Friday, September 9, 2011

Home Valley Station etc

Home Valley Station and Lake Argyle

Home Valley Station is beautiful.  It is an oasis in the desert! As you enter the homestead area you are greeted by manicured green lawns, enormous shady trees and lush flower beds.  

The homestead is now a reception, bar and restaurant, with a swimming pool for all guests.  The campsite beside the Pentecost River is 7klms from the homestead, again with green grass, but not lawn! The edge of the river had been severely damaged by the deluge of the last wet, so where previously there had been large trees, there were now only small trees.   And where the bank had been, was now either badly eroded or washed away altogether by the flood waters.  The flood took with it, shelters and heavy wooden picnic tables.

He CoWe expected to find lots of salt water crocodiles, but alas only saw one head gliding through the murky water, a long way from where we could take a photograph!  Early in the morning, we expected to see more, as the tide had receded a long way out.  We heard the barking of a croc, but couldn't see any trace of it!

Beside the river were plenty of birds of prey, including a Sea Eagle, a Brahminy Kite and some hawks.  Along the grassy edges were Whistling Ducks, on their long migration from Russia, lots of Zebra Finches, other little olive coloured finches and some Yellow Hooded Plovers.

Unfortunately the visibility coming into Home Valley Station and during our stay there, was very poor due to the heavy burning off being carried out at El Questro Station.  So we were unaware of the magnificent scenery afforded by the Cockburn Ranges until we reached a lookout just above Home Valley. Even early in the morning the red and orange of the cliffs was not visible from our campsite. Instead they were a hazy purple.

In the morning, our drive towards Kununurra, ensured that we had to cross the Pentecost River.  It is a very wide river, probable over 250 meters wide at the crossing. There is no bridge, no causeway! You just drive across the river, through the water, on the river rocks below! You are not allowed to get out of your car, because crocs lurk in the water, so you just have to put the vehicle into four-wheel drive at let the low ratio gear take you across! The water was flowing quite rapidly and we estimate the depth to be about 500cms at the deepest part!  Earlier in the season the river had been impassable!

We chose not to visit El Questro, because we had been jolted around on rough roads for some time, and also we had been told that this station was very touristy and very expensive - over rated; over priced!  Also we need to leave some things to do when we comeback again, which we are determined to do!

 The remainder of the Gibb River Road leading into Kununurra, some 40klms, turned out to be the most corrugated of all the road.  We took it very slowly but were still jolted around quite a bit.

We stopped in Kununurra to refuel and resupply with food.  We ate our picnic lunch in a magnificent green park beside Lake Kununurra. On returning to the truck we discovered a leak from the diesel fuel tank.  We were unsure whether this was due to being over filled or whether there was now a crack in the welded joints of the tank.  So Peter got under the truck to try to find out. We went to some of the car service places, who either wouldn't look at it or couldn't for two days.  So we decided to test whether is was due to over filling or not and drove to Lake Argyle to stay the night. 

A beautiful caravan park with green lawns, swimming pool overlooking Lake Argyle, ensuite bathrooms and great camp kitchen.  Unfortunately we couldn't stay to enjoy it for more than one night.

The diesel stopped dripping over night, but as soon as the sun started to heat up the day, it began to drip again. This prevented us from truly visiting and enjoying Lake Argyle as we needed to deal with it promptly.  As the tank was very full we headed for Katherine to empty it as we drove along. The tank needed to be empty in order to be welded.

Along the drive to Katherine, we stopped several times to check if the tank was still leaking - it was!  We arrived too late to go to a mechanic.  We also discovered when we stopped that we had a slow puncture -a legacy of adorned puncture received from the bridge repair work on the Trunketabella bridge.

The next morning we went to every mechanic in Katherine to see if we could get help. Not one of them could fit us in because they all said they were too busy.  Finally, however, we called in at an engineering firm.  They asked us to come back at 1.00pm to check it out.  One of their employees with an interest in fuel tanks, found the two cracks in the weld joints and the owner agreed to fixing the tank the next day.

A quick dip in the nearby Katherine hot springs, soon revived the bodies. The spring is right in the heart of Katherine, free to everyone.  It pours out of the earth, crystal clear, beautifully warm and in great fast volumes.  Lots of locals go there straight after work to enjoy a freshen up.

Although this caravan park was very well appointed, it turned out to be very noisy.  The chap in the car next to us kept his radio all night, the dogs barked incessantly, there was shouting and screaming coming from the park behind us and the road trains passed on the highway near by with their air brakes shrieking!  Not much sleep for the two nights spent here!

The repair to the tank, meant wiling away a whole day in downtown Katherine. Not a good day to be doing such a thing, because it was "pay day" (Thursday).  People were shouting and calling out, drunks were staggering around and the stench of pee was everywhere.

At 2.00pm the bottle shops all open and the cycle starts again.  This opening time places great stress on the local taxi drivers who drive indigenous community members to and from the bottle shop. It was during this rush, that we needed to get a cab back to the industrial area to collect the truck. This proved to be quite tricky.  

On arrival at the engineering workshop the truck was ready, so we headed of to Edith Falls to camp in the National Park.  A gem, this turned out to be!  Deep water hole and very quiet bush camping!  We will return on our way back home and explore it some more!

Next stop Darwin, where we decided it as time for a motel room.  We spent the day booking flights and accommodation to Bali, Lombok and the Gilli Islands.

So for two weeks there will be a break in the blog.  We off to sleep and relax

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