|An interesting marketing spin... at this caravan park we get to feed the local croc in the afternoon.|
Timber Creek is our first stop in the Northern Territory. Sam puts in a mighty effort catching up on bill payments, bookkeeping and BAS statements... while Budge puts in an even mightier effort keeping the kids entertained for the whole afternoon. Both parents collapse exhausted in bed.
In its former life, Lake Argyle was a cattle station of over a million acres. Once flooded and dammed in 1971 as part of an ambitious irrigation scheme, it became the biggest man-made lake in Australia. Nestled amongst the Carr Boyd Ranges, it also boasts some of the best views in the top end. We only stay for a night, but that’s time a’plenty to visit the dam wall, watch a glorious sunset, wake for a glorious sunrise, brave a dip in a gloriously cold “infinity” swimming pool (the kind where the water appears to just fall off the edge) – and even befriend the family in the caravan next door so that kids and grown ups can both stay up late playing together.
|Jack giving Benji a piggy back to the car after another "I sit and refuse to move" moment. The Argyle Dam wall can be seen in the background in the long shadow of a boab tree.|
Wyndham’s Crocodile Farm was the first of its kind in WA. The biggest, baddest brutes are sent to do time here and there are over 30 crocs (salties and freshies) to meet, with all sorts of crazy names including every member of the Flintstones. We arrive in time for the 11am guided feeding tour – and as great chunks of meat are tossed into the cages, learn everything there is to know about these natural born killers.
|A big fella lazing in the sun. But when the meat is tossed in the kids find out just how quickly he can move.|
|Peering down at another big fella, right before he jumps up to grab his meat... and proves beyond any doubt that crocs can leap - and high!|
|.... 3. Snap!|
Wyndham is the unofficial croc capital and northern most town in WA. We stay at Parrys Creek Farm in the Marlgu Billabong Nature Reserve, an underrated haven, and after quickly hooking up our hammock we set forth to explore every inch of the place. Two days later, we have added birdwatching and croc feeding to our repertoire of experiences, taken in more jaw dropping views and bought ourselves a bit of aboriginal art.
|Birdwatching at the Parry Lagoon birdhide. The brochures pitch it as the perfect retreat to spend 2-3 hours spying on the birdlife and listening to the birdcalls. Our children last 2-3 minutes. 4 minutes tops.|
|It's about time!! We finally encounter another member of the infamous "biggest in Australia" family - this time its Wyndham's giant croc.|
|Continiuing the theme of the massively oversized are Wyndham's very impressive Dreamtime Statues.|
|Rikki with local aboriginal artist "Kitty" and her carved boab nut (of which we are now proud owners).|
It’s our closest call yet, but we manage to get a site – finally – in Kununurra, at the last of the six caravan parks we call. Unpowered, sure - but we’re just happy to have a place to stay. We swim, shower, launder, stock up on fresh produce at the farmers market, and after checking out the few local sites, are on our way.
|The creek at the Bungle Bungle caravan park where we wile away a morning before hitting the road for Kununurra. Had we realised how idyllic it was, we'd have arranged to stay another day.|
|The original road crossing to Wyndham from Kununurra. Our next stop is Wyndham but we choose to take the highway...|
It takes us more than an hour to navigate our way by 4WD between the two hikes in the Bungle Bungles. Wouldn't have been an issue had we eaten lunch at the end of the first, instead of bundling the kids into the car and promising them we'd eat at the start of the second... "just a few minutes up the road". Who was to know the road would be so trecherous. Fortunately both hikes are so completely different, so incredibly spectacular, so totally engaging... that all is forgiven.
|Budge "Indiana Jones" Bihary peers up and out of the Chasm. Quite impossible to capture with our little digital camera the immensity of sight and feeling as we edged our way through.|
|Crossing YET another river in the Parnululu National Park. We stop counting after 26... The continuation of the road is just visible far ahead on the other side.|
The Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park - could there be a better place on the planet to celebrate a birthday? Amongst the black and orange beehive domes (a one-of-a-kind natural wonder), the Biharys celebrate Sam’s 39th birthday in true Sam-style – with a full day of hiking: Cathedral Gorge in the morning and Echidna Chasm in the afternoon.
|Koala mum Sam with her baby koala bear. There is no denying that Benji has gotten ALOT heavier since we left Melbourne, so the days of piggybacking are numbered. Time to relish every single opportunity.|
It’s a long, slow, bumpy drive south of Halls Creek down the Tanami Track (135km and corrugated most of the way) to get to the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater. But as the second largest crater in the world at an enormous 850 metre diameter, the journey to see it with our own eyes is worth every bit of effort.
|Almost getting blown away standing up on the crater'e edge. There is a path snaking its way down the side and into the heart of the crater, but with sandals and crocs on our feet instead of our hiking boots, we reluctantly have to opt out.|
From Derby we start weaving our way through the West Kimberley region, taking in any and all sites of interest. Our overnighter stays at Fitzroy Crossing and then Halls Creek let us visit Old Fitzroy Crossing, the Quartz Wall, Wolfe Creek Crater... and the freezer section at the local supermarket (photo below speaks for itself).
|Yes, there are crocs in these waters, but you wouldn't guess it from looking at our barefeet boys here on the banks of the Old Fitzroy Crossing.|
We’ve done caves that have lighting. We’ve done caves that are pitch black. Now, at Tunnel Creek, we do something new: a cave, in total darkness, filled with water! Hands down, it is the best cave so far, bar none. Clutching torches and wearing togs, we splash our way down its 750 metre length. For grown ups, the water comes up to the knees and sometimes thighs… which means Benji is chest deep at times and, not surprisingly, opts to be carried on the return walk back. Jack and Rikki, meanwhile, are in their absolute element as they discover that this is one hike that they can doggy paddle their way through.
In Windjana Gorge we see – for the first time – real crocs in the wild. Tucked in the splendour of the Napier Range, Windjana is an ancient limestone reef that snakes through a jungle that would do Tarzan proud, alongside a sandy shore where the freshwater crocodiles bake themselves in the sun. As we hike the Gorge we view the crocodiles from afar, we view them up close (amongst crowds of tourists, finding courage in numbers), and then – when we get to a bit of beach where we can count five of them grouped together … well, then we concur that we have hiked far enough, and turn around to tiptoe our way back.
|View from in the Gorge. Looking dead ahead.|
|Edging as near as we dare to two little crocs on the beach. All the crocodiles in the Gorge are freshwater, which is the "safe" kind... but still, when cornered, a croc is a croc is a croc.|
|At the aptly named Long Trough outside the Pioneer Cemetery. Not sure if its the longest in the world but it's gotta come close.|
Interesting what five months on the road, in cramped quarters, with very little personal space and even less privacy, can do to a boy. This sign appears one morning on the wall of his bunk bed. No further explanation needed. Gotta love it!
|Mum and the kids at Point Gantheaume at sunset.|
|On Cable Beach for a walk on our last morning in Broome.|
Sam and Rikki rode Horis. Budge and Benji rode Indy. Jack rode Zara (and was nuzzled by Oli from behind). The train of camels walked for 20 minutes, then turned around at the nude man with the suntanned bottom (for whatever reason, the camel walks happen along Broome's nudist beach). A great, great, GREAT time was had by all. Except maybe mister bare bum.