The day we left Alice the temperature was 40°C and luckily we'd had the aircon in the car regassed so we didn't notice it in the car but by midday the temperature gauge started veering towards the red and the oil gauge started flying around as the heat caused the gauge to fail. There was no shade around so even if we had stopped the car it would have just kept getting hotter so we found that if we reduced the speed to 80kph the temperature gauge would start falling to an acceptable level. Since we were trying to cover 900 kilometres in a day slowing down to 80kph made our journey time quite a bit longer but at least we didn't break down.
As we neared our destination for the night we passed a few bush fires close to the road. They were probably just backburning to try to prevent fires spreading later in the season but if it was a real fire the chances are that it was started deliberately as a surprising number of them are here. We were told that it is quite unusual for a fire to start accidentally so most of the 100's of bush fires each year are arson. It's unbelievable but it seems to be a real problem here, it's either kids egging each other on, people who get there kicks from starting fires or volunteer firemen who want to be seen as heroes.
Today we passed the half way stage on our figure of eight trip around Australia. Nearly six months ago we'd been through Tennant Creek,
Wycliffe Well and had lunch at Daly Waters pub where we spent the night tonight.
More driving in the intense heat but we stopped for a quick refreshing dip in Mataranka Thermal Pools where the water is usually about 34°C . In this heat we actually could have done with the water being a bit cooler. When we reached the town of Katherine we turned off the Stuart Highway to head towards Western Australia (WA) and suddenly it became very lonely on the road, the traffic decreased considerably from not very much to almost nothing - wouldn't like to break down out here. (The next day we passed a couple of unlucky guys that had a flat tyre but they had it under control).
At the WA border we had to declare
any vegetables and fruit because each state is very concerned about their crops and worried about fruit flies and other pests.
We've been caught out a couple of times with this because we make our sandwiches with lettuce or tomatoes in them and have some fruit
in the car not knowing how far we will drive each day and end up having to scoff the lot before we cross the border.
Just after the WA border we were caught in some torrential rain, so heavy that the visibility was atrocious. This is the road, from the NT to the west coast of
WA that is impassible in the wet season when major roads are flooded and you can be stuck for days or weeks.
WA is the biggest state in Australia by a long way, it's pretty much half of the country and so we had long, long drives without passing anything of interest but this road from the NT to the west coast, through the Kimberley region of WA, was worth it to see the amazing Bungle Bungles if nothing else. Wonderful name, Bungle Bungles, for a start - makes me think of children's TV - wasn't there a bear called Bungle on Rainbow?
Anyway, we decided the best way to see the Bungle Bungles was by helicopter which would get us up close and into the gorges.
It was our first time in a helicopter and we were the only passengers. Richard was in the front, it was
quite choppy, a bit unnerving, Richard isn't the best with heights and there were NO DOORS!! On the way to the Bungle Bungles, Richard
was edging further away from the side of the helicopter and closer and closer to the pilot until the pilot politely asked Richard to
stop sitting on his knee!!
There is no way that these pictures can show how magnificent the Bungle Bungles are. I'll tell you what they are - rock domes or towers which are banded with different colours of rock, orange (caused by silica) and black (lichen) and they are just mad shapes. One area is called the Beehive Domes and I guess beehives is what they look most like in shape. The rock is so soft that the domes are very fragile and they can't be climbed, they would just crumble.
It's quiet out here. We'd spent the night in Fitzroy Crossing although it was a struggle. It was dark, the backpackers was shut, the pub was shutting up at about 8pm, the campsite had rooms but it took a while to raise anyone and then we had to go and find someone if we wanted to have a look at the portacabins which were really expensive anyway. So in the end we went to the only hotel in town which at least had a reception with people in it and a bar that was open and serving counter meals.
The next day we drove on to our next destination, Broome