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New guide for dog owners, Charnley River changed hands, more updates
March 11, 2011

12 March 2011, Issue #032

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In this issue:
  • Itinerary Preparation
  • New Caravan Park Near Bungles
  • Mt. Hart Update
  • Charnley River Station Changed Hands
  • New Mini Guide For Dog Owners

Hi everyone!

It's still raining in Kununurra (and everywhere else in the Kimberley). We had the wettest February on record, we have flood warnings for many areas, the highway is cut off between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, and Lake Argyle is overflowing. No, the latter is not an impending disaster, that's how it should be.

It was unusual that it did NOT overflow last wet season. If not much water goes into the lake, but lots evaporates, then the level can drop too far. That's what nearly happened last year. Apparently by December 2010 we were only a few centimetres above the level where they start to restrict water for farm irrigation...

That's low! And that's why, despite all the rain we had, it took so long for the lake to overflow again. Anyway, the lake is full and all is well and there should be a good barra season ahead.

By now it's also safe to say that this certainly won't be one of the exceptional years where everything is dry and open in April...

No, I still can't magically predict when things will open! It hasn't even stopped raining yet and there could be another cyclone before this wet is over. Nobody can predict anything. See the last newsletter here.

All we know is that it's still raining, lots, and that things won't open any time soon.

Itinerary Preparation

In the last newsletter issue I had linked to a new itinerary that had been submitted on the website (and that has since been added to the free itinerary booklet you get with Destination Kimberley).

Jackie's itinerary sparked a bit of a discussion in the comments.

John and Lyn thought it was far too ambitious, while most readers agreed with Jackie's approach of fitting in as much as possible.

So who is right?

Everybody is. The itinerary would be too hectic and demanding for John and Lyn and also for myself. We would not enjoy that pace.

But I do not look at your itineraries to see if I would like them. I look at them and try to judge if YOU would enjoy that trip.

It was clear to me that Jackie had done a lot of reading and thinking before putting that itinerary together. It was also clear that she is not new to camping, not new to Outback Australia, and not new to driving long distances. She's extremely organised and she knows what she's in for.

She had allowed a period of relaxation on the west coast after the fast paced Gibb River Road leg, and she had even made sure to allocate extra spare days to allow for unforeseen circumstances.

For someone like Jackie and her family, the itinerary is great.

But if you've never been on an extended self drive holiday, never been travelling in the remoter parts of Australia, if you never camped before, or if you simply aren't the go-go-go type, then you would be well advised to give yourself a lot more time than that!

Do really study Destination Kimberley first. Figure out which walks and swims you want to do and how long they would take. (Some people just take a chopper ride to the Mitchell Falls, some want to hike all the way to the bottom and back.)

And be honest with yourself about how much driving you are comfortable to do, how organised you are, how active, if the constant time pressure would bother you, etc.

Jackie's itinerary is excellent for those who can handle the pace. But you will never regret allowing more time. The single most common mistake when putting together an itinerary is that people cram in too much.

The New Bungles Caravan Park

Yes, there is a new caravan park near the Bungles. I mentioned it in the last newsletter, and now I finally have the details. Turns out the initial email I received from the owners contained a couple of typos. It's on Mable Downs Station, not Maple (which makes much more sense, I had been scratching my head over that one), and it will open May 1, not March 1 (which also makes a lot more sense).

The info below may not be the final version. I would be surprised if there would not be some changes to the details, once the park actually operates. Many things you can only refine as you go...

In any way, I do expect this new business to be something of a game changer, as it is in such a prime location. If you are travelling by 2WD, or if you have a dog or caravan in tow, this makes access to Purnululu just so much easier.

Bungle Bungle Caravan Park is at the turn off to Purnululu National Park on Mabel Downs Station, 750m from the highway. It's owned and run by the station owners. The road to the caravan park should be accessible for 2WD.
Accommodation with dinner and breakfast in luxury safari tents ($295 pp), powered and unpowered camping ($45/$35, respectively, for a site for 2), tent camping at $15pp. Bush restaurant open for breakfast and dinner.
Good news for caravan owners: caravan storage is available at $15 per night.
Good news for dog owners: dogs are ok in the campground (not a the safari tents!) if kept on a leash and not causing any disturbance to other campers.

Bungle Bungle Expeditions is part of the same operation and offers day tours to Bungles ($395 pp), 4WD station tours and helicopter flights over the station and Bungles.

And here is their website.

Update From Mt. Hart

If you were already a subscriber last December, then you know the story. If you are new here, you can get up to speed by reading this special issue and the initial update.

Taffy's story spread far and wide, people kept passing on the message, and as a result Taffy and Kim found a lot of support from people far more influential than I could ever be.

But the bureaucratic mills of the government turn slowly and inefficiently. Taffy is still negotiating with the DEC, and waiting for them to finalise a hopefully fair settlement agreement in writing.

This is happening as, incredibly sadly and still hard to comprehend, him and Kim are starting to prepare for leaving Mt. Hart.

In addition to their own updates, Taffy and Kim have been publishing stories on their website, stories from their years at Mt. Hart, their battles and wins and losses, stories about themselves and about other iconic Kimberley characters.

Here are some examples:
At The Heart Of The Kimberleys
Kim's Perspective
Kimberley Characters: Sam and Rosita Lovell

I keep writing about how fast the Kimberley is changing. The spirit that Taffy describes is what attracted me to move here in the first place. And for the last 17 years I've been watching it slowly disappear.

It's the same story as everywhere else: values vs. money.

A quote by photographer Hugh Brown on Taffy's main updates page caught my eye:
"Photographic trips through the Kimberleys are getting harder and harder to do, with chopper fares rising all the time, and certain powerful bodies trying to bring about a lock-down on the Kimberley."

The thing is, I have been noticing something similar myself. No, not the chopper fares, I wouldn't know about those. Not that rich just yet! I am talking about the flow of information, including my information.

I don't believe in a centrally driven conspiracy. What we're dealing with is simply "economic development".
Yes, there are strong forces at work. Big government, big industry, big mining, big tourism...

The goal is to turn the Kimberley into big money. This can be done most efficiently if the information that flows out of the Kimberley is controlled.

The fewer people are aware of the true impact of a gas hub, the easier it is to build the hub.
The fewer people get to see photographs of the regions that will be destroyed by mining, the easier it is to build more mines.
The fewer people are aware of who Taffy is and what he stands for, the easier it is to get rid of him and replace him with something more profitable.

And the less you know about travel in the Kimberley, the easier it is to get you to spend more money and to control where you spend it.

I don't think there is any malicious intent anywhere, just very different goals and ethics (maybe lack thereof in some cases), and greed.

It's no secret whose side I'm on. So it comes as no surprise that I meet with the same resistance.

Taffy writes about many of these issues much better than I could:
The future of the Gibb River Road
(And I only saw that page after I had already drafted most of this newsletter.)

Thank God for the internet, and thank God for readers like you.

Please continue to spread the word and to make sure that travellers will always have a choice of information sources.

Charnley River Station Changed Hands

After 10 years at Charnley River, Cheryl and Peter Camp have sold the station.
Yes, three weeks ago Charnley River Station changed hands.

The new owner is connected with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (the organisation that also owns and manages Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary and the Wilderness Camp there), and the AWC will manage a part of the property as a wildlife sanctuary.

But most of Charnley River will continue to operate as a cattle station, and the tourism business will also continue as you know it. (Campground will be open, rondavels will be available, the bunkhouse may not be as it has sustained some wet season damage).

At least that is the current plan. Nothing is definite yet.

The website linked in Destination Kimberley is still the old site. There is no new site as of yet.
There is a new email address ( but it isn't working yet. The only thing that does work (unless the battery plays up) is the phone at the homestead, and that number stays the same.

Hopefully the rain will eventually stop. Once the country starts to dry out people can get out and about on their properties again, they can assess the damage and see what work needs to be done. And then they can get an idea of what the next season will bring, for themselves and for you.

New Mini Guide For Dog Owners

Destination Kimberley for Dogs! Yay, I finally managed to finish this one.

It's nothing big (20 pages), all I've done is taken all the dog related info from Destination Kimberley and from my website, and put it together into one handy little download for you. Ok, maybe I did do a little bit more. Can't help it, I'm a perfectionist.

I made sure everything is really up to date. I called up every single B&B and caravan park that's listed to make sure they do indeed still accept dogs and checked what exact requirements and restrictions they have (good behaviour bonds, only two dogs per camp site etc, that sort of stuff). All the free bush campsites are in there as well, contact details for vets, boarding kennels etc.

I even made a cover for it and added lots of photos :-).

Still, it's only a collection of all the places that DO allow dogs. It's not a full blown guide book that replaces Destination Kimberley like some people seemed to expect. You use this WITH the Destination Kimberley main guide, not instead of it.

It's also not a general guide to travelling with dogs. If you never travelled and camped with your dog before, please practise on shorter trips and closer to home first!

So, how do you get access to the new guide?

When you buy Destination Kimberley you automatically receive download links not only for the main guide, but for the free bonus downloads as well. I.e. you also receive links for the new self drive itinerary booklet (see last newsletter) and for the mini dog guide.

If already own Destination Kimberley, and you plan to travel with your dog(s) and need this download, please write to, put "please send dog guide" in the subject line, and -IMPORTANT- include the email address you used for your original purchase and your surname. I need to be able to find you in the database to send you the download link.

Ok, and that's it for today.

I am not sure what exactly will happen over the next weeks or months. I have to go to Broome next week for arthroscopic surgery. The doctors can't predict when I'll be back on my feet after that, as they don't know yet what exactly they'll have to do to me.

I am a bit scared, but I am also looking forward to it, as I have not been able to sit or walk (or ride a bike or do ANYTHING!) since mid December, can only stand for short periods at a time, and my wireless NextG internet does not work from the lounge or the bedroom. To say the last months have been a bit challenging is the understatement of the year. From what I can see, 2011 can only get better.

I hope to be able to get out another newsletter before I hit the road myself in late March/early April, but I can't guarantee it.

Any important updates will appear on the What's New? page on the website, so just keep checking that occasionally.

Talk to you soon!


PS.: It's still raining and no, I can not foretell when it will stop and when the roads will open.

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(c) 2005-2011, Birgit Bradtke. All rights reserved. The Kimberley Guide is published by Birgit Bradtke in Kununurra, WA 6743, Australia. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.
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