Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sept 29

We had quite a lot to do today, this morning was once again sorting the washing etc and then in the afternoon a trip out to see China Wall, then on to Palm Springs and Sawtooth Gorge  (proper name Sawpit Gorge) for a bit of swimming.  We have stacks of washing, apart from the usual our sleeping bags and pillow cases are a bit pongy, well they have not been washed for 3 weeks and we have had some hot nights!!!  Nice to get it all out the way while we have the chance.  Alas the sleeping bags were too big for the washing machines but luck was on our side and the laundry lady at the hotel did a sneaky for us and put them in the hotels washing machines.  The 4 star hotel may be a bit of a disaster but the staff are friendly and the chefs are superb.

Right now for our adventure.  We headed off in the right direction but missed China Wall totally, no signposts anywhere and it is only 6km outside of Halls Creek.  Never mind, keep driving, who know what we will find.  Ah, this looks interesting, Old Halls Creek, the original location before the town was up-routed to its present location on the Northern Highway in 1948.  There is not much left here now, just a few stones blocks, some with names on, stating what shop it was etc.  Most of the signs are missing, we were reliably informed they had been stolen by folks, how typical is that.

Old Halls Creek
Alan was up to his antics again and could not resist a quick detour up a side track, who knows what gem is just over the hill, or that hill or what about the one over there :)  I think he was hoping we would find a huge nugget of gold to pay for our holiday so I kept my eyes diligently peeled to the grown, just in case there was a flicker of 'fallen sun' ripe for our picking.  I think you can guess the results so I say no more.  However, we did stumble across what looked like an old disused mine. A closer looked suggested otherwise, new pipe, machinery although rough and ready was in working order.  Maybe we will find some gold in the tailings.  Again I say no more!!!!!!!!!

Gold separating plant
We continued along several of the tracks, the scenery was wonderful and we saw a kangaroo, our first, in fact we saw three in all.

Too quick for the camera, it was tied around my seat-belt somehow.

The scenery was once again awesome, greens, reds, blues everywhere you looked.

Alan has laughed at the roads, we are constantly being informed 'this is 4x4 wheel drive only' and Alan has hardly used 4x4 drive, nearly everything has been regular 2x driving with the occasional locking of the front wheel hubs.  This track though was different, lots of proper 4x4 driving as the tracks were narrow, twisting, up and down, angled or washed away etc.  I should have taken pictures but I was distracted <g>.

After pottering around for a an hour or so we came to a residence, the gate was open and we saw a sign for cold drinks and ice creams and 'Open' - great check this out.  It looked like something long forgotten, hard to believe anybody lived here.  Peering through the window we could see it was a shop of sorts inside but no lights on.  Time to try the door, it did say 'Open', yep it was.  Hello I called, half expecting a human to emerge and one did, a kid, then an adult.  We bought a couple of ginger beers and got chatting to the owner, Martin.  He had come to OZ in 1951 and in 94 had bought this property, he was the last gold miner left and it was his mining processing area we had stumbled upon.  What a great bloke, and what stories to tell.  We must have talked for an hour or so, he told us not to bother going back but to stay for a month, drive where we wanted, pitch a tent where we wanted, come work for him, buy his mine lol etc ect.  He did tell us that we could go swimming in his pool, it was only 18km in that direction.  Could this be another wild goose chase, a case of us having the micky taken out of us or genuine.  Only one way to find out.  We said our thanks and goodbyes which were totally genuine, he was so entertaining, and headed off in the general direction of his 'pool'.  He grades his own roads and does a pretty good job but some areas were pretty cracked up and Alan was hopping in and out of 4x4 drive.  After about an hour we found the 'pool' and what a pool it was, it was late in the afternoon and the sun would soon be coming down and once again we were awestruck, such beauty it took your breath away.  I have had a hard time this morning choosing photos for the blog, we must have take about 400 in all, we just could not stop pressing the shutter and capturing the environment, the birds, the reflections, sunset.  I have been told I talk lots about the sights and sounds but not about the smells, that is because the only smell is fresh air, no rubbish, no sewage, no body odour, no food cooking, no stagnant water, no nothing, just fresh air.  So take in the views from the pics below adding in the sounds of birds and the occasional splash of water and the smell of clean, pure, air.

Martin's raft
Alan photographing the duck picture (second pic below this one)

Time to leave, the sun has set and we have to tackle the 18km of rough track in the dark!!!! One more sunset to close the blog for the day.

Leaving this location and driving the track in the dark I didn''t know whether to close my eyes, get out and walk, tell Alan this was ludicrous or just put all my trust in him and enjoy the experience.  I did the latter, he is after all a wonderful driver.  Quite suddenly my eyes welled up, no I was not sad, I think just so honestly enthralled with the oasis we had just visited, so truly privileged once again to have been allowed to feast my eyes and soul on such a wonderful experience, a location which felt untouched by human destruction.  We stopped in at Martin's on the way back to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts for his generosity in allowing us to share this magical experience, I am lost for words. 

Once last thing, I am uploading this blog on Sept 30 and today is Nikki's birthday, our youngest daughter so Happy Birthday Nikki, we love you to bits and back.
Nikki, 2 hours old - Sept 30th 1982

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sept 28

Well here we are now in Halls Creek, a sleepy wee place with not a lot going for it apart from it being a town which provides supplies to the surrounding stations and is a pit stop for travelers en-route elsewhere.  We are checked in at a rather nice hotel but still no bath to be had <g>.  We don't have any plans to achieve major accomplishments today, just once again catch our breath before the next leg.  Tomorrow we will potter around a couple of scenic places in the area.
Our main mission this afternoon was to post mail to Mum, best place to start sounds like the Visitors Center <g>.  Brilliant, not only do they have postcards but they also sell stamps and will post your mail for you, how can I complain with a service like that.
So what can I tell you of Halls Creek, - wait, I am thinking <g>.   OK we can start with some pics of the old machinery left over from the gold rush here in Halls Creek, pretty neat.  You have to take your hat off to these men and women, the terrain and lack of water made this a trek and a half indeed.

Outside the Visitors Center there is a rather nice statue, a man pushing a wheelbarrow with a man inside.

I have just found what the story is behind it 'Russian Jack' - The Kimberley has spawned many tales of courage and camaraderie, but none is more famous than that of Russian Jack. In search of gold like thousands of others, Russian Jack arrived at Halls Creek with only a wheelbarrow full of gear. Teaming up with another prospector, he set out for the gold fields. But his friend quickly succumbed to the harsh environment and fell deathly ill. With the nearest doctor located in Wyndham, Russian Jack loaded his friend and supplies for the journey in his wheelbarrow, and pushed it 300 kilometres to the town. It's not clear what became of his mate, but Russian Jack returned to the gold fields a legend among his peers. Today, a memorial statue to his heroism is a popular visitor attraction in Halls Creek. 

There is another story talking about the folks in the graveyard.  One guy is almost famous, he made the papers in OZ in 1917 and folks were following his story.  His name was James 'Jimmy' Darcy and through his story the Flying Doctor Service came into operation.  Follow this link to read the story and other history of Halls Creek.

Right I am almost done for the day, just one more thing.  While in the Visitor Center (the only place as you can see that we have been too) I could not resist buying myself with Alan's money, a wee nugget of gold from Halls Creek saying as this is where gold was first discovered in Western Australia.  It has a wee diamond from the Kimberly in it to, a fitting object as a memory of this wonderful place.  Yellow to represent the sun, the Aborigines say golden nuggets are pieces that have fallen off the sun and landed on the ground.  The nugget represents the wilderness, as it is in nature and untarnished by human hands and the diamond, well all girls like diamonds so in this case only a Kimberley diamond will do <g>.

One last sunset and sorry it is a bit of a cheat, I took the picture last night at Bungle Bungle :)

A pink sky at night is a shepherds delight so they say and true to form we have had great weather today.

Update - time for bed and we have just had our tucker.  Thought you might like to know about the hotel.  I am not sure how it has got it's 4star rating, our room has just been refurbished and is lovely till you want a shower.  The shower has one of those huge heads that spurts out tons of water and is not in the least economical, ours however is very very green indeed.  About 20 of the water outlets worked with low water pressure, it was either a hot dribble or a cold dribble and nothing in between.  No worries, see the funny side of it and hope it is fixed for tomorrow.  Dinner was outstanding, what a chef and I ate everything on my plate but the service, it took over 2 hours to order and eat a main course and a pudding.  Two waitresses on duty and about 20 guests, absolutely ridiculous.  We asked for the desert menu after the main course after having waited for nearly half an hour, it came with the comment that it was the last one they had!!!!!!!  Great desert and almost worth the wait, now for coffee.  Oh dear, the coffee machine is broken and is waiting to be fixed so NO COFFEE.  Alan and I have now renamed this place Fawlty Towers without the owners who made you laugh.  I have just been checking out their website and have had to take a second look to make sure I had the right place.  Going by the blurb I didn't but the picture looked familiar (taken by a very good photographer who know how to bring out the best of a place).  Talk about being led up the garden path.  I would give this hotel a moderate 3 star rating at best and would not recommend it, if you ever come to Halls Creek give this place a miss.  Kimberley Hotel, Halls Creek.  I have since added my feelings about this hotel and uploaded photos showing the safety issues we found to Trip Advisor - what to read what I said <g> click this link, my comment is under the name of Craftyanimal.

Sept 27

We were woken this morning to a chorus of cockatoos flying around and through the camp.  Alan got up and tried to get some pictures but they were too fast for him.  He said afterwards it was like being at the circus and he felt the birds were laughing at us while hanging upside down in the trees, flying and doing acrobatics and making one hell of a racket.
I managed to get this one on the spur of the moment.  Do you think he was trying to bungee jump lol
 By 7:15am were were on our way for our walk to the Cathedral Gouge, another moderate walk with short steep slopes and some ledges to negotiate.  The park has done an exceptional job of creating walkways which blend in with the environment but take the struggle out of the really tricky bits.  Awe-inspiring is the only way to describe the gorge, the pictures we have taken do not do the place justice but hopefully you will get an idea of what it was like.  It took about 20 minutes for us to walk up to the gorge mostly along the riverbed which is bone dry at the moment, there were some sandy bit which we all know are a calf muscle exercise for everybody and the two tricky ledge bits had ladders up to them.  Some parts of the riverbed were artistry in the making, the potholes were large and deep.  I particularly love this one, they tell us the area has toilet facilities but I did not think they meant like this <g>.
Great pothole, one of many.
I have tried with the pictures to give you an idea of the size and height of the place but I don't think I have succeeded.

View on the way to the car park
Gives you a good idea of what the rock structure
View from the car park
Start of our walk
Heading to Cathedral Gorge
Got to see what that hole is (twas the toilet picture earlier lol)
Cathedral Gorge (does not look much but it was huge)
 In the center of the amphitheater is a pool of water, it is low at the moment because of the dry season but it didn't matter.  When you walked to the far side and looked into the water you could see the reflection of the sides of the gorge above you in full colour.  It really was awesome in every way possible.  We sat there for about an hour just taking in the majesty of the surroundings.
Reflections in the water
This gives you an idea of size, see the person who has just come in
View looking outwards and upwards
Got to do the reflection bit again :)
Caught having a smoke lol
There, that's better and yep he needs a beer!!
 On leaving there was a chappy walking up with a didgiderdoo, he was going to play it in the amphitheater where the acoustics were well known.  I was also told Quantas made an advert with children singing here, there and everywhere and one of their locations was Cathedral Gorge.  Here is the link
Thanks Mich for finding it xx. 
Back at the car park, these are the Mini Bungles
One of the very few flowers/flowering bushes we have seen in WA and NT

This guy now has his beer
And this gal has just about finished hers
Alan got this pic early this morning - 'Where are my bits!!!"
And a flower to end the day instead of a sunset.
We are back at the campsite now, paid up for tonight and will head off to Halls Creek tomorrow before crossing the desert.  Our neighbours don't appear to have come back but maybe I am speaking too soon as they don't have a tent to leave claiming their spot.  I will keep you informed as to whether they have scampered or came back to haunt us <g>.  News Update No they didn't come back lol.