Published: June 13th 2009June 13th 2009
Distance traveled 3276km/4060km(81%).Stayed two nights.Another very short hop from Kununurra to Lake Argyle(70 kms)suggests we are dragging this out a bit…..not really wanting to get to the final destination?Not quite.One of the hidden upsides of being part of the campervan fraternity is the amount of information you share with your fellow ‘vanners.And thus it came to pass in Broome that we befriended an Australian couple by name of Les and Sharyl Tuton….grey nomads from Queensland.Les is a recently retired engineer and a brief “How are ye?” turned into a fascinating discussion about the amazing Argyle Dam which had been built on the Ord River.He has done a fair amount of research into the engineering aspects and other nuances and such was his infectious enthusiasm,we decided we needed to go check it out.This also highlights the appeal of this nomadic lifestyle……no fixed plans about where to go next and committing to how long to linger wherever “next” may be.So if one keeps ears cocked there is much to be learnt around the precincts of the caravan park whether it be best wine prices,where to go and where not to go,lowest diesel costs and so on.The vital statistics of Lake Argyle were provided
in an earlier blog but for the engineers and geologists reading this,the most significant factor is that in 1972 the total cost to build this huge lake was Aus$22 million.This should raise an eyebrow or two……briefly,there were two key reasons.Firstly,the dam wall is relatively small at 300 meters in length and about the same in width due to it’s positioning across a small gap in the Ord River’s original watercourse.This was possible due to the fact that there are four natural spillways which will relieve pressure as the water level rises…so the dam wall will never be breached.Secondly,all the materials needed(apart from cement and steel)were mined at the dam site.It was built over 3 years owing to the “wet season” phenomenon which ruled out construction in the rainy season.The Ord River catchment area covers 40000 sq km’s so there is a huge volume of floodwater flowing in each year not forgetting that the lake drops by 12 meters in the dry season due to evaporation.Someone was listening during the audio talk on our lake cruise…aka Sue!The Lake Argyle Park where we spent two nights was the original village set up during dam construction.Once again we befriended some interesting people there
including a fairly young couple in their early 50’s from Melbourne.They had simply decided to drop out of the rat race,cashed in their chips and hit the road.Around the caravan the same evening(no fires aloud ….)was a couple well into their sixties who had owned a caravan park somewhere on the East Coast.They were Dutch immigrants and there was much interest in our being South African(not always the case)and the Dutch influence back home.Similarly they had worked incredibly hard to build up their business and now they were on the road with a very flexible itinerary and calendar.On the second afternoon there we boarded a superb powered boat for a three hour scenic cruise.With a golden sun moving slowly across the afternoon sky,the reflections of the many islands and rocky outcrops on the still,azure waters were stunning.A number of wild animals were spotted including short eared rock wallabies which are marooned on some of the larger islands.Lots of stuff to eat for them and their only real predator is an olive python….at least they are spared car dodging.Bird life was abundant but still not quite as prolific as the water bird populations we have back in SA.At about 5pm somewhere
in a very deep section many passengers,including Sue and I,plunged into the waters of Lake Argyle after being reassured that the fresh water croc’s are never seen in that area.Another very good sunset enhanced by sundowners in hand brought down the curtain on another fine day in the Kimberley.We also visited the Durack family homestead which had been relocated prior to the filling of the lake.The Durack’s arrived in Oz from Ireland in the mid 1800’s and after a few failed attempts at setting up farming enterprises on the East Coast,they headed off to the Far North to seek fame and fortune.They were thus the pioneering family who put the Kimberley on the map as far as cattle ranching was concerned.Australian fact file…….apart from certain sporting codes,ever wondered where else we compete head on with the Aussies?Well,just when we broke into European markets with our great Western Cape wines along came the Aussies and edged our wines along the shelf.I have heard that they have surpassed the French in terms of volume of wines exported.When it comes to mining,Australia is right up there in the big league exporting enormous quantities of iron ore,nickel,gold and coal(Oz is the World’s largest exporter
of coal).Interestingly a lot of the mining activity is in the hands of BHP Billiton,an SA Company,which is now the largest in the World…..so a measure of shared powerNot sure how their tourism numbers compare against ours….will research.Maybe we’ve got their number here?!So,here you have a country of roughly 20 million people with an enormous back yard which is undoubtedly punching way above it’s weight.What we have found interesting is that when in conversation with Aussies and they establish that we are from SA there is very little reaction and few probing questions.There is almost an air of indifference and I guess this may have something to do with the fact that Australia,being such a huge place,occupies center stage coupled with it’s distance from many other continents.Fishing update…..I wasn’t keen to fish the main lake as the only fish of note is a Silver Cobbler which is no more than a catfish with an impressive name.I did,however,manage to fish some great looking waters in the spillway below the dam wall.Looks deceive and all I caught were numerous small fish whose name I couldn’t find in any of the fish species booklets to hand.The picture alongside provides an idea of what these fish looked like….they couldn’t resist the fly.Next stop is Katherine and then Darwin which is now 800km’s up the Victoria Highway.