Where are we now?

Where are we now?
Where are we now? Tahmoor, NSW. Updated 7th December 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 151. Derby to Ellendale Rest Area (150km west of F.C)

In the footsteps of a Malcolm Douglas Documentary…

This morning we were up by 6am; as we had to have the van packed up and left ready to go by 8am. Today we were off to see the Horizontal Waterfalls, located north of Derby in the Buccaneer Archipelago – deep in the Kimberley.

Yesterday, I approached the caravan park reception about getting a late check-out; as we wouldn’t get back from today’s tour until around 3pm. It turned out that they were very accommodating, and as long as the Pajero was hooked up to the van and ready to roll out, we could keep our van on site. Best part of the deal was that I could stay connected to power all day long…

It turned out that there were 10 people booked in on today’s tour; and they were all from the same caravan park that we are staying at. We all met at the front gate; and were picked up by a maxi-taxi and taken to Derby airport. Here is where we met our sea plane, that would take us on our adventure into the Kimberley.

Boarding our sea plane

30 minutes flying time later, and we were circling the spectacular horizontal water falls. From the air we could see that the falls were in full flow, the tide was on its way in. It looked like it was going to be a great day full of adventure.
Circling the Horizontal Waterfalls

After our safety briefing; followed by a bit of morning tea, we boarded the twin 300hp boat that would be taking us through the narrow gap known as the Horizontal Waterfalls. It was flowing at greater than 30 knots, and I couldn’t wait to give it a go! Scarlett and I sat up front to start off with, but after some high speed turns and tackling the less dangerous first falls; it was decided that Scarlett and I should move to the back of the boat, as for one she couldn’t touch the floor of the boat for stability, and two she wasn’t very impressed, with the QUOTE: ‘the dangerous mans driving – it scared me!” UNQUOTE.

Ready to hit the water!
As it turned out, I’m glad we were moved to the back as it got a lot more dangerous, and it really did frighten Scarlett. She hung on like her life depended on it (and I guess in a way it did), but the thrill of ‘gunning’ the boat through that narrow passageway and doing about 45knots at the same time was purely exhilarating. It was a real rush that had everyone buzzing; but Scarlett wasn’t the least impressed! After a little coaxing, she settled down and started to enjoy the experience, but still she hung on. We were through the second set of falls and ‘playing’ in the whirlpools and eddies. It certainly was a ‘by the seat of your pants’ experience; and I’m so glad we had it on our ‘to do’ list. It was expensive; but I would highly recommend it to anyone who was thinking of travelling in this part of Australia. It’s a must!

Hang on for the ride of your life!
We returned to the houseboat where we then had the chance to ‘swim with the sharks’. It turned out that the sharks were Lemon Sharks; or as they are known up here; Tawny Nurse Sharks or Sleepy Sharks. They ranged up to about 3.5 metres in length, and the swim was actually quite safe. We swam in an enclosed cage, while the sharks were fed outside the cage. It really was a very cool experience that Scarlett really enjoyed. No need to say that Bec was in her element, and even more so when a 4 metre Bull Shark turned up.

The first of two horizontal waterfalls! (the easy one)

How good is this?
The lunch that was put on for us was fantastic! Freshly caught Barramundi on the BBQ, served with a crisp salad and fresh bread rolls. I must admit that it was the yummiest fish I have eaten in ages; so much so that I went back for seconds and had a 2nd Barramundi Burger. Mmmm. Unfortunately, Scarlett wasn’t feeling so adventurous, so the staff made her up a bowl of 2 minute noodles and a peanut butter roll. Oh well, you can’t please everyone all the time, but at least she ate it. Bec also loved the Barramundi, and now can’t wait to catch our very own! (groan..)

During lunch we also spied a Giant QLD Groper, some huge Batfish, Trevally, Dart and Suckerfish – not to mention the Bull Shark that lurked deeper down and under the Lemon Sharks. We also saw flying fish and huge Tuna in the distance jumping erratically out of the water. It was certainly a sight to see.

Swimming with the sharks!
No sooner had we finished lunch and we were back on the high speed boat to do a tour up “Cyclone Creek”. Here we were shown the living quarters of our boat driver; and his pet Batfish that he has trained to be lifted out of the water. It was an amazing sight that everyone enjoyed. We then went deeper up the creek (without a paddle) to do a little sightseeing and we noticed that the tide had changed and was now running out.

Saying G'day to some Tawny Nurse Sharks
We decided to have another look at the falls, as they have now started to flow in the opposite direction to what we saw this morning. As the tide had only just turned, they weren’t in full flow yet so the experience was much more sedate than this morning’s jaw dropping encounter. Scarlett certainly felt much more relaxed this time.

We throw back the small ones up here!

Unfortunately it was then back to Derby on our sea plane via a slight sightseeing detour over the Buccaneer Archipelago. The weather was brilliant, and the view breathtaking. It was a great way to finish off our day!

Catching fish 'by hand'

On returning to Derby, we climbed into the Pajero and by 3:30pm we were hitting the road again – this time heading towards Fitzroy Crossing.

On the way out of Derby we stopped at Woolworths to stock up on water, and during our stopover I was approached by a couple of aboriginal men who asked if I was interested in buying a huge Boab nut that one of them had carved. It had beautiful images of emu’s and the outback on it, it really was a work of art. One of the boys said to me; “I feel it in my bones that you are my brother and have aborigine in you”. Well I was very astonished to hear this, as yes I do have aboriginal blood in me – on my father’s, mother’s side. I responded that yes I do, and we then got on like a house on fire. Unfortunately they asked me what tribe I was from; and although I gave them the location (being Moree, NSW) I embarrassingly couldn’t name the tribe, as this part of my heritage has never been explained to me. Well the boys were ‘most sad’ that I knew nothing about my aboriginal ancestry, and they expressed very sincere feelings on how it saddened their hearts. Well I promised to track down this part of my past family and find out more about the tribe that I belong to.
Contemplating the trip back through the Horizontal Waterfalls

I must admit that our travelling around Australia has made me think more about my aboriginal background. Although I have had little to do with this in the past, I think it’s time I discovered this forgotten part of my lineage.

Leaving the Horizontal Waterfalls for the last time...

What an amazing experience!
We ended up driving for just over two hours and stopped at Ellendale Rest Area, which is about 150km from Fitzroy Crossing. We arrived just after the sun had set, and were amazed at seeing over 60 vans and motor homes already camped in this roadside rest area.

Anyways, we squeezed into what was probably the last spot and set up camp. It was then time for dinner and a movie, before hitting the pillow.

What a day! It was a long one, but it has been one of the best experiences of our trip!
Looking back through the mountain ranges surroundingg the falls....

Tomorrow we want to tackle the Gieke Gorge, before continuing our journey closer towards the Bungle Bungles.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 150. Derby

The mighty 'Gibb River Road'

Ready to tackle the western end of  the infamous Gibb River Road
We were up and out bright and early this morning, ready for a huge day on the Gibb River Rd. Our destination today was Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek; and being nearly a 400km round trip along with a bit of exploring thrown in, we had a big day ahead of us.

I was really surprised to find the road was mostly tarred (except for about 60km's worth) all the way to the Windjana turn off. For some reason it is tar for about 30km's then dirt for about 30km's then tar then dirt again...Weird! The main road wasn't as bad as I had imagined, but when we turned onto the Windjana road (about 30km's worth) it was terribly corrugated. The same conditions were encountered again from Windjana to Tunnel Creek; not a road I would want to take a caravan on - but we did see some???

Looking back at the entrance from inside Windjana Gorge

Boab in the gorge
Windjana Gorge is 3.5 km long, and has been carved out of the Napier Range by the Lennard River. The Napier Range is part of the same ancient barrier reef system at Tunnel Creek and Geikie Gorge. (In the Devonian period, over 300 million years ago, this whole area was under the ocean...) The walls on both sides of Windjana are 30 to 100 metres high, and the gorge is over 100 metres wide. It's an impressive sight, but it would be even more amazing to see during the wet season when the Lennard River is a raging torrent. Of course you can't get near the gorge then... pity, as I would love to come back up here in the wet.

Scarlett's fist glimpse of croc's in the wild ever

It didn't take long for Scarlett to find her first ever wild freshwater crocodiles, as they were sunning themselves everywhere along the banks. Shane and Scarlett even managed to sneak up close to one for a photo; apparently he wasn't real happy about them being so close and hissed at them both.

Scarlet and Scarlett - playing on a fallen Boab Tree

We weren't far down the gorge trail when we came across Martin, Nikki and Scarlet. We knew they were staying here but didn't think we would see them again. The girls had a great time walking together and trying to hide and jump out and scare us. We left Scarlet and family  at the end of the trail, where we made a hasty retreat back to the car, as we still needed to get to Tunnel Creek.

Scarlett excited to enter Tunnel Creek
Tunnel Creak is W.A's oldest cave system; in Tunnel Creek National Park. It's famous for being a hideout (used late last century) by an Aboriginal leader known as Jandamarra. He was killed outside its entrance in 1897.  The creek flows through a water eroded tunnel beneath the limestone of the Napier Range. We walked the 750 mtr's through the tunnel to the other side, wading through several deep permanent pools. We were lucky enough to see some Ghost Bats clinging to the roof and heaps of stalactites. The tunnel is up to 12 metres high, and 15 metres wide in parts. Near the centre of the cave the roof has collapsed letting in some natural light before, you descend back into darkness again, that is until you get to the far end.
It was up to Scarlett's neck in some places

How high did the water get I ask you??

We had an excellent time wading through the water, and I'm so glad Shane thought to bring us all our own torch as it was really, really, dark. Poor Scarlett was up to her neck in water at one stage and just decided to pick her feet up off the floor, and float across the water with me dragging her.

We made it to the end

Aboriginal paintings at the end of the tunnel

The trip back to Derby was a long one, with a couple of water crossings and trying to avoid the random cattle that were slowly making their way across the road. Scarlett slept most of the way home, as after doing almost 7km's walking today she was just a little buggered...

Another beautiful Boab

P.S - Tomorrow we go on our tour of the horizontal water falls. From there we will be spending some nights in free camps out in remote areas without Internet, keep an eye out and will do another bulk upload as soon as we get signal again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 149. Derby

A date with a Boab!

Another great nights sleep in the West Kimberly's. That's what we had last night, and I'm sure we'll have a few more yet. The temperature at night time is perfect, and if it wasn't for the mozzies I'd love to experience a night under the stars up here, as its simply breath taking.

Hot breakfast! Thanks Bec...
We woke to another perfect day. Bec decided to cook up a great breakfast that we enjoyed outside the van under another glorious southern sun. we even had the occasional noisy minor bird join us to check out the menu of what Bec had prepared.

Today was about exploring in Derby. There really isn't a lot here, but what they do have is very interesting indeed. First stop was the infamous Boab prison tree; just on the outskirts of Derby. After reading about how this tree, we went to check it out for ourselves. It's easy to imagine how the tree was used as a rest stop for transporting prisoners, or even just for shelter during bad weather. This tree was even used by the military during WWII as a store house. It has a girth of 14.7 metres and is believed to be 1,500 years old.

Shane and Scarlett at the 'infamous' Boab prison tree

Nearby is Myall's bore; which is 322 metres deep. This bore feeds a 120 metre long trough, which is the longest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The water didn't look very drinkable though; as there was a lot of algae etc in the trough, but Scarlett and I went over to the bore feeder pipe to find it was a nice and warm temperature coming out. I could easily imagine having a swim in this water.

120 metre long trough
Which leads me to our next destination; 'Frosty's Pool'. This pool was built by the Australian Army in WWII as a place to 'cool down and relax'. It's fed from the same bore that feeds the trough, and it just goes to show that with a little bit of thinking outside the square (not to mention the acquisition of the required materials needed),  the Australian Army still found the resources to enjoy their 'time out' during some well deserved R & R.

Shane and Scarlett at 'Frosty's Pool'
We decided to check out the 'Derby Waste Water Wetland' next; as while visiting 'Frosty's Pool', we saw a Jabiru fly overhead. After passing by the sewerage ponds that were home to about 2,000 resident whistling ducks, we found a wetland that is obviously the result of how treated water should be used. You could easily imagine being in Kakadu while visiting this site. We didn't see any Jabiru's; but we did meet a Red-Backed Fairy Wren and a Coucal Pheasant. That's two more birds for Scarlett to tick off in her 'bird field guide'.

Derby's Waste Water Wetland

It was then a quick visit back down to the Derby jetty; where we now had the chance to see the tide at its high mark - compared to last night at it's low tide mark. As all the signs clearly indicates; there is no swimming off the jetty due to the possibility of an encounter with an Estuarine Crocodile. We haven't seen a 'wild' one yet; but we will keep on looking! Now for a little bit of a history lesson: Wool and pearlshell were the main exports when the first jetty was built in 1894. 1964 saw a new wharf completed which was used for 20 years. 1997 saw the wharf revamped and re-opened as the newly named 'Derby Export Facility', for exporting lead and zinc.

Derby jetty at high tide

'Let us out! Bec did it!'
Before heading back to the van for lunch, we visited the 'Old Derby Gaol' that was built back in 1906 - and amazingly it wasn't closed until 1975! The gaol was intended as a temporary accommodation for prisoners waiting to be sentenced or transferred to the Common Gaol in Broome; however many prisoners were held here for up to 6 months awaiting sentence! After reading some of the horrific stories about how the local aborigines were treated here; I must admit that both Bec and I found it embarrassing (for us representing the 'white man') and degrading (for the aborigines - which I do have some in me) to say the least!

Old Derby Gaol

One very cool Kombi
We also saw a very cool 'stretched 4wd outback version' VW Kombi parked outside the visitors centre; so Scarlett and I had to get our photo's taken with it. I also spied an old rundown Ford Falcon XY 351 GT parked outside the local pub while driving around town earlier in the day. I wonder if the guy who owns it knows what its worth and is willing to trade for a clapped out Pajero that I know is going cheap? Oh well, I can dream can't I? I'd love to take either of the two cars seen today....

A date with a Boab
After lunch, Bec and I caught up on some more 'house work'; as well as pre-booking some accommodation for when we reach Kununurra in about a weeks time. I then went riding my bike with Scarlett around the park for about the millionth time; while Bec did some sorting and prep work for our 'day trip' on the Gibb River Road; that we are going to tackle tomorrow.

We enjoyed some free live music over a beer or strongbow (or two) at the caravan parks BBQ area earlier this afternoon; before heading off to a 'Derby famous' Boab Tree for a sunset photograph or two. This Boab is pretty much on every postcard of Derby, so we thought we might try to get a photo worth framing - for when we return home. We took about a hundred photo's of the tree this evening - so there is a lot of sorting yet to do, but I've included at least one or two photo's in today's blog for you all to enjoy.

I must admit though that the sunset with the Boab was a magical experience. We all enjoyed it very much; and we got to share it with some other fellow travellers who were there to take a photo or two of there own like us.

Sunset with a Kimberley Boab

A Tawny Frogmouth meets Scarlett
Just as Scarlett went to bed this evening, Bec spied a Tawny Frogmouth perched on the Pajero outside our van; so I immediately grabbed Scarlett and we went outside for a look. This  little guy came by last night too, so it was great to see him again. Scarlett got to meet it for the first time! She was very impressed, and tried to get some video of it on her Ipod Touch that Grumpy bought her; but unfortunately it was just too dark. I did get a photo (or two) though....

The Tawny in question...
PS: This afternoon a great old car and matching van arrived opposite us at the Kimberly Entrance Caravan Park; where we are staying. I just had to take a photo of it. It turns out that they are also travelling Australia for 12 months in this very original set up.

This couple must have B@lls of steel; as although I love what they have set out to do, it must very very hard and uncomfortable without any modern facilities.

Hats off to the true Grey Nomads!

Travelling in style..... the old fashioned way!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 148. Broome to Derby

Now that's a Buddha

Today we left Broome! It feels like we have been here forever, and as beautiful as it is, it's time to move on; we are getting itchy feet. We were in no hurry today as we only had 220km's to travel to Derby, and we will be there for four days so there will be plenty of time to see everything.

Before we left, we took off into the shops for a couple of last minute things. I grabbed some beads from the 'Broome Bead Shop' for some shell art I will be undertaking over the next few weeks. And we had a couple of last minute gifts to grab from the Pearl Shop. There was also this amazing Crystal Buddha I was keen to visit.

At the 'Buddha Sanctuary' there is a 3.5 metre high crystal Buddha, that has been hand-carved from Philippines crystal. It's believed to be one of the largest crystal Buddha statues in the world. The Buddha’s position has been chosen to promote health and healing, and is situated in a serene garden surrounded by millions of crystals layed out at it's base. 

We finally pulled out at about 11am, the latest exit of a caravan park for us yet! The drive was uneventful, but the scenery was beautiful. The boabs are getting so huge, I'm hoping to get good photo's of some in Derby. The roads were also lined with an amazing display of wattle everywhere, oh and the odd cow on the side of the road, we are still passing through huge stations without fences. We also crossed the Fitzroy River today for the fist time.

Huge Boab Tree

We stopped for lunch at a roadhouse; making salad rolls and a cuppa in the van. It was into Derby not long after, and we found our site to be very spacious and shady. I think we will be quite comfortable here for a few days.

Derby Jetty
After dinner we went down to the Derby jetty as it was at low tide, the tides here are the biggest in the southern hemisphere. Also if you are lucky, it's the best vantage spot for seeing crocodiles. It was a very mild evening, and there were fisherman, tourists, and locals everywhere just enjoying the atmosphere. The tide was down at least 9mtrs from the top of the jetty, and without fencing on one side it was a little daunting. We held Scarlett's hand the whole way. We were lucky enough to see some fisherman pull in their crab pots, and they had a couple of mud crabs in each. I think in all they had pulled in
12 good sized ones this evening alone.

The sunset again was magic, I missed photographing most of it, just catching the last glimpse. Tomorrow evening I will be better prepared, I even have a special tip for a magic spot in which to photograph it.

Derby Jetty sunset

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 147. Broome

Take 2...

Well we all slept like babies last night. After such a busy day yesterday, we were exhausted by the time we hit the hay. If not for Scarlett being up and 'bouncing' around the caravan by 6:30am this morning, I'm sure Bec and I would of slept in. If only...

This morning was spent finishing off doing the housework. We were able to upload 2 x of our 'missing blogs', finish cleaning out and repacking the Pajero, washed 80% of the caravan, as well as clean the ensuite, windows, sky lights and floors of the van. We achieved a lot today - and its good to see some positive results for a change. Lately its felt like we have taken two steps forward and one step back everytime we try to do something, but now we feel  like we are now starting to get back on top of everything.

Broome Jetty

I know its probably boring reading about 'the housework', but believe it or not it really does take up a lot of our time. We love to get 'out and about', but for everyday we are out there; it takes two to catch up to be ready to do it all again. It's really is an evil necessity...

Scarlett spent the morning riding her bike, and playing with her 'multitude' of friends; but not to take anything from her she did also help. She helped me by sweeping the concrete outside our van, and she also helped by taking out the garbage. She doesn't really do a lot, but the little she does makes a big difference for both Bec and me.

Scarlett exploring the rocks

Scarlett and 'one' of her crabs!

After lunch, we went down to the Port of Broome to check out the area, as we haven't had the chance up until now to do so. The sea's were beautiful, and the water clear as crystal and warm. We watched the fishing boats come in, while exploring the rocky outcrops along the beachfront. Bec found a few more shells, and Scarlett had a ball playing with crabs; small sand crabs on the beach, dead red rock crabs in the rocks, and even hermit crabs she found walking around between the sand and rocks.

It was a great day to spend down by the water as the weather here reached over 34 deg today, so I think we the cold spell we have been experiencing lately has finally broken. The heat has finally arrived! I'm just glad that we're not back home, or in the south of Australia at the moment - as I believe its a little cooler than normal.

Scarlett and Shane 'playing' in the rocks

We stopped in at Woolworths on the way back to pick up a few more heavy shopping items that didn't get picked up yesterday. At the same time we topped up with diesel (including jerries), and also got some more unleaded for the generator. This is the first time I have had to worry about topping up the unleaded for the generator since leaving Sydney, but I hope to do a bit more free camping while travelling through the "Kimberly's" and the "Top End" of the Northern Territory;
which we'll cross into in the next two weeks or so.

Bec sitting in a natural window overlooking the waters at Broome

Tonight we returned to the open air 'Sun Cinema' to watch 'Cars 2'... again. After last nights disappointment, we had to give it another go as the kids were really wanting to see it. Not only were Martin, Nikki, and Scarlet there; bit Jace, Jo, Maya, Grace and Jai came along tonight too. The popcorn and chips were quickly demolished, while Bec and I enjoyed our 'cuppas'. We even had a beer and strongbow that we smuggled into the theatre.

Not something you would normally have to give way to...
Well tonight the movie worked, and we were all able to enjoy the full showing of 'Cars 2'. I think that not only the kids enjoyed the movie; but the adults did too. Everyone commented on how good it was, and how much better it was compared to the original 'Cars' movie. Scarlett enjoyed it even more as 'mum' (aka Bec) ended up joining her on the picnic blanket (on the grass) during the whole movie.

It was great to see them both curled up together while watching the show. Tonight we only had two interruptions while trying to watch the movie - both caused by QANTAS and Virgin as there jets made very low passes over the cinema screen while on final approach to Broome Airport. It certainly was a different experience - but the kids loved it!

While driving around Broome this afternoon, we were stopped at a couple of intersection as camels crossed the road. Obviously this isn't a normal southern experience; but up here the camels head out to the beach daily, so its a common occurance. We enjoyed it so much, that we had to get a photo or two...

... except in Broome.
Who would of thought we'd get stopped twice in one day?
Tomorrow we finally say good bye to Broome as we head further east and into Derby.

We have finally updated all the missing posts from the last week of travelling with no internet connection. So if you have the time, please scroll back to Day 142 and catchup our latest adventures.

Cheers Shane