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. 

Day 31: 29 June – Derby – the day of a million washes

Author: Mrs A

Well, sadly not every day can be adorned with beautiful birdlife and stunning scenery, one must clean up at some point. Today was that day…and we’re not quite there yet!

The first wash in our 2kg washing machine went on at 7am, and we pretty much chain washed (each wash is 36 minutes) until 4pm this afternoon….someone with more energy than I can do the maths on how many washes that worked out to be, but it was a lot, I can tell you! 

Mr A also spent the day turning our Landcruiser and two mountain bikes from red dusty dirty things to modes of transport we can safely use without turning ourselves red.

Yesterday afternoon we were very excited to see another ZoneRV pull into the caravan park – the first one we’ve seen on the road. So we spent the morning comparing notes with the lovely Vonda and Greg from country Victoria – who proceeded to help us fix up a couple of little issues we’d had after those hundreds of kilometres of corrugations. There’s bound to be something work loose – and we escaped lightly compared to many we’ve met. Again we are loving meeting people on the road who otherwise we would never cross paths with. Just lovely people. We are seeing a very different side of Australians – and they aren’t all grey either!

I note there has been a request or two to know where on the planet we are right now, so I have produced a map showing our route to date – we have gone from east to west, and now we see sunsets over the water instead of sun rises! 

Now preparing for roast potatoes and fresh barramundi on the BBQ with a pea purée…back to home cooking tonight. Mr A is selecting a wine from our ever depleting cellar….

We’ll be off line tomorrow as we are spending the night on a boat out at the horizontal falls – more adventures ahead! 

Day 30: 28 June – Windjana Gorge and back to “civilisation” 

Author: Mr A

We absolutely loved our walk last night into the gorge – so it was up at dawn and in again – this time armed with bacon and egg wraps and a thermos of herbal tea. Very civilised. Even the crocs looked jealous. 

Then it was pack up the van (so easy!) and off to Derby. We were counting down to hitting the bitumen – first time for a couple of weeks – and mixed feelings about getting phone reception back. We knew there would be much to sort out after being offline for 10 days.  As it turned out, the world had pretty much carried on turning without us. Amazing really…

We rocked up at our caravan park in Derby and queued along the road outside to check in (it’s Australia’s last great wilderness, remember?) and got ourselves a lovely big site right near the front of the park. There’s more than two hundred sites here – so probably over 5/600 people. And they aren’t all grey….Catherine for instance is turning blond…not grey…she’s not amused as her gorgeous brunette hair lightens in the sun…I look on and smile…

We booked a table down on the wharf a 5 minute drive away and watched our first sunset over the ocean in Western Australia…finally it dawns that we have driven to across a continent. Feels pretty good. The lovely Mrs A chose the snapper and chips, and I went for the MASSIVE PORK RIBS! OMG – they were huge – so big I immediately lost 50% to my dinky wife and got in return a very small piece of fish. Not a good trade for me. This was our first BYO place since Sydney so we were excited to take our Saperavi from Gapsted Wines in the Victorian high country – a fabulous drop we think. 

With an enormous sunset flooding the sky all is again good with the world. 

Day 27: Mornington Wilderness Camp – Sir John Gorge

Distance: 28km return

Total drive time: 2 hours

Author: Mrs A

Apparently today was Sunday, though we have totally lost track of days of the week, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter! We had a slower start to the day and headed off around 10am to Sir John Gorge, one of the major attractions on the Fitzroy River. Each of the drives throughout the Mornington Wilderness is accompanied by an information book, full of facts and details of the environment we are travelling through. 

Today we learned about the importance of the termites, and how they are responsible for aerating the soils and the breaking down of plant matter, and the damage that feral animals do – particularly donkeys and cattle which trample the soil solid, meaning the delicate ecosystem can no longer maintain roots and plant life, thereby impacting all animals and birds as a result. It’s certainly a harsh environment here – 7 months of ‘dry’ when there is no rainfall, followed by 5 months of extremely hot temperatures and heavy rains (accompanied by high humidity and lots of mosquitoes) and the flora and fauna are well adapted to cope with it, assuming things are not interfered with.

Sir John Gorge was certainly peaceful and very picturesque. We rock hopped along the shore, spotting bird life and admiring the views, but the water didn’t look that inviting to swim in, despite the hot day. There is a plastic canoe you can  paddle here for the princely sum of $185! It is not a big gorge – this seems a bit of a poor deal, and definitely not worth the money, no matter the good cause it goes to! We pretty much had the place to ourselves the whole time, rare for The Kimberley!

We stayed a couple of hours before driving back towards camp, detouring at a waterhole called Bluebush. This was much prettier (as opposed to majestic), sandy beaches surrounded by paper bark trees and pandanus palms and teeming in bird life. It is about 6km down the Fitzroy River from the previous gorge. We lay in the shade beside the water watching the rainbow bee-eaters swooping and diving and trying the photograph the crimson finches which nested in the palms, and I scared a crocodile into jumping into the water on one of my explorations.

We returned to camp to make a hot chilli accompanied by a baked garlic damper on the BBQ, before an earlyish night.

Day 29: And it’s the final day on the Gibb!

Location: Silent Grove to Windjama Gorge

Distance: 136km

Time: 3 hrs 15 mins

Author: Mrs A

We left our crowded camp at 7am, eager to put the crowds behind us and get back on the road. It had been a sticky hot night and we hadn’t slept that well, despite retiring early.

Soon we were back on the Gibb, heading west towards our final destination, Windjama Gorge. There we found a great camp spot and unhitched. After some brunch, we jumped back in the car and drove to Tunnel Creek, about another 33km further along the road.

Tunnel Creek sees a 1km stretch of limestone hollowed out by the creek over thousands of years, making for an interesting underground walk, through water and surrounded by bats by torch light. It was certainly a novelty and an interesting hike, but rather busy with tour groups and families enjoying the ‘adventure’. 

We headed back to Windjama and headed off on a walk from camp. Much more spectacular. The gorge surrounding our campsite is spectacular – huge black pillars, quite unlike the red sandstone we have seen along the Gibb, and bringing forth thoughts of Mordor and Game of Thrones.

We hiked for about 6km in total, enjoying a real walk along real paths, rather than rock hopping. The Lennard River which flows through the gorge only during the wet season, is now a series of waterholes, teeming with fish and many freshwater crocodiles. It was not hard to see these crocs, they were everywhere!

The sun dropped low in the sky as we completed our walk, making for some great views and photographic opportunities, and then we headed back to the mobile apartment for hot showers and cocktails as the sun set. A lovely evening, fitting for the end of this leg of our trip – tomorrow we head back into civilisation and mobile reception – finally we can Google our burning questions and do some research for the next stage! We are also looking forward to getting things fixed (a few things that have rattled loose along the way) and removing the red dust from our possessions!

Day 28: 26 June: A perfect setting for a swim, and creativity in the kitchen…

Distance driven: 147km

Time:  3.5 hours

Author: Mr A

We packed up this morning and tackled the 2 hour drive out of the Mornington Wilderness, reflecting on what a great experience it had been to stay there. A quick top up of diesel at the Imintji Road House, $2’s a litre (ouch – but cheaper than they last fill! Two apples and a pallett of strawberries were procured, as our first fresh veg we’ve seen for weeks), and we were soon pullling up at the Slient Grove campground. This was where we left the van and headed up the short track to Bell Gorge, a short walk/rock hop (Kimberley classic walking track) and a climb down to an amazing swimming hole complete with a perfect waterfall framing the view.

We are privileged to be in these wonderful places. I can’t help but always wonder for how long humans have been swimming here and feeling the same simple pleasure. The latest estimate would say from the last Ice Age, around 50,000 years. Have we changed that much over those years in how we feel about taking a plunge in such a beautiful place? 

Back at the van its a lovely shower in the en suite and a vodka, soda and fresh lime al fresco, with the left over garlic damper from last night. Dinner followed…how about this…a chicken jalfrezi with a “Kimberley Aloo”. Now you might not find that on your local curry house menu, but after 3 weeks down the Gibb and no access to fresh supplies one needs to improvise. So the only fresh veg left at this point was kumera, and the freezer had some frozen peas, so in a unusually inspired moment I suggested a variant on Bombay aloo (peas and potato in a curry sauce). Mrs A being the wonder cook that she is, excited on this grand design and there it was on the plate…awesome. A Chocksotne Shiraz from the Grampians stood up nicely to the power of the spices. Dessert will be the strawberries bought today and some dairy free ice cream from the freezer. Who could want for more?

Interjection from Mrs A: 

Kimberley Aloo Recipe (serves 2-3)

Kumera (sweet potatoes) x 2

1 tsp turmeric 

1 tsp garam masala

1tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp chilli powder (more to taste)

1 tsp cornflour

2 bay leaves (fresh, dried or frozen ok – we had frozen)

250 ml/1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

  • Boil a pan of water and add potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes
  • Meanwhile mix up spices, stock and cornflour in a separate bowl
  • Drain potatoes
  • Add spice mix and peas
  • Cook up, stirring regularly
  • Once sauce thickened, serve.