Well it was time to say goodbye to the Broome Bird Observatory and the Indian Ocean and head inland and eastwards along the Great Northern Highway to our next main destination, Kununurra – over 1,000 km away. But first we had to go back into Broome to sort out the problem with Eric’s credit card and thankfully everything is now ok. Back on the Great Northern Highway we decided to make more use of free overnight rest areas on the highway rather than always spend the night in caravan parks. Not sure if we’ve explained already, but throughout Australia there are lots of large parking areas, many of which are officially recognised as overnight stops. These aren’t like those we have back in Europe though, but are gravel areas set in the bush, often with a BBQ and campfire area and sometimes with a dry dunny. Some, in fact, are quite scenic – situated beside rivers, waterholes, overlooking good views etc. En route to Fitzroy Crossing we found a decent one with lots of other people camping so decided to set up camp for the night. The following morning we were up and away earlier than normal to make for Fitzroy Crossing where sites seem to get snapped up early in the day (you can’t book ahead). We got checked in at Fitzroy River Lodge, which turned out to be a bit of a gem. In fact we ended up staying two nights. Fitzroy Crossing is the first place we’ve come across where the Aboriginal people have a greater influence and land ownership than other places we’ve visited. This was also a place where we learned from Mark (the manager of the River Lodge and our guide for the day) much more about the Aboriginal history and the background to modern day issues. One of the main problems in the Aboriginal community in this area came about as a result of Government legislation in the 1970’s which was, in fact, intended to help them. The majority of Aboriginals up to the 70’s were used on cattle stations where they got board and lodging etc but no wages. The Government brought in legislation requiring that they get paid and the following further legislation brought in an equal pay act. The effect of this was that station owners, who had until that time had the benefit of very cheap labour, could not afford to pay the large number of Aboriginals the same wages as their white employees. Result – the Aboriginals were turfed off the stations with no homes, no money and no purpose in life. Even further legislation brought in the payment of welfare benefits which equated to average wages and in many, many cases was spent by the men on drink. This started a lifestyle that continues today. This is our basic understanding of the situation, but it’s good to see that in Fitzroy Crossing they’re trying to tackle this problem in a number of innovative ways. Then it was off to take a boat down Geikie Gorge in the Geikie Gorge National Park to see the sandstone cliff formations and the wildlife (saw lots of freshwater crocodiles), and learn something about Aboriginal culture. Our young guide on the boat was Aboriginal and, although very good, funny and informative, in our view made too many jokey references to alcohol (this is one of the fundamental problem areas with male Aboriginals). During the wet season the Fitzroy River is one of the mightiest in the world and it’s amazing to see the extent of the area that the river covers when it’s in full flow every year (the volume of water going through Fitzroy Crossing is second only to the Amazon). But when we were there, luckily it was a more placid beast and we were able to cross the old Fitzroy Crossing, which is essentially a low stone causeway over the river. Earlier in our travels we decided that we probably wouldn’t get much further into the Kimberley because all roads are for 4WD only, and Windjana Gorge was out of the question. However, when we arrived at Fitzroy River Lodge we saw that there was a tour going the following day so we booked ourselves on it, and boy are we glad we did. The down side was that we had to be up at 5.30! It was a long drive and most of the road was in very poor condition. We had stops along the way where our tour guide, Michael, told us how the Aboriginal people live off the land and make use of plants, trees, rocks etc for everything they need. Windjana George was certainly a highlight and was a magical place to visit. Going through a narrow passage in the rocks led us into an oasis created by the Lennard River where freshwater crocs were in an absolute abundance. We were able to get pretty close to them as they based either at the edge of the water or on the sandbanks (see Fitzroy Crossing photos). The gorge itself was beautiful with lots of trees, plants, animal and birdlife as well as rock formations and fossils showing that this area was once part of the ocean. After a visit to a ruined homestead, which features in a true Aboriginal story about Jandamarra, it was off to Tunnel Creek where he met his end. This involved a walk along river which flows though a large cave in the hills. After a very long and excellent day it was good to get back to Annie. Next day we were on the road, passing through Halls Creek which is the news at the moment due to accusation of child sex abuse in the Aboriginal community. Once again decided on another roadside rest stop for the night (they’re amazingly quiet and peaceful compared to organised caravan parks). The following day, our journey to Kununurra took us through some of the most wonderful scenery we’d seen for some time as the Kimberley put on its best show. It’s the most rugged area we’ve driven through since Tasmania and although not high in terms of elevation, it offers some stunning vistas as the road weaves through wonderful scenery.