Saturday, October 8, 2011

What we have learned from our travels

What have learned from our travels?

1.  People need to visit the pristine and isolated places in Australia to fully appreciate the destruction wrought by white settlement and the demise of so many of our native species. This destruction has occurred though inappropriate use of fragile ecosystems for cattle, sheep and other grazing; the greed of mining giants; introduction of feral pests and diseases; and clear felling of marginal areas. The destruction of country by cattle and sheep is more obvious in Queensland than anywhere else.  Whole islands off the Kimberley coast are disappearing before our eyes.

2.  We've been horrified by the numbers of feral animals everywhere, especially in the National Parks, where they need to be destocked, urgently.  We've seen feral cats, dogs, pigs, donkeys, cattle, camels, horses, buffalo and goats, in enormous numbers.  In addition, the national parks are overrun with cane toads.  Introduced grasses, weeds and escaped garden plants all add to the woes. A very special place for us is Mornington, off the Gibb River Road, where the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, is making every effort to protect our fragile ecosystems, by destocking, removing introduced flora etc, eco-fire management.  It is one of the VERY few places left to see the endangered Gouldian Finch and Purple Crested Wren.  A ray of hope lies in their new acquisition of managing one of the few pristine and inaccessible places left in the Kimberley; the Artesian Ranges.

3.  We've most enjoyed being away from the "madding crowd", especially the "grey nomads"!  To do this it's best to travel on dirt, to out-of-the-way National Parks, preferably 4WD only and to travel before and after the "great migration", which happens annually between Mother's Day in May and Father's Day in September.  Most grey nomads take three to four weeks to arrive at their destination and three to four weeks to return. They usually stay in one place only - in the warmth, but sometimes travel slowly between caravan parks.

4.  It's best to avoid "free" overnight camping spots on highways where there are no toilets.  Otherwise you have to deal with the detritus of human existence - rubbish, excrement and toilet paper!

5.  A very pleasant surprise was the friendliness of the Indonesian people, particularly those on Lombok.  This is particularly surprising given the extreme poverty we witnessed. There was little evidence of crime, and the people were concerned to ensure visitors had a wonderful time. The discrepancies between the haves and the have nots was extreme.

6.  The iPad has been a wonderful traveling aid.  We have used it to make phone calls, check emails, make bookings, keep photos and diaries, navigate, banking, play games etc.  But you must remember to turn off "data roaming" when overseas!

7.  Good points about the camoer: Being off the ground has has so many advantages.  We have avoided mud underfoot in Harndorf and Mallacoota, Flash flooding flowing through the tent in Port Pirie, mouse plague invasions throughout SA and the centre of Australia as well as other creepy crawlies getting in. Being up high has meant that the tent as been able to take advantage of any breeze and with all the windows open very cool inside in the hotter areas. It was warm during cold nights in Victoria and SA with the heater - got too hot! The tropical roof is a bonus and ensures the tent stays dark inside at night as well as cooling the inside whilst up north. The kitchen is out of reach for dingoes and possums.  The seals to all cupboards and the kitchen are dustproof and waterproof. When the weather wasn't so nice the space inside allowed us to set up a table and two chairs inside.  It's excellently designed and well made. The canvas and window materials are all excellent quality and didn't let any mosquitoes or sandflies in. the kitchen is very well designed with it's storage shelves.

8.  Some bad points about the camper:  we had to purchase eggshell overlay and new woolen overlay for the mattress because it was cold underneath to begin with.   This prevented us from keeping the bed made up when closed. Pillows, blankets and dons had to be stored away. We also had to purchase non slip strips to place on the steps - this should be standard. The gas stove needs to be more powerful and it needs a windshield. The plastic water tank tainted the water too quickly. It needs better electrical connections that are more robust in corrugated road conditions. The bed isn't quite long enough for Peter, but better than some where you have to climb over each other to get in and out of bed.

9.  The people, we met, from all walks of life and from all over Australia, are seriously concerned about the lack of leadership in our country at the moment and the lack of vision for the future.  They all expressed serious concerns about what happens to our future generations when the mineral boom finishes and we've sold all our best land and assets to overseas conglomerates. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Drive home

The weather turned foul from Jundah and beyond. So this meant that our intended stops at national parks was not sensible. All of them lie in the Channel Country with dirt roads leading in and out of them. The roads become impassable with even the slightest wet, so we were lucky to have reached the Tarmac without too much trouble.

In addition the tent on the camper as become quite dusty from all the red interior dust. We wanted to avoid making the canvas streaky and washing the grime into it. The weather forecast is for continuing showers, so we are now on the way home. And will arrived this evening having done over 1500klms in two days!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stonehenge, Jundah and Quilpie


Eventually we found a laundromat in Longreach that had room to put our dirty washing.  So whilst it was washing we investigated the local RSL club for lunch.  Unfortunately the drying took longer than necessary because, Sue only emptied the washing from one machine.  When she emptied the dryer, there wasn't enough washing!,  Ooops another washing machine still had the remainder in it all still wet!

When all the washing was dry, we took the road towards Welford National Park.

The road was one strip of tar, and badly formed.  In some ways worse than the dirt roads we had already travelled on because, if you meet a road train on a road like this, unless you get right off the road, they will shower you with stones!  Visibility from behind is limited by the width of the camper, so a one stage, as we were pulling off to let the 35meter road train full of fuel, overtake, he deliberately swerved to ensure we copped the biggest showering possible.  The tar strip is sometimes very difficult to get off as the edges form a sharp drop and the sharp edges can cut tyres to shreds

It started to get late in the afternoon and we still had some 90klms to get to Jundah, before another 64klms to Welford National Park.  The paddocks were not fenced from the road, so cattle and sheep are able to wander at will.

So we decided to pull in to a small town called Stonehenge.  There are 25 residents living in the tone, most of whom were at the local pub when we arrived.  The caravan park was a dusty strip diagonally opposites the pub and payment was by "honor system".  But there were clean hot and cold showers, electricity, if required, BBQ facilities, if you had wood, rain water to drink and all for $10.

Meeting the locals was an interesting experience. Most were in some way connected to the pub. The two girls serving were the publican's daughters, the two blokes sitting outside were employed by the publican, who also owned the local RACQ and earth moving business.  The teacher from the local school of just four children, taught the pulican's grandchildren.  

The local gardener turned up later.  His job was to keep the town's garden in order. This being the grounds around the campsite - not much in the way of gardens and the gardens around the community hall - again not a big area. They were very pretty and very green. He had a helper two days per week.

At the shower block, later in the evening, Sue spotted what looked very similar to a Cane Toad!  Let's hope it hasn't made it's way down as far south west as this!

By morning the wind had really picked up and it was threatening to rain. So we were unable to use the has stove to make tea and breakfast.

The road out of Stonehenge in the morning took us along a magnificent dirt road until it looped back onto the one strip of tar to Jundah. 

In Jundah we stopped for fuel, which was a rusting pump in the middle of a paddock.  We waited and no one came, so Peter went to the local store.  Kathy the owner, also ran the fuel stop, so she ambled over, filled the car and told us to meet her back at the store to pay.

The store was something out of the 1900's, old wooden display cabinets, very dusty and minimal products for sale.  We went in and ordered two toasted sandwiches.  Kathy went down the back to cook the toast and whilst she was gone, two other customers came in to be served.  They waited for some while and eventually left.  When Kathy came back out she said, "Did I miss some customer?"  When this was confirmed she said, " Oh well they can wait for me, if they want something they will be back".  As she is the only store in the town this would be true.  She was the dictator to the customer!

From Jundah, we took the dirt road through Welford National Park.  This is a magnificent park, with red sand dunes, rocky outcrops, clay pans and stony plains.  Here we saw heaps of bustards, and emus with their chicks.  We also saw plenty of red and grey kangaroos.  On the road were large lizards standing up high on their front haunches. Again the dirt road was great.

Towards the very end of this road, we came across the large clean lake.  Wildlife abounded here.  Birds of every variety were on and around the water.  Bird chatter and noise could be heard all around.

We stopped here to make a cup of tea as the wnd had finally stopped. And then we felt the first spits of rain.  

When we got back onto the tar strip, it started to rain in ernest. This was not pleasant diving.  Every kilometer or so we would have to stop to avoid colliding with either kangaroos, emus or cattle. Cattle grids and sheet water, together with flood dips proved to be additional hazards. In addition, large road trains were also using the road.  This was for 247klms.

After Quilpie, the road widened marginally and the number of animals decreased slightly, but the number of road trains increased. This was for a further 210klms.

So we have arrive in Charleville very tired and not wanting to open the camper in the rain.  So we have booked motel accommodation for the night.

Bladensburg National Park

Bladenburg National Park

The drive from Cloncurry to Winton  was about 380klms of flat dry dusty dry yellow grasslands called the Channel Country. Plenty of grass, due the the "big wet", where it hadn't been overgrazed.  But very uninteresting to drive through because there is almost no other vegetation than grass and it is flat as far as the eye can see!

Just before we reached Winton, we saw our first Brolgas.  These graceful and elegant birds are often mention in poems about the outback.  They are usually found near water  -these were closed to the town water supply, supplied by a large dam.

We stopped in Winton to get directions to Bladenburg National Park.  This park is representative of the Channel Country in its natural state. Large flat plains where water travels during rain periods; spinifex clumps on small gibber plains and low thorny acacias.  Here we finally saw Big Red Kangaroos in large numbers.  It was still early afternoon, so they were napping in any shade they could find, including on the road.

We drove to our campsite following the circuitous route through the park, stopping to look at the few water holes along the way.  They turned out to be muddy pools in otherwise dry creek beds. The last water hole, called Bough Shed Hole is a deep waterhole left during the dry in Surprise Creek. This is where the camping area is located.  Very muddy water but many birds nearby.

We picked a prime spot and thought we were going to be the only campers there.  Bur about an hour after we arrived two 4WDs with campers arrived, covered us in dust and the proceeded to camp right beside us.  There was heaps of room, but they chose to camp right beside us!

On arrival we were greeted by a loud "woop" noise and looked up to see an owl's head peaking out of a hollow in the tree above.  It watched us for a long time, before deciding we were harmless and went back inside it's hollow to sleep again.  This same performance happened when we were leaving in the morning.

The difference between station paddocks and national park is incredible!  The station paddocks looked dry and denuded, whilst the national park, looked, by contrast, unadulterated and full of native vegetation and wildlife.

Bladensburg National Park is an excellent example of the arid Channel Country region, with dry clay pans, rocky creek crossings and low acacia scrub.  

In the morning we tried to find a laundromat in Winton.  Several days in the desert, with limited camper water, meant an urgent clothes washing was in order.  But the first laundromat was fully occupied and the second was so dirty, that even with our filthy red and dusty clothes, there was no way we were going to wash them in those machines!

Some ten kms off the main road is the entrance to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Preparation Facility.  It is located another eleven klms on a dirt road atop a mesa.  We chose to take part in the tour offered so that we could view the dinosaurs discovered in the black soils of the Channel Country.

The young tour guide was doing her gap year before going to New England University to do archeology and paleontology.  She was excellent.  Her family comes from the Longreach area, we suspected that she may have been come from one of the station families as she knew so much about the local area and was passionate about her " dinosaurs" !

A family of local farmers first came across the dinosaur bones, when driving though their paddocks. They noticed some unusual "rocks" sitting on the surface of the ground and went to investigate.  These rocks were collected and reassembled on their kitchen table to reveal a very large fossilised leg bone.  This was subsequently sent for analysis and guess what, they had found a new species of giant herbivorous dinosaur, who they have nicknamed, Matilda.

Subsequent digs on the sandstone below the topsoil, have revealed a whole field of dinosaurs, including, Banjo, Matilda, Ward and Dixie. Ward and Dixie, have yet to undergo rigorous scientific classification before being released to the world.

Apparently the black top soil in this area is "regenerating". What happens is that the soil cracks with the dry and into those cracks fall small grains of dry topsoil, which fall to the bottom of the cracks.  When the wet comes the water forces up the lumpy bits in between and with it it pushes up the fossilized bones. Hence finding "Matilda".

The digs are not dug initially by hand, but the three meters of topsoil is removed by front end loader.  In the one week per year that this occurs, they are excavating enough material to keep the facility busy for six years!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Clem Walton Reserve

Clem Walton Park

Mt Isa was completely different to the images both Peter and I had about the place.  We were expecting a dusty, industrial town with slag heaps and mining towers.  Instead, it is a clean and thriving metropolis! It is situated amongst picturesque, rolling deep red and orange hills

A stop in Mt Isa to get information from the Tourist Information Centre, turned out to be a waste of time! The girl behind the counter couldn't tell us anything other than info about Mt Isa, so we continue our travels, only knowing we can't go to Lawn Hill or the Birdsville Track, due to bush fires. This we read on a notice pinned up inside the centre.

Our search for a suitable camp between Mt Isa and Cloncurry, resulted in us find a wonderful spot along a river in Clem Walton Park.  The entry point is very strange as there is a shut gate, complete with padlock; only the padlock locks nothing; and there is a large notice about the presence of blue/green algae.

The blue/green algae reading on the notice board indicated a "moderate" level. We drove for some way before arriving at a fork in the road, one leading to a large water catchment dam and the other leading somewhere else.  We chose the "somewhere else", because we could see a number of caravans and motor homes beside the dam.

The "somewhere else", turned out to be a vibrant river with green grassy campsites right at the water's edge.  On arrival, there was just one other couple, who were from Mt Isa and spending their Sunday enjoying a picnic in this very quiet and beautiful spot.

We got out of the car and continued walking further downstream along a rough road close to the water. We found no one else there and the best camping spots ever!

Our choice of campsite was towards the very end of the track.  Green grass down to the water's edge, a camp fireplace, a flat area suitable for the camper.  With gin and tonic and beer in hand we enjoyed the stillness and solitude. 

This has been one of the best campsites.  The river showed little sign of the alleged blue/green algae, it was alive and very well!  Thousands of different species of fish were enjoying the water plants and abundant insect life.  Birds were happily swimming, diving and washing in the water.

Other than one cow dung, there was no other evidence of the feral animals seen in other sites.  This may be why the river is so alive.  The banks have not been eroded by hooves and the vegetation is still all intact.

All types of birds abounded including many types of little wrens and finches - usually a good indication of the health of an ecosystem.

As the sun was setting, we saw our first "alive" big Red Kangaroo.  Until now we had seen only one "dead" one on the Barkly Highway, past Mt Isa. In the morning we saw a Whistling Kite catch and eat a large fish from the river.

Camooweal Caves National Park

Camooweal Caves National Park - (Nowranie) 

The Barkly Highway to Camooweal, from Barkly Homestead, passed through some very green landscape due to the very late wet up in these areas. This certainly has not looked like the "Red Centre" anywhere on our travels!  There were also kilometers and kilometers of flat yellow grasslands with no other vegetation at all.  During very dry periods this would probably only have the tiniest amount of visible grass.

Some eighty kilometers from Barkly Homestead, we came across a very large bush fire.  Fires in this part of Australia, don't seem to burn in the same ways that they do in the wetter eastern part.  The flames are relatively low and are mainly burn the grass and spinifex, not the tree canopies.

Ten kilometers before Camooweal, we crossed into Queensland.  This is the first ever visit to Queensland, by Sue!  It also means that we have now travelled in every state and territory of Australia this year! We had been to Tasmania in January. 

From Camooweal we took the turn off to Camooweal Caves National Park (Nowranie), where we stayed the night. The road in leads through pristine vegetation, but only for a short while.  The fences have been knocked down in places, so the vast herds of cattle from the nearby station have flooded into the national park causing severe degradation of the soil and indigenous flora.

When we arrived at the campsite, it didn't look very inviting, despite the large expanse of water, the remnant water of Nowranie Creek. This was because the cows were using the grounds as their own personal recreation space.  We tried shooing them away, but all our efforts were in vain as they just kept returning.  The cows in desert areas are bred for their drought tolerance and ability to digest dry and brittle vegetation, they are also very large and bred from Brahman Cattle, so they can be quite fierce.  These cows, however, proved to be merely curious, so once they had cured their curiosity, they were happy to move on.

Unfortunately the cattle had left their calling cards, with dung in the shelters and all over the possible camp sites.  We thought we were going to be the only people there for the night, as no one else turned up for some hours.  But, a group of four Germans eventually arrived on dusk. They were on their way to Darwin. We have found the German tourists, on the whole, to be not particularly friendly, preferring to stick to their own, these were no exception. Foreign tourists are now outnumbering Aussies, by a massive percentage, now that the "grey nomads" have all gone home.

After the cattle had drunk at the waterhole, and as night fell, flocks of birds also came to enjoy the water. We saw a Jabaroo, an Egret, Little Comorants, ducks, Pink-Breasted Galahs, Cockatoos, Eastern Cockateils as well as the usual Mud Larks, Small Ground Pigeons and Crows.  The best bird-watching time, though, was early in the morning when there were huge flocks of Budgerigars, an Egret, white Heron, Whistling Kites, as well as the other birds seen the night before.

On the way out we visited the caves. These caves are part of the Barkly Tableland, mentioned in the previous blog.  This is where the water collects from the wet, seeping through the limestone rock, into the underground aquafers below. The water has eroded cave systems, that have been breached in places, by the surface collapsing into a sink hole. An aerial survey shows that there are 87 such caves in and around Camooweal, with another 67, suspected ones, apparently making in the largest cave system in Australia.

Three Bustards were sharing the grazing space with a large herd of cattle.  These are very large upright birds, that were eaten by the early settlers, reportedly very tasty!

Barkley Homestead

Barkly Homestead

Some 300 odd kilometers or so we turned off the Stuart Highway onto the Barkly Highway and headed towards Barkly Homestead.  

Most stations in the outback are now taking some advantage from the enormous numbers of visitors to the outback.  Barkly Homestead is no exception.  It has a very well run roadhouse with attached bar and restaurant, frequented by all the road trains, as well as cabins and caravan park.

Set in lovely verdant gardens, with a pool, it is a welcoming place to stop.  Many of the "free" wayside stops, by contrast, have no toilets, and so can be quite disgusting with toilet paper and excrement lying everywhere.

We found a suitably shady spot away from everyone else and enjoyed restful stop.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Daly Waters

Daly Waters

Our next stop was Daly Waters.  We stayed in the caravan park behind the Day Waters Hotel. Very dry and dusty with an historic pub built in 1930. The interior of the pub is filled with souvenirs and memorabilia from visiting tourists.  Above the bar, to the left, are bras of every conceivable shape, size and colour.  To the right,"ditto", but knickers!
There were caps, signed towels, business cards and passport photos, a wall of bank notes from all over the world.

Amusing signs inside and outside the pub, gave the rules for entry.  "Angle Parking - Park any angle you want"; (with a parking meter and traffic light outside to assist); "Dogs, please read, you're not allowed in here"; "Everything here, not made in China"; "MacDonalds Drive Through, 287klms->", etc

Daly Waters boasts that it had the first International Airport in Australia.  During world war 2, the American and Australian air forces were based here.  There is a remnant hangar with old qantas planes housed within.

The pub has a lovely swimming pool, which after a long hot drive was particularly welcoming.

We had an enormous outback breakfast in the morning.

Elsley National Park

Elsley National Park

The national parks camp called Jalmurark, set within the Elsley National Park was all but deserted when we arrived late afternoon. Only one other couple.  We tried to find a spot some way away, to give both them and us some privacy, but when Peter went to check the closest toilet block to us, he was startled to find a four foot snake enjoying the cool cement floor.  We decided that toilet block was not for us!  So moved closer to the only other toilet block.  We could only just see the other couple's camp.  

Having tried so hard to keep our spaces so far apart, we were then dismayed when two lots of backpackers decided to camp right next door to us!  They could have chosen any number of sites further away!  We decided they were probably a little scared. 

The park was enormous and very well laid out, with fireplaces, cut wood, solar hot water and large separated camps sites.  It is located on the Roper River.  The whole area is famous for its hot springs.  These occur where there is a break in the basalt rock layer which lies over the top of an aqueous limestone artisan water system.  Rain falls in the these Barkly Ranges and soaks down into the limestone, flowing underground to this area.  It eventually makes its way to the Gulf of Carpentaria and also east to the coast.

The dusk fell and with it came clouds of mosquitoes.  So although it was hot, we had to don long sleeves and long trousers with legs tucked into socks.  The mozzie repellent being next to useless! Soon very loud hee-hawing began, reverberating right across the park as the feral male donkeys competed for domination over their harems of females!  The males would bray themselves hoarse, stop for a minute or two and then begin again!
Apparently we struck a quiet night!

In the morning we took a walk down to the Roper River.  Here we saw several swimming pontoons moored in the river.  Despite the notices declaring that there were probably no crocs in the river, we decided that the water didn't look too inviting! It was not crystal clear, quite murky in fact and had a scum on the surface. We walked along the river bank back towards the campsite, find heaps of donkey poo everywhere!  

We are very surprised and disappointed that the National Parks seem to do nothing about keeping the feral animals out of these special areas.  Needless to say the impact of hard hooves and huge grazing capacity of the donkeys is destroying the river bank edges and reducing the flora habitats. 

The famous Mataranka Homestead, of "We of The Never Never", lies within the Elsley National Park,  so we drove there to visit the hot springs.  This is a fascinating area, densely grouped palms surround the springs, which gush up out of the ground in some places and ooze out in others.  Obviously very fertile, because of the vast amounts of fresh water.  

Unfortunately there is a huge Red Fruit Bat population residing in the tree canopy above. So the stench is nauseating. In an attempt to keep the bats at manageable levels, the parks people have had high pressure tower sprinklers installed, which turn on ingintermittently. We decided we didn't want to swim here either!

A relocated replica of the Elsley Homestead, built for the filming of "We Of The Never Never", is located nearby. It has the original costumes designed and sewn for the film, hanging up inside, as well as other memorabilia from bygone eras.

The previous evening we had noticed the local people making their way down to Bitter Springs.  So with this in mind we turned back up the highway to investigate.  Again these are hot springs, located within the Elsley National Park. More palms, but not as densely packed as the ones at Mataranka. Not a bat to be seen and no dreadful stench!

It's name, Bitter Springs, belies it's reality. It is spotless with beautiful clean clear water that gushes out of a spring at 900 litres per minute.  The water flows down a narrow creek, within which you can swim.  This was a perfect place to enjoy the waters!

The creek is home to many invertebrates including small very friendly fish and insects.  Birdlife abounds alongside the water's edge and in the tree canopy above.  Water plants are everywhere including some beautiful purple flowering waterlilies.

After a great swim, we were on the road again.

Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park

Whilst the tyre was being sorted out, we went to the shopping centre to replenish the consumables in the camper.

Soon we were heading off to Litchfield National Park. This is an easy day trip for people living in Darwin. The drive in to Litchfield took us through hectares and hectares of burnt bush.  Some of it was due to recent hot fire which has left parts of the park looking very desolate.

The park has many hidden pools, swamps and creeks.  We drove to Wangi Falls (pronounced Wonn Guy!) where we found a campsite for the night.  500 meters from the camping ground is the falls with a very deep and wide swimming hole. Crystal clear water with easy access allowed us to have a long and relaxing swim.

After a leisurely breakfast, pack up and then another swim, we went to Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek).  Here we chose a campsite before setting off on the 1.7klms track to the falls.  The walk was very hot and over rocky boulder masses. So it was wonderful to find a pristine water hole with very tall waterfall at the end of the walk. Only two other people were there, an off-duty parks ranger and her boyfriend who had chosen to spend their day off in a favourite place.

After several swims and a picnic lunch, we noticed that there was an enormous column of very black smoke coming up on the ridge behind us. By this stage the park ranger and her friend has started walking back.  We decided that the fire was now getting a little too close for comfort, so started quickly back to the car.  By now the fire was starting to move over the edge of the ridge. Between us and it was a small stream that we could jump into if it got too close.

Our walk back, was, needless to say, much faster that the one to the falls.  On the track leading back, we met an on-duty park ranger who asked us to hurry out of the area as the path was now "in danger"!  Camping was also not allowed, so we headed back to Wangi Falls.

A much better campsite this time, away from most other campers and in particular, away from a family with four very noisy young children, who constantly screamed for either "mummy" or "daddy".

On the return to the Stuart Highway, we called in to the small town of Bachelor. At the local general store we were able to buy freshly baked rolls, which we enjoyed for breakfast.  This is a beautiful little town, with the best kept gardens, parks and recreational grounds imaginable.  There are magnificent plantings of tropical and indigenous shrubs and trees everywhere. Everything is lush and green, having been watered every day. It feels and looks like a tropical paradise, based in far north Queensland.



A very long day was ahead of us when we left Bumbang Ku.  We left the hotel by boat at 8.30am and dropped off Brad (part owner of the deluxe units) and his friend Sonny off at the surfing spot along the way. A car and driver were waiting for us in Gerupuk.  This was to take us by the Mataram office of Nunung, where we could settle our hotel bill by visa card, and then on the the domestic airport.  We had booked a flight from Mataram to Denpasar, from where we could take our Jetstar plane to Darwin.

Despite all the seeming chaos in Indonesia, this all happened very smoothly and few glitches.  The flights were all on time, the driver was there to meet us, (even though the message to him wasn't clear; - he had arrived by road to the hotel. So while we had breakfast he drove to Gerupuk, it would have taken an hour by road, only fifteen minutes by boat) the office was open and the domestic plane very new and therefore safe.

We arrived in Darwin at 10.30pm, where we checked in to a nearby motel for the night.  We decided that we would deal with the car and a possible flat tyre in the morning.  It is worth noting that the hotel provided free transfers to and from the airport and, we discovered, too late, cheap long-term car parking.

The next morning, on arrival at the long term airport car park, we did indeed have a slow leaking rear tyre.  So another trip to the tyre centre was in order.  The tyre was leaking because somewhere along our travels, we had pierced the side wall.  Was this after the repair in Katherine or before? We have no idea. It was illegal for the tyre centre to repair this sort of puncture as the structure of the tyre had now been compromised.  Fortunately for us, they had an identical Michelin tyre with which to replace it.  This was amazing, because these tyres are very difficult to procure!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bumbang Ku

Bumbang Ku 

We were met in the harbour at Gili Air by our guide for the day, Awan. Boat transfers and a very swish car with driver had been pre-organized for us.  The harbour on Lombok to which we arrived is called Bangsal. It is very busy with fishing boats, smelly market and small wurungs lining every street.

We had had much discussion with both Madin and Awan about exactly Bumbangku Ku Beach Cottages were.  They kept saying we meant Bangku Bangku, which is a long way west of where we needed to head. So in the end we just told them, Gerupuk!

The road leading to the new freeway was pot holed and very rough. Soon we were on the way to a wedding.

This was held in a very tiny, impoverished fishing village. The bride was Madin's daughter! We were invited to attend the actual ceremony.  This was held in the very small mosque in the centre of the village.  We followed the bride and her new family-to-be to the mosque. The bride was beautifully dressed with a lovely yellow lace jelba covering her head and arms.  It was decorated with yellow lace flowers and silver sequins at the edge.

The inside of the mosque was lined with the local male dignitaries all wearing Indonesian hats and sarongs. We sat outside peering in.  Soon we were asked to join the bridal party inside the mosque! It was a bit uncomfortable becuse we know that women ar not allowed inside with the men and here we were both being invited in.  There was some scurrying about as appropriate sarongs were found for both Peter and I.  This was to be wrapped around our waists to hide the legs! Both of us had hats on. We were told we could take photos and move about during the ceremony at the appropriate times to take other photos.  

The wedding papers were examined in detail by the Amir. Then the ceremony began with Madin giving his daughter to his future son-in-law. He asked the groom whether he would look after his daughter, etc. The boy had to reply, helped by prompting from the older men, upon which the two men shook hands.  Then came the vows between the two young people.  The groom was very nervous and couldn't get the words right.  He tried again and again, with much prompting.  Beads of sweat were now pouring off his face.  Eventually the Amir gave him the written script to read to try to help him get the words correct.  Again and again he tried, always with something wrong.  At last he got the words right and there was much cheering and clapping in the mosque.  Then it was the bride's turn.  She was word perfect the first time!  Some money was exchanged. That was the end of the ceremony.  Very simple. The marriage was a love marriage apparently, not arranged as one would assume! Everyone was given a small sealed container of water with a straw.  We didn't stay to participate in the wedding breakfast - there was still a long way to drive!

The drive to Mattaram, the capital of Lombok, took us along a dual carriage highway that was still being completed in some sections.  In Mattaram we needed to buy a new memory card for my camera, buy airline tickets back to Denpassar and get some ear drops for Peter who now had waxed up water in his ear!  We were taken to a very new shopping complex.  This surprised us as we had assumed, wrongly, that such a place didn't exist in Lombok.

Being Sunday, it was a public holiday for most people, so the money exchanges and banks were all closed.  People throughout Lombok were enjoying a day out.  The public beaches were all crowded with families enjoying the wurungs, picnics and socialising with one another.  

Our journey took us through irrigated and very intensely farmed areas.  Rice paddies, vegetables, cotton and tobacco are all grown in this region.  The remaining areas we drove through were very dry. Lombok is very dry by comparison to Bali!

I really wanted to look at the famous Ikat weaving done in the women's weaving commune.  Our guide took us to this small commune village in the heart of Sukurara.  This is where the ceremonial sarongs are made renowned throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.  The pieces are hand and foot woven on very ancient looms.  The women have to wear a woven belts to protect their backs and stomachs because the wooden stabilizers for the weft and warp are at the  front of the looms and the women sit between then using their bodies to hold the theads taut.

I wasn't disappointed.  The work was exquisite! It takes at least a week for the loom to be prepared for the woven pattern before weaving can begin.  Through each thread divider, two strands must be placed. The thread dividers are less than 1mm apart and less that 1mm in width, so the work is very fine.  The women use mostly cotton, but also silk and gold and silver thread.  Only about 10cm can be woven on each day, so they are also painstakingly slow to make.

The head woman of the commune took us around the village to view the women making the cloth.  The village was very poor, with each small house having just 2 rooms - a bedroom and a kitchen with a small open area at the front; room enough to keep the loom.  The men and women are all involved in farming, so the weaving takes place in the down time.  Although the houses were built so close to one another and the people so desperately poor, there were no nasty smells.  The houses inside were immaculate.

The drive took us past the new international airport, due to be opened on October 1; two weeks too late for us!

After this the road began to deteriorate. By 4.00pm we had reached the small port of Gerupuk, where we were supposed to call the hotel to let them know of our arrival so they could send the hotel boat to collect us.  But the phone calls made to Bumbangku all gave the same message that the phone could not be connected.  So with this we proceeded to hire the services of a local boatman.  He could however, see that we hadn't been there before and had no clue about the correct charge to take us to our hotel, so we were swindled we later discovered!

From Gerupuk it is impossible to see Bumbangku  so here we were on a local fishing boat heading out to sea with no idea where we supposed to go, with a boatman who spoke very limited English.  We past seaweed farming and a few crayfish farms. The seaweed is used in the manufacture of cosmetics. We passed one of the famous Lombok surfing spots, a long way out to sea and breaking just before a rocky reef. All surfers have to catch a boat in order to surf here. A floating bar at the edge of the break allows the surfers to have a rest and a drink.  Finally we rounded a rocky hill protruding from the sea, to catch our first glimpse of our hotel.

Bumbangku Beach Cottages is located in a very sheltered bay towards the most southeasterly tip of Lombok.  It is the only hotel located in the area and best arrived by boat because the road to it is almost impassable. The hotel in Gili Air was a three star hotel, Bumbang Ku a one star hotel.

Within the bay is very intensive lobster farming, but not yet extensive enough to detract from the resort feel of the place.  Most of the accommodation is bamboo cottages with thatched roofs with attached outdoor bathrooms;  these contain a hole-in-the-ground toilet, flushed by bailing water from a large urn, and a cold water shower - quite OK in this climate. We have one of the larger cottages - about 3.5 m by 3m.

When we first arrived there were several other guests; three French couples, an Aussie family and a New Zealand women with her adult daughter.  Tony ( Aussie) had a Phd in political economics, so our conversations were very interesting as we discussed the current political situation in Australia.  His wife, Julia, is a psychologist working in schools.

The French tourists in this part of the world make no allowances for local etiquette.  The "partner" of one French couples insisted on bathing with a g-string and completely topless.  This is an Islamic island, so the behaviour affronted the sensibilities of the local Sassak people.  Another had an anger management problem, which he took out on the staff when he was kept awake by a local village wedding - nothing at all to do with the hotel. On another occasions he screamed at the staff when he arrived late for breakfast and the coffee was cold.  He ranted and raged for almost an hour, yelling personal verbal abuse and swearing. It turned out that although he spoke French with his French wife, he was from Barcelona.  I wonder what John Cleese would have made of that?

An extremely thin female dog visited the restaurant for each meal and then went away again.  She has been named Dolly by the New Zealanders because of her big tits.  She has produced four fat and cute puppies, hiding them in a small cave nearby away from the villagers and other dogs. She has obviously wasted herself away with feeding the pups and needs a good feed, a good worming and a good home!

The owner of Bumbang Ku is a woman called Nunung.  She seems to be an extremely successful business woman, who owns a real estate business and a separate tourism booking office in Mataram.  She came to visit her latest venture, the hotel at Bumbang, twice whilst we were there. Nunung has wonderful people skills.  She provided, for all the tourists, a delicious free lunch of fresh Blue Swimmer Crabs and local vegetable called celerik.  A truly delicious meal! I taught Sono, the chef, how to make Chilli Ginger Crab.  Anyway the vile Frenchman (from Barcelona) went home happy.

The reason for providing the lunch , was in fact, not to appease the Frenchman from Barcelona, but to apologize for the water problems.  Whilst we were there, a new and deeper well was being drilled.  The contractors needed water from the first well to dig the second well. So without notifying the hotel staff, the water was completely disconnected for long stretches at a time.  Then the old pump wasn't strong enough to pump the water up out of the new and much deeper shaft.

Bumbang Ku has only been open since January 2011.  So what Nunung has achieved in that time is truly remarkable.  The location is so remote that there were no infrastructure facilities such a water, power, telephone and internet when she first bought the land.  In early 2011, a well was sunk, generator purchased and telephone (not reliable) were installed; cottages were built, of the bamboo variety and some deluxe units built.

We were very ably looked after by the staff, Anggar, the manager come fixit man, Sono, the chef, Simi, his assistant, Issey, the gardener and  Mutazam, the housekeeper.

We have tried to do a long walk every day. There are three very small villages nearby.  All of them are involved somehow with the sea, either as fishermen or aquaculturalists for lobster or seaweed.  The village to the east is extremely poor having the poorest soils and very limited water.  This village is situated right beside a national park of 380 hectares.  A small strip of sea abutting the peninsular of the national park is marine park.  However, the ranger only spends about one day per month here, so no policing of logging or removal of trees happens.

On day three, some lovely South African women, Dee and Marianne, arrived with a friend from Kalimantan.  They were fun to be with. Both live in Cape-town.   Marianne, has with her husband, purchased the block next door, onto which they also plan to build a small holiday resort. Two of Dee's kids represent South Africa, a daughter is an Olympic water polo player and the other, a son, Paul Harris, a slow spin bowler.

On day five, we took the boat and a driver to have lunch at a well known restaurant, Astari, high in the hills above Kuta, Lombok. We asked the driver to give us a bit of a sightseeing tour of some of the local attractions before we went to lunch.  I wanted to visit the local market to see what spices and herbs were available in the local area.  We wanted to buy some tea leaves for a decent cup of tea as well as some other sorts of spices so that I could cook something different in the hotel kitchen. 

The driver took us to a traditional Sassak village. This was beautiful, very tightly packed together houses all made from wood, bamboo and palm fronds.  It was surprisingly cool, no smells despite the fact that there was no running water anywhere.  Toilets are all long drops and bathrooms open air structures with a large urn for water and a pail. Women in the village were weaving and making jewelry from coconut shells and colored beads. The villagers have community rice paddies in which they all work, down on the flat below the village.

Then we were taken to a batik workshop, where we watched a man designing batik lengths of cloth on the floor.  Each motive was done on the fabric with it draped over the hand, all perfectly positioned and separate from each other.  It turned out that he was a designer and creating new symbols for the island of Lombok on the cloth. These included, Tamarind, chillies, spinach leaves, onions and garlic.

The road to Astari Restaurant was dreadful.  Supposed to be tar, but with the worst holes and sand patches imaginable. Two cars driving up were forced to turn back because their car didn't have enough power to make it up the steep hill. Apparently there have been many very serious accidents leading up to the restaurant.

The lunch was very nice, but the chef at Bumbang Ku makes far tastier food! The best thing about the Astari restaurant is it's location.  The view is spectacular! From the restaurant verandah you can see Bumbang to Kuta, with the surf, reefs and steep mountainsides.

The owner of Astari is a man called, Gaz - an Aussie.  He asked us where we came from, and told us that he had a cousin living somewhere in the Narooma area, did we know him.  Graeme Mummie lives at Potato Point and we know him and his wife Lynne very well!

It was sad to leave Bumbang Ku, as we felt that we were leaving a kind and friendly family.

Gili Air Lombok

Gilli Air Island - Indonesia

From Darwin our flight took us to Den Pasar, where we caught a taxi to our first night in Sanur.  The hotel was located on the new by-pass road, so very busy with traffic.  The hotel was being extended and renovated.  It was a typical international hotel, with not much character or charm. We were quite glad to be able to go by car and driver to Padangbai, some 3 hours away.  The breakfast, however was magnificent, with typical authentic Indonesian food on the help-yourself buffet.

At Padangbai we had to wait for a couple of hours to catch the fast boat to Gilli Air.  This took another 2 hours in very rough seas! So we arrived at Gilli Air at about 4.00pm and caught a horse and cart to our hotel.

This is beautiful and relaxing place.  No cars or motor bikes allowed on the three Gilli islands!  You can either hire a horse and cart or a push bike.  Apart from our horse drawn ride to the Gilli Air Hotel, we have mostly chosen to walk.

On our second day here, we walked around the edge of the island. It is supposed to take one hour - we took two.  We stopped and gawked at everything along the way; the warungs (shops), carving places and the bars and hotels.  

Everything is very rustic and most buildings have been designed and built using at least some traditional styles and building materials.  Palm thatched roofs abound, many relaxing dining and drinking areas built right on the beach, with comfortable cushions atop a wooden platform and small table.

The snorkeling is very good here - it's what the islands are renowned for. So many international tourists come here to dive.  They are mostly young backpackers who rent very cheap local accommodation.  We feel like the geriatrics on the island.  The islanders now refer to me a mamma - I think a reference to grandmother.

We hired snorkel and goggles for three days from a warung, and used them to explore the reef.  The reef, Han's Reef, is just a short walk into the water from the front of the hotel.   So named after the Sassak (indigenous Gilli and Lombok Islander) owner of the hotel.

We have been very pleasantly surprised by our snorkeling experiences.  We had expected to find a reef devastated by over fishing, cyanide poisoning and bombing, but instead we found a vibrant and alive ecosystem. Corals of every variety abounded, as did fish, shells and many invertebrates.

On the second day's snorkel, I was astounded to find myself swimming with a very large green backed turtle.  He/she wasn't in the least bit frightened and with mouth still full of seaweed came closer to peer at me!  It was just a meter from my mask!  It turned slowly rose to the surface for a breath of air and then came back again to look at me.  Peter had moved away some distance, so it was with great reluctance that I left it to it's meal! During this same snorkel we also saw an enormous stingray and Pipe Fish amongst the other most gloriously colored fish and sea creatures.

The local people are charming. The all speak Sassak; rapidly! Most speak at least 3 languages, including Bahasa Indonesia. My attempts at using some of the words have met with puzzled amusement! One of the hotel employees is hired purely as a translator. Madin speaks about 12 languages fluently! 

The wages in Indonesia are very low.  The poverty line wage is very low, being 800,000 RpD per day. In Ozzie dollars this is about $80 per month.  Farmers and self employed people earn even less.  Madin, for all his intelligence and ability only earned the equivalent of $100 AU per month.  This makes it very difficult for the main bread winner to feed and clothe his family let alone give his children a good education. Given the low salaries and the disparity between rich and poor, there is no crime.

Madin previously was a guide, taking visitors all around Indonesia. His favourite two places are Borneo and Sumatra, which he says are still unspoiled. He has organised for his friend to take us on a tour of Lombok, on our way  to our next hotel; Bumbangku Beach Cottages.  This appears to be at the furthest southerly tip of Lombok and the last little bit can only be reached by boat.  So goodness nows what we are in for on Sunday!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Home Valley Station etc

Home Valley Station and Lake Argyle

Home Valley Station is beautiful.  It is an oasis in the desert! As you enter the homestead area you are greeted by manicured green lawns, enormous shady trees and lush flower beds.  

The homestead is now a reception, bar and restaurant, with a swimming pool for all guests.  The campsite beside the Pentecost River is 7klms from the homestead, again with green grass, but not lawn! The edge of the river had been severely damaged by the deluge of the last wet, so where previously there had been large trees, there were now only small trees.   And where the bank had been, was now either badly eroded or washed away altogether by the flood waters.  The flood took with it, shelters and heavy wooden picnic tables.

He CoWe expected to find lots of salt water crocodiles, but alas only saw one head gliding through the murky water, a long way from where we could take a photograph!  Early in the morning, we expected to see more, as the tide had receded a long way out.  We heard the barking of a croc, but couldn't see any trace of it!

Beside the river were plenty of birds of prey, including a Sea Eagle, a Brahminy Kite and some hawks.  Along the grassy edges were Whistling Ducks, on their long migration from Russia, lots of Zebra Finches, other little olive coloured finches and some Yellow Hooded Plovers.

Unfortunately the visibility coming into Home Valley Station and during our stay there, was very poor due to the heavy burning off being carried out at El Questro Station.  So we were unaware of the magnificent scenery afforded by the Cockburn Ranges until we reached a lookout just above Home Valley. Even early in the morning the red and orange of the cliffs was not visible from our campsite. Instead they were a hazy purple.

In the morning, our drive towards Kununurra, ensured that we had to cross the Pentecost River.  It is a very wide river, probable over 250 meters wide at the crossing. There is no bridge, no causeway! You just drive across the river, through the water, on the river rocks below! You are not allowed to get out of your car, because crocs lurk in the water, so you just have to put the vehicle into four-wheel drive at let the low ratio gear take you across! The water was flowing quite rapidly and we estimate the depth to be about 500cms at the deepest part!  Earlier in the season the river had been impassable!

We chose not to visit El Questro, because we had been jolted around on rough roads for some time, and also we had been told that this station was very touristy and very expensive - over rated; over priced!  Also we need to leave some things to do when we comeback again, which we are determined to do!

 The remainder of the Gibb River Road leading into Kununurra, some 40klms, turned out to be the most corrugated of all the road.  We took it very slowly but were still jolted around quite a bit.

We stopped in Kununurra to refuel and resupply with food.  We ate our picnic lunch in a magnificent green park beside Lake Kununurra. On returning to the truck we discovered a leak from the diesel fuel tank.  We were unsure whether this was due to being over filled or whether there was now a crack in the welded joints of the tank.  So Peter got under the truck to try to find out. We went to some of the car service places, who either wouldn't look at it or couldn't for two days.  So we decided to test whether is was due to over filling or not and drove to Lake Argyle to stay the night. 

A beautiful caravan park with green lawns, swimming pool overlooking Lake Argyle, ensuite bathrooms and great camp kitchen.  Unfortunately we couldn't stay to enjoy it for more than one night.

The diesel stopped dripping over night, but as soon as the sun started to heat up the day, it began to drip again. This prevented us from truly visiting and enjoying Lake Argyle as we needed to deal with it promptly.  As the tank was very full we headed for Katherine to empty it as we drove along. The tank needed to be empty in order to be welded.

Along the drive to Katherine, we stopped several times to check if the tank was still leaking - it was!  We arrived too late to go to a mechanic.  We also discovered when we stopped that we had a slow puncture -a legacy of adorned puncture received from the bridge repair work on the Trunketabella bridge.

The next morning we went to every mechanic in Katherine to see if we could get help. Not one of them could fit us in because they all said they were too busy.  Finally, however, we called in at an engineering firm.  They asked us to come back at 1.00pm to check it out.  One of their employees with an interest in fuel tanks, found the two cracks in the weld joints and the owner agreed to fixing the tank the next day.

A quick dip in the nearby Katherine hot springs, soon revived the bodies. The spring is right in the heart of Katherine, free to everyone.  It pours out of the earth, crystal clear, beautifully warm and in great fast volumes.  Lots of locals go there straight after work to enjoy a freshen up.

Although this caravan park was very well appointed, it turned out to be very noisy.  The chap in the car next to us kept his radio all night, the dogs barked incessantly, there was shouting and screaming coming from the park behind us and the road trains passed on the highway near by with their air brakes shrieking!  Not much sleep for the two nights spent here!

The repair to the tank, meant wiling away a whole day in downtown Katherine. Not a good day to be doing such a thing, because it was "pay day" (Thursday).  People were shouting and calling out, drunks were staggering around and the stench of pee was everywhere.

At 2.00pm the bottle shops all open and the cycle starts again.  This opening time places great stress on the local taxi drivers who drive indigenous community members to and from the bottle shop. It was during this rush, that we needed to get a cab back to the industrial area to collect the truck. This proved to be quite tricky.  

On arrival at the engineering workshop the truck was ready, so we headed of to Edith Falls to camp in the National Park.  A gem, this turned out to be!  Deep water hole and very quiet bush camping!  We will return on our way back home and explore it some more!

Next stop Darwin, where we decided it as time for a motel room.  We spent the day booking flights and accommodation to Bali, Lombok and the Gilli Islands.

So for two weeks there will be a break in the blog.  We off to sleep and relax

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hann River and Home Valley Station

Hann River and Home Valley Station - Sunday 4th September

A refueling stop and lunch was had at Mt Barnett Station, before proceeding onto our stop for the night, beside the Hann River.  Here we stayed beside the river on a sandy beach area.  The river wasn't very deep, but clear, running and fresh, so a good place for a dip.

No one else came to this site so we had the river to ourselves. We were able to have a great campfire and used it to cook the last of our vegetables.

The road had been graded in many places after Hann River, so these parts were really pleasant to travel on.  

There are no bridges on the Gibb River Road, so every creek and river crossing is a ford.  Some are better than others! There is still water in most creeks along the way because of the huge amount of rain received during their wet!  The crossing at the Durack River was at first glance was very daunting; sharp rocks and boulders lined the very narrow edge and sharp rocks protruded from the water.  We took it very slowly and it turned out to be quite ok.

Everyone had warned us about how isolated this areas is before we left.  We have found it to be otherwise - there are people everywhere!  It is far more inhabited than the Tamami.  It is far less isolated than the northern parts of Kenya, and the roads are generally better!

The scenery was filled with smoke haze, the closer we got to Home Valley Station. This meant that as we were driving along we had no real concept of the scenery.  It wasn't until we reached the lookout just before Home Valley Station that we realized we had been driving along the top of a high plateau, with majestic gorges and valleys.  In front of us the lookout was the Cockburn Ranges and the enormous Pentecost River. The Cockburn Ranges are dominated by huge red cliff faces below mesa mountains, with steep gorges in between.  Without the smoke haze apparently they glow with orange and red light!

We pulled into Home Valley Station to have lunch and make camp for the night.  We were greeted by an oasis blooming in the desert - green lawns, swimming pool, flowers, large shade trees and wonderful reception/bar/restaurant area.  Lunch was delicious!

We chose to camp at the station campsite down beside the Pentecost River.  This is home to the salt water crocodile, though there were none visible this evening.


Mornington - Thursday 1st September

Back onto the Gibb River Road, where we purchased some fuel at Imintji Store.  They make a great cup of coffee here, so whilst Peter finished his, I asked the owner about the current state of the roads.  He told us that the main road had been graded very recently, as had the roads to Mornington and the Mitchell Plateau. 

So after making a radio call in to Mornington, we drove the 90klms in!  The first 50klms were good, but the road became rocky and corrugated after that.  Again many creek crossings, filled with water. On the way in, three wild horses were on the road.  They bucked and pranced away when our truck came close. 

Mornington is a wildlife conservation park, owned and run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), which is an independent, non-profit organization which aims to deliver effective conservation for all Australian animal species. They own 22 sanctuaries and an active program of practical, on-ground land management.

Mornington covers over 322,000 hectares in the central Kimberley, protecting a range of tropical ecosystems and great diversity of wildlife. Threatened species on the property include the Gouldian Finch, the Purple-Crowned Fairy Wren, the Short-Eared Rock-Wallaby and the Northern Quoll.  So let's hope we are luck enough to see them!

Well, on the road to Blue Bush Pool, we saw our first Short-Eared Rock-Wallaby! Another two were sighted near the toilets. 

Incidentally we went to Blue Bush Pool to swim. A beautiful deep stretch of water at the top end of the Fitzroy River; called Blue Bush because of the blue-leaved paper barks that line the banks. No one was around at all so we jumped in without our clothes and sun dried on the banks before heading off to set up camp.

We dined in the restaurant on wild Barrmundi! Alas it was fairly ordinary. After dinner, a talk was given by one of the resident biologists about Mornington and the work of the AWC.  We are very impressed, especially with the new joint venture with Charnley Station. AWC has negotiated a joint management plan with the new owners of Charnley, so that they will manage the Artesian Range.  AWC has discovered many species believed to be extinct in these ranges.  It is only now, we realise how fortunate we have been with our camping cruise.  We have seen animals that AWC thought were extinct! And Sue saw something that is none of the fauna books!! Anyway the joint venture will prove to be very exciting and will allow biologists to study how to prevent future mammal extinction.
An early morning walk along Annie Creek enabled us to see a family of three Purple-Crowned Fairy Wrens and a flock of Crimson Finches. We also startled a very small Short-Eared Wallaby.

We decided to hire a canoe to be able to travel down Dimond Gorge.  This was an hour's drive from camp, but still on the same property!  This proved to be a very worthwhile exercise. On the drive in, a very large and well-fed looking Olive Python was crossing through a creek crossing.  At another crossing we spotted a thin, but long black snake and later a Blue-Tongue Lizard.

The canoe trip was 2klms long and we paddled through one of the most awe inspiring 
gorges of all!! Sheer rock faces of 30+ meters channeled the upper reaches of Fitzroy River into this amazing gorge.  Fortunately a proposal to dam this part of the river was quashed by public outcry!! On the few sand banks, were remnant forests of tropical palms. Birds abounded, but the shy freshwater crocs stayed away!  We took the opportunity to swim several times in the crystal clear swimming holes that were meters and meters deep.

On the return to camp, we decided to detour to Cadejput Pool.  It was here that we spotted a dingo. Apparently the dingoes at Mornington are amongst the last pure-bred dingoes in Australia.  We also saw a pair of Buzzards, a very large kind of bush turkey. This time we swam at a sandy river bank, not quite as lovely as the Dimond experience!

We left early in the morning to rejoin the Gibb River Road, 90klms away

Fitzroy Crossing

Fitzroy Crossing

After all the pain of getting the camper back onto the truck, we chose to have a night of comparative luxury by staying in The Old Crossing Inn.  On arrival, the scene was like a Mutu bar in the slums of Nairobi.  No reception open, but grilled bars to the entrance of the liquor area.  Fortunately at 6.00pm, the bar closes for the day, and most people vanished.  We retired to our room, to find it clean and presentable.  

In the morning, we woke to discover that our verandah overlooked the Fitzroy River.  The sun was just rising and creating beautiful mirrored images of the overhanging trees in the water.

From Fitzroy Crossing, it was a quick and easy trip to Geikie Gorge.  Here we went on a boat up the Fitzroy River, through the gorge.  The cliffs are Old Devonian Reef beds that have been eroded away by thousands of years of water erosion to create the gorge.  This is where you are able to see loads of freshwater crocodiles either soaking in the river or sunning themselves on the sand banks and ledges.  The cliffs are tinted bright orange up high, but have white and pink tinges indicating the high water levels during the wet.

That night we camped at the RAAF Boab Quarry site.  We had the best spot overlooking the quarry, which is very deep and is filled with the cleanest and clearest water imaginable.  A swim, soon freshened us up!

Peter raided all the past camp fires for spent coals and together with the small amount of firewood we had collected, we soon had a great campfire. We shared our fire with another camper, who is a lecturer at UWA, in anatomy.

We left early in the morning after another refreshing swim, so that we could reach Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge in the one day.

Tunnel Creek is very interesting.  An above ground creek has eroded the Devonian Reef below ground, so that the creek now runs in the passageways that it has created.  The tunnel runs for about 750 metres.  This means that you need to take a very strong torch with you as you walk through waist high water through a series of underground chambers.  Fortunately the chambers are all cavernous, so it is not as claustrophobic as you would imagine.  The tunnel does, however become pitch black, hence the need for strong torches.  

We were lucky enough to see a Cherubum (fresh water lobster) swimming close to our feet, as well as small fish and tiny fruit bats.  We felt very brave after we had finished the walk and emerged back at the entrance again.  Both Peter and I are claustrophobic!

From Tunnel Creek to Windjana Gorge is just another 50 klms, through a series of water-filled creek crossings.  It was at Windjana, that we planned to spend the night.  

Close to the showers was a perfect bower built by the  male Great Bower Bird.  He was in residence and trying to attract a mate!  To our delight he danced and sang and rearranged his collection of white objects.  On his head he has coarse flat feathers that he opens up, to display a vivid purple cap. Eventually after much dancing and singing and coaxing, a female finally alights on the ground outside of the bower.  He became very excited and danced even more frenetically. Then when the female poked her head into the bower, he moved to the other end of the bower so that all she see was his purple display feathers.  He was in luck this day, because eventually the female went right inside the bower, so he flew off to show her his nest!  

Our information incorrectly advised us that the rangers provided firewood, here.  So we were very disappointed to find that this was not the case!  However a set of fellow campers allowed us to share their fire and we had a really lovely evening with two other couples!  We cooked a delicious roast in the camp oven and with the others, shared our fresh vegetables, that we has purchased in Broome at the market.

At 5.30am we got up to do an early walk of the Windjana Gorge. It was very special because for the first 5 klms we were the only walkers on the track.  As a result we saw the fresh water crocs still sleeping at the bottom of the river. We also surprised a pair of Ospreys, some magnificent kingfishers and a very large heron-looking bird that had  dark blue wings.  On the walk back as the sun was starting to shine into the gorge, the crocs started to drift towards the sandy banks to sun themselves. The cliffs lit up with the sun's rays showing themselves as bright orange.

A leisurely breakfast and then the drive to Bell Gorge and Silent Grove. The road into the Conservation Park was very corrugated with small sharp stones. The further we drove in, the worse became the road.  We traversed through two seriously deep water-filled creek crossings as well as deep dry stone crossings, before getting to Silent Grove. A further 10klms took us to Bell Gorge. 

After a short, rocky walk and wades through creeks, we reached Bell Gorge.  It is spectacular, with a series of majestic waterfalls and deep water holes that have been carved by the water through granite. On the way down, we came across a Martens Water Monitor, sunning himself on a large rock beside one of the water crossings. He was totally unafraid of us and allowed me to take a close up photograph of him.  We swam in the top pool for some time.

Our camp that night was at Silent Grove, a former out station for the main property.  It has permanent water supplied by a spring that runs beside the camp. There are some exotic trees planted here, including a prolific mango and some quinine trees. Very few other people came to the camp, so it was really peaceful and lovely.  We had the pick of all the sites, under some really shady trees and next to a concrete fire pit.  So we could use the camp oven and boil the billy.

Our neighbour was a lone bike rider, traveling on a BMW 1200. He told us he had only fallen off 10 times! He's either very brave or very foolhardy!



We spent 4 nights in Broome in the Roebuck Bay Caravan Park, on a site not ideally suited to the camper and removed the truck from underneath it.  This enabled us to use the truck to sightsee, restock the camper and catch up with Brenda and Mal (friends made at Gnylmarung).

A little bit of sightseeing ensured a good look at Cable Beach - this time with far fewer tourists.  WA visitors apparently leave for Broome after Mothers' Day in May and leave during August in time to arrive home by Fathers' Day.  It's a beautiful beach except for the hoardes of people and their vehicles.  A very enterprising chap rents beach umbrellas, sun lounges and surf boards - at exorbitant rates.  For 2 people, for the day, you can hire all of the above for $70. A free glass of water and a shot of sunscreen is thrown in, "free of charge".  The strange thing is that the sun umbrellas are mostly occupied!

We traversed the length of the jetty at the Port of Broome and visited Gantheaume Point, where the dinosaur footprints are said to be.  Wrong tides for us, though, as we were there in neap tides and you need spring tides to be able to view them properly. 

A stroll around the centre of town took us through Chinatown, where there a numerous pearl jewelry shops and art galleries.  The prices are well beyond our expectations and a local jeweler tells Brenda and Mal, that she can buy Australian pearls cheaper, overseas!
We searched the op-shop and clothing stores for suitable attire to go out to dinner.  Peter met with success, but not Sue! Clothing here, is expensive!

On Saturday we went to the Broome market, where we bought locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables.  We also sampled the famous mango smoothies and ate lumpiares. Most handcrafts were sourced from Indonesia, so we didn't purchase anything other than food.

The unsuitable campsite turned out the be an enormous hinderance when trying to put the truck back under the camper.  Some very kind neighbours helped guide us to reverse it into the right place and then left to do sightseeing of their own.  So then we tried to attach the tie-downs back onto the truck. This is where the fun and games began.  There is very little tolerance, so the jacks were put in and out of place, while we jiggled with the positioning of the truck for three hours until it was just right!!!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011



After disembarking from the cruise we decided to stay two nights in Derby.  We were very tired, needed to wash all our clothes and repack the camper for our next adventure.  We have decided we need to sit still again for a while, so we are off the Port Smith, 160 klms south of Broome.

The truck was serviced by a local mechanic whilst we were away for the twelve days - just a normal service after 10,000 klms.  This means we have done, 10,000 klms since leaving home, as we had it service just before we left PP.  We asked the mechanic to give it a full check to make sure everything was still tight.  He told us it was all good.

Since the Dampier Peninsular, we have had trouble with the electricity made by the solar panel going into the camper's battery.  So we spent the best part of the first day on Derby trying to get someone who would repair it for us.  The best that could be offered was Thursday week!  So Peter tried to sort it out himself, and thinks that the regulator has packed up, so we have phoned ahead to Broome, to get the part from an electrical supply company based there.

We got together with the other passengers, to have dinner together at the best local restaurant in Derby, called The Windmill Cafe.  Wonderful food and a lovely way to farewell each other.

John, one of the passengers will develop a website for our trip, so that we can all share the best of each other's photographs.  The blog account will be attached as will Ian's poems.  In this way, One Tide Charters, can also attach a link, which will help promote their business.

Last night we walked a long way up the street to have a pub dinner at the local hotel- obviously a very popular watering hole.

This morning after buying new supplies, and a trip to Mowajam Cultural Centre, we are finally on our way to Port Smith.

Port Smith
After stuffing around in Broome for much longer than anticipated, we arrived at Port Smith after 4.00pm.  We were greeted by swarms of sandflies, which took great delight in our fresh legs and arms!

A notice on the door of the shop, invited everyone to a fish and chip dinner, and entertainment night, all for the princely sum of $5.00 per head.  No need to pre-book.  A couple of hundred people rocked up!  So we were very interested as to how everyone would be fed!  A requirement was that you brought your own plates, cutlery and chairs.

It turned out to be "live" entertainment; a country and western singer with a guitar.  He also sang many Elvis songs and songs that he had written.  His most well known song is "Rabbit Proof Fence",  used in the film of the same name.  His tribal home is around Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing.  

A raffle was also held for a snapper and three of the largest mud crabs I have ever seen.  All the money raised from the raffles and from fish and chips went to the Royal Flying Doctors' Service. The fish had all been donated by fishermen catching fish from Port Smith and the chips donated by the caravan park owners.

The fish were all freshly battered and together with the chip, deep fried in large baskets in a deep fryer.  We were called to collect our meals, which we paid for upon arrival at the open window of the kitchen area.  People a lined up with their plates to receive their portion of fish and chips.  A huge long line, as you can imagine!  All the food was freshly cooked and served very efficiently and quickly.  It was very fresh and piping hot!  Condiments, lemons and tartare sauce was all supplied as part of your $5.00. You could go back for seconds or thirds or whatever, for no extra charge- amazing!

Part of the entertainment was provided by the audience.  A hat parade was a feature with weird and wacky hats made from beer cans and the like. Prizes were given for the most becoming hat, the most creative etc.  Then people were asked to take part on the "donger" race.  A mallet head was attached to a piece of rope, which dangled between the legs.  The competitor had to swing the mallet without using his/her hands to hit a beer can across a large expanse of red dust to his/her partner. The "donger"  was the used by the partner to get the beer can into a bucket.  The only trouble was the bucket kept moving! Cries of "foul" play and "it's not fair" ensued as the bucket kept being moved.

The sandflies have become a torment! Welts have appeared everywhere. We are attacked by sandflies between 3.00pm and when the sun goes down,every evening. This is followed by midges, when it's dark and through the night, until the sun is burning hot and then they retreat into the shade as do we!!

It is a 600 metre walk to the lagoon, which most people drive to.  The camper can only be removed prior to opening it, so of course we had already opened it when we discovered where the lagoon was.  So we decided to leave it open.  

The first time we decided to go for a swim, we arrived at the "lagoon", to find that the tide had gone all the way out and that the lagoon is really a mangrove swamp! So we had to trudge back in the hot afternoon sun. Port Smith is really a fisherman's paradise, for which you really need a boat, which of course we don't (with us).

The second day there ,Peter repaired the solar system, which had failed to charge the battery at Gnylmarung. The regulator had ceased so he replaced it with a new one. 

We enquired about the possibility of either hiring a boat or chartering one. We were able to charter a small boat for the following day.  This turned out to be fun!!! 

It was a bit slow for the first few hours, but then we started to catch fish!  The boat limit was 7 fish in total; only four of those could be snapper.  We caught four good-sized snapper, one large Groper, a Blue Bone and  Cobia, and filed the bag limit. I caught one Coral Perch and a Red Emperor, but they were both undersized and had to be put back. We moved to another spot and were now catching fish twice the size of the ones before.  But because we had already killed the first ones, we had to then, catch and release!

We found out that the owners would take you to the sand island in the lagoon every second day, so the next day we again trudged down to the lagoon, this time at the high tide, to find it was a neap tide and so it still wasn't deep enough to swim properly.  Anyway we had a dip and surprised a sea turtle!

We were determined to catch the transfer boat the next day, which we did, resulting in a very pleasant day with Peter, fishing and me sharing the only bit of shade with another artist also doing water colours.

Unfortunately the transfer trip left us with some more sandfly mementos.  The nighttime at Port Smith was sheer torture, because when you get hot in bed, the sandfly bites itch worse than normal, despite taking antihistamines and rubbing soothing lotions on the skin.  So we decided we couldn't do the other two nights there that we had already paid for, and up-camped. 

So here we are in Barn Hill Station Caravan Park, with an ocean frontage site and the sea breeze wafting into the camper.  We have had a swim, walked the beach and ordered pizza for dinner tonight.  We have been assured that there are no sandflies here, because there are no mangroves. So I will contentedly scratch my bites, whilst watching the ocean!

If we hadn't stayed so long in Port Smith, both of us would have been glad to have stayed at Barn Hill Station for longer.  The ablution block was very basic with cold showers, and a slight pong around the toilets, but otherwise clean and well maintained. We swam in the sea and watched the beautiful sunset from a vantage point at the top of the cliff leading to the sea. Several dolphins were lazily fishing in the shallows below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Captain's Epiphany

The Captain’s Epiphany

“I’ve had an epiphany this trip, it’s now as clear as mud to me”,
The Captain stated to the startled crew, unambiguously,
“This twelve day trip’s too short, for all we need to see,
And poor old Alex isn’t up to it, he’s not as good as he used to be,
This younger generation are a bunch of fairies, they’re all bullshit and bluff,
He only works from dawn to dark, and that’s hardly good enough”,
I’m quite direct in my approach, as you all can plainly see,
So I told him straight to sharpen up, and that’s no hyperbole”,
Alex, like a bot-fly, moved fast through every chore,
Anxious for some time alone with the punters on the shore,
We were always nice to him, and he returned in kind,
We reckon he’s the boat’s best mate, and perhaps the captain’s blind,
All day long they sparred and joked through the waters of the Kimberley,
Captain Greg, Alex the mate, Paul, and the very nice Sandy.

Ian Bidstrup

Two Moons With A View

Two Moons with a View

Big moon, shone on the boat all night, it was really bright, until the morning light ,
I think I snored a bit.
Into Silver Gull we sailed, the folks there had it nailed, the life outside had failed,
To impress them much.
Their welcome was sincere, I think they like it here, they seldom shed a tear,
For the wider world.
White T shirt and blue underpants, I’d wear ‘em to a dance, don’t ever get a chance,
I’d rather watch the stars.
Floral loose shift dress, rolling smokes impress, I like them I confess,
I hope you like my plants.
We came to live in peace, tourists never cease, to bugger up our lives,
We like to sell them things.
If you’d like a swim feel free to use the tank, to be really frank, we need the cash to bank,
To live here as we like.
Don’t have to impress, or to have formal dress, I know the place’s a mess,
I don’t really care.
We made a garden in the rocks, and have no need for socks, the outside world’s a pox,
We really like the space.
Marion makes things to sell, she really does it well, as you can probably tell,
I make my own home brew.
We grew a white Kimberley rose, on rocks we’ve often stubbed our toes, the moon at night it glows,
The place is as we want.
We have a short term lease, the authorities never cease, to upset our lives and peace,
I wish they’d all piss-off.
Please sign the visitors book, hope you like the things you’ve took, have a casual look,
Hope you understand.
We keep in touch with things, the satellite dish it brings, news and what people sings,
We’re not all alone.
Have you ever used a bog like ours, you could sit on it for hours,into the bay it showers,
Through a big white pipe.
We see who comes and goes, the waters ebb and flows, in rocks the garden grows,
We’d like to die right here.
If they try to move us out, we’ll give a hue and shout, it’s not what we’re about,
Thanks for signing the petition.
You’ve seen a Kimberley moon or two, we’ll show you what we do, when you shoot through,
Hope you’ve enjoyed your stay.
Two moons, we saw them wave goodbye, it was the old brown eye,easy to see why,
They liked it here.

Ian Bidstrup   15-8-2010

Dribbling in The Wind

I’m quite fond of other company and a social kind of chap,
But it’s really been a long time since with friends I’ve shared a nap,
There’s usually just the two of us together through the night,
To cuddle and to whisper, and to sometimes hold too tight,
So to sleep aboard was some adventure, all together on the deck,
I lay awake for sometime wondering whose hands were ‘round my neck,
I was very careful and chose a spot to sleep along the lee,
‘cause I often have a problem keeping wind inside of me,
So I lay still on my swag, rolled out along the deck,
But my tummy started rumbling so I thought well what the heck,
With some feeling of compassion I let out quite a blast,
And those passengers still standing held on tightly to the mast,
Although the tune I played was difficult and I didn’t know the proper key,
It was a passable rendition of the trumpet “voluntree”,
To pass the long wee hours as my ship-mates sought relief,
I kept a silent log of those who almost came to grief,
I could hear them creeping ‘round the decks as silent as a mouse,
Then quietly descending steps to the downstairs little house,
You can see by this sick record of those who through the dark hours pee,
That I get some crude delight in seeing who can outlast me.

Ian Bidstrup

Kimberley Sunrise

Kimberley Sunrise

I lay in my swag last night and looked how the stars filled the distant sky,
In the morning light watched the sun come appear, and heard birds waking in the trees close by,
The still of the morning was a wondrous thing, and the sun’s new rays glow,
Reflected in the mirrored waters of the creek, slowly changing with the tidal flow.
I sat content and watched a new day dawning, and thought well lucky me’
Is there another place on earth today better that this one, here on the Kimberley.

Ian Bidstrup

A Day With Namarali And His Mates

A Day Namarali and His Mates

It was no hotel California or other 5 star show,set up on the beach above tidal reach,
Out where the dead men go.
The day had started rather early and quite soon we were smok’n,
‘round Namarali’s stoney comrades in the white sands we were pok’n,
Albert told the stories of owls and bits of feather some boys had plucked,
We stood by the petrified warriors, who were stoney faced and looked quite “stucked”.
With a bit of imagination, we listened in disbelief,
Of how for the love of a women all the warriors came to grief,
Seems that a mob or two of blackfellas fought it out here in the sand,
Then were somehow turned into rocky monuments, which wasn’t quite what they’d planned,
With the tide in-coming quickly, the ceremonial fire moved up the beach,
We were offered a deal on some artwork, with prices somewhat out of reach,
They seemed a deal at two grand a piece, but sales were rather slow,
When a sudden surge of salty water put the fire out and it was time to go.
Our faces daubed with ochre, a smoky branch was waved,
And off we went all cleansed and pure, from all dark business saved,
Donny’s mob had done a great job, we thanked them shaking hands,
Then embarked for other places, as the warriors drowned in the sands.

Cruising down the coastline we saw a distant passing whale,
As onward to the next beach camp our boat did slowly sail,
While plans were made and changed again to suit the time, the tide, and lunch,
We sat ‘round the decks confused, a happy but hungry bunch,
The camp tonight was on a sandy beach, we hoped for something tree’d,
A grove of palms, or some sort of shade, from the sun and heat we’d need,
Before our lunch we scrambled up a steep track, fit for a mountain goat,
Looking down on the sea below where the boat and the captain float,
The Wanjinas in their rocky caves were amazed at what they saw,
And wondered how we’d got this far, the old, tired, in-firmed and sore.
Returning to the boat at last, bone dry and cultured out,
“We’re off before the tide recedes, get your lunch down” was the Masters shout,
Time and tide wait for no man, as long ago we learned,
And he landed us on a sandy beach, only after the tide had turned.
Again we humped the swags uphill, ankle deep in sand and looked,
For the place in this wonderful paradise that the Captain said he’d booked,
There was no relief from the sun’s hot rays, into some shadows we were retreat’n,
And sat huddled hot, tired, and spent, buggered, bruised, and beaten.

In the good book I recall, I think, that in seven days he rested,
We’ve been going nine days now and been feted, fed, and tested,
The trip will finish fat too soon, we’ve enjoyed the Kimberley adventure,
Twelve days under this Captain though has been some sort of nautical indenture,
No more camps on the beach for us, we’ll now sleep on the rolling sea,
While a curlew sits on a nest of eggs, in the sand far from you and me.

Ian Bidstrup

When The Captain Caught The Crabs

When the Captain Caught the Crabs

“I need to be cool and aloof” said he, somewhat like captain Bligh,
Shouting from the stern of the outboard boat, “hang the floats up ‘cause the crocs jump high”,
All day on the boat he’d schemed, through the neap tides flow and ebb,
To confuse the crew and to spin a route more complex than a spiders web,
We’d left our camp on the rocks, to help pull the pots aboard,
“Be quick and shake the buggers out or they’ll tangle up he roared”
Like Tarzan in the jungle, he gripped the motor like a tree,
And maneuvered through the mud and the mangroves, shaking the tied floats free,
It was plain to see that the crocs were here, ‘cause they’d eaten half a float,
‘praps they’d rather eat live-bait he said, diving off the boat,
Crocs apparently have a taste acquired, and are fussy as to what they eat,
And were not inclined to devour the Captain with his horrible dirty feet,
We might be a motley crew, and a land-lubbing mob of scabs,
But we returned quite healthy, while the captain caught the crabs.

Ian Bidstrup

The Horse's Parts

The Horse’s Parts

This is a tale of the horse’s head and his mate the horse’s tail,
Who guided us through the Kimberley on a twelve day adventure sail,
The horse’s head had an active brain and a colorful turn of phrase,
While the horse’s tail kept the game in play all through the night and days,
Two other important horse’s parts combined to complete the crew,
And together they did the best they could, to make some sense of the horse’s poo.

Ian Bidstrup

The Captain's Swag

The Captain’s Swag

“Where’s me bloody swag” he said, “some mongrels been on board”,
He stood alone on the upper deck, howled and cursed and roared,
“I need to get some sleep tonight or I’ll cut you all adrift”,
How we loved to picture him without a swag and bloody miffed,
We sat upon the shore and watched the boat, all lit up like a town,
“If I don’t find my swag” he said, “I’ll leave you all to drown”,
“Paul’s the bloody culprit”, he roared in vulgar loud dispatches,
As he stomped around the deck, opening all the ship’s closed hatches,
We sat around the fire and drank, slowly getting pissed,
And didn’t give a bugger for the swag the Captain missed.

Ian Bidstrup

Music of The Woodcutters

Music of the Woodcutters

In a relaxed and sleepy manner enhanced by beer and wine,
We all fell asleep together, and started snoring all in time,
I thought that Les was faking it, then Peter gave a grunt,
Allan and John then scored a double and were clearly out in front,
My breathing was quite peaceful, in my mouth I had a thing,
Although sometime through the night removed it and my vocal chords began to sing,
It would be quite improper to try and score the girls,
But it sounded at times much like their tonsils were unfurled,
The crew had used their influence and camped upon the bow,
If they managed any sleep at all it has me wondering how,
At last the light of dawn appeared and the night of hell was past
But I fear that last night’s entertainment on the deck wont be the last.

Ian Bidstrup  

Two moons with a view

Two Moons with a View

Big moon, shone on the boat all night, it was really bright, until the morning light ,
I think I snored a bit.
Into Silver Gull we sailed, the folks there had it nailed, the life outside had failed,
To impress them much.
Their welcome was sincere, I think they like it here, they seldom shed a tear,
For the wider world.
White T shirt and blue underpants, I’d wear ‘em to a dance, don’t ever get a chance,
I’d rather watch the stars.
Floral loose shift dress, rolling smokes impress, I like them I confess,
I hope you like my plants.
We came to live in peace, tourists never cease, to bugger up our lives,
We like to sell them things.
If you’d like a swim feel free to use the tank, to be really frank, we need the cash to bank,
To live here as we like.
Don’t have to impress, or to have formal dress, I know the place’s a mess,
I don’t really care.
We made a garden in the rocks, and have no need for socks, the outside world’s a pox,
We really like the space.
Marion makes things to sell, she really does it well, as you can probably tell,
I make my own home brew.
We grew a white Kimberley rose, on rocks we’ve often stubbed our toes, the moon at night it glows,
The place is as we want.
We have a short term lease, the authorities never cease, to upset our lives and peace,
I wish they’d all piss-off.
Please sign the visitors book, hope you like the things you’ve took, have a casual look,
Hope you understand.
We keep in touch with things, the satellite dish it brings, news and what people sings,
We’re not all alone.
Have you ever used a bog like ours, you could sit on it for hours,into the bay it showers,
Through a big white pipe.
We see who comes and goes, the waters ebb and flows, in rocks the garden grows,
We’d like to die right here.
If they try to move us out, we’ll give a hue and shout, it’s not what we’re about,
Thanks for signing the petition.
You’ve seen a Kimberley moon or two, we’ll show you what we do, when you shoot through,
Hope you’ve enjoyed your stay.
Two moons, we saw them wave goodbye, it was the old brown eye,easy to see why,
They liked it here.

Ian Bidstrup   15-8-2010

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Tide Charter Cruise

Friday 5th August
The boat left at about 7.30am this morning.  The sea is a murky brown due to the discharge from the Fitzroy River.  The silt flows out for 20 nautical miles. There are 5 couples and 4 crew on the tour.  All are very friendly and ready to have a fun time.  This will be fun!

Our first stop was a ruin at Cone Bay. It had been the residence of a an eccentric who grew marijuana and who had a bevy of eight women living with him. After fifteen years the authorities sent the Tactical Response Group in helicopters to find him, and he shot at them.  He was arrested and imprisoned, whereupon his harem disbanded.  The place was astounding - a fresh water creek, spring fed and running down a shallow gorge. So there were a number of small but deep pools - very warm. We all got into the pools and enjoyed the fresh swim. This was our wash for the day.

The scenery is amazing.  Red and white rocks sheer to the water.  The boat was driven through Hell's Gate, a swirling, eddying tidal rush.  The boat was buffeted by the huge tidal rush.

Tonight we are staying at Bald Rock Beach.  It is a shell beach, with large rounded rocks of granite with stunted boabs clinging to crevices in the rock.  We are camping in mozzie net tents inside swags.  The sun set over the sea and rocks as we were drinking our pre-dinner drinks, sitting around a campfire.  

Strange hollows in the shell grit were evidence of sea turtles, who had dragged themselves up to this beach to lay their eggs. Near the outside dunny, hidden under some mangroves was a Bower Bird display area complete with a trail of white shells leading into and out of the mating house.

On the beach were plenty of washed up buoys, which we used to create a sculpture on the beach.

Saturday 6th August
After a quick cup of tea, back to the boat for breakfast and then back onto the mudflats to collect our own oysters. The tide had moved so far by this time, so the beach we had slept on now revealed a flat mudflat bottom some 10 meters below. The oysters are as big as a outstretched hand. We collected about a bucket and a half, as well as eating them.  They will become entree for dinner as oysters Kilpatrick. The difference between collecting oysters here to home, is that at home they are at water level, here they are well above your heand , and only when the tide goes out - some ten meters!

Toileting arrangements are as follows: a disable over toilet seat has a brown paper bag attached below. Alex, Greg's right hand man has the unenviable task of setting alight the brown paper bag of toilet doings after everyone has returned to the beach. Alex claims he can tell the difference between men and women's shit. He maintains that men do straight lines of small logs, but women do Mr Whippy turds because women's keep looking this way and that to make sure no one is looking at what they are doing.  Refer to Ian's poem on the subject.

Greg, the owner showed us an Osprey nest with two grown up chicks in it. Both ready to leave the nest, which indeed happened when he went back to take a photograph, one had flown to join it's mother on a high peak. We saw a Frigate bird; a bird with a very interesting shaped arrow tail. It soared without moving a single feather.

The boat travelled through Whirl Pool Passage, a massive torrent of water rushes through this narrow space.  The force of the tide can reduce the number of possible knots from 18 knots to 10 knots.  This shows a tide force of 8 knots, so the engines need to be very powerful and the captain very skillful in navigating the reefs and cliffs.

Another wonderful swim at Croc Creek.  We climbed up to the second pool, because the bottom pool often has a resident crocodile lurking in it.  The pools are very deep and very beautiful. The top pool was very deep, much cooler than the pool at Cone Bay and a whole lot larger.  A water monitor was a resident of the pool, a beautiful specimen with bright yellow diamond spots.  It gave me a massive shock, when it shot off the rock and nearly landed on my shoulder.  It returned however to it's warm and sunny rock to enjoy the sunshine.

This was our bath for the day! The water was crystal clear, and very refreshing.  Again the scenery was magnificent, tall orange cliffs, with water tumbling down them into deep green pool, with a brilliant blue sky above.

Tonight we are at Monument Beach, so called because of a large rock pile, sculptured by the sea and wind.  The sunset behind the rocks, again resulting in a picture card perfect scene. Campfire and lots of stories abound. When we arrived the beach had numerous single thongs, all in different colours and shapes.  These are the basis for a new sculpture.  A washed up tree with some small branches became the stand onto which the thongs were placed.

Now it's time to tell you a little about the other people in our group.  There is Bernadette and Allan from Brisbane; Alan was in the navy for twenty years and captained a patrol boat, Bernadette has worked in the tourism industry and taught at TAFE.  Debbie and John are from Sydney; John is an IT specialist and Debbie a teacher. Margaret and Ian are from the Clare Valley in South Australia, where they managed large sheep stations,  Margaret is a nurse and worked in the local hospital as well.  Pam and Les are from the Mornington Peninsular, Pam is a horticulturalist and they owned tutor own nursery for 17 years. The group range in age from 57 to 67 and all are recently retired.  Everyone except Debbie and John arrived, after having driven on dirt roads through the amazing countryside that is the northern part of Australia.  Debbie and John own an Ultimate Off Road Camper, but chose not to use it this time.  Pam and Les; Ian and Margaret have all just finished traveling the Gibb River Road.  So you can see that we all seem like like-minded folk: passionate about the bush and in particular, the wilderness areas!

The crew of four consists of Greg, 61, the owner; Alex, 32, Greg's right hand man; Paul, 58 but incredibly fit and agile; and Sandra, the 27 year old Swedish cook. 

Please refer to Ian's first poem, presented to us all at the end of day two.

Courtesy of Ian Bidstrup:

"Welcome aboard", the captain said, as he stood tall upon the metal deck.
We looked aghast at his suntanned frame, a broken down old physical wreck.
"This is the crew", as he waved his hand, and a motley crew we saw.
"There's something I need you all to know", he said, as he slowly opened the dunny door.
"We don't need any extra problems on board, so when you poop or need to pee,
Only use a small piece of paper, then count to twenty, or it won't flush free".
With the plumbing issues now revealed at length, more rules of the boat he shared.
Then with anchor weighed, and a landward glance, we left Derby and were somewhat scared.
The muddy brown water soon turned green, with a white cloud in the distant sky
"We're headed  for the  Gates of Hell", he said, and I think we all wondered why.
A piece of toast, and a cup of tea, was offered by the Swedish crew.
She had only recently joined the boat, we could tell that by how much she knew.
The first mate Alex, was perhaps a clone, of the the hairy-chested chief
Whose stories and colorful turn of phrase, we found comical and some relief.
All day we cruised beneath bright blue sky, the rugged red cliffs beside.
Then walked to the camp at the top of the cliff were Mr X and his women did once reside.
We bathed in a pool all fresh and clean and returned to the shore renewed.
Two trips it took in the dinghy to the boat, the captain's words were sometimes rude.
"One in four's a poof", said he. Then with the girls he sailed away.
I looked around and crossed myself, and hoped me other three mates weren't gay!
Alex just smiled a strange sort of smile, as he slowly dropped his bag in the dirt,
"Perhaps it's me", he said with a nautical grin as he slowly took off his shirt.
I'm glad to say it was all in fun, and the painter soon returned,
I'd only been on board one day, and was amazed how much I'd learned. 
Paul was a guide with a grip on things, a fountain of knowledge of the land was he.
He liked the life on board the boat, and all things in the Kimberley.
Marooned on a shelly beach first night, the captain waved and sailed away
With news that if we didn't behave ourselves, he forget to return next day.
A fire was set, and the driftwood lit, the Strog was served with rice.
It hit the spot, we all agreed, so good that I went back twice!
The stars above shone brightly, and with a glass of wine in hand,
"If this is life in the Kimberley, it isn't just good but really grand!"

Sunday 7th August
Camp packing up was not required on Sunday, because we stayed here for two nights.  The campsite was across the water from the iron ore mining enterprise, so we could see the lights and occasionally hear the reversing noises of the trucks.  All transfers between the cruiser and shore is done with a motorized dinghy.  

Les is the practical joker amongst us, so sometime between passenger transfers, he hid the captain's swag in a large bin on the top deck.  Please refer to Ian's poem and the captain's response, below, to commemorate this occasion.

The Captain's Swag
"Where's me bloody swag", he said,
"Some mongrel's been on board".
He stood upon the upper deck, howled
And cursed and roared.
"I need to get some sleep tonight, or
I'll cut you all adrift".
How we loved to picture him
Without a swag and bloody miffed!
We sat upon the shore. And watched
The boat all lit up like a town
"If I cannot find my swag", he swore
"I'll leave you all to drown.
Paul's the bloody culprit", he roared
In vulgar loud dispatches
As he stomped around the decks
Opening all the ship's closed hatches.
We sat around the fire and drank
Slowly getting pissed
And didn't give a bugger
For the swag the captain missed.

The Skipper's Response. - courtesy of Greg Proust

The skipper sat and thought to himself
About the bloody swag.
Sleep deprived and more dead than alive
He started to formulate a plan.
"Which of this lot did this dastardly plot,
Or was is a joint venture by one and all?"
I looked at their faces, one by one
For a tell tale smirk or more.
They all looked shady and I was 
Still hazy.
I just couldn't be bloody sure.
So what sort of test could I put
Them through, so I could finally equal 
The score?
I thought about an intelligence test
But that wouldn't tell 'em apart;
I could see through their ears so
It was quite clear that there was
Nothing in there, but light.

I turned to the beer 'cause I knew they
Held that beer dear and I knew now I
Could tell them apart.
Out of grog and alone on a beach
And not a bloody drop!
So now I'm working on my plan and
Soon will have revenge
I'm a simple man, but now I have
A plan to work on way until dark.
With nine days to go and no one will
Know, but I'll find that bloody lark!

After breakfast on the boat, we left to fish, but on the way we came across an enormous pod of False Killer Whales.  They looked like very large dolphins, very black with a blunt nose and boomerang tail. They cavorted and played in the bow of the boat, around the boat and came up in tight groups of up to six whales in a line.  We followed and watched for more than two hours. Our skipper was in ecstasy, screaming out "whales to the left " and "whales to the right".  He claimed he had never seen anything like it before.  

Alex, a crew member, and some of us could hear the high pitched squeals that they made as they communicated with each other. The CB radio happened to be accidentally turned on.  Peter had unwittingly  leant against the button, so the Yahooing and screeches of delight were relayed right across the Kimberly. When we arrived at Cyclone Creek, where the Adventure boats are located for the Horizontal Falls, the other captains commented that they couldn't use the radio for a very long time because we had hogged it!

Eventually we left to fish. The fishing lines went down as far as up to sixty meters in places, so when we hauled up the fish, their eyes had popped and their stomach linings had exploded through their mouths. We caught Saddle Tail Perch, a Mulloway and a Golden Snapper. We caught enough for two fantastic meals for 14 people. The fish frames will be used for catching mud crabs in the next few days.  Some of us had never caught fish this size before.

We rendezvoused with another cruise vessel, Discovery One, where we collected some supplies that had been left behind - almonds for the cook, hats for the crew and more brown bags for the dunny. The cruise boat was filled with the aged and infirm.  Greg said, "hold on" as he "gunned" it, to show the captain of the other boat what our boat was capable of. So we left them in the white water of our wake. The crew refer to the boat as the Millenium Falcon, because it is the fastest cruise boat in the Kimberly.

The beauty of this cruise is that the captain can change his mind at the drop of a hat to alter the schedule to suit the conditions and sights as they occur.  All the other boats are unable to do this, as they are on a fixed timetable, and don't have the horsepower to go into tight and swirling waters.  We took the shortcut through a narrow passage of swirling water in order to beat the other cruise boats to Horizontal Falls.

On arrival at the Adventure jet boat pontoon, we pulled up to eat lunch and enjoy the visitation of several, Tawny Nurse Sharks, which were hand fed from the stern of the boat.  We then transferred to the Falls operators twenty seater rubber ducky (a rigid inflatable rescue boat),  powered by twin 300 H P outboards, luckily captained by someone who had several years experience going through the Falls.

Horizontal Falls was an absolute highlight, there are two narrow gaps between two ridges through which 70 percent of Talbot Bay rushes through. The water depth is over 40 meters within these narrow gaps. So the turbulence when the tide is either at it highest or lowest is incredible. The second gap is MUCH smaller than the first gap. Two of our crew members were disgusted to learn that we went through BOTH gaps.  They had never been through the second narrow gap before - and they are allowed to join the passengers, for gratis. The wave surge was 11/2 meters, the maximum it can be before it is too dangerous for the jet boat to pass through.  The gap is so narrow that there is not much clearance on either side of the boat and the wave that forms alongs the sides is huge! Very scary, especially when driving in to it against the torrent of water. The boat captain had only 20 minutes to drive through them to remain safe. We were so fortunate because this happens so rarely.  In fact we went through twice. The boat was allowed to drift backwards through the first gap. As passengers this felt very strange, and quite frightening.

It has been sad to see mining starting to leave horrible scars on this beautiful archipelago.  Iron ore grades are extremely high, making it economical to build sea walls behind which they dig 80 meters below sea level.  This has been done at both Koolan Island and Cockatoo Island.  A third island recently got the go ahead to start mining, as has an area right next to Horizontal Falls, which will be mined for copper.

Monday 8th August
We had to be packed up on the beach by 07.00 hours, in order to catch the tide.  We waited in vain for the Captain to appear as we were ready by 06.00 hours!

Off to Montgomery Reef, we sped, to beat the other cruise ships into the gap between the reef.  The Montgomery Reef is over 370sq kilometers - astounding!  The reef appears when the tide goes out, sometimes up to 5 meters above sea level during Spring Tides! So the water that runs off it, runs in creeks and rivers and cascading falls.  We had about a 2 meter exposure, so the swirls and eddies, cascades and creeks were spectacular! We were taken out in the dinghies so we could get a closer look.  

We saw heaps of sea turtles, coral and fish.  The coral here is hard coral, with no polyps poking out of the coral, so it is not colourful like the Great Barrier Reef.  There are small isolated green, brown, ochre and pink corals.  There were huge drop-offs at the edge of the reef where fish were lurking. Some passengers saw a shark and a very large black, with a few white spots, stingray.  The most spectacular were the turtles, who popped up their heads, saw us, took fright and then swam away at " warp speed".

We cruised through a large pod of Humpback Whales.  They were cavorting and tail-slapping.  One whale leapt clear out of the water, just like a dolphin. Others were breaching and splashing. There would have been probably twelve in the pod.

Our mooring tonight is at Sampson Sound.  Our swags were put out in alphabetical order around the top deck, here we slept for the night.  The musical sound of a symphony snore reverberated around the deck all night as each person slept.   

Paul, the deckhand very kindly rolled my swag for me!

Tuesday 9th August
We pulled in to Kuri Bay, to refuel.  This is the place here Paspaley Pearls are based.  The fuel is kept in a barge, and one of the Paspaley employees drives out in a boat to man the diesel pump.

Next stop was Sheep Island, best known for the disastrous settlement in Camden Harbour in 1864.  The settlers placed their sheep on the island after the local tribe started to spear and eat them, where they were grazing on the mainland. Such an inhospitable place for a settlement!  No water, rocky, dry, full of crocodiles, midges and hostile natives.  Needless to say the settlers died very quickly from heatstroke, fever, dehydration and starvation.

On Sheep Island, the settlers were buried, there remains one grave, with headstone for Mary Jane Pascoe, aged 30; as well as engravings into the large boab, commemorating other deaths.

We walked through the area where their houses had been on the mainland, to find remnant stone walls a broken pieces of pottery and glass. On the beach I found the bowl of a Meirscham  Pipe, some glass and a broken piece of Willow Pattern plate.

Greg drove the boat to the Prince Regent River area, where we moored in a beautiful creek lined with mangroves and mudflats on either side of boat.  Again we slept in our swags on the boat. As I tried to get into mine, I realized that Paul had short-sheeted it!  So much for his "kind" help the night before!

During the night, we heard slapping noises against the hull of the boat.  Alan, one of the passengers, was having a piddle in the middle of the night over the side of the boat.  He was very surprised not to hear the normal twinkling sound as it hit the water.  So he peered over the side of the boat. He called us to look at a large Salt Water Crocodile that was about two and a half meters long, he had piddled on it! It was floating close to the boat and catching the fish attracted by the lights. In the morning it was nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday 10th August
After a short drive back into the main river system, we turned up another small creek, called Camp Creek.  The boat drove up to a very narrow gorge.  From here we alighted into the dinghies and arrived at the first of the cascades of Camp Creek.  We set up camp very quickly by forming a chain gang and passing all the necessary equipment from one person to the next.  

Camp Creek is an astounding place! It consists of a series of freshwater rushing waterways, cascades, ponds and waterholes.  Interspersed between these waterways are tall grasses, Paperbark Trees and water lilies. Small fresh water fish abound!  A Water Monitor was sunning itself on a rock ledge besides one of the pools. We saw a small juvenile Johnston Crocodile in one of the shallow ponds.  He let us get quite near to take photographs.

The creek runs through a gorge that supports heaps of birds, insects and other wildlife.  There is a resident Saltie in the bottom mudflat area.

After a quick snack, we set off for a walk to the top cascade.  We passed several deep ponds and some more rushing water. We were advised not to swim in these due to the fact that a had been observed in them on a previous occasion. The path we took traversed the side of the ravine, over large boulders and unsteady rocks.  On reaching the top, we were delighted to see a very deep pool with a waterfall at one end; in which we could swim.

The water was deliciously cool and we spent some time enjoying the water.  A further walk over the top of the waterfall, took us to some Aboriginal rock paintings. Here, etched into the rock face, were images of the Wanjina; faces with large round, owl like eyes, with long bodies and forked tongues, under a rock ledge. Nearby was a cave that required some investigation but a large King Brown snake was guarding the cave.

We returned to base camp, to enjoy another refreshing bath in the clear beautiful water.

We are camping on rock ledges, beside the cascades.  A campfire has been lit in one of the hollows of the rock ledge, and we are now enjoying drinks with the sound of rushing water and frogs, in the background.

In all of our campsites, Alex, the first mate; who refers to himself as the Horse's tail; needs to find a suitable place for the toilet.  The toilet is disabled over-toilet seat, with a large, reinforced paper bag hanging below.  It is Alex's job to dispose of this at the end of each camp stay. 

Some "Jobs" Are Better Than Others: About Alex - (The Horse's Tail) Courtesy of Ian

Some people can read tea leaves, and some 
    a crystal ball,
But I met a bloke in the Kimberley with a
    trick to beat them all.
As you travel through life you learn, for problems
    there's solutions,
The first mate Alex has a special talent with
    company's bagged ablutions.
First job when landing on the beach, he
    sets up a special chair,
Somewhere high above the flood tide, but not
    just anywhere.
It's done in some strange mystical way, by perhaps 
    alignment with the sun.
Stay with me a while, and I'll tell you
    how it's done.
He can get some sort of a renal picture, of the
    company's little band,
By reading certain signals, from their footprints
    in the sand.
If the steps are soft and few, like footprints in 
    the snow,
He's happy that the food has stuck, and they
    haven't had to go.
But if the steps are long and many, on the way
    down to the loo,
He knows the job will be a challenge from
    last night's Vindaloo.
Once the happy campers leave the beach to
    join the boat,
He's left alone upon the sand, to ponder
    and to gloat.
With the contents of a paper bag, lighter, match
    and dieseline,
He works some kind of magic with the contents
    yet unseen.
Some may think it would be easy, and the
    learning would be quick,
But he's done a long apprenticeship with a
    special forky stick.
He takes each daily challenge slowly and
    likes to read the message right,
And I'm sure the things he sees each day
     would give us all a bloody fright.
It's not a job to take on lightly, you have 
     to know a thing or two,
'Cause with a casual quick assessment you could confuse
     a curry with a stew.
His best display of what he does is to sort
      the boys from all the girls.
He distinguishes the droppings by their shape,
       their size, and swirls.
I thought a change of jobs, would somehow
        be for me,
But the best I do with poo, is to
         sort a carrot from a pea.
Every job has special benefits, and with
         this I suppose,
He seldom picks his teeth now and keeps
         his fingers from nose.

Incidentally the dunny has always had "the best view"!

Thursday 11th August
The day began with a painting of this magnificent tree soaring out above the rock face, it's roots anchored in a small crevice between two enormous boulders.  

Greg arrived in the dinghies to take us mud crabbing.  The dinghies were maneuvered between the mangroves, through the crocodile infested waters.  A small crocodile lay at the entrance to the first creek inlet.  Eight crab pots had been set earlier in the day with the fish heads left over from the previous fishing expedition.

One crab pot had been twisted around a dead mangrove tree stump, whereupon, Greg promptly dived into the water to see if he could rescue it, accompanied by screams of protest from all the passengers in the dingy.  He couldn't retrieve it so, we'll have to wait until low tide, to see if it can be rescued. Later when the crew went back to retrieve the pots they saw a two and a half meter croc in the shallows and one of the pots in that small creek had been dragged by a croc, so that it was now jammed under and between the mangrove roots. So Greg was very lucky he hadn't met a croc whilst diving to fee the crab pot from the mangroves roots! We caught 10 crabs in all, enough for one each, for the passengers - YUM!

After this adrenaline heart started, we went to King's Cascade.  This is the famous falls where American, Ginger Meadows, dived off a yacht, straight into croc infested waters and was eaten by one.  Greg drove the bow of the boat right under the falls, so we could stand in it a get wet. This is a most stunning place with veils of ferns, sun dew flowers and iridescent green mosses growing on the rocks.  The water is crystal clear a very refreshing!

Back to Camp Creek for a second night of camping there.  The loading and unloading to and from the shore is dictated by the tides.  When there is not enough water, the rocks are covered in treacherous mud, that is worse than trying to walk on melting ice! Mud Skippers jump and grovel and slide in the mud ponds left when the tide goes out.

We had to hurry back in order to have enough water in the creek to ensure we could take the dinghy in there. As it was we had the slide our way through mud and then over some high boulders and across the creek to make it safely back.

Wallowing in the small pools and cascades was the order of the day for the afternoon - our bath for the day.

Friday 12th August
Tides again dictated our movements.  We had to negotiate the steep ravine of rocky boulders and slippery mud to get all the baggage and camping equipment to the dinghy.  Nothing was possible until 9:00am, as the water had completely disappeared.  Then it was a case of rushing to get everything on board before a long 100 nautical mile run to our next destination.

We made a few detours on the way view some pristine beaches.  Greg was looking at them with the prospect of camping on them for future trips.  Two beaches were connected by a thin peninsula and edged by deep clear water.  The others were long and white.  Many recent turtle
scrapings were dug into the sand where they had laid their eggs.

We then pushed on to arrive at Langgi, where we were the first people in thirty years to be given permission by the Worrorra Aborigine mob, to camp on the beach.  This beach is adjacent to the Petrified Warriors, a fascinating group of rocks that resemble people.  A massive Queensland Groper arrived to greet us and stayed with our boat for the duration.

The beach here was untouched!  Really beautiful white sand and flowering vegetation creeping across the sand. A white rock above our tent was like a totem and gleamed white all night in the moonlight. During the evening, I started to feel very unwell.  The loo had been located a long way from the camp, so my continual trudging up and down the sandhill all night was a pest!

Greg has a very good relationship with these Aborigines and is a good friend of Donny Woolagoodja, the leader of the Fresh Water Cove mob and a very well known artist who designed the Wandjina for the opening of the Sydney Olympics.  His father repainted the Wandjina and other paintings of fish, turtles and dugong in caves we visited. 

Saturday 13th August
The local mob are in the beginning stages of setting up a cultural tour of this sacred place. We were greeted by Donny and half a dozen of his mob.  They painted our faces with red ochre that can only collected straight after the Big Rains, when the ochre is exposed.

After telling us the stories of the Worrorra Lalai (Worrorra Dreamtime Stories) and pointing out how the stories relate to the rocks; we were put through a smoking ceremony: -brushing us with leaves that were repeatedly daubed in the fire. The Petrified Warriors were guarding the burial place Namarali.  He got himself into a lot of trouble when he married a woman from the wrong " skin". The opposing clan warriors, fought each other and struck Namarali in the leg and he died.  He asked to be laid on a high ledge after he died. The rock absorbed his body in a cave at Karndirrim, where his image can be seen.  The rocks all relate to the stories told. The mob also had paintings for sale, all of which were very well executed, but very expensive.

"When they saw he was dead
they carried him over the creek.
Jir - for the first one
they made that dry sound on their tongues.
Then he was laid on a forked stick cradle
high off the ground.
Now Namarali lies
in his cave on top of the rocks.

These rocks are Wanjinas
Marking the fight.
They speared him in this water,
this water is Namarali.
They carried him along here,
they laid him up there.
We belong to this place,
strangers must stay away." Translated from Worrorra.

"The children who fooled with Dumbi Owl were laughing.
Then they heard the roar.
The angry Wanjinas sent a flood
and reach the water reached them all.
But in the waves one man, one woman
grabbed the tail of a kangaroo.
They clung to it's tail as it swam
and it reaches the rocks.
Here, on this side, they climbed up,
so that we were born, 
so we go on being born."  Translated from Worrorra

This was the day that I felt really unwell and had to leave the talk in a hurry so that I wouldn't desecrate the sacred site! It was a case of lying low for a while until my guts felt better! So the rest of the day and the next passed in a blur!

But there was no way I was going to miss out on looking at the famous Wandjina Rock Paintings.  It was exceedingly hot and airless for a long steep trudge up the side of a ravine to the overhanging rock ledges, so it was a steady plod, the whole way.  Dehydration was a worry, because I didn't sweat the whole steep climb up.  After having taken some photos, the memory in the camera ran out, so we trudged back down the path, where Greg, very kindly picked us up ahead of the others, so I could recuperate on the boat and be near the loo.

It was the Kenya trick to fix the runs! Yuck cordial left to sit in a glass and then sipped slowly, to kill the bugs!

Greg decided that Raft Point would be a good place for us to have our next stay, this may well be our last beach camp!  The tides were now running at 10 meters. We arrived as the tide was rushing out, so we had to hurry.  The campsite was at the top of the beach, which was really steep.  We arrived in the early afternoon when it was exceedingly hot, so the set up was really hard work. The loo was placed close to our tent so I wouldn't have the same problem as I had had the night before. Sticks were placed to mark the Curlew's eggs in it's nest, so that we wouldn't accidentally tread on it.

A good night's sleep helped do the rest of the cure!

Sunday 14th August

Up early with a cup of tea and a painting done.  So obviously I felt a lot better. Packed up camp and then off to Ruby Creek and Ruby Falls.  

What an adventure this turned out to be!  We zoomed down Ruby River at high speed in the dinghy.  It proved to be a long way.  We didn't take the cruise boat far down the river because with the tides running as they were now, it would have been sitting on sand and mud at low tide.  As the dinghy approached Ruby Falls, we sighted a croc hovering just where the fresh water met the sea water.  Greg pulled into a rock ledge just at that point and that was where we had to get out! This jaunt turned out to be a rock climbing expedition! Up a vertical rock wall with small ledges and crevices.  Each step taken was on smooth slippery rock with the croc lurking somewhere below in the muddy water. We were instructed not to swim in the bottom pool, for obvious reasons!  So we trekked up higher still until we arrived at a series of 3 magnificent pools.  Waterlilies abounded as well as other fresh water plants and some magnificent trees grew by the water's edge. Ferns abounded along with sundews and pandanas.

We swam up and along each pool by walking up the small cascades in between each pool. The water was crystal clear and very refreshing.

Then for our walk back down.  We hadn't realised until then just how high the edge of the ravine was. Our guide, Alex, was a wonder, as he instructed us where to place, each foot and hand, claw-holds in the crevices of the rock face.  The adrenalin was pumping very fast, as we all knew what lurked below in the muddy water. 

"Warp speed" was needed to get us to our next destination, because the wind came up and the seas got quite rough, so we needed to find a safe anchorage for the night.  We spotted many whales frolicking in the water with their calves. A magnificent sunset occurred as we sped along.  The sun was a huge red glow as it dipped below the horizon.  The countryside was touched with pinks and reds. Our journey took us through tight spaces between islands until we arrived at Silvergull Inlet.

Monday 14th August
We slept downstairs on the boat with a full moon.  

A dinghy trip to Marion and Phil's, took us to visit some real characters of the Kimberley. This is an oasis in the desert.  They have planted an enormous variety of plants in the garden.  Flowers and coloured foliage made the garden a wonderful place to explore.  Marion and Phil have named their home, Squatters Arms.  They are the ears and eyes of the Kimberley.  The customs fellows visited them whilst we were leaving to check up on the comings and goings of yachts and visitors o the area. 

Squatters Arms is sustained by a permanent spring, which pours out of the cliff and into a concrete tank. Phil uses the water to make home brew, which he drinks all day.  It also waters the garden, through irrigation pipes.  They have a vegetable garden- an amazing feat given the rock, lack of soil and heat.  Marion has designed the garden to resemble a Balinese garden. In it Phil was proud to show us his pineapple as well as his red and white Kimberley Roses.

Marion designs jewelry made from local pearls and stones, which is available for sale, together with t-shirts and stubby holders.  They have a very limited lease with only 4 1/2 years left, so we were all asked if we would sign a petition to help them stay.  Most of the yachties from around the world know of Phil and Marion and make an effort to visit them. People can join the Squatters Arms Yacht Club, if they wish for $10.00 a year.

We had a lovely time wallowing in the water tank with the frogs and enjoying the 28degree water rushing from a pipe into the tank. 

Marion and Phil farewelled us with a "moonie".  The amount of exposure you get is commensurate with the amount that you spend at their shop.  So they were obviously pleased with us!

We tried to fish again, after this visit, in a deep sea-ravine, but the tidal pull was too great to keep the boat in one place, so after three runs across the deep water, we gave up and drove at "warp speed" to be able to have a swim at Silica Beach. 

Here Margaret and Ian tried to teach Les how to float.  "Relax", they told him. "Put your head down,  keep your back straight."
 "Drop him Marg, he's got a 'stiffie'!", yells Ian. Next minute we heard gurgling and choking as Les was dropped to the bottom.  Needless to say this has caused great merriment!  It became the main topic of conversation and joking over the evening meal.  Les maintained air had got trapped in his bathers!

Last night on the boat, unfortunately.  We are parked just outside the Inland Sea.  Sandra, our Swedish crew member, wrote a poem about her experience as crew hand on the boat for half of this season. She is on a deadline to get back to Darwin, before leaving for New Zealand and then England before returning home.  This is also her last night on the boat!

Ian has just given us a rendition of his latest poem - they will all be posted later.

Tuesday 16th August
Swags packed, sheets and pillow cases removed.  The Inland Sea was driven through very carefully, because the tide was at it's lowest. A long four hour drive back to Derby to ensure we get in at the right tide!

Written by Sandra, our Swedish crew member - her last trip aboard the Kimberley Xplorer.

Once upon a time in a far and wide land
there was a place north and our of hand
where the land was red and cliffs were grand
where the sea was turquoise and mountains were its floor
where whales were breeding and crocodiles were waiting, for sure.
There in this treacherous, rugged and splendid place
a captain kept sailing through
battling the crocs
singing with the whales
and sailing the tide.
His hair was swept by the wind.
His smile had a wicked grin.
His skin was tanned to leather
And his stubbies were faded to unrecognizability.

There was a second in command.
A fair gingerbread man
With a lurky smile and his Harry close to hand.
In their secluded quarters
they were real Australian men.
They took their cuppa with two sugars and white
Stirred it one to the right and twice, left around.
They drank pineapple juice
and feasted on it's meat.
This was the image people meet.
One day out of the dark
a woman stepped aboard,
young and blond of foreign breed
Swedish and unused to be at sea.
She took the job on the boat.
They all wondered; how is this going to go?
With a captain who run around like a headless shook
asking and asking,"Who took my glasses, who took my glasses."
With a second in command who beat his chest in despair 
shouting, "I am the wild stallion! I am!"
With a deckhand of the other sex, who sat down on the ground
crossed her legs to sense, how she shall have her cup of tea
this particular day.
It all went well, Fair Dinkum, they let us know
through rough and windy sea, through tidal gaps and tranquility
Plan kept changing continuously
but they kept on sailing in the day and sleeping at night
straight under the stars.
And that's how she saw the Kimberley.

Written in the visitor's book by Ian
I lay in my swag last night, and looked how the stars filled the sky.
And in the morning light watched the sun come up, and heard the birds waking
in the trees close by.
The still of the morning was a wondrous thing, and the sun's soft new rays glow,
Reflected on the mirrored waters of the creek, slowly changing with
the tidal flow.
I sat content and enjoyed a new day dawning, and thought, well lucky me,
Is there another place on earth today better than this one at the Kimberley?