Eastern Kimberley Wonders: Part 1

Elephant Rock, Ord River

The Western Kimberley exceeded our expectations. It is so majestic, so wild and it has to be said, so red!. On this part of our Kimberley Road Trip we drove from Katherine in the Northern Territory along the picturesque Victoria Highway to Kununurra, in Western Australia. There we explored the town and the beautiful Ord River, which will be the subject of this post and reveled in the natural wonders of El Questro Wilderness Park which will be the subject of Part 2.

Someone once said, ” Aim for the sky, but move slowly, enjoying every step along the way. It is all those little steps that make the journey complete” and this certainly applied to the 600 kilometre drive from Katherine to Kununurra.

While the first 100 or so kilometres was through fairly flat and dry country with only a few stunted trees breaking up the landscape, we soon reached the vast Gregory National Park. We had entered the country of the mighty Victoria River where the savannah rises to sandstone escarpments on either side of the highway, a precursor of what was in store for us in the Kimberley. We took the opportunity to stretch our legs at a well sign-posted Escarpment Walk which is conveniently next to the highway. As we meandered up the hill, we followed the Nungali-Ngaliwurru and Wardaman stories through the interpretive signs about the creation of the landscape. And what a landscape it was!

A panoramic view of the Victoria River Valley with its soaring red escarpments.

A little further on, we came to the settlement of Victoria River and a closer encounter with Kimberley rocks and the Victoria River itself.

These were so much bigger in reality. My phone couldn’t do the landforms justice. Just a little further on, we passed some roadworks. We found roadworks to be one of the few places where we could get excellent Telstra reception while travelling between towns.

We passed the little settlement of Timber Creek and soon after, crossed the WA border and found ourselves at the Quarantine station. We thought we had disposed of everything that was banned back in Katherine, but ended up surrendering our unopened jar of Byron Bay honey. No morning sweetness for us on this trip! They take bio-security really, really seriously here.

Sooner than we expected, we were driving into Kununurra where we were spending a couple of days. I had booked an Airbnb for our stay. Unbeknownst to us at the time of booking, it turned out that we knew our host, Donna. We shared a Condobolin connection: Donna had gone to Primary School with our girls and we had taught alongside her mum. It really is a small world. Needless to say, Donna and her partner Brad made us very welcome in their beautiful Kimberley home and suggested that as soon as we had settled in, we explore the Mirima National Park which is on the outskirts of the town. The locals call the rock formations of the park, their mini Bungle Bungles and it’s easy to see why.

There are a number of walks that unlike many others in the Kimberley are very accessible. We tackled the lookout trail which meandered through and over the domes.
As you can see the path is very well constructed. It led to a lookout where you could see some of the irrigation blocks of the Ord River scheme in the distance. An expanse of green in the savannah.
Looking up, we watched as the colour of the rock changed with the light. There had been a bushfire quite recently and many of the trees were still recovering. There is a much longer walk that follows the line of the rock formations that would be great to complete another time.

We found Kununurra itself to be a delightful town in a lovely setting alongside Lake Kununurra. It has an excellent supermarket and some interesting shops for those who like to browse.

Alongside the foreshore of Lake Kununurra, there is a delightful park and walking paths.
The lily pads of the Lily Creek Lagoon make this part of the lake very scenic
This Celebrity tree park has some wonderful trees including this one which had an amazing canopy. Many celebs have planted a tree including John Farnham, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and Baz Luhrmann. I would happily volunteer my services but … need to get famous somehow. Might have left my run a trifle late.
And of course there was a Boab tree. But what a great Boab! This one actually had leaves, probably due its proximity to water.

Admittedly we were there at the best time of year: beautiful warm days and cool evenings. A perfect time to see more of Lake Argyle and the Ord River on a day triple j tour. An unforgettable experience. We were picked up near our accommodation and taken 70 kms by coach through Durack country to Lake Argyle.

We stopped at the reconstructed Durack Homestead museum. A fascinating glimpse into the pioneering past
Can you imagine calling your 21 and 22 year old sons into your study and telling them that you think it;s time they did something useful … like droving 7250 head of cattle from Queensland to the Kimberley over country which didn’t have any roads or stock routes! It was only 3000 miles (4828kms) Mind boggling.

We then drove to Lake Argyle Resort, where we caught a glimpse of the vast Lake Arglye.

The infinity pool is a wonderful way to enjoy Lake Argyle.

Crossing the Ord Top Dam wall, we caught a glimpse of the Ord Hydro-Power Station before boarding the Triple J Tour boat for a scenic 55km cruise back to Kununurra. This has to be the best boat ride I’ve been on and I’ve been on a lot in quite a few countries.

Just below the dam wall, the water is so clear that it takes on the colour of the vegetation surrounding it. And as we traveled down the river, the water in some light reflected the perfect blue sky. Apparently, the water of the Ord River is some of the purest in Australia.
It was fun to see how excited everyone was to spot a freshwater crocodile. They are a friendlier version of their big bad saltwater relations , but I still wouldn’t want to get up close and personal to one.
I loved the look of the reeds which lined the banks in the upper reaches. As we got closer to Lake Kununurra, the reeds were replaced by native trees and vines where wildlife flourished.
The tour also takes you up some of the creeks which feed into the Ord River. So peaceful and the reflections on the water, just beautiful.
As we got closer to Kununurra, the river flows between fabulous sandstone cliffs.
And the water was so still as we came into Lake Kununurra. Perfect reflections
The tour reaches Kununurra as the sun sets. We finished our fabulous day with dinner at the Pumphouse. Restaurant. We were amazed to find such an excellent menu so far away from the big smoke.

Our stay in Kununurra had come to an end but we would be back. Like many travelers to the Kimberley, we planned to complete a circuit. We would drive to Broome and explore the Western Kimberley via the Gibb River Road and return home via the Great Northern Highway.

This meant that following our amazing Ord River cruise we would be heading for one of the jewels in the Kimberley Crown: El Questro which is conveniently situated at the beginning of the Gibb. We would save that other treasure of the Eastern Kimberley, the incredible Bungles Bungles for our return trip along the Great Northern Highway.

As we packed the car and checked our camping provisions, we were very excited. Images of Emma Gorge and Zebedee Springs had fueled our Kimberley dream . But we wondered what we would think of the wilderness park as we had friends who hadn’t been that enthusiastic about it. Please join me next time to find out.

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