Sunday, 27 July 2014

Happy Hoochers

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Ord River Dam

Our first stop out west was Kunnunurra. We?d heard that there was plenty to do here but on first impressions, it looked like a bit of a dive. Sure, it?s located on the banks of the Ord River and surrounded by lagoons and fertile farmlands created by a massive irrigation scheme – but I still had my doubts.

We found a campsite right near a boat ramp that led onto one of the lagoons. It was quite pretty, but the driver felt it was too windy to launch the boat. Never fear, the little fella still managed to find plenty of blokes who were more than happy to talk about fishing!

Much later, I finally managed to get his attention and we sped off on the scooter just in time to witness the setting of the sun from the town?s rocky lookout. Our journey there through the back streets revealed a pretty grotty little town complete with piles of rubbish on verandah?s, prams left in the middle of the road and crashed cars as garden sculptures. But the sky managed to put on a good show!

Took off to check out the local hot spots the next day (ie. it was too windy for fishing again) so we toured around the town ticking all the tourist attractions off our list. We visited the sandalwood factory, several zebra rock workshops and an art gallery (yawn!). But our last stop was at ?The Hoochery?, the local rum distillery. IMG_2485The driver was most impressed and had himself a lovely afternoon taste testing all their wares!

Next day we hit the road for Wyndham, stopping on the way to visit ?The Grotto?. Here a rough hand-carved path of 150 steep steps leads down to an ancient rock formation around a deep dark pool of clear water. Ian just had to climb the walls (of course) while I dangled my feet in some of the coldest water in the world.

The cute little township of Wyndham is now only a shadow of its former self. In the old days it was the end of the line for many thirsty drovers and their mobs of hungry cattle. The cattle would be exported to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) from here or sold to the local meatworks. This business manufactured and exported Bastion Bully Beef all over the world, so it had been quite a boom town in its hey day.

There are still a few old stores and shanties standing near the old wharf including the original pub and some very inviting looking cafes, craft and antique shops. Of course, we marched straight past all these to the pub. But later, we did take a peek at the local museum. This was chock full of great stuff about the early days of the flying doctors service, the cattle kings and some of the rustlers too.IMG_2563

We were surprised to learn that not only had the town had been bombed in 1942 it had also been an important repair base for Australian and US battleships and aircraft. There were hundred of troops stationed here during the war including one of the unit?s in which Ian?s dad had served servicing the Catalina flying boats.

All day long huge road trains (up to five trailers long) loaded with iron ore head out to the modern industrial port and unload their cargo via confusing looking conveyor type contraptions onto enormous barges. The rest of the passing traffic contains either cattle or mining equipment. Their cargo is all destined for the long line of ships sitting just out on the horizon. So, despite the sleepy looking township it?s still quite a busy place!

That night after enjoying the most incredible twilight views from The Five Rivers Lookout, we set up camp under the largest boab tree in captivity? well that?s what it said on the caravan park sign!!

The Largest Boab Tree in Captivity, Wyndham, WA
The Largest Boab Tree in Captivity, Wyndham, WA

The next day the wind dropped so we toodled off and launched the boat. We had an uneventful day?s fishing but enjoyed touring the bay, cruising up into the reaches of the Forrest River and doing a quick skip around Parry?s Creek Lagoon.

Then the real fun began! The locals boast that they have an eight metre tide, so low tide is very, very low. We?re talking mudflats up to the boat ramp kind of low. Of course, we had timed our return perfectly.

So, ?we were up ship creek without a paddle?, as my cute little auntie used to say!

A local ?pulled up nearby in a 4WD ute and drily advised, ?won?t get that boat out till after midnight now?. When the driver suggested we could probably get it out with a 4WD, the fisherman nodded and drove off towards the pub.?? But, we were still in the outback, so the next bloke we asked tossed over the keys to his Landcruiser and said, ?just take my truck mate?. Now that’s mate-ship!!

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When Danielle?s not busy writing, she loves to read, attend writing events and travel as much as possible. Exploring also provides plenty of opportunity for Danielle to indulge in her favourite sports of eavesdropping and people watching, which manages to fill her notebooks with even more story ideas.

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