26/08/16 Travelling north from Turkey Creek, we entered a series of scenic steep-sided mountain ranges – the O’Donnell Ranges, Ragged Ranges, Carr Boyd Ranges, Saw Ranges, and Deception Ranges. The enormity of them brought back memories of the MacDonnell’s near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. We didn’t have to climb any steep range crossings, which was good for the fuel consumption; the road just seemed to gradually find its way into them through valleys bounded on either side by massive mountain ridges. Di was swivelling around like her seat was on a gimbal, snapping photos to the front and sides as we travelled along.
The town of Kununurra is located in far northern Western Australia at the eastern extremity of the Kimberley Region, and only 37kms from the Northern Territory border. On the approach to the town, the highway crossed over the Diversion Dam built on the Ord River in the early 1960s as the first stage of the Ord Irrigation Scheme. The town was also established at that same time. Prior to that, there was nothing there, just the mighty river. It was very isolated back then, with no telephone communication to the outside world. All the materials for the massive construction project were transported by ship from Perth to Wyndham on the coast and trucked the 100kms inland to Kununurra. We were pleasantly surprised by the town. With an abundance of fresh water, Kununurra is very green and lush; the Ord River and Lake Kununurra providing water activities and fauna. It is the largest town in Western Australia north of Broome and is a very liveable and well-presented contemporary community.
We checked out the local Saturday market, and the Zebra Rock Gallery featuring sculptures and jewellery made from the world’s only known deposit of zebra rock, located near Kununurra. I replaced a broken wheel stud on the van and plugged a tyre that had picked up a tech screw somewhere along the way.
We had time to kill before the new Landy tyres arrived up from Perth, so headed down to camp at Lake Argyle for a few days of rest and recreation. Lake Argyle is 72kms south of Kununurra along the Savanna Way. The final 36km stretch in to the lake is via a narrow sealed access road that’s a little windy and squeezey if you encounter oncoming traffic; but fine if everyone does the right thing. On the way in, this turkey with a camper trailer came barrelling around a bend towards us going way too fast, needlessly dropping his wheels off the bitumen as he went by and throwing up stones. We ended up with just a small glass chip but the guy following behind us got a cracked windscreen out of it. With wombats like that, you hope that karma catches up with them. The reality is they generally just plough through life blissfully unaware or unconcerned of the consequences they leave behind. Where’s that Wolfe Creek guy when you need him!
The second stage of the Ord Irrigation Scheme comprises a main dam built higher up the Ord River from Kununurra in the Carr Boyd Ranges in the late 1960s to early 1970s. The dam holds back the Ord River in the massive body of water of Lake Argyle, now Australia’s largest artificial lake by volume. With a surface area of 1,000sqkms and a shoreline stretching over 900kms, it qualifies as an inland sea. We took a four hour sunset cruise on the lake and got a real appreciation of just how massive the body of water really is.
When describing the size of something, most places tend to draw a comparison with Sydney Harbour, with “two and a half times the size” being most commonly used. But with Lake Argyle, it is presently 17 times the volume and when it reaches full capacity will be 80 times! That’s big. We both really enjoyed the scenic sunset cruise, and would recommend it as a Must-Do. We saw lots of birds, freshies and wallabies, and watched the sunset following a swim off the boat.
The infinity swimming pool at Lake Argyle Resort was as good as everyone made it out to be. With the temperature in the high 30s, Di and I went for a dip every day, and the view over the infinity edge to the intense red of the gorge face opposite and down across the waters of the lake was stunning. The red Kimberley rocks were a very impressive backdrop to the blue waters of the lake. The pool was especially good after spending a couple of hours washing several months’ worth of red dust off the van and the Landy. This was the only place in quite a while that had enough water to allow us to do it. How good was it to be able to brush against the car and van without coming away red!
After three days at Lake Argyle, we had another few days back in Kununurra to restock the food and see some things we’d missed earlier, like the Hoochery Rum Distillery. The Landy was feeling the love, fitted with three new tyres, and so was Di, still sporting her new ring.
We did a day trip to Emma Gorge and Zebedee Springs on El Questro, 38kms in from the eastern end of the Gibb River Road. Then, back on the Savanna Way, went north to the small port town of Wyndham and its Big Crocodile. On the outskirts of town, the Five Rivers Lookout on top of The Bastion provided a panoramic view of where the five rivers come together – the Durack, Pentecost and King rivers to the south, the Forrest River to the west and the Ord River to the north. It’s not often that you see something like that.
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” – A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh