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?

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