More travels

The Kimberley Beckons


Distance covered: 424 kmDistance covered: 424 km

I start my day of driving very early, at 6:15… but only because I switched the clock at last, and everything happens 1.5 hours earlier for me now. As I open and close one of the gates, I spot a dingo watching me from the distance: it's the first one I see in the wild! I try to take a picture, but it quickly scoots away. Maybe it’s just a feral dog, anyway.

The morning amidst the termite mounds.The morning amidst the termite mounds.

The gums are slowly becoming numerous.The gums are slowly becoming numerous.

The last stretch of the Tanami Road beyond the Wolfe Creek park is noticeably more corrugated; however, it's also more scenic, as numerous rocky hills begin to spring up here and there. At 8 o’clock I reach the Great Northern Highway — and with it, the bitumen and the quarantine bin: I'd crossed the state border earlier, after all. Here I am supposed to surrender all fruit, vegetables, honey and other dangerous stuff so as to protect the local ecosystem. And I'm supposed to be careful about it too, because there are two bins: one for the dangerous stuff, the other for everything else. Do they really expect me to keep all my food scraps in a separate bag during the trip?

Anyway: hello, Great Northern Highway! Long time no see. I’ve been here almost exactly two years ago, and now I’m going to do this stretch of this road once more as I head further north. Well, not just yet: I need to explore the Halls Creek area first. The town is very neat, and the trees look so green and lush after the vast stretches of the Tanami. The town is full of Aborigines, too: there's so many of them, in fact, that I suspect that all other white people I see on the streets that I see are mere tourists just like myself.

The dirt road takes me past the crumbling hills covered in spinifex and termite mounds. More burnt patches along the way, too.

The water finally appears.The water finally appears.

Traces of bushfire.Traces of bushfire.

The scenery around.The scenery around.

Now <i>these</i> are some proper termite mounds.Now these are some proper termite mounds.

More of those interesting little trees.More of those interesting little trees.

The golden landscapeThe golden landscape

My first stop at the Caroline Pool proves to be worthless, because it’s tinder dry; but the Palm Springs further down the road is actually full of water and indeed has a few palms scattered around. Nice!

Caroline Pool.Caroline Pool.

A micro-dam by Mother Nature.A micro-dam by Mother Nature.

Slightly further down the road there’s another waterhole at the Sawtooth Gorge. The eponymous cliff looks toothy indeed!

At the Sawtooth Gorge.At the Sawtooth Gorge.

By the pool.By the pool.

The Sawtooth itself!The Sawtooth itself!

On my way back I stop at the China Wall – looks like you don't have to travel to China to see one! Two years ago, when I spotted the name on the map, I thought nothing of it and decided not to bother; turns out that I should have! A nature-made wall of white quartz, not nearly as tall as its namesake, but still a peculiar and memorable feature among the surrounding hills. The day slowly becomes hotter; it's very quiet here, and only hawks high up in the sky keep me company.

Not for long, though! As I eat my lunch, a bus full of elderly tourists arrives, and 15 minutes the whole place is swarming with them. They even make their way to the wall itself – I wish I knew there was a way there! Oh well. Next time.

The China Wall.The China Wall.

I'm being watched.I'm being watched.

I’m back to Halls Creek by noon, and it’s time for me to take another shower. Finding it, however, proves to be difficult. I try a local caravan park, but oddly enough, they don't let me in. Perhaps it’s run by the same stingy individuals that own the other one in Tassie! Turns out that the shower is at the service station, and this isn’t advertised anywhere at all: kudos to the lovely lady in the information centre who shows me the way. Thanks to her (and the servo), 30 minutes and 4 dollars later I’m squeaky clean again.

50 kilometres further north I see the first boab trees. Yay! Love these guys. This is the only place in Australia where they grow; when you see them, you know you're in the Kimberley for sure. Their distant relatives grow in Queensland, too, but they never get to be as spectacular and girthy as these.

The land of boabs.The land of boabs.

The roadside scenery.The roadside scenery.

At 2:20, I air the tyres down and leave the sealed road again to go to the Purnululu National Park. The road is a bit shaky and rocky, but it’s incredibly scenic: you want to be jumping out of the car and taking pictures almost at every turn. If that’s just the road, what should I expect from the park itself?

The road to Purnululu.The road to Purnululu.

The surrounding views.The surrounding views.

Love the rocky hills.Love the rocky hills.

And the spinifex.And the spinifex.

The road is not to bad at all, really.The road is not to bad at all, really.

Even if just a tiiiiiiny bit rocky.Even if just a tiiiiiiny bit rocky.

I have a paper guide about the region, and it tells me that I should plan at least 2-3 hours for this road; however, even with all the “pic stops” I finish it in an hour and a half. So much for the faith in the printed word! The road does get rough at places, for sure, and has two or three water crossings; but I've seen much, much worse.

At the visitor centre I procure a map of the park and, to utilise the rest of the daylight, visit the Kungkalanayi Lookout. It's very beautiful, although for the love of me I can't pronounce its name no matter how I try.

At the lookout.At the lookout.

Looking around.Looking around.

The views are truly beautiful.The views are truly beautiful.

Blue grass blades.Blue grass blades.

Spinifex all around!Spinifex all around!

The day is almost over.The day is almost over.

It’s almost 5 when I finally reach the Walardi campground to finish the day. The evening is warm and balmy, and the campground is spacious and not crowded at all. The place has a couple of drop toilets and even a few taps with artesian water; it's by no means a shower, but it's certainly better than nothing at all.

The day is done.The day is done.

The moon is not!The moon is not!

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