Friday, 26 June 2015

Kununurra to Alice Springs

Yellow route: Kununurra to Alice Springs – 2400 km
Total so far: 22’266 km

In Kununurra, a surprisingly nice town, we needed to bring Kasbah back into shape (get him „dedusted“, greased and carefully checked) and plan our route from there. Our choice went for the Duncan Road, advertised in the Lonely Planet Guidebook as „the Kimberley’s other great outback driving experience but with only a trickle of travellers compared to the GRR“. This definitely sounded tempting and even more so because Zebra Rock Mines was on this route whose Sunset Tours are legendary. We found this to be a wonderful place with very charming and welcoming hosts. Their knowledge and enthusiasm for the Zebra Rock and the wildlife in the Eastern Wetlands of Lake Argyle is infectious. The Sunset Tour with the perfect orchestration of looking at a huge variety of birds (spoonbill, sea-eagle, brolgas and many more), the setting on a small island for a leisurely glass of wine with some nibbles, the colourful sunset. And after this, the timely rise of the full moon was indeed the icing on the cake.

In the Wetlands of Lake Argyle

 Wine and nibbles on the Sunset Tour

 Spectacular sunset

Impression from the Zebra Rock Mine

The first 100 km of the Duncan Road were uneventful but after Negri River ranges started to appear and the landscape remained spectacular until Halls Creek, playing hide an seek with the Northern Territory border (with no quarantine check points!). There were a few side trips, which maybe made for Lonely Planet’s comparison with the GRR, but of much less significance and beauty than the original. We still liked the Sawtooth Gorge which was a pleasant overnight camp.

 Duncan Road

Sawtooth Gorge – a wonderful camping spot

From Halls Creek we travelled North to the Purnululu national park with the world-heritage-listed colourful Bungle Bungles domes which look like beehives. 350 million years ago the sediment was laid down in layers, compressed into sandstone and eventually lifted up to form a mountain range. The dark layers in these outstanding sandstone formations have a higher clay content and hold the moisture better. They support cyanobacteria (primitive organisms, also called blue-grey algae). The lighter coloured layers have less clay, are more porous and dry out quickly. The raging waters of the wet seasons have washed out wide creeks and deep canyons, steep sided rifts and chasms, not to forget the astounding circular Cathedral Gorge, the result of a massive wet season whirl pool. We did fabulous walks in this impressive landscape along the Piccaninny Creek. But Echidna Chasm in the Northern part of the park was our favourite. 

 Bungle Bungle domes

 The layers are unique

 In the river bed of Picaninny Creek

 Cathedral gorge – a mystic place

Stunning Echidna Chasm

The road into Purnululu NP was rather corrugated and we were warned that the 52 km would take up to three hours. After the access road to the Mitchell Falls we were mildly impressed and it took us only 1 hour 40 minutes. On the other hand the road conditions on the Tanami Road after that were much worse than we had expected. The area is very remote and it’s not a highly popular route but the most direct way for us to get into Alice Springs. On the way we visited the world’s second largest meteorite crater called Wolfe Creek Crater with a diameter of 875 m and about 50 m from the rim to the present crater floor. It’s estimated that the mass of the meteorite was about 50’000 tonnes and it all happened about 300’000 years ago. Back into present times – we went to visit three Aboriginal communities (Billiluna, Balgo and Yuendumu) which were all different and even though the Art Centres in Balgo and Yuendumu were advertised, we only found the doors shut.

 Wolfe Creek Crater

Campfire – gravel pit on Tanami Road

Corrugation on the Tanami Road

Approaching Alice Springs was driving towards dark clouds but the the sky was spectacular to look at. Shortly before we hit bitumen the rain set in and got stronger and stronger. Lightning and growling thunder made for a real thunderstorm and as we drove along Ilparpa Road the rain turned to hail and we had to stop. We were sitting in the middle of that heavy hail which hadn’t happened for decades in Alice Springs as people told us afterwards. After a few minutes the road looked like covered with snow. Also the temperature had dropped from 25°C down to 13°C within minutes. Meanwhile we are back to sunny and dry weather. Since last Saturday we are on the road again about to explore the Red Centre including the iconic Uluru.

 Before the storm

 Serious hail....

The road after the hail storm.....

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