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Welcome to John/Barb's page of the wonderful APT Kimberley Road/Ship Tour! Here you will find all sorts of resources that I gathered during our trip. Feel free to use any of them for personal use. (I'm happy to give permission for commercial use, subject to me owning the copyright - but please ask first.)
These pages are under active development. If you were a member of GKW15, you will be interested to know that I am working my way through both photos and diary to update the recorded information with place names, distances and the like. Currently I am working on 17 June. Keep watching!
Navigating these pages: In the following itinerary, there are various columns of interest, some of which are links. Clicking on a link entry for each column respectively ...
Not all days were tracked, and these days will have no link to open. The first four days of the cruise are a single track, which was an experiment on my part, and it did not work well. These days don't include any Xplorer side trips, and I realised that this was not ideal, and switched back to tracking my personal journeys. On all the other days I carried the GPS tracker around with me, so you can amuse yourselves by checking to see if I went to the loo at any of the toilet stops! 😀
Within the diary entries, the date heading is a link to the photo page (as for the itinerary). The day of the week/ordinal number is a link back to the itinerary, and the day's title is a link to the track (as for the itinerary).
All dates and times are local times. This can give anomalous timings when travel across time zones is involved.
Note that the pages will change over time as I complete my editing of the resources. I am currently restructuring the tracks and blogs, so expect anomalous results for days after the checkpoint mentioned above. Where an entry in the time column exists, the day is up-to-date. Note also that when the document refers to 'John', the author is assumed, unless stated otherwise.
|Time||Activity (Blog)||Locations (Track)||Track No.|
|0||04 Jun||0830-1130||Flying in on a Broome stick||QF1050 MEL-BRM|
|1||05 Jun||all day||Walking on a broomstick||Broome|
|2||06 Jun||0625-17xx||Wading in the tunnel/creek||Broome to Fitzroy Crossing|
|3||07 Jun||0649-1831||Bunuba Bumping||Fitzroy Crossing to Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge||286|
|4||08 Jun||0811-1724||No bungles today!||Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge||287|
|5||09 Jun||0648-1649||A Chasmaclitic Day!||Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge to Kununurra||288|
|6||10 Jun||1138-1743||An Ord-inary sort of day - Not!||Kununurra and the Ord River Scheme||289|
|7||11 Jun||0730-1408||A Five River Overview||Kununurra to Emma Gorge Resort||290|
|8||12 Jun||0932-1749||'witching harmony and harm on my bum||Emma Gorge Resort to Home Valley Station||291|
|9||13 Jun||0658-1729||bumpity bumpity bump!||Home Valley Station to Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge||292|
|10||14 Jun||0724-1555||A bit of a shitty day||Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge||293|
|11||15 Jun||0751-1637||A day that went swimmingly||Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge to Drysdale River Station||294|
|12||16 Jun||0803-1637||Two Gorges for words!||Drysdale River Station to Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge||295|
|13||17 Jun||0749-1632||Barbara flat out, truck just flat||Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge||296|
|14||18 Jun||0715-1612||Wilderness to Civilization on 6 tyres and a prayer||Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge to Broome||297|
|15(0)||19 Jun||all day||A clean sweep with Broome||Broome||298|
|16(1)||20 Jun||all day||Xploring the Kimberley Coast||Edeline Island and Yampi Sound||299|
|17(2)||21 Jun||all day||More bumpity bumpity bumps!||Talbot Bay, Cyclone Creek, Horizontal Falls||300|
|18(3)||22 Jun||all day||Turning turtles||Montgomery Reef||300|
|19(4)||23 Jun||all day||Buying a spirit||Freshwater Cove and Cyclone Cave||300|
|20(5)||24 Jun||all day||Mermaids on land and river||Careening Bay and Prince Regent River||301|
|21(6)||25 Jun||all day||Bigge, bigger, biggest||Bigge Island Winyalkan||302|
|22(7)||26 Jun||all day||The Adventuresome and the Inertial||Swift Bay||303|
|23(8)||27 Jun||all day||A Jar-ing landing for some||Vansittart Bay and Jar Island||304|
|24(9)||28 Jun||all day||Soaking up the water and sunshine||King George River and Falls||305|
|25(10)||29 Jun||1225-1605||A Day of Waiting||QF839 DWN-MEL Darwin to Melbourne||(no track)|
No need for the alarm this morning as we were awake in plenty of time. We still did not beat Jemima to the punch, but she woke up fairly quietly, and we did not hear her get up. Beth and David were soon up, and Tabitha joined us. Time for a quick cup of tea, then the limo arrived at 06:25, and we were soon on our way to the airport.
The driver took us a funny way, up Springvale, onto the Eastern, then via Bulleen and Manningham Roads to the Northern Ring Road. It became clear why when we saw a sign along the ring road saying that the City Link was closed, so I presume the driver had foreknowledge of that closure.
At the airport, time for a quick coffee, then boarding flight QF1050 to Broome. I write this on board, some two hours into the flight, and so far very smooth.
Indeed the whole flight was smooth, and the time passed quickly, as I spent the rest of the journey updating the photo albums, in preparation for adding lots more photos. On landing in Broome (not a particularly big airport) at 11am local time, we collected our bags and found the Cable Bay Beach Resort Desk, where we were directed to a shuttle bus, and boarded as the last two passengers. Last on meant first off, so on arrival at CBBR, we were quickly checked in, even though our room was not yet available. No matter, it was elevenses local time, so we found a cafe and had a quiet coffee, taking in the atmosphere. It was not as oppressive as I had feared, in fact it was most pleasant. 24 degrees according to my new Samsung S8 smartphone!
We had not to wait long before Barb's new (ex Beth) Samsung S5 smartphone rang to say that our room was ready, so on returning to reception, we collected our keys, and found the room. Very pleasant, with a nice view over an attractive water feature and garden. The resort is designed around early pearling settlement styles, with open boardwalks and painted timber facades.
We had a choice between several options, and decided to have lunch at the Ocean Pool, and Barb went dressed for the occasion - that is, in bathers and a throw-over, and she went for a swim after lunch. John had a lamb wrap (with lots of chips!) and a Coopers Pale Ale, and Barb had a Nicoise salad and a local Matso's alcoholic ginger beer (3.5%).
It was so pleasant sitting by the pool that we sat there for quite a while - time did not seem to matter much! Around 3:30 we went for a stroll down to Cable Beach itself, and we could immediately see the attraction of the place - it was a beautiful beach, and there were many bathers both in and out of the water. Then we strolled back to our room, where our bags had arrived, and we unpacked and got ourselves organized.
At 5pm, we decided to wander over to the Sunset Bar, since we had looked up the sunset time for Broome, and it was 5:22pm. So had thousands of other people! The contrast when we walked through at 3:30 and then 5 could not have been more stark. At 3:30 the place was deserted (well, the bar did not open until 4), and then at 5 it was packed! We found a table of four chairs where there was only a couple sitting, and the woman, whose name was Margie, invited us to join her and her husband Sam (who was not there at the time, but off ordering drinks). Sam and Margie, who were from Colac, and caravanning around Australia, proved to be pleasant company, and together we watched a glorious sunset that stretched until well after 6. Then they headed back to their caravan, and we went looking for dinner.
What we didn't know was that it was a long weekend in WA, and every restaurant in the resort (there are about 6) was booked out! Fortunately, the women at reception were very helpful, and directed us across the road to an independent restaurant called Zanders, where we dined on barramundi croquettes and Thai curry chicken. We had one serve of each and shared, and that was plenty, the chicken was a massive serve.
We bought an ice cream on the way back, and shared that, then collapsed on the bed, and watched our regular Sunday evening TV fare (Doctor Who, Grantchester, DCI Banks and Doctor Blake), variously with two eyes, left eye, right eye, and then none.
Woke fitfully at 4:30, 5:15, 6:00 and 6:45 (do you see a pattern?), before prising myself out of bed a bit after 7 to make a cup of tea. We had ourselves all abluted by 8, and headed off for breakfast.
The sign at the front of the restaurant did not say the usual "please wait to be seated", but rather "proceed to your host to be seated", so we proceeded, straight ahead, since that seemed the obvious way to go (this is important, as you will see). No host appeared, but a waiter asked helpfully "do you need help sir?", to which I replied "do we sit anywhere?", and he then pointed to a table in the far corner, and led us to it.
We thought nothing more of this, and enjoyed our breakfast. But as we were leaving, we noticed another sign, just like the first "proceed to host" sign, but with an arrow pointing off to a side passage from which we had just walked out, and which we had walked past a woman behind a cash register, presumably being a "host". So we think we got a free breakfast each. Oh well, if they cannot get their signs consistent, not our problem!
After breakfast, teeth cleaning and pill taking, we found we had some time up our sleeve before the bus we had booked the night before left for the Chinatown section of Broome. So we had a cup of (espresso) coffee each, and then went to wait for the bus. When it did not come at 10am, Barb went and asked, and was told that it was only 10am on weekends, and Mon-Fri it was 10:30!
Time for a quick walk to the beach and back. But just as John reached the beach, he discovered that his camera battery was dead, so a frantic return to our room to fetch another battery ensued. (This was another story with an unexpected end, but more of that anon.) We managed all that, and were still 5mins early for the bus!
The bus dropped us at John Chi Lane, and our first task was to find an ATM. They were marked on the map, but not which brand. We found the Westpac, and tried our cards - but neither of us could remember our passwords! So no money.
No matter. We went to the Pearl Luggers Museum, where they took plastic, and so we signed up for the 'tour' about the pearling industry, which was the mainstay of Broome's economy from 1800 to 1960. I remember reading about it when I was a boy, so I found it fascinating, and I think everyone else did, too. It was not so much a tour as a lecture, given by an entertaining young lass Rachel, who was part Irish, and had clearly kissed the Blarney Stone. It was well worth the $20 each we paid, and Barb was so taken with Rachel's stories that she even bought a book on the pearlers.
Then we headed off to Matso's Brewery for lunch. As it was close to the Commonwealth Bank, John did a quick 10min side trip to the bank (we can remember our Commonwealth pins!), while Barb bought some beers, which we drank while waiting for a table. It was a pleasant enough spot to sit and sup and enjoy the ocean views while we waiting for the meals to appear. Barb had grilled barramundi, and John had satay steak sandwich, mainly because they were the meals that were 'paired' with our beers: John a 'Pearlers Pale', and Barb the same alcoholic ginger beer that she had yesterday.
We used John's new phone to plan a walk back to Cable Beach. It said it was 6kms, which did not particularly daunt us, and 1hr 15mins to walk it. I thought that was slightly optimistic at the time, but I did not realise by how much. It took us 2hrs 15mins! I don't think we were walking particularly slowly, at least not until the last half an hour, when Barb struggled a bit with a sore toe, nor did we stop to take that many photos. But it was tiring. We missed one of the turnoffs along the track through the coastal area, and ended up walking the last half along the beach. But while that was tiring, we still enjoyed the sounds of the surf, and Barb took her sandals off and splashed along the surf, cooling off her sore toe.
We headed straight for the ice cream shop and bought two cones, since we were now flush with cash. Barb has pistachio, John had strawberry, and I don't think two ice creams cones were ever so welcome as these! We took our time savouring them, and when finished, sauntered over to the Sunset Bar across the road, found a spare table, and ordered a beer and a mohito. Barb said the mohito was a bit PW, but the beer was welcome. We watched the sunset - not quite as good as last night - then back to our room to get ready for the APT welcome dinner.
The dinner was a little chaotic, as the resort staff did not seem to get the message that there were three different APT groups, and people had got sat all over the place. Eventually our three tables were organized for the 20 people on our bus, and we met some of our fellow travellers for the first time. There was John and Jenny from Colac, Bill and Cheryl from Hunters Hill, and Ron and Gerry from somewhere we did not catch. All seemed pleasant enough company, and compounded a little by the fact that Bill reminded us both of Wallis Gandell, and Ron looked very like Ken Coutts! Our tour guide introduced herself as Jenny, and explained that she was the bus driver as well, and horror of horrors, that we would get a wake up call at 4am tomorrow!! This rather threw a dampener on proceedings, with the effect that most of the party packed up by 9pm, bearing in mind that we had to have our bags packed and out the door by 5am, and that breakfast was at the same hour, and bus departure was at 6am. So much for a relaxing holiday! Little did we realize that this was very much the order of the day for most of the following 23 days.
True to promise, the phone rang at 4am and had us out of bed earlier than Jemima ever could. We got ourselves organized and bags were out at 5am, and we headed off to breakfast. This morning we did diligently 'proceed to host' to have our names checked off, and joined John and Margaret from Castlemaine for breakfast. On conclusion of breakfast just after 5:30, we returned to our room to find the bags still waiting outside. Oh well. Last minute checks, and we headed out the front of the resort to wait for the bus. The was a little confusion, since there were 3 buses loading, and people were not sure which one to get one. Eventually all was sorted, and we got away by 6:25, just as the sun was rising.
The sun rising was a bit of a challenge, as we were travelling almost due east, straight into the sun. The road was long and boring, with not much to see, and after 2 hours we stopped at Willare for a rest stop, and a welcome cup of coffee. John was very taken with the dunny, and the egregious SHIELAS sign! Jenny,our driver, had said on the way that each of us was welcome to take a turn riding in the cab with her, and John was the first to put his hand up, so after 20 minutes or so at the roadhouse, we were back on the bus towards Derby, with John riding up in the cab with Jenny. We did not quite get to Derby, as we turned off onto the famous Gibb River Road, pausing at the turnoff to check the Prison Boab Tree, a huge boab tree that was hollow inside (as many old boabs are), and which had been used to sequester criminals and aborigines, usually for quite inconsequential and unethical reasons.
Some 120k down the road we turned off onto the Fairfield-Leopold Downs Rd, and in another 22kms of somewhat more bumpy road, reached the Windjara Gorge parking lot. It was a short walk from there to see the gorge (and several fresh water crocodiles) before having a picnic lunch back in the parking lot. Then back along the road (now a gravel road) to Tunnel Creek, where we met our guide, an aboriginal elder of the Bunuba tribe called Dillon. He was a fascinating character, and very constructive, and talked about how the aborigines were looking to put the past behind them, move on, and create a much more harmonious future.
We had a short 'smoking cermony' to ward off the evil spirits, and then set off on a short trail into Tunnel Cave. Now I have been in many caves before, including some tunnel caves, but this was definitely the longest and the biggest. We had to wear 'wet shoes', since traversing the cave meant many water crossings, but I noticed that Dillonn shed his thongs as soon as he was inside the cave. My wet shoes were just my sneakers with my socks off, and they worked well (except that they took days to dry!)
Halfway through the tunnel there was a cave-in (old!), and daylight shone through the hole. Dillonn stopped us there while he told us a few stories about the history of the cave and its significance to aboriginal people. It was in an area frequented by the Bunuba tribe, and he told us the story of Jannamirra, an aboriginal tracker who worked for the Europeans, but slowly realised that they were exploiting the aborigines, and turned against the police and squatters. He led the aborigines on various raids and resistance, until a fellow blacktracker from a different tribe led the police to his hideout in the Tunnel Cave, where a gunfight ensued and Jannamirra was killed.
Dillon finished his stories with a couple of aboriginal songs, which were quite moving, and then we walked on through the other half of the tunnel to daylight and a very picturesque scene on the other side. A moment or two to relax, and then back we went. Returning is often faster than going, and this was no exception, as we knew where all the tricky rocks were. We said a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to Dillonn and piled back on the bus for a bumpy ride to our first overnight stop at Fitzroy Crossing.
We had a brief half an hour to sort ourselves out and have a shower before dinner, which was a 3 course buffet of soup (pumpkin), roast (I had pork) and apple crumble. Unfortunately the bread rolls ran out just as I got to the end of the soup queue, so I had to defer that until the main course. But all good in the end, with a schooner of beer to wash it all down (it was the local pub, after all). Then to bed, as we had another early start in the morning.
Woke up at 5am, with the alarm set to go off at 5:30, so a slightly later start to the day. Bags out and breakfast at 6am, then off at 0649 to slightly backtrack along the Great Northern Highway to turn off to the Geikie Gorge.
We bumped along a dirt road to a little (in outback terms) National Park, where another Bunuba elder named Bill gave us a short talk on aborignal history and customs before we boarded a small (20 seater) pontoony sort of a boat, to travel up the Geikie River into the Geikie Gorge. The scenery was spectacular, and the commentary offered by Bill was most interesting. I learnt more about aboriginal customs from him than I have from everyone else put together over my entire life! (And that is a sad reflection in a way.)
For example, do you know why they always say "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are advised that this program may contain images and sounds of deceased people"? It is because when aboriginal people die, everything associated with that person is destroyed. Even their names cannot be used, and others in the tribe with the same name will change their name out of respect for the deceased person. While this may sound very odd to Western ears, I find that I have a certain spiritual sympathy with this custom.
We only have a limited lifespan in our earthly form, and when we die, our spirit is absorbed back into the Divine Presence/God/Gaia/Earth Spirits, call it what you will, but we become part of the universal history of the universe, and just like ancient plants and animals, our life forms no longer live. Who cares about a rock face (perhaps beautiful, perhaps not) that was destroyed in some geological uplifting 2 million years ago? Who will care about us in 2 million years time? We are blended with the spirit of that ancient rock face and become part of the "great dreaming", the great existential history of the universe.
Back to the present. We saw the beautiful rock colours of the Kimberley, tetering rock formations, crocodiles basking in the sun, ospreys, wedge-tail and sea eagles, as well as much other bird and plant life. All fascinating, particularly as Bill explained the meaning of each to the aboriginal (Bunuba) way of life. I rather regret that I was distracted by the scenery, as what Bill was saying was loaded with information, and it would have been good to take some notes, or even a recording.
Back on shore just after 9, we reboarded the bus to head
towards Hall's Gap. We stopped on the way at Ngumban Cliff
Rest Area, an interesting spot where the highway suddenly
climbs from a large flat river valley (Pinnacle Creek) up an
escarpment to give some great views back across the valley,
and some local flora to look at as well. There was a welcome
toilet facility there, which prompted long queues to form.
This was to be the norm for the next 9 days, as we traversed
huge distances, and the travel between toilet stops was at
times lengthy! There was a toilet on the bus, but as Jenny
had pointed out, what you do on the bus stays on the bus until
the end of the trip, and that rather put people off from using
it! I don't think I saw a single person using it, most (all?)
of us preferring to hang on until the next toilet stop. Hence
We continued on from there to Hall's Creek, where we stopped for a picnic lunch in the park just outside the Visitor's Centre. This was a great hit, as there was a working cafe in the VC, and we found out very quickly that they had a coffee machine and a good barista. So the cafeine addicts were happy!
Back on the road again at 1415, and the next stop was a toilet and rest break at 1550, at the Spring Creek Rest Area, and just before the Spring Creek Road into the Bungle Bungles. The Spring Creek Road was dirt, and after 5kms or so, littered with floodway crossings, all of which had to be taken at low speed, and with many bumps, so it took over two hours to travel the 88kms into the APT resort at Bellburn, arriving well after dark at 1831. This was compounded by seeing the lights of the Purnululu Visitor Centre at 80kms, whereupon the bus erupted into a big cheer, only to discover that we had another 8kms of bumping through the darkness before we were at our real destination! We were glad to get off onto terra firma!
The plus side was an open bar and a beer or two (Matso's, of course), followed at 1900 by a wonderful 3 course dinner: pork belly; grilled barramundi; and pannacotta. The resort had a resident astronomer, and by request, took us out a short way from the lights of the camp, and pointed out (by means of a laser pointer) several planets (Earth, Jupiter and Saturn), and a couple of the visible constellations. I learnt something: how to identify the constellation Scorpio. But we were all tired, and once he had covered the obvious constellations, we all drifted off to our tents and beds,
Now I say 'tents', for it was a tent, but it had floorboards, a bathroom (with plumbed toilet and shower) and comfortable beds. The only thing lacking was 240vac, so all charging had to be done in the restaurant area, and not possible overnight. But hey! We were buggered after a very full day, and zonked out very quickly.
Slightly later start today, welcomed by everyone, with a get away a little after 8am. Breakfast at 7 was quite comprehensive, although poor Luke on the BBQ came in for a bit of flak being the new boy, and a bit slow. He was the egg cooker, while Matt did the bacon and sausages. If all you wanted was bacon and sausages, there was no waiting, but eggs did caused a bit of a queue, and a talking point at breakfast!
Away just after 8 as I said, and a 30 minute drive (if that) to a photo stop at Elephant Rock, and then to Piccaninny Car Park, where we kitted up for a walk into the Bungles. First stop was at the Domes, with lots of the distinctive dome-shaped monoliths with stripes of red and black rock. Then a walk of about 1km to Piccaninny Lookout, with a spectacular view out to the southern end of the Bungle Bungles, with lots of photos.
We then walked back into Piccaninny Gorge proper, and the side track to Cathedral Gorge, a most spectacular narrow canyon with the same rich red and black rock walls, and a huge cavernous natural amphitheatre at the end. There were many other people making the same walk, and Jenny commented that it has 15,000 visitors a year, not that many compared to some other tourist attractions, but pretty significant when you consider the remoteness of the place. Jenny did give us a choice at the Piccaninny Gorge, whether to walk to the lookout, or go straight to Cathedral Gorge, and there was only one taker to skip the lookout - Michael. Now Michael is unique within the group - he is the only smoker, and here it is, day 3, and he is already copping a fair deal of flak about his habit. But to be fair, he is very respectful of others, and only lights up when it is appropriate to do so. But his comment was "I have walked 60,000 steps to get here, and all I want to do is to see Cathedral Gorge." So the rest of us all respected his wish!
Cathedral Gorge was an excellent place to have lunch, so we all sat down in the shade of the cavern and enjoyed a salad bun, a ginger bread slice, some nuts, an apple, and a frozen orange juice. The fact that the juice was frozen meant that most of us could not drink it all at the time, so they were put aside for later. While eating, we were treated to a young woman with a quite magnificant voice singing a few songs, the first a pop song I did not recognize, the second Amazing Grace, and the third Advance Australia Fair. Quite impressive, especially in such a natural environment!
All too soon we had to pack up and head off, but not before a couple of group photographs, taken by Liv, our co-guide for the day (who was from Canada). On the bus, we headed back to camp so that Jenny could make a quick phone call about forthcoming adventures, while those not taking helicopter rides in the afternoon alighted. We were not flying - we felt it was a bit expensive, Barb was not keen, and John was not feeling 100% anyway. But we tagged along for the ride, and watched as the various groups took off for a variety of flights over the Bunge Bungle. All came back raving about the adventure, with some self-declared white-knuckled brigade members amongst them! Gave me a little pause for regret.
Then back to camp for a short one hour rest and recuperation, before setting off at 4pm to have a sunset drink or two out in the bush. Jenny and Liv looked after us very well, with beer, wine (red, white and sparkling), and soft drinks in copious quantities. Barb on her own admission 'fessed up to three campagne glasses. The sunset on the ranges in the distance was very spectacular, aided by an almost full-moon rising. Many photos were taken, and not just by John.
I should digress a little and mention that there are 4 Johns in our party of 20. This has been a little confusing, and the convention is settling around John Barb, John Margaret, John Jenny, and John Sandra, to avoid said confusion. I did suggest that 'Angas' was an alternative name that I could be called, but by day 4, most people preferred to stick with the labels on our name tags.
By 5pm, the sun had set, so we packed up and headed back to camp. Dinner followed very quickly, altough it was not quite as good as last night's. We had a rather nice salmon mousse, a rather dry roast beef (and there was lots of it!) and steamed veggies, then a chocolate profiterole, which disappeared very quickly. All retired quite soon after dinner, and Barb and I were in bed by 8:30pm and asleep very soon after.
John had a bad night, trotting up and down to the loo, and had a very light breakfast (at 6am) as a consequence. On the bus at 0648, and headed north to Echidna Chasm. Here we went for a one hour walk in, along a dry creek bed covered in round pebbles, which made the going rather slow.
I was glad I decided to wear my new boots, as I think they saved me from rolling an ankle several times. Fortunately no one else had such a problem, but a few people did drop out either because they found the going was a bit tough, or because they suffered a bit from claustrophobia once we reached the chasm proper. It was in places a tight squeeze, and contributing to the claustrophobic sense was the fact that the walls went straight up, giving a very real sense that the walls of the chasm were closing in!
How to describe the chasm? Well, the geology is fairly straightforward, it being due to a natural fault in the conglomerate rock, that was percolated by rain water, which then gradually eroded material around the fault. The erosion went downwards, rather than horizontally, creating a vert deep and narrow gorge - truly a 'chasm'!
It was very photogenic, but I am not sure I took enough photos to do it justice, because one had to watch one's footsteps very carefully, and even a casual glance upwards would cause one to lose balance or footing. But we made it to the end, and gave ourselves a mutual pat on the back. John climbed up the sheer face of the wall to take a photo of the group. (Well, about a metre actually, so stop big-noting youself John, it was not that impressive a climb!)
Then to returning. Partly due to the photo, John ended up at the back of the single file going out, and consequently travelled at the pace of the slowest member of the party, Anne, who was having trouble negotiating the river pebbles. Towards the end, Anne very kindly freed me from my duty, and told me to catch up to the others, so that I could do the side track to the Osmond Lookout. Barb stayed with Anne to accompany her out, while I rushed ahead (boots, do your stuff!) Cheryl has kindly supplied a photo that aptly demonstrates Jenny's concerns over her party (see also my comments about her leadership at the farewell dinner). The right hand photo shows her looking back to see what has happened to the slowest members of the party.
The Osmond Lookout was quite impressive (I was the last to get there) so I took a panorama of shots to show the full 360 degree view to Barb later. I got back to the main track just as Anne and Barb were arriving, and Jenny was coming back along the track to see what had happened to us. We were only 5 minutes late (0935 for 0930).
Back in the bus, we returned not quite to the campsite, but to the Visitor Centre for a quick 15m toilet stop and leg stretch. I bought a Bungle Bungle stubbie holder, Barb a postcard of the Echida Chasm. Then off along the Spring Creek Track, the very bumpy road that we had endured 2 nights ago. This time, we were seated in the very back row, so we felt every bump and lurch of the truck (APT call it a truck, not a bus, which is fair enough as it is custom built on a Mercedes truck chassis.) We had some quick bump relief stops at the park entrance, and at the Spring Creek crossing itself.
We stopped at 1216 for lunch at the junction of Spring Creek Track and the Great Northern Highway, and had a sit down meal with salad and pie, plates, knives and forks, all prepared and set up by Jenny! We were all mightily impressed. A couple of churlish people complained about the lack of beer, but they were in a minority. It was a welcome pause of over an hour at this site, and Ken excelled by making a pot of coffee or two. Then back on the bus (1323) for another coupla hours to Doon Doon Roadhouse for a toilet stop and a cup of coffee, before 'rebarking' (as the Yanks would say) for the last leg to Kunnunurra.
A very nice room at the Kununurra Country Club, marred only by the outdoor theatre behind the rooms, which had a loud externally audible sound system. Even inside the room the noise was quite audible. But a beer or two fixed that, and that was closely followed by some dinner. John was rather quiet on the dinner, as his gut was not feeling that stable, but he managed to keep body and soul together. More good cameradie amongst all those present, even so we were in bed by 2030!
A very lazy start to the day, since we were not required to muster until 1100! We got to sleep in until 0730, had a leisurely cup of tea, and then sauntered over to the restaurant for breakfast around 0830. Others were similarly enjoying the relaxed schedule.
After breakfast, we went for a walk around town. First to the post office, where Barb posted a postcard to Jemima, then to the Pharmacy to buy John some anti-trots medicine. Unusually, we walked past several cafes, as we were still full of breakfast. There was a market on today, and we wandered through it, but did not see anything we wanted to buy. Back in time for a briefing from Jenny, about various options coming up later in the tour, and then we boarded a bus (from a separate tour company, Triple J Tours) to travel out to the Ord River Dam.
We had a short stop at Spilway Creek, so named because the creek had been taken over as the outlet from the dam spillway, and it was running quite briskly, as a consequence of the heavy wet season just passed. At the dam site, we stopped first at the Argyle Homestead, an old settlers cottage which had been moved from its original site when the dam was built, as it would have disappeared under 20m of water. It is now a museum, and quite interesting. Then to the Argyle Village, to check out the resort and its famous Infinity Pool, and finally to the dam itself, where we had a photo stop, then down to the base of the dam where a boat was waiting to collect us all. It was just unloading its previous passengers, who had just come upstream from Kununurra, doing our trip in reverse. On board we met Capt. Jeff Harvey (not sure about his surname?), who turned out to be a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide. When he said "Ask me any question, I won't be phased", John interjected "What's your take on the Theory of Relativity?" which elicted quite a few guffaws. Jeff was clearly phased by this, and admitted that he had never been asked that question before!
We took off, and all admired the zoominess of the boat. Jeff said that its top speed was around 90kph, but today we would be sticking to now more than about 60. My GPS clocked it once or twice doing 62, so clearly the boat was no slouch. 3 x 350HP V8 outboards provided the power, and at 40kph the boat would start hydroplaning, which reduced the drag and fuel consumption significantly. Jeff had figures to back all of this up, but I think it fair to say we were all impressed with the boat regardless of figures.
Down the first 20kms or so of the river, it runs quite rapidly, since they were letting about 30 cubic metres of water out of the dam per second (as part of the hydro generation for Kununurra and surrounding districts), and that meant the river was flowing at an average speed of 12knots, faster in the narrower sections. Many times Jeff would stop the boat while we drifted downstream and talk to us without the sound of the motors. Or alternatively, he would nose into the bank and wedge the boat so that he could talk about a particulas feature of the river. Many slight pauses were made so that we could photograph freshwater crocodiles sunning themselves on the river bank.
A bit after halfway, and well into Lake Kununurra itself (so the current had largely disappeared) we stopped for afternoon tea at a small landing (with toilets!) It was an impressive tea, with pumpkin scones, cupcakes, local pawpaw (very fresh and very ripe!), butter, jam, etc., and tea or coffee. All very welcome.
It was a great trip, and we all raved about it afterwards. Just before we reached Kununurra, we stopped in middle of the river/lake to enjoy a spectacular sunset. Again, all agreed it was pretty special. All too soon we were landing at the Kununurra Dam (upstream), and the bus was waiting to take us back to the Kununurra Country Club.
Dinner was a more upmarket affair ('fine dining') where we all got vouchers to buy 2 courses of a 3 course menu in the restaurant. We booked a table for 6 with 3 of the Johns (John/Barb, John/Margaret, John/Sandra) and had another great conversation. Boy, we are getting on well with this crowd! Then bed, again, not too late because of an early start in the morning.
Bags out and breakfast at 0630, then we headed north to Wyndham. Along the way we stopped at Paddy's Lagoon Park, and visited the site of the old telegraph station, used in the First World War to relay information about the sinking of the German ship Emdem. Then to Murglu Lagoon to take a look at the copious amount of birdlife. Someone said that it was not the largest population she had seen at the site, but Jenny pointed out that it was early in the dry season after a very wet wet season, so the birds still had lots of water in the seasonal waterholes, and would not need to migrate to permanent water until much later this season. Took lots of photos.
Then on to Wyndham itself. It is basically three small villages, one at "six mile area", one at "three mile area", and one at "Wyndham Port". The latter is the oldest, and very run down, almost to a ghost town. The port is the only thing going, shipping out ore of some description. But we did find a very good cafe that did brilliant coffee, so all the addicts congregated there for 40 minutes, before setting off to see first of all the "big crocodile", then the "Five Rivers Lookout", a very impressive headland that overlooks Wyndham and the Cambridge Gulf. Its name derives from the fact that you could see five rivers flowing into the Gulf, viz, the Forrest, Durack, Pentecost, King, and Ord. The Ord was a little obscured by trees that had grown up, but the view was such a sweeping one that it did not matter.
We had lunch at this spot, and left a bit after 1, for the approximately one hour drive to Emma Gorge Resort, which we reached just after 2. The hardy souls (which were most of us, except for 3 or 4) went for a walk up Emma Gorge. Barb was one of the hardy souls, John was not. From the descriptions that Barb offered on return, John made the right choice, as Barb said that it was 'difficult'. John meanwhile did some diary work and relaxed in the sun.
We met up in the bar afterwards for a beer. Barb downed a whole bottle of Fat Yak Pale Ale without comment (she does not normally drink pale ale!), she was so parched. Then we gathered for dinner, which was another buffet, and well put together with a wide range of choice. Both quality and quantity! Then to bed, as usual, early.
It was a funny start to the day, because we were not due to leave until 0930, but we were scheduled for breakfast at 0600! This made some people quite grumpy, and Sandra later said that she rebelled and deliberately did not turn up for breakfast! But the early breakky did mean that after breakfast, we had time to pack up and write diaries, do washing and the such-like.
The first stop of the day was at Chamberlain Gorge, another picturesque spot. How many different adjectives are there to describe the Kimberleys? Probably not enough in my vocabulary. The blue ("azure") sky, the red cliffs, the green trees, the brown grasses, and in this spot, the clear blue waters of the river all blended in 'witching harmony. It was clearly a popular spot, since there was a tinny excursion boat moored alongside a makeshift pier. But it was too early for the tourists (!), and we had the spot to ourselves.
Then on to the El Questro village for a most welcome cup of proper coffee and then lunch (most of us had barramundi). Then we drove a short distance to Zebedee Springs, where an even shorter walk led to some warm thermal springs, in which most of us (all?) went for a bit of a dip. It was a beautiful spot, with lots of tall Livistona nasmopholia palms all around. We had to crowd in a bit, especially as the other APT 9-day tour was at the other swimming spot, but I think most of us were happy with the experience. I went in for a 15 minute relax in the warm water, then got out to get my camera and take some photos. While negotiating the base of one palm tree, I slipped and fell, but managed to keep my camera clear of the water! But I did get a very sore bruise on my left glute (bum), which unfortunately (?) never surfaced as a haematoma, so I was not able to get full sympathy mileage from my slip. But others were impressed with my camera saving skills, so I did gain some further notoriety.
Back to the bus, whence we drove on to Home Valley Station, pausing only to take some photographs as we crossed the Pentecost River (and take a toilet break :-) At the Station, we heard from Alfie (what's it all about?) how it is now being run as an aboriginal cooperative and training site for indigenous peoples, and then we bussed to Telstra Hill (so named because it was possible to receive a Telstra 3G signal there) to watch the sunset and have some drinks and nibbles before returning to HVS for dinner. Dinner was a buffet, and quite well done. We also had some live music in the form of a country and western singer. They had to draw lots for our rooms - only four of the ten had double beds, and those who missed out had to live with twins (that's us!) At least it was warmer than the Bungle Wilderness Lodge! John still struggled with his gastro problems ...
Today was one of the longest on the road, so we had an early breakfast at 0615, and Jenny was urging us to get ready for a 0715 departure - which we did make, being such disciplined travellers. We crossed the Pentecost River again, and our first stop was at the junction of the Gibb River and Kulumbura Roads for a toilet stop and leg stretch.
The Kulumbura Rd was much bumpier than the GRR, and the corrugations soon became a topic of some conversation. So much so, that at one stage I announced that I would give a public lecture on why corrugations develop, and what we can do to stop them. It went down like a lead balloon!
Lunch was at Drysdale River Station, and had been preordered. John had a Kimberley burger (which was huge, and with the lot!), Barb had a BLT. All washed down with Bundaberg ginger beer (which was included in the lunch), then a Matso's GB (wwhich wasn't). It was an interesting comparison, and the consensus was that the Bundaberg was much sweeter than the Matso's.
On with the bumpiness after lunch, broken only by two short side trips. The first was to Munurru on the King Edward River. There were some interesting wild flowers around, and it was a chance to stretch our legs and visit the loo. The ranger was cleaning the toilet, and apropos of the sign inside the toilet (see side photo right at the bottom 😀), I did take the chance to tell him that we were extremely grateful too, for the existence of these loo stops! The second was to a lookout, but there was not much to see, as the trees had all grown up in front of it. Several of us instead chatted to a group of 3 young men who were camping there.
It was getting a little late when we did finally arrive at the Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge. Amazingly, the 15 dozen eggs we brought in with us (to restock the lodge) all survived! These were to replace the ones brought in on the supply truck and which did not survive the trip! Welcome beers all round, including more Matso's GB, which the women had begun to appreciate, based on Barb's (and others) recommendations.
Dinner was brilliant (a duck confit) and very impressive, certainly given the remoteness of the location, and the difficulty of getting eggs in. There was a small contingent that enjoyed the campfire after dinner, but I think most of us headed to bed after a very long and bumpy day. We collapsed into our tent called "Quoll" .
A cold morning, but all agreed that it was not as cold as the second day at Bungle Bungles. A few ponchos in evidence at breakfast, which was at 0630, in time for a bus departure at 0715. A short ride to the campsite at the start of the Mitchell Falls trail, where we all got weighed for the helicopter flight out.
Then off on the walk to the Falls, which took us over fairly broken ground, with a few sections of smooth track. We had 3 significant water crossings, the first which was easily negotiated with the aid of walking poles, the second which required taking shoes off and walking across in socks (because of slippery rocks), but only ankle deep, while the third (the Mitchell River itself) was socks again, and knee deep.
After the first water crossing, we made a detour to visit the Little Merton Falls, under which we could actually walk without getting wet. It was quite impressive seeing the wide strip of water going over our heads, and not getting wet. Lots of photos! Under the falls themselves, there was quite a bit of rock art, with hands, animals and people all represented on the walls behind the falls. Clearly the aborigines saw this as an excellent refuge!
The second water crossing was the Big Merton Falls, which as the name suggests, was bigger than the Little Merton Falls. Apart from requiring a socks-off approach to crossing it, there was a lookout on the far side to view the entire height of the falls. The crossing itself was just above the edge of the falls, hence the injunction to approach in a non-slip fashion. I managed to cross without getting my socks wet, and others succeeded in crossing in their boots. No problems! While there, Jenny pointed out the crab's eye plant, whose seeds are very poisonous (although pretty). and are two orders of magnitude more toxic than ricin!
The third water crossing was my undoing. All the way in, I had a most uncomfortable feeling, which I had managed to suppress. But as we reached the Mitchell River crossing, and were contemplating how to proceed, things reached a head (is that the right word?), and I just had to dive for the nearest squatting place. As Barb said later, fortunately eveyone else's attention was focussed on crossing the river, so relatively few noticed my plight. But Barb's ministrations in attending to my distress, and then later Geraldine and Jenny's attention in helping me across the river in a state less than 100%, meant that I survived without too much embarassment! A kind lady behind me helped tie my boots onto my backpack so that I had my hands free was also an additional welcome compassion.
The river crossing itself as I mentioned before was knee deep with socks on, and involved very careful stepping from one underwater stone to the next, across a significant current. Some of the rocks were a little slippery, and Geraldine's helping hands were a steadying and comforting assistance. I really was not coping well at this point.
Once across the other side, I quickly changed (courtesy of a little rock alcove), into my bathers, which was the only other clean garment that I could wear, and then joined the others rather silently for lunch - which I did not eat.
Barb went off with the others after lunch to see the Mitchell Falls proper, while I quickly recovered. After an hour or so, I felt OK enough to go for a swim, which did rather refresh my spirits. Barb and I sat on a rock and dangled our feet in the water for a while until we felt the heat of the sun, then Barb lead me on the path to the falls to see them for myself. Very spectacular, although I could have been in a much more receptive frame of mind. Glad I made the effort, though.
We were the last scheduled flight out on the helicopter at 1430, and did a slightly extended tour of the various falls from the air, seeing not only the Mitchell Falls, but also the Big and Little Merton, the Lower Mitchell Falls, and the JCR Falls as well. Back to the campsite at 1550, where the bus was waiting, and we lost no time (after a quick toilet stop for me!) in getting going again for the 45min trip back to the Punammi Unpuu APT campsite, for a cup of tea in our tent, and then a beer or two around the campfire, before dinner at 1830. Three courses: roasted tomato soup, roast lamb on polenta, and then a frozen chocolate mousse. We washed that down with a bottle of rose, quite pleasant, although nothing special.
After dinner I was pressed to follow up on my offer of an explanation of why roads get corrugations, so with the aid of a few props (USB power supplies suspended by rubber bands) and a few bad jokes, I explained all about spring coupled masses as energy transfer systems. They seemed to take in in good grace, and several people afterwards even commented that they understood it!
Then a bit more of a sit around the campfire before retiring at about 2100. Zonk.
A more relaxed timetable on the return journey meant a more leisurely start to the day, with 0700 breakfast and 0800 start. Fortunately, John's troubles seemed to be over, and he started to relax a bit more. Our first stop was at a couple of Aboriginal art sites, where we went for a short side walk across fields of magnificent wildflowers - blue, white, and John's favourite, little cerise flowers. The site was called Bradshaw's, but nothing to do with Michael Portillo's early 20th century railway guide!
It is more correctly called Gwion Gwion, but all I can tell about that is that it means 'more than' or 'bigger than' just one Gwion, whatever that is. It is characterised by the appearance of "Wandjina" faces, which are distinctive white round faces with big round eyes, a line for a nose, and no mouth at all. Many times the head is surrounded by elaborate decorative lining, which usually signifies the importance of the person represented. As we found out later, wandjina are akin to gods, and have various additional powers over those of mere mortals, and took on roles as gods of rain, of harvest, of fertility, and the like. Anyway, we took a swagful of photos of it all.
Then the next stop was at King Edward River, where Jenny invited us to go for a swim. The place was quite deserted save for us, so we more or less had the place to ourselves. A very inviting swim, although some complained (like yesterday) that the water was a little cold. Cold to get in, certainly, but once you swam around a bit it was very pleasant. While swimming around, someone spotted a Merton's monitor sunning itself on a rock. It was not that fussed by our presence, and sat there posing for quite a while. Unfortunately, as we were all swimming, no one had a camera, so there are no photos of it.
Lunch followed, all set up by Jenny, with a beetroot, chickpea and fig salad, and more chicken drumsticks than you could poke a stick at. A butcher bird took an active interest in our picnic, and got thrown a few scraps as a consequence. I snapped a few photos of him posing. Then back on the bus for a half-hour or so, when we stopped at another "Bradshaws" rock art site, with a few wandjinas thrown in. Lots of "hand" paintings too, including one in a very low overhanging rock shelf that required people to lie flat on their backs to take a photo of them.
From there, it was another two hours down the road to Drysdale River Station, where we were to stay for the night, and we got there about 1630. Barb had a shower, John charged his various devices, and then to the bar for a drink - by ourselves for quite a while, until John (Margaret) joined us. While sitting there drinking, we heard a blue-winged kookaburra - quite a different call from the usual kookaburra laugh. Dinner was a buffet, and quite nice, with mains of roast lamb and/or apricot chicken, followed by apple crumble (Barb) and berry cheesecake (John). John/Barb and John/Margaret kicked on to finish off our second bottle of red (Fifth Leg Shiraz), and then to bed.
Up at 0530 for 0700 breakfast, but were still late getting there. John ate a hearty breakfast for a change, and then we said farewell to Drysdale River Station and hit the Kalumburu Road. First stop was to inspect some rosella plants, and Jenny invited us to try eating the flowers. They were a bit crunchy and moist, with a slighly peppery/celery taste. Nice red colour. Then another stop at the Gibb River crossing, where we got out for a leg stretch and several photos. 90 minutes down the Kalumburu Road we reached the junction with the Gibb River Road itself, where we had a toilet stop (there were facilities!)
Next stop was not far away, at the Gibb River again for a few photos, then on to Mt Barnett roadhouse for a cup of much-needed coffee, then a short side track to Manning Gorge, where we went for a swim in the Barnett River. At the swimming spot there was a self propelled punt, in the form of a tinny, with ropes going each way, so by hauling on the appropriate rope, you could pull yourself from one side of the river to the other. John and Hilary had a go, and it was great fun. My only regret was that I did not have my camera with me to record the event.
Then lunch in the shade of a big boab tree. It took 10 of us to form a human chain around the base of the tree! Lunch was a salad, with a piece of fruit cake and a cup of two-fruits to follow. All good! Changed back to civvies to reboard the bus, and head on to Galvins Gorge, where we walked in to a delightful (and popular!) little water hole at the base of some falls, with some Aboriginal art on the rocks on the side, and water lilies in the creek downstream. All very gorgeous!
From there, and hour or so's drive to our campsite at Bell Gorge, where we arrived at 1635, a quick spruce up, and then repaired to the bar, and dinner at 1830. Peter Pasfield gave an excellent rendition of the old joke about Quasimodo and the "face that rang a bell", to the delight of all the assembled company. But I didn't quite understand his rejoinder to me afterwards about "cop that, you academic boing-boing"!! Was he being funny? I hope so, but it didn't feel like at the time. (And indeed, I had originally left it out of this blog, it was so disconcerting.) After dinner, a few bods stayed by the campfire after dinner (courtesy of Mike and his wood stoking skills), but Barb and I repaired to bed.
Leisurely start day, 0700 for a 0800 departure, amd a one hour plus drive to Bell Gorge proper. Jenny and Lara, one of the Lodge staff, guided us in, and helped us cross a few water courses. We had a 1km walk in from the parking lot, to find a delightful swimming spot just above the falls ("don't go too near the edge", warned Jenny). Barb was not feeling well, and decided not to go swimming, so we wandered around first, taking a few photos, especially of the falls themselves, and watching the various people coming and going, as it did seem to be a popular destination. Some people went for the extension walk, but as it was classed as difficulty level 5 (the highest), most of us elected just to relax.
John (and a dozen others) went in for a swim. John's observation was that it was just like getting up in the morning, cold at first, but OK once you got moving. 15 minutes was enough to fully appreciate the invigorating effects of the cooling streams.
It was very pleasant lying on the large flat rocks surrounding the waterhole, and slowly drying off in the sun (remember the sunscreen!) But the sun had other effects on Barb, who suddenly said she was going to faint, so we got her head down, and a couple of wet towels to cool her down, and after a few heaves, she was able to move to a cooler spot in the shade and slowly recover. A passerby with some medical knowlege suggested she was dehydrated, so we (Lara, Veronica and Hilary) pressed her to drink as much water as possible. Fortunately she recovered well, but still did not feel like eating her lunch.
It was a very early lunch, and most of us had finished by 1130. In the meantime, Jenny had had to return to the truck, as we later discovered that she had detected a flat tyre on the inner left rear axle. and was keen to get it changed. Lara led us out of the swimming hole soon after we had finished lunch, and we returned to the parking lot to find Jenny and a passing tourist, Terry, wrestling to get the new spare wheel on. With some more grunt from various men, that was achieved, but we then discovered that getting the flat tyre back into the stowage position was not trivial. It was accomplished, sort of, and we all boarded the bus for the trip back to the Wilderness Lodge.
But it was not long before John Pizzey, sitting in the back row with us, swore that he could hear something metallic clonking underneath the bus. Ken Vaughn and John Clarke (who has had heavy truck maintenance experience) had a look, and agree that something was not right. So at the next suitable stopping place, a campsite just 10km down the track from Bell Gorge, we pulled over at the to have a more detailed look.
To cut a long story short: The spare tyre is stowed on the end of a chain with a spring-loaded crossbar that pulls the tyre (weighing 120 kilograms!) up into its stowage spot, where a couple of studs allow it to be bolted to the sub-chassis. This crossbar had been bent at some stage of its life, with the consequence that the pins that held the tyre were out of alignment, and the tyre could not be winched into its correct position on the studs. Hence the clonking. The only way we could solve the problem was by aligning one stud up, getting a nut on with a couple of turns only, then very gingerly unwinding the chain to free the crossbar, leaving the tyre being held by one mechanical nut, and four human nuts spreadeagled underneath the 120kg tyre holding it in place! With the crossbar out of the way, we were able to juggle the tyre to line up the remaining stud, and get a nut onto it so that we could all breathe a little more easily. Then a wheelbrace to tighten the nuts and hold the tyre for the journey back to Broome. Phew!
I should mention the names of the four nuts: Ken Vaughn, John Clarke, John Hurst and Lara our co-guide, with assistance on the crank handle by John Pizzey ("notice that this winch is operated by a crank"!). We emerged from under the truck, largely unscathed (JohnC had a slight graze on his knuckles) and very dusty to cheers all round.
From there it was fairly uneventful trip back down Silent Grove Road and onto the Gibb River Road, where we stopped at the Imintji Aboriginal Cultural Centre roadhouse. There were aboriginal paintings on sale, but I think most of us headed for the adjacent ice cream shop, and spent our money there.
It was definitely beer o'clock on return, and several of us lost no time in getting stuck in. A few stories later, and a shower as necessary saw dinner time arrive and we had another great meal: Thai fish cakes; roast duck; and coconut passionfruit tart with quongdong cream. YUMMY!
Most people were very tired after all that excitement, and drifted off to bed quite early. We were no exception, and were asleep by 2100 hours.
There was a little flurry of excitement at breakfast this morning, as it was Jenny's birthday, and Anne and Mike in particular were keen not to let the occasion pass without notice. We had pancakes by request, and a large muffin with a few candles on it, which were lit and ceremoniously blown out by Jenny, before we all sang "Happy Birthday".
Jenny was concerned about the flat, and it turned out that the lodge had a spare somewhere around the place. That was duly hunted down, and wheeled out to the bus. But in the process of trying to lower the flat tyre, the aforementioned chain gidgemegoo broke a link, which meant there was no way of safely lowering the flat. Remember, it weighed 120kgs! On John Clarke's advice, we decided to head to Broome without the spare, and just keep our fingers crossed. For as Ken Vaughn said, the chance of getting a second flat was just like the chance of getting two flats, a thought which reassured most of those who were concerned about the issue. I did not have the heart to tell them that that is a mathematical myth, since the first flat was now a given, and the second flat had just as much chance of happening as the first. Ah well, ignorance is bliss!
So at about 0715, we boarded the bus and kept our fingers crossed. I think Jenny was a little distracted by the circumstances, as she was distinctly quieter than she had been on previous days, and as Barb pointed out, she missed several botanical points of interest along the way.
Just before reaching the Derby Highway (and the end of the Gibb River Road!), we called in at the Mowanjum Cultural Centre, which has been laid out in the form of a giant wandjina (but really only visible from the air, see the aerial view). The women got all excited because the toilet was infested with green tree frogs, and some even found that it inhibited their purpose in going there. Barb and I just said, "Ho Hum, done that"!
We stopped for lunch in Derby just by the old pier, and had time for a cup of coffee from the local shop, which did a roaring trade in coffees and ice creams. Over lunch we revisted the occadsion of Jenny's birthday with another cake or two, besides the excellent repast she and Robyn (from the other tour bus) had put together for us. We also paid a visit to the local Woolies, as several of us were down to our last few notes and urgently needed more cash. I bought a 32GB USB stick just so that I could get a few hundred dollars in cash out.
Back on the road, we stopped next at Willare where we had stopped on the way in. John bought a micro USB cable to replace the several that he mistakenly did not bring on the trip, and was most surprised that this isolated roadhouse even stocked such animals! He also collected a stubby holder emblazoned with "Willare Bridge Roundhouse", since it seemed such an out-of-the way place and unlikely to be revisited.
Then into Broome and the Cable Beach Resort. There was a frantic scramble for the laundry, as the word had got around that there was no laundry on the ship. (Slightly incorrect, but that did not ameliorate the scramble.) John repaired to the bar, and had a beer as he watched the sunset, joined just in time by Barb as the last orange glow faded away. Mobile coverage also meant catching up on some emails, and John had a brief chat with son David in Hobart before he was called away by a 2.5 year old daughter needing attention.
Then time to clean up and dress for dinner, again a special sit down APT "Farewell Dinner". The only person we were farewelling however, was Jenny, and that occasion also was not to go unnoticed.
Barb had grilled barramundi for dinner, and was a little disappointed. John ordered a 'blue' filet steak, which came out rare, but he was not so disappointed. Dessert were various chocolate "plus fours".
Mike had asked John to say a few words of appreciation for Jenny, and introduced him after a presentation to Jenny of our specially constructed birthday card, as it was her birthday today. Then John gave his little speech, commenting particularly on Jenny's memorable leadership, and her skills in diligence, enthusiasm and companionship. He finished it off with two limericks, composed especially for the occasion:
Jenny, a tour guide from AyPeeTee took passengers twenty to Kimberley, She drove with due care, Her passengers fair, Boing Bumpity Bumpity Bumpityand
While driving to take in the view, Our Jen had a flat tyre, 'tis true, A tyre so wide She took in her stride There's nothing this sheila can't do!This was followed by a toast to Jenny and her memorable leadership skills, which all drank to with great gusto!
Nice to sleep in a proper double bed for a change! We woke to the sun lighting up the tops of the palm trees outside, making for a picturesque reflection in the lake beneath. With the luxury of tea mak. fac., we had a cup of tea not quite in bed, but certainly with the slovenliness of wandering round in pyjamas, something which would have been too freezing, even if possible, on the last week's mornings.
While the breakfasts on the road have been comprehensive, there was even more choice this morning, as we dined with John and Jenny. Then some coffee al fresco while we waited for the bus, paid the bar bill, and then boarded the bus amid some confusion over the luggage which we had been told to leave out at 0930, but clearly was only collected just before the bus left at 1045.
The bus took us on a tour of Broome, seeing a few things that we had not seen before. We stopped at the Japanese Cemetry, for example, which we walked past on 5 Jun 2017. Then a circuit of the town, dropping most people off at the Paspaley Mall, then (by special request) the two of us back at Matso's for lunch. They were a little disorganized as before, but it was worth the wait. John had a Copperhead IPA beer, while Barb had the Mango beer, and then lunch: John, BBQ spare pork ribs, which he declared the best ever!; and Barb, grilled barramundi which she said was much better than the night before.
The bus collected us on the dot of 1400, and back to Chinatown to hear a presentation by one of the owners of Cygnet Pearls on the growing of cultured pearls. It was quite fascinating, and although Barb was worried that it might be a bit of a sales pitch to buy their pearls, it was not that at all, and we learnt quite a bit about the culture of pearls and how the Australian methods differ from the Japanese ones. Did you know, for example, that it is not a grain of sand that starts a natural oyster, but rather a parasite that gets into the oyster and then dies, and the 'nacre' that builds up around it (which is the same stuff as 'mother of pearl') creates the natural pearl? Cultured pearls are much the same process, except that a 'seed' of artificial stuff (cannot remember the name) is used instead, and it takes 2 years before it can be harvested. Sometimes the oyster is used for a second or even a third culture, but these are realtively rare in Australian circumstances, and almost never in Japanese cultures (which use a different oyster anyway).
Then we drove out to Guitheaume Point to see the lighthouse (with osprey nest and chicks on it), and admire the erosion on the rocks around it. Finally back to Broome Port to board the Coral Discoverer at 1615, where we had a short exploration of the ship before departure at 1700. Before the mandatory emergency drill at 1730, we were able to catch the sunset over the Indian Ocean, with almost all the ship's passengers on deck to take photos.
We shared a pre-dinner drink with John and Sandra before dinner (well, you cannot have a pre-dinner drink after dinner, can you?) and then to an excellent repast of a seafood buffet, with seafood laksa, natural and Kilpatrick oysters, prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, a whole barramundi, and a great collection of salads. All agreed it was pretty special! Dessert was a chocolate pannacotta, also well up to expectations.
We had to set our clocks forward to Darwin time overnight, even though we were still in WA waters, as they explained, it was much easier to see sunrises and sunsets and make best use of daylight hours with a bit of artificial 'daylight saving'. So because we did enjoy dinner at some greater length than usual, and the clock shifting, it was not until after 2300 that we got to bed.
Although we seemed to have a leisurely start to the day with breakfast at 0745, remember that we had put our clocks forward an hour and a half, so it was really only 0615 by body-clock time! Almost as bad as on the bus! But we survived, and had a yummy breakfast of cereal (including porridge), yogurt, fruits, and hot stuff: scrambled eggs, sausages, mushrooms, tomatos, hash browns and bacon. Not that we ate all of those, mind: I just mention them to give you, dear reader, a taste (sorry!) of what was on offer. Proper coffee and a wide range of fruit juices (including tomato, so both Mike and John were happy) rounded things off.
At 0850 we joined Sandy Scott, our on-board guest lecturer, in the Bridge Deck Lounge to hear a little about the geology of the Kimberleys, and a general introduction to the flora and fauna of same.
That was then put into practice with a cruise on the neat little boat attached to the back of the ship, called the Xplorer. This we boarded at deck level, and it was then lowered into the water. Off we sped across Strickland Bay to Edeline Island (named after Lady Edeline Strickland, 1870-1918), whose husband was governor of WA at the time. There were many impressive rock formations, and we saw evidence of what we thought were turtle tracks, but Steve, our expedition leader, was not so sure, saying that turtles would not come to this spot as it was too shelley. He agreed that they might be turtle tracks, but that the turtles would have been 'confused'!
Back to the ship, where the launching process of the Xplorer was reversed - very neat - and then lunch, which included a very nice mushroom soup. One woman asked me what sort of soup it was, to which, on looking at the soup, I replied "engine oil sludge soup"! I don't think she partook of the soup after that! Naughty John.
In the afternoon we had another cruise on the Xplorer, this time around Nares Point, and along the side of Koolan Island. This island has been the site of an iron ore mine, and indeed, a message relayed through the ship from the mine operators told us that we were 'too close' to the mine, and would we mind ever so much maintaining a little more clearance. Translation: "tell those bloody tourists to piss off!"
Suitably reprimanded, we continued alongside Koolan Island to one of the so-called 'iron islands', where we made a 'wet landing' (translation: your shoes may get wet) to examine the lumps of haematite, which were about 5 times as dense as water, and very heavy to pick up. Then back on Xplorer, past the 'iron arch', a natural arch of haematite, and many other fascinating rock formations.
Rejoined the Coral Discoverer ('CD'), we had a Captain's Welcome Drinks' on the Bridge Deck (A Deck), and then dinner in the dining room, again an excellent fare. After dinner we watched a documentary film on 'Kimberley Land of the Wandjina', then to bed.
Breakfast at 0730, followed by an Xplorer cruise up Cyclone Creek. This was a waterway with some interesting currents as the tide was coming in, and even more interesting geological formations in the cliffs surrounding us as we motored up the creek. Sandy was quite quite excited about these formations, as some of them exhibit very dramatic folds and show evidence of much geological activity in the past. We were all offered rides in the zodiacs which accompanied us along the creek, which allowed us to get up close and personal to the wildlife.
Back to the ship for lunch, and then in the afternoon we again took turns in trips in the zodiacs, this time to visit the Horizontal Falls. Our trip was scheduled late in the piece, and while these trips were running there were various engine room tours. We asked how long these would take, and were assured that it would finish before our turn in the zodiac. John went on the first one (fascinating!), and just as it was finishing, was called by the purser Udo to join the zodiac! So much for the timing!
What can one say about the trip through the Horizontal Falls? Only that you have to experience it to fully appreciate it! It was so bumpy that they ask you not to try and take photos as you go through the gap, but rather to hang on to the provided 'shit straps' with both hands. Large cameras were not allowed, because of the danger of these flying around and clouting someone. Not that holding a small camera was that easy - the ride was so bumpy that several of the photos I took were of other things than that at which I was aiming (see for example)!
This was all so exciting that on return we immediately booked ourselves up for a second ride - which was even more exciting than the first, and with the added bonus of going through the first gap twice. They did not attempt going through the second 'narrow' gap, as it had quite a hydralic jump in it of about a metre, and they said that the zodiacs did not have enough horsepower or stability to manage it. I was quite prepared to believe that, as we watched a rival operator, using a much larger boat with 3 outboards (ours only had 1) and over 1000HP crunch through the 'narrow' gap, and we could easily hear the screams of those on board above the noise of the 'waterfall'!
Afternoon tea awaited us on return, and everyone had something to talk about. John went to the briefing for the helicopter flights to Mitchell Falls next Monday, but decided a) we had already done what was planned, and b) it was $545, about twice the price of what we had paid for our trip (admittedly shorter, but still seeing the same things).
Pre-dinner drinks on the Sun Deck, then dinner. I don't remember what we had, or with whom we sat, but it (the dinner) and they (the company) were all excellent! Wow! What a day!
Breakfasted with Ron and Gerry, Anne and Mike, with the usual inelegant sufficiency (I speak for myself, not others). The first activity was away at 0830, with two options, a walk/hike to the top of the saddle at Raft Point, and the second, a cruise around the nearby islands, including bird island. We elected to do the former.
We travelled to Raft Point on the Xplorer, and as we were landing (in our wet shoes), Dave enjoined us not to step on the black rocks. What did Barb do? She stepped on a black rock, and went A/T! I didn't see her tumble, as I was half way up the beach, but I heard the commotion. She felt a little sore, but was still determined to do the walk. She developed a few beautiful bruises later on, which became the subject of some bantr about whether John had stopped beating his wife.
The walk itself was moderately hard, up a 35-40 degree slope, along a broken watercourse with boulders and stones and irregular footings. It was not too hot, and there was plenty of shape, and Sandy, our leader, made a point of stopping several times a) to catch our breath, b to let stragglers catch up, and c) to point out some feature. So it was an interesting walk. And the scenery was quite good, too!
We took some 30 minutes or so to reach the top of the ridge, where there was some Wandjina rock art. Sandy explained the significance of each section of the painting, and we all took photographs. I'm not sure what the reasons are, but sometimes we are requested not to photgraph the paintings, and sometimes it is OK. This one was OK.
Going down was much faster than going up! We met the Xplorer just returning, and changed our hiking shoes for wet landing shoes again, and reboarded the Xplorer, taking great care not to step on any black rocks.
After lunch we reboarded the Xplorer to depart for Montgomery Reef. Now I had never heard of Montgomery Reef, in spite of the fact that it is the largest inshore reef, if not in the world, then certainly in the southern hemisphere. It is 400 square kilometres (compared to the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world's largest barrier reef, at 290000 (check) square kilometres). How can it be so significant, and we had never heard of it? I blame our primary schooling, which was so culturally cringeworthy driven that we never did much in terms of Australian history or geography, but rather focussed in Great Britain and her 'other' colonies.
We motored out into a channel that was an ancient river valley before the sea levels rose, ans as we entered the channel, we could start to see the reef emerging as the tide fell away. It was fascinating, as the lip of the reef was so tailored by the coral development on the top of it that it was all at a consistent height, and so the water from the reef pool inside (80 km2, don't forget!) splashed over in gentle at first, then increasingly vigourous cascades all along the reef. Truly a wondrous sight!
I had intended not to take one of the zodiac tours on offer, since I thought that one could see almost as much of the spectacle from the relative comfort of the Xplorer. Besides which, Barb had returned from one of the early zodiac trips, and said that there was no much more to see, only closer. But as the last trip was being wrapped up, Steve declared that there were two spare seats, and did anyone want them? So on the spur of the moment, I put my hand up. Barely 20 seconds after we were away from the Xplorer, a turtle came swimming by, close to the zodiac, and staying close to the surface, unlike the other turtles we had seen. I put the camera on motor drive, and before long had over 20 images of this turtle swimming close to the surface! Fantastic!
We went all the way in the zodiac to the end of the channel, which the Xplorer could not do, because of a sandbar. LOts of birds closer up, and we saw a batfish being rescued by Steve in the zodiac in front of us from two very interested sand curlews.
Then, as we were the last zodiac tour, we were asked by Dave, our zodiac pilot, whether we were happy to return to the ship in the zodiac, rather than return to the Xplorer. We all said yes, so we were soon zooming across the waters back to the ship. We even saw an 'eagle ray' jump out of the water in front of us along the way.
Dinner (a roast buffet of pork, lamb and beef) was by invitation with the ship's Chief Engineer, Jonathan, so you can guess what the conversation was about! It turned out that we were both avid viewers of 'Air Crash Investigators', and had a great discussion about air, railway and ship safety. Not sure that the other guests at out table (Phillip and Judy) were quite as enthusiastic!
Dinner finished rather abruptly, as there was a crocodile spotting expedition in the Xplorer at 2100. It was a bit of a fizzer, as only a few small crocs were spotted, and we always seemed to be on the wrong side of the boat. Barb did get one reasonable shot, though. The stars were impressive, though, once we got away from the ship, and the Xplorer switched off all its lights.
On return to the ship around tennish, most of us wandered off to bed. But we were promised a late start to the day tomorrow!
A later breakfast at 0815 this morning, which was somewhat welcome after the many early starts. Some passengers even took the opportunity to skip breakky and extend their sleep-in! Then the Xplorer ran two trips to Freshwater Cove beach, the first for walkers, and the second for the less-energetically inclined.
The walkers (us) took a less steep track than yesterday up and over a ridge to see Cyclone Cave and and some Wandjina Aboriginal art. Then back to the beach, where we visited a local aboriginal community who were selling art. These paintings we thought were somewhat more original than those we saw at Mowanjin, and we were sufficiently taken with them that we bought a painting of Jarlarloyni, the Wandjina named Namarali's wife, for $350, from the artist herself, Robyn Mungulu.
Then back to the ship for lunch. The afternoon was spent sailing up the coast to Careening Cove in Port Nelson. We had a talk from Sandy on the origins of the Australian Aborigines, and that then led almost immediately into pre-dinner drinks on the sun deck with the Pizzeys and the Ballantynes, followed by a short picture show from Dave in the lecture theatre on the day's activities.
Dinner with Ian and Alison, Mike and Anne, which consisted of pumpkin soup and duck confit (John), salmon and duck (Barb). Then John went to the games evening organized by Mahia and Kimberley, where we played Guess my Name, Charades and Pass the Orange. Ken Vaughn was first to get the Guess My Name game, in spite of the fact that even though he knew who it was, he could not remember her name - Kylie Minogue! I had a charade action of "Gettied Married", which was not hard, but I did play entirely within the rules, unlike some others who could not stop themselves from blurting out significant clues, if not the actual answer itself! All good fun! Then bed.
0730 breakfast this morning, before readying ourselves for the short trip across the bay to Careening Cove, where Philip Parker King had to beach his vessel HMC Mermaid in 1820 to effect some repairs to the ship. He spent nearly 2 weeks here in what is still a pretty remote and pristine spot. His carpenters must have had some time out from doing repairs, since they chiselled out (in fairly large letters) "HMC MERMAID 1820" on a large (now even larger) boab tree. Indeed, the tree has continued to grow, and has since split down the middle, between MER and MAID. Steve told us a few stories about life for the 21 souls on board the Mermaid, and how they were under a (perceived) threat from the local aborigines, whom they never saw, but knew were around from the cooking fires they could see in the surrounding scrub.
There was time for a little explore on the beach, and along a little sandy creek, looking at dingo tracks, and the myriad hermit crabs scurring around on the rocks and sand. Then back on Xplorer to the ship, in time for morning tea, followed by a talk from Steve on Philip Parker King, his life and career. Then lunch with John and Sandra, Toni and Nancy (?) before a mammoth afternoon tour to King Cascade on the Prince Regent River.
We left the Coral Discoverer at 1330, and followed the PRR for some 25kms upstream. The water course is basically straight, and follows a hugh rift in the underlying geology, with intermittent cliffs, spinifex, wattle and eucalypts along the side, starting out fairly wide (1km or so) at the mouth, and narrowing down to only 100m as we approached the cascade. You come upon the cascade rather suddenly, as it is set back from the river on a small spring-fed tributary, inside a mangrove-lined cove, so you really only see the falls when you are right alonside it in the main river channel.
The falls themselves are quite spectacular, and we had much happy camera clicking inside the cove, as Alex manouevered the Xplorer back and forth so that all on each side got a good view of the falls. The falls were the scene of a tragic incident in 1987 when a US model went swimming in the cove in the presence of a salt-water crocodile. The crocodile won. You can read all about it in this Chicago Tribune article.
We had some refreshments in the form of cheese and biccies, pretzels, juice box and fruit cake while admiring the falls, then back to the CD with the hour and a half return trip. John skipped the pre-dinner drinks today so as to have an AFD, and caught up on some diary work, while Barb went to the drinks but only drank water, so she too had an AFD. We watched Dave's pictures of the last few days' adventures, then heard from Steve about tomorrow's adventures.
Dinner was just the two of us with Kat, the (young) APT tour guide on the cruise, and we had a delightful chat with her about her career, her approach to life, and her generally infectious attitude to the Kimberleys. She was great fun!
We skipped the documentary tonight, which was on the cane toads, as I had read the book on the bus coming back into Broome, and felt that I had learnt all I wanted to know about cane toads. So to bed.
Breakfast at 0715 this morning, and there were plenty of people lined up at the starting gate when the whistle went. After breakfast, we piled into the Xplorer again, and cruised over to Bigge Island. Steve said "Bigge Island is the third largest island in WA. What are the other two?", to which some wag replied "Bigger, and Biggest"! It is actually named after some accountant sent out from England to check on Governor Macquarie's spending, and he apparently was a bit of a Bigger, but spelt with a 'u'.
Anyway, whatever his personal traits, the island is quite large, and we landed on the northern tip of it, and set about examining the various animal tracks on the beach. We saw monjons, turtles (going up and down the beach), a crocodile, quolls, and even a dingo. (I stress that these were all tracks, not the actual animals!) Then a short rock scramble led us to an aboriginal burial preparation site. If you were important enough, like an elder or leader, you were not immediately buried, but rather your remains were placed under a pile of rocks until they were bones (about 2 years), then the bones were gathered up and placed in a cave. (We saw some skulls and bones in a cave later on the walk.)
Then along the edge of a mangrove swamp to various caves (and aforementioned bones), mainly to check out the various paintings, including one that is regarded as being of William Dampier and his crew landing on the island. They all had what appeared to be (smoking) pipes in their mouths, and as the aborigines did not practice smoking as we know it, It seemed to Barb and me (and others) that this was compelling evidence of the foreign nature of those depicted. Unfortunately all the aboriginal inhabitants of the island were displaced during WWII and into the 50s, so there is no one left who can explain the original intent of the paintings.
Back to the ship for lunch (vegetable soup and BBQ pork ribs, yum), and then another excursion (! will they ever stop?) in the Xplorer, this time to Hathway's Hideaway, so named because of all the caves nearby. We split into groups, and our group stayed on Xplorer to go and visit first of all a sea-eagle's nest, and then an osprey's nest. There was nothing we could see in the eagle's nest, but we did spot the eagle him/herself nearby, sitting on the branch of a eucalypt. The osprey's nest had a chick and a mother in it, but the mother flew off as we approached. While we were stooging around taking photos, the mother returned, so lots more photos.
Then back across the bay to take our turn at visiting the caves. Barb saw a gecko, but both of us saw a fishing bat, a tiny little thing about the size of a child's fist. Had to take photos of it in the dark, but John did manage a slightly blurry one. The rock formations themselves were quite impressive. There were many aboriginal middens around the place, but these were not that old, being less than 2000 years, and probably much less, being used right up until the 50s when the last of the aborigines were removed.
We returned to the CD via a small shelley beach in Mudge Bay, where there had been a pearl culturing operation until the GFC (check?). Again, some impressive rock formations provided a dramatic backdrop. Some of these even had ripple marks on them, tilted high in the air.
Afternoon tea, then a bit of spare time until pre-dinner drinks, which were up on the Sun Deck. We shared a table with John and Margaret, and had a delightful time over drinks swapping stories and watching the sunset. Then we had a BBQ at 1800, with BBQ'd fish (spanish mackarel), kangaroo, beef, chicken, and lamb. We all agreed that the fish was best, closely followed by the lamb. But by far the biggest winner was the sheer ambience of the place, the occasion, and just the plain delight of it all!
Then down to the dining room for coffee and dessert, and there was a rich selection to choose from. I was happy with just the rhubarb crumble with an excellent coconut topping, but Barb tried a few more things, such as the coffee cheesecake. John and I finished off the second bottle of Petaluma 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, and then we went to watch a film on Jandamarra, about whom we had heard at Tunnel Creek. Indeed, Dillon, or guide on that occasion, appeared in the film as one of the aboriginal story tellers!
Although the film finished at only 2130, we all zonked off to bed straight away after a very full and thoroughly enjoyable day.
There were four excursions arranged for the day, two shorter ones in the morning, a longer one in the afternoon, and an overlapped sequence of helicopter flights for those who had pre-booked to go and see the Mitchell Falls. As one of those who had done the road trip into Mitchell Falls (see 14 Jun), we elected not to repeat the experience (it was $550 each!), but rather to do the local excursions.
Well, at least Barb did. John elected to skip the first one, and spend the time catching up on this diary. Barb said that they went somewhere that even Steve had not been to before, so it was a bit of an adventure. At the first stop there plenty of hermit crabs and a couple of cowrie shells, otherwise she said they just 'pottered arounf'. Their second stop was a bit more exciting as they had to negotiate a sandbar, and the tide was so low that Brian stopped driving, got out, and pushed the Xplorer over the bar (with the assistance of the tide)!
After morning tea, we both went on the second trip of the morning, to an art site above a long gully that now had the tide in so far that we could step out directly onto the rocks, and follow a short path up to a long gallery of art work, where there was quite an array of painted objects: wandjinas, turtles, fish, ducks, a crocodile and a wallaby. Several other things as well, but the interpretation of these was a bit lost, as they had weathered a bit.
Back to the ship for lunch, which was Mexican, and then a lazy afternoon as we both skipped the afternoon excursion. Barb read her book, John programmed his computer. Very relaxing. A long afternoon tea turned into pre-dinner drinks, then dinner with Hilary, Errol, Marilyn and John. The entree was a very nice prawn curry, and IIRC, John had a steak and Barb had fish.
A sleep-in this morning, as breakfast was not until 0800, a timing appreciated by many! Then off on the Xplorer, eponymously exploring Vansittart Bay and the small islands within it. the first stop was at one of these islands, where Barb landed and joined the shore party to go and look at some more art works - this time in the Gwion Gwion style - while John stayed on the Xplorer to see some of the pearl culturing sites still operational. We managed to get right up close to the oyster nets, and one could see them hanging in the water quite clearly. Then we motored on to land on a small sandy beach on the opposite side of the island from Barb's group, where we saw another osprey nest and many interesting rock formations.
Back to the CD for morning tea, and closely followed by lunch, while the CD manouevered closer to Anjo Peninsula.
In the afternoon we Xplored off to said Anjo Peninsula for a hike over the sandhills and around a high-tide filled bay to the wreck of a C-53 troop carrier that ran out of fuel and crash landed here during WWII. All survived, but it must have been a white-knuckle landing!! The vegetation has well and truly grown up since the wreck, and the salvage hunters had stripped the wreck of anything valuable, but it was still pretty fascinating, and I was not the only one taking lots of photos. Plenty of wildflowers around the wreck site.
Afternoon tea was lamingtons, which disappeared quickly! Then a talk by Sandy on the various explorations and charting of North Western Australia, before pre-dinner drinks on the Bridge Deck and a slide show of photos taken by Dave on the cruise. These photos (together with the ones taken tomorrow) were later given on a USB stick to all passengers who wanted a copy, and you can see these photos at Dave's Photos.
Dinner was shared with John and Margaret, Mike and Anne, and Barb and I did a share of both the entrees (parsnip soup and beef carpaccio) and mains (salmon and pork), followed by a cheese board (but again, no blue!) After dinner we watched a documentary on the Koolama 'incident', which was quite fascinating, and which largely boiled down to a clash of personalities between the captain and first officer of the ship. You can read about it in the Koolama Incident story on Wikipedia.
Up very bright and early (well, early, at least) so that we could get going on the Xplorer by 0730, in order to get to the King George River and Falls. We saw the beach where the Koolama was beached in WWII, and then around the sandbar and up the river. About 20 mins into the river, we paused while the first contingent of zodiac passengers were transferred. Barb was on the first zodiac away, while John stayed on board the Xplorer.
The Xplorer then continued up the river, while the zodiacs went in close and personal to the river banks. Barb said she saw a brush-tailed rock wallably, while John took pictures of the towering cliffs (60-80m high) around us. Halfway between the zodiac loading point and the falls themselves, we had a zodiac swap, Barb came off, John went on. John's zodiac explored the cliff bases, where water erosion had created lots of interesting honeycomb patterns. Then to a little side bay, where Brian explained that they had occasionally seen dugongs in there, but not today.
Then on to the falls themselves. There was water flowing over them - Brian said that at this time last year, they were dry, but because of the big wet this year, there was enough water at this time of year. There were two separate falls, separated by a big cliff peninsula between them, which required crusing up and around it to see the other falls. The main one had a single drop of about 80m, and was hitting the rocks at the bottom with some force. The other falls were the ones that people were invited to visit up close and personal, i.e., go right into the falls in a zodiac. Barb did it, and got absolutely drenched! John was a bit of a wussXXXXXXXX smarter, and didn't do the drenching. The saving grace was that these falls fell in several stages, of which the last one was only 20m, but people who went through still complained about how 'hard' the water was. The cold was not the issue, but rather how painful the drops on the top of the head were!
Once all the brave souls had had their drenching, it was back into the Xplorer for our final run back to the Coral Discoverer, in time for morning tea at 1100 and an 1130 departure for Darwin. Morning tea quickly morphed into lunch (chicken schnitzel), and then an afternoon of variously relaxing, packing, computing, another presentation from Sandy, and afternoon tea itself. Then back to the lounge to watch a slide show of Dave's photos of the whole trip.
All went to plan this morning, except for my mobile phone waking us up as it burst into life upon receiving a signal from Darwin at 0500! Breakfast at 0700, with lots of goodbyes, and then we all started waiting, firstly to get off the ship, then for the bus to start. A short trip to the airport and we were there around 0830, in time to see absolutely no activity. We waited for the coffee shop to open, then we waited for the checkin counters and bag drops to open, then we waited to board the plane, and then we waited on the plane.
Some of the waiting time was taken up watching one RAAF fighter take off after another. I think the whole RAAF fighter force took part in this exercise.
So much waiting got us to 1230 when the plane took off.
Then we waited for the plane to do its stuff over the next 4 hours. Upon landing, we had to wait for the airbridge to connect. Something was wrong with it, I know not what. Once in the terminal, we then waited for the luggage to appear. There had been an almighty pile up of bags, jamming the conveyer belt. It took the staff some 30mins to restart that before our bags (and a lot of others) appeared.
Hey, even in the taxi we had to do a bit of waiting, with all the roadworks on the Tulla 'free'way, and the peak hour traffic. We got home around 1845, tired and buggered, in time for a quick dinner that dear DIL Beth had prepared, and then off to choir practice! I'm not sure that travelling to choir practice has ever taken 12 hours before.
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