The Kimberley’s WA: Darwin to Lake Argyle

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The Kimberley WA 2016

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Map of the Kimberley region in NW Australia

About the Kimberley’s

It’s believed the first humans, or human like bipeds arrived from the Asian side of the Torres Strait when the land separation between the respective land masses was much smaller – at about 100km or so about 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Certainly the aboriginal homo-sapiens as we know them today arrived around 40,000 years ago.

It’s thought they may have seen smoke rising possibly from lightning strikes and set off in bamboo rafts or log canoes.  The Kimberley Region of today is a storehouse of hundreds of thousands of rock-art, much of which is simply being left to fade away. The most common forms are Bradshaw and Wandjina art.wandjina-art

Right: An example of Wandjina art. The main characteristic is a big head with big black eyes and a sort of halo or lightning strikes emanating from the head.  The Wandjina is something like the creator of all things.

European Arrival

The first settlement by Europeans was attempted in 1837 at Camden Harbour near the head of the Prince Regent River. That attempt was disastrous because of the climate, distant markets, the harsh nature of the land and aboriginal hostility, so the Europeans withdrew.  Heat, lack of water and natural obstacles hindered further exploration.

The inland area was later explored in 1879 by Alexander Forrest whose report created a rush of cattlemen into the region. The white people thought the land was not being “used”. They simply could not appreciate the aboriginal concept of spirituality of the land as opposed to ownership of it. To them the land was a living thing, not something to be used except for essential needs like food and water.

Thus by 1882 over 44 million acres of land had been leased to 77 people by the WA Government. More European settlement began with a gold rush at Halls Creek in 1885.

Aboriginal Disintegration

Aboriginal people simply became part of the cattle stations.  Many of them became employed, were paid in food, sugar and tobacco and proved to be highly adaptable as stockmen and domestic help. Later, with the introduction of machines and later motor vehicles, the need for aboriginal workers dropped. Many moved into urban European towns, living as fringe dwellers.  Disintegration of the aboriginal way of life was oddly enough help by the aboriginal people themselves. They had no concept of fighting as a collective force.  Traditionally they fought opponents as one tribe fighting another.  To them, if a white man such as a policeman wanted to arrest a man from one tribe, a native from another tribe would often only be too willing to help.

Gibb River Road

map-2-gibb-river-roadThe Gibb River Road at first was just a cattlemen’s route to the markets. It was maintained by the respective cattle stations and ran for 660km from Wyndham in the east to Derby in the west.  Even today it’s often closed due to flooding in the Wet Season. In the mid 2000s the road was upgraded to a two-lane gravel road and some bitumen sections.

The area it passes through  provides for spectacular scenery, aboriginal rock art, beautiful awe-inspiring gorges and a wide variety of activities at many of the still operating cattle stations.

The First Leg

From late June to mid August 2016, Delma and I together with in-laws Mark and Di Gillam travelled to the Kimberley’s on a 4WD camping trip. The first leg was from Darwin NT to Lake Argyle WA.

We’d overnighted at Adelaide River in cabin accommodation the first night then made the jump straight to the Victoria River Roadhouse for lunch, then pushed on for Lake Argyle just over the WA border.

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Map – Darwin NT to Lake Argyle WA

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Victoria River Roadhouse

The Victoria River Roadhouse and caravan park is 194 km west of Katherine NT on the Victoria Hwy.

The Victoria River is noted for it’s saltwater crocodiles, barramundi fishing and scenic landscapes. It got it’s name in 1839 when Captain J.C. Wickham in HMS Beagle had anchored at the mouth of the river when a first European settlement was being planned for somewhere in the NW Kimberley area.  He named it after Queen Victoria, the Queen of England at the time. HMS Beagle is the same vessel that some years earlier had carried Charles Darwin on his famous voyage.

The area offers excellent photography. escarpment lookouts, Victoria River cruises and the Joe Creek Loop walking trail including some aboriginal rock art.

 

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Lake Argyle

Lake Argyle is Australia’s second largest man-made reservoir by volume and was created as part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme to supply water for 150 sq km of farming land. The earth filled dam, at 335m long and 98m high was officially opened in 1972. The spillway was raised another 6m in 1996 to double the dam’s capacity. It holds more than 18 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.

A thriving eco-system has developed with 26 species of fish and about 25,000 freshwater crocodiles. Cane toads reached here in 2008. The area supports about 150,000 waterbirds.

The closest town is Kununurra but it is a bit of roundabout loop to get to it.

The first signs of humans here is believed to be 40,000 to 60,000 years ago by the Miriuwung Gajerrong aboriginal people. In 1879 the first European explorers came into the area.  His name was Alexander Forrest and it was his glowing reports that lead to a rush by cattlemen.

Boat cruises, day tours, scenic flights, helicopter rides, off-road driving, canoeing, overnight island camping, fishing, bushwalking and an historic homestead.  Not to be missed is the spectacular sunsets while sitting in the Infinity Pool at the resort.

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005-lake-view 006-homestead
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011-colour-change 012-bus
013-waiting-vehicles 014-islands
015-dam-wall 016-spider-webs
017-great-egret 018-freshie
019-cormorant 020-pelicans
021-cormorants-again 022-unusual-shapes
023-campers 024-tour-guide
025-archer-fish 026-galley
027-lady-argyle-tour-boat 028-infinity-pool
029-mirrored-surface 030-cabins-and-campground
031-cabins 32-yachts
033-fisherman 34-cliffs
035-coloured-hills

NEXT LEG: LAKE ARGYLE TO WYNDHAM WA.

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One thought on “The Kimberley’s WA: Darwin to Lake Argyle

  1. Wow, no wonder some said that perhaps aliens had visited earth before. The Wangdijna art seem to verify that…or perhaps the aborigines were the first surrealists?

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