Friday, 24 February 2012

Day 4 Carnarvon-Kalbarri

We woke up this morning, wondering whether or not we would be able to head south.  When I put my head outside my door, I realised it was raining.  There was no smell of smoke.  I thought this felt promising as hopefully, the rain would have extinguished the bush fire.  At breakfast the local staff had varied opinions on this - ranging from "this type of rain is associated with lightening and may start different fires in places that have not yet burned", to "the road will be opened, and will stay open". 

Our driver contacted the fire authority and received confirmation that the road south was open.  We all leapt into the coach.  The original plan was to look around historic parts of Carnarvon, but because of the road conditions we headed south straight away.  We had a quick look at the Overseas Telecommunications Company (Australia) Satellite Earth Station, which was originally a Government listening post, but is now defunct.  Quite an impressive dish for the 1960s.  It tracked the Apollo moon landing and provided live coverage to the Perth area and also tracked Halley's comet.  The dish is 30m across and apparently has parabolic and hyperbolic reflectors (whatever they are!).  It is the only remaining satellite dish in the world that still has both of these.
Defunct satellite station at Carnarvon
And a suitably defunct looking sign.
A little way along the road, we were driving on metalled road, but with gravel roads leading off.  When the rains come, these gravel roads are often closed because they turn into a bright red quagmire.  As we had had rain the previous night, the driver said some gravel roads were likely to be closed but even he was surprised when the road sign said all local gravel roads were closed.

"Local area closed due to rain"
Imagine how quickly this would churn up if people drove on it in the wet

We were shown the Gasgoyne River, which surprisingly for this time of year, had some water in it.  Apparently the rivers here spend large parts of the year appearing to have a dry bed.  But in reality, they only have flowing water during heavy rain.  For the rest of the year, the water is flowing under the sand.  You can tell that the river is healthy and contains underground water by the condition of the River Gum trees that grow all the way along the riverbank.  They were a bright, healthy green, indicative that their heads were in full sun, but not under stress because their roots were in water.

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