Saturday, 2 July 2016

Half-lap Day 61: Kununurra -> Ord River

Even though I’d sorted a lot of our stuff the day before, pack up seemed to take ages this morning. We didn’t rush it, and there was still a lot to organise, but we were close to done by about 10.30. The kids spent the morning playing with all their friends, most of whom were also packing up and leaving today. They played hide-and-seek for ages,  and did a bit of painting, until the others were ready to go. Then the 5 year old boy came over to our tent and they boys played on the iPad and the girls watched or played their own games.

Caitlin’s thumb was still swollen and bruised and had given her a lot of pain overnight, so she hadn’t slept well. I figured out a way to make a splint from some of the bamboo skewers we’d bought to do painting with, and I was able to strap it more securely. I’d just finished doing her thumb and went to put a tub in the car. I caught my finger between the edge of the tub lid and the wall of car as I dropped it into place. I thought ‘ooh, that hurt!’ and then noticed blood splashed across the back of the seat, and I was suddenly very worried about how bad it might be. A quick glance at my finger showed a long line that looked like a cut and a lot of blood. I called Tony over to help and he got some wound care stuff ready. When I was finally brave enough to look at my finger it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought – I’d just taken the skin off from near the tip of the finger to the first knuckle, so it was long but not deep at all. We bandaged it up and I was able to get on with packing.

The kids had wanted to have one more swim in the great pool before we left, so once we were nearly packed I took them over to the pool. It was hot by now and the pool felt fantastic. Tony joined us just as we were getting out, and Millie went back in with him, while I finished off getting everything in the car in the right spot (eg we have our chargers in the back, attached to the battery pack, when we are camping, and in the front, using the front cigarette lighter, when we are travelling.) When Millie got out of the pool she wanted a shower, and took a while to find one that had the right kind of water pressure – seeing as we’ll probably be free camping the next couple of nights we figured it was a good idea to let her have a decent shower while she could. Tony made some sandwiches for everyone and then we left the caravan park.

In town we stopped for milk and to get some oil and radiator fluid for the car, then on the way out of town we stopped at a banana farm and bought some lovely tree-ripened bananas, and a bag of cucumbers. Then we were finally on our way further west, around 1pm. We ate some of the cucumbers on the way – the juiciest and freshest we’ve ever had!

The scenery was different yet again as we headed along the highway. This time there were huge escarpments and mountains on either side of the road (not always close, but always there. The trees were even more sparse than previously, although there were still a lot of boab trees. We saw lots of very rocky hills and some with smoother, larger rocks on them. The highway was well maintained but only just 2 lanes wide, and there were several one lane bridges that we crossed – had to give way a few times to traffic coming the other way. We crossed lots of dry river beds – some with trees bent almost horizontal, the water flow must be phenomenal in the wet!

One lane bridge
Looks like the water flow is strong in this river during the wet season
We were planning on driving to Halls Creek, but when we started looking at the available free camps in the area, the only ones with toilets, and accessible via sealed road, were 100km before or after Halls Creek. We didn’t want to pay over $30 to stay in a caravan park just for a quick stop, and we’d left later than we’d planned, so we decided to stop at the Leycester Rest Area, 100km from Halls Creek, which we reached around 3.30pm.

We found a spot in the shade, right next to another caravan – they said it was fine for us to set up there. We put the tent up pretty quickly, then sat and had a chat to our neighbours. I took the girls up the hill to the toilets – these ones were hybrids, so composting toilets but with a flap over the hole, and a button to stand on to flush some water through and drop the contents into the hole (a bit like an aeroplane or train toilet). The kids were pleased, these were less disgusting and smelly than a regular drop toilet. On our way back down to the tent we saw a large cow wandering past our car (which explained why the rock I’d kicked out of the way of the tent earlier was so light – it was dried cow dung). There were 4 or 5 cows and bulls hanging around the campsite, just eating grass and ignoring everybody. The ground here was dry (although easy enough to put tent pegs in) and covered in sparse yellow grass, and full of prickles. Even LiAM decided to wear thongs because the thorns were painful.

I took LiAM up to the toilet then he and I walked down to the Ord River. There was a blocked-off causeway across the river bed, and we wandered over it. The river was almost completely dry, just a handful of deep pools of water right up against the causeway wall. We watched the fish in them for a while, and marveled at how wide and varied the river bed was. There were areas with rocks, some with boulders, some just sand. Some of the trees were on raised ground which I imagine would be islands, some were growing straight out of the river bed. It’s amazing to think that this is what the Ord used to look like all along it’s length in the dry season, before Lake Argyle was created.

Caitlin’s thumb had been getting steadily more painful through the day, and by the time dinner was ready she was curled up on her chair, shivering and miserable. She seemed like she was in shock from the pain. I gave her some pain killers and we tried to get her to eat something but nothing appealed – eventually she had a banana. She curled up with me while I ate dinner (pasta, bacon and tomatoes), then I got the beds set up so she could get to sleep. I also had a glass of wine - the first wine we've had for several weeks, it was so lovely! We all walked up to toilets together, and while Caitlin was waiting for us she saw 7 shooting stars! The stars tonight were the clearest and brightest we’ve seen yet, just phenomenal to look out. No moon, and 100km from the nearest town, and a clear, cool night – perfect conditions I guess.

We packed up our stuff in case the cows came wandering through, then negotiated who was going to sleep where – Caitlin was really not well and we figured she’d be better off in the big bed. I ended up sleeping on the little green bed, which was much more comfortable than I’d expected. With my head down the end of the tent, where the wall slopes, I could look straight up through the window and see the stars, which was very cool.

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