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Posts from the ‘National Parks’ Category

Some people just don’t dig it – thoughts on bush camping

Most of my friends (who are also most of my readers, thank you!) aren’t avid campers and that’s completely ok. This means that you may not be aware that the camper community is not a homogenous crowd but consists of subgroups that travel more or less the same streets, exchange friendly words in passing, but can be distinguished easily:

Foor example the “Wicked Camper” is usually an overseas traveller who just finished high school, does fruit-picking jobs along the way and can only afford a vehicle that’s older than himself. As the van has no air condition and breaks down regularly remote destinations and dusty corrugation roads are off-limits for this traveller.

There is the well-known sub-group, the “Grey Nomad”, mostly couples, who migrate with the weather patterns to remain in climate zones that give relief to their arthritic joints. Their big comfortable camper trailers fit snuggly on most caravan sites and come with extendable washing lines and Foxtel.

And then there is the “Bush Camper” who can usually be identified by the crust of dirt on his car and trailer. They usually enjoy the solace of unpaid sites in the middle of nowhere and get frustrated when their supply of either  XXXX Gold or self-caught barra is depleted forcing them to return to a place that has a supermarket and/or bottle-shop.

Lastly, there are two types of Bush Campers – those who dig it and those who don’t. Digging is to be understood in its literal meaning here and while bush camping there is only one reason to dig a hole. Yes, for a number two.

When venturing out into the wilderness to the last remote spots where no showers exist and even the pit toilet counts as luxury there are those who just let loose and dump their outgoings wherever they like and leave their toilet paper as an indicator flagging “don’t come here unless you want to take a look at the pretty floral print of my Kleenex Extra Soft and what I had for lunch yesterday”.

Then there are the conscientious poopers who dutifully shoulder their shovel and make sure that no traces of any sort are left behind.

This is of course no laughing matter. Next time you venture into the wild and instead of a pristine landscape find toilet paper flapping in the wind I want to see the look on YOUR face!

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The Sound of the Wilderness

Thank you for enduring my little soapbox moment about the environment last week (I hope you’ve joined the petition yet, just kidding…have you? One more chance!). I’ve really fallen in love with the Kimberley coastline and wanted to share a little anecdote with you about this place.

Bush camping north of Broome is magical. Camping sites are scarce and spot the coastline in selected areas. Each site is nestled on top of the cliff featuring undistracted views of the ocean including breaching whales and sunsets. Neighbours are out of earshot, in fact, all you can hear is the gentle wind from the sea carrying the scent of sea salt.

This is probably why the strange sounds I heard on our first night startled me. It wasn’t a loud noise, just a little clinking as if someone was throwing tiny pebbles onto the rocks of the cliff. Once the sun had set little light was supporting my investigation, but the sound got more and more frequent.

We finally worked out that our neighbours weren’t the perpetrators, but the sound was caused by billions (slight exaggeration here) of hermit crabs that were climbing up the cliff to hide and feed in the protection of the grass for the night. Every now and then a crab would fall down a steep side of the rock it was trying to climb up on or hit another stone with the shell on its back causing the clinking noise.

Unfortunately I couldn’t capture the nightly spectacle that erased all human footprints and only left the little marks of hermit crab feed in the sand. I did find a volunteer during daylight to show how terribly cute these little crabs are.

David Attenborough, Pat Callinan and the Horizontal Falls

Thanks to Sir David Attenborough the Horizontal Falls have a snazzy name and even locals don't call them "gaps" anymore. What David Attenborough realised is...

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A Reef in the Middle of The Kimberley

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek are two quite exciting places in The Kimberley. Both provide access points to what used to be a reef and the amazing limestone formation is now, of course, nowhere near the water...

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Gibb River Road’s Gorgeous Gorges

Although having spent two weeks sightseeing on the famous Gibb River Road in northern Western Australia I had the slight suspicion that we had only seen the bare minimum of what there is to see. This

Little Merten Waterfalls near Mitchell Falls

suspicion was confirmed while browsing through postcards in a craft shop picturing local waterfalls – all of which seemed vaguely familiar, but were none of those we had visited.

The many, many gorges and waterfalls are the best part of Gibb River Road. Hopping across rivers and climbing up and down steep sandstone formations make the jump into the cold water something you crave for – and by the time you get back to the campground we were usually yearning for another dip…. Here are my favourite spots – and as I mentioned earlier, this list will need some serious adding, perhaps on future travels:

El Questro, Moonshine Gorge and Zebedee Hot Springs

El Questro Gorge’s swimming spot

El Questro is a privately owned property, which unfortunately charges heaps for wild bushcamping (no showers, but private access to the river). The two gorges we explored were definitely worth the money. El Questro Gorge has a little pool, which we discovered late in the

Sunset at El Questro

afternoon just before sunset  when most people had left. Moonshine Gorge didn’t seem to be a favourite with the crowds and we enjoyed the exclusive swimming opportunity. Zebedee Hot Springs are, as the name suggests, nice and warm and only require a very short walk from the car park – great reward for little effort, I like it!

Mitchell Falls
This is an awesome place, a bit hard to get to (cost us only one tire, the first one we blew, by the way). The aboriginal artworks along the walk are quite hidden, but worth discovering.

Manning Gorge
Another “low effort” plunge. The river is right next to the camp ground – because we were so satisfied with the quick dip in the water we didn’t actually do the walk up the falls, but were told that its cascades are gorgeous…ah well, next time.

Bell Gorge
I think at this stage we were already tired from all the waterfalls

Waterfall at Bell Gorge

we’d seen. This may have been the reason why Thorsten almost stepped into a big brown snake that was sunbathing on the hot sandstone. But yes, the view was worth the walk.

The Tooth, the Battery and the Bungle Bungle

While Kununurra was a pleasant little place, Thorsten and I were madly keen to get out of town and visit the Purnululu National Park which is home to the Bungle Bungle, an amazing sandstone formation. But nothing panned out as planned…

The four-hour drive to Purnululu started on a lonely highway
and ended in a dusty, rough gravel road that wound its way through river crossings and steep hills.

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“No worries”, we thought when we arrived at dusk and
stopped to pay our camping fee. This was when the engine didn’t want to start anymore and it turned out the battery was beyond repair.

After much trying and debating the park’s ranger pulled us
into his station for the night. He painted a picture of the next day that involved us phoning a garage in Kununurra where we’d order a new battery that would then be helicoptered into the national park and delivered to us by another helpful
soul. We mused that at least the battery will have had a beautiful scenic flight and suppressed any thoughts of how much this adventure will cost and how long it will take.

It may have been the combination of corrugations sending its
vibrations through my body all day and a couple of very cold nights that made feel my tooth starting to tingle. I’m not prone to hypochondria, but the nightmare of being stuck in the middle of nowhere for a week or perhaps longer with a toothache, running out of painkillers and then having to have the tooth pulled didn’t let me sleep much.

The good thing about being stuck in a national park is that
Rangers are used to getting people back on the road. The next morning a team of two very determined Rangers decided it would be a lot easier to jump-start the car so that we could drive back to town and sort ourselves out. For some reason
jump starting was successful (it hadn’t been the night before) and we made the four-hour journey back to Kununurra – of course, without having seen any of the marvels of the sandstone range.

After the dentist in town assured me that my tooth is
perfectly fine and may only tingle because of a sinus infection that’s pushing on the nerve I was relieved. Replacing the battery was equally pain free and so a couple of days later we travelled the same road to Purnululu once again.

Yes, the multiple travels were absolutely worth it and given
that the range was deposited over 360 million years ago our little detour that cost us a one week delay seems hardly any time in comparison. It certainly made us appreciate the helpful nature of others (and the power of flossing) – thanks again!

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