TRAVEL: The Kimberley region is calling
AUSTRALIA has some stunning landscapes and fantastic drives, none more spectacular than the North West corner of Australia. The Kimberley region is both breathtaking and harsh. For many of us it's one part of Australia that we all want to visit and now is that time. The wet season is over and the creeks and rivers are still flowing. The weather is around 30 degrees every day, the humidity is low, very little rainfall which means that areas cut off during the wet season are now open again. The colours of the landscape, the harshness, all have to be seen in person to be believed.
I did a particularly trip a few years ago now but it remains fresh in my mind like it was yesterday. I travelled on the Northern Highway that runs straight through The Kimberley. This is a great way to see what this incredible place is all about, stopping at towns and national parks along the way. We started in the East Kimberley. This part is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, places in which you can lose yourself and let the world go by, and places that will amaze you at the wonders of nature.
Kununurra is the Eastern most point of The Kimberley. A township of around 8000 people, it serves as a centre for mining, cattle stations, horticulture and tourism. Kununurra's weather and location means that it is a major food bowl for Australia, producing fruit and vegetables all year round.
To get a good overview of the town when you first arrive make a visit to Kelly's Knob Lookout, a great place to catch an East Kimberley sunset and it's only a short walk from the town's CBD.
Located adjacent to the town is the Mirima National Park (Hidden Valley) known as the mini Bungle Bungle. An early morning or late afternoon walk will showcase the spectacular colours of Tthe Kimberley.
Not far from town is the Lake Argyle Dam. The dam is the largest man made water storage structure in the southern hemisphere and holds in water volume the equivalent of 22 Sydney Harbours. The lakes and waterways created by the completion of the dam provides a wide range of leisure and recreational uses to locals and visitors alike from fishing, canoeing, boating and waterskiing. There are numerous tourist operators offering variety of tours and cruises of the area.
Another attraction not far from town is Rio Tinto's Argyle Diamond mine. You can organise a day tour of the mine from Kununurra. The mine is one of the largest suppliers of diamonds in the world producing approximately 20 million carats each year. The mine is the world's primary source of the highly prized and rare pink diamond and has become the mine's signature stone. A day trip will leave you amazed at the size and money involved in production of the mine.
Heading further out from Kununurra and a couple of hours down the highway you come across a must-see World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park or (Bungle Bungle). The Bungle Bungle range is renowned for its striking sandstone domes, striped with grey and orange bands. The area covers nearly 240,000 hectares and is estimated to be 350 million years old. Hiking and camping are popular pursuits here but probably the best way to see the park is to organise a helicopter ride over the range. This can be done in Halls Creek or Kununurra.
After leaving the Bungle Bungle the next stop heading west is Halls Creek. It is located on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert and is about a four-hour drive from Kununurra. A centre of trade for the cattle stations, local Aboriginal communities and mines. Halls Creek is the closest town to the world's second biggest meteorite crater. Located in Wolfe Creek National Park the crater measures 850 metres wide and 50 metres deep. Definitely worth a visit.
Moving westward we come across the township of Fitzroy Crossing, used primarily as a stopover destination for those wishing to explore the area around the crossing, like Geikie Gorge, Tunnel creek and Windjana Gorge.
Geikie Gorge was formed by the Fitzroy River cutting through the remains of an ancient reef. The gorge is 14kms long and only accessible during the dry season. Fossils more than 350 million years old are clearly seen throughout the gorge. A cruise along the placid waters is the best way to sightsee. The sheer yellow ocre and grey limestone walls of the gorge house a number of unique inhabitants. Freshwater crocodiles, stingrays, sharks and sawfish are some of the wildlife you might come across during your cruise.
Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek are also not far from Fitzroy Crossing. The 3.5 km long gorge cuts through the limestone of the Napier Range; part of an ancient barrier reef. A seven km walk will take you along the full length of the gorge and back. It runs along the course of the Lennard River, which is a series of pools in the dry season.
Tunnel Creek is about 35kms southeast of Windjana Gorge. A tunnel which is about 750m long. You can walk through the tunnel however be prepared to get wet. At times you will be wading in waist deep icy cold water. Not every cup of tea but definitely worth a visit. The last stop would be Broome. Broome was originally founded back in the late 1880s as a pearling port. The city boasts a very multicultural population with many of its inhabitants lured here with the promise of fortune. A iconic part of the city and a visit to Broome would not be complete without a visit to the Sun Pictures. Built in 1916, it has withstood the ravages of war, cyclones and king tides. It is the world's oldest operating picture gardens and still screens the latest movies every night. The Broome Historical Society Museum will help you understand how hard life in Broome was. If you have had enough sightseeing and just want to relax on the beach then Cable beach just minutes out of Broome is the spot to go. Twenty-two kms of pristine white sand and the crystal clear warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
The whole journey from Kununurra to Broome is only 1047kms but with so much to see and do you will be hard pressed to make the journey in a week. I would say allow 10 to 14 days to take in what this part of Australia has to offer. When considering a trip to this part of Australia keep in mind that the prices will be a bit more expensive than other parts of Australia however in my book it is money well spent.