FROM OYSTERS TO VINEYARDS

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Another long, straight road awaited us for the next leg of the road trip – this time to finish with the Oyster Trail and get on to the vineyards.  A nice combination – oysters and wine!

Last stop on the Oyster road is Cowell – a pretty little town on the eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula and situated on Franklin Harbour. The waters are sheltered and are very popular for fishing – and oysters.  We found a shack close to the jetty which supplies oysters to various outlets in the town.  On entering we found the proprietor busy shucking the oysters which had just come in from the bay – so without further ado we purchased a couple of dozen and together with fresh lemons and in a cardboard box, we found a table in the park and indulged for lunch!  The verdict?  Excellent!

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Our overnight stop on the way to the Clare Vallety Vineyards was the port town of Whyalla.  Named Hummock Hill in 1802 by Matthew Flinders, the town’s name officially changed to Whyalla in 1902 which is an Aboriginal name possibly meaning “water place”.  The steel industry here is over 100 years old but fishing is also of primary appeal. We were there just before sunset and went up to Hummocks Hill – a local lookout – to witness the change of colours.

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The next day the road was clear and, for a lot of the way, was backed by the beautiful Flinders Ranges.

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We drove through many little towns and villages but the one which captured us was Crystal Brook.  This quiet rural service centre is in the heart of South Australia’s most productive sheep and wheat country and has retained its charming historical links.

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Beautiful shady peppercorn trees line the main street and there are several art pieces in iron, reminders of the part the camels played in this part of the country in the early years.

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The Clare Valley is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions where there are heritage towns, boutique wineries, galleries and beautiful scenery.  We had booked lunch at the Skillogallee Winery where we had been before.  The vineyards here are resting – grapes picked and wine made but the vineyards still looked beautiful.

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The road to the boutique winery is shady and winding at the end of which is the restaurant which seats both indoors as well as in the garden.

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The menu features local produce with wine suggestions matched with each dish. Unable to resist the sashimi, I had, yet again, fabulous South Australian Kingfish and tuna served in a very artistic way.

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Then came the wine tasting and purchasing – thank goodness we had a large car !

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Staying in a little apartment in the centre of the town, we were perfectly placed for a choice of restaurants in the evening.  And that is what you do in these regions – eat great food and drink fabulous wine!

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THE ROAD TO GOLD AND KALGOORLIE

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Beautiful Salmon gums lined much of the road north from Esperance to the Gold city of Kalgoorlie. Located in the Eastern Goldfields area, Kalgoorlie/Boulder is Australia’s largest Outback city and one of the oldest – and many beautiful old buildings remain as a link to the past.  We had heard a lot about this city and the mines and the first sight we came across was the Super Pit Lookout.

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Here we could see a working mine in action and watched a blast.  This pit is 3.7km long and 1.5 km wide and 600 metres deep.  It is quite incredible to watch the workings and see the trucks weaving their way up and down- like little ants in a hole.

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A shovel of a 994F loader is here for visitors to step into showing the sheer size of the machine.

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The tyres are bigger than a man and the vehicle itself is a monster!

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Later, at Hannans North Tourist Mine we had the opportunity to climb inside and then fully appreciated what the drivers of these machines have to do day in and day out. This mine gives visitors the opportunity to experience gold rush history  and modern day mining. Wandering through the re-created part of the mining camp, I really felt for the Pioneers and gold seekers in the heady gold rush days.  Living in tents and huts of corrugated iron in the dry, hot and dusty town must have been hard but all were hit with “gold fever” and were sure they would find their fortunes here.

In a tribute to the Chinese who flocked here in large numbers and contributed to the community in many ways, the city has built a beautiful Chinese garden.  Wandering through with soft Chinese music playing in the pavilion by the lake, it was easy to see how some of these people would have been very homesick and missed their country.

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One attraction in Kalgoorlie that links to the heady gold rush days is “Questa Casa” which is Australia’s Oldest Brothel  it has been in operation for 115 years and is possibly the world’s oldest working brothel. There are countless stories and books about how it was in “old” Kalgoorlie for these ladies of the night and the lonely miners who visited them.

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This brothel has the famous “Starting Stalls” which are still operating and the girls throw open the doors nightly. Tours are available daily – sadly we didn’t have time to do one!

We wandered through the wide streets of the city and marvelled at the beautiful historic buildings – many of which have been restored and are now shops and businesses.  With the golden light of late afternoon, this was a perfect time to appreciate the architecture and imagine the city at the turn of the century and earlier.

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Even the interior of some buildings has retained its past glory – as we saw when we had breakfast the following day before hitting the road across the Nullarbor.

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THE FOREST ROAD TO ALBANY

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We spent five lovely days in Perth staying with friends and just relaxing after the 10,000km we have driven so far.  Long sleeps, great restaurants and little walks through urban villages made this a wonderful R&R.  All too soon we hit the road again.  This time to Albany.

There were lots of pleasant forest drives to this southern part of Western Australia which made a nice change from the flat landscapes we have had for days previously.  Albany is a small town on the southern tip and was known for its whaling station in the early days.  The former whaling station now houses a museum from where migrating whales can be seen passing off the coast in season.

We made our way to a different museum – the National Anzac Centre which is located up on a hill in the Princess Royal Fortress.  It overlooks the actual harbour where over 41,000 men and women departed Australia for the Great War.

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Immediately on arrival you are given a card upon which is a photograph and the name of someone who served in the war. Then you follow their personal story through state of the art technology, multimedia and historic artefacts.

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Mine was an Australian Army Nurse – Olive Haynes – who went to Gallipoli and then Egypt after which she was in Marseille and Boulogne in France.  It was fascinating to learn of her journey, see her letters and follow her life.  Happily she survived the war and lived to the age of 90.

There are amazing historical displays and many, many stories but one piece touched me deeply – a sculpture of a digger giving his horse a drink of water from his hat.  Those men were deeply attached to their horses and the bravery of both is highlighted in the museum as well.

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Albany has one of the most exposed coasts in Australia and about 20km from the town centre is The Gap – a 24 metre chasm to the ocean.  We had heard of this area but nothing prepared us for the spectacle that awaited on arrival.  Also at this place is The Natural Bridge which is a large span of granite that has been eroded and has formed an archway. There is a path leading to both attractions and even on the windiest day, it is possible to watch the fury of the ocean.

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The Natural Bridge is also amazing – and walking across the granite rocks to the bridge one can sense the magnitude of time and also think of the Dreamtime legends of the Aboriginal people.

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The coast here is rugged and wild and there are countless stories of shipwrecks.

Later we went to the Torndirrup National Park in Albany where there are a number of lookouts and walking trails.

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Being here amongst the cliffs, the wild sea, the granite rocks and in the little town made me think of one of my favourite novels – The Light Between the Oceans  by M.L. Stedman – which tells the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife in this part of Western Australia in 1926 following the Great War and is loosely based on a story here in Albany.

Finally, in this place of granite rocks, we stayed in a Hotel called Dog Rock – and this is why……

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Can you pick the dog?

 

 

 

 

The Coastal Road To Kalbarri and Perth

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There is something special about being close to the sea – at least for me.  I am in my element when watching the moods of the ocean, the vegetation, coastal scenery and the different lifestyles of the communities all along the coastal stretch.  For a while we are out of the red dust, the dramatic landscapes and rock faces, the vast distances between places – not to mention the flies and the heat!

Leaving Shark Bay we visited the remarkable Hamelin Pool stromatolites.  I had no idea what these were until we visited the Discovery Centre and so we were keen to see what it was all about.  These Hamelin Pool stromatolites are the oldest and largest living fossils on earth.  These are considered “living fossils” and are part of the Earth’s evolutionary history.

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Now part of the Word Heritage Area, a purpose built jetty has been built over these amazing life forms so people can walk and observe without causing damage. This gives everyone has a chance to see what is of great interest to botanists and geologists and give an indication of what the earth may have looked like about 3.7 billion years ago when stromatolites grew widespread across the water.

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Some scientists are now saying that this is what life on Mars may look like right now.

An easier explanation is the following quote:

The oldest Stromatolites in the world are found in Western Australia, and date to 3.7 billion years old. As such, the stromatolites provide a record of local environmental changes. Hamelin Pool in Western Australia is one of only four places on earth where living marine stromatolites exist and the location contains by far the biggest colony on earth. 

Stromatolites which are found up to a metre high are believed to grow at a maximum of 0.3mm per year – they are truly “living fossils”. 80% of the history of all life was stromatolites – for that time, stromatolites were king.

Our next destination was Kalbarri.  This little town on the mouth of the Murchison River is known for its seaside cliffs, estuary beaches, pelicans and birdlife and the National Park nearby.  Once again there are gorges and and natural bridge forms and several scenic walks and climbs for those who are more adventurous.

When I did my first Road Trip all those years ago, there was nothing here except a couple of holiday houses and fishing shacks.  Now it is a thriving tourist destination and very popular with families.  The first thing you notice on driving into the village is the river – which is currently very muddy and so it is easy to see where the river meets the ocean.

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There are sandy beaches close by which are protected by a reef – and the thundering surf beyond is quite spectacular.

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Red Bluff is where ancient rock meets the ocean and the history of this area is interesting.

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The first European people to visit the area were the crew of the trading ship Batavia belonging to the Dutch East India Company who apparently put ashore two mutinous crew members here.  The wreck of another ship – the Zuytdorp – which sank in 1712 is also here.

There is a lovely little walk along the cliff top which illustrates clearly the problem ships would have had sailing into this area.

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At the bottom of the cliff is a trail from the beach leading up to the top and here the contrast between the red rock and the beach is obvious.  This is a popular fishing spot.

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Bird life is prolific and at times, walking on the beach, the only company you have is our feathered friends.

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Another interesting place to visit is Port Gregory and the “Pink Lake” .  This is on the road south of Kalbarri and we were told one should see it in the morning when the sun is overhead.  We were not disappointed.

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The Hutt Lagoon has a pink hue created by the presence of carotenoid producing algae which is a source of B carotene, a food colouring agent and a source of Vitamin A.   There are other pink lakes in WA and hopefully we will get to see more on this “Big Loop”.

History has always been a passion of mine and so a stop at Lytton close by was a must as this was a Convict Hiring Station and there are several ruins and many tales to tell here.

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And finally – not far from Perth we came across an amazing sight – a desert in the bush. This is The Pinnacles – in Nambung National Park and is incredible.

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These are limestone formations and some reach 3.5m.  Some are jagged, sharp edged columns and others are smooth and rounded.  There are thousands of them and they literally take your breath away.

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And my favourite image is this one, of a little resident of the area out for his morning munchies!

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THE ENDLESS ROAD TO THE COAST – CORAL BAY AND SHARK BAY

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The distances here in Western Australia are so vast that it is almost beyond comprehension – even though we have driven over much of Australia over the years.  Here in the North West the road is endless and there is nothing to break it.  It was with great relief that we arrived at the tiny village of Coral Bay – and here we wanted to stay!

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This tiny settlement is perfect for families and for people seeking relaxation or something more adventurous such as diving, fishing or snorkelling.  The beautiful coral reef is just metres from the shore and the beach has pristine white sand and is safe for even the tiniest tot.  We found ourselves in a cabin right on the foreshore

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And all we had to do was cross the road and we were on the beach and in the beautiful clear water.

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There is a platform for coral viewing or snorkelling and even early in the morning the fish were friendly and just weaving around our legs – probably looking for food!

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The sunsets here are glorious and with an aperitif in hand, gorgeous view and the total serenity of the place, that long, endless road was forgotten.

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The next day we had a 420km drive to Shark Bay – or the little town of Denham. This is the most westerly point of the Australian continent and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.  It has vast sea beds which are the largest in the world and which support the dugong population – which is also one of the largest in the world.  The Stromatolites are among the oldest forms of life on earth and it is possible to view them at low tide from a specially erected platform.  Apart from these features, we wanted to come here because of its proximity to Monkey Mia which is famous for its dolphin experience.

In the past visitors were able to swim and interact with the dolphins which came close to shore to be fed.  Today it is regulated by the Department of Wildlife because the lives of the dolphins were endangered by too much human interaction.  It is still a wonderful experience and the Wildlife Officer also gives a short talk about dolphin behaviour.

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Feeding occurs in the morning and the amount of fish each dolphin gets is strictly monitored so they still have to go out into the wild to hunt.

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These are such beautiful creatures and I almost had the feeling that Piccolo was human when looking at her eye.

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Monkey Mia is a tiny place with just one caravan park/hotel and is where tourists come especially for the dolphins and perhaps a little fishing. There are boat trips on offer as well.

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OeQes6B6SLCNNVATzjCybg_thumb_4a1Denham is a great little town and was settled by Europeans first in the 1850’s who began pearling, pastoralism and guano mining.  The original inhabitants were the Aboriginal people – the Mulgana – who were here for thousands of years and evidence of their presence can be seen in cave shelters and shell middens around the peninsula.  It is said that they were probably the first Australian Aboriginals who had contact with European explorers who came in the 1600’s.

We walked along the foreshore and found a sweet little building which is a restaurant called The Old Pearler.  Deciding to have dinner there, we then discovered its interesting history.

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This is the only restaurant in the world to be built predominately of sea shells. The shells are essentially of the small molusc family being bonded together by pressure and calcium.  The shell stocks came from the Hamelin Pool area and blocks were cut by saw from the ground.  An Englishman, Tim Hargreaves, took three or four years in 1974 cutting and laying the shell blocks.

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Railway sleepers were used for doors and window frames and the tables were made of timber salvaged from the original Peron Station shearers quarters.  Various artefacts are on the walls inside and the acoustics are exceptional which is due to the myriad of air pockets in the shell blocks.  These also ensure there is coolness in the hot summers without resorting to fans or air conditioners.

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This is also the most westerly restaurant on the continent.  We had seafood both nights we visited and the crayfish was sensational.

Several years ago we visited the area on board “True North” and also went to Dirk Hartog island which is close to Denham as well as Steep Point.  This is a rugged area which is the westernmost point of mainland Australia.  Access is by 4 wheel drive only as the track is through sand dunes.  We were fortunate to land by boat and this time is it good to see from the land perspective. Steep Point is also a renowned land based game fishing place with over 320 species of fish caught off the point.  We saw fishers harness themselves to the cliff and then float their baits off the cliff using helium balloons.  They then hauled their catch up the cliffs – no easy task as a shark very often gets it first!

Anyone visiting this part of Western Australia simply has to disregard that long, long road and come to Denham.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

 

 

 

MORE ROAD TRAINS ON THE ROAD TO KARIJINI

 

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Our next destination was Karijini National Park in the Pilbara.  It is a long way from the coast and so we had to drive via Port Hedland for an overnight stop.  To be honest, the road from Broome to Port Hedland is the most boring we have yet had to tackle.  It is very long and very straight and there is nothing to see even though it runs parallel to 80 Mile Beach. Access to the beach is denied except through the caravan park.

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Setting off for Karijini we were again to find the road long and mostly straight but this time we had dozens of huge road trains travelling to Port Hedland with their loads of iron ore.  This is the Pilbara and the area is rich with culture and a huge array of natural rock formations, deep red in colour. The soil is a fine red sand which gets into everything and is hard to remove! There are gorges, rock pools and canyons in the two National Parks of the area and we were heading for Karijini which has beautiful scenery and much of it is accessible by car. We booked into an “Eco Tent” which was said to be “luxury” but having been on several African safaris, this was not at all up to the standard they were trying to attain. This being an Eco Resort comfort was minimal in the so called “glamping” tents.  We used torch light at night as electricity was solar and we were conscious of waste. The tents were cooled by natural breezes – if there were any – with the result that the afternoons were very, very hot and early mornings freezing cold!  We did have a small ensuite bathroom though which was roofless and it was fabulous to shower late at night and look up at the billions of stars.  Being in such a remote location, the stars were simply amazing with no light to detract.

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We were told of several walks which culminated in rock pools for a refreshing swim.  Unfortunately it has been a very dry season and several waterfalls have dried up and the pools in which you are able to swim are hard to get to unless you are very fit.It was also very hot but the worst problem was the bush flies.  There were millions of them and they were relentless. 

On arrival at the Eco Resort,  we noticed people walking around with fly nets covering their heads.  It was comical really as they resembled aliens from another planet – dark nets covering faces and over hats of all shapes giving their heads an oddly conical or flat shape.

O67uHv4sSEas2G07sTgbsw_thumb_3fc.jpgUnfortunately everywhere had sold out of the nets so we were not able to “join the party” and instead had to either stay in our flyproof tent or explore in the airconditioned car!

Weano Gorge is probably the best introduction to Karijini as there are easy walks around the top of the gorge as the more adventurous can venture down the rocks into the canyon. The lookout we went to gave unsurpassed views out over the Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre Gorges.  The sheer enormity and grandeur is awesome and must be really spectacular when the waterfalls are running.

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The path in is sandy – the deep red of the Pilbara – and fortunately there was a breeze so the flies were not so aggressive!

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The colours of this part of the Pilbara are amazing at any time of day.  This I remember from the road trip so long ago – but then this was not a National Park and we ventured in on our way to Wittenoom township which is now closed because of asbestos.

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The roads are red dirt and the silver and green of the leaves plus the groundcover colours give a special sense to this place which is sacred to the indigenous people.

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We drove to Tom Price which is a mining town and a really impressive little community.

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With huge mining machines on display!

Sadly the flies and the heat drove us out of the beautiful Karijini Park but the drive was spectacular after a beautiful dawn rising viewed from our tent.

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Next stop – Exmouth on the Coral Coast – maybe the flies will be gone by then?

 

THE ROAD TO BEAUTIFUL BROOME

It was a short drive from Derby to Broome along a bitumen road which was easy.  Broome is a cosmopolitan town on the coast which began during the pearling days in 1880’s.  The population is a melting pot of  traditional indigenous, Japanese, Chinese, Malays, Europeans, and Islanders.

It has an easy, laid back feel to it and, in what has become a tradition, viewing the magnificent sunset from Cable Beach is a must do on arrival in Broome! Many flock to the beach in their 4 wheel drives, others wander down slowly and sit on the rocks and yet others choose to watch the spectacle from the comfort of the Sunset Bar at the Beach Club or Zanders – both of which are located right opposite the beach.  Two camel trains wend their way slowly along the beach carrying eager tourists and children and as the sun goes down and the sky turns gold and then pink.

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The camels are a reminder of the Afghans who came to Australia in the 1840’s bringing their camels with them to assist in the exploration of inland Australia. Camels were also imported from British India at that time.  Today they are mostly feral with some being used for tourism purposes.

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Another tradition is to drive to Gantheaume Point which is at the end of a red gravel road and is a rocky outcrop which is stunning because of its intense red colour which contrasts with the very white sand of the beach and the shimmering aqua colour of the sea.  Dinosaur tracks can be seen in the red rocks at low tide. There is an old lighthouse here and the Keeper’s house is still occupied.  Legend has it that the Lighthouse Keeper had a wife, Anastasia, who was very beautiful but who was crippled from polio.  She loved to bathe at high tide and so her husband found a little rock pool which had formed naturally near the house and which would fill up at each high tide and then empty again on the low tide.  He would carry his wife down each day and thus the pool is now known as “Anastasia’s Pool”.

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We have been to Broome several times and this time decided to stay at the Cable Beach Club which, although a little way out of town, is in an excellent location on the beach itself.  Built in the style of the old bungalows of days gone by in the tropics, it has lovely gardens and an amazing Asian art collection donated by Lord McAlpine who developed the resort in the 1980’s.  This is one of my favourite places on the west coast and we will definitely return.

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Dusty Road to Derby

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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and the other side

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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.

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The Red Road Deep in the Kimberley

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The road to Fitzroy Crossing and beyond is long and parts of it are gravel and the soil very red.  This makes for quite stunning colours everywhere even though the car gets covered in a fine silt.

We had heard about China Wall near Hall’s Creek and decided to make a little detour to see what it was all about.  Located on a private property, we had to enter through the station gate and drive on a rough track for about six kilometres and suddenly, there it was!

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This was so surprising and is a natural vein of sub-vertical white quartz rising up to 6 metres above the surrounding country in some places.  It rises high out of the ground and then disappears again only to reappear further on.  Apparently it transects the country for many kilometres but we only saw this section.

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Aborigines have a theory about how this came about but for us, it was just a fabulous little detour to witness a wall similar to the Great Wall only right here in the Outback!

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We came across many more termite mounds but these were a different shape and I have to admit a fascination for them.  A local told us that the Aborigines used them as a burial place for their dead by placing the remains of the deceased inside the mound which would then be sealed naturally by termite activity.  Thus these formations are sacred to many tribes and explains why, in some places especially in the Northern Territory, we saw mounds with clothes placed over them – a t shirt, cap or a dress.

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Fitzroy Crossing was our next stop and this place I remember from my road trip way back in 1969.  There wasn’t much there then but now it is quite a thriving community which serves the stations in the area – many of which are now owned by Indigenous groups.  It is very, very dry at the moment, so the mighty Fitzroy River looked a bit sad.

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We did see some water birds making most of the calm conditions.

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I also remember doing a little boat trip down Geikie Gorge when I stayed on Fossil Downs Station all those years ago.  The gorge runs through part of the station and I remember being awestruck by the cliffs and the colours of the rock.  Sadly there were no boat tours available yesterday but we walked down to the water’s edge and looked at Linyjiya Rock – or Old Man’s Rock – the story here from the Dreamtime is that an old, blind elder left his tribe to go wandering and drowned.  He sneezed and sighed before he sank to the bottom and it is said that if you sit quietly and listen, you will hear the sighs of the old man.

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We left the gorge and continued on the gravel road towards Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge before joining the Gibb River Road.  Along a very lonely stretch we came across a young man on a bicycle.  We stopped to see if he was OK only to learn that he was actually cycling to Kununurra some 550km away along the notoriously rough stretch of road.  No smooth riding for him!  We gave him cold water, learned he was from the UK and decided he must be mad – but a very happy mad man!

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This is Boab country and as we neared Tunnel Creek National Park we drove into a landscape peppered with black rocks, cliffs and hilly mounds.  This is an ancient 350 million year old Devonian Reef and is now part of the WA National Parks.

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Tunnel Creek itself is a 750m long underground water worn natural tunnel and it is possible to wade all the way through.  We opted to walk to the entrance and learn the stories that lie beneath the walls.

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Jandamarra was a young man of the Banuba tribe at the time of white colonisation of the Kimberley.  He became entangled in a war between two worlds. He learnt English and worked with stock, horsemanship and shooting. However he became greatly attracted to the secret life of the Banuba male world of ritual, secret sites, mythology and  the law of the Banuba country.  He left the station and took up life with the tribe but then returned to station life, turning his back on his Aboriginality.  Finally he went back to the tribe and led a resistance against the settlers.  In 1894 he tragically shot his friend, the white policeman he had worked with for years, released prisoners and distributed weapons. An armed resistance followed and Jandmarra was killed here at Tunnel Creek. The area is obviously very sacred to the indigenous people but is also one of interest and history to everyone.

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The entrance to the tunnel where Jandamarra hid

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We went on to Windjana Gorge which is part of the Jandamarra story and is an open air gorge through the Lennard River.  There are beautiful rock formations and freshwater crocodiles, birds, bats and other wildlife as well as amazing fossils which I managed to find. The entrance to the gorge is narrow and would have been a perfect hideout for Jandamarra and his gang.

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The gorge itself is quite dry but the little water there is had a few little crocodiles as well as a number of water birds searching for food.

The rock formations are impressive and the shady areas along the water are a respite from the intense heat of the day.

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With our minds full of history of the past and totally absorbed by the beauty of the area and tired from walking the trails, we went back to the car and headed on to our next stop – the little town of Derby.

 

 

The Road ahead to El Questro

The road is getting more picturesque as we journey on but  I have to admit that the tiny bush flies and the intense heat is quite trying at times. However all that is forgotten as we drive deeper into the Kimberley area.

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Our home for the next two days was a safari tent at Emma Gorge, part of the El Questro station.  We decided to go “glamping” after our wonderful adventures in Africa in similar accommodation.  We didn’t think about the heat this time!

We organised a trip to Explosion Gorge and Branko’s lookout for sunset drinks but first we had to find a picnic spot to satisfy our hunger – it was lunchtime and the drive to El Questro station passes a beautiful waterhole called “Jackeroo Waterhole” and this was the ideal place to relax for half an hour before a bone shaking 4 wheel drive tour.

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The trip we booked is closed to public vehicles as the terrain is so rough.  We boarded an open safari type vehicle with six other guests and set off along the roughest track I have yet experienced!

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and then over some more stones

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Then, whilst the vehicle was almost amphibious, we had a stunning view of the Homestead which is available for rent at over $3000 a night.  We were told it is pretty special and every comfort is provided with gourmet meals and staff included.

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The history of the station is interesting as it was a pastoral lease for many years and in 1991 a tall, handsome English aristocrat, named Will Burrell, arrived by helicopter and was interested in investing part of the fortune he inherited from his grandmother – the doyenne of the Penguin publishing empire.  He liked what he saw and bought the million acres as a working cattle ranch.  He intended to build a home for himself and envisioned a stylish getaway for adventurous travellers and ultimately a tourism venture with a range of accommodation from caravan park and camping to bungalows and tented cabins.  After a lot of hard work and millions of dollars his dream was realised and today it is a luxury wilderness park with a variety of tour options, guided walks and self drive itineraries.  It is now owned by an American company and open only from April to October because of weather conditions.

Our guide, Tommy, took us first to the great Boab tree where the Durack family camped in 1863 whilst droving their cattle from New South Wales to the Kimberley.  The tree has the Durack carved initials and has increased in size over the years.

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A very rough drive some time later brought us to Explosion Gorge where we left the vehicle and boarded a small punt for an hour on the water

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The colours are truly amazing and the red of the rock contrasted with the blue water and the varying hues of green of the bush.

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Then we spied a young freshwater crocodile just basking in the sun on the ledge.  He remained motionless for some time and then suddenly slid into the water with a huge splash.

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The name “Explosion Gorge” came about because Will Burrell apparently found a cache of dynamite one day and decided to go fishing.  What better to attract the fish than an explosive such as dynamite so he lit it and the rest is history!

On the rough ride to our sunset lookout we came across a beautiful nest made by a bower bird and in such a safe location that it can never be attacked by prey or fire.

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A winding road led to the top of an escarpment where a plateau gave us an amazing view of the river and the whole landscape of the area.

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The colours began to change as the sun sank lower and out came the champagne and beers – very welcome after the dusty drive!

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The moon reflected on the water before night fell making this a very special place.