Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Fitzroy Crossing - Geikie Gorge

5/08/08 Kununurra – Turkey Creek – Hall’s Creek – Mary’s Pool – Fitzroy Crossing 648(6417) kms

Finally on the road after four fine days in Kununurra, we left a little later than planned but what the heck, it's just a plan! We farewelled Kununurra across the Diversion Dam - one lane only as the police had the other lane busy and seemed very interested in something in the water on the down stream side. The country soon became as dry as you would expect in a desert. We parted with the Victoria Highway as it carried on to Wyndham and picked up the Great Northern Highway instead. For the next forty or so km, we were treated to some of the best examples of the mountains and hills that make the Kimberleys famous. I've talked about them before but this stretch of road uncovered one amazing sight after another as each crest was bested. Had it not been for road works which lasted for twenty km approaching Warum (Turkey Creek) and the cheeky drivers in two big old slow bottomed caravans, I doubt if I would have watched the road at all.

By the time Warum told us to speed up and do 80, these guys had kept me at 60 on a 110 highway for about 25kms. I was ready for a break and was glad to see them pull in too so I wouldn't have to suffer a repeat dose. It wasn't until I stopped that fellow travellers pointed out the policeman standing beside his vehicle with a radar gun. In the twenty minute stop, this guy handed out tickets as fast as Italians change prime ministers!

After Warum, the country started to flatten out but not enough to give us a view of the horizon. We stopped at Halls Creek for fuel (189.9c/L) and decided to push on to the next rest area to have lunch. We were dismayed to read a sign just out of Hall's Creek telling us it would be another 118kms before a rest area occurred! Despite this, leaving Halls Creek was a relief. In twenty short minutes we saw and heard enough to the sadness that a catastrophic failure within the cultural divide can create. It was a sad, depressing place and neither of us felt safe.

By our lunch stop at 2:00pm at Mary's Pool, the country was flatter than beginner’s pancake. The short drive off road into a crossing of the Mary River revealed a considerable lack of water in this wide wet season wonder and 43 rigs spread among the shade of eucalypts. Some had set up camp for the night and good luck to them. They must have all had their own toilet facilities because the ones supplied were disgusting. We gulped a quick lunch because we still had 170kms to go.

This last stretch of the day included an amazing treat. We were driving along a dead straight road, with low shrubby trees and an unchanging view that seemed willing to go on to infinity. Almost from nowhere, massive mesas and buttes loomed in the distance and soon engulfed us. Before it seemed possible, we were back to feeling like ants crawling along the thin black track which found the only safe path between these geological remnants. Awesome seems such an inadequate word sometimes. 650kms came to an end as we crossed the very wide Fitzroy Crossing bridge and went on up into the town of the same name. As our seven minutes late arrival meant we had missed the chance to book a cruise of the gorge with Aboriginal guides tomorrow, we will stay an extra night here so as to not miss the experience.

6/08/08 Geikie Gorge

Geikie Gorge
Some things become clear, even though you don't want them to. It became clear to us that the cruise with the indigenous input was not going to happen, so we decided to take the Ranger guided tour instead but that's later in the story.

We messed about this morning with some bits and pieces which we needed to do, so headed out to the gorge late morning. After morning tea, we went for a walk along the Fitzroy River but not near the gorge section. The Fitzroy has steep banks and at one stage we stood opposite where the Mary River enters. At this time of year, that entry is only a meeting of two massive sand drifts. After 600m, we veered inland away from the river where the remains of a limestone reef of the Devonian Period is obvious in shades of white, grey and black. We passed a new ranger facility which includes a large solar and diesel power plant and plenty of room for offices. We went back to the main picnic area and did some bird and people watching.

Our cruise started at 3:00pm and after listening to the rudeness of the aboriginal tour guide, we were glad we missed his tour. In an hour with the Rangers, we moved up and back about a kilometre of the wide and deep Fitzroy River, principally through the two large walls which tower up to 80 metres above the dry season water line. A mark on the walls about twenty metres up shows the average wet season water level. During the wet season, the water flows at 89000 cubic feet per second which is enough, if Sydney Harbour was ever drained, to refill it in five days! It is the river in Australia with the highest flow rate.

How do people know these things?

We took pictures and enjoyed the flow of facts and figures from the skipper and also the antics of the young Italian couple in front of us. Boy, are these people animated and passionate! She was a scream with her exclamations and joyous excitement and he spent most of the time trying to correct her or calm her down. People watching again and I must admit, taking advantage of the situation. Through my very small knowledge of Italian from my junior soccer days in Sydney, I worked out she was terrified of imminent crocodile attack. At Geikie, only harmless freshies exist but that didn’t stop me from giving her a few good natured scares by shouting “watch out”! I hate myself sometimes but usually after I’ve had the fun.

Just another fabulous day. Tomorrow we move to Windjana NP via Tunnel Creek NP.

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