Day 45: Back down the peninsula to Broome

Author: Mrs A

From: Cygnet Bay, Dampier Peninsula

To: Broome, WA

Distance: 208 km

Time: 3 hours

I thought I should share our marvellous view of the moon across the low tide mudflats, captured on our walk home to our tent after dinner last night – just magical. They call this the staircase to the moon (though it is more of a ladder) with the moon tinted orange by the bushfire smoke – the local communities are doing a lot of early-season burn offs to prevent late season wildfires, which can be devastating to the wildlife and people in these parts if left unchecked.

We packed up camp and were off on the road by 8am heading back towards Broome. 

We made good time, and decided to call into Bantry Bay on the way back, tempted by its advertised bakery. Unfortunately the advertising was false, and the bakery was no more than a tin hut, where they microwaved frozen Mrs Mac’s pies – yuck! I took a quick look around the church, famous for its mother of pearl decorations, and we moved swiftly on.

We collected our mobile apartment from its storage area and commenced tackling the washing mountain. We then drove into town so I could stock up on fruit and vegetable supplies for the next few days while Mr A made the rather expensive purchase of 5 new tyres for the 4WD, ours being rather cut up by the Gibb River Road, and also nearing 6 years old.

This evening we at out at a local Indian restaurant – delicious curry (with a South Australian Cake Shiraz), and well deserved after our busy afternoon. Its 9.45pm now and I am about to hang out the 9th wash of the day!

 Tomorrow we will finally leave Broome and commence our journey south to adventures new.

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.