Day 30 - Tuesday 30th April 2013 (Travelled 402 kms)
Left our beachside resort at Cleaverville this morning after seeing a flock of pelicans swimming along the shoreline. Ralph and Charlie went fishing and on the rocks came across an octopus, when approaching it squirted ink getting Ralph on the leg. The more agitated the octopus became its colouring chnaged, it was obvious that he was not happy. Heading towards Roebourne and onto Cossack - a particularly historic area. The many stone buildings have been fully restored and provided plenty of information and many insights into the town's history. Cossack was originally established and was the main port in the North West. There were a number of industries to develop here after the pastoralists struggled with drought conditions. Large pearl fields were discovered nearby and the pearl industry grew in the 1880's. By 1888, the Pilbara gold rush was in full swing and hundreds of prospectors came to Cossack and Roebourne. Cossack grew in numbers for almost 50 years but these numbers declined by 1900 when pearling operations moved to Broom. Here they had a Turtle Soup Factory and Leper Colony. The once busy port also became unsuitable for bigger ships and Point Samson became the main harbour. By the early 1950's the town of Cossack was completely abandoned. A most amazing and beautiful place to visit situated on Butcher's Inlet. Views from the lookout were spectacular taking in a 360 degree vista.
Nice lunch was had at Samson Point Tavern.
Tonight we camped at a tranquil spot on the Balla Balla River near the inlet, not far from Whim Creek. We were amazed by the silver fish thrusting themselves of out the water and then skipping across the water like stones to catch the many insects.
Ralph had no luck fishing but Ken caught a small cat fish which was returned to the water.
Day 31 - Wednesday 1st May 2013 (Travelled 390 kms)
Broke camp early this morning at 8.05 am. Today was to be a driving day. A fuel stop at Port Hedland and then onto Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park for the night. Eighty Mile Beach is famous for its fishing and shell collecting. We decided that this was a most beautiful spot on the beach with grassed camping areas and the beach just over the sand dunes. The decision was made to make this a two night stop. Lucky us. An afternoon dip in the Indian Ocean to cool off after setting up camp. We were also very happy to experience another magnificent sunset.
Day 32 - Thursday 2nd May 2013 (Travelled 0kms)
A nice quiet day at Eighty Mile Beach - an oasis in amongst the red soil and scrub. We did the chores and sat around for the day relaxing, reading, swimming…… The boys attended to running car maintenance.
During the high season this caravan park is packed with southerners heading north for the winter. Here there is plenty of water, the water being sourced from artesian bores. The caretakers are diligent in ensuring this is a well maintained caravan park - watering all the grassy areas and ensuring that the many trees don't dry out. The caravan park was hit by a cyclone 3 years ago devastating many of their original trees with new trees now only establishing themselves.
Ralph braved the afternoon sun, high tide (the best fishing time according to locals) catching a blue nosed Salmon, known also as blue thread fin salmon. A very relaxing day chasing the shade finished off by a lovely corned beef meal.
Day 33 - Friday 3rd May 2013 (Travelled 390 kms)
Broke camp early at 7.45 am stopping at Sandfire Roadhouse for fuel. An interesting little spot with many artifacts, old machinery to look at which were scattered amongst some wonderful shady trees and a few peacocks wandering around to give it some charm. Arrived in Broome in the early afternoon and headed for the Palm Grove Caravan Park located at Cable Beach. It has been so hot (and at times extremely humid - temps in the high 30s and continual for days - no reprieve) it's taking time for the Melbourne contingent to acclimatise. So after setting up camp a swim in the pool was a must.
Just on sunset we walked over to Cable Beach to watch another WA sunset and afterwards heading across the road from camp to dine at Divers Tavern. Ralph and Anne had touched base with Danika, a family friend who is based in Broome and manages a backpackers retreat. A nice meal was enjoyed, a Friday night crowd, so to escape the noise inside, loud chatters and both codes of footy being screened for patrons to watch we sat in the outside garden. Anne, Ralph and Danika stayed on to listen to the band playing.
Charlie, Deb and Rhiannon headed into town for dinner.
Day 34 - Saturday 4th May 2013 (Travelled 49 kms)
Hot, Hot, Hot - dripping from the heat. A day to look around the sights of Broome.
Started the day with a visit to the Market - a shady setting in the Broome Courthouse grounds. Located here are the remains of the old lockup, the original police station, and court house, an amazing boab tree and a palm tree, its trunk laced, most unusual . Anne headed off to make herself look more beautiful, a haircut and nails to attend to.
Ken and Fi (with our Destination Broome map in hand) wandered around China Town, the once hub of Broome and now has the best pearl showrooms, some shops and cafes. Streeter's Jetty is located on Dampier Terrace and was the original Broome jetty used by the pearl luggers based in Broome. There are two restored pearling luggers here which are heritage listed. We visited the Historical Society Museum which is in a building built in the late 1890's. Later it was the Customs House. Most interesting collections of not just war memorabilia but all facets of life in Broome. We ventured down to the Port of Broome and then onto the picturesque Reddell Beach with its unusual rock faces.
We all met up for a tasty lunch at Matso's Brewery - the only hand mashed brewery in the north west. They were awarded a trophy for Australia's best dark lager, a most interesting array of different beers and lagers to taste.
After lunch we headed down to Gantheaume Point, a lighthouse is located here and at low tide you can see original dinosaur footprints. No low tide for us though!
We were hoping to be able to book a flight on a jet seaplane to take a look at the Horizontal Falls, but unfortunately it was booked out for Monday (tides need to be right). We plan to do a flight later on and will organise when we reach Kununurra.
Deb and Rhiannon ventured for a camel trek at sunset along Cable Beach, which they seemed to enjoy.
Cooked dinner and an early night with the intention of rising early Sunday to travel to Cape Leveque.
Day 35 - Sunday 5th May (Travelled 237 kms)
Departed the Caravan Park early to get a head start north on the road to Cape Leveque. We left the caravans in Broome and tonight we will be setting up our tents at Kooljaman (remote wilderness area) at the Cape. Cape Leveque is located on the Dampier Peninsula about 220 km north of Broome, Kooljaman is jointly owned by Djarindjin and the One Arm Point Aboriginal Communities.
A long dry dusty trek, called into the church at Beagle Bay which was an amazing. Beagle Bay is the home of the Nyul Nyul people who are the traditional owners of this land. The church was the Sacred Heart Church. It was built - finished in 1917 after two years of building and then a further year to decorate it. The clay bricks were handmade and fired in local kilns, clay, sand, wood and shell were collected and lime was made by burning shell which was used as the mortar and plaster. The original ceiling was made of timber and plastered with lime. The plaster was painted dark blue and mother of pearl shells were inlayed into the ceiling. Father Drost worked with a team of local women made the shell decorations for the church. - the altar, the side altars and around the window frames, along the aisle - all embedded with pearl shell. The church is still used today. An incredible sight to see!
Arrived at Kooljaman and camped under some trees, which was fortunate for us to have shade. Enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the restaurant, before experiencing an extremely hot still night and a restless sleep.
Day 36 - Monday 6th May (Travelled 237 kms)
We broke camp early despite having to pack up tents, visited the aboriginal community at One Arm Point. Leaving here we called into Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, reputably Australia's oldest operating Pearl Farm. A most interesting and informative visit and Anne and Fi were drooling over the most beautiful pearls you had ever seen…. Not thinking the boys were that keen though!
Back to the caravan park in Broome - a few chores to be done to prepare for the next leg of the journey.
Day 37 - Tuesday 7th May (Travelled 381 kms)
Today we are leaving Broome to head into The Kimberley (this is what we have come so far to take a look at). The Kimberley is one of the world's last great Wilderness areas and we are certainly looking forward to the next week or so as we travel in around the area.
Not too far out of Derby we crossed the Fitzroy River at Willare Bridge Roadhouse, the mouth of the river extending into King Sound. It flows between December and February, during the wet season, and when in full flow the bridge is impassable. This year has been a "dry wet season" throughout the area. The Fitzroy River is extensive and there will times that we will again come across it in our travels.
A few kilometres out of Derby we stopped to look at the Boab Prison Tree. The aboriginal history and its significance is an interesting read. The tree is believed to be 1500 years old. It was used as a staging point for prisoners being walked into Derby in the early days. I hope our photos of the tree do it justice! All boab trees are protected in this area and it's not unusual to see them located in strange places.
In Derby the wide medium strip along the main street was the host to lovely green grass and many boabs. A visit to the jetty, reputably Derby has Australia's highest tidal change and second in the southern hemisphere. The tidal variations may be as much as 11 metres. We were unable to experience the jetty at high and low tides due to the time of day.
The Derby Visitor Centre had many displays and information available regarding The Kimberley including all the travel information/road conditions that we wanted to check on.
Back on the road again after lunch and we have now begun the trip along the Gibb River Road. Windjana Gorge National Park is tonight's destination. Wow, we are all impressed with the road condition so far. Sights of red crested black cockatoos and two brolgas were delightful. We travelled 125 kilometres from Derby and turned off the Gibb River Road towards the National Park. Ah, corrugations, so a quick stop to deflate the tyres for a more comfortable ride and it isn't long before the picturesque Gorge comes into full view. The gorge is part of an ancient 375 million year old Devonian reef system and the sight is awesome. Here we set up camp, and like some of the other NPs we have stayed in, this WA park is also well appointed, showers (solar) and flushing loos (and large green loo frogs are an added extra).
Camped near us were four young travellers, 3 from Germany and 1 from Switzerland ranging in age from 19 to 24 years old. An interesting group of young people to talk to and all only too happy to talk about their travels in Australia and other countries. One of the girls advertised (on Gumtree) for companions to join her for this trip. She had purchased a car (also on Gumtree) and then picked up her travelling companions in our Capital cities as she toured. What a fantastic way to work and see the sights of Australia. They were all heading to Darwin now as their travels were coming to an end.
Day 38 - Wednesday 8th May (Travelled 68 kms)
An early morning walk to the gorge. The gorge spans 3 kilometres and the limestone walls are over 100 metres high which have been carved by the Lennard River over millions of years. The gorge is part of the Napier Range. The walk was pleasant at 6.00 am. The sun was beginning to peak over the walls of the gorge and you could feel the heat and the humidity of the day increasing with every passing moment. Some photos were taken as the sun appeared on the walls and the reflections of the limestone walls on the pools of water was breathtaking. Some freshwater crocodiles just slowly swam in the pools minding their own business. It was cool to walk along the banks of the river amongst the different variety of grasses and trees. We stopped to look at some fossils of shells and other animals that had been deposited in the limestone.
Back to camp for our breakfast. Mid to late morning we headed out for a short drive to Tunnel Creek National Park. Tunnel Creek is WA's oldest cave system. The creek flows through a huge water worn tunnel beneath the limestone of the Napier Range. The walk was around 750 metres long, and being the dry season we were able to walk through, torches in hand or worn on our heads, where at times having to wade through water, the deepest being knee height. All the features of old stalactites and stalagmites were visible including angel water falls, sheeting over the rocks. Half way through the tunnel the skies are visible as part of the rock formations from above have collapsed in, then pressing on to come out the other side of the range to again see daylight. Plenty of small fishes are in the creek water and after scrambling on the rocks a couple of aboriginal wall art paintings were visible. Only one way in and out and back through the dark tunnel we ventured. Freshwater crocodiles are said to inhabit these waters and thankfully with limited light we didn't spy any. This cave is also home to a couple of different varieties of bats, we didn't see any of those either!
A quiet afternoon relaxing as we waited for the sun to go down to give us some relief from the heat and humidity of the day.
Day 39 - Thursday 9th May (Travelled 167 kms)
An 8.40 am departure with another hot day looming. Our journey today will be a shorter one as we leave the Napier Range and Windjana Gorge to reach Silent Grove in the King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park.
Crossed the Lennard River once back on the Gibb River Road, a pair of brolgas were fossicking near the edge of the river. The pools were few, but it would be a magnificent sight in full flow. We stopped at Inglis Lookout to take in the spectacular scenery and here were plenty of birds chirping away in a flowering gum. More views as we came over the other side of the ridge and lush areas at the bottom, which I'm guessing was due to some of the wet season waters.
We had an extraordinary view of the Napier Range and the rock profile known as Queen Victoria's Head. The King Leopold Ranges are sparsely treed which gave a great view of the incredible rock formations. Here a huge flock of red tailed cockatoos crossed above us.
The turnoff came along to Bell Gorge and Silent Grove Camping area, a few small river crossings and we arrived at the camp area to find Charlie already set up and saving a spot for the rest of us. A quick lunch and off to Bell Gorge for a swim. Reaching the Bell Gorge car park , we walked a rocky path for around ½ an hour to reach a magnificent rock pool setting and the Bell River waterfalls. Bell Gorge was not as spectacular as Wingjana with its towering cliffs, but the rock pool to wallow in was fantastic. Big flat, shiny rocks formed the edges of this area and Pandanis trees lined the backdrop of the pool. The water was so enticing and it didn't take long for us to submerge in the flowing waters. So nice and cooling was the water that we spent some time enjoying.
Day 40 - Friday 10th May (Travelled 169 kms)
Leaving Bell Gorge and then fuelling at Imintji Roadhouse, we are travelling to Mornington Wilderness Camp. Charlie and Deb are pressing on along the Gibb River Road. We hope to catch up later but the possibility is that they will be on the road to QLD before we catch up again.
The Mornington Wilderness Camp is owned by Australian Wildlife Conservancy which is non-government, non - profit organisation based in Perth and dedicated to establishing a network of sanctuaries to protect threatened wildlife and ecosystems. The AWC now manages 23 sanctuaries covering 3 million hectares. It is located 90 kms to the south east off the Gibb River Road. The sanctuary is a bird watching paradise with 180 species found on the property including the threatened Gouldian Finch.
On arrival we were greeted by a "bar in the bush", of course we paid our dues. After setting up camp we headed out towards Blue Bush swimming hole on the Fitzroy River and witnessed an awesome sunset on the way back to camp.
Along the track were many Australian Bustards, the heaviest flighted bird in Australia.
Day 41 - Saturday 11th May (Travelled 62 kms within the Wilderness Park)
Woke early with dingoes howling, in fact they howled most of the wee hours of this morning.
At 9.45 am, we headed off to Dimond Gorge. Bathers on and looking forward to a swim in the Fitzroy River. A lovely spot for a dip, very rocky underneath, with stone skipping competitions in full force. The winner being Ralph with a rock skipping eight times. Congratulations! We left here to visit Cajeput Swimming hole (Cajeput trees line the river in this area). A lovely spot right down on the Fitzroy River, sandy banks as opposed to the rocky bottom at Dimond Gorge. Read later that this spot is an excellent place to observe the freshwater crocs, not that we spied any. The birds were abundant and we viewed the Rainbow Bee-eater, the most colourful little bird. We also saw lots of spotted harriers, peaceful doves, magpie larks and an assortment of wrens and finches.
Vicki and Gary you should be really impressed with the consultation and referencing to the Simpson and Day Field Guide, we have taken on looking up the names of all these wonderful birds. I think Anne would make a very good Twitcher!
A most pleasant day enjoying the waters of the Fitzroy River.
Day 42 - Sunday 12th May (Travelled 312kms)
Mother's Day today, as we remember all the great things about what being a mother is to us. Our children are our greatest joy and although we are not with them our hearts are always.
Leaving the Wilderness Camp our journey today is to reach the Drysdale River Station. We reached Drysdale navigating some of the corrugations this road is renowned for and river crossings (none too deep). After camp set up we are looking forward to a Drysdale River restaurant dinner to celebrate Mother's Day. Ralph was very generous to Anne, he put the jacks down on the caravan - Anne didn't have to do this chore because it was Mother's Day. What a treat!
After a quick couple of phone calls, using the coin operated blue phone in the fridge (very Get Smartish) we ate and then walked back to our mobile homes to listen the rain, wondering what impact this would have on our journey tomorrow.