NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!

Saturday

Good Day at Black Rock Falls! Kununurra, Western Australia

Reflections at Black Rock Falls, via Kununurra, Western Australia


Bloated from a surfeit of mango smoothies from several Ord River irrigation scheme produce outlets and cafés during a mini-heatwave, left Kununurra for the day and hit the Parry Creek Road eatery-free zone.

Going cold turkey was the only way to break the smoothie stranglehold, whether or not our abstinence caused the producers financial hardship.

Victoria Springs, via Kununurra
While the significant cash spent on a scenic flight or boat tour as recommended by the Kununurra 7day tourist guide would be well worth it, we'd found the cheapskate self-drive tour of this part of the East Kimberley.
 
Which, as we found out, came with its own special entertainment.

Victoria Springs, via Kununurra, Western Australia
Victoria Springs was easy to find as the road ran through its pleasant waterholes, so camera at the ready, I headed for the rocky bar above the waterhole to see what lay beyond. With a flourish, a grey nomad vehicle pulled up next to us. She alighted from the passenger seat and strode purposefully towards me. He stayed in the car.

'What's on the other side?' she demanded, invading my personal space.

'No idea,' I replied and moved away, trying to shake her off. But that was clearly the wrong answer.

'Well, climb over and tell me if it's worth it,' she snapped.


I checked the front of my shirt. Was it possible that I'd slidden into a nightmarish parallel universe where I was a tour guide? BUT … no 'Amazing Australian Adventures' tour guide badge adorned my lapel. That meant a) my quest to fail to become a tour guide was on track and, more importantly, b) this exacting oldster was just a rude cow. What a relief …


Black Rock Falls Gorge, via Kununurra
'Why don't you just get off your lazy butt and see for yourself?' I DIDN'T say, opting instead for a more socially acceptable snub as I climbed the rocks to get away from her. 'There's another waterhole up here, but only you can judge whether or not it's worth it,' I flung back at her, moving further away.

The suspense was too great for her so she followed me up the rocks.

Sadly though, the view was apparently NOT worth it and resisting the urge to perform my first strangulation, I left her muttering to herself (and probably me) about how much better places X, Y and Z were …

Perhaps it was full moon.
Black Rock Falls Pool, via Kununurra, WA
By comparison, the short trek from the carpark to Black Rock Falls was uneventful.
 
Unless diving off the track to make way for the 4WD reversing erratically around the corner counts!
 
Our sense of adventure clearly defective, it just hadn't occurred to us to drive down the narrow, rocky walking trail.
 
Then again, as we'd only spent about a third of what the lethal weapon ploughing its way backwards down the track towards us must have cost, we didn't feel the same obligation to prove our 4WD credentials.

Why did they call it Black Rock Falls?
Possibly embarrassed about the shiny newness of his off-road vehicle, the driver reversed past us over a couple of small trees, rocks spinning off the wheels and undergrowth beating a tattoo on the underside of the car.

Perhaps it was full moon.

We continued down the newly-widened track and rounded the corner to find the falls only a few metres away through a thicket of scrub that even a 4WD driven possibly by a former bulldozer driver wasn't able to penetrate.

Unlikely as it may seem, it's possible there are those who would NOT immediately visualise black rocks and waterfalls upon hearing the words 'Black Rock Falls'. Such people therefore did NOT name Black Rock Falls as it's a fairly unimaginative description of the actual falls, although not of the surrounding red cliffs or the blue sky above.


Black Rock Falls
Or the magnificent reflections enhanced by the 'magic' setting on my camera!

As I manoeuvred my way around the rocks at the base of the falls, a small group of camera-toting grey nomads arrived. The designated photographer directed the others into position and started snapping.

'I can't fit the whole falls in the picture,' she said after stepping back as far as possible. The other group members couldn't help her. She turned to me, foolishly believing that just because I had a camera in my hand, I actually knew what to do with it.

And so it was that I unexpectedly found myself giving my very first photography 'lesson' as I showed her how to vertically stitch her photo. Scary, isn't it?!

Does this mean I'm one step closer to being a – gulp – tour guide?

There was only one course of action possible to take under those circumstances.
 
So we broke the drought and accompanied by sighs of relief from local producers, returned to Kununurra for a mango smoothie.

And to watch the Kimberley full moon rise!

Want more information?


More reflections at Black Rock Falls via Kununurra, Western Australia
PS  For more FAAAABULOUS reflections, pay Weekend Reflections a visit!

AND ... for more FAAAAABULOUS photos, pay Budget Travelers Sandbox a visit!!  That should keep you out of mischief for awhile ...

Tuesday

The Best Shots I Never Took ... Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia

Ormiston Gorge and Pound from the lookout, Central Australia


'If it's a choice between my camera and the family jewels, you know what to do,' I instructed Pilchard as I plunged into the thigh-high frigid water flowing through Ormiston Gorge.

Despite the hypothermia warnings on the Ormiston Gorge fact sheet, it was either that or return the seven km (~4.5 miles) we'd already come over a cross section of rugged terrain. While it'd be a treat to see the towering red walls, two rocky river crossings, the Pound's vast wasteland surrounded by massive mountains and cliffs, the saddle's rocky scree, wildflowers, spinifex and steep rocky gorges and, of course, the symphonic splendour of Mt Sonder again for the second time that day, I wasn't really up for another seven km.


Mt Sonder from Ormiston Gorge and Pound trail, West MacDonnell National Park, Central Australia


Not without the lunch we'd planned to have on our return, anyway.

A few hours earlier at the trailhead, we'd seen the sign warning of a potential swim through the creek at the end of the loop. But we'd heard the water wasn't that deep and besides, we could always follow the trail for a couple of hours then return if it all looked too hard.


Spot the Pilchard!  The Saddle, Ormiston Gorge and Pound trail


And so we set off on one of the most scenically and geographically varied hikes we'd yet encountered. Looking back, we could see the red walls of the gorge in the distance and if all went well, we'd be walking under them a few kilometres down the track. As we climbed the steep gorge through wildflowers lining the rocky trail, the magnificent Mt Sonder came into view. Continuing into extraordinary spinifex we kept a lookout for the delightful spinifex pigeons that everyone assured us were plentiful on this walk.  They weren't.

Ormiston Gorge and Pound walk, West MacDonnell Ranges


The scree covered saddle, much more extensive than it first appeared as we exited a well vegetated but spinifex-pigeon-free valley, was a surprise after the country we'd just traversed. Unable to see over the horizon, we had no forewarning of the jaw dropping view we'd see at its peak. The moving scree turned out to be a lone hiker, red-faced and shirtless, who'd walked the loop in the opposite direction.

'How high's the water?' I asked, anxious to learn what was ahead.

'Higher than your knees,' he replied, euphemistically as it turned out. But taking him literally, we continued to the lip of the saddle and a short detour to the lookout above.


Pilchard in the Pound, West MacDonnell National Park, Central Australia


Did I say 'lookout'? The scenery, staggering for every one of its 360º, made taking a rest break redundant as I desperately tried to fill my camera card without falling off the edge. The ancient grandeur of West MacDonnell National Park was putting on a fabulous show, just for the two of us.

Down below, the creek crossing awaited. With natural wonders like this – and more to come – we resolved to complete the loop no matter how unappealing wet knees seemed.

Continuing down a steep, rocky slope onto an exposed ridge leading into the Pound itself gave us magnificent views back up the valley to the lookout and to the mountains ringing the valley. And then we entered the gorge.
Red and Red Rocks in Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park, Central Australi

Rock-hopping down the mostly dry riverbed between the towering red cliffs on either side was worth whatever the creek crossing threw at us. Wasn't it? A group of hikers, some taller than Pilchard passed us, trousers wet to the waist. HHHMMMmmm... suddenly the knee-high claim of our shirtless friend didn't seem quite so watertight!

At the crossing point, the creek flowed deep and silent in the shade of the gorge where the sun sets in the early afternoon. It even LOOKED cold! Now we had another decision to make. The end of the loop – and our campsite – was only a short distance away on the other side. Given the chilly wind whipping around our ankles, did we want to complete the walk with wet clothing?


Entering Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park, Northern Territory

Compromising by removing my shorts – well, my underwear just might provide a small modicum of protection from the cold – I studied the track through the creek. It was really only a few metres to the other side, and the crossing should take less than a minute.

'You're more likely to lose your footing than me (true), so give me your camera,' Pilchard demanded. 'I'll keep it in the backpack so it doesn't get wet.' Unable to argue with such irrefutable logic I handed it over.

'Don't think about it, just do it!' Pilchard urged so picking up my boots and socks I charged the creek into water so cold it took my breath away.


Ormiston Gorge Creek - complete with Dingo!!
Did I say thigh-high? 15 seconds into the stream, the water at crotch level – and rising – my feet and legs turned numb. Although it was a bonus not to be able to feel the rocks underfoot, failure to negotiate the treacherous, slimy and uneven surface below the water would mean exposure of more than my nether regions to the deathly chill of the water.

As he entered the water behind me Pilchard shouted directions.

'Further to the right' and 'head for those rocks' he called. And then it was over.

For me, at least.


I turned to watch Pilchard splashing through the last few metres of water, clothing held aloft, teeth already chattering with the cold. I reached for my camera. How good would a picture of THAT be?!?!

He caught my eye and smirked, then I realised the extent of his cunning plan. Yes, he'd followed my instructions a little too well.  He'd saved the camera from a dunking AND the family jewels from anything incriminating!!

So there's no point looking for the creek crossing shot because there isn't one – the photos end here with this unbearably clichéd shot of red gorge walls in the late afternoon light!!


Late Afternoon at Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park

But YOU know who to blame, don't you?!?!

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Friday

Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #27 - Sun Pictures, Broome, WA


Ladies Amenities at Sun Pictures, Broome, Western Australia


Many Australian natural wonders with public amenities (think Kata Tjuta, Wyndham or Lord Howe Island) are set amidst such scenic splendour that using them is part of the sightseeing experience! But once you've seen it, the view doesn't really change.


Sun Pictures Screen (with Ladies to the left) by Day
So imagine a convenience block where the view changes a couple of times each night. And where, like a wormhole, it can transport you anywhere in the world, the known universe – AND beyond!

Impossible, right?

Wrong! For the convenience of its patrons, Sun Pictures, the world's oldest outdoor cinema in operation has placed its amenities right next to the big screen.

 So YOU get to choose the view because the film you've chosen to see is the scene at the loo! And what you'll see from the amenities if your viewing is interrupted by natures call!!

Sun Pictures Cinema by Day, Broome, Western Australia
So doing your business really IS a pleasure – of course assuming you're enjoying the show!

Established in 1916, Sun Pictures has survived bombing during World War 2, devastating cyclones and killer king tides. It's now full of movie memorabilia and offers a wonderful, old-fashioned movie experience – buy an ice-cream, bring a blanket and/or pillow and settle back into a deckchair to enjoy the show!


Sun Pictures Cinema by Night, Broome, Western Australia
It's also moved on from the segregated seating that mirrored the pre-1967 Broome society hierarchy of this multicultural pealing town.


Sun Pictures Deckchairs, Broome, Western Australia
A postcard available from the cinema shop shows a full house with Europeans, Japanese, Chinese, Malays, Koepangers, Filipinos and Aboriginals, although children crossed cultural boundaries and sat at the front or back with whoever else had been relegated to this less desirable position!

Nowadays, if you're not enjoying the scenery of, say, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, just come back another night for a complete change of pace!

But whatever you're watching, the awesome star filled Kimberley sky above the screen is a real distraction. It's not the only one either – directly under the flight path to the airport only a couple of kilometres away, your view of both the stars AND the screen may be blocked by a jet so close you could almost reach out and touch it …

Stars, Lens Dust and the big Screen, Sun Pictures, Broome, Western Australia
 

Unless you've chosen that moment to visit the loo!!

Movie Poster, Sun Pictures
Want more information?

PS  For another look at the FAAAABULOUS Sun Pictures historic outdoor cinema, see what A Taste of Travel had to say about it!!


Monday

1000 words about ... Gorges!


Reflections at Glen Helen Gorge, Central Australia, Northern Territory
 
 
The rugged red rocks that make up the natural wonderland of Central Australia have spawned thousands of photos – many of which reside in the depths of my memory cards.

And there most of them shall stay …

In 2004 on our first visit to Glen Helen gorge deep in the heart of the fabulous West MacDonnell Ranges, we nearly took a scenic helicopter flight to see the sights. BUT … sadly, the professional crew shooting an advertisement took precedence!!

Earlier this year, we again headed west of Alice Springs to the towering red cliffs of Glen Helen gorge. And again didn't take the scenic helicopter flight.

BUT ... I took this photo instead!
 
One day, we'll get to see the gorge from the air.  But I'm sure you'll agree it looks pretty darn good from the ground!!

Have YOU got a great photo or post about a gorge anywhere in the world?

Join in the conversation! Link up by clicking on the 'Click Here to Enter' link below and enter your post or photo link and follow the prompts.  Link your post or photo back here so other readers can find it!






PS If you're reading this on email, click on the post heading to view other contributions!

Friday

Aussie ABC - J is for Jabiru!



Close up of Jabiru at Lake Argyle, Western Australia
Although non-birdwatching Aussies refer to stately and elegant Black-necked Stork as 'Jabiru', any twitcher* worth her/his salt will immediately recognise this to be technically incorrect. And will probably take great delight in boring you to death by telling you so – and why.
 
 If unlucky enough to be on the receiving end, you'd hear that the similar South American Jabiru gets naming line honours as it was described and so named first.

Call me nostalgic, unconventional or just plain wrong, but to me the Black-necked Stork will always be Jabiru. Pre-Pilchard, when I lived in a hazy non-birdwatching daze that meant I could appreciate birds without knowing what they were called, the Jabiru was one of the few birds (along with the kookaburra and emu) that I could confidently identify.


The same Jabiru in context - see if you can spot him (see below for help)!  Lake Argyle Overflow, Western Australia



'Black-necked Stork', on the other hand, while semi-accurate as a descriptive term lacks imagination. But as any pedantic twitcher (you'll forgive my descent into tautology) will advise, this striking bird up to 150 cm (60 inches) high cannot be called 'Australian Jabiru' either, because it also occurs in South-East Asia!

Jabiru in the crocodile infested Victoria River, Northern Territory
Known to science as Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus (subspecies australis) and Australia's only stork, those who care can tell female from male by the female's yellow iris. This piece of information just may save you from an embarrassing loss at the next trivia night you attend. You're welcome.

It's easy to see why indigenous mythology describes the source of the Jabiru's beak as a spear through a bird's head. And it's also easy to see why eating it's flesh was considered taboo because spotting a stately Jabiru in some lonely, remote and crocodile-infested habitat, seemingly unaware of potential danger, is always a magical experience.


Jabiru near Townsville, Queensland
You'd think the Indigenous name 'Karinji' is FAR more evocative – and therefore suitable – than 'Black-necked Stork'! Or is that just me?!

Despite officially abandoning the name 'Jabiru', our national attachment to it remains. The Queensland Tablelands Jabiru Safari lodge in the Mareeba Wetlands reserve is more than just a passing nod to the name – Jabiru Black-necked Stork is a frequent visitor!

And 'Black-necked Stork Safari lodge' just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?!?!

Northern Territory mining town Jabiru is still memorable to Pilchard and I as being one of the few Territorian towns with a bakery, although others may recall it for different reasons. We left Jabiru one cool, winter morning for the world famous Yellow Waters dawn cruise where, high in a dead tree, a pair of nesting Jabiru distracted us from the crocodiles warming themselves in the sun.


The enigmatic Black-necked Stork epitomises the remote and lovely waterways of Northern Australia – and although hard-core twitchers will find this post insufferably and irritatingly incorrect, I'll loudly and proudly continue to call them Jabiru!!
Jabiru nesting, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
 

* twitcher = birdwatcher

Want more information?  Check out the other posts in my Aussie ABC series!!
Did you spot him?  Jabiru circled in RED!



Tuesday

Afloat in the Sky - The Land Locked Island of Mt Buffalo


Mt Buffalo, Victoria
Approach south eastern Victoria's magical Bright region Victoria from any direction, spot Mt Buffalo's impossibly scenic bulk dominating the skyline and you'll swear you're not in Australia!

Mt Buffalo from the Myrtleford-Bright Road, Victoria
It's difficult to believe the soaring granite cliffs and outcrops leading to the extensive plateau more than 1200 metres above sea level were once much higher. Right at the end of the Aussie Alps that cross three state borders, Mt Buffalo is both a microcosm of Alpine natural attractions; and a unique collection of scenery, flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth.

Its relative isolation and height means Mt Buffalo's ecosystem has developed independently – and operates just like an island!!

And an island that seems to have become Melbourne's personal pleasure dome. A short-ish 325 km drive mostly up the freeway from Melbourne, it's easy to get to Mt Buffalo – and a taste of the marvellous Victorian Alpine high country.

Mt Buffalo from Lake Buffalo, Victoria
But however you get there, its amazingly varied range of activities means your first visit to this marvellous mountain National Park will almost certainly not be your last!

So what makes the 'island' of Mt Buffalo so unique?

The History

Although proclaimed in 1898 as one of Victoria's first National Parks after pressure from the Bright Alpine Club, Mt Buffalo has been on the tourist trail since the 1850's, when Baron Ferdinand von Mueller promoted its unique environment and botany; and the Manfield family started conducting hiking tours from the Buffalo Falls Temperance Hotel at Mt Buffalo's base.

Guide Alice, tourism pioneer, naturalist and poster girl for the delights of the region in her distinctive uniform lived and breathed Mt Buffalo.

One of the pioneering Manfields, she managed the family's basic chalet on the plateau. Her daughter recalls spending the night in a hollow log so Alice could observe the lyrebirds at dawn while researching her book, The Lyre-birds of Mt Buffalo.

With the Chalet (see below) the first resort of its kind in the Alpine region, Mt Buffalo's all year round appeal ensured it became a premier tourist destination for sightseeing, cross-country skiing (and the first ski-tow in Australia), hiking, rock-climbing – and, I dare say, languishing in the Chalet ...

The Chalet

The Chalet, Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria


Although the Chalet, a temporary structure built in 1910, is of significant historic, architectural and cultural value, successive state governments have failed to ensure its preservation. And while debate rages about why there aren't enough funds for BOTH historic preservation and health care; despite the Mt Buffalo Community Enterprise proposal to restore and reopen it; and despite visitor and community support, the chalet remains closed to the public.
The Chalet Ballroom, Mt Buffalo National Park
Unless there's say, a mining magnate with a spare $50-odd million around somewhere??
Clive Palmer*, this is your big chance to buy my vote!!

Fortuitous timing during our April visit meant we got to tour the marvellous chalet, view the memorabilia and historic displays – and put me several steps further down the RSI-of-the-shutter-finger path … What a shame it would be to close it up forever. Clive? CLIVE?? Are you there????


Mt Kosciuszko is out there somewhere ...
The Scenery


From Bents Lookout at around 1300 metres above sea level and just below the Chalet, you can almost see Mt Kosciuszko – Australia's highest mountain.

But only if other visitors GET OUT OF YOUR WAY!!!!

The staggering 360º views from several viewpoints show the Alps at their finest.
The Horn, Mt Buffalo National Park
There's also rocks like The Monolith, sadly no longer able to be climbed; waterfalls like Rollason's and Eurobin falls; and many other scenic spots on the 90 km of walking trails in the park.

Zoom in on the plants to be one of the few people in the world to see the Mt Buffalo endemics.
And you might even spot an Alpine Silver Xenica – a butterfly only found on this plateau and rating a special mention here for no other reason than its ultra-cool name …



The Lakes

Lake Catani, Mt Buffalo, Victori



A symphony of muted colours, Lake Catani's rocky surrounds, reeds and clear waters make it the perfect spot to eat the lunch you had the foresight to purchase from the magnificent Edelweiss Bakery in Bright. And those with even more foresight, and a carload of bakery sustenance, could stay in the campground! Those not obsessed with bakery food (if there are any such fools) could go canoeing – but it'd have to be quite a few degrees warmer with a bit less of the cold wind for swimming to be a viable option.

Lake Buffalo, Victoria
But take a day off from driving up Mt Buffalo's winding access road and head past the fine Myrtleford bakery (if, like us, you can handle more than one bakery experience in a day) along the Buffalo River road to Lake Buffalo for stunning Alpine scenery from the excellent picnic grounds. 

With their own scenic public amenities block.

Learn from the graffiti – I was surprised to learn that we are all apparently reptilians and aliens are stealing our souls ...



The Adventure

Finding out you're a reptilian isn't the only adventure to be had at Mt Buffalo!

If you thought the scare factor of my previous post about Alpine sky diving was high, then look away now …

Bent's Lookout, Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria


Still here?? At around 1300 metres above sea level, the Gorge lookout and picnic area shows the depths of insanity to which some thrillseekers will leap. Yes, that flattish incline on the very edge of the right hand side rock stack above really IS another sky-diving ramp.

If leaping off the mountain isn't your thing, walk to the bottom, rock-climb or abseil, hike or go caving. There's also 4WD touring, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, boating and just plain old sightseeing!

For me? I was all adventured out after climbing the Horn!!

Anyway, those cyclists pedalling up the 4.8% gradient on a 20+ km climb to the Chalet aren't REALLY having fun, are they??



The Horn

View from the Horn Lookout, Mt Buffalo, Victoria


At 1723 metres above sea level, Mt Buffalo's Horn is its highest point. If you can stand upright in the wind, you'll be rewarded with staggering views in every direction – and photos to die for if your hands don't seize up from the cold! Railings, steps and safety fences mean the 1.5 km track is suitable even for those like me who suffer from vertigo.

But you can probably make your photos look like it's a LOT more dangerous ...

Whatever the weather down below in Bright, nearest town to Mt Buffalo, it's most likely different up here!!



The Surrounds


Down below and only 319 metres above sea level, the small town of Bright and its surrounds form an excellent backdrop from which to explore the Mt Buffalo 'Island'. Of course the fact of its two bakeries is completely irrelevant …

A visit timed to coincide with the 'Autumn Leaves' festival as we had in April 2012 (read about it HERE!) will challenge organisational, time management, visual and gastronomic skills to the point of collapse. There's so much to see and do, you could easily spend a week in Bright without even venturing up to the Mt Buffalo summit!

Bright in the valley, Victoria


But don't let Bright's delights stop you from visiting the Landlocked Island of Mt Buffalo! All those Melbournians can't be wrong, right?!?!?!

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*Clive Palmer = Australian mining magnate

Friday

What Does a Frenchman wear under his Sarong?!


The Charles Knife Road Canyons, Exmouth, Western Australia





Most people know what a traditional Scotsman wears under his kilt*.

The Tip of North West Cape, Exmouth, Western Australia
But far fewer people know what a Frenchman wears under his sarong!

I'd never given this tragic gap in my knowledge any consideration whatsoever – I mean, who associates Frenchmen with sarongs?

But if this vexed question HAD been keeping me awake at night, I certainly wouldn't have expected to find the answer on top of a mountain overlooking the Charles Knife gorge south of Western Australia's Exmouth!

Eastern Cape Range National Park Gorges, Western Australia

Although perhaps the narrow peninsula of the North West Cape with its own ecosystem and weather patterns, and the amazing diversity of the World Heritage Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park invites the unexpected.
And in stark contrast to the magnificent western beaches and gorges, we certainly didn't expect the scenic grandeur of the Cape's eastern lookouts, scattered along the narrow, rocky, dusty, steep and horribly exposed ridge-top road of the Cape Range anticline.

A road WAAAAY more suited to a Land Rover 4WD than a more conventional vehicle like ours.

The road to the summit, Cape Range National Park, Exmouth WA
Or to the van struggling up the incline behind us as we carefully negotiated the narrow, single lane on the knife-edge ridge!

With 'Tracy' emblazoned on the bonnet, and its three occupants in classic feet-on-the-dashboard travelling pose, it closed the gap between us and pulled out to overtake.

Strangely unwilling to take part in a random murder/suicide pact with Tracy's occupants, Pilchard sped down the middle of the road with the van in hot pursuit.
 But finally, superior tyres, aerodynamics and handling won out and we pulled away.

Spot the Wallaby!
The rough, rugged and rocky track to the final lookout had deterred the less adventurous, but a deserted combi van painted all over with symbols and random Australian place names had made the trip before us.
 Looking around, it became apparent that without an 8km hike, the magnificent views from the road below would not be matched at THIS spot.

As we searched in vain for a better lookout spot, two figures emerged from the rugged rocky area below the track. The leader, saronged, shirtless, tanned and dreadlocked greeted us in perfectly broken English.

There it is!
'Did you walk to the lookout?' I asked, taking in the bony outline of his clavicles in that twilight zone somewhere between 'lean' and 'emaciated'.

He smiled and gestured to his bare feet. 'Non, madame. I have not the shoes,' his beautiful accent a clear indicator of nationality.

Of course. What was I thinking? A barefoot hiker clad in a sarong – and a 'do rag holding back the dreads?



His taciturn companion, also shirtless, but terminally cool with trousers slung so low his family jewels were in serious danger of being rendered useless by the spinifex, and thorny shrubbery at the exact right height to do serious damage, lurked behind looking disinterested. Perhaps we were too old and/or unfashionable to be worthy of his consideration. Or maybe he didn't speak English.

Overlooking Exmouth Gulf, Cape Range National Park
The leader continued. 'We went to the cave,' he gestured vaguely behind him. 'It is not very big so we come back.'

Noise erupted behind us as Tracy pulled into the carpark. Low pants slunk off towards the combi.

'Is the lookout far from here?' I asked, wondering what exactly Sarong man and Low pants had been up to in the cave.

'We did not go there,' he replied, teeth white against his tan.

Noise erupted behind us as Low Pants and Tracy's occupants greeted each other in the manner of explorers in a land of aliens discovering they are at last amongst their own kind. Celebrating their new friendship with a blast of rap music gave us our cue and we turned to leave. Maybe Low pants was right and we were just too boring for words ...

Charles Knife Road Gorges, Exmouth, Western Australia
'I have not the shoes,' the Frenchman repeated. 'And also,' he gestured to the sarong slung low around his hips, 'I have not the pants!'

You heard it here first!

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* Click HERE if you're still in the dark!

Canyons at Cape Range National Park and World Heritage Area, Exmouth, Western Australia

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