Remote Wilderness

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
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Trip End May 27, 2008


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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Plucker kindly drove me to the main highway so I could wait for my tour company to collect me and soon I was off to the Kimberleys.  The vehicle was a toyota landcruiser and there was plenty of space since the tour wasn't full (6 of us instead of the usual 10).  The guide (Greig) was very friendly and informative, although I was disappointed to hear that many of the attractions I was excited to visit were now closed due to fire risk-bummer!

I got chatting to the rest of the group, Helen, a 40 something from Sydney, Pameila, a recent medical graduate from Germany, Suzy, nurse from Germanyand Fahre and Simona from Switzerland.  Most of the group were around my age which made a change! 

We had a long day of driving but eventually made it to El Questro, a ranch in the Kimberleys; we were lucky as it was closing for the season the next day!  We had a great dinnner cooked over a fire and I had a pretty decent night's sleep.  I have to say that I got up in the middle of the night and wandered over to the toilet block to find myself faced with a huge bunch of big cows and bulls.  I walked slowly past, being careful not to blind them with my head torch and things were fine.  However, when I got back in my tent I was then kept awake as one of the cows decided to settle down for the night right outside my door and snored quite loudly!

In the morning the cows were gone and Greig thought I'd imagined them, but there was plenty of evidence on the grasss to back up my story!  We drove to Zebedee Springs, some beautiful hot springs and took a refreshing dip before heading off to the town of Kunnanara for some food shopping.  We had lunch in the town at the swim beach (although said to be inhabited by crocs) where the peace was disturbed by a very rowdy aborigonal lady - it's a big problem here and most of the northern towns seem to be full of groups like this.  Greig told us that in the small communities, alcohol isn't a problem and many don't drink but those that do create a really bad image.  We drove to the Bungle Bungle national park where I spotted a monitor lizard just by a creek we were driving through.  The Bungle Bungles are lots of strange rock formations and we watched a nuce sunset before settling in for dinner.  We happened to bump into a couple at the campsite that the guide knew from Darwin, Burt and Jane - they were doing the Kimberleys with their own 4WD and had been having a few mechanical problems.  The Kimberleys is a place where you really have to be prepared for everything and have back-up plans for all the worst-case scenarios.  That night we were witness to the first storm of the wet season - it was amazing to see but we quickly discovered that our tents weren't too waterproof!  Greig told us that if the rain persisted, the road could be out of action and we'd be stuck for a few days there!  Luckily it went by the morning, although the dry riverbed beside our campsite was now a full flowing river! 

That day we did a lot of hiking which was great - Picaninny creek lookout point, Cathedral gorge where we saw 2 monitor lizards in the pool and came across a tour guide playing a didgeridoo which was good with the acoustics in the gorge.  We also hiked the Echidna chasm and mini palms trails which were very beautiful, but we were all pretty tired by then!  That night it stormed again and Greig told us a cool, supposedly true, ghost story by the fire.  Luckily the rain was not enough to block our way and we drove off to Kunnanara again in the morning to stock up on more fresh food.   We had a couple of hours to kill so I thought I'd head for the local pool, however it was closed due to thunderstorms (outdoor pool....lightning).  So, with not a lot to do in Kunnanara I decided to head for the local YHA to get a shower and would you believe they charged me $3!  I did feel much cleaner though and soon it was time to go and we headed for the local whisky and rum distillery, The Hoochery, to sample the delights there.  Before we knew it, time had gotten the better of us and we were driving quite late in the day which is never ideal in Australia due to the crazy suicidal wildlife that jumps in front of the car.  However, we did see crocodiles on the road, well.....in the river that we were driving through if that makes sense, so that was really cool!  Greig drove us to a spot by the side of then road on top of the Pentecost range, which apparently we weren't allowed to camp on, but we'd be fine as we were leaving very early anyway.  It was certainly worth it for the remoteness and view and I had my first night sleeping outside in my swag.  I managed to grab the delux spot on top of a stone table though, so at least I was away from the snakes and it was nice and breezy up there with a great view into the valley! 

In the morning we were packing up, when someone came across some kind of capsule during their toilet break.  Turns out it was connected to a GPS game (see http://www.geocaching.com) and it contained a few silly things such as fridge magnets and kids toys.  The deal was that you could take an item if you added something so I took a fridge magnet (telling me what to do in the event of a cyclone in my town) and added my postcard of London with a message on the back. 

That day we drove to the Barnett river gorge and camped there.  On the way we drove through a fairly deep river and Greig decided to wash the car and we had another chance to swim - it did feel weird being in the middle of the road swimming though!  At camp, we put up a tarp as it was chucking it down which meant that we could still sleep outside.  While waiting for dinner, the camp was disturbed by a ferrall cat, eyeing up our BBQ meat.  We were told they are destroying the local wildlife and should be killed, but he was too clever for our guide and got away.  Later that night I wandered off with a shovel to dig a hole and heard a noise coming from the pile of leaves near me - I shone my headtorch and it was a snake.  Not wanting to scare it I quietly backed away (although I now know that if I had screamed they are deaf anyway!) and went and described it to Greig.  Turns out it was a western brown snake, very dangerous and suddenly sleeping outside didn't seem too appealing!  However, I decided to take the risk, but regretted it in the morning when I woke to find mosquito bites all over my arms, shoulders and back - they'd had a field day! 

We drove to Manning gorge, stopping to look at some rock paintings on the way of crocodiles and Wanjana figures that look like aliens (white face, big black eyes).  Legend has it that these people came and told the aboriginals to respect each other and live good lives or something like that.  Manning gorge was really nice and a refreshing dip.  We had to wade through the lower section of the gorge to take a short cut to the trail leading to the waterfall, although the waterfall was non-existant since there'd not been enough rain.  We still had a good swim and were lucky enough to see more wildlife - some kind of geckos or bearded dragons and a jabiru bird, plus we tasted some boab tree seeds - very dry texture but when you suck on them it tastes like orange!  That night a few of the group decided to have a skinny dip in the gorge under the moonlight - you only live once and I came to try new things here and it was dark so that was great! 

The next part of the journey took us to Tunnel Creek, a 700m underground tunnel formed from water erosion through a reef.  We needed torches and had to walk through croc infested water (just freshwater ones though, so they are harmless) and had a nice lunch in the tunnel.  We then headed to Winjana gorge which is supposedly the best place in Australia to view freshwater crocodiles and we could see that was certainly true as there were heaps of them in the water and on the sandbank.  I crept up on one to ake a picture but he got scared and went back in the water.  Pameila from my group managed to get some good photos though as she has a better camera.  We also saw some huge Brolga birds in the gorge and I managed to get a fairly decent pic of them. 

After a hour in the gorge, Greig decided we should drive further to camp as he was aiming to drive us up to Cape Leveque the next day which was quite some distance and he hadn't been there for a few years.  After some searching we finally found a spot down a little track off the main road and set up the camp.  It was quite nice to be in such remote places, sleeping outside around the fire with no people, even without having facilities such as a toilet, although I got the impression that not all of the group felt this way about bushcamping! 

We drove to Derby in the morning and I went into the hospital to see if I could get an x-ray as I was still in a lot of pain and it was hard to sleep.  No go as the department didn't open until 9 and we couldn't wait that long.  Could you believe though that in the cool air-conditioned hospital reception I got bitten by yet another mosquito!  Greig took me to the local chemist so I could get some strong antihistamines as the ones I'd taken along with the 'stop-itch cream' weren't giving any relief.  By this point after sleeping outside so much, I had at least 50 bites!  We headed to the waterfront and cooked breakfast there and met a couple of locals who'd recently been to Cape Leveque so we questioned them about the condition of the road  and it sounded like a fun ride!  We left Derby and had a quick stop to look a the 'Prison tree', an old Boab tree that they used to use to hold prisoners while their captours had a rest.  We then had to stop a while at the local roadhouse as we'd found some suitcases on the side of the road that had obviously come off the back of a truck. 

The road to Cape Leveque was pretty bumpy and a lot of fun.  We finally made it and camped at the main site by the lighthouse.  The owners assured us there were no mosquitos or sand-flies but of course I found some within minutes.....   We watched the sunset on the beach and had a bit of a snorkel.  Greig cooked us a roast lamb dinner which was amazing and I made Damper bread from flour, salt and beer!  I found an unused cabin in the campsite and we all snuck over and slept on the verrandah as it overlooked the sea and it was a lovely night.

Today was our last morning and Greig made pancakes and scrambled egg which was a treat.  We had a nother snorkel and then drove to Hunter Creek, an amazingly clear blue estuary which looked so inviting, but was full of esturine crocs, the dangerous ones.  It was a very bumpy sandy track to get there and we were all laughing so much while we practically fell off our seats!  On the drive to our final destination, Broome, we stopped off at Beagal Bay, a small aboriginal community, to look at the local church as the alter is made of mother of pearl.  It was extremely beautiful, both inside and out! 

Arriving in Broome was a bit of a let down - my hostel is lovely but there's no public transport into the main area of town as I am staying in Cable Beach, 7kms away!  The group went out for a quick drink to the local (Diver's Den) but I was soon very tired and snuck off to my bed - strange to be sleeping in a room with other people after being outside or in my own tent for a while! 

I have some great pics but after 4 hours on this PC I'm getting out of here.  They're on facebook for those of you who are joined to that.
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