The Best Laid Plans…..

Not everything on the trip went as planned. We crossed many creeks, some barely wet, others with fast flowing water but one was very muddy. And stuck in the middle was a battered and well-used four wheel drive vehicle. The driver was standing by the roadside patiently waiting for someone to come along to pull him out and that someone was us.

pulling-out
Stuck in a boggy creek

In no time at all, ropes were attached, the bus was put into reverse and gradually the 4WD was dragged back on to firm ground. Then another problem showed up. The vehicle wouldn’t start. As the driver was the manager of the property where we were spending the night, it was deemed politic to stay and help. Anyway, the code of the Outback is to do just that. They tried jump leads but to no avail. Many were the suggestions offered by the males of our party but nothing worked. In the end, the driver joined us on the bus and we took him with us to our lodgings where he commandeered a new alternator and a mechanic and they drove back to get his vehicle going again.

wont-start
And now it won’t start!

On another day, we were bowling along, or rather rickety-ricketing along when the tread came off one of the front tyres. Fortunately Gary had a spare so with all the men ‘helping’, it was changed in no time and we were on our way again. Half an hour later, the other front tyre lost its tread too, and this time we didn’t have a spare. Gary had to use the emergency satellite phone to contact the nearest property which had a tyre and we all sat down to wait. Tea and biscuits helped pass the time and we watched the sun set over the horizon just as the cavalry in the shape of two guys in a ute arrived with the tyre. We were very late to our lodgings at El Questro.

stranded
Another burst tyre

Bumps and bruises were not uncommon as we scrambled our way over rocks and stones on our walks into gorges or to Aboriginal art sites and the men in particular sported a variety of plasters over their cuts and scrapes. One guy tried an Aboriginal cure which consisted of spreading the red sap of a red bloodwood tree over his cuts. It looked pretty garish but he swore that they healed very quickly.

geoffs-knees
Hands, knees and boomps a daisy!

The worst incident was when MOH knocked himself out. He had been so busy watching where he was putting his feet as he scrambled along a path that he didn’t notice an overhang and gave it what Gary described as a “Glasgow kiss’. He was wearing his backpack which, as he fell backwards, prevented him from giving his head another knock. He appeared fine afterwards though I was told to keep an eye on him. From watching various medical programmes I knew you were supposed to ask them basic questions; Where are we? I didn’t have a clue. What day is it? No, I wasn’t sure of that either. Who is the Prime Minister? As we had left just as David Cameron resigned, we hadn’t heard who had taken over, being completely out of mobile phone and internet range for days. And nobody was sure who the Australian Prime Minister was either, due to their complicated voting system.

Fortunately, MOH was fine though if he had been badly hurt, the only option would have been to take him to the nearest airstrip and wait for the Flying Doctor to arrive. This is actually a charity which the people in far flung areas of Australia rely on to help them when taken ill or hurt.

Gary, our guide, is a very talented photographer and has produced some beautiful calendars of scenes from the Kimberley which he sells from his website to help the Flying Doctor service. If you’d like to buy one, contact him at http://www.discoverthekimberley.com.au/p/calendars

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Falls and Bungles in a Helicopter

helicopter
Ready to go!

We stayed at Mitchell Falls for a couple of nights in order to visit the waterfalls there. Helicopter flights were on offer so we decided to go for it and booked a flight over the Falls and out to the coast. The helicopter was small and a tight fit. MOH was fine – he was sitting up front with the pilot (who looked about 16) but I was in the back with a guy who would have made a marvellous rugby prop forward, and his wife.

Not only that, I was on the outside – just about literally. The helicopter had no doors in the back so I was perched on the edge of my seat feeling the breeze as we flew and looking straight down at the ground a hundred feet below.

I loved it! I absolutely loved it!

It was exhilarating and exciting and I was safely strapped in so there was nothing to fear as long as the engine kept going, the pilot didn’t collapse and we didn’t run out of fuel. Which of course it didn’t.

coast
Nearing the coast

The view over the Falls was spectacular enough and must be truly wonderful in the wet season, but then we headed out to the coast over tracts of emptiness with very little evidence, if any, of man being there. The sea when we reached it was turquoise and deep blue, green in parts and every hue in between. The were numerous sandy bays, so idyllic looking but totally unsafe due to the crocodiles.

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Croc tracks

We saw their tracks leading to and from the water but of them, we didn’t catch a glimpse. Not surprising as later on in the trip, in Kakadu, we realised just how well camouflaged they are on the river banks.

bill-in-front

We followed the Mitchell River back from its mouth to the Falls and beyond and landed where our faithful bus was waiting to take us back to our Wilderness Lodge.

When we heard we could have another flight later in the trip over the Bungle Bungles, we were the first to sign up.

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Flying over the Bungles

The Bungle Bungles are beehive shaped dome structures made out of sandstone deposited about 350 million years ago and eroded over time by weather and water. Between them run deep chasms and gorges some of which we walked into. They have striking orange and grey bands caused by bacteria (which make the black bands) or oxidised iron, making the orange ones. As the sun lowers, the bands become even more distinctive.

Another young lad took us up in his helicopter with more space this time as there were only three of us, but still an absence of doors. Still, it gives a much better view and it was well worthwhile. The southern end of the Bungle Bungles in where the domes are but as you fly further north there are fewer chasms and gorges and it becomes a high plateau. It was incredible to think that very few people indeed, if any, had ventured on to it and that it was as pristine a landscape as could be found anywhere in the world.

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The plateau stretches away

There were many strange and weird shapes left by erosion, which of course is still ongoing. The domes themselves are very fragile as they are only a thin skin of sandstone, which if pierced, reveals that they are filled with a grey sand. They are now part of Purnululu National Park and it’s also a World Heritage site as an area of natural beauty and outstanding geological features.

I’m glad we took the opportunity to fly as we saw so much more and got an overview of the areas which we didn’t have on the ground. I can’t wait till the next one!