Don’t Go There

Round Australia Road Trip #8

Around 300 000 years ago, a 50 000 tonne meteorite slammed into the Earth in the region now known as the East Kimberleys in Western Australia. The impact created a crater 875 metres across and 60 metres deep, the second largest in the world.Β  The crater, known as Wolfe Creek Crater, was almost unknown until it was the setting for the 2005 horror film Wolf Creek. Now it’s one of the most popular places to visit in the Kimberleys and we, like many others, planned to go there.

The crater is located in a national park and the only way to get there is to drive – 130 km along the Tanami Road: unsealed, corrugated, dry and dusty. The 171 km drive from Halls Creek, the nearest town, usually takes from two to three hours depending on the state of the road, so we stayed overnight and were up early. Strong winds and a maximum temperature of 40 degrees Celsius were predicted but at 7 am the air was still and fresh.

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As we headed down the highway, a bushfire report came on the car radio. There were three serious, out of control fires in Western Australia; near Broome, near Wyndham and on the Tanami Road. The reporter said the Tanami fire had crossed the road and was heading south and it wasn’t long before we could see smoke up ahead. With the wind starting to pick up and knowing how unpredictable fires can be, we turned around after 26 km and headed back to Halls Creek to find out what the situation was.

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We asked at the caravan park office, the Tourist Information Office and even the Police Station but it seemed we knew more about the fire than the locals. There were no updates and we couldn’t find any information on the internet, so we decided to head out again in the hope that the fire had moved on. On our second attempt we made it to the 50 km mark. We saw vast blackened areas, with tree trunks still smouldering.

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Up ahead we could see the flames, now forced on by the howling wind so fast the grass beneath was left almost unscathed.

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As thick black smoke combined with dust whipped by the strengthening winds reduced our visibility to almost nothing, we knew it was time to turn back. This was the view from inside our car.

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We really wanted to see Wolfe Creek Crater, but we didn’t want to die trying!

Wolfe_creek_craterPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

Post Script

Fire condition warnings were upgraded to catastrophic later in the day. The Tanami Road was closed, as was The Great Northern Highway from Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing. If we had persevered, we wouldn’t have been able to get back to Halls Creek and would have been stranded in the Tanami Desert. Instead, we spent the day holed up in the caravan, door and windows closed against the dust storm. Not quite the day we had planned! The Tanami Road was still closed the following morning as we headed east towards Fitzroy Crossing.

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32 thoughts on “Don’t Go There

  1. Annoying about the fires, but so glad you didn’t keep going, it will be there next time. I think what you have written about here is going to be repeated many times this summer.

    • I think you’re right Leanne. It’s so dry everywhere.

      As badly as we wanted to keep going we knew it would be foolish to try. As Glen said, if this was a fire in Victoria we would be out of there asap! Some other people did keep going though.

        • We didn’t hear that anyone was caught up in the fires so I assume they got through safely. My biggest concern was that if we had got through, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to get back that day which would have meant being stuck at the crater with no extra food or clothing. That would have been unpleasant. We made the right decision, even though it was disappointing. Glen is already talking about going back on another trip.

  2. As much as I would also have liked you to arrive at Wolf Crater, I am so glad you decided not to die trying!! I do hope there will be another opportunity! That sounded a bit close for comfort, I think you were brave to have a second try at getting there!

    • No one seemed to know anything about it and even on the fire warning website there was nothing. The radio reporter said the fire had crossed the road so we were hoping it was well away but that wasn’t to be. Hopefully we will get there another time. Glen is already talking about what we could do!

    • We are already talking about how we could combine the crater with some other places we haven’t been to this time. The biggest thing is getting from QLD to the west. It’s such a long way to drive. Maybe next time we might fly and then hire a camper. It would probably be much the same cost as driving with our van.

  3. Some areas of Australia are really brutal with the weather conditions. I didn’t realise that Wolf Creek was based on a particular area (TBH I’ve studiously avoided the movie as I’ve heard it is really scary!). Hopefully you get to see it one day! πŸ˜€

  4. I have seen that film, it is probably the scariest film that I have ever watched and made me hope that I never got stuck in the Australian outback! I think I’d give the crater a miss with or without the impending danger of a bushfire. Your country does seem to be getting hotter and hotter – I hope the fires stay away from the populated areas this summer.

    • I think the poor crater has been much maligned because of the movie. I haven’t seen it and don’t intend to but Mr ET has and in the days leading up to our excursion he kept repeating quotes from it. That was enough to give me the creeps.

      As for our weather, the forecast is for a return of El Nino weather conditions which means hot and dry. At least now the powers that be have realised there needs to be a plan of controlled burns to clear away the undergrowth in fire prone areas. If they don’t it flourishes all winter and then becomes tinder dry in summer. Prime conditions for fires.

  5. Pingback: Walking, Sailing, Walking, Wading | The Eternal Traveller

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