So that morning we boarded a smaller boat to travel down the river. It was faster and slipped through the rapids so was great fun. As we left from just under the dam, a party of kayakers were loading their craft for several days of travel down river to Kununurra. Fortunately there are only freshwater crocodiles in the river as there is another small dam or barrage at Kununurra which backs up the water so it can be used for irrigation and it prevents salties from coming upstream. Saltwater crocodiles can live in freshwater but not the other way round.
We passed the kayakers very slowly, on our way back. I think our guide was disappointed that they were still upright and dry and had not turned over in the first rapids as he expected.
The freshies had been completely uninterested in them as they went past.
We were surprised at the lack of size of Kununurra (basic pop 7,000 increasing to 10,000 in dry seasonal due to tourist activities and farm workers.) It was Saturday afternoon and little was open. Fortunately the supermarket was open but I had broken my thongs (jandals in NZ, Flip flops in USA?) and was lucky to find one pair my size in the smallest Target (variety) store I had ever seen. We drove up a hill to look over the town.
The nearest town of any size is 500km east in Katherine and 1200km south west in Broome. You would not want to live there if you were a shopaholic.
Sunday morning we passed farms growing melons and mangoes and the new crop sandalwood but visited a zebra rock gallery. These are the natural rock colours.
We both bought a small piece each for a souvenir.
Then we drove towards the coast and the town of Wyndham (pop 800). It is 100km from Kununurra and on the coast so is the port and the oldest town in the region. Great views from a hill overlooking the estuary with 5 rivers and extensive mudflats but very misty (salt?) so I will not post any photos.
Instead we returned to the main Great Northern Highway and drove for another 380km to our next night's stop. There was just 1 roadhouse in all that distance. My sister drove for an hour so I took the following photos as the road went on and on .
Where we stayed for the next 2 nights was a very strange campsite. It is underwater in the wet and so is portable. Everything is set up at the beginning of the dry season and taken down again at the end. It is the entrance to the Bungle Bungle National Park with its beehive shape striped formations. The proper name now is Purnulu National Park. It was only discovered by a film team in 1983, became a national park in 1987 and was put on the world heritage list in 2003. It is only accessible by 4WD so we had to join a bus tour which took 2 hours to drive the 52 km from the highway where we camped to the boundary of the park. The park covers 2,500 square km. Many tourists view it from the air but both cost and my fear of flying in anything with one engine meant we only saw it the hard way. In the morning we walked to Cathedral Gorge (4km return) which was spectacular.
In fact still photos do not do it justice so I will try to post a movie.
Another shorter walk nearby led to a great view over the park.
Then after lunch we drove to the other end of the range and visited the Echidna Chasm. It was a shorter (2km return) walk but rather rough so my sister gave it a miss. It is a very deep narrow chasm so was better in the afternoon heat.
Then it was time to retrace our steps in the bus back over that 52km rough road to our van parked near the highway.