Driving on these dusty roads is not without some danger – especially when you meet one of the huge road trains – the most sensible thing to do is stop and wait for both the road train and the dust to pass! Fortunately the trip to Derby was enjoyable with very little traffic and lots of contrasting colours on the way. We even had time to stop and have a picnic lunch on the back of the vehicle.
Right alongside was another huge termite mound and having learned of the aboriginal significance of these mounds, I was wondering if this one contained the remains of a loved one. It was again an unusual shape compared to others we have seen on this road trip.
Finally we arrived in Derby which is a small outback town on the edge of the King Sound. Its claim to fame is having the highest tides of any Australian port 11m (or 36 feet) which leaves the town surrounded by vast mud flats and mangroves. We were advised to go down to the town jetty – the Derby Wharf – to watch the sunset. Each evening a stream of people arrive with their chairs and eskies and settle down to watch the display and/or to fish. We were not disappointed, in spite of cloud cover the colours were magnificent.
There is quite a lot of history with this town and we found the Boab Prison Tree seven kilometres out of town. This is a 1500 year old boab tree that was used as an overnight lockup for prisoners. Before Derby was established in 1883 Aboriginal people were kidnapped from the West Kimberley by settlers who wanted divers and workers for the pearling boats in Broome. They rounded people up, put them in chains and marched them up the coast. Some held their captives at the boab tree whilst waiting for a boat. This seems incomprehensible to us today and doesn’t bear thinking about. However it is now a “Site of Significance” to the local Aboriginal people and the tree is protected under the Heritage Act.
There is a sign declaring that snakes are known to inhabit the tree and not to go near it – it is protected by a fence these days.
With a population of more than half being Aboriginal and with several communities nearby, there are a couple of art galleries to visit. One was closed but the other was definitely worth a visit and I would recommend to anyone in the area to stop by. It is fascinating and the owner, Mark Norval, is an artist himself who has spent more than 40 years in the area and has helped and encouraged many local artists.
Several local people had come to the gallery that day and were sitting outside painting which was fascinating to watch. They are extremely shy and I asked if I could take their photos and was pleased to be able to converse for a short time with them.
Inside was an incredible array of art and artefacts and I was very taken with a couple of pieces so purchased them and was delighted to find the young artist had just arrived, so she agreed to meet me and have a photo taken with the painting I had chosen.
Mark himself has some incredible work there and two pieces, which were not for sale, left me quite gobsmacked. They were portraits done on perspex so each side had a different face but was constructed with the same medium – paint, lace, bark, leaves and shells.
and the other side
I could have spent hours here at the gallery and spent hundreds of dollars but was pulled away and on we drove, to another straight road towards Broome.