Tag Archives: Keep River National Park

August 24, Part 2

Our second stop of the day was at Keep River Gorge. Red cliffs and shattered rock were as common here as elsewhere, though the red walls here were dotted with, among other plants, boabs of varying ages and stages of development. Possibly the oddest element we saw as we hiked up the gorge was what looked like trees standing on tiptoe. During the wet season, heavy rains carry away lose dirt, leaving the roots of the trees exposed. Other than the exposed roots, the trees looked fine–green and growing vigorously. We were accompanied by cockatoos, butcherbirds, fairy martins, and splendid black and electric-blue butterflies.
KeepRiverGorge-rocks-boabs KeepRiverGorge-tree roots
And now we’re back on the rock road–which means my writing in my notebook looks a bit jumpy. As rough as it is for driving, there is something infinitely appealing, visually, about a long, red-dirt road stretching ahead.

The termite mounds we were seeing were different from those we left behind. I don’t know if it’s the species of termite or the quality of the soil, but the farther west we get, the more rounded and undefined and almost sloppy the termite mounds look.

Red rocks and blue sky defined our drive. It’s probably in the high eighties today, but it’s enough cooler than the last few days that it seems quite refreshing. Of course, it’s only 10:30 am.

Heading westward, toward Kununurra. We had to stop at the Western Australia border for a quarantine check and to dispose of any uneaten fruit or vegetables—to make certain no diseases or insects could be carried into the fruit-growing area ahead. We also set our watches back one and a half hours, as we were crossing into a new time zone. The border guard told us it was 40˚C here yesterday, which is roughly 104˚F – so I guess we’d better enjoy the cooler mornings.

And back to civilization. Showers and washing machines are welcome, but it is certainly less attractive than the wilderness. However, our campsite for the night is in a lovely location, near water and surrounded by trees.

Clothes washed and hung out to dry, and freshly washed ourselves, we climbed on the 4WD for the short ride to Kununurra. Shopping first: fly net and sock protectors, as more wilderness lies ahead, and we want to be prepared, just in case, plus postcards, to let the folks back home know of our adventures. Then we headed off to look for lunch. One might not expect to find focaccia or fresh fish at a take-away stand in an outback strip mall, but I have come to expect surprises like this in Australia. I ordered a hot barramundi sandwich, which was delicious. A few folks wanted to stay in camp, but Don, Graham, Belinda, Athena, and I hopped back on the 4WD for the short ride to Hidden Valley, in Mirima National Park.

This place was even more amazing than Keep River. Erosion is definitely one of the key geographic shapers in Australia, and here, that activity was abundantly demonstrated. A sign at the entrance to the park said the layered and worn rock around us was sandstone laid down 360 million years ago, in the Devonian period. We hiked through wonderfully strange, red gorges, surrounded by layered rock that was peculiarly carved into rounded domes and jagged shapes. (The weird carving and jagged edges, the sign had informed us, are because the layers do not wear down at the same rate.)
Mirima Rocks 1 Mirima -rock lamb
In addition to rocks, we also saw red-tailed black cockatoos and a wide range of plants, including acacia, rock figs, woolybutt gums, long grasses, and a variety of pea flowers.
Mirima -rock-grass


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Trip 3:Thursday, August 24 Part 1

(This time, part 1 of 4)

Woke to the caroling of butcherbirds and the harsh call of the blue-winged kookaburras (which are as raucous as laughing kookaburras, but have a different call—just noise, no laughter). The ground is littered with the orange flowers of the woolybutt gum trees that surround us.
Woolybutt Flowers lighter
The caroling of the butcherbirds increased as the sun rose and was joined by other bird songs. The sun coming up on the red rock walls around us was dramatic and beautiful. The air is fresh, and cooler than it has been. An all together delightful morning.

Then on the road again. The stark, magnificent beauty of this strange land draws me in again, deeper with each passing mile. I thank God for this trip–not just returning to Australia, but the opportunity to go farther out.

We drove to a parking area that identified itself as the access point for Nganlang, another Aboriginal art site. (I’m including a photo of the sign, because I’ve found that it is often spelled differently online—one site says “now known as Nganalam.” And yet Nganlang still shows up on some academic sites. So name change or just perpetuated error? I may never know.)
Nganlang Sign
Red-winged parrots fluttered nearby, as we hiked the estimated 10 minutes to where we’d see the art. Brilliantly weird, majestic, worn and shattered rock was so remarkable that it would have been worth the visit without the art. (Be sure to click on the thumbnail images, to see the photos at full size, or you’ll miss the details. These rock formations are worth seeing.)
Nganlang Rocks 1 Nganlang Rocks 2 sharper Nganlang Rocks 3
However, the rock paintings were wonderful, as well, strange and otherworldly. Trusting the information panels at the site, I feel fairly confident saying the two large figures with rays or feathers coming out of their heads are Gangi Nganan, said to be the very first of the Mirriwung, an indigenous group in this region. The second photo features many layers of paintings, showing that the site was used for a long time. Here, mythic creatures blend with everyday life and food animals. The first images were scraped into the rock, while the white, yellow, and red painted images were later (though still, in most cases, centuries and even millennia ago).
Gani Nangan figures Newer Aboriginal Art
Another delight was coming across a cluster of empty mud nests built by fairy martins. Fairy martins are members of the swallow family. They build their remarkable nests on vertical rock walls, though generally in protected areas, such as a caves. On my first trip to Australia, I had seen fairy martins dashing in and out of a cave in Katherine Gorge, but did not see the nests. This time, I saw the nests but not the martins.

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August 23, Part 2

The river is wide, the barge is slow, plus one must land at a place where it is possible to easily disembark the barge and find the road. However, the crossing was wonderful, so we didn’t mind that it took a while.

Angalarri River

Angalarri River

On the far side of the river, we continued on, rocking and pounding down the track. After a nasty jouncing, we left station property and joined the Victoria Highway not far west of Timber Creek. The highway is sealed, which is not as romantic as crashing through the wilderness, but it is more relaxing.

We were heading now for Keep River National Park, which is about 40 kilometers east of the Western Australia border. The pleasure of driving on a sealed road was short lived, but this time, it was because of construction, rather than wilderness.

Phenomenal beauty continued to surround us: massive formations of weirdly broken red rock covered with kapok flowers and boabs; huge stretches of shattered, red-rock walls that look like the ruined fortifications of some ancient civilization; tumbles of boulders; golden grass and even more, larger boabs. It is absolutely wonderful.
Suddenly, the terrain was again flat, gum tree-dotted savannah. Then hills again, but this time low and rolling, worn rather than shattered. And then flat again, an endless sea of brown and golden grass and eucalypts, with only occasional scatterings of kapok, boab, and melaleuka. Then, in the distance, mountains.

Among the trees, red-tailed black cockatoos were conspicuous both because of their large size and their noisy calls. It was late enough in the day that they were returning to their roosts from feeding, so we saw a fair number. Wonderfully impressive birds.
Finally, we pulled into camp at Keep River National Park. I set up my tent and then dashed off to take photos before the light was gone. I’m happy to report that the flies are not nearly as bad here. It is, in fact, a really lovely location, surrounded by screw palms, gum trees, and high, red cliffs.

Keep River Campsite

Keep River Campsite

Excellent evening again with my charming traveling companions. Another great meal (thanks, Kate). John came around to sign us up for helicopter rides at two sites still ahead of us (areas remote enough that helicopters wouldn’t just be there without someone ordering them). The rides are a bit pricy, but I’ve spent enough money just getting here, it seemed a bit foolish to miss this opportunity in the name of frugality. These two flights are, after all, considered to be among the highlights of the trip.

Conversation, star gazing, and listening to bird calls, and then off to our tents by 10pm. (I should probably have tried for an earlier hour. I’m still fairly shattered from the trip over—plus I’ve read that it takes about one day per time zone crossed to completely recover from a really long flight, even without the added problems. However, it is sometimes hard to end so pleasant an evening.)

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