Monthly Archives: August 2022

Day 86 – Thursday, 18 August 2022

We pulled out of the Sandfire Roadhouse at 8:40am with the temperature sitting on 28 degrees. When we woke up this morning there was a blustery wind blowing from the south-east so we may find

our fuel economy is affected somewhat. However, we both agreed that a windy day had happened only a few times on this trip, and we have been very lucky. This is one of the disadvantages of booking ahead that you need to travel even when the weather does not co-operate with you, but we are much happier (and less anxious) knowing we have a booking ahead of us rather than winging it.

It will be interesting to see the economy figure when we next fuel up. Vince always told us that BP had the best diesel for the vehicle, but Bruce has told us that up here the BP is not as effective.

Very early this morning – like 5:30am early – we were all woken up by an extremely noisy butcherbird who would not shut up. He went on for a long time. Russ was able to go back to sleep, but unfortunately, I only managed to doze.

Yesterday evening I got very excited by an email from the Australian Taxation Office saying they had paid me my unclaimed Superannuation into my account. It was a bit of a let down when I went in to check – a whole $6.45!

So far, up to this morning we have travelled a total of 9243 kilometres which includes all travel both with, and without, the van. And we still have so much further to go.

Most of the vegetation today was grassland with bushes, only a few trees, and most of those were small ones, until we came to a patch of beautiful ghost gums about 60 kilometres from Port Hedland. There were even a couple growing in a dry riverbed in the Strelley River East.

There was a steady flow of traffic heading towards the north today, however, we were not overtaken by many at all. Perhaps the wind had something to do with it.

Along the roadside we are starting to see flashes of colour among the bushes, which is very encouraging for sightings of wildflowers.

For most of today’s travel we have been heading in a westerly direction with an occasional turning to the south-west. Due to the strong wind, we have not seen a lot of birdlife as most of them have been hunkering down in the trees.

By 10:00am the temperature had reached 28 degrees, and when we came into Port Hedland it was sitting on 32 degrees. We are actually staying at a caravan park in South Hedland as all other parks tried were fully booked out. This place is very big, and they are doing massive renovations all around the park.

The park has been modernised in some areas already, and this includes the laundry near us which now has new front-loading washers and dryers, and they only take credit cards. It is so much easier with the tap on bit, and no need to carry lots of one and two dollar coins around in your pocket.

We passed a dead brown snake on the road which was very squashed (the way I prefer them even if it is politically incorrect to say so).

After Pardoo Roadhouse the terrain we travelled could only be described as hummocky. We also began to encounter several dry riverbeds.

It has been interesting to note that human beings can’t help themselves when it comes to interfering with nature, particularly when it comes to termite mounds. Throughout South Australia and the Northern Territory the termite mounds were dressed in t-shirts. In Western Australia the custom seems to be hard hats. Fascinating to see that they are slowly being covered by fresh mounding.

We arrived in South Hedland around 1:00pm. The ladies in Reception were a delight and promptly handed over our parcel that had been delivered and was waiting for us to pick it up. We have our own ice machine!

I had to wait until after Russ had his sleep before I could try it out but spent the waiting time reading the instruction manual. A full ice bucket took 2 hours, but it is pretty cool to watch.

I took advantage of the wonderful sunshine and did two loads of washing of clothes, got them out on the line and dried in just over two hours.

Port Hedland has the reputation of being the resource hub of Australia, and is also home to a wealth of nature, culture and history.

From Redbank Bridge Lookout you can see the Rio Tinto Dampier Salt Piles which is a unique icon of the town, and you can watch the ore carriers in the world’s biggest export tonnage port from Marapikurrinya Park. The ore trains go through every twenty minutes and are sooooo long.

At the world’s largest bulk-export port colossal loaders dump tonnes upon tonnes of ore into enormous ships across 19 berths from the biggest open-cut iron ore mines anywhere ever. At dusk the setting sun lights up a horizon lined with hulking cargo ships, car dumpers and bucket wheel reclaimers. Everything here is BIG.

From May to September, you can spot turtles and dolphins from the viewing platform at Cemetery Beach.

Port Hedland (Kariyarra: Marapikurrinya) is the second largest town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with an urban population of 14,320 at June 2018 including the satellite town of South Hedland, 18 kilometres away.

At the 2011 census, South Hedland had a population of 9,375. It contains Hedland Senior High School.

The Commonwealth Government’s 1960 decision to lift an embargo on iron ore exports led to the rapid expansion of mining in the Pilbara and the creation of several new towns, including South Hedland.

The original design of the South Hedland townsite was inspired by the Radburn principles. Four residential neighbourhoods where to cluster around a commercial core connected by parkways and pedestrian connections.

Following the completion of the first neighbourhood the design was considered a failure by residents and government authorities and abandoned in 1974, although it has continued to shape the overall town layout to the present day.

Port Hedland is also the site of the highest tonnage port in Australia. It has a natural deep anchorage harbour which, as well as being the main fuel and container receival point for the region, was seen as perfect for shipment of the iron ore being mined in the ranges located inland from the town.

The ore is moved by railway from four major iron ore deposits to the east and south of the Port Hedland area. The port exported 519,408,000 tonnes (1.1 trillion pounds) of iron ore (2017–2018).

Other major resource activities supported by the town include the offshore natural gas fields, salt, manganese, and livestock. Major deposits of lithium are being developed and exploited south of the town as well.

Grazing of cattle and sheep was formerly a major revenue earner for the region, but this has slowly declined. Port Hedland was also formerly the terminus for the WAGR Marble Bar Railway, which serviced the gold mining area of Marble Bar from July 1911 until closure on 31 October 1951.

The locomotive from the Port Hedland to Marble Bar rail service is now preserved at the Kalamunda Historical Village in the south of the state. Located between Port Hedland and South Hedland are the large salt hills of Dampier Salt, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. These large mounds have almost become a tourist attraction in their own right.

The coastline in the area was seen by European mariners as early as 1628, when the Dutch merchant ship Vianen, captained by Gerrit Franszoon de Witt visited.

Swedish-born mariner Peter Hedland was the first European to note the harbour’s existence and the possibility of using it as a port. He arrived in the area in April 1863 on board his boat Mystery, which he had built himself at Point Walter on the banks of the Swan River.

He named the harbour Mangrove Harbour and reported that it would make a good landing site with a well-protected harbour, and that there was also fresh water available.

However, the port was initially regarded as unusable, due to a sandbar that frequently sealed the entrance and thick mangroves around the shore; further, the narrow entrance made the harbour difficult to enter in bad weather.

Later in 1863, government surveyor Joseph Beete Ridley examined Mangrove Harbour while exploring the country between Nicol Bay and the Fitzroy River, describing it as “an excellent anchorage and perfectly landlocked”.

He named it Port Hedland after the master of Mystery. Ridley located a firm landing place above the mangroves, and a practicable stockroute from there to the De Grey River.

In September 1895, Cossack residents requested the of the headland at Port Hedland in order to establish a town and requested that the Government build a jetty.

In 1896, the Port Hedland town site was surveyed and in October 1896, the town site was gazetted.

By 1905, the Roads Board had made considerable improvements to the roads and streets. In 1909 port facilities were built, and in 1911 a rail link to Marble Bar commenced operation.

On 30 July 1942 the town was bombed by the Japanese, killing one soldier at the local airfield. Perhaps they were searching for Corunna Downs, a secret air force base.

By 1946, approximately 150 people lived in the area.

The population of the town in 1968 was about 3,000 people.

In 2021, the population was 4,253 people.

Goldsworthy Mining developed an iron ore mine approximately 100 kilometres east of Port Hedland in the early 1960s and built the towns of Goldsworthy and later Shay Gap as mine sites. A rail line was then built to Port Hedland, where dredging was undertaken to deepen and widen

the port’s channel, and a wharf was built opposite the township of Port Hedland on Finucane Island. Shipment of ore began on 27 May 1966, when the Harvey S. Mudd sailed from Port Hedland to Japan with 24,900 tonnes of ore.

In 1967, iron ore was discovered at Mount Whaleback, and a mining venture was undertaken that included the establishment of a new town, Newman. 426 km of rail from the mine to the port was built and development of processing equipment at both Newman and Port Hedland was carried out.

In 1986, at a cost of $87 million, the existing channel was dredged to allow larger ships to enter the port. Prior to dredging, the port was only able to load vessels of less than 2,000 tonnes, but today it is able to accommodate ships over 250,000 tonnes.

In 2013, finance was being raised for yet another iron ore mine, railway and port, this time for the Roy Hill project, which required a 344 km railway.

With the neighbouring ports of Port Walcott and Dampier, Port Hedland is one of three major iron ore exporting ports in the Pilbara region.

In 1991, an immigration detention facility was opened to deal with the arrival of boat people seeking asylum. Port Hedland was seen as a good location, as it is in an area where many asylum seekers arriving by boat were entering Australia, and it had an international airport that would allow for easy deportations when required.

The detention centre, situated on the beach front, was formerly a single-men’s quarters for Mount Newman Mining Co. The centre was privatised by the first Howard Ministry in the late 1990s, and it was closed in 2004 due to the falling number of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia’s north-west.

The town mayor called for the federal government to allow the town to use the detention centre to accommodate the many new mine workers needed for the town’s mining boom. A lack of accommodation made it difficult for companies to operate efficiently, as they were unable to house staff or consultants within the town’s small number of hotels. The centre is now operating as the Beachfront Village.

In October 2019 the state government announced an Improvement Plan would be imposed over the West End of Port Hedland. The purpose of the plan was to prohibit all future residential development due to the health impacts caused by dust levels generated by Port activities.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the Western Pilbara, including Port Hedland is the sunniest place in Australia; being the only place to record an annual average of more than 10 hours a day of sunshine.

Day 85 – Wednesday, 17 August 2022

We had packed everything away and were leaving the caravan park at 8:40am. We travelled to the shopping complex where the chemist was and, like numerous caravans before us, parked on the red dirt in the empty lot whose sign read “No Entry”.

I had just started writing notes for the diary when two other caravans pulled onto the allotment also. Even as early in the morning as we were, the joint was jumping.

While sitting in the car at the shopping complex a man knocked on the driver’s side window and scared the daylight out of me. He wanted to let us know that one of the stabilisers had not retracted all the way up. I thanked him for the message and Russ fixed it when he came back to the car with his tablets.

This morning the air is very hazy, and it is humid, as it was throughout most of the night. I woke up at 2:30am with a very itchy sandfly bite on my hand. I out some Betadine on it and when I looked out the window, I could hardly see the lights from the wharf and jetty areas.

When we woke up there was a lot of beaded moisture on all the flat surfaces, and when I removed the chocks from the caravan wheels I received a very cold shower, compliments of the awning.

We finally drove out of Broome at 8:55am. Along the trees at the side of the road we could see where the dew/fog had collected on the orb spider webs strung between the trees and bushes. (Stef, you would not have walked anywhere near them.) We had good shoulders on the road and could safely pull over to get a photo of the phenomenon.

At 9:15am the sun broke through the haze for about 30 seconds, and once more for good two minutes later. We then had fluffy clouds in the blue sky. The temperature was 24 degrees.

By 9:25am we had turned south off Broome Road and back onto the Great Northern Hwy once more, and there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky anywhere. The rest of the day was bright sunshine.

Vegetation is still changing as we travel. There were patches of small trees, but they grew so close together that there was little to no understory.

We then entered Roebuck Plains and the trees disappeared to be replaced by short yellow and green grasses. It was about this time that we had a celebration in the car with multiple hand clapping and high fives. I managed to get a shot of a pair of brolgas. It wasn’t a particularly good shot from the moving vehicle, but it is good enough for identification purposes so Russ can now tick Brolga off his to-do birds for a confirmed sighting.

For a short period of time as we crossed the Plains, we had no shoulders on the road, and thankfully we didn’t pass the loaded cattle train until we had them back again. However, as the truck passed us, we got cattle pee on the windscreen and needed to use the wipers quickly.

We stopped to stretch our legs at a truck parking area, and just as we were getting back on the highway, I saw a flower. Russ pulled over once more and I got some good shots, but the flower is yet to be identified.

Western Australia is slowly incorporating the indigenous names of places in the state along with the European counterpart. It reminds me of Eastern Canada where, by law, all notices and place names must be displayed in both English and French.

By 11:30am we passed the turn off for Frazier Downs Station and the temperature was 31 degrees. The countryside had changed to bushland with big patches of green spinifex.

Hornet ticked over the 9500-kilometre mark on the odometer on the A Trip Meter today.

We pulled into the Stanley Rest Area for more leg stretches and were surprised to find a large area well away from the highway, well set up with plenty of parking spots for camping (24 hours allowed), and a dump point of which we took advantage while we were there.

We waved to the many people who were already set up for the night as we left and got back on the highway once more.

Along the next stretch of the journey, we encountered an extensive area of small trees overgrown with snotty gobble. I have no idea how it got its name, which meant I needed to do some investigation.

Apparently, “it is a native parasitic plant that looks like green string and is covered in goo.” It shows promise as a potential biological control agent for some of our introduced weeds. Its correct name is Cassytha pubescens – so, now we all know.

It is a member of the Laurel family and has many common names – devil’s twine, downy dodder-laurel and snotty gobble. It is widespread and common in south-eastern Australia. (I think they may have to change that as it is present here in quite large areas.)

The road surface today was in excellent condition. We were overtaken by a vehicle with a slogan on the back which we both thought was terrific. “Don’t count the days, Make the days count!” Pretty spot on.

BY 12:55pm the temperature was 33 degrees and got as high as 36 degrees by the end of the day when we reached Sandfire Roadhouse.

The closer we got to the roadhouse, the smaller the bushes became along the roadside. During our travel today we have seen, on two separate occasions, feral cats slinking across the road with whistling kites circling in the air. It must be a horrible, short life for those felines through no fault of their own, but on the other hand, I think of all our native birds and animals that fall victim to the feral cats.

About 20 kilometres out from Sandfire the vegetation turned into flat plains on both sides of the road, and we could see for miles (or kilometres, as the case may be).

When we pulled into the roadhouse it was to a scene of controlled chaos. There were vehicles of every description parked where they could find a spot, and that included in front of the fuel bowser even though they did not want fuel. There were a few short tempers about.

We had no problems getting a site with power and water, but there were only a few left when we parked. There were some spaces for those who were prepared to free camp in the park area.

We unhitched the van and set up quickly, turned the air conditioner on and returned to the front to fuel up. Diesel here is at $2.50 a litre.

I rang the vet and paid for Solly’s nail clipping as soon as we had coverage, and then called Brett to get his footy tips for the last time as we do not do tipping in the finals.

Robert’s operation is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Richmond Epworth in Melbourne, and young Jacquab has tested positive to Ross River Fever and is off work for the moment.

The evening was mild with a gentle breeze flowing into the van. Our next-door neighbours had the very smallest van I have ever seen. It was low to the ground, and only could fit a bed and some cupboard inside, while the back of it lifted up to provide a small area for kitchen purposes. Russ and I would never have fitted in it at all. (I should have taken a photo but didn’t think of it in time and they had left early the next morning.)

Day 84 – Tuesday, 16 August 2022

We had leisurely showers and then hit the road about 9:00am. First, we headed down to Gantheaume Point in search of dinosaur footprints in the rocks.

The area around Broome is one of the richest sites, and boasts one of the most varied collections, of dinosaur footprints in the world. Very few places have more than three different types, but Broome has more than nine different types. We didn’t get to see any, unfortunately, because the tide was in.

The first detailed scientific study of footprints was published in 1967 in the Journal of the Royal Society of WA and was written by Dr Edwin H Colbert and Duncan Merrilees.

Among the best-preserved footprints are a group of ten near the lighthouse on Gantheaume Point. The footprints were made by theropod dinosaurs and believed to be Megalosaurus, however, the exact identity of the dinosaur is not known and could have been made by allosaurs.

The size of the footprint indicates that the track maker was about 2 metres high to its hip, but there is not enough evidence to estimate the length. Theropod dinosaurs were bipedal (two feet) and walked on their hind legs, their forelimbs being relatively small with three-fingered hand bearing hook-like claws for seizing prey.

Other footprints near Broome were made by ornithopods – two-legged plant eaters – and thyreophorans, similar to the stegosaurus, which walked on all fours and had bony armour of spikes, studs and plates.

Also at Gantheaume Point is the Broome Lighthouse. Since the early days of Broome’s settlement, the lighthouse has warned passing ships of the rocky and treacherous coast.

The first lighthouse was installed in 1905 and was fuelled by kerosene. It was a temporary light on a tripod that was previously used at South Mole in Fremantle. But the fixed light was considered dangerous by seamen as they could not distinguish it from the light of a stationary ship.

A new oscillating (flashing) light was installed in 1906. Even though this was an improvement, the light would flash intermittently and, on one occasion at 10:00pm on 27 January 1909, it stopped working altogether.

In 1910 a new lighthouse was constructed which began operating on 11 May. It was a 30-foot tower which housed a more powerful lamp. Although it revolved at 7.5 seconds – faster than the 10 seconds it was supposed to do – this was not a problem because there were no other lights in the area. It was built at a cost of 1,000 pounds.

The 1910 lighthouse operated until 1962 when a new tower was constructed, and then demolished in 1985.

The present lighthouse was erected in 1983. It is a stainless-steel lattice tower that is 27 metres high. It operates mainly from electricity and flashes every 10 seconds.

A lighthouse keeper’s house was built at the time of the first lighthouse in 1905 and was used until the lighthouse was automated in 1922.

The first private owner of the lighthouse keeper’s residence was Irishman Patrick Percy, a flamboyant character known for wearing

diamonds in his shirtfront. He bought the house in 1922 when the lighthouse was automated, and a lighthouse keeper no longer required.

Patrick arrived in Broome in 1896 as a police constable, but soon became the proprietor of the Roebuck Hotel. In 1905 he became a pearling master and quickly built up a fleet of eight luggers and the schooner Gwendoline.

For a time, he served as Chairman of the Broome Roads Board and was noted for his invention of the ‘pearl box’ – a safety box for storing pearls on luggers while at sea.

A cloud of mystery surrounds his history prior to his arrival in Broome. There are reports that he was confronted one evening at Sun Pictures by a visiting couple, one of whom claimed to be his legal wife. A sum of money is believed to have been exchanged.

Other reports suggest that he had been involved in a murder in Ireland and that his name was, in fact, Sullivan.

Patrick built Anastacia’s Pool for his arthritic wife. It was a natural rock pool that sat on a ledge near the house, and the sea would break on the ledge during Spring tides, keeping the pool clean.

Patrick had one of his crewmen, assisted by his gardener, to concrete the surrounds of the pool so that Anastacia could sit in the saltwater exercising her stiffening limbs. Anastacia died in 1929 at 53 years old, and Patrick died in 1931.

Then we Googled the way to The Broome Observatory and headed out of town. Well, Google hasn’t been updated and we ended up in a dead-end street because they have closed the Google road to traffic.

So, back to Broome Road we went and continued further out of town. We passed the roadworks upgrading the Cape Leveque Road up to the Dampier Peninsula – the newest area to be opened and classified as the ‘Must See’ destination in the outback.

While preparing for the massive roundabout and subsequent road upgrade they have removed many of the signposts that were originally there to direct traffic to places. One of those signs removed was the warning sign for the turn off to the Observatory. Naturally enough, we went straight past it and had to do a U-turn.

The track is not a tarred surface. It is a bulldust track, which is a fine, soft and powdery red aeolian dust that is common across Australia, especially in the Outback and desert. Bulldust is a type of fugitive dust that when disturbed can have dangerous effects.

Bulldust forms when the road surface loses cohesion and breaks up into individual dust particles. It is most likely to occur in dry areas, or after long dry spells. If you notice the road surface up ahead is different from what you’re used to, then take extreme care. The road ahead would have noticeable, soft folds in a slightly depressed section, and the tyre tracks through it lose definition and become v-shaped troughs – that is bulldust. Many an accident has occurred in these conditions, mainly from overconfidence on the part of the driver.

We travelled over this track for 15 kilometres before arriving at the Bird Observatory. Once parked in the main car parking area we followed the walking track to the bird observation and viewing platform where we were majorly disappointed. We found a pelican, several seagulls, and two fishermen in a boat.

We went back to the car parking area and stopped for a look at the Discovery Centre, which was very interesting. They have a display that allows you to measure how far you could fly in 60 seconds if you had wings.

Your feet go on the bird feet in front of a mirror display area. You are encouraged to have a practice before pressing the count-down button. It was exhausting work!!! (and Russ is still complaining about his stiff and sore shoulder muscles).

The record for the day stood at 4258 metres, Russ managed 2168 metres and I only got a measly 1456 metres in the sixty seconds allowed.

Upon leaving the area we found an enormous patch of Sturt Desert Peas in bloom. They are a magnificent display of colour.

We headed back along the red bulldust road and decided it was time for lunch so proceeded back to the caravan park. We took the opportunity of downloading all the photos we had taken for the morning.

The chemist did not ring Russ until late in the afternoon so we will pick up his script tomorrow morning on the way out of Broome.

About 5:30pm we drove over to Cable Beach to see the sunset that everyone raves about. We were there with another hundred or so people who also came to see the sight.

We reckon it was a worthwhile exercise, especially as there were some clouds in the sky to provide diffraction of the light, and a sailing boat crossed in front of the sunset for some great shots. We couldn’t have asked for a better scene even if we had organised it ourselves.

We chased an open BP Service Station and ended up with Shell. The unmanned BP one kept telling us that the EFT Gateway was closed, so we assumed that the staff had not made any arrangement for after-hours fuelling before heading home themselves.

Back at the van we discovered another person holding an open-air concert. He was no where near as entertaining as the previous occupant of the stage had been.

With Russell’s help with the tripod mounting, I set up the camera for some night-time shots of the wharf and jetty from near our site at the caravan park. It will be interesting to see how/if they turn out

Day 83 – Monday, 15 August 2022

It cooled down once the sun disappeared, and we both had a good night’s sleep. We lounged around while slowly getting our act together and then headed out to do our jobs.

The Pharmacy was our first stop, and this one didn’t have enough tablets in store to fill Russ’ script either. They have told us that the next supply run is due in tomorrow morning and will ring him when they have dispensed the script ready for pick up.

We then went and picked up our replacement Toner cartridge from Office National, before going around the corner to Bunnings where I purchased a new broom because the broom, I have at the moment is useless. Russ also grabbed a replacement cap for his plumbing pipe that houses the wastewater hoses in sections.

Then on to the Information Centre. We did not find much about Broome activities other than ones you have to pay for, but we did pick up quite a bit of literature for the places ahead of us, so it was a good stop. The Hop-on, Hop-off bus is a possibility for tomorrow.

We then went into Woolworths to pick up some groceries and water, and then onto the BP service station for some ice (Bruce, we are missing your ice machine!)

While Russ slept, I finished typing up the diary entries and then went out to put some rubbish in the bin. I saw lots of raptors weaving around the mangroves swamp area just on the seashore over the fence from our site, so grabbed my camera – 410 photos later I know have some more work in front of me, but I think I got a sea eagle flying, and a whistling kite being bombarded by a smaller bird – fingers crossed.

Day 82 – Sunday, 14 August 2022

We got up about 8:30am and packed everything ready to move off on our next leg of the journey, but I left the power connected for the fridge.

We then took off at 9:34 am back to the wharf to see the difference fourteen hours of tidal movement would make to the wharf area. We

took before and after photos, so to speak. Yesterday afternoon the tide was still almost full and had just started to recede. This morning the mud flats were bare of water and the tide was still receding.

Back at the caravan park and we hitched Shadow onto Hornet and were headed out of town by 9:50am. The temperature had already reached 30 degrees by then.

I told the chauffeur he was not doing his job properly as the windscreen was very dirty. It is difficult to get the camera to focus outside the vehicle when moving if there are spots on the screen. Very blurry shots. And I am vertically challenged so I cannot reach the entire windscreen even using my trusty stool to do the job

After downloading all the photographs last night, I have so much more information to share about Derby and its history.

In the 1920s and 30s leprosy spiralled throughout the northwest of Western Australia, spreading rapidly among the Aborigine people. In 1936 the government opened the Leprosarium which operated for fifty years until 1986.

Thousands of Aborigine people were relocated to the Bungarun (leprosarium) and treated for leprosy. Tragically, at least 357 died and are buried there.

While it was a place of displacement and isolation, with the support and care of the Sisters of St John of God, the facility was also a place where music, art, culture and healing were shared.

The Boab Prison Tree has a gruesome history. Before Derby was established in 1883, Aboriginal people were kidnapped from the West Kimberley. The kidnappers were known as Blackbirders, and were settlers connected with the pearling industry, and they wanted divers and workers for the boats.

The Blackbirders rounded up people, put them in chains, and marched them to the coast. Some of these kidnapped people were probable held at the Boab Prison Tree while they waited for the boats to arrive.

Early pastoralists helped the Blackbirders because they believed that removing the young men would guarantee peaceful behaviour from the older people left behind.

The Aboriginal people resisted, and a settler named Anthony Cornish, was killed in December 1882. Police then came from Roeburne and took more people away.

By 1887, the government had built a gaol in Derby about five kilometres from the Boab Prison Tree. Over the following decades (decades!!) hundreds of Aborigine people were held in the original gaol, and in another built closer to the jetty. Most of these people had been charged with killing and eating livestock.

The prisoners brought to Derby via the Boab Prison Tree came from as far away as Fitzroy Crossing (over 257 kilometres and no real roads) and Christmas Creek (366 kilometres). They generally walked from 24 to 48 kilometres a day in chains, camping overnight at stations, waterholes or wells.

Other prisoners came from the northeast, brought in by police from the Barrier, Isdell, Lennard River, Lillmaloora, Oobagooma and Robinson River police camps.

In an effort to try and encourage people to do the right thing and not get into the tree itself, the sign out the front casually mentions (in itallics) that snakes like the tree as a nesting place.

Aborigine people were very early practitioners of environmental practices many years before it became a European thing to do. Termite mounds, or Jilkarr to give it the traditional indigenous name, were treated with reverence and respect in the Kimberley.

In former mortuary rituals the remains of the deceased people were interred into active termite mounds. Within a short period of time after the interment the termites had resealed the entrance to the cavity that was created to accommodate the remains.

Then there was the history in later years. From 1942 to 1944, after the Japanese bombing of Darwin, fear of invasion remained strong in the Kimberley. All civilians not needed to carry on work were evacuated south to other places, and units from armed services were stationed in strategic areas.

Some civilians who remained in the north worked with the Volunteer Defence Corps and the Coast Watching Organisation. People on pastoral stations also knew what to do if an invasion occurred.

Derby airport was strafed by a Japanese aircraft during World War 2.

Which brings us to the Myalls Bore. It is 322 metres deep and feeds water to a concrete cattle trough that is 120 metres long, the longest trough in the Southern Hemisphere.

It came about because water, fuel. Food and other goods had to be delivered to the armed services units.

Drivers from the 125th and 138th Australian General Transport Companies helped to deliver ammunition, bombs (for the Liberator bombers) and thousands of tons of high-octane fuel from Broome to the RAAF Operational Base Unit at Noonkanbah.

The drivers and other personnel camped in tents with ant-bed floors near Myalls Bore, and the Boab Prison Tree was used for storage purposes (but beware the snakes). Ant-bed floors were made from crushed termite mounds mixed with water to make a hard-wearing surface almost like cement. Floors built with this method as far back as 1876 can still be found in good condition today.)

The bore provided water for ablutions and laundry. It flowed into a holding tank about one metre square and was situated between the

bore and the concrete cattle trough. Today, water is pumped into the trough by windmill.

In 1944 Corporal Frost came up with the idea of building a swimming pool. Bill Fitzgerald and Jack O’Mara, both drivers with the 125th Company, helped to build the pool.

Although it was small, due to the limited availability of materials in wartime, the pool proved very popular. It was filled with water from the bore and catered for officers during one part of the day and for all other ranks during the remainder.

Today it reminds us of the people who defended Australia during the war.

On the way back from the visit to the wharf a Whistling Kite posed for me on top of a power pole. It was amazing. It kept turning its head as though to say, “this is my best side”.

We then took the opportunity to refuel at the BP Service Station.

All the signs around the place remind you to keep your vehicles locked, and your keys and wallets hidden so that fingers can’t reach in and grab them easily. So, we ended up closing all the windows to the first hard lock position which allowed some air to flow, but we left the air conditioner on. Russ turned it to fan only during the night once it had cooled down.

Now, back to today’s journey.

By 10:23am we had left the Derby Highway behind and were once again travelling along the Great Northern Highway. Surprisingly, after the turn we actually got to overtake a truck who was travelling slower than our 83 kph.

We again had to cross a couple of one lane bridges, and the one that crosses the Fitzroy River and floodplain near Willare Roadhouse is a very

long bridge. At this point in the Fitzroy River’s journey, it has been joined by many tributaries all flowing into King Sound.

At the next one lane bridge we pulled up behind a line of vehicles which were waiting for an extra-wide load to navigate across it. The crew manning the load and its ancillary vehicles did the right thing by everyone else and pulled over where the road was wider and let all of us go through in front of it.

When we passed the next tributary of Cockatoo Creek it was to see a large herd of cattle resting in the shade on the bank of the waterhole.

By 11:00am we had arrived at the Jarrananga Plain and we saw a veritable metropolis of small metre-high termite mounds jutting above the short yellow grasses.

After that we came to the Logie River and its bridge. Incredible as it seems, especially as there is no water in it at this time of the year, this bridge has two lanes.

We saw heaps of caravans and mobile homes set up at the Millibabbica Rest Area. This is another rest area that has a dump point. I think other states could take a leaf out of the WA book and start something new, and if you think this impresses me, you would be correct.

About 52 kilometres from Broome, we encountered significant roadworks. We travelled a six kms stretch down to 40 kph, then came across a stretch controlled by stop lights. We sat here for about 5 minutes and then the Pilot Vehicle came through, did a U-turn, and led us over the next stretch, about three kilometres, but we were allowed to travel this one at 60kph.

The Pilot vehicle left us although we were still among the roadworks for another three kilometres. We also encountered another smaller area of roadworks closer to Broome. When they decide to do roadworks up this way it is a mammoth operation.

We turned off the Greater Northern Hwy at Roebuck Plains Roadhouse and continued on the Broome Road. As we were nearing the town, we passed a section of roadside that had very large black rubber/plastic pipes with a thin horizontal stripe. I commented to Russ that it was easy to see there were no females working in the crew and he asked why. I replied, ‘because the white stripes are not matched up at the joins.’ (I take my revenge on the Cox humour when I can get it.)

I have been texting with Robert and Tracey as Rob is having problems with his lower back and has been in considerable pain He was sent for an MRI and then given an appointment to see a neurosurgeon in Mildura.

The results of that visit are that he requires surgery, which will be scheduled for some time in the next ten days. His L4/5 (lumbar area) disc has popped, and the fluid is pressing against his nerve that goes out from the spine and down.

They will cut some vertebrae to access the area for cleaning which should release the nerve, and he is expected to be off work for at least six weeks. He has plenty of leave available to him, but it will be a tense time for all.

Rob and Tracey are due to become grandparents for the second time very soon. Tahlia was due today. She is also unwell with the flu and a chest infection, along with a bad cough, and the doctors do not want to give her something strong in case it affects the baby. Our thoughts are with her, and we hope she gets better soon and has a safe delivery.

The football game was hard to watch. The Swans had our measure, and we didn’t rally soon enough to get within a whisker. Go Pies.

This evening we had another performer at the caravan park. This one had a gratin g voice if you were outside listening to him (I was outside taking photos), but from inside the van he wasn’t half bad.

And his choice of music probably helped greatly. We listened to songs from Grease, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Del Shannon, Bobby Darrin and Johnny Cash to name but a few.

For any enthusiasts out there, (otherwise just for our records) the trip from Kununurra to Larrawa Station was 534 kilometres and a very long, tiring day. Kununurra sits at 802 metres above sea level. We climbed to 462.6 metres at Hall’s Creek, and when we got to Larrawa we had dropped down to 260.2 metres.

Larrawa Station to Fitzroy Crossing was mostly a downhill drive. We did climb at one spot to 314 metres, but it was a slow and easy incline and decline on the way down again. Fitzroy Crossing sits at 119.6 metres above sea level and on the 257-kilometre journey to Derby we rose to 260 metres before dropping down to 17 metres above sea level.

Broome, where the outback meets the ocean, with amazing turquoise waters, red earth and pristine white sands. The story of the Australian South Sea Pearl is woven into the fabric of Broome, from the early days of collecting the pearl shell to today, when locally grown pearls are amongst the world’s finest.

Once a sleepy outback town, Broome is now a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination but still retains its unique character and charm from its early beginnings.

Gazetted in 1883, Broome was little more than a shanty town of sand hill camps with a small jumble of shacks housing businesses servicing the Pearl Luggers and Pearling crews. It quickly became a melting pot of nationalities and cultures drawn here by pearling. This migration ultimately created an eclectic cultural mix of people and today’s wonderful, relaxed island feel.

Broome also sits proudly as the gateway to the stunning unspoilt coastline of the emerging Dampier Peninsula, the Gibb River Road’s epic gorges and its 4WD adventure, and the majestic Kimberley if travelling from the south. It is also the gateway to the world’s 8th natural wonder,

the Horizontal Falls. (And no, it is very expensive to do this, so we haven’t this time.)

Broome is also the home of Sun Pictures, the oldest operating Picture Garden in the world, built in 1903 and is now 118 years old. The deck chairs for viewing the pictures are in rows awaiting bottoms on seats.

As of the 2021 Census the population of Broome is 14,660 people. It is nineteen metres above sea level and is also known as Rubibi by the Yawuru people.

Being situated on a north–south peninsula, Broome has water on both sides of the town. On the eastern shore are the waters of Roebuck Bay extending from the main jetty at Port Drive to Sandy Point, west of Thangoo station.

Town Beach is part of the shoreline and is popular with visitors on the eastern end of the town. It is the site of the ‘Staircase to the Moon’, where a receding tide and a rising moon combine to create a stunning natural phenomenon. On “Staircase to the Moon” nights, a food and craft market operates on Town Beach.

Roebuck Bay is of international importance for the millions of migrating waders or shorebirds that use it seasonally on migration through the East Asian – Australasian Flyway from their breeding grounds in northern Asia.

They feed on the extensive intertidal mudflats and roost at high tide on the red sand beaches of the bay. They can be seen in the largest numbers in summer, but many of the younger birds remain throughout the first and second years of their lives.

The Broome Bird Observatory, sited in pindan woodland close to the northern shore of Roebuck Bay, was established by Birds Australia in 1988, and formally opened in 1990. The purpose of the observatory is to study the birds, learn how to protect them and educate the public about them.

A mixed black flying fox and little red flying fox colony of around 50,000 megabats lives all year in mangroves next to Broome township’s small Streeter’s Jetty. They chatter and socialise loudly before flying out at

dusk each evening. The bats are key pollinators and seed dispersers for native trees and plants.

It is often mistakenly thought that the first European to visit Broome was William Dampier in 1688, but he only visited the north of what was later named the Dampier Peninsula. In 1883, John Forrest chose the site for the town, and it was named after Sir Frederick Broome, the Governor of Western Australia from 1883 to 1889.

The 1880s saw the commencement of Broome’s pearling industry, which initially involved slavery and indentured labour, pearl diving being an occupation reserved for specific ethnic groups, most prominently from Japan and followed by other Asian countries.

This led to numerous racially motivated conflicts, most notably the 1920 race riots between Japanese and Malay residents, resulting in 8 deaths and at least 60 injuries. Racial segregation was common in Broome until the 1970s.

At first, Indigenous people, especially women and girls, were forced to dive for pearls by European pearlers, and many died working in the industry. Report of abuses in the early days of pearling led to legislation in 1871 and 1875 regulating native labour and prohibiting the use of women as divers.

In 2010, the Shire of Broome and Kimberley commissioned a Memorial to the Indigenous Female Pearl Divers. In April 2019, the skeletons of 14 Yawuru and Karajarri people which had been sold by a wealthy Broome pearler to a museum in Dresden in 1894 were brought home.

The remains, which had been stored in the Grassi Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig, showed signs of head wounds and malnutrition, a reflection of the poor conditions endured by Aboriginal people forced to work on the pearling boats. As of May 2019, the remains are being stored in Perth until facilities have been built to accommodate them in Broome.

Asians, especially Japanese, excelled at pearl diving, with many of them becoming valued citizens in the town. Indeed, many people with Japanese names thrive in the community. Pearling was a dangerous and sometimes deadly occupation and the town’s Japanese cemetery is the resting place of 919 Japanese divers who lost their lives working in the industry.

In 1889, a telegraph undersea cable was laid from Broome to East Java, connecting to England. Hence the name Cable Beach given to the landfall site.

Cable Beach is situated 7 km from town along a bitumen road. The beach itself is 22.5 km long with white sand, washed by tides that can reach over 9 m.

Broome was attacked at least four times during World War II as part of the Japanese air raids on Australia. The worst attack in terms of loss of life was an air raid on 3 March 1942 in which at least 86 people (mostly civilian refugees from the Dutch East Indies) were killed, making it the second deadliest Japanese attack on Australia after the bombing of Darwin. Twenty-two aircraft were destroyed, most of them flying boats, the remains of which can still be seen in the harbour at low tide.

Day 81 – Saturday, 13 August 2022

Happy birthday to my mum who would have been 112 years old if she were alive today.

We left Fitzroy Crossing at 9:01am. The road to Derby is very flat, with open grassland in may places, bushes and small trees dotting the landscape, and very few hills to talk about along the 258 kilometres we travelled.

However, 34 kilometres outside of the Crossing it changed completely, something we have come to expect on our travels. We were back to seeing red soil with taller trees in the savannah grasslands.

A very long stretch of roadworks was encountered. The full extent was over 35 kilometres long, but they appeared to be actively working in 2-kilometre lengths. We were shepherded through the working area by a Pilot Vehicle on two occasions. They appear to be adding wide shoulders to the existing narrow road, although the road surface is in a very good condition.

We started to see more boab trees again. They were few and far between around Fitzroy Crossing. The ones today were much taller and bulked up. Some of them still had their covering of leaves.

By 10:30am the temperature had reached 32 degrees.

We had to stop for our leg stretch break at a truck parking area because the small vehicle Rest Area at Ellendale had been appropriated by the road crews. They had huge, heavy machinery parked there and they had transported several dongas as office and accommodation areas.

Today, there is not a cloud to be seen in any direction.

After we passed the turn off for Camballin Road the Great Northern Highway turned onto a north-westerly direction for some time, and the vegetation was also different once again.

The passing traffic are getting friendlier. It is the first time that the majority of those passing us in the opposite direction returned our waves (including drivers of cars without vans), and the overtaking traffic either waved or honked as they went past.

At midday we turned north onto the Derby Highway and passed the RAAF Base at Curtain. It was interesting to note that the predominant species of trees on this highway are Black Wattle.

We pulled into the Dumbari Burru Caravan Park at 12:30pm. Of particular note is the fact that they close and lock the gates at 8:30pm each evening, and they are not opened again until 6:30am each morning.

The town of Derby was founded in 1883 and named after Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby, who was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time.

During World War 2 Derby was bombed by the Japanese because their air base and jetty was used by the Australian Forces. More recently, refugees were housed at the Curtain RAAF Base, but the detention centre was closed in 2014.

Derby has a population of 3,325 people – 47% of whom are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of the only three towns in the Kimberley to have a population over 2,000 people.

It is located on King Sound and has the highest tides in Australia with the difference between low and high tide reaching 11.8 metres (39 feet).

Derby was famous in the 1920s as the terminus of the first scheduled aviation service in Australia, Western Australia Airways, which began with their first flight on 5 December 1921 and crashed near Geraldton.

At one time the Perth to Derby service was the world’s longest passenger airline route.

In 1968 a $900,000 beef road from Glenroy Station to Derby was completed to assist with the development of beef processing, an industry where many of the Derby population was employed.

A $2 million steel and concrete jetty was built in 1965 to provide adequate port facilities for the shipment of live cattle.

The Kimberley School of the Air is located in Derby and provides education to isolated Primary school-aged children living on cattle stations and in remote Aboriginal communities, scattered throughout the 423,517 square kilometre Kimberley Region.

There is oil in Blina, diamond mining at Ellendale, granite is quarried, and lead, zinc and iron are mined around the Derby area and provide employment opportunities. Tourism bolsters the local economy during the dry season, while during the wet season Derby can be affected by severe tropical cyclones.

The original Derby Wharf was built in 1894 and was a wooden T-shaped structure located at the northern end of the present-day jetty. It was linked to the town of Derby by a horse-drawn tramway, crossing the mud flats via a causeway where the present-day road is located.

In the early days wool and pearl shell were the major exports. The last passenger ship visited in 1975.

The Boab Prison Tree is located on the outskirts of Derby. The tree is believed to be 1500 years old and was used as a staging point for prisoners being walked into Derby is the early years.

The Prison Tree is a registered Aborigine site. Visitors are requested to respect the cultural sensitivity of the site and not climb into or approach too closely to the tree.

Boab trees are a protected species in the Derby Shire so you can find them located in some unusual places, and roads have been diverted around them.

The ice-cream van came around the sites and there was a line up to be served. Russ and I had soft serve sundaes, and they were yummy.

Day 80 – Friday, 12 August 2022

We set the alarm for 8:00am and woke up when it went off. We had a bit of a scare last night when kangaroos raced past the van outside but made a heck of a racket in the fallen leaves as they did so.

Before we left the caravan park, I booked a vet visit for Solly to have her nails clipped as they are clicking when she walks on the tiles. I also asked them to make a note on her file that I would ring them in the later part of the day to pay for the service as we are unsure of when we will get reception.

We arrived at the Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park, which is 21 kilometres out of the town, with plenty of time to spare, so we were able to have a good look around at the displays in the Reception Centre.

The motto for the National Park reads “Danggu Geikie Gorge is Danggu Geikie Gorge-ous!”

Dan͟ggu Geikie Gorge was carved by the Fitzroy River through an ancient limestone barrier reef. It’s mind blowing to think that around 250 million years ago much of the Kimberley region was an ancient sea.

The limestone rocks derived from the ancient barrier reef have been sculpted by rain, flood, sun and movements within the Earth’s crust.

Spinifex grasses find protection here from fire. Their cylindrical, spine-like leaves reduce water loss, and the hummock growth-form mulches the ground.

Rock figs send their roots down into crevices for moisture. Kurrajong trees, boabs and kapok bushes lose their leaves to avoid water loss in the dry season. Birds of prey and insectivorous bats roost in the range.

The short-eared rock-wallaby, sandstone shrike-thrush and some lizards restrict themselves to the range and forage for seeds, seedlings or insects among the rocks.

Adjacent to the range are extensive savannah woodland. The grasses attract seed eating finches and pigeons, native rats and mice, which in turn attract predatory birds and the Black-headed python.

Parrots and nightjars nest in the hollows in the scattered eucalyptus trees.

The Devonian Period in geological time extends from 410 to 350 million years ago.

Around 350 million years ago a large area of sedimentary rock known as the Canning Basin was covered by a tropical sea that extended inland from the current Western Australia coast near Port Hedland almost to the Northern Territory border and then back to Derby.

In the warm shallow waters, marine life flourished. Over time, reef-building algae, and the now extinct coral-like stromatoporoids built a remarkable “Great Barrier Reef” over 1000 kilometres fringing the Devonian mainland of the King Leopold Range and the Kimberley Plateau.

Torrential rivers flowed from this ancient mountainous area, carrying huge amounts of sedimentary sands, rocks and boulders.

Over the next 50 million years, with the changes in the sea level and the subsidence of the ocean floor, reef building organisms accumulated to establish a reef nearly two kilometres deep.

Within the tropical Devonian sea was a remarkable diversity of fish species, and other marine life evolved. Today, this is an internationally significant Devonian marine life fossil study region. Kat mentioned during our tour that one of the fish fossils discovered had begun to develop limbs.

The eastern bank of Geikie Gorge is a wildlife sanctuary where access is prohibited unless you are lucky enough to be invited to enter by one of the traditional owners.

The Devonian reefs are prominent today as a series of limestone ranges in the eroded landscape because limestone is more resistant to weathering than the ancient shales and other soft sediments that were laid down in the ocean basin in front of the reefs.

The Napier Range, Oscar Range and Geikie Range are all part of these ancient reefs. The Brooking Gorge and Geikie Gorge Rivers have continued to cut through the limestone range sculpting them even further.

Bunuba Aboriginal people are the traditional owners and are joint park managers. Their connection with this land goes back to the Dreamtime. The Bunuba call the gorge Dan͟ggu which means, where the water is very deep under the cave. The towering white and grey walls of the gorge are breathtaking, and the white rounded sections of limestone are aptly called the meringues!

The national park covers more than 3,000 hectares of land and is also home to a riverine forest of river red gum trees and paper barks. Some areas are covered with wild passionfruit vine (a weed).

Geikie Gorge National Park is the most easily accessible national park in the Kimberley and is situated at the junction of the Oscar and the Geikie Ranges.

When the Fitzroy River is in full flood during the wet season it covers the whole national park. The floods rise over 16 metres up the gorge walls and the continuous rise and fall of the water has left the bottom of the walls bleached white, an unusual sight very popular with photographers.

Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park is a day use park only. Camping is not allowed, but there are picnic shelters and barbecue facilities, water and toilets.

There are three walks in Geikie Gorge National Park.

The Reef Walk is the longest and takes you about 1.5 hours to follow the trail across the floodplains to the point where the western gorge wall meets the river, and to return along the riverbank.

It’s apparently the only walk that allows you good views of the bleached eastern gorge walls.

The Rarrgi Short Walk is a short loop walk, branching off the first part of the Reef Walk, and takes you up into the limestone rocks and through a different habitat and vegetation. It’s about 20 minutes long and can be done while waiting for your cruise to depart.

The third walk is called River Walk and also takes about 20 minutes.

It leads down to a sandbank on the river where you can have a fish, maybe spot some freshwater crocodiles, and if you’re brave you can even go for a swim. (Freshwater crocodiles are harmless as long as you don’t threaten or annoy them according to the people who are supposed to know these things.)

One person who writes a blog about the Kimberley said, “The main interest on these walks is supposed to be the riverine vegetation and the abundant wildlife. To someone who doesn’t know the Kimberley the thick greenery may seem appealing, but I was shocked.

I know that the Fitzroy River has serious problems with infestations of noxious weeds along its banks. I know that introduced weeds are one of the big environmental threats the Kimberley is facing, and that it’s a

battle that we are losing. But it’s one thing to read about it, and quite another to see firsthand a place where the battle was lost years ago.”

Our boat guide, Kat, also spoke about the problem they have with weeds. Before the wet season begins everything in the park is packed away above the flood water levels. By the time the rangers arrive back for the dry season the weeds that were so assiduously poisoned and removed during the previous dry season have then returned.

The wildlife eats many of the fruits from the weed species and thereby spread seeds over the whole park. It is an ongoing problem and a mammoth task in front of the Rangers.

The Fitzroy River has 20 tributaries, and its catchment occupies an area of 93,829 square kilometres, of which half is above the township of Fitzroy Crossing within the Canning Basin and the Timor Sea drainage division, extending from Halls Creek and the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges in the east through to Derby and King Sound to the west.

It often floods extensively during the wet season and is known as the major remaining habitat for the critically endangered sawfish.

Three shires, Wyndham-East Kimberley, Halls Creek and Derby-West Kimberley are found within the catchment area. The catchment area of the Fitzroy river was in 2012 found to be extensively pegged by mineral exploration companies

Most of the land is under pastoral lease holding with about 44 mostly cattle stations operating within the catchment area.

Extensive flooding during the wet season created a need for an adequate crossing. It was because of this that the town of Fitzroy Crossing was founded.

Flooding occurred along the river six times from 1892 to 1903. The 1903 flood washed away telegraph lines and “great numbers of cattle and sheep were drowned”, with bodies of animals later found hanging in trees. The heavy rains experienced in the area were the remnants of a cyclone.

In 1935, the Fitzroy got its first bridge – a low-level concrete structure, which was built up into a wider structure in 1958. This bridge could be closed for several months at a time during the wet weather and travellers were then forced to use a flying fox, which operated about 200 metres south of the crossing.

When a new bridge was erected in 1974, the focus of the town grew away from its original site. The current town of Fitzroy Crossing is one of the fastest growing in the Kimberley region and over 80% of its population are Aboriginal.

The river flooded after heavy rain events in 1949 and 1954. The 1954 event came immediately after a drought and the swollen river washed away stock from both Noonkanbah and Liveringa Station. At the height of the flood the river level was 3 metres above the low-level crossing. The mouth of the river was estimated at being over 11 kms wide as it discharged the floodwaters.

Record floods occurred in 1983, 1986 and 2002 with a height of the river approximately 13 metres of water over the old concrete crossing. The flow rate down the 15 km-wide flood plain at Fitzroy Crossing was estimated to be 30,000 cubic metres per second, which must be an awesome sight. In flood, it is possibly the largest river in Australia, and is believed to be the second largest in the world after the Amazon, in terms of the volume of water that passes through it during the wet season. At this time during the wet season, it would fill Sydney Harbour in just six hours!

The Fitzroy River was diverted in the 1950s as part of the failed Camballin Irrigation Scheme to store the water to irrigate crops of cotton, sorghum and other feed crops. This part of the river covers an area of 12 hectares when full.

The Fitzroy has been called the “world’s last stronghold” for the critically endangered sawfish. In December 2018, the largest mass fish deaths since the monitoring of the fish in the Fitzroy River occurred.

Associate Professor David Morgan of Murdoch University said that the fish had died due to heat and a severe lack of rainfall during a poor wet season. They also become more vulnerable to predators such as crocodiles when water levels are low. This raised concerns about plans

by Gina Rinehart to divert water on her Liveringa property, but I cannot find any other info on it.

Our boat was only about half full of tourists, so we had a good chance to move around while we travelled. It would be one of the quietest boats I have ever been in. I was thinking electric motors, but Russ assures me they weren’t electric but inboard ones and very powerful.

The Gorge is exceptional, and very different to all the others we have explored. The water erosion on the limestone cliffs is an incredible sight. We saw a few freshwater crocodiles, some birds (but we already had them), but overall, it was a very interesting tour.

Our boat guide and Ranger was Kat and she told both the Dreamtime story of the River along with the current scientific thinking, so no-one could take umbrage about anything.

An amusing account was of the “Old Man” of the river – two rocks which from particular angles look like an old man relaxing in the water with his knees raised. It is said that when you arrive in the area at the Park to work you should collect a small rock, rub it under your armpit to gather your essence, then you go to the cliff top that overlooks his position in the river and throw the rock to him while you introduce yourself. In this way you become part of country and the Old Man looks after those under his care. I thought it was a lovely story.

Of interest:

We had to travel down Russ Road to get to the National Park;

Crocodiles, like dogs, breath through their open mouths to regulate their body temperature;

Geikie Gorge is 14 kilometres long with up to 60-metre-high limestone walls partially polished by floodwaters; and

The Kimberley pastoral industry depended on an indentured (think slave) labour force of stockmen and station hands until the late 1960s

and into the 1970s. I’d have liked to see how the Europeans would have coped with that. During the time of the establishment of the early pastoral stations there was systemic slaughter of the local Aborigine people. In current times the remains of over 300 people have been found in mass graves.

The Fitzroy Crossing Inn is the oldest pub in the Kimberley region, opened by Joseph Blyth in 1897. It is nestled on the banks of the Fitzroy River and close beside the original low-level crossing for the river.

The road that leads to the original crossing is now closed, and the pathway is heavily overgrown on either side. This was the one and only road in and out of the town, also originally established at the crossing point, but now several kilometres away.

With flood levels from bank to bank the only way to get supplies to the other side of the raging waters of the river was a flying fox.

It felt quite prosaic to return to the caravan park after the tour. However, tomorrow we move on and there was washing to complete, photos to be combed through for some gems, and a diary to be updated!

Day 79 – Thursday, 11 August 2022

We had a wonderful night’s sleep, and a sleep-in. After showers and breakfast, we printed out the diary (or tried to), but we have run out of Toner.

We rang ahead to Broome, and they have one in stock at Office National, so we have paid for it and they will hold it until we can pick it up in a few days’ time.

We headed out to BP and refuelled. There were heaps of kites and other raptors overhead of the service station, but I had to go inside and pay when Russ finished at the pump. By the time I got back to the car for the camera they had all skedaddled when the service guys started the ride-on mower.

Internet coverage is a bit hit and miss depending on how many in the park are trying to use it at the same time. After a lot of frustration Russ finally managed to get the photos uploaded onto the website, and sent out the weekly email, but he was unable to put up the latest blog as yet.

The bird life around the park is amazing. I did get some lovely shots of a whistling kite who sat on the power lines for me to take his photo. Russ has some Double-barred finch photos. The birds were on the leaf matter at the side of our van. They are the tiniest little bird. He also scored a Grey-crowned Babbler and a Yellow-tinted Honeyeater – all new birds to us.

He took some shots of some Red-tailed Black Cockatoos but accidentally deleted them when he was trying to download onto the computer. Luckily, they came back later while he was sleeping, and I got some shots using his camera of the adult feeding the juvenile.

The number of people who stopped or came over to where I was with the camera, was interesting. One guy is from Charlton and another lady is from Sale. I have to tell them all that Russ is the Twitcher and I just learn from osmosis, but I always recommend the Pizzey and Knight Bird App to anyone who shows an interest.

Washing all done except for the bedding which will be finished tomorrow. The washing machines here are $5 and $6 to operate.

It was a marvellous day here with a cool breeze blowing and keeping the temperature down to the middle-to-high 20s.

We went to the Restaurant for tea and sat outside on the patio. They have mood lights and mosquito candles all around the perimeter and it was great. The hostess, Kim, is a young girl from Vietnam whose English is impeccable. When I complimented her on it, she said I had made her day as part of her time spent in Australia is to improve her language skills. She worked in Robinvale for three months before accepting the position up here. She has another six months to go on her visa.

The meal was upscale, but nothing to write home about. Russ and I both ordered the Chicken Supreme with Pumkin Puree (and I didn’t eat the vegetables). For dessert I ordered a Crème Brulee (made from a packet and cold) and Russ had the Sticky Date Pudding with ice-cream. His was hot, but he said it was also probably premade and heated in the microwave.

While waiting for our meal to be served we discussed options for tomorrow and I booked a Boat Tour to Geikie Gorge, beginning at 9:30am.

Fitzroy Crossing is a small town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 400 kilometres east of Broome and 300 kilometres west of Halls Creek. It is approximately 2,524 kilometres from the state capital of Perth. It is 114 metres above sea level and is situated on a low rise surrounded by the vast floodplains of the Fitzroy River and its tributary Margaret River.

At the 2016 census, the population of the Fitzroy Crossing town-site was 1,297; with a further 2,000 or so people living in up to 50 Aboriginal communities scattered throughout the Fitzroy Valley. Tourism, cattle stations and mining are the main industries in the area.

Fitzroy Crossing and the lands and valleys around it were the home for a number of Aboriginal language groups. When Fitzroy Crossing was established, the main group was the Bunuba people, their land stretching from the present-day Brooking Springs and Leopold Downs Station to the Oscar, Napier and Wunaamin-Miliwundi Ranges. The Bunuba are the river and hill people.

One of the first European explorers of the Kimberley area was Alexander Forrest and his party in 1879, following the Fitzroy River to its junction with the Margaret River at Geikie Gorge. The party then travelled east as far as Darwin.

Following this exploration, around 1882, the first sheep stations were established around the mouth of the Fitzroy and the next couple of years saw the stations move out west, with Noonkanbah and Quanbun opening up in 1886.

The area was finally settled in 1886 by Dan MacDonald when he set up the Fossil Downs cattle station. This was following a three-year, 3,500-mile trek from Goulburn, New South Wales.

Fitzroy Crossing received its first bridge in 1935 which was built up into a more substantial structure in 1958. However, this bridge could be closed for months during the monsoonal summer. In 1974 a new bridge was built 3 kilometres south of the crossing, which moved the focus of the settlement from its original site.

The town was gazetted in 1975 but was shown on maps since 1903.

Prone to occasional flooding, the town was inundated in 2002 and 2011 following heavy rain events in the region.

In 2006, the Fitzroy Crossing Bull Sale, an annual national bull auction with participants from as far away as Queensland, was established.

In 2009 the only grocery store in the town was demolished after fire destroyed it. A new shopping centre was built and opened in 2011. (This might refer to the local IGA store, but we have found nothing that would be described as a shopping centre as we would understand it anywhere in town).

The local high school was closed for two days in 2014 after four children, three of whom were under the age of ten, extensively vandalised the school twice in a week, causing over $50,000 worth of damage.

From 1951 to 1955, S Preston Walker, a missionary with the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) on loan to the Department of Native Affairs,

opened up a novel Fitzroy Crossing Feeding Depot-Mission, which was handed back to the Junjuwa Community in February 1987.

He and other UAM missionaries set up a basic school, a health centre and store which was later taken over by the WA government and expanded to where it is today (2008).

In February 2008, a Coronial inquest described the living conditions for Aboriginal people in the Fitzroy Crossing area as “a national disaster with no disaster response”. Though the coroner noted a co-ordinated government response to the problems of Fitzroy Crossing to be lacking, local leaders have taken some action.

In 2007, a restriction on alcohol sales was campaigned for by members of the Indigenous population and early indications suggest the restrictions were positive for the town.

At a community meeting in 2020, called by a group of senior men, concerns were raised about the high levels of alcohol abuse, associated gambling, fighting, domestic violence and family dysfunction which resulted in a number of children wandering around the town at night and getting into trouble.

Despite the 12-year ban on sales of full-strength alcohol, there were sales by “sly groggers” at inflated prices. Various solutions were suggested at the time, including safe houses for children, elders becoming mentors to children, more infrastructure for youth, and opportunities to give them hope for the future, but I have found no info about the results of the meeting.

Fitzroy Crossing serves as the hub for the communities of the Fitzroy Valley and is also home to many regional service providers because it is a central location to these communities.

The township of Fitzroy Crossing contains most amenities with two roadhouses, a self-serve 24-hour diesel station, supermarket, post office, newsagent, clothes shops, accommodation, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and cafes and restaurants.

Fitzroy Crossing also has a swimming pool, covered basketball courts, a grassed Australian rules football oval, and many grassed areas around the town for public use.

The Central Kimberley Football Association is centred in the town, six clubs from local communities play in a regular season. The competition was formed in 1991.

There is Wangki Radio, a small Aboriginal community radio station that broadcasts on 936AM to the townsite and most outer communities in the Fitzroy Valley. It provides the latest news, weather, road reports and music to people in the remote parts of the Kimberley.

ABC Radio also broadcasts two radio stations in Fitzroy: ABC Local Radio 106.1 and ABC Radio National 107.7. Fitzroy Crossing also receives all regional Western Australian digital television stations.

Fitzroy Crossing has a climate that is in transition between a tropical monsoon climate and a semi-arid climate. The climate is very hot, with the average maximum temperature ranging from 30 °C in July to 41 °C in November.

The highest temperature was recorded on 1 January 1969, when it reached 47.9 °C. The lowest minimum was recorded on 27 June 1971, when the temperature dropped to 0.6 °C.

Day 78 – Wednesday, 10 August 2022

What a night!!!!!! It stayed very humid, and there was almost no breeze at all. Barry came to see us while we were eating tea at 6:00pm. He is the station rep who collects the site fees – $15.00 per person, per night.

We paid for one night only, with the plan in mind that we would re-assess the situation when we woke up this morning.

After tea, with all the windows and skylights open, it was still oppressive. The camp was dark and quiet as most seemed to have retired already.

After our long journey we were both tired and were in bed (sweating profusely) by 8:30pm. By this time Russ was experiencing very hot feet, none of which helps him cope with his anxiety, even with the invertor on and the fan blowing. I filled the red bucket with water and he often sat up, put each foot in the bucket, then laid down again to try and sleep.

We did nod off, but it was most uncomfortable. I woke up about 11:36pm (and couldn’t believe I still had most of the night to try and get through) and went to the loo and had a drink of water. Unfortunately, I was wide awake but overtired. I lay there for ages and then the most unexpected event occurred. It started to rain!! We probably only got between one and two millimetres, but the breeze that came with the rain turned into a wind.

I woke Russ up to close the skylights in the main section of the van while I attended to the ones in the ensuite. We had to close two of the windows but were able to leave the others open. We didn’t even need to put the awning down as the wind was on the opposite side of the van.

Russ informed me that he had received an email from Fitzroy Crossing that said they were not taking bookings but had plenty of available sited if we turned up. Wow, we had a plan with power and water.

After that Russ promptly went back to sleep and I grabbed my little lightweight blanket. I finally fell asleep once again about 1:30pm.

We woke up to a humid, but much cooler morning. We were all packed up and ready to move out at 9:37am. We are unable to get a site before 11:00am at Fitzroy Crossing so there is no hurry.

Russ spotted a bird in the tree as we were moving off and grabbed my camera to get some shots. It turned out to be a Paperbark Flycatcher, another bird we have not seen or photographed before.

The temperature was already hovering around 31 degrees as we left Larrawa. We had a short break along the gravel road to take photos of wildflowers, and then continued onto the highway.

The landscape began to change once again. The travel is never boring as we spend our time on the lookout for noteworthy photos, be it rock formations, road surfaces off into the distance, floodways, one lane bridges, and let’s not forget the birdlife. I am just amazed at the quality of some of the pictures which have been taken from the moving vehicle

and through the front windscreen during our long journey. I love my camera.

The landscape changed from very hilly to flat plains, fat termite mounds instead of tall ones, no large trees but plenty of saplings, and savannah grass as far as the eye can see. There are also the ubiquitous spinifex bushes (and yes, mum, they are still sharply pointed as I backed into one while getting my wildflower shots earlier). To add insult to injury I also got bitten by a green ant which hasn’t happened since the days in Townsville.

Yesterday I took 579 photos and today I added another 250 to that.

The Ngumpan Cliffs were passed about 10:30am. They are spectacular rock formations dotted with clumps of spinifex bushes.

After the cliffs we dropped down onto a plain, and we then had trees instead of bushes, and a thicker understory. We also encountered much more traffic than all of yesterday, going in both directions, which is weird as we are still travelling the Great Northern Highway.

A lot of the journey was spent travelling in a northerly direction, but sometimes the road turned enough to register north, and north-west.

As we got closer to Fitzroy Crossing, we once again came across a couple of one lane bridges. At least we didn’t have to contend with traffic from either direction as we crossed.

Directions from Wikicamps had us turning off the highway about four kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing township. The Fitzroy River Lodge is a fairly extensive operation. They have over 100 caravan sites with power and water available, two large unpowered areas (most of those lack shade), a large safari tent area where we think they hosted school groups before Covid, 45 rooms in the motel style lodge built around a swimming pool (which other park users can also use), studio apartments overlooking the Fitzroy River, tennis courts, bar and restaurant. It is a slick operation and the ladies at the reception desk were delighful.

We paid our fees for the next three nights – $52 per night -(which will bring our schedule back into line), we were given a map, shown the few sites we couldn’t use as they are for larger rigs and more expensive, and told to put our receipt onto the dash of the vehicle and pick whatever spot we liked to park and set up.

We were able to drive through onto our chosen location and it has shade and is not too far from the laundry facilities. They also gave us a voucher which would give us a 5% discount at the local IGA store.

Once we were inside with the air conditioner going Russ took another look at the schedule (a big mistake to have let him see it) and he requested that I try to get an extra day at the start of our booking at Carnarvon.

We were lucky that the office could oblige us so I really need to revamp the schedule so it is up to date (and then I may have to hide it!). However, this stop at Fitzroy Crossing does give us the opportunity to see Geikie Gorge which hadn’t been on our list until now.

We have lots of birds in the trees around us, and still has some humidity in the air, but it is not as hot as they last few days.

The internet is very slow so I am hoping that it will manage to speed up just a bit tomorrow morning when less people are using it. This should enable us to update the blog and photos before we print the diary and send it off. If not, we will head into town and find a Telstra Air spot to do our business.

Day 77 – Tuesday, 9 August 2022

We woke up before the alarm had a chance to go off this morning, and by 8:18am we were travelling through the gates of the caravan park and onto our next adventure. It was already 28 degrees.

We had already travelled the first section of the Victoria Highway when we went to Wyndham, so at 8:56am when we turned onto the Number 1 – Great Northern Highway – and started heading south, we were in new territory.

One of the truckies we spoke with earlier in the piece had commented that this section of the Kimberley was the very best part. He said that as you came over the hill there was a change of scenery, and it was a stunning new vista and absolutely spectacular. He said when you turned a corner you never quite knew what to expect except that it would probably be jaw-dropping. He was right!

At the beginning of the highway, we had the Saw Ranges on our right-hand side, and they were magnificent in their stark beauty. On the left-hand side we had the Deception Range. If you climbed up and went over the top of this range, you would be staring at Lake Argyle.

At that point we were still in savannah country and there were plenty of kapok trees heavy with blooms.

The country was very hilly, which we had not expected, and at this point the road was in excellent condition, apart from the fact that when they had upgraded the highway, they hadn’t upgraded their bridges and we kept coming up to signs in red saying “Reduce Speed”. After that you became very aware of the fact that they bridge was narrow and one lane only. You needed to be able to stop if someone was already approaching the bridge and then wait for your turn to continue.

One van travelling behind us may have almost had a heart attack as all we saw was the dust raised when he had to slam on his breaks. The traffic coming towards him was a road train.

The floodways in this section of the road are very long ones – six and twelve kilometres of them in a stretch. It is understandable once you

have seen the ranges on either side of the road, and you can easily spot the black marks on the rocks of the cliff faces which is an indication of where the waterfalls teem down once the rainy season begins.

Arthur Creek Bridge (bridge number 1305 in Western Australia) was the first of the narrow one lane bridges that we encountered. Then we met Mistake Creek, then Mabel Springs Creek, followed almost immediately by Rocky Creek before we met up with Frog Hollow Creek. These are the main ones that I took particular note of, but there were several others later in the day.

As we finished crossing the bridge at Mistake Creek, we met a four-carriage road train approaching from the other direction. Those guys are big, and the bridges are very narrow. I am glad I am not driving.

Deception Range petered out to be replaced by the Carr Boyd Range on our left. We then sighted Pompey’s Pillar, which is about 46 kilometres from Warmun at Turkey Creek and rises 319 metres above sea level. The annual rainfall here is about 700mm. However, that’s about all I could learn about the pillar and how it got its name. There are apparently several Pompey’s Pillars dotted around the world and it seems to have originated in Egypt.

After that came Mt Nyulasy. The scenery is stark and breathtaking.

Originally our schedule had us staying two nights at Warmun with the idea that we could safely leave the van at the roadhouse caravan park and travel south to see the Bungle Bungles.

Russ had a brainstorm and said let’s not stay at Warmun but go onto the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park which has good reviews on Wikicamps. So, I rang them, but they are short staffed and unable to answer their phones. You have to email them with your booking request, which I did, asking for two night’s accommodation with power and water. Keep in mind here that the signal for the phones goes in and out constantly, and you never have a really strong signal unless you are in a town.

We passed through Warmun after that and saw the vans already lined up waiting to get into the caravan park there. At Warmun it is first in, best dressed and they do not take bookings of any kind.

From Warmun to Muluk’s Rest Area the roads are not in a very good condition, and there are no shoulders on them to make life easier or safer. Thank goodness a shoulder was not required for us.

We then came across a ‘Roadworks Ahead’ sign and were directed onto an alternate gravel road about 500 metres to the left of the highway, which had been created to allow unrestricted access to the construction crews on the highway. We travelled on it for about two kilometres before we were back on the main drag, but it has been made for two lanes of traffic so no need to stop and wait for any signals.

We also saw where the gravel stretch reached back about four kilometres before the actual work area, so it appears that a much longer stretch is to be fixed and has been planned for different stages.

There were huge water pipes assembled on site, and even larger corrugated iron pipes to be used under the new road surface.

About five kilometres before the turn off to the Bungle Bungles Caravan Park (and we still had not received a reply to our email) we encountered another long, narrow one lane bridge across the Tickalara Creek.

The Bungle Bungles are a part of the Purnululu National Park. We had to travel a short gravel road with a few corrugations (not happy with the van on the back) before we got to the entrance of the caravan park.

We were warmly greeted by Miles who saw our Victorian registration and said, “Only Collingwood supporters allowed in here.” He was amazed, and mighty chuffed, to find out we were not only supports but members as well and had our Collingwood sticker on the back of the car.

Unfortunately, his good cheer didn’t travel as far as the office where the two ladies – one of them in training – were unable to accommodate our request for a site.

So, now we are two days ahead of our schedule and nowhere to go in a short distance. We continued on our way to Halls’ Creek to refuel and get some internet coverage and discussed our options as we went.

The next step was to email the ladies at Derby to see if our booking for one day could be extended to four days, but they informed me they were completely booked out for at least the next fortnight.

Hall’s Creek has a caravan park, but the town does not have a good reputation. The reviews on Wikicamps tell the story of problems with indigenous youths travelling in packs and ransacking any car or caravan to which they can they get access, stealing any item that is not locked down.

We refuelled at Shell there, which just happens to be next to the Police Station, but we could see the youth groups wandering around. Luckily, one policeman was in the store getting his cup of coffee while we were there, and the police car was at one of the bowsers. I think it would be fair to say we did not feel very safe in the town.

So, we still had no concrete plan for the night, and were definitely ahead of our scheduled stops, and had travelled much further than had been intended. We also didn’t get to see the Bungle Bungles which has now made our list for the next time we are here (and we will book ahead!!!)

Once we left Hall’s Creek the country started to level out more. There were far fewer hills to climb, and the land started to include flat plains. It reminded us of the country between Alice Springs and Coober Pedy.

Our next plan of attack, after further consultation with Wikicamps, was to send an enquiry about booking two nights at the caravan park in Fitzroy Crossing, and we travelled ahead to stay at Larrawa Station Nature Stay. We were a few days ahead, but at least this stop was on the schedule. However, the station does not have power, and you can

only use a generator in the daytime until 7:00pm. However, re-fuel for the generator is at Fitzroy Crossing – 120 kilometres away. It was already 36 degrees and very humid, and the weather forecast says it will not dip below 20 degrees overnight. We were starting to see clouds!!

We arrived at Larrawa Station about 4:00pm which is much later than we generally stay on the road. It was well past Russell’s sleep time, and I did not think he was going to handle the heat at all.

The road to the station leaves the highway, and you “travel four kilometres on an all surface, well-maintained gravel road.” It actually was like that, too.

It didn’t take us long to set up. We put on the jockey wheel to level the van but left the chains attached to the vehicle.

It was getting very cloudy by the minute and the humidity had not let up. The sunset was spectacular – lots of reds and orange. For the first time on this trip, I have unpacked my summer nightie.