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Travel Australia with Kids

Thursday, 15th September 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Saturday, September 17, 2011

We found a very friendly and obliging welder at Canning Industries in Katherine who fit us in straight away to fix the chassis.  We unhitched Optimus and drove to Edith Falls - it was way too hot by the time we arrived to do the walks to the spectacular lookouts, so we let the boys splash around a little in the freezing water instead. And just to keep us on our toes, Mike tore out the left-hand side front bumper of Ironhide as he pulled out of the parking bay (it got stuck above a wire fence!) - so another thing to fix! This one was cosmetic only, so we stocked up on supplies and headed into Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk National Park) for a couple of days.

We spent one day exploring the gorge in our Zodiac - we could only get to the end of the 1st gorge as there are rock falls to cross between the gorges and it would have taken quite a bit of effort to carry the boat across.  Quite fun to zip by all the kayakers though on our little motorised vessel!  The water was absolutely perfect for a swim and the boys spent a couple of hours trawling in the gorge - caught a couple of baby barramundi (bittersweet as they were too small to keep). We walked to the top of the lookout for the 1st gorge the following day - what a great view - and were completely drenched when we got back at 10am (the hot weather hadn't let up at all), so we spent the rest of the day lounging around the lovely resort-style pool where they boys tried out their new snorkel gear.  Kia was apprehensive at first as the mask completely blocks breathing through the nose (made him claustrophobic I think) but once he got over the initial fear he swam around like a fish!  Tiran gave the snorkel a good workout on the pool steps - don't think he's going to be seeing too many fish in the ocean at this rate!

Our last night in Northern Territory was spent at the Timber Creek Caravan Park - they have a small river flowing out the back full of freshwater crocodiles and small turtles and every evening they feed the crocs.  The boys actually got turns feeding the crocs too which was a big thrill for them.  The last 2 days before the border crossing was spent eating as much of our fruit and vegetables as possible - apart from Tasmania, this was the most "official" border crossing!  I handed over the last of our illegal stock (2 each tomatoes, oranges and lemons) and we drove into Kununurra. We were so excited to cross into Western Australia - it was our "last" state to explore on our journey!

We got very lucky and the hot weather broke for our stay (down to 28 degrees) - and since now we were waking up before 6am (time difference), we got plenty done during the daylight hours. We spent a day exploring the area around Wingham - the impressive 5-river lookout was somewhat obscured by smoke from a huge bushfire in southern NT, but the Boab Prison Tree and the 20 metre crocodile statue provided more than enough entertainment.

As we were a bit short on time, we also decided to experience a (very expensive) 2 hour scenic flight tour over Lake Argyle, Boyd Carr Ranges and the Bungle Bungles. On advice from the pilots (that in general the wind is quietest in early morning) we opted for the 6am flight, so up at the crack of dawn (literally) to be at the airport at 5:30am. First up we flew over Lake Argyle - seeing it from the air really put in perspective why they call it an inland sea - it is massive!  The rest of the flight didn't go quite as smoothly......

Being a veteran of flying (Platinum Frequent Flyer 2 years in a row, thank you very much) I was more than a little surprised to be the first one to "lose it" - and that's when I was really thankful that we had done a pre-breakfast flight! Tiran was next - we were flying over the Bungle Bungles at the time so I had to divide my time between holding the air-sick bag for him and taking as many photos as I could. I had lulled myself into a false sense of security when the second wave hit both Tiran and I, and finally as we passed over Lake Argyle on the way home, Mike finally gave in.  And Kia........didn't know what the fuss was all about, he didn't even look green (God love him)!  It took Mike and I the longest (most of the day) to recover and we vowed to do the rest of the sight-seeing from the ground!

The road into Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles) is a no-caravan zone, so we finally got to break out the Ironhide-specific tent!  We stored Optimus at the closest caravan park and made our way along the 55km road - very corrugated, lots of turns and a couple of creek crossings (very shallow at this stage of the year) meant it took us about 1.5 hours to complete it.  As we reached the final creek crossing, we saw about 4 cars banked up on our side - a hired 4WD was stranded on the other side of the creek crossing leaking oil and completely unable to move.  Well what else to do? Mike to the rescue with the snatch line to drag them out of the way.  Although the river crossings are shallow, the entry and exit points are still a bit steep with plenty of sharp rocks, so it doesn't pay to approach too fast!

It was an interesting excercise "camping" out after 9 months in our lovely Optimus!  The tent fits over the tray of the truck and we have an air mattress that fits into the tray, but still not quite big enough for the 4 of us to sleep comfortably. Mike toughed it out in the front seat of the truck the second night!  And how odd for the day to be mostly over around 6pm as it got dark - no table to play on, not enough light to read for too long, no DVD or TV to watch.  There are 2 areas in the park (with a corresponding camp site). Picaninny Gorge is where the actual "Bungle Bungle" experience occurs - the walks are amongst the domes, so you get a very close up view. Again the colours here are so clear and distinct - it's hard to take a bad picture!  We reached Cathedral Gorge and its natural amphitheatre and were treated to a lovely song by a fellow visitor - wonderful acoustics!  Once we were all alone I gave singing a go - I had just finished when I saw another couple entering the area, no doubt looking around for the poor wounded animal that was making those noises!

On our last morning we visited Echidna Chasm - another absolute MUST SEE phenomenon! The chasm is at times less than a metre across (so a bit of scrambling required) and the cliff sides rise over 150 metres above you; around mid-day the sun shining overhead produces an amazing optical display of brilliant shafts of light through the narrow crevices. So very impressive! So glad to have visited Purnululu, but our excitement at seeing our comfortable Optimus on our return was beyond words - so we all ran over and gave him a big hug instead!


Edith Falls - Nitmiluk NP, NT (05Sep11)Poor Ironhide! - Nitmiluk NP, NT (06Sep11)Katherine Gorge - Nitmiluk NP, NT (06Sep11)Katherine Gorge - Nitmiluk NP, NT (06Sep11)
Rock walls between 1st & 2nd gorges - Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk NP, NT (06Sep11)1st gorge from lookout - Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk NP, NT (07Sep11)Katherine Gorge Lookout - Nitmiluk NP, NT (07Sep11)Cooling off at the pool - Nitmiluk NP, NT (07Sep11)
Testing out the snorkel gear - Nitmiluk NP, NT (07Sep11)Freshwater crocodile feeding time - Timber Creek, NT (08Sep11)He loved it! - Timber Creek, NT (08Sep11)He loved it! - Timber Creek, NT (08Sep11)

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