80 Mile Beach
... enough said!
Hooray we've made it to Darwin! Totting up a grand total of 7780km/5213 miles the equivalent of driving from London to Baghdad and back (if you're crazy enough!) or one way to Beijing!
The last blog we were in Coral Bay about half way up the west coast. From there we headed up to the town of Exmouth, but before we left we managed to squeeze in a snorkel with the local manta rays. Exmouth was a great base to explore the Ningaloo Reef armed with only a snorkel and mask. We also did a days SCUBA diving on the reef and made friends with some inquisitive, yet extremely venomous 3 metre sea snakes! (FYI - the venom can paralyze a human in 15 minutes). On the boat journey back we were lucky enough to be passed by a few migrating humpback whales, who put on a show of breaching out of the water. It was amazing - that's the kind of thing you see on documentaries!
After 4 days we had to say goodbye and continued north through the iron ore mining region - the Pilbarra. Everything seemed to be covered in a layer of red dust and
ridiculously long trains (over 200 carriages - and yes we did count them, how sad!) roll through the desert.
We stopped for a rest at 80 mile beach 10km down a dirt track off the main highway. Our camper didn't take to well to being subjected to jarring and axle jolting but we made it! Unfortunately we could only stay a night and continued up the highway to the pearling town of Broome. It's 611 km of straight bitumen to Broome, where willie-willies (hudge columns of spiralling dust - rather like a twister) whip through the flat featureless terrain.
We headed further inland to get to our next main stop of Kununurra in the Kimberly region and passed through the small outback towns Fitzroy crossing and Halls Creek. The landscape changed to semi arridness dotted with bulging Boab trees, that are only found in this part of Oz. They basically look like upside down trees. We also decided to check out Purnululu National Park - aka the Bungle Bungles. With a name like that we had to see it. The Bungle Bungle range is basically composed of striped rock domes and they were only discovered in the 1980's!
Bungle Bungle Flight
There's no security checks at this airport!
We decided the best way to see them was by air then 4 Wheel Driving through the park. We boarded a very flimsy and tiny aeroplane to get to the very remote park. Even though we were concerned about the rigidity of the aircraft the spectacular views took our mind off it. After landing on what can only be described as a red dirt airstrip we 4WD'd through dried up creek beds (which in the wet season are raging torrents) to see Echidna Chasm and Cathedral Gorge. Both were breath takingly stunning (as you can see from the pics)
From Kununurra we headed to Katherine and Kakadu park, crossing over the Western Australia and Northern Territory state border. We canoed the Victoria River to see the Katherine gorge system. It's the end of the dry season and there isn't much water around, so we ended up having to carry our canoe over the rapids, resulting in numerous bruises and expletives! But the views were worth the blood, sweat and tears (literally tears)!
Kakadu National Park spans an area of 20 000 sq km so we only saw a very small part of it. We managed to get in
amazing sunsets, plunge pools, river cruises and rock art. Swimming in plunge pools with croc warning signs around and croc traps on the banks is a very unnerving experience and needless to say we didnt' stay long in the water, even though we were told it was safe by the ranger.
From Kakadu we were now on the home straight up to Darwin where we are now and we've managed to see most of the sights, museums and checked out the night life. We did a river cruise down the Adelaide River and watched the croc feeding. The photos will show you what monsters these are!
The van goes back tomorrow and it will no doubt be an emotional farewell!! We fly to Alice Springs our next destination.....
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