After a short run of free camping and tenting I was looking forward to heading into Kununurra for our planned 3 night stay where we could catch up on washing, emails etc. A couple of days before, however, Reardon lost a filling (what is it with the teeth thing on this trip?) and the air conditioning in the car packed up. So, after rolling into to town and tracking down a dentist and auto place we found ourselves extending our stay by another 3 nights. It was almost the weekend and no-one could look at the car until the start of the following week.
This change of plans was no problem as we ended up enjoying Kununurra, the caravan park (Hidden Valley) was reasonably priced and the kids enjoyed the nightly outdoor movie – which basically involved a TV stuck in a tree!
The Kununurra Ag. show was on the Fri & Sat of the week that we arrived and the kids were keen to check it out. I am hesitant to be negative here but feel compelled to write honestly. We found the show experience disappointing. It started at 2pm on Fri and we headed down at about 4.30pm to be met by a $45 entry fee. I don’t get having to pay that sum of money to enter the show grounds where everything inside costs more money. There were the normal carnival rides (bumper cars at $9 a pop), novelty stalls selling glowing, twirling thingys, some cows to look at, a kids circus, fast food selling at exorbitant prices, and a short fireworks show – the usual show stuff. The crowd was a little thin on the ground – we later heard that numbers were down on previous years – and the atmosphere was very low-key. I don’t want people to think we are bagging the show because that is not my intention. The kids spent some of their own money on rides and a show bag and we enjoyed ourselves but felt a big hit in the back pocket for the short time we were there. In hindsight attending on the Saturday when there was show jumping and other activities scheduled in the main arena and spending the whole day, not just a few hours, would have been better value.
We are were also a bit worried about the cost of getting the air con fixed. We weren’t really sure how big the problem was and were imagining quite a large bill. As it turned out we had cracked a pipe that comes from the top of the receiver/dryer, apparently this is something that Patrols are known for and the $365 replacement and fitting cost, although hurt, was cheaper than what we were originally expecting. It is likely that this happened on the bumpy drive we had into Tunnel Creek.
Kununurra was extremely busy with all of the caravan parks being full and the overflow facility in the show grounds filling up as soon the show finished. There is plenty to see and do around the area, as well as it being a base to enter (or exit)the northern end of The Gibb River Road and the last town in WA before The Northern Territory. The tourist centre in town was great, with lots of info and friendly advice.
We spent some time visiting Lake Argyle which is the largest fresh water storage in mainland Australia and were amazed by its size. It has the capacity of 21 times the Sydney Harbour! We drove across the dam wall of The Ord River where there is a great picnic spot, luckily we had bought some sandwiches with us and enjoyed sitting on the shady, grassed area. A few people were trying their luck fishing but all we saw were empty hooks! As well as supplying water to the 14,000 ha of farmland in the Ord River Irrigation Area, power is generated by the hydroelectric station at the base of the dam wall supplying electricity to the Argyle Diamond Mine, Kununurra and the town of Wyndham.
Not far from the dam is the Durack Homestead Museum. The original home was built by the pioneering Durack family in the 1890’s on Argyle Downs Station. This area was to become submerged after the construction of the dam and so the home was dismantled stone by stone and relocated to its current location. There were a number of artefacts dotted around the place as well as a thorough history of the family. The kids learnt about how tough things would have been for the pioneers and the $10 family entry fee well and truly covered a decent history lesson for them.
Some of the other things we did while in town were to go up the lookout at Kelly’s Knob (giggle), check out some Zebra Rock Galleries, visit the Celebrity Tree Park and sample some rums at The Hoochery – my insides were warm for hours after!
We had one full day left in town after picking up Patricia with her now icy cold air conditioning and Paul was keen to check out this end of The Gibb River Road (although a bit nervous about cracking another pipe). After heading out there and loving the places we did manage to visit we are kicking ourselves that we didn’t allow more time for this area. It was pretty special.
What we hadn’t realised was that the things we wanted to have a look at were all actually part of the El Questro Wilderness Park. We headed out to Emma Gorge and learnt that we would have to pay $18 per adult to be able to use the roads in the park (although we saw a number of cars trying their luck). For our $36 we received a road permit to stick on our windscreen which gave us access for a week (doh!). The first place we headed to were the thermal Zebedee Springs. The water was beautiful and warm and there were a number of other people there enjoying the gorgeousness (new word!). The springs are only open until midday after which can only be accessed by tour companies. We then went to Amalia Gorge where there are some beautiful waterfalls and rock pools to swim in. The boys had lots of fun climbing around and jumping from the rocks into the water.
Can you guess which ‘boy’ had the first jump?
So, after 10 weeks and five days on the road, we did it. We finally crossed the border!