Goodbye to WA

Thur. 20th June 2019

The sun rises on our last morning in WAThis camping lifestyle is getting to us. We wanted to get an early start to the day as we have 6 or 7 hours driving ahead of us, but this is ridiculous. We both woke before the alarm, sometime around 6am – yes, even Janet. Never ones to miss an opportunity, we put the kettle on and then slipped out to get some photos of the sunrise over the lake just across the road from our room. The colours on the lake were nice enough, but remind me why are we doing this?

On the borderOnce we get going, once again, the directions are pretty simple – turn left out of the drive and then follow Highway 1 for the next 513km. Unsurprisingly, the reality is a bit more complicated. Firstly, not far from Kununurra is the border between WA and the Northern Territory (NT). It isn’t just a plaque that marks the border, but a whole biosecurity checkpoint – Checkpoint Charlie (but not that one). We were surprised to learn that it’s not just the international borders where they take this seriously but the internal borders too. No taking fruit, veggies or flowers either into or out of WA.

The less than enormous town of Timber CreekWe can then start to knock off some serious kilometres whilst we reflect on another of the on-the-fly itinerary changes we have made. Our next major set of sights we want to see are in Nitmiluk Park which is north east of Katherine. Given that the clocks have gone forward by 1.5hrs as we crossed in NT (nobody seems to know why it isn’t a whole number of hours), we felt it was too much of an ask to get all the way to Nitmiluk in one day. However, now we understand better the realities of long distance travel in Aus, we realise that stopping for the night in (the tiny town of) Timber Creek, halfway between Kununurra and Katherine, is insufficiently ambitious.

No crocs in the Croc Stock ShopThis is reinforced when we get to Timber Creek by 11:30am – far too early to be stopping for the day. Though just right for a coffee in the brilliantly named Croc Stock Shop which, in addition, had a photo book of the Kimberley region which we couldn’t resist – both to supplement our own photos and also to remind us of the places we didn’t get to.

The bush fire was of interest to nobody but usHaving made the decision to press on, we first need to see the sights of Timber Creek, of which, there were a surprising number. On the summit of the hill overlooking town, was a signposted lookout point. Fair enough, but we weren’t expecting there to be bush fire in the surrounding scrub – to which the locals paid no heed whatsoever. (Interestingly, pretty much every day we’ve been driving we’ve seen signs of bush fire. It must just be part of life here).

Monument to the NackeroosDown the hill a little from the lookout was a memorial to the ‘Nackeroos’ – a unit from the Australian army whose job was to patrol the ‘top end’ (of Australia) during WWII to watch for Japanese invasion. A series of plaques around a semi-circular wall told their story – in short, they had their hands full battling with the terrain and the weather. Just as well the Japanese didn’t invade!

The old Victoria River CrossingEven then, we still weren’t done with Timber Creek, as the short drive to Policeman’s Point (nope, no idea) gave us views up and down Victoria River. No time to linger though as time is marching on and we want to be further along Highway 1 before lunch. For this part of the drive, we continue more or less parallel to Victoria River. Indeed, our next stop is at the old Victoria River Crossing another 90km or so down the road. We’re hoping to get down to the riverbank for our picnic, but when we get there the sign by the side of the road says 4WD only. The Beast takes this as a challenge and sets off down a track that whilst not the lumpiest we’ve been on, is definitely up there.

All set up for lunchOnce down there, the views are worthwhile and we have the place almost to ourselves. There is little shade to be had down here, so it is time to make use of the awning attached to the Beast to get a bit of shelter from the sun. Then, hunger sated, (thank goodness for the fridge in the back of the Beast) it’s off to explore and to see if there are any competition winning photos to be had. The river isn’t flowing in this particular stretch, though it seems to be both upstream and downstream. There are, however, some rockpools which make for OK photos and a tarmac stretch from the old crossing is still visible (though no longer seems to go anywhere).

How high did the river get to wash this log in here?A little further down the road is the Victoria River Roadhouse, another possible camping option for the night. Definitely more scenic than some roadhouse campgrounds we’ve seen but we aren’t tempted – its only(!) another 200km to Katherine. We do linger for a minute to take a walk along the old road bridge running parallel to the new one. A huge tree log stuck in the railings of the old bridge is another reminder of how high the waters can get during the wet season.

Not gourmet but practicalAfter that, the run to Katherine is uneventful. We’re grateful for the time change because it is still light when we get there and find the distinctly unglamorous Pine Tree Motel (it is cheap though!). It is an easy call for supper tonight. After restaurant food in the Bungle Bungles, El Questro and then Home Valley, last night we independently decided we fancied a pizza. The only slight snag was that there were no pizzerias in Kununurra, so it was fish and chips. Katherine is a bigger town and there is a grand total of … one pizzeria (albeit Dominos). Of course, the other advantage of a take away pizza was that we could maximise our use of the Internet whilst in town. We now have a week in various national parks and goodness knows when we’ll next get connected. The pizza also gives us an opportunity to reflect back on 6 or 7 fantastic weeks in Western Australia. It has been everything we had hoped for – so many incredible sights, such friendly people, so many great memories. Thank you WA.

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