Forgive me dear reader but it's all too much fun and there's minimal opportunity to update the blog, so I procrastinate and don't write. Also I can only write in the evenings as the sun is far too bright to see the screen. There's always soooo much to do. For ease of browsing the highlights check out the headings.
Home - The Latte Count begins again! On arriving back in Australia the first thing we did was to buy duty free alcohol - 2.2L each! Second thing we did was to buy a decent coffee! Thailand had shit coffee. We caught a cab back to Trudy's place and found her waiting up for us. We debriefed for an hour or more and then had to sleep. Since it was a) late and b) we were stuffed and c) the camper needed to be moved to open it we decided to take advantage of the lounge room floor to crash and burn for the night. In fact we ended up sleeping on her floor until we moved on. Anzac Day and Glen woke up crook. He moved from the floor to the lounge and pretty much stayed there the whole day. Julie soldiered on getting washing done and food but fell foul to the illness the next day. She however coped far better than Glen and was able to continue living and shopping to get ready to go away. The next day we tried out a kayak on the river (with the dolphins and swans) but it didn't suit Julie and in the evening we went to see April and Damon and went to yet another terrific Fremantle pub for a trivia night. Julie discovered the joys of a $38 pizza (it was good) and we came third for the night at trivia. Spent the night at Aprils in a bed! Lol!
On the Road Again.. On the 28th we got the tyres rotated and departed Perth, after the kids went to bed for the night so we got to spend a little more time with them. Each night at Trudy's was filled with a nice wine or two with a lovely dinner and lots of conversation. We knew we would miss her and the kids but had to move on to see the only thing we specifically had a time frame to do - swim with a whale shark. We drove for a while and flopped the camper out at a rest area when Glen was too tired to drive. As it was not an overnight rest area we were up early but would have been woken as some stupid truck drivers sound their horns when they see campers on the side of the road. They complain about us waking them and parking in truck parking bays but the idiots who deliberately try to wake travellers need a while in the hall of mirrors (take a good hard look at themselves). Unfortunately it won't be them some overtired grey nomad runs into and badly injures, it will probably be some innocent with a young family. The grey nomads will get the blame when it should be the idiots who like to drive past rest areas blowing their horn… Yes moron car drivers do it too, I just expect better from a professional driver. Anyway lunch at Cue, a town that has seen better days as many places were closed, and Meekathara to refuel in the afternoon. Meekathara is the start of the Kingsford-Smith Mail Run, a 4 day adventure on the red dirt we were looking forward to from our Hema 4WD trips book. Turns out the road is better than Parramatta Rd, it's just dirt. That was a little disappointing.
Fun Truck Friday Curveball and the Kingsford Smith Mail Run We stopped the night just outside Meekathara at Peace Gorge, a beautiful picnic area and free camp and there are also 4wd tracks in the area. Being a Friday the Fun Truck Friday Curveball was that our water was all muddy. We filled the tank at Trudy's so there must've been a broken pipe in the area. Luckily we weren't far from town and could get water there. We started the Mail Run proper with a trip up the lookout at Meekathra and found a disposable nappy next to the bin. Some people… Our next stop was the old Police station at Mt Gould and we found another disposable nappy on the ground! Lunch was by the side of the road on Errabiddy Station (didn't find any of the semi-precious gems that are supposed to be there). We crossed the mighty Gascoyne but it was just a series of puddles. Lots of cows around. The Fun Truck clicked over 450,000km and we spent the night at Mt Augustus Outback tourist park enjoying the spectacular sunset and the sky full of stars. Weird how they have a patch of green grass. We've found a new passion and watched some of our DVD of Outlander - bloody amazing how the computer runs out of battery and leaves us at a cliffhanger! Julie wasn't too well the next day so we decided to stay another day. Julie came good in the afternoon and we looked around Mt Augustus National Park. The rock is larger than Uluru but isn't all that impressive. The rock art seems to have been drawn by kids too. The signposted sunset lookout wasn't great either - maybe it was just us. Back at the "Outback Resort" through the day I had a few dealings with the caretaker - his wife was fine but the guy! He had the toilet block locked and was power Nazi. The cigarette lighter plug on the inverter was broken so I tried to plug in the computer in the bathroom - as is common practice when you have an unpowered site but all the power was switched off. When he saw me headed toward the other toilet block he told me not to plug it in but offered to charge it for $5 - as if that money was ever going to get to the Mt Augustus Station property owners - when I said it wasn't worth it he told me if he saw me trying to charge it ther'd be trouble. I took real offence at that. He offered me a price and I refused, yet he thought me as dishonest as him. Seething, I couldn't wait to move on the next day. We headed to Kennedy Ranges National Park and camped at Temple Gorge, which we walked that afternoon. Lovely spot. Communal campfire at night and chatting to the Ranger found I wasn't the only one displeased with the Mt Augustus caretaker. Also the best rock art sites aren't advertised to the public, and yes, they think the ones I saw were drawn by kids. Kind of loses credibility I think… BUT this national park loo has the best view of any loo in all of WA (including the urinal at Natures Window in Kalbarri NP which looks out over the gorge. Next day, after a slow start because we couldn't decide if we wanted to stay another night or not, we did Honeycomb Gorge and headed out of the park to Carnarvon and the ocean and dipped our feet. We tried to do a sunset on the beach but mozzies got the better of us so we ended up free camping just out of town. Tomorrow we shop and eat as it's payday! Dumped the water again as it was still muddy - got the camper on a big angle to get all the water out this time! Lots of shopping later we came back to the free camp spot to change the oil and freeze the meat.
Coral Bay Drove to Coral Bay the next day. This place is where the only hard and fast planned thing of our entire year away will happen. We will swim with the whale sharks. Cheapest caravan park in town is just too expensive and too crowded for our tastes at $46 per night with annex ropes that cross over with the ones from next door so after securing the last 2 spots on the boat for the next day we went to Bruboodjoo Point aka Nine Mile Camp and paid $30 for 2 nights behind the dunes.
Whale Sharks Today is the day! We were up early and off to Coral Bay Eco Adventures for 7am. After a coffee we put our gear in the trailer of the bus and headed to the dock to board the boat. We get put into two teams, each with our own guide - only 10 at a time can be in the water with the whale sharks. First stop was a reef shark cleaning station, a huge brain coral where lots of sharks come to be cleaned by the little fish. Apparently it's one of very few places where this happens in such numbers. Julie didn't hear the dive briefing as we were trying to put on full length wet suits. Glen wondered why she was so keen to get in the water… 10m from the boat and a shark appears below us. "What's that?" says Julie to our guide. "The reef sharks we told you about" she says. After the obligatory will they eat me question is answered Julie semi relaxes and enjoys swimming with 30 odd black tipped reef sharks up to 4m in length. Back on board for warm drinks and the real purpose of the day begins. The spotter plane is up and we are headed north in search of whale sharks. In the days before they had gone hours north to find one but we are lucky and in half an hour or so we are in the water looking into the deep blue when the huge shape of our first whale shark comes into view. It was amazing. The rules are you have to stay behind the pectoral fin so once it passes we madly start swimming. Turns out this whale shark (and for all our swims tody) swims pretty slowly so it's quite leisurely. All too quickly we are out and the other group gets a turn. Poor Julie was so excited that she is having trouble breathing so luckily we have the backpack with the ventolin puffer in it. Almost straight away we are back in the water for a second, longer, swim. Through the day we swam with the whale sharks 6 times. This was two different sharks 3 times each. It turns out that we were swimming with whale sharks directly off our campsite! We saw one whale shark come up to the surface and poke his/her (we were told I forget) nose out of the water and another swam in circles towards Julie chasing bubbles. The whale sharks were totally awesome and worth the trip. Our final swim for the day was a drift snorkel over the reef. Because our whale sharks were close to Coral Bay we got back early and had time to have a latte and drive the 4wd track back to our camp. Being a Friday we were expecting something to break. We got back and Glen declared nothing broken and seconds later Julie tried to open the back doors and found the handle was broken! The Fun Truck Friday Curveball strikes again! Next morning Glen fixed the door handle with a piece of wire and we decided to stay an extra day at Bruboodjoo to explore more of what Coral Bay has to offer, snorkelling the Ningaloo Reef. (at the time of posting this the fencing wire is still in place and the door opens fine)
Exmouth We wanted to stay at Cape Range National Park on the ocean side of the peninsula and DP and W have a new system where you have to book online. Not being certain what site to choose we asked and were told by DP and W that there was plenty of room so just come up, have a look then book and pay on the iPad in the park Visitor Centre. When we arrived in Exmouth on the Sunday (Happy Mother's Day) just after lunch there was a sign on the town visitor centre saying the national park was full!! Argh!!! We booked a site for 3 days so we wouldn't miss out. On the Sunday night we had to stay at Yardie Station, not a bad place just more expensive. The next day we met 4 Irish girls in the camp kitchen who were also disappointed they didn't get into the national park. They were headed to Coral Bay to do the whale sharks after buying their tickets for less than half price from some guys who paid full price but didn't see whale sharks and couldn't hang around to go again. One of the girls gets very sea sick so we gave them a dozen or so of the sea sick tablets Brooke put me onto. Our trip wasn't rough but at least 3 of the 20 were crook so hopefully with the tablets they had a good day. Our site at Cape Range - Osprey Campground was large and we put up the big awning. The ground was so hard it was almost impossible to put our pegs in. Even though they are so thick we managed to bend one and the thinner pegs we had bent even worse. Luckily we were close enough to the treated pine logs marking our site that we could tie off on there. The camp hosts (now there's job/lifestyle!) told us lots of people meet at the shelter near the beach for happy hour and to watch the sunset. We headed down (every night we were there) and met some lovely people, many of whom were travelling in the same direction and we run into them at campsites further down the track. It was at one happy hour that we met Kat and Gaz from St Kilda and we seemed to hit it off. They are lovely people and we have gone from running into them to planning to meet them. After our first day at Osprey we knew we wanted to stay longer so we went up and booked another 2 nights. During our time here we drove to Yardie Creek (no didn't attempt the creek crossing, currently impassable as a cyclone opened the creek) and walked the gorge, seeing a rock wallaby. We would have kayaked this had we had 2 kayaks still… sorry Julie :( We drove a fair way over the peninsula on a 4wd track and noted some vegetation was similar to Mount Lesueur National Park. We snorkelled at Oyster Stacks and the Turquoise Bay drift snorkel but we were also content to snorkel Osprey. Whenever we went out we saw loads of fish. One morning Glen went out alone and saw a green sea turtle. It was small - 50cm across - but allowed Glen to swim fairly close as it went about it business eating weed. It came right up to him on one occasion as it took a breath. Another person we met at happy hour, Suzie and her husband Peter, took us out snorkelling that afternoon and we saw a larger turtle. This one too was happy to have us near but the trevally school gave it hell, bashing into it's head. We saw this turtle again the following day and it again allowed us to get very close then it quickly swam off and again the trevally were bashing into it's head. We got footage of this and passed it onto the ranger. It didn't seem normal behaviour and the turtle didn't like it. One evening a guy got his Prado and boat trailer bogged on the beach with an incoming tide. The Fun Truck swung into action, eventually getting him out with the winch, he was really bogged! Bert was so appreciative and said he'd bring us a fish when (if) he caught one. We told him it wasn't necessary. Suzie and Peter lent us a kayak and we went out to the buoys for the kayak trail. Julie wouldn't get in as we were a fair way from shore and reef sharks are still sharks to her and besides there could be tiger sharks there. Glen found amazing coral, incredible fish, stunning visibility… and two reef sharks. Ningaloo has the best snorkelling and a huge variety of sea life. It truly is a special place. It was Friday, and we went for a drive… The Fun Truck Friday Curveball was that the bolt holding the air conditioning tensioning pulley sheared off! Glen found it when he checked the oil. Amazingly all the parts were still in the engine bay and not damaged any further. Only one bolt needed to be replaced. When Glen told the story at happy hour Gaz came to the rescue with an easy out. He used it the next morning and if he'd known how easy it was he'd have gone out with Gary to the kayak moorings instead of just lending him our kayak. We packed up, went for one last snorkel, taking Kat, Gary and Asha out to see the turtles and reluctantly left Ningaloo Reef headed for Exmouth and more supplies for Karijini National Park.
The drive to Karijini As we drove away from Exmouth we realised there were things we should have had a look at on that side of the peninsula…oh well that means there will have to be a next time. :) An overnighter at a rest area and then we arrived in Tom Price, late on a Sunday. We camped at a free camp down the road and headed back into town the next morning to see if we could do the mine tour. We could! Here's a tip… make sure the mine isn't in shut down first. The tour was still good but not seeing the huge trucks in action was a bit disappointing. We got our Rail Access Road Permit, just in case, and headed off to Dales Gorge Campground.
Karijini National Park Our first stop was the Visitor Centre…coming from long vehicle parking we didn't see the huge rusty steel clad building and wondered how a park this big could just have an information board on the toilet block…didn't we feel silly when we caught sight of it. In our defence the cliffs are the colour of rusty steel and the sun was in our eyes… Inside it wasn't long before Julie spotted the resident olive python. At the campground we got a site twice as long as the one at Cape Range, at the back of the far loop with the best view of the sunset - and the pegs went in beautifully! The next day started early with a wonderful view from our camper over the spinifex to the distant green hills…one of the hills has exposed red rock/dirt and from our position it forms a heart shape :) After breakfast (and helping the retired PE teacher next door by plugging his tyre) we went down to circular pool lookout and then climbed into the gorge and made our way along the bottom to swim in the cool (who am I kidding? It was COLD) clear water. When we swam across to the waterfall and made our way up onto the rocks the water cascading down was actually quite warm. It was a very dry wet season with only 20mm instead of 200mm of rain falling but these gorges are spring fed and still running. After a few dives off the rock we dried our feet and put our hiking boots back on for the trek out. On the way we saw a blue asbestos deposit! We met some people and had a lovely evening with them. They were from Queensland but had a "red dirt" change and have been loving living in Newman for the past three years. Our next gorge was Kalamina and here we/Glen decided two things - 1) 4WD in WA means dirt road as far as we can tell and 2) Glen is glad we didn't wait another 10 years to do this (as many of the people we see have done) because he wouldn't have been able to do the climbing you have to to get the most out of this beautiful area of the world. In the afternoon we did Joffre Gorge which had us climbing down a cliff and inching around corner on a 10cm ledge. All this exertion is rewarded with swims at the bottom of the gorges and they are very welcome in the 35+ degree heat. At 7:30 (it's well and truly dark by that time) a dingo wandered through our camp and we found that very cool and only a little unnerving. Next day was Knox Gorge in the morning where you basically climb down a cliff and in the afternoon it was Kermit's Pool in Hancock Gorge. To get into the pool you have to pass through spider walk - a narrow steep section where you climb with one hand and foot on each side of the gap. The canyon tour came out this way and I wish we had done it as we followed them down Knox and they did some adjoining canyons and came out in the afternoon from the chained off section past Kermit's Pool. Much later, speaking to Gary, who did it, and looking at his pictures we thought even though it was class 6 that we could have done it. At this stage I have to say that I am impressed with Julie who seems right at home here. She is taking the lead on tracks (usually I have to in case of snakes) and has scaled up and down the gorge walls with minimal help. I'm so proud of her. Our last day in Dales Campground and we finally did Dales Gorge (the one in walking distance of the campground)!! There is a beautiful waterfall there and further upstream is the magical Fern Pool. We headed into Tom Price for supplies and water and Julie saw Bert (the guy with the bogged Prado at Ningaloo) in Coles. He had no luck with fishing because EVERY fish he hooked was eaten by sharks and all he got was the heads! Despite our assurances we didn't need to be repaid he wouldn't take no for an answer and presented Julie with a 6 pack of Coronas. We got chatting to him and his wife Alana and he told us about camping spots near him on the Gold Coast Hinterland and invited us for dinner! That night we free camped near Hamersley Gorge and visited it and the spa pool the next day before heading up the Rio Tinto Rail Access Road to Millstream Chitchester National Park where we stayed at the campground near the homestead and ran into Kat and Gary again, spending a lovely evening with them. The only real highlight of the park is that there is the beautiful spring near the homestead, full of life and crystal clear, pure water. It's a strange national park - as all of them are, it's an ex cattle station but the spring provides water to Dampier so there is all the water infrastructure and the pumps go 24/7. In the morning Glen went for an 8km bushwalk which is almost all along a 3m wide gravel bike path. This park is set up for bikes. We left late mornng headed towards Karratha/Dampier. It was a staircase to moon day and, as we were nowhere near Broome, we heard that you could see it from Dampier.
Dampier, Karratha and Red Dog When we got reception a call to the only caravan park in Dampier confirmed we could see it but it was nearing sunset so we had to be quick. The manager showed us where to park the camper and sent us out the gate before we could pay. We could pay tomorrow she said as she didn't want us to miss it! Hearsons Cove was the place and it was already full of cars when we got there. Julie spotted our friends Kat and Gary on the beach so we grabbed the wine and chips and a blanket and plonked ourselves next to them and even though the clouds spoiled the best part of the staircase we all had a good time with the company, drinks and nibbles. Garry got some great shots on his camera when the moon finally peaked out from behind the cloud. Back at the caravan park and we had dinner talking to a guy (Mick) who knew Red Dog! He'd done his apprenticeship in Dampier and often saw the "filthy, smelly, farting" dog either on the bus or hanging outside the pub waiting for a feed. He assured us that while most of the movie was based in truth there was a great deal of poetic licence taken. It seemed that Red Dog was a popular figure as everywhere in Dampier and Karratha was Red Dog souvenirs. And don't forget the main reason we were there, the Red Dog Statue. Of course Julie had her photo with it/him. A visit to the North West Gas Shelf Visitor Centre, a bit of a shop at Karratha, and we were soon on our way. No fishing with Bill and Sue as we arrived on a Monday and people have to work, but the invitation still stands for any weekend we get back there. We found out after that the National Park near Hearson's Cove has some of the oldest rock art in Australia. We were bummed we missed that and vowed to read the info about places before we get there! Sometimes we do now but often we're too busy enjoying to plan much ahead.
Whim Creek and Bang - Go straight to Port Headland, do not pass Go We free camped outside the pink pub, the Whim Creek Hotel and of course dropped in for a beer - late autumn and it's still bloody warm here :) Glen checked the tyre pressures - he was unhappy about the way the trailer tyres were wearing and had put them up to their maximum pressure, 80psi, and now they were really funny on the tread blocks. He put them back to 50psi as they were before. 5 minutes down the road and pfftt a trailer tyre had blown. It was cooked and smoking! Julie then saw the maximum pressure was actually 51! Where the hell did I get 80 from? Shit, I ruined them. Changed it and limped to Port Headland to get two new tyres. Shopping around we ended up with Toyo Open Country ATs and they seem a really good tyre. HUGE salt mountain at the salt works at Port Hedland, impressive.
DeGrey River With unforeseen expenses and still a few days till payday we camped at the DeGrey River Rest Area (which had 30mins free WiFi for travellers - how good is that?) We bumped into Bert, Alana and the kids again who were also stopping there on their way to Eighty Mile Beach. We chose a spot well down the river away from the highway and it was beautiful. Glen decided to cut some firewood and got out the chainsaw without any hope of it working after it and the fuel had been in a steel box on the roof for 6 months in stinking hot to very hot weather. Julie's dad had done a fantastic job preparing it for the trip as it started on the 6th pull and ran beautifully cutting up a bloodwood log in no time. Thanks Dad! The fire by the river was idyllic. The campsite was so nice we decided to spend two nights there and with the lay day Glen did a bit of maintenance on the car and camper. There was lots of bird life on the river and this gave us some photo opportunities - if only those rainbow bee eaters would sit still or fly predictably! The second night as we were sitting by the fire we could hear something fairly large in the river and we decided it was probably a couple of decent sized sharks. Good choice not to go swimming…
Eighty Mile Beach. We arrived at Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park - one of the few places you could camp and everyone raves about it - and got a site for two nights. The site we were allocated was right next to Bert! First stop was the laundry and all of our red and smelly clothes were washed and hung on the line (we hadn't washed clothes since Perth and our only actual shower was a cold one at the beach at Exmouth). That done and with the place being notorious for sharks, usually small but still sharks, we went for a walk on the beach and only wet our ankles. The beach had many huge sponges of a few different shapes and was covered in millions of shells and is not 80 miles long, it's 220km which is almost 140 miles. Back at camp we got chatting with Bert and Alana over a drink as the sun set. Julie went to get the clothes off the line but they were already drenched with a massive dew. Since Bert and his friend caught lots of fish that day they invited us to have dinner with them and their friends and we all chatted the night away. A really interesting thing about 80 mile is the retirees and their quad bikes for fishing. The park? also has trailers set up with chairs, rod holders and barbeques! Many of the park guests seem to stay for months to fish, no idea how they carry a quad bike with their caravan… Anyway we said goodbye to Bert and armed with Land Cruiser and fishing rod (a 6' rod while all the others had 10' beach rods) Julie drove onto the beach and chose her spot. All this was in 2wd but I'd let the tyres down. After a while Julie caught a fish but it seemed a bit small so we let it go. A check of the fish ID chart later showed it was a golden trevally and there is no minimum size - bugger! After lunch on the beach Julie put it in 4WD and we drove all the way to the south end of the beach where Julie collected some very large shells. At the beach exit is a hose to wash your car so lots of red dirt was flushed off and we aired up at the park air compressor.
Eco Beach and The Road to Broome After a stop at a rest area for a late lunch we decided to spend the afternoon reading and relaxing and stop for the night. The road is just a road with nothing to see and it was quite hot. Next morning we headed further up the road to Eco Beach, one of the beaches to be ticked off from our top 101 beaches book. The beach is owned by the resort but they allow day visitors to use all the facilities except the pool. At the restaurant overlooking the pool and the beach Glen added to the latte total even though we were sweating with the heat. Julie opted for the far more sensible cold drink. We can see why this beach is in our book. It is beautiful with turquoise water, white sand and red rock. We had a swim even though it was low tide and the water was a long way out. It gave the sand bubbler crabs marvellous canvas for their little balls of sand.
Broome In Broome our initial idea of staying at Cable Beach changed to the cheapest park we could find with a pool. We hit the pool as soon as we were set up - 2.5m deep end! So nice after all the shallow water :) then headed to Chinatown but at the only restaurant we could find couldn't justify the price so we headed to Matso's. If we were paying top dollar in this town it may as well be iconic! Next day was pretty cruisy mostly by the pool and about 4:30 we headed to Cable Beach to meet up with Kat and Gary. Julie drove onto the beach and about 1km down, passing lots of parked up 4WDs and the odd nude guy trying to catch the last of the rays - seems this is a clothing optional beach, we parked up next to Kat and Gary who had the wine and s with Gary's famous guaquomle waiting for us. Glen went swimming and after sunset we all went to the wood fired pizza truck which has set up in the Senior High School carpark for the last 6 years. He has three oven on the back of a flatbed truck and does a roaring business. No wonder because his pizzas are generous and reasonably priced. It was again hot the next day, in fact every day. The weather app on the phone has lows of 22 and highs of 32 and sunny for the next 7 days. That doesn't sound too bad but humidity at over 80% kills the comfort factor. We explored Broome, the dinosaur foot prints (wrong tide didn't see them) and some of the lesser known beaches (not good swimming) before taking another drive along Cable, both from the south as far as you are allowed and then the northern part where we had a swim then explored town and town beach.
Quandong Point June 1st we packed up and headed off to free camp at Quandong Point off the Cape Levique Rd. We set the camper up overlooking the beach and not knowing if it was safe to swim with sharks and crocs we watched others first. A few groups went swimming - not far out - so we went in where they did. Julie kept watch and within a minute told Glen to get out of the water as she'd seen a head pop up. She thought it was a turtle but no turtle we'd seen would have been in the surf. That night we cooked over an open fire under a star filled sky. After dark hundreds of hermit crabs were walking everywhere and a couple were clever enough to climb up onto our BBQ plate. Broome was 40km away and isn't that big but we could see the glow of light from the town. The next day we watched a large hammerhead in the surf then explored up the road to James Price Point and then further up the track gathering a bit more wood as we went. The scenery was beautiful. We turned around at Coulomb Point but not before we explored a bit of the creek on foot. It gave Julie the creeps so we left fairly quickly without exploring too far. The big hunks of cow backbones laying around there brought fears of crocs. Next day we went to the top of Cape Levique to tick off another beach and the road was pretty rough. I wouldn't want to do it in the wet either. This resort charged entry for people and cars and if we'd known we were going to see it on the Horizontal Falls tour in a couple of days we wouldn't have bothered and would have gone to see something else… you pay for everything up here it seems. Ran into Kat and Gary again :) We opted not to watch the sunset with them as Glen didn't fancy doing the road at night. The Fun Truck Friday Curveball struck in the form of the 2-way radio not working. Next morning as Glen tried to fix the radio, unsuccessfully, we saw a turtle in the surf. At least that answered the question about what Julie saw the first night.
Broome and Horizontal Falls The day we left Broome for Quandong marked the start of the peak season and our caravan park went up 33% to $49 per night. We'd only intended to come back for 2 nights to do Horizontal Falls but since Glen couldn't fix the radio and we couldn't get anyone to look at it on the Saturday of the long weekend we needed to book in for an extra night. Our Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventure started early with a 5am pickup. We were taken to the airport and onto a seaplane for the flight to the Horizontal Falls which are two small gaps where the huge tides cause a height difference in the water on either side of the tidal pinch. Since they weren't running when we arrived the pilot landed the plane on the water straight way and we taxied (motored or floated or sailed - what do you call going on water in a seaplane?) to the pontoon to dock. You can opt to spend the night out there and those that did were soon boarding our planes to go home. For us it was coffee and feeding the tawny nurse sharks. We got in the shark cage but the water wasn't very clear so you couldn't really see any of the action and we got out to watch and fed them from the deck. Pretty soon breakfast of bacon and eggs was ready. After breakfast was the safety briefing and we boarded our boat. "Split Second" has three rows of saddle type seats running the length of the boat and is powered by three 300HP outboards. We headed out to the break in the rock wall as our skipper told us facts and figures about the horizontal falls. We were going early so we could travel through the far gap which is only 7m wide and is often too dangerous to go through (in Australia it's too dangerous now, they used to go through and still would if it was Thailand, but the boat wouldn't be anywhere near as good and life jackets would be optional). After a few high speed passes of both gaps we were taken into Cyclone Creek, where they moor their houseboat fleet and the pontoon motel during the wet season, to view the rock formations that made the Kimberley. Back to the pontoon to wait for the tide to come in and some people went on a helicopter flight over the falls. Eventually back onto "Split Second" and through the first gap a few times, running at about a 3m difference he said - I'd estimate 1.5m - and up to the second gap running at 5m he said while I'd estimate 3m. We sat stationary in front of the second falls at 13 knots, no idea how fast that is in real terms. There is no doubt that the falls are impressive regardless of the numbers you put on them and the water moves fast. Shortly we were back on the seaplane and taking off to see the falls in action from the air then over the Dampier Archipelago on our way to One Arm Point and Cape Levique for lunch. With the 10m difference in tides we could see from the air the water churning through the gaps between the islands. No wonder the pearlers had real difficulty navigating here. We landed on a dirt runway at One Arm Point and were picked up by a 4WD bus and taken to the hatchery where the local aboriginal people grow trunchas shells and fish to release on the reef or sell to the aquarium market. The shell used to be used for mother of pearl buttons but with plastic now used they have no market. On to Cape Levique for barramundi lunch and we seemed to have gotten the raw end of the service. The first ones had generous pieces of fish and loads of chips and couldn't eat it all but by the time they got to ours we had half a dozen chips and a small piece of fish. We had a swim at the beach and then began the long journey back to Broome. Being in the bus wasn't any better a ride than our Land Cruiser. We stopped at Beagle Bay to see the church built by the Lutherans who were interned there during the war. They built it from a picture on a post card so it really looks out of place but is decorated inside with pearl shells and is quite impressive. We got back to the caravan park around 5:30 so it was a big day. The day wasn't over yet as I'd arranged to meet a woman I used to teach with at Macquarie Fields way back in 1988. Cathy Scully was holidaying with a couple of friends and they'd just done a 5 day tour of the Gibb River Road (GRR) and the Bungle Bungle Ranges. We intended to take about 2 weeks just for the GRR. We had a lovely night with Cathy and her friends over some wine and cheese in their motel room. Queen's Birthday Holiday the next day and we shopped and prepared for the GRR. Since Julie's bait leaked in the fridge we defrosted and cleaned that too. That night with the extra drain of cooling the fridge from Broome temperature and barely any driving the 2nd battery went flat so we had to run the fridge on 240. Luckily we took a powered site. Charging the 2nd battery properly proved to be an issue for the whole of the GRR and our side trip to Mitchell Falls. Tuesday morning the first auto electrician was too busy to look at the car but he sent me to another and when he opened took only a short time and $20 to replace a crimped terminal that the wires had broken in and we were ready to roll… after some more shopping. We ran into Kat and Gary outside Woolworths and the butchers where we bought some Yeeda Station meat and chatted for a while. We bought Eli a book that was written by the governess at the station too. Julie and I decided to do the pearl and art gallery strip before actually hitting the road and just as we decided to go to the car a storm hit and for 5 minutes it poured and the streets were flooded. I don't know how they cope with a wet season if 5 minutes flooded the roads. It was still warm though.
Derby We got some great photos of red roads and the black clouds on our way to Derby. The rain was very localised and before long it was dry. We camped the night near a large boab tree… on Yeeda Station. In the morning we headed into Derby, stopping at the Prison Tree. While there we ran into a couple doing "the lap" in their Model A Ford and matching trailer. It was essentially original except it had been converted to 12V from 6V and he had put in a …can't remember what he called it but it essentially gave him low range because he was worried about the old 2L engine dragging the trailer up hills. Great to see them using their pride and joy rather than keeping it in mothballs and only bringing it out for club days. They'd come from Qld to Darwin for a Model A meet and kept going so Terry in Wagga keep an eye out for Terry and his wife when they pass through. He loves a chat and has restored quite a few cars. With our plan to do Mitchell Falls and not having a bug out pack (tent etc so we can spend nights away from the camper) we hit the camping store to find a tent then the hardware BUT on the way there we found a brilliant café - Kettle Café served wonderful coffee and excellent food for very reasonable prices. Julie had a frittata which came with a choice of sweet potato and lentil salad or green salad or a bit of both and was a sizeable meal for a measly $8:50! Sweet tooth Glen had sweet potato and walnut cake with cream cheese icing (a huge slice) and it was delicious served with cream. Oh yeah the tent we picked up in Woolies after eyeing off a solid wood table that wouldn't even fit in our house from the local home store. We are hopeless! School of the Air runs tours but only once a week and not the day we were there so we missed out on that. On a whim we stopped at the Norval Gallery on the way out of town. Julie particularly like the work of 16yo school refuser Tanisha who has won the junior Kimberly art prizes for a few years in a row. Her whole family is talented and Julie will buy one of her pieces before the year is out. Why not? The WA Art Gallery did.
The Gibb River Road Part 1 After the Norval Gallery 3km along the GRR we stopped at Mowanjum Art Centre, primarily to see if any of Tanisha's work was on sale but also to see the video which explains the art. At the centre, which from the air, looks like a Wandjina (the halo type head with 2 eyes and a nose but no mouth so they can't pass judgement), we went into the theatre but a video of their life in I'm guessing the 70s was being shown to a couple of French guys who'd done the community experience, where they fly up to the community and spend a couple of days. Even then members of the community were saying that with their people dying young nobody was passing on the laws. The saddest piece of footage was a guy in his mid 20s sitting in the long grass with McWilliams Cream Sherry (that was THE drink for winos before they went to metho and boot polish) and he was showing his initiation scars and saying he couldn't even remember what they meant. The art program at the centre (and dry communities) are helping to redress the issue of loss of cultural identity. They don't consider the land at the mission their country, they know it belongs to another tribe and they are just squatting. They were moved from their country and moved three times in relatively quick succession before settling outside Derby. The art program and probably some strong elders in the community have given back the people their identity and given them an income. So far the GRR has been bitumen and really good dirt road. We headed for a campsite at Poulton Pool, following a track on the GPS, but at a river crossing I lost the track and while looking for it frantically got called back to the car by Julie who'd seen a croc in an erosion gully. On further investigation with the long lens of the camera it turned out to be an old bar tread 4wd tyre. That pretty much did Poulton Pool for Julie anyway so we headed back to the road and camped at a clear spot near a couple of boabs. Glen set up for a star trail picture. It started to get a bit chilly so we donned a jumper and rummaged around under the bed for the blanket we had. Just the sheet wasn't going to cut it tonight!