is Chamberlain Gorge. We did a boat cruise up the gorge and were amazed at it size.

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The Gorge is full of archer fish, Catfish,and Barramundi.

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These two Barra were around a metre long.

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Archer fish archering.

I have never seen it before, except on telly. Thanks to a 12 shots per second frame rate, I managed to get a photo of one. They can squirt water a couple of metres with pinpoint accuracy.

.

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Our coach made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to climb the steep dusty track out of Chamberlain Gorge. Finally, with a long run up and no passengers, it made it out.

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…we were left to walk.

.

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Our accommodation at El Questro were interesting, triple skinned tents with timber floors. Designed for the tropics, but struggling to cope with 40 plus temperatures.

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The air-conditioned option is “The Homestead” but at $3000/night, a bit expensive!

.

Emma Gorge is where we stayed on El Questro. It is a great walk and early morning swim.

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Our last painting day with the workshop was at, or in, the Pentacost river behind El Questro township.

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We started out packed into the shadow of a large paperbark, but soon spread out into the river.

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An endless supply of clean, cool water

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The cattle couldn’t quiet figure out what was going on.

.

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Farewell dinner at the Emma Gorge restaurant with the roof open.

MATARANKA

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Roper River Undergrowth

12 miles down the Roper River from Mataranka is the Elsey  National Park campground (called 12 mile yards) It’s much cleaner and quieter than the Mataranka Homestead campground. There are some excellent walks and interesting tracks to cycle along.

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Creek Crossing No.2

We discovered an old National Parks service road and decided to see where it led. Two hours and 4 creek crossings later, we emerged at Mataranka Falls.

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Mataranka Falls

Beautiful clear water, huge stands of Livingstonia Palms and a couple of freshwater crocodiles. The kind of place you don’t want to leave, especially when we had two hours of peddling to get home.

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Pandanas and Livistonia Palms

Livistonia  and Pandanas palms turn the Roper River and surrounding wetlands into a magnificent oasis. Most of the surrounding area is a dry savannah landscape.

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Paperbark Swamp Wetlands

Dry Savanna Country

Dry Savannah Country at Breakneck Speed

Once away from the river the country becomes hot and dry. Open eucalypt country with dry grass and lots of anthills – completely different to the area fringing the river.

Barb Wire Penetrating Anthill

Barb Wire Penetrating Anthill

How did they do that? Poke a fence right through an anthill.

Clear Water

Clear Water

The creeks feeding into Roper River are spring fed and have a high calcium content. This makes the water incredibly clear. It also causes calcium deposits to build up in certain areas.

We came across this little creek that had built up a hard limestone gutter over the years, making it look almost man-made.

Limestone lined Creek

Limestone lined Creek

Before we left Mataranka we decided to stay a night at the Homestead and have dinner in their restaurant. We found a reasonably isolated spot and set up camp. I went for a walk up along the river. When I came back a guy with four weird tiny little horses had camped nearby. I went and said g’day to him and he told me he was with the Moscow Circus and 40 trucks and trailers were following him! Within an hour the place was overun.

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I expected lions, tigers and elephants, but all the Moscow Circus has are four freaky little horses – I think they are to frighten children.

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The Circus was incredibly well organised They had all moved off  in small groups by 9:00 next morning – bound for Alice Springs.

LEICHHARDT FALLS

Not far from Bourketown are the Leichhardt  Falls. The Leichhardt River spreads out over a series of eroded rock shelves and the wet season piles up banks of sand all over the place.
The falls look amazing just before the sun comes up. Sorry about the clichéd long exposure – couldn’t help it.
Downstream as the sun is about to come up.

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Not far from Bourketown are the Leichhardt  Falls. The Leichhardt River spreads out over a series of eroded rock shelves and the wet season piles up shifting banks of sand.

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The falls spill over a rock shelf into a large basin. They look amazing just before the sun comes up. Sorry about the clichéd long exposure – couldn’t help it.

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Downstream, yellow reflections as the sun comes up.

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The Savannah Way has some beautiful places to camp. Most of the river crossings are really spectacular and, fortunately, not much traffic goes that way, so most of the time you have these places to yourself.

RAPIDS, RAINFORESTS AND RUBBER BOATS

Tully River

Tully River

Fifty kilometres inland from Tully are the headwarters of the Tully river. A huge rainfall and a dam feeding a power station ensure a constant flow of water down a long series of rapids – the perfect setting for white water rafting.

The craze was started in the 70’s by a guy taking a few interested adventurers up to the head of the river in an old station wagon.

Tully Gorge Rafting

Tully Gorge Rafting

We drove up to the top of the gorge around 10:00am and saw 4 huge coaches unload a couple of hundred backpackers dressed in life jackets and helmets. The business sure has grown.

Down the Rapids

Down the Rapids

Tully Gorge has some fantastic rainforest. We saw a lot of Ullysis butterflies but were never quick enough to photograph one, so I will paint a word picture for you – They were very blue.

Rainforest Tully Gorge

Rainforest Tully Gorge

Rainforest Undergrowth

Rainforest Undergrowth