Friday, 8 July 2011

Kununurra - Wyndham

We are now settled in Kununurra and spent our first afternoon touring the sights of Kununurra with Matt Brann who is a friend of Warwick and Kate and is the ABC Rural Reporter in Kununurra. We were able to see the magnificent Ord Irrigation project, the distillery and a large Sandlewood project. We were able to put together a bit of a plan for ourselves thanks to Matt and will be able to revisit some of the places he took us to (especially the distillery!).

However, for our first full day we went out to Wyndham which is 100km out of Kununurra. We had met a couple at The Bungle Bungles and enjoyed a lovely evening with them and subsequently met them again shopping in Kununurra on their way from Wyndham, hence our decision to go there today. It is a small town now but has a rich history in cattle and mining.

Our first stop was at the Five Rivers Lookout. At 330 metres above sea level the Daharwi Range (or Bastion Range) provides a spectacular backdrop to Wyndham. We were able to see the five rivers that flow into the Cambridge Gulf, King, Ord, Durack, Forrest and Pentacost. It was incredible to see the 360 degree view of water with all the rivers feeding into one, together with the surrounding mudflats and ranges.

We then enjoyed lunch in the café in town before venturing out to The Residency which is the ruins of a house built but never occupied for the magistrate. It was never occupied according to the plaque partly because it was built in a very isolated part of the town and there were security fears for the magistrate because of the aboriginals! It was also stated on the plaque that the building was never stable enough to be habited as they used poor quality mortar in the construction.

We then went on to the Pioneer Cemetery where we saw the graves of a dozen or more men who died during the construction of the meat works during 1913-1917. It was very sad to see so many had died during the hottest months when it must have been unbearable working on the buildings. Unfortunately the meat works have now closed which took away a lot of employment from the town.

Then we went to look at the Dreamtime Statues which are enormous and beautifully crafted in bronze. We were greeted very warmly by a member of the Warriu family who proudly told us the history of the statues and even sang the traditional chant that his people used to the water snake to encourage water to come. It was really interesting and we were very glad to have visited although a little intimidated by the large congregation of indigenous people at first.

We then went to the Afghan Cemetery which contains the graves of the Afghan Settlers and cameleers (1890’s) who provided an important means of transport between the cattle stations and towns of the region. The graves are large due to the lead camel often being buried with its master. There was a sign at the cemetery written by a local asking visitors to please water the tree planted at the cemetery so we obliged!

Our last stop was a real surprise recommended by our friends Gail and David and was an Art Gallery which only had a humble sign on the road and an even more humble road into it. It was like a giant white bubble in the middle of nowhere and had very recently been converted from an artist’s studio into Wyndham Gallery. When we visited it had an exhibition of traditional indigenous artwork and also some beautiful landscapes as well as some lovely pieces of furniture made from recycled timber. We were amazed to find a gallery in such an inhospitable setting until we looked out the front of the gallery, and understood immediately how you could fall in love with the view and find plenty of inspiration.

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