Kununurra, WA

Clarrie, a local Wunambal elder born and raised in the remote community of Kalumburu, showed us around his land. He showed us some magnificent Kalumburu rock art, dated by archeologists to be over 30,000 years old. He also told stories of when the community was strafed by Japanese planes during WWII, showed how his people made hand-stencil paintings, and how to make and throw a spear.

Our first visit to Kununurra was with our tent when we had come off the Gibb River Road and were restocking before Purnululu/Bungle Bungle Range. It was so odd being the only tent amongst caravans.

The second time was after Fitzroy Crossing and Danggu/Geikie Gorge – we felt more at home in our caravan. Kimberleyland Waterfront Caravan Park is on the banks of Lilly Creek Lagoon, we had a lovely view of the water and bird life as well as the fresh water crocodiles that live there.

Kelly’s Knob is the best place to watch the sunset in Kununurra.

We took the old road to Wyndham for a day trip. Ivanhoe Crossing, which fords the Lower Order River, is only open during the dry season.

This is the same crossing from the air (taken on a light plane flight we took).

The road is very rough in places.

We hadn’t come across this toilet system before.

There are a few places to visit in the sleepy little town of Wyndham; the bakery, Five Rivers Lookout, The Afghan Cameleer Cemetery, Pioneer Cemetery, The Big Croc; and, according to the information board, “the biggest boab tree in captivity” … which we couldn’t find.

The Croc Cafe and Bakery opened last year and is truly amazing. We had a Crocodile Pie and a Barramundi Pie, two of the best pies we have ever had anywhere.

From Kununurra we did a boat tour of Lake Argyle and down the Upper Ord River, including a stop off on the way there at the (relocated/reconstructed) Durack Homestead.

Coffee at Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park with its famous infinity pool.

On Lake Argyle we were served a lovely lunch of local fish, silver cobbler (rebranded from Shovelhead Catfish), and then had a swim with the fresh water crocodiles. Actually, they are so shy they take off the minute they see a human (unlike the “salt water” Estuarine Crocodiles, which like to eat people in both fresh or salt water).

The Ord River Hydro Plant.

At the dam wall, where the hydro electric power plant is,  we changed boats and travelled down the Upper Ord River to Kununurra.

Lots of flying fox in the trees. They drink by flying along the water, getting the fur on their bellies wet, then licking the water off. The crocodiles make the most of this manoeuvre and snap a few up from time to time.

Other wildlife including one very fat crocodile.

Afternoon tea stop at a spot on the bank.

Elephant Rock – a good imagination is required.

Just in time for the sunset as we arrived back in Kununurra.

The other tour we did from Kununurra was a plane trip over the Kimberley to see the coast line and the Mitchell Falls. Usually there are about 14 people on the tour, but being the last week of the season we were the only ones and it was fabulous.

Mitchell River and a very dry Mitchell Falls.

The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful.

We then stopped at the remote community of Kalumburu for lunch and a guided tour of the land by Clarrie, a local Wunambal elder born and raised here. Our pilot Marco, drove the bus, which is garaged in a shipping container at the airport.

Clarrie was such an interesting man,  passionate about the land and his culture. He also had the best sense of humour and had us laughing the whole time. He is very proud of his country.

He showed us the ruins of planes from a Japanese attack during WW2.


And treated us to some local bush tucker which tasted like peanuts.

We saw rock art, both Wanjina and Gwion (Bradshaw) figures, done by his people over 30,000 years ago (according to the archeologists who examined it a few years ago). Clarrie explained their meaning and how rock art was used to convey information. The paints were what ever the local land provided,  ochre, Iron clay pigments, charcoal etc.  mixed with water and animal fat which is absorbed by the rock to be preserved for eternity. Photos were allowed for personal use only so I can’t put them on this post, but they were some of the most detailed rock art we have seen.

Got to eat green ants which taste like sherbet. They make nests in trees using leaves.

Had a lesson in how spears were traditionally made and thrown with a woomera. (Tim won “closest to the target”, nearly taking a dead cardboard box home for dinner.)

And how the hand prints were made and how they were a type of census of the people living in a particular area. This had us in hysterics with Clarrie trying very hard not to choke on the charcoal.

Clarrie showed us around his town square which had started as a Catholic Mission, and where church life is still a very prominent part of the community.

At the Old Bakery young girls, stolen from their families (the stolen generation) worked, one of whom was Clarrie’s late wife.

On the flight home we flew over ‘Faraway Bay Resort’ and the  ‘Berkeley River Lodge Resort’,  which claim to be the most remote resorts in Australia. The only way in to get to either is by air or boat.

Faraway Bay Resort.

Berkeley River Lodge Resort.

We also saw salt water/Estuarine Crocodiles along the Lower Ord river – so many of them it was truly incredible.

King George Falls and RIver. Again, no water in the falls.

We flew over the experimental farms, part of the Ord River Scheme which was started in 1963 with the building of the Diversion Dam, dividing the Ord RIver into an upper and lower part.

The town of Kununurra was  built at the site to support the scheme. It appears many different types of crops have been tried over the decades and for various reasons failed, one issue begin the cost of freighting the crops to Perth for sale.

Cotton is being tried but the nearest gin, the processing plant for separating the fibre from the seed, is in Emerald in North Queensland, almost 3,000km away, making the cost of freight very high. Monsoonal rains also cause issues with harvesting cotton.

Sandalwood is one crop doing well at the moment. They grow Indian Sandalwood rather than the Australian native sandalwood because it has a much higher yield and is more fragrant. The plantations look very messy because the Indian Sandalwood is a parasitic plant and requires a host tree to survive. Two of the local native trees apparently work well as host trees… Is it just me or can anyone else see a potential ‘cane toad’ scenario here?

The rum ‘Hoochery Distillery’  has made successful use of the sugar cane crop.

Another place of interest in Kununurra is the Zebra Rock mine, discovered in the 1970s, and the only place in the world this type of rock is found is the Kimberley. Apparently the rock was formed when a meteorite hit the earth millions of years ago. We weren’t able to get out to the mine but visited the gallery.

Heading east now. Cheers til next time, Helen and Tim