Day 42: Monday 10th July – Exploring the Dampier Peninsula

Author: Mr A

From: Broome

To: Middle Lagoon, Dampier Peninsula

We had decided to leave the van in storage at our Broome caravan park (called the “Broome Caravan Park” –  how do they come up with these names?), as we had been “reliably informed” that the roads through the Dampier Peninsula were “atrocious”.

The peninsula has been described by several of our friends who have visited as “one of the most beautiful places in Australia”, so we had high expectations! After passing the “Stricly No Caravans” sign at the turn off from Broome, we passed serval caravans coming the other way. Confused…certainly. Then we hit the dirt pretty quickly, but the corrugations weren’t that bad and it was all nice soft red sand, no sharp, nasty, tyre eating stones like the Gibb River Road. 

It was a long straight 110kms, with low scrub either side, we weren’t feeling the love yet, then after another 30km down a sandy straight, low scrub either side kinda side road (deja vu) we arrived at Middle Lagoon to find an army of caravans and a fish and chip van. Not quite what we had expected but all in keeping with our experience of “Australia’s Last Great Wilderness” thing in the Kimberley. 

We set up our little hike tent, feeling dwarfed by the big rigs all around us, and woofed down the awesome fish and chips. How come a little business in this remote corner of Australia can cook “proper” fish and chips and yet 99% of their fellow chippy makers in Aus make such a hash of it? Consigned to one of the mysteries of this Big Brown Land.

We wandered up to the beach and….WOW….WOW…WOW….awesome…the most stunning white sand and water so blue it was just a feast for the eyes. It had to be paddled. 

In a jiffy the packrafts are inflated and ready to go. We did get a few curious looks as we minced down the beach with our odd looking little boats under our arms. Heads held high, off we went into the wide blue yonder. It was fabulous. We headed up the coast for a mosey around, then back down the other way to land on this pristine beach, not a footprint in sight. Well until Mrs A decided to run round in circles to make some – so great to see her back to her old self after the crap breathing she has been experiencing  almost since the start of the trip. 

On the water I have to admit to keeping a wary croc spotting eye scanning around as everywhere we go when we ask if its saltie free we get a guarded “well we haven’t seen any since the Wet…so most likely you’ll not see one”. It’s that “most likely” phrase you play with in your mind. But all was good, and we had a great afternoon in our “bumper boats” as we have nicknamed them. Well it is very tempting to bounces into each other and try and spin the other boat around…

We came back to camp, and after enjoying a couple of beers with the sunset, fired up the little camping stove and warmed up a pre-cooked meal of a japanese salmon stir-fry, with a few noodles added it was fine dining as usual. I have to say the wine restock we did in Broome has been really disappointing, so I wont be referring to any fine vintages for the next few weeks! Roll on Margaret River I say. 

Well the generators came on…there would have been at least 30 vans in the campsite..and the people milled around…and yes we had a great day….but its busy here. We are hoping when school holidays is over next week things will quieten down a bit.

We scurried into bed early (as usual) and felt a little cheated we hadn’t brought the van – it would have been fine. But…it does us good to be down in the dirt, reminding us of why we spent that cash to have our mobile apartment for this long trip. 

Day 41: 9 July – Back in the dust again

Author: Mrs A

We spent the morning getting ready to head off camping tomorrow with the tent, packing food and clothes for three days, trying to anticipate everything we will need to live only out of the car. I think we’ll be ok!

We then decided to explore a little more of the coast north of Broome to Quandong Point. After 15km of bitchumen road it all turned into sand and corrugations again so we decided to let the tyre pressures down, ready for tomorrow.

We continued our drive down orange sandy roads to the coast – just stunning. We had considered camping down here this weekend but decided against it, favouring a powered site at a caravan park so we could catch up on washing. I think we could have been quite comfortable down there though. Lovely deserted beaches, stunning views, lots of bird life and potential for yet more dinosaur fossil and footprint hunting. The new bikini got an airing too!

This whole coast is getting quite a reputation for its 130 million year old dinosaur prints, with more being found regularly (fishermen found some last  September, and some tourists hunting for shells found more in May this year!) – and up to 9 different types of dinosaur in this region alone. The only dinosaurs we found today were us and a British couple from Manly who were also hunting (and failing) for the same prints!

All in all a fabulous day out. Back to camp now for Aperol Spritzers before showers and a Sunday night chicken curry.

Day 39: 7 July – immersed in nature 

Author: Mrs A

We hiked 7km before breakfast, deciding to enjoy the dawn birds. It was a fresh morning, about 15•C and blue, clear skies greeted us as always. 

Many birds were to be found including singing honeyeaters, yellow white eyes, red winged parrots, magpie larks, whistling kites, restless flycatchers, great bowerbird…and more. After breakfast we went down to the bay to see high tide. 

Roebuck Bay looked completely different without the mudflats, its turquoise waters, ochre sands and flocks of birds on the shore.  

We chilled out late afternoon, revising our plans for the next couple of days, trying to stay around Broome for the weekend. The moon is almost full and the region is famous for the view across the mudflats which creates a stairway. Sunday is our opportunity. 

We watched the great bower bird behind our caravan creating his bower – it’s a work of art. He creates a fabulous sculpture out of sticks and decorates it with colours which compliment his silvery feathers – in this bird’s case, shells and pieces of glass from the beach, the occasional piece of bleached wood and silver foil – quite different from the blues collected by the satin bower bird in NSW and Qld. Just lovely. I hope he attracts a nice Mrs bower bird!

Homemade chicken curry tonight with a Shaky Ground Shiraz, one of Mr A’s Broome purchases. Shaky Ground by name and by nature…had worse, but…hmmm…roll on the wine broker!

Day 38: 6 July – Off twitching!

Author: Mr A

From: Broome

To: Broome Bird Observatory

Distance: 28km

Today we left Gulag Broome (as I call our caravan park there), We had a slight sense of relief to escape its dreary, noisy, clutches and headed into town with the van in tow. We copped a nice spot outside the Tourist Information centre, complete with Telstra Air hotspot (our new best friend), and I went in search of the optometrist that I had made an appointment at. I had rang the place earlier this morning, not holding our much hope that I would be able to get a pressure test on my eyes, but got in straight away. 

All was good news, pressures were stable, I was so relieved so I celebrated with a haircut. Five minutes later I was done. It was chop chop and off! 

Chores complete, Mrs A loaded in our next destination to Google Maps, the Broome Bird Observatory. It’s a Not for Profit organisation based in Roebuck Bay, an internationally important research centre examining the many species of birds who use the calm waters of the bay to rest and feed. 

It was a tight fit into the camp spot, but with less stress each time we have to do it, we were soon settled in. Off we headed down to the bay to explore. 

Then we did another walk through pindan (open, waterless bush) that dominates the sand plains of the Western Kimberley.

We saw a variety of birds including honeyeaters, variagated fairy wrens, peaceful doves, woodswallows, friarbirds, bowerbirds, and many shore wading birds on the mudflats slightly too far out to identify…

Looking foward to a dawn twitch – an early night in order. 

Day 37: Wednesday 5 July – A day of rebooting

Author: Mrs A

The day commenced at the Broome Doctors Surgery, following up on my allergy-event. The GP prescribed me a steroid inhaler, more steroids for the next 8 days, an epi-pen to use in an emergency, plus a referral letter to see a specialist when I get to Perth. This is turning into a medical tour of Australia! 

Next on our list was supermarket shopping followed by the all important wine cellar restock. We are disappointed to report that as sophisticated as Broome likes to think it is, its wine selections are pretty limited. But not really that surprised. We are definitely thinking our wine broker will get a call to make a delivery down the track – we are glamping after all!

I then abandoned Mr A for a couple of hours, and went for some pampering – a haircut and pedicure – feel slightly less feral now, and ready to head back into the wooly wilds tomorrow. Meanwhile, Mr A hung out with the already beautiful people down at Cable Beach, lunched and chilled out awaiting my call!

Cocktails and nibbles were next on our agenda as we took our car down on the beach to watch the sunset – freshly cooked prawns, crusty olive bread, sweet cherry tomatoes and Aperol spritzers  were the order of the day.

We watched the camels tour up and down the beach…

And admired the view as the sun set – both over the sea…

And behind us as the moon rose over the sand dunes….

 A pretty special farewell to Cable Beach. Tomorrow we move on – not going too far, just to the other side of Broome to the bird observatory – new adventures and sights await us ahead! 

Day 36: Tuesday 4 July – Cable Beach…fat bike heaven

Author: Mr A

Our day started with a call from the Service Manager at Zone RV (Jackson), we worked through a few minor issues and how we would resolve.  He really has been super helpful. It’s unrealistic to think there wont be something that rattles itself into a frenzy and needs a fix. 

Next was a visit to Broome Toyota, a $2.50 light bulb and a piece of rubber off the end of our side step, the only casualties of the Gibb for our super reliable (touch wood) 200 Series. Sadly our next stop was Tyrepower, I can’t blame the car for the 5 year old Mickey Thompsons showing their age on the sidewalls, and we had to dig deep for a whole new set of tyres….ouch. Going this time for the Coopers, S/T Max. The tyre we had to buy on the Gibb is to be sentenced to the roof basket as a second spare. 

Cable Beach was our next port of call, and as soon as we spied the white sand stretching to the horizon we were hooked. What a stunning place. We sat at a cafe on the beach and by the time I’d smashed down my first iced chocolate, the Broome of yesterday was redeemed. Talk about a different world to downtown. 

After a visit to the fossilised dinosaur footprints….

…we went back and collected the bikes, and launched ourselves down the beach. Awesome….My fatty was very at bike I’m talking about! We rode for miles down this stunning beach before turning round when sunset was in the wings. 

There was a shout from one of the many cars parked on the sand admiring the sunset with a few cold ones, it was some Perth folk we had met at the van park in Derby. We were invited over for beers and bubbles, and watched another spectacular sunset. Marvellous…we just cant speak highly enough of the camaraderie we find on the van parks. 

It’s back to the van now for Thai red curry, with prawns, pumpkin  and broccoli. Matched this evening with what really is (this time!) our last bottle in the “cellar” brought from Sydney. A “Hart of the Barossa”  Limited Release organic Shiraz. It’s from one of the cases left over from my 60th. Donna and Cathy really chose some crackers….thank you if you happen to be reading this. We really do have to go wine shopping tomorrow! 

The evening is perfect with some Eilen Jewell signing her gorgeous melodies in the background. If you haven’t had the listening pleasure check out “Queen of the Minor Key”. Fabulous album, full of sultry blues, and acoustic food for the soul. 

Day 35: 3 July – we make it to the Indian Ocean!

From: Derby, WA

To: Broome, WA

Distance: 227 km

Drive time: 2.5 hours

Author: Mrs A

Let me start by thanking everyone for their concern and thoughts, I’m definitely on the mend now, the drugs are working well.  Still a mystery as to what triggered my allergic reaction but I’m planning to keep taking antihistamines for a while to keep anything else at bay. 

Today we packed up camp, hitched up and continued our journey westwards. We pulled into a car wash on our way into Broome and cleaned off the last of the red dust from the car and van. After unhitching in our next caravan park, we jumped on our bikes and rode into central Broome. 

We had high expectations for Broome. The marketing for the city waxes lyrical about the fabulous facilities, pearl outlets and incredible eateries. Alas, what we found was not quite up to standard (less Coogee/Bronte and more Wollongong). 

I called into the hospital to ask about an epi-pen and was given a list of doctors to call, all of which are fully booked! I shall try  calling again tomorrow. Next on our task list was lunch… the top 3 venues were very busy with 30+ minute wait times, the next down the list were ordinary fast food joints. A visit to Telstra increased our data allowance so we can continue to blog!

Slightly disappointed, we cycled back to camp, picked up a bottle of bubbles and headed over to Gantheaume Point to watch the sun set. Broome slightly redeemed itself with gorgeous views and interesting geological formations. We hope to return at low tide tomorrow to see the fossilised dinosaur footprints in the rocks there. 

We followed this with a chilled out evening watching our latest Netflix addiction, Suits. 

And finally, facts learned via podcasts today:

  • Dogs see three colours in the rainbow
  • Border Collies understand 1000 words
  • Clouds weigh 600 tons+
  • At 70,000ft the sky is black

Day. 34: 2 July – Derby Hospital for Mrs A

Author: Mr A

I note that Mrs A failed to tell the whole story yesterday (she was very tired last night, so forgiven). She awoke in the early hours of yesterday labouring to breathe – we were on a boat, miles from anywhere, and every single breath was a struggle. Her airway had swollen and her face puffy – at first we assumed it was related to her old airway issues, but the swelling was so sudden and severe, we realised it wasn’t.

 Just by chance, she took some Travel Calm tablets to ward of sickness on the flight, and this contained antihistamine – and cleared things up enough so she could get back to Derby safely. Of course, being stubborn, Mrs A refused to visit the hospital after this episode (despite my advice).

So, on to today. The day started, of course, with a 7am visit to Derby Hospital, the only one in the Kimberley. Catherine was still struggling to breathe, so off we went with expectations of long wait times, since it was Derby’s biggest annual event yesterday, the races, so we thought lots of drinking injuries would be sustained. But no…Derby folk must be more restrained than the major Australian cities, it was empty!

We were seen immediately and only waited a few minutes for a doctor to come in. Catherine was given some more medication to try and reduce her swelling. It could be all the dust we have lived in for the last few weeks coming along the Gibb finally took its toll. Who knows, but a pretty serious response all the same.

Smiling here, but unable to complete a sentence. I was enjoying the break!

Anyway after that exciting start to the day, we decided to set about cleaning the van inside and out. Four hours later it was time to cycle down to the sunset again. Our last one in Derby before heading off to Broome tomorrow. 

Back now in the van for a home cooked chicken pad thai, and the last of our bottles of red brought from Sydney. How about that for timing…as Broome will be the first place we will hopefully be able to buy some decent stuff. 

Day 33: 1 July – Boat, plane, bus then bike…back to Derby

Author: Mrs A

After a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs we again mounted our seats in the jet boat to visit the tides, this time turning the other way, rushing through the small gaps between the bays, shortly after sunrise. Such a stunning location, and one everyone visiting was sad to say farewell to. 

For the cost of $25,000 for 5 nights, you and 11 of your friends could stay out here and have a skipper at your beck and call – 5kg of luggage allowed and 30kg of alcohol….anybody keen for an interesting holiday next year…?

The still early morning waters made for some incredible reflections, which were soon ruffled as our skipper sped the jet boat through the race!7.30am we boarded our little sea plane and took off, taking a scenic route back to Derby airport, and returning to camp.

A truly spectacular area, and so interesting to see. Incredibly remote and not another soul to be seen. Up here it is mostly sharks, dugongs, crocodiles and fish – the islands are very rocky and sparse, holding little to no natural water sources of their own. We flew over a barramundi farm, and back into Derby.

We spent the afternoon making plans for the next leg of our trip, before heading down on our bikes to Derby Wharf for dinner and one of the top end’s famous sunsets over the water. 

Day 32: 30 June: Mudflats and horizontal waterfalls

Author: Mr A

Our day started with a dawn cycle across the mudflats that surround Derby. 

Big Bertha, as I call my big old fat bike, loved ploughing through the dried mud that stretched to the horizon. Quite an eerie landscape. 

The sun climbed up once again into a perfect blue sky, and the mud flats glistened. Miles and miles of nothing but caked mud out to the horizon. 

We were soon back and coking up a BBQ brunch as we had to get ready for our big trip out to…the “Horizontal Waterfalls”. Let me explain..Derby has the second highest tidal changes in the Southern Hemisphere, and we had booked a trip out by seaplane to see them up close. We were waiting to board and the pilot asked for a volunteer to be “co-pilot”. I piped up and was in the hot seat. 

We took off and climbed to 5,500 feet and flew out over some of the 1,000 islands that comprise the Bucaneer Archipelago. Between several of these islands there is a tidal race that is called the Horizontal Waterfall, as up to 5 metres of difference in height can exist between the two sides of the race. We flew over and saw the huge volumes of water pouring through the narrow gap. 

We landed on the water, (odd feeling – our first time in a sea plane)  – I kept well away from the controls, and within a few minutes we were transferred to a powerful speedboat and were racing off to the “falls”. This boat was amazing – it took us up to speeds of 120km an hour and tore across the water towards the gap. Wow what an adrelinin rush as we weaved our way through the maelstrom of water. Back and forwards though the gap we raced, bouncing around like a ….well….fly in a cyclone. 

As the sun started dipping it was time to head to our home for the night on this large houseboat. We were offered a swim in a shark tank. Catherine of course was straight in, well someone needed to man the camera and that was me.

The same sharks (Tawny Sharks) have been fed and handled for 10 years, seeming to enjoy the interaction, or more likely associating human noise with being fed chunks of barramundi!

Dinner on the top deck was freshly caught barramundi for us too, just delicious, and there we are in the middle of this huge wilderness of islands, staring up at the stars and feeling very privileged to be here.