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Grove Hill Northern Territory to Lake Argyle, Western Australia

Leaving Humpty Doo, 35 km south of Darwin, and the warm friendship and hospitality of Lee and Vic, we headed south on the Stuart Highway to Grove Hill, about 150 km away, to do some metal detecting in this historic goldfield, one of the Territory's first.

On the way Rod noticed the turn off to a place called Batchelor and so we made a detour to visit the town and to look over the remains of the nearby Rum Jungle copper mine.

He spent a couple of hours trooping up and down and all over the tailings dumps...head down and geology pick in hand...looking for mineral specimens.

The open cut mine itself was inaccessible as it was full of water...but it was pretty...a vivid blue colour from the leached copper it contained. Definitely not for swimming or drinking though!

Gleeful, Rod returned to the vehicle with a couple of pockets weighed down with rocks. Then, with the new ballast loaded into the Prado, we continued on to Grove Hill.

Grove Hill

Seeing the sign to Grove Hill we left the Highway and hit the dirt again and after briefly stopping in at the old Grove Hill pub in an attempt to pick the publican's brains and find out where 'x' marks the spot.

When we left, not surprisingly, we were not a great deal wiser for the experience.

However, in the pub we were shown a small plastic container with compartments containing several small, locally sourced, gold nuggets that were for sale...and so energised by the belief that there were more of the little blighters just lazing around to be had...we headed off in search of a suitable place to walk the metal detector.

About 15 km down the road a small sign pointed to 'Historic Mine Site' and we turned onto the track and climbed steadily towards a large hill, stopping briefly to engage low range four wheel drive as the track steepened.

As we proceeded , we were unsure whether there would be enough room to turn the caravan around when we got to the mine site, but, like true optimistists...we pressed on regardless. Grove Hill

Fortunately when we did arrive at the end of the track, which turned out to be the site of an old gold stamping battery, we were not only able to find enough room to turn the caravan around, albeit with a bit of maneuvering, but also a rather secluded spot for an overnight stay.

At the battery, a small sign indicated the direction of the mine and gave the distance as 900 metres....but it omitted to say... almost vertical !!

Rod sprinted off in hot pursuit of the shaft and I followed sedately, turning back about a third of the way up...feeling like my knees were going to give way under me.

When he returned about half an hour later, lathered with perspiration, I realised I had made the right decision.

Undeterred, the next morning he lugged the metal detector up to the top of the hill.

It was mountain goat country and after an exhaustive couple of hours traversing steep gullies and ridges attempting to wave the detector around in front of him, dodging trees, bushes and rocks, he returned...drenched in perspiration...and empty handed.

Adjacent to our camping spot we could hear the sound of running water and discovered a small spring...probably that which served the miners and gave rise to the name "Spring Hill Mine".

Gold stamping battery at the site of the Spring Hill Mine

 

Gold stamping battery at the site of the Spring Hill Mine; used to crush the quartz reef gold bearing ore.

 

 


Victoria River across to Lake Argyle, Western Australia

Leaving the Grove Hill area we continued south, back down to Katherine, where we turned off the Stuart Highway and headed west on the Victoria Highway, bound for Western Australia.

Towards evening we identified what we thought was a secluded track, just at the start of Gregory National Park, and drove down it a kilometre or so looking for a place to camp for the night, out of sight of the road...

....only to discover another four wheel drive with caravan in tow had discovered it first and was already parked for the evening. Within minutes we were greeted by a friendly couple, from Camden in New South Wales as it turned out, who were on their way to Mount Surprise, in Queensland, to dig for Topaz.

After a 'show and tell' session, where we proudly displayed the proceeds of our own two days fossicking at Mount Surprise, Barry and Dorrie, retired to their own van to leave Rod to work under lamp light to replace several bolts that had vibrated out of the bull bar on the Prado on the rough dirt roads we had experienced.

We had been advised that no fruit or vegetables were permitted to enter Western Australia, so while Rod worked on the Prado, I fried up some bubble and squeak with the vegetables we had in the van and stewed up all the tomatoes.

The next day we headed off for the West Australian border and Lake Argyle, enjoying some splendid scenery as we passed through Victoria River and Gregory National Park, which bordered the Highway for a considerable distance.

Victoria River

 

 

View from road bridge over Victoria River

Victoria River

 

 

Victoria River

Boab tree

 

 

Boab tree

The vegetable smugglers cross into Western Australia

At the Western Australian border we were required to submit to a reasonably thorough search of the Prado and caravan, after innocently declaring that we we were not carrying fresh fruit or vegetables.

The inspection passed without incident and we were soon on our way again...embarrassed to later find a a lettuce in the caravan frige and a mandarin in the centre console of the Prado...which we promptly disposed of...orally.

Lake Argyle

Completed in 1971, this massive water storage reservoir, created by the damming of the Ord River,was originally built to supply one of Australia's largest and most ambitious irrigation schemes.

Named after 'Argyle Downs', the million acre cattle station that was flooded to form the dam, Lake Argyle is an immense body of water that can at times encompass an area of more than 2000 square kilometres and hold a volume of water equivalent to 54 times that of Sydney Harbour.

Lake Argyle, the scale of which is quite breathtaking to see, is surrounded by the rugged East Kimberley ranges that provide a vivid and stark contrast to its azure blue waters.

Lake Argyle

 

Lake Argyle dam, on the Ord River, Western Australia

Lake Argyle

The dam wall containing Lake Argyle

Lake Argyle

Lake Argyle

Ord River and East Kimberleys

View of Ord River and East Kimberleys from the dam wall of Lake Argyle, showing small hydro electricity plant towards bottom right.

Spillway of Lake Argyle dam

 

Spillway of Lake Argyle dam

East Kimberley landscape

 

East Kimberley landscape

Aboriginal stone spearhead found close to the road adjoining a creekbed not far from the Argyle Diamond mine.

 

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