Tag Archives: Lake Kununurra

Trip 3:Sunday, August 27

Beautiful sunrise. Flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos and caroling butcherbirds greeted us. The rising sun painted the pale-trunked ghost gums and curving humps of spinifex in changing pastels.

Bush brekkie, bush loo, then back on the track. I am endlessly impressed by the skill with which John handles the seemingly impossible (and sometimes undiscernible) “roads” that we are traversing.

After a couple of hours, we rejoined the highway, turning north again, retracing our route toward Kununurra. The boabs reappeared as we neared the coast. There were none farther inland. It’s a trade-off: the spinifex that was so abundant inland has now disappeared. However, there are always eucalypts and termite mounds.

Approaching Kununurra, we passed Lake Kununurra, which is in fact a huge reservoir created by the damming of the Ord River. Having previously seen it in the dark, it was nice to see it in daylight. Easy to see why it’s a popular holiday destination.
Lake Kununurra
We had a couple of hours free in Kununurra, while Kate shopped for food and John had some work done on the truck. A few people did laundry. I wrote all my postcards and got them into the mail. And we all had lunch. I had a meat pie—my first this trip. Delightful.

I took a few photos of “downtown” Kununurra and of some of the local flowers (including the insanely fragrant plumeria-frangipani pictured below). Then it was time to hit the road again, headed for the legendarily rough car-wrecker, the Gibb River Road and the remote and still largely untouched Kimberley region.
Plumeria-Frangipani-lighter
Fork-tailed kites, whistling kites, and sulphur-crested cockatoos became more common as we got farther from town. We passed the entrance to El Questro Wilderness Park, which is home to everything from campsites to an incredibly posh resort, where you can sleep in luxury and still wake to the rugged beauty of the Kimberley. But we’d be going far deeper into the region than this.

The scenery remained utterly spectacular as we continued along the Gibb River Road. The remains of huge, ancient plateaus towered above the increasingly arid, hilly landscape. We stopped at the Pentecost River crossing, which cuts across the road. This is one of those places that reminds you why you want to have a good guide and driver—because it’s not entirely clear that there is a way across. Rocks and water and no sign of a road. It is, however, a beautiful spot, with egrets wading nearby. After a few photos, we continued on, with John skillfully negotiating the crossing—and, happily, making it, since this is a tidal river, which means saltwater crocodiles, so we wouldn’t want to wade.

Pentecost River crossing

Pentecost River crossing


As we continued on, a few clouds appeared, making shadows on the landscape. Next stop was the lookout over Home Valley, facing the Cockburn Range. Incredible. Like looking at the ruined fortress of an ancient civilization, only more wonderful.
Home Valley-Cockurn Range Cockurn Range
A few more stops along the way, and then on to the Durack River. What a beautiful spot. The sun was setting beyond the hills, and the clouds and water were dusted with pink and violet. I managed to get a couple of photos while the light lasted, then we set up camp.
Durach River Sunset
The campsite at which we had stopped had showers, though no lights and only cold water. But it was running water, and we enjoyed cleaning up after a couple of days of being hot and grubby.

The stars were incredible, and the frogs, night birds, and river supplied calming music. Bats were delighted with the insects drawn to our camp light (there is one lantern on the 4WD), and we could see them swooping through the edges of its beams. A gentle breeze made the evening more perfect still.

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August 24, Part 4

Well, wounded or not, I was ready at 5:30 for our sunset cruise. Glad I went, as it was brilliant. The huge, orange, fireball sun was setting behind the fringe of trees along the edge of Lake Kununurra when we arrived. The lake’s surface was patched with lily pads, and stark, dead trees stood in the water near shore, where the lake’s expanded border had drowned them. Flying foxes hung from trees near the water.
LakeKununurra-dead trees LakeKununurraSunset lighter
Our boat cut silently through the water as we glided out onto the lake. We were surrounded by birds—darters, egrets, pelicans, grebes, green-winged pygmy geese, and jicanas. The jicanas were particularly delightful, as there were so many of them, and because they were nesting, so they let us get much closer than would have been possible if they didn’t have nests to watch over. Wonderful.

Once the sun had set, the guide (a local guide, not John) turned on spotlights that were mounted on the side of the boat. The lights showed us crocodiles along the shore and among the lily pads, and even swimming under water, near the boat. We could see fish and underwater plants, too. It was fabulous.

The guide shared some interesting information about the crocodiles all around us. These crocs were the freshwater variety, so smaller than the massive saltwater crocodiles, and not as aggressive. Freshwater crocodiles (or freshies for short) need a warm day to digest a meal. If they eat, and then there’s a cold snap, they can die, as the undigested food will rot.

All crocodiles are capable of remarkable bursts of speed, but they do it anaerobically—that is, they stop breathing and stop pumping blood. That’s why they can only run for very short bursts. If they have to run for too long, the buildup of lactic acid can kill them.

Our guide then said that, while they eat fish, these crocodiles can actually do pretty well eating insects. He then tilted the spotlights upward, to demonstrate the remarkable density of insects over the water—and it was unbelievable. The air above the water was a veritable soup, but a swirling, fluttering soup.

Looking straight up was worthwhile, too, especially once the spotlights were turned back downward. With no branches or cliffs overhead, our view of the nighttime sky was completely unobstructed, and the stars were dazzling.

After our cruise, we headed back to camp, where Kate had a lovely dinner of grilled fish waiting for us. For dessert, we were offered wonderful melons, and it was explained that Kununurra is the melon capital of Australia. Yum. More lovely conversation, and then to bed, as we have an even earlier than usual start in the morning.

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