Day 44: July 12 – A day around Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm

Author: Mr A

We got up to watch the dawn break over King Sound, the massive tide is out, making for this stunning photo by the very talented Mrs A…

We wandered along the mangroves, the first people making footprints in the sand this morning. 

The bird life was prolific.

Back to camp for  a bacon and egg extravaganza, then off in the car to explore the next community along the peninsula, One Arm Point. Another place where you paid to enter, the locals trying to raise some cash to fund projects. Didn’t begrudge them $15 a head – for that we got to look around a local display of marine life, with a fascinating story board built by the local kids explaining about their history as a people. It won second prize in a national competition. The vibe up here in the local communities is very positive, still plenty of issues, but plenty of success stories compared to some other areas we have seen. 

We went down to the local beach, kilometres of brilliant white sand..again…cyrstal clear water that you just have to plunge into and feel so good to be alive, doing something people have done here for at least 40,000 years. The tide races in and we pack up to return to the pearl farm we are staying at for a talk by one of the staff.

Terry introduced himself as being from the Bardi Jaewi people, even though his great grandfather was a white English pearler (with three Aborignal wives!), and proceeded to enthrall us with a story of his life growing up here, and how life has changed for him and his people with the coming of missionaries in the early 1800s, then the pearling industry. It was a window into a world so different from our own. The best part of travel. 

Day 43: 11 July – Joining the clique in Cape Leveque

Author: Mrs A

From: Middle Lagoon, Dampier Pennisular

To: Cygnet Bay, Cape Leveque

We awoke with the sun and packed up our tent, taking our car up to the picnic benches with the best view in Australia to cook up bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast. Middle Lagoon was like a turquoise millpond, hardly a ripple and a fabulous sight. We definitely could have spent a lot longer here. 

We set off after breakfast, pausing to change a fuse which had blown our car fridge (putting our cold beers in jeopardy – but thankfully easily fixed) and then continuing on. We headed north up the Dampier Pennisular, aiming for the Aboriginal community of Lombardina. This quiet community is extremely neat and tidy, famous for its 1930s church and the incredible beach. We paid our $10 visiting fee (basically pays to use their air compressor and brings in some much needed cash to the community) and set off to explore. The church is quite interesting in its architecture, built from mangroves, tin and local trees – and much of the 1930s furniture still in use:

But the highlight of the area is definitely its beach. We had to let down the tyres even more to get through the sand dunes, but it was all worthwhile when we reached the paradise on the other side – wow!

We set up the awning on the car, and leaped into the bay for a swim. – crystal clear waters, sand so soft it felt like velvet underfoot, and hardly another soul to be seen. 

We spent a good couple of hours here before packing up and heading on to our ultimate destination, Cygnet Bay. As we left the beach, Mr A was pleased to have the chance to use our recovery gear (the Max-Trax) to help rescue a family who had become bogged in the sand (in their Toyota Sahara – the ‘ultimate’ 4WD?!) – together with an Aboriginal local, they were pulled out of their pit and soon on their way.

Cygnet Bay is a working pearl farm – one of only about four still operating in this part of Australia, having been in the same family for over 70 years. The last 7 years have seen it opening its doors to tourism, which is more ‘farmstay’ than luxury. We found our campsite and set up the tent. For the first time in a long while we actually have space to ourselves, lots of room around us and no direct neighbours – much more like luxury bush camping than anything. 

We are footsteps from Cygnet Bay itself – with more luxuriously warm crystal clear waters just ripe for swimming in (of course we obliged!) and powerful hot showers provided another 50 metre walk away. Lots of sand around here though (Eveliene – you’d hate it – or have to wear boots constantly!).

We drove up to the homestead restaurant for their happy hour and sunset – a chance to try the local Broome brew – Matso’s – one with ginger beer and one with mango. Much more Mr A’s taste than mine – a bit too sweet for me. 

Dinner tonight has been a spicy chilli with rice, accompanied by an average WA red wine, another of Mr A’s Broome purchases!

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