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.

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