Eric Lindsay's Blog 2005 August

Monday 1 August 2005

Water Use

Despite water saving campaigns in cities as dam water levels shrink, hardly any government is willing to build new dams. Partly this is because infrastructure can always be deferred, and doesn't get you many votes (you announce it, get kicked by the Greens, and ten years later some other political party opens the completed dam).

Besides, most water (67%) is used by agriculture. If agricultural water isn't cheap, then farms can't work, because most food sells (at the farm gate at least) for low prices. In the Murray Darling basin this year, temporary trade water was going for between A$50 and A$500 a megalitre, while permanent trades went for between A$800 to A$3000 a megalitre. Mind you, at those prices water allocations can be worth more than the land price, so farmers look towards temporary allocation to avoid high capital costs. When drought comes, and allocations are cut to 10% (NSW in 2002) water selling at A$10 a megalitre went to $A250 a megalitre. Irrigation agriculture produces around A$10 billion worth of value per year, from an infrastructure that probably cost A$15 billion.

Past practices get in the way. Water wasn't originally metered, bores mostly are not. Plus surface water influences groundwater, but allocations and bore metering may be very different. In Perth, which draws 50% of its water from the Gnangara Mound, groundwater levels fell five metres since 1975. Eventually cities will also have to buy their water in competition with agriculture in the same market. Given residential water costs householders around A$1000 a megalitre, they can afford it, but are already using price as a signal.

ABS figures on Australian water use a few years back show livestock and pasture used 5,568,000 megalitres, to produce A$1500 million (A$270/ML), dairy farming 2,834,000 ML for A$1500 million (A$528/ML), vegetables 556,000 ML (A$3269/ML), fruit 802,000 ML for A$1590 million (A$1980/ML), grapes 729,000 for A$1355 million (A$1858/ML), sugar 1,310,000 for A$284 million, cotton 2,908,000 for A$1222 million (A$420/ML), rice 1,951,000 for A$350 million (A$179/ML). The totals were about 16,660,000 megalitres of water, producing a gross value of A$9618 million, and an average of A$577 per megalitre. Now, pick which three farm products are likely to run into trouble first.

Tuesday 2 August 2005

Music Australia

Music Australia means more hoarding at the National Library of Australia, and I'm very pleased to see it. Started earlier this year, in collaboration with the National Film and Sound Archive. Music from Australia, starting from about 1930 backwards. Most of the material isn't as yet digitised, but are pointers to where to find them. I look forward to checking this site over the next few years.

Wednesday 3 August 2005

Picture Australia

I should also mention the five year quest for Australian pictures at Picture Australia. They now have a fine collection of photos, with a heap of Dublin Core metadata helping ensure it will move into the future in a searchable form.

Thursday 4 August 2005

Automating Web Site Uploads with FTP (1)

If your web site happens to be on a site, you have various facilities to automatically upload your changes. If you started out using one of the fancier HTML editors, you may have ftp integrated into the editor for making changes. Plus there are probably a variety of complete web site generation packages unknown to me available these days.

However when you started years ago, your web site it likely to be a sprawling, uncoordinated mess, and you don't have any tools. You wrote it initially in vi, for lack of anything else being always handy on whatever computer happened to be available at university. Certainly retrofitting a web site to modern standards isn't something you find of critical importance (it would take too long to evaluate the new tools). So the web site gradually gets way beyond what you can maintain.

The old Unix systems could unpack your site from a single tar file, so that was what I used initially, plus a shell script that fixed permissions. The second or third Windows version I used (probably Windows 95) had an ftp program that would accept a command file. You listed what you wanted the ftp to do, and it followed the commands in the file. Very handy indeed, and I never saw any great need to change it.

Friday 5 August 2005

Automating Web Site Uploads with FTP (2)

When I got my first Macintosh I thought I could do the same. Alas, the BSD based ftp lacks the crucial option to follow a command file. On the other hand, the Macintosh uses the Bash shell, which has the concept of a here document. This lets you feed commands into an application as if you had typed them. Sounds very like a command file really.

To test it, make a little shell file called something like and put in it some test commands. needs to be in your $PATH perhaps in ~/bin and also needs execute permissions. You give it permissions like chmod 755

ftp -i -n <<EOF
user username password
cd /
lcd ~/Documents/web101
put test.htm

The ftp options include -i for turning off interactive mode - you don't want to be waiting for prompts when you feed commands in. The -n also turns off automatic prompting for username and password. Everything from the << to the arbitrary EOF label is simply a list of ftp commands, which you find from the man page for ftp or by typing help in ftp. The epsv4 is used because Macintosh by default uses extended passive mode, a 1999 standard that my ISP server knows nothing about. Toggling espv4 just turns on passive mode instead. The cd and the lcd just change to different directories on the server and on the local computer.

Saturday 6 August 2005

Automating Web Site Uploads with FTP (3)

Sending one file is hardly a big deal, when you may have multiple subdirectories of files.

The put can be changed to mput and repeated to send multiple files from multiple directories.

ftp -i -n <<EOF
user username password
cd /
lcd ~/Documents/web101
mput *.htm
cd /blog
lcd ~/Documents/web101/blog
mput *.htm
cd /moreblog
lcd ~/Documents/web101/moreblog
mput *.htm

Sunday 7 August 2005

Prepare to Travel

Running around making sure no last minute problems would occur at home at the Whitsunday Terraces before we left. Plus struggling to get our bags under 11 kg, while not leaving out anything we needed while on holidays. The two concepts can not be reconciled.

Monday 8 August 2005

Day 0 Monday 8 August 2005 Dreamtime by Air Tour 2005

We had to get to Sydney for the start of a Dreamtime by Air tour of Outback Australia and Aboriginal sites.

We had bacon and eggs for breakfast, partly to use up food, and partly to sustain us until a late lunch. Given the vast number of bacon and egg breakfasts awaiting us in country pubs around Australia, that was a really bad idea!

Last minute panic about getting the soft sided luggage under the 11 kilogram limit, while still being able to take sufficient cameras, batteries and clothes. I couldn't spare the 1.6 kg extra weight to take a video camera. I took too many clothes, as it happened, as washing facilities were slightly more available than I expected.

We had phone booked a shared taxi on Sunday, to get the early booking $15 price. It collected us at 10 a.m. for the drive to the airport.

Fly from Whitsunday Coast airport near Proserpine (-20 24S 148 34E) to Brisbane on Virgin Blue. Changed planes in Brisbane. We had 90 minutes in Brisbane, so we were able to get a late lunch. Then on to Sydney, again on a Virgin Blue 727-400. We wouldn't travel on a plane as large again until our return flight.

Laziness ensured we had to take a taxi the whole way to Bankstown, which cost a heap in traffic. Taking a train would involve at least one change, probably with a long walk at Central, plus a taxi. Without wheeled bags, we probably can't easily manage to drag the luggage that sort of distance with possible steps at stations.

As in 2003, we stayed at the Banksia motel in Bass Hill, walking distance to the shopping centre on the Hume Highway, and close to Bankstown airport. This is close in a relative sense, since most taxis seem to get lost in the area. In the morning we need to get to the general aviation area where Airtex have their rooms. This is across the airport from the obvious entrance the taxi drivers seem keen to find.

We went for a walk to the Woolworths complex down the Hume Highway. Found breakfast cereal (and plastic plates), plus a bottle of Clancy's red for an irresistible $10. We indulged in a pizza from the place next door to the motel for dinner, and it went down well with the wine.

The motel folks knocked on the door as we were finishing dinner, to tell us another member of the tour group had arrived. Shan Bauer from Brisbane. She hadn't been on a trip with David previously, so we assured her she would enjoy it. We also gave her the remains of our bottle of wine, thus protecting us from ourselves. We will share the 5:45 taxi ride to Bankstown in the morning.

Book read today. Skyhook, by John J Nance, Pan, 2003, 599pp, A$19.95 ISBN 0330412477 No one killed, and the government never conspired to do anything nasty. Well, hardly ever.

Tuesday 9 August 2005

Day 1 Tuesday 9 August 2005. Dreamtime by Air tour

Locations. Bankstown (S33 55.46 E150 59.30) -> Dubbo (S32 13.0 E148 34.5) -> Burke (S30 02.3 E145 57.1) -> Thargomindah (S27 59.2 E143 48.7) -> Birdsville (S25 53.8 E 139 20.9)

We needed to be at Bankstown airport, ready to leave on the Dreamtime by Air tour at 6:15 a.m. I had to set an early alarm, 5 a.m.. Almost certainly too early to get a decent breakfast at the motel. Ouch! However we had weetbix, as we had bought some (plus plastic bowls) at Woolworths the previous evening.

The taxi arrived a little early, and collected us and Shan, who we had met briefly the previous evening. The taxi driver failed to listen to Jean or view the map David had provided. So we once again went to the wrong area of Bankstown airport. It took the driver a fair while to agree he had it wrong. We were about the second to arrive, and all the passengers were there by the scheduled time of 6:15, so we were able to talk among ourselves. Alas, the Airtex door wasn't opened until somewhat later, and our tour organiser David Marks didn't arrive until even later. Mind you, we expected David to be late for most things, unless they were important.

The passengers on this trip:

David Marks (Dreamtime by Air tour leader)

Bill (R.W.) Lacey, Bilgola Plateau NSW
Shan Bauer, Fortitude Valley Qld
Jean Weber and Eric Lindsay, Airlie Beach Qld
Leigh and Lindsay Etherden, Chatswood NSW
Marilyn Sainty and Peter Black, Auckland NZ
Tim  Tour Pilot from Airtex Aviation.

David produced a clip on name badge for each of us. I still think a using custom name and luggage tags might possibly be helpful, at least on some tours. Nothing fancy, just David's Australia and aircraft image from the Dreamtime by Air web site, printed by inkjet on business card stock.

Fly from Sydney Bankstown airport (-33 55S 150 59E) north west in a twin engine 10 seater Piper Chieftan plane, with some refuelling stops, headed for the Birdsville Pub.

At Dubbo around 8. As well as galahs, we saw a couple of foxes on the airport grounds as we were landing. David produced plastic cups and two bottles of champagne, plus some cheese and biscuits. So we celebrated the start of the trip, to the bemusement of a handful of other passengers in the terminal. I even managed to buy a copy of The Australian at the kiosk. I knew I wouldn't get another chance.

We had a 20 knot headwind most of the way, and were behind schedule by Bourke if not before. At each stop the airport facilities got smaller, and fewer, and more and more isolated.

The terminal at Burke was named after pioneering aviatrix Nancy Bird in 1995. She took flying lessons from Charles Kingsford Smith (the terminal at Sydney is named after him) at the age of seventeen. Smith was always short of cash, so he didn't turn down a paying customer, although he did not approve of women flying. She gained commercial licence No 494 aged nineteen, becoming the first woman commercial pilot in Australia, and the youngest in the world at the time. She flew for the Far West Children's Health Scheme, based in Burke, and later did similar work from Cunnamulla in Western Queensland. She was Commandant of the Women's Air Training Corp during WWII. There is an article by Karen McGhee celebrating Nancy Bird Walton's 90th year in the Oct-Dec 2005 issue of Australian Geographical, complete with many photos from the Mitchell Library collection collection. When she married Charles Walton the minister was John Flynn, famous in inland Australia as founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Nancy Bird has written two books on her aviation career, and has been awarded an OBE (1966) and an AO (1990) for her contributions to aviation.

At Thargaminda we were able to photograph the refuelling, as the area was deserted except for the bowser attendant. We got away a little before 1 p.m. Had a picnic lunch on the plane, from the overloaded hamper David brought along. It was to be the first of many overloaded hampers.

Our last flight of the day was to Birdsville (pop 100, 25.54 S 139.21 E) off the Diamantina Development Rd, in the Queensland channel country, 12 kilometres from the South Australian border. This is the starting point for the infamous Birdsville Track south west into South Australia. Birdsville was once a customs town, collecting state fees before Federation in 1901.

I was really hoping we would get to park the plane outside the Birdsville pub, built in 1884, and we did manage that. See Birdsville pub in Quicktime virtual reality. Carrying a bag from the plane to the room is no problem when one is across the street from the other. The Birdsville pub is something you need to experience for yourself. There were some strange vehicles at the pub, including one with a miniature model of the pub on top.

We were a little late in, but still in time to head off on our tour to see Big Red. Well, if we could find the guide, whose vehicle is parked outside the pub.

Aboriginal guide Jim took us to see some parts of the Simpson Desert on the road to Big Red. The colours of the pebbled landscape change in a wonderful manner according to the direction of the light. The pebbles are wind smoothed and polished by the dust. Fascinating to see these old sand worn rocks everywhere.

Jim's 6WD tour vehicle breaks down, repeatedly. Marine engineer Bill assists in checking for what the problem is. He is suspicious of air getting into the fuel lines, but Jim assures us the vehicle just returned from being maintained. Bill is also suspicious of the amount of fuel in the tank. The fuel gauge doesn't work. However with a second fuel tank, we can change to that. Jim assures us we have plenty of fuel. You folks can see where this is headed, can't you?

A vehicle coming the other way stops. Turns out it is the mechanic. He assures us the vehicle is just fine, but says if we don't get back, he will come and check on us. You can see where this is going also, can't you?

Big Red is an 80 metre high sand dune 32 kilometres west, on the road to Poeppel Corner. Poeppel Corner (-25 59S 138 00E) is where Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory join. Big Red is merely the largest of over a thousand sand dunes that stretch across the Simpson desert. Big Red is a major reason we never tried to use our Hino 4WD truck based motor home on this route. Jim assures us his vehicle can eat Big Red. Jim is right. We climb it with ease.

Then Jim says there is a much better view on a track down from the easy major crossing point. We bump along a track for a few kilometres, looking at the birds in the scraggly desert scrub. Jim does find a better spot for looking at Big Red. This one is much steeper, and even a run at it doesn't take us to the top. A bunch of us masochists decide to walk up Big Red. Jim takes off and disappears up to the top of Big Red. We wander around the top for a while, looking at the giant dune, and seeing dunes stretching out to the horizon.

Eventually we walk back to Jim's 6WD tour vehicle, right on the top of Big Red. Stranded on the top of the dune in fact.

Seems neither tank had enough fuel. Jim and Bill look at the engine, and tap the fuel tanks. Doesn't look good. We sat around on the top of Big Red, and climbed the dune a couple of times, and took photos. We try phoning Birdsville. It is out of reach of any of our mobile phones. Even the CDMA can't reach Birdsville. Actually, I'm not sure Birdsville is large enough to have mobile phone access. Jim has a HF transceiver in the 6WD. It has a broken antenna. It doesn't seem to work either.

Eventually some other visitors to the dune gave our tour leader David a lift back to Birdsville.

We watched a convoy of vehicles come in the track from across the desert. One after another they tried to climb the far side of the dune and failed. They eventually headed off for the lower crossing a few kilometres away.

It got to dusk, and the desert was cooling. Artistic photos of sand dunes were getting a bit tired by then.

Eventually two vehicles bumped their way towards us. Gallant David had organised a comfortable rescue vehicle for us, and a mechanic and rescue vehicle (and fuel) for Jim and the 6WD.

The trip back seemed to take a whole heap longer than the trip out, now we were no longer stopping to inspect areas of desert nor dry fuel tanks. That was our first little adventure over.

So we missed seeing the Birdsville racecourse, which is famous around Australia. Up to 5,000 visitors swarm here in September each year for the Birdsville races. We had seen it previously.

We were in time for dinner (roast lamb and vegs for me, and a giant mud cake), which was the important thing. We had an overnight at the Birdsville Pub. (07) 4656 3244 (-25 53S 139 21E)

We collapsed around 9:30. Early start in the morning.

Wednesday 10 August 2005

Day 2 Wednesday 10 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Locations. Birdsville (S25 53.8 E 139 20.9) -> Dalhousie Springs (S26 26.10 E135 31.0) -> Mt Dare (S26 03.70 E135 14.8) -> Ayres Rock (scenic) (S25 11.2 E130 58.5) -> Yalara -> Alice Springs (S23 48.4 E133 54.1)

After a bacon and egg breakfast at the Birdsville Pub, we loaded the luggage in the plane at 8 a.m. There were about three planes lined up. We left straight after the Royal Flying Doctor Service plane.

The desert scenery was facinating, with great views of shadows of the elaborate dune system in the early morning sun as we crossed the Simpson Desert. We saw the dry salt flats of Lake Thomas midway to Dalhousie Thermal Pools. We could see the track across the dunes again as we approached Dalhousie. Flying sure beats using a 4WD.

We flew from Birdsville for 1:20 to Witjira National Park (-26 36S 135 58E) in the western edge of the Simpson Desert in the far north of South Australia. We changed to Central Standard Time here, 30 minutes earlier than EST (I need to reset the time on my photos).

We landed next to the Dalhousie Thermal Pools where we can take a swim in the artesian mound springs, in the valley of the 70 or so springs. We landed about 400 metres from the pools, at an even more primitive air strip. Facilities seemed to consist of an upturned and broken hand cart, a white pained tyre, and a few aircraft position cones to indicate the parking area.

The Dalhousie Thermal Springs area was formerly a secret of the Southern Aranda and Wongknurru Aboriginal people. The Park is part of the lands associated with the Lower Southern Arrernte, Wangkangurru, Arabunna and Luritja people who in 1989 formed the Irrwanyere Aboriginal Corporation which manages the Park jointly with the Department for Environment and Heritage. Witjira National Park, established in 1985 on land comprising the former Mount Dare pastoral lease, covers 7,770 square kilometres of gibber, sand dunes, stony tablelands, floodplain country, flat-topped hills, numerous mound springs and breakaway country. This huge desert park begins 120 kilometres north of Oodnadatta. The mound springs, part of the Great Artesian Basin, bring life to the desert. In Witjira, vegetation consists of red mulga and gidgee trees around the dry riverbeds, while around the springs, melaleucas and some palms grow.

Dalhousie Springs (-26 27S 135 31E) is one of the best-known of the mound springs and the largest in Australia. There were a fair number of campers in the area, most settled in for a day or so by the appearance of their tent or camper van sites. There is a new ablution and toilet block, rather elaborate for such a remote area. Well done.

After we departed from Dalhousie Pools, we had a ten minute hop to Mt Dare where we refueled. There are a few scattered houses at Mt Dare homestead, plus a small pub. I got Jean a stubby cooler at the pub. The refuelling took longer than expected, because our pilot Tim needed to check the grass taxiway to the fuel drum following rain in the area, so we were late taxing the full length. The fuel drum came out in a small front end loader, which had to move to each wing tank. The pump is manual, with a rotating handle.

The flight on towards Uluru takes a few hours. We had good views of the main road on the way. We also saw another mesa top mountain, whose name I can't recall.

After midday, we fly past Uluru (sometimes called Ayers Rock) (25 20S 131 01E) in the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru's coarse sandstone includes grains of pink felspar. It rises steeply on all sides to a height of about 340 metres (1,114 feet) above the desert plain, its summit 867 metres (2,845 Feet) above sea level. An isolated rock-mass, it measures nine kilometres (5.6 miles) around its base.

Aborigines call the tourists that climb their sacred monolith Minga, which means annoying little ants. It is very apt when you see tourists climbing the rock against the advice and wishes of the locals.

We also fly by the Olga Mountains (-25 18S 130 44E). Kata Tjuta, about 30 kilometres west of Uluru, consists of a series of huge, rounded rocky domes. The highest, Mt Olga, reaches 1069 metres above sea level and about 600 metres above the desert floor. Separated by narrow gorges, these spectacular domed rock-masses cover an area of about eight kilometres by five kilometres. The rock layers here only dip at angles of 10-18 degrees to the southwest, but are enormous. Their thickness is six kilometres (3.75 miles), and they extend under the desert sands to other outcrops for over 15 kilometres (9.5 miles) to the northeast and for more than 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the north-west.

We land at Connellan Airport near Yulara village, (pop 3000) (-25 14S 130 59E), 20 kilometres from Uluru. Yalara is a major purpose built town with visitors centre and many tourist facilities. The name is said to mean the howling of the dingos.

Fine collection of Uluru and Olgas photos here.

The original plan was to take a tour with a representative of the Anangu people, traditional owners of Uluru, with a talk on bush foods and medicines in Pintajanjanjarra (with translation). Some of the Anangu speak Yankunytjatjara and others speak Pitjantjatjara as first languages. They teach their language to their children.

Different ecotour taken, with a guide who grew up in Arnhemland. He gave us an excellent tour and talk, showing us the permanent waterholes around the rock. The walking paths seemed set up to cope with large numbers of visitors. There were some nicely elaborate log seats along some paths. By then my back was very painful, and I really appreciated every chance to sit down. The erosion of the rock is very obvious, however the lighter soil is blown away faster than the rock erodes, thus exposing more of it. We also circled the rock by road, seeing it from all angles.

After takeoff at 4:30 we flew closer to the Olgas and Uluru, getting excellent late afternoon vies of them.

Scenic flight 480 kilometres north east across the Amadeus Basin desert, and over the Western MacDonell ranges to Alice Springs (-23 48S 133 54E).

Dinner and overnight at All Seasons Oasis, Gap Road, Alice Springs. (08) 8952 1444 (-23 42S 133 52E)

When we arrived at the hotel their manager rushed to meet us, even before we left the bus. This was not good. Fire in the kitchen just before we arrived, but they had everything organised for us. We were rushed off to the nearby Novatel, which was an excellent hotel near the casino.

By this time I was in serious pain from a pinched nerve in my neck. I hid in the room, and thought I would need to drop out of the tour and seek medical aid. Jean returned to the room with 12.5mg codeine phosphate tablets from Bill and instructions to take them.

A bit later I lurched painfully up to the restaurant, where Peter provided a muscle relaxant tablet. Marilyn massaged my neck and showed me some exercises she belived would help. Shan offered sleeping tablets, and she and David said my problem was wry neck. Naturally I thought David was saying rye neck, and he was implying I had bottle fatigue. David provided two specific exercises for the problem. David also convinced the hotel to provide me with an improvised hot pack for my neck. I'm not sure the symptoms exactly matched my condition, but the various treatments did seem to help.

While I couldn't eat much dinner, I did feel much better and managed to sleep through until after 3 a.m.

Thursday 11 August 2005

Day 3 Thursday 11 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Alice Springs (S23 48.4 E133 54.1) -> Yuendumu (S22 15.2 E131 46.9) -> Balgo Hill (S20 08.90 E127 58.43) -> Fitzroy Crossing (S18 10.9 E125 33.5)

After breakfast we had a brief tour of Alice Springs town area by bus. I still wasn't feeling very well, and didn't want to ride the bus, so don't expect these notes to make sense. We did see the original Alice Spring, which naturally was a dry creek bed. We inspected the old Post and Telegraph station, with its blacksmith shop. I can't imagine working with a forge in summer conditions.

Next was a morning vehicle tour of Standlee Chasm gorge in the Western MacDonnell Ranges. This was the rugged and dry country I associate with the interior. The gorge was a fairly easy walk. We did see some wallabies hanging around the parking area.

Sweeping east-west for over 400km, the MacDonnell Ranges form a barrier across the vast central Australian Plain. They mostly consist of parallel series of long, steep-sided ridges that rise 100m to 600m above the valley floors. Although arid, the ranges are home to a huge variety of native plants, including many tall trees, such as the majestic ghost gums.

Back in Alice Springs, we saw some buildings had murals, including one of the famous Ghan train, and the Afghan camel drivers from whom it got its name. The Ghan itself was passing, so our driver ensured we had a chance to see it go through.

Next we visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia to view a film and tour of their facilities. They cover a 600km radius for health care, and seem universally well regarded in country areas.

We were back at the Alice Springs airport slightly after midday to continue our flight. Bit of a delay as the lunch the hotel was organising for us disappeared. The assistant manager who brought it to the airport couldn't find us straight away, as he had never been to the general aviation area a short distance away from the regular terminal.

We landed at Yuendumu (S22 15.2 E131 46.9), a remote settlement where we visited the art community in the town, only a short walk away along the dusty orange dirt beside the road. While the artists were away for an important award ceremony, we were able to check the many paintings on display. Looking at paintings took somewhat longer than scheduled, but this was expected. I didn't see anything to my taste. Jean had stayed back at the plane, resting flat on her back under the shadow of its wing, rather than walk into town.

I did see a small fork lift head out of town, with a drum of av gas sitting on it. That was our refuelling operation here.

We were somewhat late in getting away from Yuendumu, by which time a couple of other light planes had landed, including the mail plane. As with most areas, facilities were exceedingly limited. The single loo didn't have door hinges, but the door was swinging on a chain. It was different.

Fly to Balgo (-20 08S 127 59E) aboriginal community of the Wirrimanu aboriginal corporation of Kukatja and Jaru people in the Tanami desert, at the transition to the Great Sandy Desert. Author James Cowan was once Warlayirti Artists art centre coordinator there. There are many Aboriginal artists hailing from this area. Description of Balgo art communityand also here.

Alas, this was to be a fuel stop only, as the Warlayirti Artists art centre was closed with the artists all off for an award ceremony. However we did walk through the red dust into the town and view the extensive paintings and murals on the outside walls. The art centre was larger and more elaborate than I expected.

A bunch of children stopped to talk with some of us soon after we finished looking at the art centre. We noticed a patrol vehicle cruised by, almost certainly checking out the visitors were harmless.

Flew on to stay at the Crossing Inn, Fitzroy Crossing WA (08) 9191 5080 (-18 10S 125 35E)

The booked vehicle didn't meet us at the airport as the sun set, and it took a second phone call before a hapless maintenance worker from a different resort drove out to collect us. He said it was only the second time he had been able to get away since starting, so the Crossing Inn was new to him also. I think we did get asked why didn't you phone when you landed? No phones at the airstrip is a partial answer. It did have a couple of hangers however, which was a great leap forward from some air strips.

The old Crossing Inn is the town's most famous building. Despite it's distance from the banks of the river, it has still suffered numerous floods. In the wet the river has been known to rise over 10 metres and to spread out from its banks for a distance of up to 15 km. The Crossing Inn isn't a fine resort style place, but it has a lot of character.

The Crossing Inn was originally built by Joseph Blythe in the 1890s as a store and pub for passing stockmen, prospectors and bullock team drivers.

Fitzroy Crossing is situated on the sealed Great Northern Highway 391 kilometres east of Broome, and 641 kilometres west of Kununurra. We had stayed in the town in 2004, but at a different motel.

We headed for the bar to get a cool beer. Run into a funny character who seemed to be trying to provoke some sort of reaction. I'm not sure where he was coming from, but we didn't really seem to be on the same wavelength. David later encountered the same person, and considered him crazy. The bar area looked a little rough, but seemed otherwise calm enough. Wine list was limited, although perfectly acceptable to me (I forget what I bought), but David somehow managed to get some great wines from the owner.

The Crossing Inn had a chef, and some new restaurant staff. They put on a splendid meal for such a remote area. Some of us sat around the restaurant afterwards with Peter talking about all manner of crazy stuff. Theories of Everything, and quantum foam. It was like being back at University. I'm not sure what David thought of all that. Didn't really seem to fit an outback tour.

Friday 12 August 2005

Day 4 Friday 12 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Fitzroy Crossing (S18 10.9 E125 33.5) -> Derby (S17 22.2 E123 39.6)

After a fine breakfast we wandered around the Crossing Inn looking at the boab trees in the ground, and then walked down to the river. We also took some photos of the Crossing Inn now it was light, as there are murals and aboriginal paintings by local school children on most of the walls.

Vehicle tour in a Fitzroy Lodge vehicle led by Graeme and trainee Kate around Fitzroy Crossing (-18 10S 125 35E). Graeme turned up at 8 a.m., as we were having breakfast, only to find we expected him around 9 a.m. No missed schedules while he was driving.

We visited the old graveyard, where the graves are gradually tumbling into the river as the banks are washed away. The indentations in the group in one of my photographs are where coffins were removed.

Located 110 metres above sea level, Fitzroy Crossing is a suitable place to cross the huge Fitzroy River which, during the wet season, was capable of stranding travellers for weeks. Once a decent bridge was built the town's raison d'etre mostly vanished. It is now a small, predominantly Aboriginal settlement with room for visitors to the beautiful Geikie Gorge which lies 15 km to the north of the town.

The Fitzroy River was first explored and named after Captain Robert Fitzroy (a former commander of the HMS Beagle) by Captain Stokes in 1838. However until Alexander Forrest travelled through the area in 1879 its upper reaches were not visited by Europeans. Forrest's reports on the pastoral potential of the area resulted in Solomon Emanuel (a grazier and banker from Goulburn, NSW) founding the Gogo station 20 km downstream from the present day site of Fitzroy Crossing.

Fitzroy Crossing was the base for the search for the famous Aboriginal outlaw Pigeon (Jandamara) and his gang at the end of the last century. The founder of the Crossing Inn played a major role in the last scene of Pigeon's life.

When in flood the Fitzroy River is an awesome sight and one of the largest rivers in the world. In 1935, the Fitzroy got its first bridge - a low-level concrete structure, which was built up into a wider structure in 1958. This bridge could be closed for months at a time during the wet weather and intrepid travellers were then treated to the experience of a flying fox, which operated about 200 metres south of the crossing.

When a new bridge was erected in 1974, the focus of the town grew away from its original site. The current townsite of Fitzroy Crossing is one of the fastest growing in the Kimberley, due to Aboriginal resettlement, mining and tourism.

David prevailed upon the local Wangki Yupurnanupurru radio station at Fitzroy Crossing to give us a tour, as a sort of spontaneous addition to the tour. It was interesting to note the announcer giving the time as an approximation, rather than declare it exactly. I was amused to see that their production computers were the lamp style Macintosh iMac.

It turned out we also needed to visit the shire office (also tourist bureau and library) to collect our trip tickets for Geikie Gorge.

We had an early BBQ lunch prepared by chef Andrew at the Crossing Inn.

To Geikie Gorge National Park, 18 km north east of the town, for a boat cruise along this spectacular cliffside waterway. It was named after Sir Archibald Geikie (a noted British geologist) by Edward Hardman who travelled through the Kimberley region in 1883. Many caves in the gorge have wonderful examples of ancient Aboriginal art.

The Geikie Gorge National Park (-18 02S 125 45E), situated 16km from Fitzroy Crossing, covers an area of 3,136ha. This exquisite gorge has been formed by the Fitzroy River, which over the years has sliced through an ancient coral based limestone barrier reef it is 14km long and approximately 30m high. Flood action reaching a height of 16m above the normal level has left the cliffs white and fossil deposits are visible.

You can see the flood signs reaching to the ceiling in this photo of the structure in the park. The different colours on the rocks of the gorge also show just how high the water reaches during the floods. We had a good view of the overhangs and worn nature of the rock, honeycombed with holes. Naturally there were a number of small crocodiles sunning themselves along the banks. There were darters, drying their wings in the sun. Saw some eagles, plus their nests.

Our previous visit in 2004 had not included landing during the cruise. Also, we had taken an early morning tour, so this time the light was at an entirely different angle and revealed different aspects of the gorge.

Our guide Bill Aiken of Darngku Heritage Cruises gave a very impressive talk and role play on native customs as we had billy tea. It was very different to the usual tourist talk, and some of the party thought it too aggressive as an approach. I thought it gave a good introduction to how customs were different between different people.

We flew on to Derby (-17 22S 123 39E) on King Sound on the north west coast in the afternoon. Derby was officially named a townsite in 1883 (and unlike Broome which remained vacant) was occupied by a Government Resident and a police detachment. Several station existed by this time and Yeeda's wool, awaiting shipment, was swept away by a tidal wave resulting from the Krakatoa volcanic explosion in Indonesia.

Derby site

Our bus driver Kylie had expected us somewhat earlier (she had arrived a half hour before we were scheduled, we had arrived a half hour late). Looked at wildlife including black cockatoos along the road as we headed into town from the airport.

Naturally we stopped at the prison boab tree at the Derby Commonage. This was used as a rest point for police and Aboriginal prisoners en route to Derby. As well as a sign explaining the tree, and pointing to the fence surrounding it to protect it, the sign also mentions that the tree is inhabited by snakes. Bit of a two way bet to discourage too close an inspection. It is a pretty impressive tree.

I thought we had a stop at Woolworths so we could stock up on wine and beer for our next few evenings. Having had good luck with them previously in West Australia, I just got a few cleanskins, so I was back at the bus in minutes.

We did a little more driving around along the two major streets.

We headed out to the very popular jetty for beer at sunset, where we were promised a champagne view of the 12 metre tides. It makes a great view, and a great spot to drink champagne. On our previous visit in 2004, we had managed to get views at both high and low tide, by visiting morning and evening. What we hadn't seen previously was the whaft building lit so that it almost matched the sunset as we left.

But how come the tides are so VERY big at King Sound near Derby? Oceanographers call these tides "macro" tides, rather than king tides. Macro tides are much larger than the normal high tides caused by the action of the moon, because they are also influenced by the shape of the local coast. King Sound, where Derby is situated, is an extension of the wide, shallow north-west continental shelf. This has a lot to do with why this area gets such huge tides.

Overnight at King Sound Resort in Derby. (08) 9193 1044 (-17 18S 123 37E) We had stayed at the same hotel in 2004, and it is the most comfortable in town. Nice looking swimming pool in the centre. Plus the buffet is good, at least for the sorts of things I like eating. Service seemed to us a little unsteady each time, but it must be hard to keep staff.

The Derby region was first explored in 1688 by William Dampier. This is a rewriting of history. Dampier was one of the crew of the Cygnet which sailed around the King Sound area for three months in 1688. The Cygnet was actually under the command of Captain Read but it was Dampier who, upon his return to England, published A New Voyage Round the World and thus was incorrectly credited as leading the expedition which anchored in Cygnet Bay and sailed around King Sound.

After Dampier came Phillip Parker King who, from 1818 to 1822, explored the coasts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory including King Sound (which is named after him) upon which the port of Derby is located. King's explorations generated no interest in the region.

Saturday 13 August 2005

Day 5 Saturday 13 August - Dreamtime by Air tour

Derby (S17 22.2 E123 39.6) -> Broome (S17 57.0 E122 13.7) -> Cape Leveque (S16 24.0 E122 55.0) -> overfly Cockatoo Island (S16 05 E123 37) -> aerial view Talbot Bay -> Beverley Springs (Charnley River Station) (S16 44.0 E125 26.0)

Off to a buffet breakfast at around 6:30, beating the rush that we figured would happen at the specified time. We were able to complete our preparation for departure in a more leisurely fashion and board the bus for the airport at 7:15. When we drove from Derby to Broome last year, it took us until well after midday to reach it.

Leaving Derby, we flew to the old pearling centre of Broome (-17 57S 122 14E) in the far north of Western Australia for a vehicle tour, landing before 8 a.m. The airport is just about in the middle of town, very close to the old town centre. When commercial jets take off you are really aware how close it is. Our pilot Tim took us in on a course that gave us good views of the ocean, the port facility, and the famous Cable Beach. Alas, I was on the wrong side of the plane for good photographs.

Our bus tour of Broome was with guide Alan on the Broome Day Tours bus. We got a good look around the town, passing the Saturday town markets in the Court House grounds. Naturally we looked carefully at the Saturday Town Beach markets as we passed. These were much like at home at Airlie Beach. Perhaps a higher proportion of fortune tellers and counter culture crap, but I didn't see any of the fresh fruit and vegetable sellers that are our major reason for attending the local markets. There were a lot more prepared food stalls. Thai, Indonesian, bratwurst, and two home made ice cream stalls. The old Court House is a splendid building, dating back to much earlier times.

We stopped at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, which has an astonishing interior. The exterior is surrounded with tropical plants and trees, but it is the interior that fascinates. I don't think I've ever seen a mother of pearl altar before. The paintings in the church looked like a mixture of traditional Christian religious art, and Aboriginal influence. Fascinating appearance. It is not a tourist place, but a genuine working church. We missed this church on our previous visit to Broome.

We continued through Broome out towards Gantheaume Point, ending along a dirt road from which branched tracks to the beach. After what seemed like a few minutes of bumping along, we reached the lighthouse, and a parking area. There was an osprey sitting on the roof of one of the houses out there.

We walked down the Lurujarri Heritage Trail tourist path past the lighthouse, pointing out an osprey had a nest on the platform below the lighthouse lens. At the end of the path was a replica of dinosaur footprint exposed at low tide at Gantheaume Point.

Nearby is Anastasia's Pool, a rock pool made by a lighthouse keeper for his arthritic wife. It was entirely hand cut, and must have been a massive amount of work.

As well as the dinosaur print, there are some very pretty rock formations, some of which show the extent of the tidal variation (over 8 metres) in this area.

There were also excellent views up Cable Beach. At that time of day the sun was causing bright reflections from the sea, so it was hard to photograph.

As we knew of an osprey nest a level below the light in the open steel frame lighthouse, we watched carefully on our return walk. A couple of young birds were wandering about the nest, but mostly staying hidden. One of the times I really would have liked better than a three times optical zoom.

We encountered smoke and fire as we continued along the road to Cable Beach. The black kites kept swooping through the flames, obviously finding insects forced out of the grass or trees by the fire. I've never seen a bird use fire as a hunting aid previously.

This was near the Turf Club. Broome has horse races most weekends during the dry season, so having a better road for access seems a nice addition to their tourist facilities. This week was actually part of their major race season, perhaps a reason there was no accommodation anywhere in town.

We stopped at the cattle yards, and looked at the placid Brahman cross stock. What really got my attention however was the number of white corellas sitting on the fences and nearby trees, obviously expecting lots of food on the ground.

Next was a visit to the port facility and the beaches leading to it.

We also visited what is probably the highest point in Broome, the golf club. This had an extensive and beautiful looking green below the clubhouse.

We drove off via Town Beach and the seashore. There we could easily see another osprey, with a nest on top of a purpose built steel tower. The electricity authority built the towers in an attempt to encourage the ospreys away from electric wiring. Despite being right next to parking lots and a main road, the ospreys seem to thrive.

We had a brief Chinatown visit, and a chance to get some wine for the next few days. Most of the party went to pearl places and tourist cafes. Since we were familiar with the town we jumped out of the bus at the liquor stop (where a few people were collecting beer) and rejoined the bus after it was parked elsewhere. We were after a weekend newspaper, Kimberley calendars never seen again since our previous visit, and some food.

I must admit we were never short of food from anything that David organised, however both Jean and I often need to eat a small amount of food at a regular time, in preference to a splendid meal two hours later when we get into the air.

Around midday we continued to Cable Beach, originally called Cosy Corner . David intended that we swim at Cable Beach (-17 55S 122 12E), but got very few takers for an actual swim. I think we ended up with only three of us going in the water. One of Western Australia's most famous beaches, Cable Beach in Broome attracts visitors from all over the world each year. Cable Beach stretches for 22 kilometres, and was named after the underwater cable which linked Broome to Java.

We flew off just before two, getting a great view of the coast most of the way north. As we got further away from Broome we saw smoke from bushfires all over the place. Most of the coast seems to have extensive sandy beaches.

Our first destination was Cape Leveque on the Buccaneer Archipelago, where we were able to visit the lighthouse, the beach and the headland. There is an expensive and remote tourist facility here.

We saw whales a long way offshore, broaching and blowing. However they were very distant from the shore, so the visibility was limited. Some people also sighted whales from the air when we finally left.

This dirt strip was a fuel stop. Fuel not available, despite both prior arrangements and confirmation of arrival by the supplier. The person on duty at the resort had a bad attitude. Basically that it was our problem. Go away. Several other light planes eventually touched down also.

We finally got fuel after the pilot Tim arranged to borrow some from another aircraft outfit. After pumping the fuel with our slow pump (Tim is not impressed with pump), we went and closely inspected the entire fuel dump. Our fuel drum was there, despite the denials by staff. We have the photos to prove it. We were not impressed by the staff attitude nor their records at Cape Leveque. Tim added checking the fuel dump to his list of precautions when flying in isolated areas. We never had a fuel delivery problem in the rest of the trip.

When we finally got away from Cape Leveque we flew over Yampi Sound, overflew Cockatoo Island, and had an aerial view of Talbot Bay. You could clearly see the mining camps and the way the island escarpment had been mined into terraces.

The big event was the horizontal waterfall, caused by 40 foot tides through a narrow opening in an island escarpment. The water piles up higher on one side than on the other, and rushes through the narrow gap. We were running late, so the tide was almost full, leaving it less spectacular than at some times. Plus our aircraft is somewhat faster than the usual aerial tours, so we zip past fairly quickly. We went around several times, so we all got a pretty good look at the horizontal waterfall.

The coastal scenery later on looked forbidding. Mangroves and rough rock.

Overnight at Charnley River (formerly Beverley Springs) cattle station (-16 42S 125 27E aprox) inland in the Kimberley area.

The Kimberley area consists of low, rugged hill blocks cut by gorges, covering about 420,000 km sq (162,000 sq miles) in the far north of Western Australia. Monsoon rains fall from November to April, turning the Fitzroy and Ord River into ranging torrents. The rains are followed by dry, hot winter months. Kimberley is the traditional home of several thousand Aborigines.

When we landed at the dirt strip at Charnley River Station, we found a couple of beer cans burst when pulled out of the storage compartments. I guess all that flying around, plus the long hot day in the sun at Cape Leveque had weakened them.

Harry collected us at the air field, and we piled in the Land Rover. As someone was getting out of the Land Rover to open yet another cattle gate, one more beer can sprang a leak. Harry leapt to the rescue, popping the top and draining it before the contents could escape! Well done, as the beer didn't go to waste like the airfield pair.

Secret mens drinking business around the fire before dinner. Several people were impressed by the 3 watt Lumiled miniature flashlight I was using on this trip. It proved very good on dark nights on these weight restricted trips.

Barbara did wonderful beef potlatch and Kevin helped. Being a cattle property, beef featured heavily at all meals. When it tastes that good, I don't mind one bit.

I stayed around the kitchen area for a while talking to Kevin and Barbara.

Around campfire late for some of us, just talking.

Sunday 14 August 2005

Day 6 Sunday 14 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Beverley Springs (Charnley River Station) (S16 44.0 E125 26.0)

Spending a day at Charnley River (formerly Beverley Springs), working cattle station, 2000 feet above sea level, gateway to the Walcott Inlet. There are two rondaval tent cabins with ensuites, only a few minutes from the homestead. The homestead had space for a half dozen or so people. There is also space for tents, which is fine in that climate at that time of year. It has breakfasts, and three course dinners. As we were staying two nights we also got lunch and morning and afternoon tea. It is BYO alcohol.

The Charnley is one of the most spectacular but least accessible rivers in the Kimberley. The lower section flows through about 30 km of continuous gorge. There is a wealth of Aboriginal art in a variety of styles showing that this has been a special place for thousands of years. Great Charnley River photos here.

14 km to Dillilinga Gorge (-16 44S 125 22E), for swimming and fishing. I think this may be the area on maps as Dillie Gorge. We had a couple of Land Rovers, with Harry driving one.

At the edge of the gorge were some impressive old boab trees, and a sign saying Dillie Gorge. The walking track was moderately steep, but no real problem. There were several spots with a good view of the water in this small but attractive gorge.

For some reason none of us attempted to use the plastic canoe that was there, although Peter later went swimming. New Zealanders are tough. I thought the water at Cable Beach was cold enough.

We dropped our packs and water supplies in the shade of an overhang, where some of us rested out of the sun.

Further along the stream, we found some worn cave drawings that you could reach fairly easily. Later David went further on and spotted a large drawing of a figure across the stream.

We had been relaxing in the shade for some time when Marilyn suddenly leapt up yelling snake. A very large and healthy looking King Brown snake emerges from crevice near Shan and Marilyn. They depart with great haste, so much haste that I though both would leap straight off the ledge into the water. When they recovered a little they sent me back to collect their belongings. The snake in the meanwhile has gone looking for a spot with less activity.

We told the others about the snake when some of them returned, but I'm not sure they believed Marilyn and Shan. When the snake emerged slightly later 20 or so metres further along the overhang it pretty much established it was alive and awake. The dark shadow makes it hard to see in the photos.

Back to the homestead, delayed somewhat by cattle on the road, for lunch. This was another great meal. I really enjoyed Charnley River station, as it gradually gets more into the whole tourist home stay idea.

The homestead accommodation is essentially an area under the tin roof defined off into room by insect screen and cloth hangings. It is fine in that sort of climate. It is obviously used by owners or staff when tourists are not there.

After lunch we bumped off on a different track for the 24 km to Junction Hole. The ten minute walk seemed to take a half hour through sand to a swimming spot. I'm not at all sure that one is worth the effort of that much walking on sand, but I was still having back pain problems with the pinched nerve in my neck. I did like the surf board labelled Surf Rescue at Junction Hole. Several people went swimming at this pretty spot before we headed back.

We drove back past the previous station location and diverted to Old Station Waterhole, with its great reflections of the red cliff. This was a really impressive little area, with some great rock areas. The tranquil pool showed the reflections of the sunlit cliff very well in the late afternoon. That was a nice spot.

Closer to the homestead e again diverted, this time to Donkey Holes, and saw wallabies on the road in the late afternoon.

Sunset at Donkey Holes, the first such waterhole spot rather than the longer walk. I also went up the surrounds hoping for a sunset photo, however vegetation and boulders made it difficult to get a good photo. By sunset there was a lot of bird life audible near Donkey Hole.

Overnight once again at Charnley River Station. I did manage to get a few photographs of the rondaval tent that Leigh and Lindsay Etherden had. It looked very comfortable. Even had an en suite built into the solid portion.

We had the usual great dinner, featuring beef. I think we sat round a fair while talking.

Monday 15 August 2005

Day 7 Monday 15 August - Dreamtime by Air tour

Beverley Springs (Charnley River Station) (S16 44.0 E125 26.0) -> Halls Creek (S18 14.0 E127 40.2 -> overfly Bungle Bungles (S17 30.0 E128 30.0) -> overfly Lake Arglye diamond mine (S16 38.2 E128 27.1) -> Kununurra (S15 46.7 E128 42.4) -> Darwin (S12 24.88 E130 52.60)

Relaxed start from Charnley River (-16 42S 125 27E), after a 6:30 breakfast. I went with Bill and our pilot Tim to the airfield, so the next vehicle didn't need to do a double trip. The hand pump for the fuel was much quicker than the one we carried, so fuelling was done before the other vehicle arrived with the luggage and rest of the passengers.

Shan was in the co-pilot seat, looking very cheerful about that. A couple of other guest at Charnley River station arrived on their motorbike to watch us take off.

We had a fuel stop at Halls Creek (Yarliyil) in a little over an hour. Got a good aerial view of the place as we came in to land. It certainly isn't all that large. When we were in Halls Creek in 2004 we were astonished to find both CDMA and GSM phone access. There were some strange bushes planted around the tiny shelter area at the airport, plus small monoliths protecting the bushes.

We overfly the Bungle Bungles, and viewed the 209,000 hectare Bungle Bungles (Purnululu) National Park. Partly due to the heavy tourist air traffic in the area, we don't get as low as we might like, but do clearly see and overfly the characteristic beehive domes. The remote Bungle Bungle massif has been part of the World Heritage listed (2003) Purnululu National Park since 1987. Prior to that it had aboriginal cultural significance to the Kija people, but was largely unknown to those outside the area. The Bungle Bungle name is said to be a corruption, referring to the Aboriginal name for local bundle bundle grass.

The range was formed from sand and gravel deposited 360 million years ago in the Devonian period by rivers flowing from the north east. Prevailing south easterly winds helped form sand dunes, and eventually forming sandstone. Sandstone seven kilometres deep was formed over 60 million years. Uplift and mountain building raised the sandstone into a flat surface 600 metres above the present sea level. Then erosion over the past 20 million years exposed the alternating several metre wide tiger stripes we see today. The dark bands where moisture was present contain cyanobacteria (blue green algae) which help protect the sandstone from erosion. The orange bands contain iron oxide, which also forms a protective film over the soft sandstone. The orange layers apparently dried out too quickly for the cyanobacteria to grow.

The park contains a number of unique plants, including the Livistonia or Fan Palm, seen clinging to crevices within the range. I also noted many boab trees, especially along water courses.

We also overflew the massive Argyle diamond mine main pit and workings. This open-cut site is now almost exhausted, and is expected to run out in 2007. There is an experimental shaft deep under the site, as the mine tests to see whether deeper mining is justified.

The ore body is 1.6 kilometres long, 250 metres wide, and covers 80 hectares. First remove 80 millions tons of rock covering a year by blasting it out in 3000 ton chunks using anfo explosive. Excavators eat at the blasted rock in 45 ton bites, and then haul it 2.5 kilometres away to the main crusher plant in 200 ton dump trucks. From this is extracted ten million tons of the black lamproite diamond bearing ore. From all this they extract 30-35 million carets (about 5-6 tonnes) of diamonds, mostly for industrial use.

Argyle are covering the exposed and mined areas with rock, and re-vegetating the entire area.

Fly over Lake Argyle, which covers 1000 sq km. It is a bit of a pity so many interesting geological formations have disappeared under the waters of the largest constructed lake in the Southern hemisphere. Lake Argyle is so large that it is considered an inland sea, and is the eighth largest artificial lake in the world.

The Ord River dam is an impressive 335 metres long, and 98 metres high. The small 30 megawatt hydro electric power station at Lake Argyle now also supplies the Ord River irrigation area support town of Kununurra, which we were surprised to learn had a population of around 7,000 people. The population of Kununurra approximately doubles during the tourist and fruit picking season. The same hydro electric plant supplies the Argyle diamond mine, and also Wyndham, from its 220 gigawatt hour annual output. These sites all used diesel power plants until relatively recently, although the hydro electric plant was installed when the dam was built to supply the Ord Irrigation area.

We had some excellent views of the Ord River irrigation area as we flew over Kununurra and the local reservoir.

We landed at Kununurra to refuel. The coffee enthusiasts apparently managed their second good coffee there, having waited since Cable Beach.

Fly over Joseph Bonaparte Gulf on our way to Darwin. The ground seems so low and split by water ways meandering all over. Approaching Darwin we could see extensive port facilities, plus what seemed to be a power station. There were some large warships in port, including what seemed to be a helicopter carrier.

Darwin airport is shared with the RAAF (-12 25S 130 51E).

There is a 90 minute time change loss entering the Northern Territory on our way to Darwin (-12 27S 130 50E).

We were scheduled to arrive at the Holiday Inn on the Darwin Esplanade around 3 p.m, but didn't land until slightly after that, a half hour late. Our guide Patrena met us with a bus, the job having been contracted out from a different company. They had been told 2:30 arrival, seemed to have passed it on as 2:15, and the bus driver arrived at 2 p.m.

Peter was seeking to get his photos from his new Sony camera. Jean knew there was likely a camera shop at the Woolworths nearby. Petrena knew exactly where it was. The Holiday Inn business centre was broken, but they suggested trying their next door building. Although reception didn't know the facilities available, it was apparent their old Dell PCs didn't have anything to help a photographer. Peter didn't have his USB cable with him, and asked if photo places had cables. Alas, with custom cables, it isn't likely. Luckily when we reached the camera shop, a helpful older person was able to do the CD burning straight away, although he had to open a new converter package for Peter's card to do so.

Peter and I rushed back to the hotel, where our bus tour driver Petrena was collecting us at 5 p.m. for our town tour. We stopped at Woolworth's first to get drinks for the following day. I was fairly quick getting cleanskins at Woolies. Petrena suggested checking the spray paint artist from Sydney who does his (paper) works in Darwin through most of the dry season, and has done so for 6 years. They were great. If I thought they would have survived the trip, or if I had any place to put them I'd have bought a few.

Petrena took us on a tour of Darwin. Government House, Chief Resident's (presently country singer Ted Egan) house. The old town hall ruins, formerly Palmerston Town Hall. Browns Mart, now converted to a community art theatre. We saw State Square, which includes Parliament House and the Supreme Court. The modern metal and glass of Christ Church Cathedral. Barnett House which survived the cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974. The popular docks where several large US warships had arrived in the morning. The city was full of US marines on RandR. The club and restaurant street is directly behind our hotel.

Sunset viewing over Fanny Bay, with champagne from David and strawberries (for the second time) from Marilyn. It was great. I did wonder about the schedule however, which showed a 1.5 hour tour starting at 5 p.m. yet the Darwin sunset was 6:39 according to my Psion.

Jean was just returning from visiting a friend as our tour bus pulled into the hotel at 7:24, significantly later than the 6:30 our own schedules suggested. David rescheduled our dinner to 8 p.m. When we heard it was buffet Jean and I thought we could get there early, however it was a buffet served at our table.

The food was wonderful, however I tried to resist overeating. Couldn't resist the mud cake and cream at the end. We stayed talking until nearly ten, but Jean had to get away and collapse a little earlier than I did.

We were staying at Holiday Inn, 122 The Esplanade, Darwin (08) 8981 5388

Tuesday 16 August 2005

Day 8 Tuesday 16 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Darwin (S12 24.88 E130 52.60) -> Smith Point (S11 09.0 E132 09.0)

Awoken by fire alarm at 5:20 a.m. The hotel shortly announced they thought it was a false alarm. As we live in a resort, we understand just how reliable fire alarms are, especially in the tropics. So that should be our only excitement for the day.

The Caroma wash basin had a soap recess cunningly deigned to tip the soap straight into the basin. It was impressively badly designed. Must send a photo to This Is Broken.

I went to an early breakfast at the fine Holiday Inn buffet. I was able to avoid the hot dishes in favour of fruit, thus making a moderate attempt at a healthy breakfast. Our pilot Tim was already there, preparing to leave early for the airport. Bill was also early. Jean joind me a little later.

Our bags had not been removed from the room when we went down to reception at 7:45 to check out, so we took our bags with us rather than rely on the hotel arrangements. The red bus to the airport was there in plenty of time. We were in the air around 9 a.m.

Fly from Darwin with the Tiwi Islands well off in the distance, to the Cobourg Peninsula. There is a lot of blue water and sandy beach down there, however swimming wouldn't be a good idea. We landed at Smith Point on the Arafura Sea. The dirt strip had plenty of room, and not much in the way of facilities. We had visited here in 2003.

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park is pronounced Gah-rig Goon-uk Bar-loo. It was previously known as Gurig National Park and Cobourg Marine Park. It is about 570 km (by road) northeast of Darwin on the Cobourg Peninsula. You wouldn't want to drive it.

The Park includes the entire Peninsula, the surrounding waters of the Arafura Sea and Van Diemen Gulf, and some of the neighbouring islands. It covers about 4,500 sq. km. Cobourg Peninsula is the only National Park in the Northern Territory which contains adjoining land and marine areas.

Garig Gunuk Barlu National Park is steeped in the ancient traditional culture of the four Aboriginal clans - Agalda, Mudjunbalmi, Bgaindjgar and Muran.

We were driven the few kilometres to the jetty and beach where the boat was to leave. This is by the ranger station and tiny store.

View Port Essington (-11 16S 132 09E) by boat on a day trip. I carried reef shoes, in case we need to get ashore over a sharp bottom, but didn't need them.

The boat trip was longer than I expected, and we travelled faster than I expected. My sense of the scale of the area was all wrong. We had a possibly sight of Irrawaddy dolphin in waters. We certainly sighted some sort of dolphin. We looked also for Banteng (Indonesian cattle) on the land, but didn't sight them. Did see indications they were there.

On a lonely cliff top overlooking Port Essington stands the stark remains of Victoria Settlement (-11 22S 132 09E). I believe the aboriginal name is Ngardigawunyanggi. This British settlement dating from 1838 is accessible by boat from Black Point. Victoria Settlement was the first of two failed attempts at settling Australia's Cobourg Peninsula NT. These are the ruins of one of two failed British settlements on the Coburg Peninsular. A group of British soldiers, some with families, arrived in 1838 and spent 11 years establishing the settlement. The settlers built a governors residence, one of the first elevated houses ever built, a hospital, church, military and married quarters with distinctive round Cornish chimneys. Isolation and disease eventually drove the inhabitants out and the ruins are all that remain.

In late November 1845, 14 months after leaving Jimbour, inland from Brisbane, explorer Ludwig Leichhardt six others descended the western Arnhem Land escarpment passing Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, and met friendly aboriginals at Yellow Water. On December 2, they were approached by an aboriginal who spoke English, and who said white folks were at Port Essington. Leichhardt and party, long given up for dead, reached Victoria Settlement on 17 December 1845.

As we walked to the settlement you could clearly see the path of destruction left by a hurricane earlier in the year. Trees blown over all over the place, and the bush stripped back unlike a normal tropical area. The long drop toilet had mostly lost its roof.

The sturdy stone remains of the old settlement seemed to have survived without more damage than time provided. Items like the powder magazine are intact, but for many others only the fireplace and wall remained. The buildings must have been very typical of British construction. They were however spread out over a very large area. The plan must have been to eventually grow the settlement into something far more major.

There were a few rusted shipping containers, the equivalent of the modern ones, but about the size of a very large sea chest. Parts of the rock jetty still survive, ensmalled by storm and wave.

On the beach you could see remains of thick base glass bottles.

The old bakery remained in fairly good condition, albeit without a roof and with damage to the stone walls.

We walked back to the boat and headed off to another area for a very nice picnic lunch. An isolated spot, with a small sand beach, and a picnic table. I improvised a seat to spare my back more discomfort.

We did see some birds waiting in trees, including what looked to me like a young sea eagle.

We returned to the Ranger Station, and had a good look around the displays about the area. We had visited here in 2003. David put in some time with the ranger and a guide book trying to identify the dolphins we had seen. I didn't manage any photos, but David had some video.

I couldn't resist visiting the store for a cold drink. I thought I recognised the attendant from our previous visit.

Back at the huts, most of us took a walk along the foreshore in the low tide. Interesting rock colours. Offshore you could see low reef formations that would make bringing in a boat a problem.

Overnight in Cobourg Beach Huts wilderness cabins near Smith Point (-11 07S 132 08E).

Overlooking the entrance to Port Essington (-11 16S 132 09E), the huts are situated only metres from a sandy beach. Do pay attention to warnings about esturine crocodiles (salties). Complete with solar electric power, gas stove, fridge, kitchen utensils and linen, the huts provide rustic accommodation with separate bush shower and toilets. There is even a small spa pool on the foreshore. That wasn't there last time.

We were provided with a extensive barbecue meal at the fireplace on the point. We got very well treated by the people here in this isolated area. As I suspected, some of them were familiar from our 2003 stay.

I got some recipes from the cook, which I must unearth.

Wednesday 17 August 2005

Day 9 Wednesday 17 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Smith Point (S11 09.0 E132 09.0) -> Oenpelli (S12 19.51 E133 00.33) -> Cooinda (S12 54.16 E132 31.93) -> Jabiru (S12 39.50 E132 53.58)

I managed to get an early shower, although as people had used the solar heated showers in the afternoon there wasn't any hot water. Not a problem in the tropics. The truck arrived with the makings for breakfast at around dawn, so we all ended up clustered around the table at the foreshore.

We left Smith Point on the Cobourg Peninsula before 9, and had a good view of the coast as we took off and flew in a southerly direction. Lots of river deltas and meandering rivers in this very flat country.

Land at the air strip at Oenpelli (-12 19S 133 03E) in western Arnhemland about 70 km from Jabiru. We were met by someone from the local art community and taken into town. Oenpelli is home to about 1,000 native people from the Kunwinjku tribe.

We were taken to the Injalak Arts and Crafts Association art centre. There were a number of the artists there, working on their projects. As is often the case in the towns, the grounds were filthy, with rubbish scattered all over.

Our group was escorted by Aboriginal guide Garry to view ancient rock art at Injalak ( a hill which was part of the Arnhem escarpment) overlooking wetlands. The scenery is stunning, being in the heart of what is known as stone country. Oenpelli is just across the East Alligator river, and you can see the river in many photographs.

Dr George Chaloupka, acknowledged rock art expert of the NT Museum, had personally recommended this site to David Marks through his technical adviser at the Museum. He accords it a high priority in terms of interest and describes the location as having numerous painting sites with many different stylistic rock art examples. We are planning to visit some of the 13 separate rock art galleries.

One image seen often was Namarrgon, the lightning man who causes the spectacular lightning storms of the wet tropics. However the main items were food, mostly a wide variety of fish. The art looks bright and recent, although some must be very ancient.

Our guide Garry did a wonderful job, taking us through the maze of rocks. You never knew which bits of art would be revealed at any turn. It is a very popular place with tourists, and there were several other groups on the hill at the same time.

There is a burial area here, with the bones painted with red ochre visible.

The men were taken to view a site sacred to men only. We certainly saw a remarkable number of fine rock painting sites in a very small space. You do need to be able to climb and scramble a little to reach some of the sites.

We finally emerged near the top in an area with a fine view back towards the town. The country looks green and lush. We made our way down the hill, only to find that the other driver had not arrived with the second vehicle. He turned up soon after we arrived.

Lunch was ready for us to collect from the local store, but first we had to organise to get there. We were a bit late having lunch. Of course, a number of our group were going through the art available, and some transactions involving freight took a while to organise.

By about 2 p.m. we flew back south to Cooinda (-12 54E 132 31S) to another fairly limited dirt air strip.

Next a bus collected us to take us to the hotel to join the Yellow Waters cruise on this famous wetlands area of the South Alligator River. A commentary was provided about the birds and other fauna and flora while on the cruise. We had been on this cruise previously, but probably the dawn cruise.

This is the cruise that tends to have a lot of salt water crocodiles sunning themselves. We also saw several sea eagles in trees, and later saw their nest. As usual here, there was a lot of large bird life, like darters. The jabiru were mostly distant when we saw them or hidden in tall grasses. We saw what looked like a few Burdikin ducks.

Back at the hotel bar at Cooinda, I couldn't resist a photograph of the stone effect hand basins in the wash room before we headed back to the air strip.

We actually found some aviation infrastructure at the air strip. Some boarding steps. Naturally we put them into effect for photographs of pilot and tour guide entering the aircraft.

Late afternoon a very short flight north to Jabiru (-12 40S 132 50E). We did manage some photos of the Ranger uranium mine as we came in to land at their air strip. As usual a bus awaited to take us into the townshhip.

We stayed overnight in safari style accommodation at Lakeview Park, Jabiru (08) 8979 3144

Lakeview Park Kakadu offers unique accommodation designed by award winning Troppo Architects for the climate and experience of Kakadu. Lakeview Park Kakadu is ideal for families and groups as well as business people and backpackers, offering Bush Bungalows, "6 Packs" (6 rooms sharing common facilities), Cabins and Ensuite Van Sites.

We had very nice shade cloth sided Bush Bungalow cabins, with an excellent outside bathroom a few steps away. Jean was even able to get a little rest, and I was able to do the much needed laundry while we relaxed. The Lakeside is nicely vegetated with good lawns and lots of tropical trees. Birds wandered around the area.

There was a shortcut through some bush from the Lakeside to the Crocodile Hotel. This was more apparent when we left than when we were returning from dinner, however we all had lights with us.

Dinner at the famous Crocodile Hotel, with its stairs up the front and back legs. The restaurant was about where the stomach would be. Fittingly, the business centre was in the jaws.

I'm told the buffet costs $42. They had a pretty fair range of foods, mostly reasonably well done. Enough that I think all of us found something we liked. After a week of eating too much I certainly didn't sample everything. I was however unable to resist the desserts.

One new staff didn't really know how to open a bottle of wine with the highly inferior cork puller she had been given. Peter demonstrated, and suggested she ask for a better cork puller. I feel sorry for these remote hotels, as staff turnover is considerable, and they often seem to lack the time for appropriate hospitality training. I also feel sorry for the new staff, who should get more training before being pushed into work. Easy for me to say, when the local TAFF specialises in hospitality training.

Several of us sat around talking and drinking for an hour or so after completing dinner. It was a comfortable place. They also had a left handed guitarist who did a very good job. He was also quick to change his playing to suit the age of the audience.

Thursday 18 August 2005

Day 10 Thursday 18 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Jabiru (S12 39.50 E132 53.58) -> Ramingining (S12 21.38 E134 53.850 -> Gove (S12 16.16 E136 49.10)

Jean and I got out early for the buffet breakfast at the Crocodile Hotel, so we were the first to eat. Bill turned up when we were halfway through. A few of the others as we were leaving.

Bill was seeking disposable cameras to replace his broken one. I wanted to collect a newspaper, and had a bit of an idea of where the shops were from our previous visit to Jabiru. We both managed to get our shopping around 8 a.m., well ahead of leaving time.

Bus to the airport, where we changed to another bus for the Ranger Uranium Mine tour. Some problems with the bus air conditioning, plus perhaps Ranger have changed their tour outline. I thought we had a longer tour the previous time. Still, it covered the essentials of how they extract yellowcake. We seemed to spend a lot of time gazing at the mine workings from near the main road in. One of the mapping aircraft had time to make two low passes directly over us.

Bula'bula Arts Aboriginal Corportation (BAAC pronounced bark) community visit after landing at Ramingining airstrip in Djadawitjibi country.

Philip Gudthaykudthay was there.

Talk with artist Bob ? who did linocuts. He was also a musician who had toured widely.

North Arnhemland Coast, overfly Wessell Islands and land at Gove (Nhulunbuy).

Vehicle tour Melville Bay, Yatch Club, Yirrkala Community, view coastal scenery. Sunset over sea with champagne and strawberries?

Overnight at Walkabout Lodge Nhulunbuy NT (Gove) (08) 8987 1777

The township of Nhulunbuy (Nool-un-boy) (-12 11S 136 46E) is situated on the Gove peninsula in north east Arnhem Land. There are around 3500 people in Nhulunbuy, mainly employed in the mining activity that mines and refines bauxite into alumina, with a further 10,000 Indigenous Australians in the area.

As the town is on Aboriginal land, you need a permit to visit from Dhimurru Land Management.

Dinner was very slow coming, as the small staff was overwhelmed by cutomer numbers. Quantities of food was massive, with most having barramundi as a main, ending with pavlova or eclairs or mud cakes. It was an enjoyable meal regardless.

Friday 19 August 2005

Day 11 Friday 19 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Gove (S12 16.16 E136 49.10) -> Dhuruputjpi (S13 03.20 E136 10.30) -> Roper Bar (S14 44.26 E136 10.30)

Leave Gove after rising for a 6:15 breakfast, and 7 a.m.bus journey to the airport.

Dhuruphutjpi aboriginal outstation. Met at the airstrip by what seemed the entire clan, with a water ceremony with spears and clan colours, and led into the settlement.

Arts and crafts on display, with many shell and berry necklaces in bright colours. Women demonstrated piercing the shells and making string from native brush. Although most used fishing line.

Mussels arranged for cooking, showing an appearance we had seen on bark paintings.

Bark paintings.

Making a stringy bark didgeriedoo (get real name) Ivan with good quality tools.

Spear blade that killed McColl shown to me. Only regained it a few years ago.

Hunting of magpie geese (with a shotgun).

John from Fiji helped, but has introduced Fijian customs like baskets for food.

Wind ceremony to send us on our way to the plane.

Afternoon flight to Roper Bar, where we overnight at Roper Bar Store Motel (08) 8975 4636 (-14 44S 134 31E)

We had a short bus tour of the Roper Bar, and the old dusused ruin ofthe police station. David organised a bus trip a short distance from the motel so we could see the view from the plateau. Meanwhile Tim refuelled the aircraft,with a pump that took over 500 revolutions for the single 200 litre drum.

Roper Bar, 120 km from the sea, is another 50km from the Port Roper turn-off. The crossing was discovered in 1845 on Leichardt's expedition. The rock bar nominally separates the tidal salt from the fresh water. Beware of crocs here!

Roper Bar, the only settlement on the Roper River, lies 606km south of Darwin, 312 km east of Katherine and 1235km from Alice Springs. The Roper River was first explored by Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845 as he made his way from Moreton Bay to Port Essington. Leichhardt crossed the river at Roper Bar, a rocky shelf which conveniently lies at the high tide limit on the river. He named the river after John Roper, a member of the expedition.

It also became a common stopover point for drovers on the coastal route from Victoria River Downs and the Kimberleys to North Queensland. In the 1880s and 1890s it gained a reputation as a wild, outback outpost.

Today the town is a small settlement with a police station, a very basic hotel/motel - the Roper Bar Store, a caravan park and roadhouse facilities.

Booze at Roper Bar and Ngukurr

Enjoyed staying at the Roper Bar store motel. The food they arranged was more than plentiful, and the barramundi was delicious. They breadcrumb it and then very briefly deep fry it before completing the cooking in an oven.

David handed out sound earplugs which were better than the ones I had, so I really didn't hear the generator.

Several people stayed up talking until 11 and after.

Saturday 20 August 2005

Day 12 Saturday 20 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Roper Bar (S14 44.26 E136 10.30) -> Borroloola (S16 04.5 E136 18.1) -> overfly Kurumba -> Normanton (S17 41.1 E141 04.2)

After a 7 a.m. breakfast we drove to where Glim had organised his boat. Took a fast but lengthy trip down the Roper river.

We saw a few crocs, but mostly distant.

Visit rock bar where Roper River is 100 metres wide, lined with paperbark trees.

Visit Aboriginal community at Ngukurr (-14 44S 134 43E), see their Ngukurr art centre.

There are seven language groups represented in the Ngukurr community, and 21 clans. The community government council runs an area with about 1200 people, both here and in the region. There are a large number of outstations, the largest at Urapunga and Hodgson Downs. From the mix of language groups arose the lingua franca language now known as Kriol. Kriol is a recognized Aboriginal language, which includes variations on many English words, and is spoken by up to 20 000 speakers across Northern Australia.

Lunch at Roper Bar, luckily a little lighter than dinner.

Scenic flight across Gulf of Carpentaria. We refuelled at Borrolola, while the passengers walked to the pub for a very quick drink. On our return Tim had located the grass sprinkler control, and gave the stragglers a little surprise as they tried to open the airstrip gate.

Overnight at Purple Pub, Normanton (07) 4745 1324 (-17 40S 141 04E)

Sunday 21 August 2005

Day 13 Sunday 21 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Normanton (S17 41.1 E141 04.2)

Vehicle tour of Normanton, population 500 (-17 40S 141 04E), established 1868 during gold rush. Located 712 km west of Cairns and 681 km west of Townsville it started life as a port for the Gulf of Carpentaria's cattle industry and grew in importance with the discovery of gold at Croydon in 1885.

Our driver was John, the local Church of Christ pastor moonlighting as a bus driver to raise funds, as their aboriginal driver was abscent. John took us around the town,showing us the area where aboriginals had been grouped in the past when they were not allowed into the town. John was very sympathetic to their plight, and past injustices.

We viewed Krys, the replica of the largest crocodile ever taken. Named after the lady croc shooter who bagged it. Many in our group did not believe the replica could be accurate in scale.

Then across the ancient seabed by bus for the hour trip to Karumba (-17 29S 140 50E), viewing brolgas on way at the only remaining waterholes.

Karumba is situated on the mouth of the Norman River 70 kilometres from Normanton and is the centre of the Gulf's prawning industry. Surrounding environ is flat wetlands which extend inland for approximately 30 kilometres. Wetlands are a series of meandering saltwater tidal estuaries, habitat for saltwater crocodiles and vast array of bird species, such as pelicans, cyrus cranes, brolgas and black swans.

Karumba is a fishing town. It is nothing more than a port, a few shops, a pub, a lot of inexpensive accommodation for fishermen and a river front which abounds with wharves, refrigerated storage areas, slipways and engineering services.

In the 1870s a telegraph station was built on the site of the present town. It was known simply as Norman Mouth. It served a purpose but was hardly reason for a settlement to develop. Karumba first came to importance in the 1930s when it became a stopover point for flying boats on the run from London to Australia. By the 1950s it had become a popular spot for people eager to go fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The town went through something of a boom period in the 1960s and 1970s when it became the centre for the Gulf fishing industry. Today the prawn fishing industry and the barramundi industry earn over $130 million each year.

Karumba itself is an unimpressive town. It looks like any hastily thrown together coastal settlement. Lots of fibro and haphazard urgency. Most of the houses look like holiday homes and the town has a temporary feeling about it.

Karumba's existence is connected to the simple fact that it is on the banks of the river and it is set on sand ridges which allow direct access to the river and the sea. As Burke and Wills found out in 1861 large areas of the Gulf's coastline are inpenetrable because of the dense mangrove swamps. In fact the bank of the river opposite the town is still inpenetrable mangroves.

The journey to the town from Normanton passes over an area of very flat Gulf Country. The land is alive with birdlife and it is common to see flocks of cranes and brolgas feeding beside the road.

A sign outside the town seems to sum it up 'Welcome to Karumba - population small'. As the road enters the town the all-pervading fishing industry becomes obvious with signs like - Karumba Marine Service, Karumba Charter, Net Mending and Seafood Supplies. Even the police station has a boat outside it.

Even though Karumba is roughly as far from the equator as Derby, you'll find that the tide in Karumba is back to the average height of a few metres or so, but that there is only one high tide and one low tide each day. What's going on?

The mouth of the Gulf of Carpenteria is much bigger than a bath tub, but acts the same. It takes 12 hours for a wave to slosh across from east to west (and vice versa). By an enormous coincidence, this 12-hour-period is the same as the time between two high tides (or two low tides).

As the twice-a-day tide comes across the top of Australia from the Indian Ocean into the Gulf of Carpentaria, it has to pass through the mouth of the Gulf. The twice-a-day tide heading into the Gulf gets trapped by this potential 12-hour-wave that exists across the mouth of the Gulf. Very little twice-a-day energy is left over to go into the Gulf. Now the next most energetic tide is the once-a-day tide. This tide gets through because its timing is different. And that's why you have only one tide a day at Karumba. (The other tides get through as well, but you don't notice them because they are so small.)

Lunch at Ashs on barra, king salmon and gulf prawns.

Back to Normanton, by then running fairly late.

Then a trip on the Gulflander vintage train.

Gulflander Train: is said to go from nowhere to nowhere. In fact the train travels from Normanton to Croydon in the Gulf Country of northern Queensland. The line is about 150 kilometres long and was completed in the late 1800?s. The line has an interesting construction feature. Steel sleepers were used on the line. They were hollow and packed with mud. This avoided the need for ballast on the track. Most of the sleepers are still in place. The line was designed to cope with floods during the wet season. Floodwater and debris flows over the line. This left the track intact after the floods subside.

Steam locomotives were used until 1922 when rail motors were introduced. The present four-car rail motor is known as ?the old tin hare?. This nickname was also applied to rail motors on the Sydney rail system.

The Gulflander is said to be more an adventure than a train ride. The train crews are qualified guides and will stop the train and talk about points of interest. Morning tea and interpretative walks are provided at Blackbull along the line.

The Normanton-Croydon line was then constructed under the supervision of George Phillips, an engineer and advocate of the Gulf Country. He designed and patened the steel sleepers used on the line. Interestingly, they are hollow based and packed with mud, avoiding the need for ballast material in the track. This low cost railway was also designed to be submersible, allowing flood waters and debris to flow over the line, leaving it intact when the water subsides.

Overnight again at Purple Pub, Normanton (-17 40S 141 04E).

Karumba is renowned for its crocs! Ron & Kris Pawlowski, the famous crocodile shooters and photographers, built their first home in Karumba in 1955. Kris became something of a legend for shooting the largest saltwater crocodile in Australia being over 28 foot in length!

Monday 22 August 2005

Day 14 Monday 22 August 2005 - Dreamtime by Air tour

Normanton (S17 41.1 E141 04.2) -> Adels Grove (S18 42.0 E138 32.0)

We managed a slightly earlier start than originally planned from Normanton, following some agitation from Bill about getting away. I think he was tired of leaving later than planned every day.

We had some views of Lawn Hill gorge as we came in to land. The Pasminco mine was visble in the distance.

Fly to Adels Grove (18 42S 138 32E), where the airfield is right next to the camping area, bar and restaurant. We were in tents with comfortable proper beds. Not a problem in that warm climate. We were in A row, which overlooks Lawn Hill creek. We hada nice little gurgling waterfall across the pond from our tent. The sunlight reflecting from the water painted dappled shades on a ghost gum by the stream. Adels Grove is the only serviced accommodation anywhere near Lawn Hill.

We had some time to wander around the area before tucking into a large salad lunch. My Strongbow dry cidar somehow mostly ended up in Jean's glass. Jean declared she needed to work. She had been displaying signs of work withdrawal for a day or so.

Our afternoon was occupied by a visit to Lawn Hill Gorge (18 36S 138 33E) by bus. Although only 4 kilometres from our site, the only road in takes 10 km to reach the Lawn Hill National Park gorge.

We had a problem with the canoes. David had booked five, however Adels Grove doesn't actually book their canoes. We settled for three. Jean had stayed at the tent to work on a book. So David, Bill and I walked into the gorge to meet the canoes at the falls. We took the longer high trail with its lookout views, so photo opportunities abounded.

The canoe groups had already reached Indarri Falls and were swimming beneath the small falls in this beautiful spot. After a swim, David persuaded everyone to take a short additional walk to a spot where you could view the upper gorge.

Bill and I paddled one of the canoes back down the river. Somehow we got so far ahead that when the bus arrived, there was still no sign of the other two canoes. They came back with the ute towing the canoes.

Most of us returned to Adels Grove on the bus somewhat after five.

Several people went swimming in the creek below our tent. I went to the bar and finally managed a couple of bottles of cidar.

Dinner was corned beef and mashed potatoes. There was such a crowd from the tour bus and so on that the restaurant was fully booked out with 90 people attending.

Bill bought a couple of bottles of wine, which were quickly consumed. Things degenerated somewhat from there, and I seem to recall five or six bottles of wine appearing over the course of the evening. Much discussion and disagreement.

Overnight in safari tents at Adels Grove (07) 4748 5502. With the full moon, there was plenty of light for finding the tent.

Tuesday 23 August 2005

Day 15 Tuesday 23 August 2005 Dreamtime by Air tour

Locations. Adels Grove (S18 42.0 E138 32.0) -> MtIsa (S20 39.83 E139 29.31) -> Longreach (S23 26.05 E144 16.81) -> Charleville (S26 24.8 E146 15.75) -> Walgett (S30 01.96 E148 07.55) -> Bankstown (S33 55.46 E150 59.30)

Return to Sydney (-33 52S 151 13E)

A long flight, with many stops for fuel, so we needed to be away from Adels Grove early. We were scheduled for a 7 a.m. breakfast. Jean and I were up at 6:20 as dawn was breaking, however several people in one of the other tour groups were well ahead of us at the shower block. I was annoyed (no,infuriated) to find that the showers did not have any cold water, and from comments from others, the same thing had been the case the previous day. The hot water was almost straight steam, so the showers couldn't be used at all. Search for a main valve provded pointless.

I had a quick cold breakfast and then tried the shower taps again. Since they worked fine I rushed to the tent (where I couldn't find either block of soap for ages) collected a towel and got a shower.

I asked owner Rod about the cold water. The hot was gravity fed, but the cold needed pumps which only worked when the generator was started. Given there was a bus tour also trying to leave early I think not putting the generator on until lots of people were inconvenienced was pretty sloppy. Especially when it appeared to have happened twice in a row.

I walked over to the airfield with my bag when our pilot Tim left.

We didn't manage to leave the ground until about 8, despite a planned 7:30 departure.

First refuelling stop, the great mining town of Mt Isa, in northwest Queensland. We flew to the right of Lake Widara (spelling?) on the way in. One of the ground staff kindly let us use tea making and other facilities in the refuelling area. The general aviation area is close to the commercial flights at Mt Isa, so they are touchy about people wandering around the airfield. We got away around 10:35 for the hour and a half flight to Longreach, with tanks as full as we could manage.

We checked out the entry to the Qantas Founder Museum at Longreach. It seemed much expanded from our previous visit, so I'd like a chance to visit it again. We got away from the coffee shop and into the air around 12:17.

Next leg is over 200nm to Charlieville, taking about an hour and a half. Here we took the traditional group photographs with the Dreamtime by Air banner.

The last stop was Walgett, where David produced a couple of bottles of wine as a farewell drink. We delayed the best refuelling team in the country by searching for plastics and biscuits.

Our flight took us over Coonabarabran, so we had a good view of the Siding Springs astronomical observatory around 5 p.m. I was delighted to see these from the air, as we had visited them the previous year.

We over fly Scone, and Richmond on our way to Bankstown, with only a restricted range of directions allowed for our inward flight track.

Our engines were glowing orange red in the night as we approached Bankstown. An attempt to photograph them failed, as I expected, as the amount of light they gave out was very limited. We did some last minute swinging around to allow another flight to touch down before us, and we could see it land as we lined up on the well lit strip.

After that it was all anticlimax. Unloading bags for the final time. Farewells, hasty in some cases as people got lifts. One of the Airtex staff was kind enough to drop us at the Banksia Motel at Bass Hill, on his way home. He knew the local streets a lot better than the taxi drivers, but it was still difficult to get to the right location with the Hume highway in the way.

Another pizza from next door for dinner. A bit of time for reading and relaxing, and the trip was basically over.

Wednesday 24 August 2005

Back in Sydney

It took us a whil to get organised with breakfast, and then getting ourselves into Sydney. We spend the day wandering around Sydney. I have no real idea what we managed to do. Maybe some book buying.

Thursday 25 August 2005

Sydney to Home

We had a JetStar flight booked from Sydney back to Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) airport. It was originally scheduled at around 5 p.m. in the afternoon, giving us most of the day in Sydney. Some time after we booked, JetStar changed the flight to around 7:30 in the morning. To say I am unhappy with JetStar is a considerable understatement. Just how much repeat business does that mob expect to get?

US Housing Sizes

I've previously noted the ever increasing average size of Australian homes, while number of people per household decline. In the USA, National Association of Home Builders researchers conclude that the 30 year increase in US house sizes is ending. New buyers are looking towards more luxurious interiors rather than more space.

The average new US home has stabilised at 223 sq m, about 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. One fifth of new homes exceed 279 sq m. In 1950 the average house was 102 sq m. In 1973 it was 154 sq m. Numbers per US household have declined from 3.1 in 1970 to 2.6 now.

Younger buyers are looking to houses wired for sound, with broadband, home theatre, higher ceilings, lap pools, even hardwood floors.

Friday 26 August 2005

Digital TV - Is it worth having? (1)

Communications Minister Helen Coonan says the low take-up of digital television by Australians means the Government will probably not be able to shut down the analog service as hoped in 2008. Only 5% to 9% of Australian homes have opted to receive digital TV, and it appears most of these are using set top boxes rather than an actual digital TV. Out here in the country, I don't know of one person with a set top box.

At home we don't even have a TV antenna. The TV wall socket connects to whatever the apartment block uses. Formerly a TV antenna, but now a satellite dish for Austar (and perhaps free to air), and another dish that appears to receive SBS. Quality of signals is highly variable. In heavy rain (and we are in the tropics where rain does happen) the TV signals smear, I see compression artifacts and eventually drop out entirely on Austar. So my own gut feeling is I don't want anything to do with digital TV signals ever. Compared to analogue, reception is poor, and the failure rate very high. Although I have to admit that when everything works the signal looks better than I recall from an antenna at home when I was 80km away from the TV stations.

However I was just contemplating the TV set, propped up close to the ceiling on a high corner Ikea unit. It looks pretty small, especially when you view it from a distance. In fact, my computer display is the same size as my TV. Maybe it is time to check out the new TVs. Or maybe it is time to watch TV on the computer.

Saturday 27 August 2005

Digital TV - does it exist in Airlie Beach? (2)

According to Receptor Locator at the digital signals are coming here soon (some may exist - I wonder how you tell?). These are the transmitters on Shingley Hill

Channel 7, Aug-05, UHF 47, 662.5 MHz
SBS, Sep-05, UHF 28, 529.5 MHz
ABC, Oct-Dec 05, UHF 50, 683.5 MHz
WIN 9, Nov-05, UHF 44, 641.5 MHz
Southern Cross 10, TBA, UHF 41, 620.5 MHz

On the other hand, I have no idea whether signals at these frequencies would make it through the Whitsunday Terraces apartment wiring (which presumably starts 12 floors below and 250 metres away where the disk antennas are).

Sunday 28 August 2005

Digital TV - not the same as High Definition (3)

The problem I seem to be having is that I don't seem to see the connection between digital TV and HDTV. In fact, it seems to me that Digital TV does NOT equal HDTV. These seem (to me) to be two entirely separate issues and technologies, complicated somewhat by the two major HDTV technologies being digital, and thus needing digital transmission for broadcast.

Government requirements for broadcast here are that any HDTV signal MUST also be received in standard definition. As a result, essentially all the digital TV transmissions that I've heard about have been in standard definition. Now I gather that in the cities, some movies are transmitted as HDTV, but I haven't seen this mentioned in TV guides here.

I tried looking at a couple of retail stores while travelling. As far as I can tell, the cheaper CRT style analog TVs outnumber plasma and LCD models around 10 to 1. To make matters even more confusing to me, I couldn't actually see any indication on the plasma models to indicate that they included a tuner. I wouldn't have thought a TV was a TV if it didn't have a tuner, but maybe I am just totally out of touch. Then there were some smaller LCD models specifically mentioned having a built in tuner, although they didn't mention anything about it being digital or HD.

I did find some advertising flyers from Cairns, and this included the big headline "Australia's first integrated HD Digital TVs". The sales points included items like "with no set top box required", and large headlines saying "built in HD tuner". These were rather out of my price range (and higher than other sets I've noted) at A$7585 for a 127cm plasma. The advertising seems to imply that other plasma and LCD screens sold as TVs do not in fact have a HD tuner.

So I looked at Set Top Boxes. There seemed to be a bunch of these, all at a very low price, around $100. Then I found a flyer for one at around $500, with the big sales point being made that this was a high definition set top box (with 5.1 Dolby digital audio, DVI,out, component out, S-video out, AV out). The implication seems to be that other set top boxes are standard definition, for connecting to your old TV. That they have nothing to do with High Definition TV. What a con job!

Monday 29 August 2005

Digital TV - what is it? (4)

High-Definition Television (HDTV) has a vertical display resolution of 720P, 1080i, or higher, and is capable of displaying a 16:9 aspect ratio image. Plus it can handle Dolby quality digital audio.

Does size matter? Not really I suspect. The scientific community use a simple pair of lines to measure the number of line pairs that a human subject can resolve across one degree of the field of vision. The resulting resolution figure is stated in "cycles per degree" (cpd).

For an average person a resolution of 22 cpd is perceived as a sharp image. Most of what we see in the real world consists of spatial frequencies below 10 cpd; however, under the right circumstances some individuals can resolve detail at resolutions as high as 40 cpd. Human perception involves more than just resolution. Brightness and contrast may be even more important.

I found a table of what can be considered high resolution, with 35 degree field of view, and 30 cycles per degree resolution, using 2048 x 1152 pixels. At 76 cm distance it needs 48 x 28 cm display. At 274 cm it needs 172 x 97 cm. At 914 cm it needs 577 x 323 cm display.

Tuesday 30 August 2005

Digital TV - connectors (5)

I have trouble recalling what all the TV connectors kicking around actually do, so here is a list, heavily based on material found on the web.

RF - Carries all video and audio signals on one cable. F type connector (in USA - others elsewhere). Only used from the wall socket (or aerial source) to TV.

Composite (CVBS) - carries all video connections on a single cable. Connectors can be RCA, BNC, SCART (21 pin rectangular European connector). No audio. Most commonly found as a yellow RCA lead with two attached RCA leads (red and white) for audio.

S-video - Carries video as two channels, split into luminance and chrominance. S-video is a round connector with 4 internal pins or SCART. No audio. A better connection type than composite found on many older and newer screens, suitable for Standard Definition (SD) digital broadcasts.

Red Green Blue (RGB) Type Connections - RGB type signals break up the picture into 5 components; 3 colours and two synchronisation (sync) signals for analogue systems or it keeps the signal as a fully digital stream. You will need an RGB type connection to support a High Definition (HD) digital signal.

Component (YUV) - An analogue RGB signal carried over 3 channels using 3xRCA or SCART. No audio. Sometimes identified by the symbols; YUV, YCbCr, YPbPr. Replaced S-video as the higher-grade video connection and found mainly on Asian derived components.

RGBS - An analogue RGB signal carried over 4 channels using RCA or BNC or SCART connectors. No audio. Similar to YUV but separates the sync component onto a separate channel> May be on European components.

RGBHV - An analogue RGB signal carried over 5 channels. Connector may be RCA, BNC, or VGA (Dsub15). No audio. Often used by computers for graphics connections. Becoming more common on some plasma and LCD screens.

DVI - Fully digital RGB signal transmission. Connectors may be DVI-I or DVI-D. No audio. Allows the video to be kept in a digital format rather than being converted to analogue then back to digital resulting in a better picture quality.

Note. DVI-A carries a RGBHV analogue signal via a DVI style connector; make sure your source and screen both support DVI-D formats to get digital signal transmission.

Apple Powerbook has DVI digital, and supports adaptors for ADC, VGA, S-video and composite. iMac only has VGA output port for video mirroring, or S-video and composite video output to connect to TV. Resolutions are low at 640 x 480 pixels at 60Hz, 800 x 600 pixels at 75Hz and 1024 x 768 pixels at 75Hz.

HDMI - Fully digital RGB signal transmission with audio. HDMI connector. Digital audio. Allows the video to be kept in a digital format rather than being converted to analogue then back to digital resulting in a better picture quality. Also carries audio and supports HDCP (copy protection - unwelcome).

Audio Connections:

Usually two RCA connectors (red and white) that may carry a surround sound encoding, your receiver/amplifier must have a Dolby decoder to separate the surround sound signal. Also found as multiple RCA connectors (6 or more) to carry each channel separately (I prefer that).

S/PDIF - Single channel metal cable carrying a fully digitally encoded sound stream over RCA connector. Does all Surround sound transport standards. Needs suitably equipped amplifier to decode the signal.

Optical out - Fibre optic version of S/PDIF with Toslink connector. Does all Surround sound transport standards. Needs suitably equipped amplifier to decode the signal.

High Definition Content Protection (HDCP) is only supported by HDMI (all) and DVI (some) connections. If you do not have a HDMI connection and/or your screen is not HDCP compliant then the picture quality will be downgraded if the source unit (STB, PVR, DVD player, etc) is also HDCP compliant. At this time there is very little HDCP encoded material around but this may change over the coming years. Only solution is to refuse to buy HDCP encoded material.

DVDs are all currently standard definition so the outputs (except composite and S-Video) are either Y, Cr & Cb.

If this signal is fed into an SD display device then every thing is fine. If it is fed into an HD display the display can recognise the difference between an SD and an HD (Y, Pr & Pb) signal. So if the Y, Cr & Cb signal is fed into an HD display it will display it correctly for that signal.

HD compatible SD display will display an Y, Pr & Pb the image but very strong colours will be incorrectly displayed.

North American (Zone 1 DVD) are recorded at 30 frame/s (60 field/s). The rest of the world is 25 frame/s and film is 24 frame/s. The display must be able to show these frame or field frequencies otherwise the picture will roll continuously.

Wednesday 31 August 2005

Digital TV - con job? (6)

So, Real Soon Now digital TV broadcasting will happen where I live at the Whitsunday Terraces in Airlie Beach. However, unlike analogue, it may be impossible to receive during poor weather conditions or if the signal is poor. In any case, analogue will continue to be broadcast for at least the next eight years (and possibly forever).

To receive digital at all with my present TV I would need to spend an extra $100 on a set top box. However this will only provide the same sort of quality that a DVD does (at best). Plus the set top box may itself be faulty or poor quality.

If I buy a larger, fancier flat panel display, I'll discover these mostly don't actually receive TV, but need to be connected to a set top box. The $100 set top box will not provide high definition TV. The new display will (somehow) display standard definition on its high definition display.

If I buy a high definition set top box (at five times the cost) I can watch high definition TV. Except that the government requirement is that free to air stations transmit HDTV for 1040 hours a year, or 20 hours a week. Except for the ABC and maybe SBS, which can convert SD content to HD and transmit them and pretend this is HD.

Regardless of how fancy a display I buy, if I connect a DVD to it I still only get 500+ lines displayed, just like PAL TV. Except maybe the new display will somehow manage to make it look better. However stuff from a DVD isn't in HD.

Have I misunderstood something about this?