With a week to shakedown all our gear and establish a fairly big camp, which will be our home for nearly two months at the Kimberleyland Waterfront Caravan Park in Kununurra, we then set up a stall at the Kununurra Show where we caught up with old friends, booked in some RST courses and generally got into the country vibe of the place.
During this week, I received a phone call from Jeff Hayley, part owner of Triple J Boat Tours, with an offer to do a run in his tour boat from Lake Argyle to Lake Kununurra the following day as there were a few spare seats. Even though Viv and I had done the trip in the opposite direction last year, we didn’t hesitate to take up the offer and with Jeff as the boat tour guide it was an added bonus of having the benefit of thirty plus years of river knowledge.
We met Jeff at their facility in town and he then drove us out to Lake Argyle in the bus, so that was a great chance to chat since we had last met back in Margaret River in February, at a Sea Rescue meeting. And what a lot had happened in that time. I thought it was tough recovering from a shoulder operation but Jeff went one better in that he had an emergency operation with a gall stones issue. Not wishing to dwell on our old age dramas, Jeff was more excited to talk about his new boat purchase, a 37ft power boat, with a mooring at Wyndham and soon enough a large shed alongside the boat ramp to store it in the off season. When it comes to boats, Jeff is meticulous and so has spent time upgrading the vessel, including new electronics and long range fuel tanks for extended Kimberley voyages. Can’t wait to check it out when I do a run out to Wyndham in a few week’s time.
So once we arrived at Lake Argyle, the wow factor smacked us in the face immediately and before long we had primo front row seats as the ATTP tour bus arrived with the rest of the passengers for the 53km boat tour. For the next four hours or so, we were treated to an historical, ecological, environmental, wildlife extravaganza with a few fast bursts through the rapids thrown in. These vessels have been specially built for purpose, with a stepped hull, which allows them to rise quickly out of the water, basically riding on a cushion of air, once the initial thrust from the triple Yamaha 350hp engines is applied. Given that we are sometimes in less than 30cm of water in quite narrow stretches of water, this is critical to avoid the snags and rocks.
Along with his excellent skippering skills, Jeff has a great mix of dry humour and an unbelievable knowledge of the river. When a customer asked about a certain plant or animal species, Jeff was able to reply with it’s common name, scientific name, breeding characteristics, etc, etc and then proceed to point out examples along the river that no-one else could spot, with his eagle trained eye. Sometimes he would have to manoeuvre the vessel to within five metres of a croc before the customer could identify it, whereas he had spotted it from forty metres or more away. Another fantastic experience, what more can I say, but a great start to our 2018 Northern Sojourn.