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Continent of Superlatives
Part 2

Text and Photos by Fred Vnoucek

After many hundred kilometres of driving I arrive in the tropical north. I drive past the sights which have been made available for tourists like the Katherine Gorge and the Cockatoo National Park and continue to drive into the Kimberley's, a rock plateau, which already lies in west Australia. The route continues to lead across Gibb River Road further to the north to the inaccessible Mitchell plateau. It is possible to get to the impressing Mitchell Falls by a long hike or a helicopter trip. You have read correctly, practically 'at the end of the world' there is a helicopter stationed which brings tourists to particularly interesting points. The pilot lives in a tent surrounded by fuel tanks. The flight passes along the coast and frequently lazy border crocodiles can be observed lying at the sand beach.

The adventurous journey continues to two of the most interesting and impressing sights of the continent: Tunnel Creek and Wyndjana Gorge. However beforehand I keep myself occupied with a tire change. As feared the difficult track demanded its tribute and I have a wonderful flat tire on the left rear. This is one of the experiences which simply belong to the Australian outback.

Tunnel Creek is an underground river which passes through a mountain and can be walked along by foot. The crossing takes approximately twenty minutes. In doing so the cold water reaches up to the chest sometimes. Absolutely necessary: a good flashlight. A somewhat strange feeling when you see the eyes of the fresh water crocodiles shining red in the flashlight within a few meters distance.

The access to Wyndjana Gorge is available through a long crevice. The passage way is like the entrance into the garden Eden. When you step out of it ample vegetation and the hue of innumerable cockatoos welcome you. In the bushes long goannas are prowling and crocodiles take a sunbath at the bank of the river. This may be like paradise, is one of my first thoughts.

The hours in Wyndjana canyon pass by and I decide to stay overnight nearby. Again the sleeping facility of the vehicle proves its value. Many ventures would not be or only very reduced possible without the invention of the 'bushcampers'. When I drive on I reach first for a long time a bitumen route. I continue now speedy towards my next destination, the Bungle Bungles National Park upcountry. Spoiled by some hundred kilometres on good road it's only an old habit to switch on the four wheel drive when I leave the main street.

At the beginning of the fifty kilometres route to the 'Bungles' I don't know that an 'offroad' track expects me. It takes four hours in order to master this distance. Already less surprising now a helicopter waits at the end of the track. Here as well - in the midst of the wilderness - you can book helicopter round flights. Underneath a tree I build up the camp for the next days. Soon a fire burns and the recently bought steaks braise on it. There is nothing more beautiful to sit at the campfire at the end of an exhausting day and prepare steak with potato and a tin of good Australian beer in the hand. By the way, there are almost a dozen different brands of beer, all comparable to our European products and recommendable without exception. Beer is an Australian national beverage.

After a round trip by helicopter for first orientation I start to investigate this landscape of 'beehives' (the rock formations look like them). It is important to always carry enough water because it's easy to get lost in this wilderness. Back on the main street again I realised that I gained an impressive experience. I start off my drive to the north. In Darwin I return my cross-country vehicle to the rental station.

The next part of the journey leads to Perth at the Australian west coast by plane. A day trip takes me to Wave Rock which is located some hundred kilometres inland. It is a formation which rises up several metres out of the landscape like a petrified giant wave. In September wild flowers blossom which is a breathtaking sight not only for flower friends. Saurians of nearly half a meter of length creep over the road. I now drive southwestwards and after several hours I reach again the coast. With some luck I can observe whales from the cliffs. Some nice evening with good meal and excellent Australian wine can be spent in the restaurants of the coastal cities. Passing through the city Fremantle I reach Perth before I continue my route to the north.

The next destination is the Pinnacles, stone formations in Nambung National Park. Particularly in the morning or in the evening these mushroom or needle-shaped rock structures unfold their charms. The contrast between yellow stone and deep blue sky does not only fascinate photographers. Not far away in Kalbarri National Park I again arrive at the sea where there are stone formations and blowing holes through which spray hisses against the sky.

Many driving hours further up to the north Monkey Mia is located on a peninsula which is well-known worldwide because of the wild dolphins regularly coming to the beach. Standing up to the thighs in the water it might be possible to touch these trusting animals. If the dolphins or the park rangers who are always present permit it. Monkey Mia was established as a protected area for wild dolphins. Further out in the sea Ningaloo reef is located which is reserved for fur seals and divers. During the blossom of the corals Ningaloo is home for whale sharks the largest known fish of our seas. I remember that my friend Erich Proell filmed a documentary about this topic here. For me, however, it is too late as the season for whale sharks is long gone. Thus I am satisfied with the antic dolphins and enjoy the days at the rough west coast of the Australian continent. Further along the coast northwards Broome the centre of the pearl divers is situated. The circle closes here, the Kimberley's and in further consequence the centre of Australia lie again ahead of me.

Still my next destination is the north of the continent - Cape York.

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