Sunday morning one week ago I went to the local supermarket in Kununurra to get fresh supplies for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, the supermarket was closed as there were some issues with the electricity in the block. But as this was my last chance at all to stock up my supplies, I decided to wait until the problem was resolved. In the afternoon I could start my drive and stopped at the Ord River diversion dam, just outside of the town. A sign said it was designed for a discharge of about 57,000 m³/s, which is about 500 times more than the discharge rate of the much larger lake Argyl of just 126 m³/s. Assuming a speed of 10 m/s, one would need a throughflow area of about 570 meters width and 10 metres high (it is not the water level meant here, but the control area, with the prescribed velocity). And this not only for the dam itself, but also for the river downstream. One could empty the lake Argyl in less than two days with that volume flow. I can’t see that this would work out, and hence I doubt this specification.

After some drive I reached the Grotto, which has no longer flowing water in the dry season. Some people told me, that there would be crocodiles down in the remaining billabong. I couldn’t see any, when I was there, and doubted that they could out of the water, across the very rocky outflow. But just a few days ago, I met another travel couple, and they confirmed that there were three freshwater crocodiles, one small one and two larger ones. Then I went on to Wyndham, a small twon, but probably the third largest in the Kimberley region. Originally founded to get all the men ashore during the gold rush in the end of the 19th century, while in the 20th century the meatworks at the harbour was the largest facility in town. But this already closed down more than 30 years ago. The harbour is still in use, not only for landing oil on, but also for some general goods and iron ore. From the top of the hill you’ve a nice view to the five rivers, which are all flowing into the western arm, and the harbour of Wyndham. This was also the original site of the town, but due to the high tide of about 9m, the twon was moved 5km further to inland, leaving the police station and just a few houses there. Unfortunately there was a lot of smoke in the air, and hence the visibility wasn’t that good during the sunset, but the location is still the major attraction of Wyndham.

The Ord River diversion dam, used originally for irrigation, but nowadays the small lake is mainly used for recreation
After the Great Northern Highway junction to the south, the first mountains of the Kimberly region appear
The waterhole of the Grotto is just a dirty remaining
View to the north in the direction to Wyndham
View from the new jetty to the harbour pier
A small train was used in the meatworks to load the ships, with one locomotive from Germany, an Ethanol fuelled steam engine…the first of it’s kind
Two German aviators had an emergency landing north of Wyndham, and just got rescued by accident by some Aboriginal people after almost 6 weeks…without any supplies.
Next to the museum there’s a nicely smelling flower…quite surprising for this dry and dusty area
The western arm seeen from the five River lookout during sunset (basically you only see three of them: King, Pentecost and Durack, while the mouth of Ord and Forest River are to the other side)

Lake Argyle

Yesterday morning I enjoyed my morning coffee in Timber. In the morning the temperatures are still OK and not too hot. Just around noon it gets pretty warm, and then it doesn’t cool off until very late afternoon. In essence, I also started my driving a bit late that day. Having early lunch on the road I turned off the highway shortly before the WA border, and went to the Zebra rocks mine site. Even as on the highway it was stated that the mine is open, the gate was surprisingly closed. It turned out that this was their last day, open to public access. The owner just came by accidentally and explained to me that I still can go to the mine. The road was just 5.5 km and not too bad. The zebra rocks are a really interesting geological feature, and can be only found around this area. Even scientists haven’t a clue how this was formed, they only knew that the rocks are pretty old. As last customer of the year I had a short conversation with the lady. She told me that this year was pretty dry and all their dams are already dried out. Now they need to make a new bore for about 25 m to get some water, until the rain of the wet season starts in November or so. After finishing my visit, I headed off to the WA border. Quarantine check was done in 2 minutes and not a problem at all, as I hadn’t had any fresh fruits or vegetables with me. After a few kilometres I turned off to Lake Argyle. There are construction works on the road, and even if the stretch is only 1km or so, let me wait for 20 minutes until I could pass. That wasn’t really funny, and I couldn’t see the reason for that. The scenery of the largest fresh water lake in Australia is a bit surreal, as the landscape around is completely dried out, but there is this massive water with more than 10,000 Mio. m³ storage capacity. It would need more than three years to release the water through the control valves, which can discharge 42 m³/s each. From the lookout you can only get a glimpse of the lake, as it stretches for several kilometres to the south and is clearly visible even from space. After having a walk up a small hill to get a view to the gorge, I went down the dam to the picnic area. The Ord river is still like a wild water river during this time of the year, and you can canoe the 55 km down to Kununurra. During this time of the year, none of the rivers has so much water left, and it’s all just possible because of the dam. Nevertheless, the dam is pretty underutilised, as it was planned for a large irrigation scheme north of Kununurra. But the rice they wanted to grow and export to China, doesn’t grow here. Hence, most of the water is not really used for something.

There’s still water in Victoria River, but it’s not clear if it’s still flowing near Timber Creek
The landscape Timber Creek was quite flat, until suddenly some table top mountains appeared
Did you also got some Spam today 😉
Some exemplar of the zero rocks. The rock in the middle was pretty light
The northern end of lake Argyl
It was surprisingly to see, that Sydney is almost as far away as Singapore from here…OK, I didn’t calculate the Great circle distances upfront (:
The eastern banks already dried out, as the water level seem to be low (which is not surprisingly, as we’re reaching the end of the dry season)
The water flows through some turbines, and forms again the Ord river…
…which eventually flows into a gorge.
The water level is far from the spillover…
…and can be easily regulated by the three large outlet vales, which get the water through two tunnels of about 4.5m diameter each

To Timber Creek

Ereyesterday I stopped first at the nearby Victoria River Roadhouse for a coffee. By chance I met a couple from Tasmania who travelled all the way up the east coast, even along the old telegraph line up to Kap York. I sounded like a very adventurous journey. But their Ute was well equipped and they seemed to be pretty experienced in what they were doing. After my late morning coffee I went to the nearby boat ramp. The Victoria River was no longer flowing, hence, I could walk to the other side of the river. I just walked a few hundred metres, as there’s again a serious Bush walk all the way up the Gregory Creek. Instead I opted for the escarpment track. It’s only about one hour walk to the top of the table mountains. The views from over there are really stunning, and beside the Gregory Creek one could also see the Sulivan Creek, where the Victoria Highway is located in. The sun was really hut today, but due to a slight wind I didn’t felt that warm. Nevertheless, I got some sunburn on my arms and my nape. In Timber Creek I went to Gregory’s cairn, which was a base camp for a successful expedition in the mid 19th century. The only remains are carvings in a Boab tree, which is by the way also a sacrificed place of the indigenous people around. As it was already late afternoon I decided spontaneously to stay in Timber Creek and don’t drive any further this day, as I didn’t want to cook my dinner again during the night.

The water flow at Victoria River already ceased
There’s just a billabong left at the coflow of the Gregory Creek into the Victoria River
The Victoria River is meandering through flat tabletop mountains
Infront of the Gregory Creek Valley is a cattle station, or at least some kind of mustering yard
The Victoria Highway follows the Sulivan creek for about 40 km
Only some road trains with supplies are plying the highway to the WA border
The carvings are still readable, but this are destroying the Boab trees slowly. These trees just suddenly started to grow a few km before Timber Creek.

Leaving Katherine

Wednesday early morning I went to the new railway station in Katherine. The gate was already open, probably I had just luck, as there should be the weekly train arriving from Darwin later this day. As there are at maximum four train stops during peak season…each week, the railway station is pretty small and simple. I doubt that you can get off the train at all in Katherine, apart for doing the planned excursions. After having my breakfast nearby, I went to the hotsprings in the town. The water was warm, but not too hot, and a bit of blueish. After this refreshing bath I found an Asian woman, after asking in a shop for a patch for my trousers, to directly fix my trousers with her sewing machine, just for 5AUD. After stocking up my supplies in the supermarket except for fresh fruits and vegetables, I met again with Janet for a last coffee, as she was still in town. In the late afternoon I was finally ready to leave Katherine. I went westbound on the Victoria highway in the direction to the Western Australia border. On the way I met some wallabies and free grassing cattle on the road. I only drove for about 180 km until I reached I gravel pit next to the road shortly after sunset, where I had my dinner and spent the night.

New railway station in Katharine, from here on the new standard gauge tracks leaving the old narrow gauge pathway
Upper pool of the hotsprings in Katherine
All the way along the Victoria Highway there was tree covered savanna land

Bouldering in Katherine

Yesterday morning I went to the Bombs Away Boulder in Katherine, which is next to the hospital and the old airstrip which nowadays hosts the local museum. As the popular “Rising Sun” boulder is pretty tough and much higher as I anticipated, I opened up another route “Plan B” There was a rock directly in the landing zone and without anyone for spotting and a decent crash pad I didn’t want to have a hard landing, even if the hospital is just across the road 😉. In the beginning I struggled a bit with the moves, but in the end I tried it two more times. I gave also the other routes a go, but all of them are pretty overhanging and physically hard. It was a good training, but wasn’t too much fun for me. In the photo you can clearly see how overhanging the Rising Sun route is. After finishing bouldering I had at the construction site of the new 25MW solar farm, which is located about 7 kilometres north of the town directly next to the Stuart Highway. Surprisingly I could walk directly to the fence and could have a close look at the newly installed PV modules. The mounting system can even rotate around the horizontal axis in order to gain more power from the sunlight. In the early afternoon I walked along the old narrow gauge railway tracks and passed by the old railway station as well as the old railway bridge. Which was the only railway station in the NT built from concrete and the largest bridge along the line at all. The bridge is about 20 metres above the river. But in the rainy season it can be, that the Katherine River even rises that high and floods the whole town, as already done several times. In the late afternoon I drove out to Katherine gorge a nice landscape but pretty packed with lots of tourists. I made an afternoon walk to the Baruwei lookout. The way was well prepared and marked, hence not pretty hard. There are multiday walks up to the ninth gorge available. But as I had already a two days walk finished and as there were also signs that swimming is no longer possible, as the water flow almost ceased, I wasn’t really in a mode to start such a walk at all in the late dry season. After having dinner at the car park I decided to stay there over night, as there were also parking other cars around me.

Rising Sun is going all the way on the left through the overhanging part, whereas I set Plan B just straight up starting from the small crimp on the left and the central jug
The Knotts Crossing through the Katherine River near the hospital
The new solar farm in Katherine currently under construction
Old railway station in Katherine
The old water tank whivh was also used for some time as water supply for the town.
The water levels of the Katherine River can rise pretty high during rainy season…
…sometimes even flooding the railway bridge and the whole town
The start of the 13 km long Katherine gorge
From the Baruwei lookout you can nicely see the plains infront of the gorge
The 17 Mile creek is clearly visible due to the dark green trees along it