Well, OK – into the western edge of it, but enough to get just a glimpse of how spectacular it is. I continue to travel throughout our great outback and the further I go, the more I love it. There is just so much to see and learn out there – at this stage, I have completely lost interest in travelling overseas and all I want to see is the outback. I am sure I will regain that overseas interest one day but for the moment, there is just so much more of my own backyard that I want to see and experience.
I was incredibly disappointed about not being able to visit these stations but just did not feel I could trust my little car out there after all and I was also not sure whether I was contagious or not. Between these two stations I was also planning to spend a couple of nights at the Murchison Settlement, which would have given me a different perspective again – but not to be. Anyway, while one of those two stations does appear to have pulled out, the second has come onboard by email and they were very quick and efficient to do so, including images. And another station in WA has also come onboard since, also by email. My thanks to you both.
After this trip I was back in Perth for less than a week before I boarded a coach to head north again. This next trip took two nights and a day and was a great way to see the countryside between Carnarvon and Broome, which I had only flown over previously. Travelling overnight meant that I did miss some of the sights but I’ll never forget the approach to Port Hedland, both from the north and the south. I had been told it is big – but those lights seemed to stretch forever. The only other time I can remember seeing lights like that was when I flew into Singapore on my 24th birthday – there seemed to be an enormous number of lights! Maybe because there were. Anyway, we had to drop off and collect passengers in Port Hedland – that seemed to happen in a couple of different spots so I did see quite a lot of the city. And it really is big. I really would love to visit it during the day time. Just another addition for my bucket list for our outback.
Our arrival in Broome was a tad later than scheduled. Rob was there to meet me which was lovely. We went straight to breaky then back to her place briefly so she could pack and prepare the car (she was coming with me – or maybe I was going with her) and also so I could say hello to Guaco, my grand-parrot. Really lovely to see them both. We were soon on our way again, heading north toward Derby but turning east onto the Gibb River Road shortly before we actually entered Derby. But Rob had a lovely surprise for me – she had told me about this but nothing really prepared me for the art at the amazing Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre. As the name suggests, it is completely devoted to just that – Aboriginal art and culture. And I guess this has helped cement my deep and total respect and admiration for the art that our Indigenous people can produce. The colours are spectacular – every piece has a story behind it. I really could not get enough of it.
Then we moved onto Birdwood Downs Company Station, which is an ecological demonstration project, American owned and founded in 1978. It is run primarily on voluntary basis and most of the staff we met are WWOOFERS (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). Mostly young people from other nations, all really lovely and a lot of fun. Hans Leenaarts, the Director and Business Manager, our wonderful host, took us on one of their Ecological Tours which was absolutely fascinating. It took in both a homestead and a station tour – all so interesting. Yet another station that I could not get enough of. It is also a station stay property with the accommodation being mainly in the form of Savannah Bungalows – two rows of them. Lots of fun.There is also a dormitory to cater for excess guests and/or staff as well as a camping ground. They’ve got everything! Even their own man-made rainforest, right outside the homestead front door. It has three paths leading through it – the pic shows one of these. They are just so cool and lovely to walk through. Except they do have spiders (yes, my fear coming to the fore yet again) up there and I was just a little concerned when walking along these paths at night that I might walk right through a web. It didn’t happen but that fear was ever present – not that it actually stopped me from going through – too lovely not to. I was very very careful and jumped every time there was the slightest movement! We did have an unwanted visitor in the shower though – in the form of a rather large Huntsman. It was sitting/standing on the wall next to the taps and I could have sworn it waved one of its spindly legs at me – but now I feel very proud that I did manage to have a shower with it watching me (I’m sure it was – I was certainly watching IT) but did find it a tad difficult trying to wash my hair while keeping one eye on it. I fully expected it to jump on me. It didn’t and next time I went into the ablutions block it had disappeared.
Rob and I were also invited to join Hans and the staff on a marsh camp/party on our first night there. While I was very dubious at first at the thought of camping, Hans had assured us that if we did not want to stay the night, he would bring us back to the station. That was a
terribly generous gesture but I am proud and very thankful to say we both stayed and had the best time. Watching those magnificent clear night skies up there – you could almost touch the stars. How can you beat that? Absolutely superb.
And on the second afternoon, some visitors arrived. From Radio Goolarri 99.7 FM they were there to interview Hans. But someone mentioned that we were also there to conduct interviews and I found myself being questioned about this. Never one to lose the chance to expose the book, I agreed to be interviewed. That was exciting and completely unexpected.
We left Birdwood very early on our third morning there and Rob had another surprise for me. Although she had told me but nothing actually prepared me for the experiences themselves. We drove further east along the Gibb River Road, slightly further into the Kimberley and then turned off to visit the mighty Windjana Gorge – and I FINALLY saw freshies in reality for the first time (‘freshies’ being croc-speak for freshwater crocodiles – the ‘safe’ ones). I loved it. That was just so exciting and Windjana Gorge really needs to be seen to be believed. It is spectacular. After that we visited Tunnel Creek, a few kilometres further south. This was also excellent. But did present rather more of a challenge to get through – it is a ‘tunnel’ after all and does pass through a large range. We had to climb, stumble, half-swim, stumble, sortof walk and did I mention stumble – through the pitch black for this one. Rob had brought two of those thingies with lights (pointing forward for preference) on them that you wear around your head – similar to a miner’s helmet I suppose, but without the actual helmet. There were lots’n’lots’n’lots of rocks, big and small. And even one freshy. Not that I really saw it – but apparently if you looked directly at it you could see two eyes watching you – a tad eerie but I was busy keeping a very close eye on a Huntsman which was perched on a rock in the middle of the water! We eventually reached the end of the tunnel, had a look around – absolutely fascinating to say nothing of beautiful and then turned and retraced our steps back to the start. I hadn’t been sure what to wear for this and was trying to figure out what would be most suitable for doing the above. I finished up not doing anything – not even bothering to roll my jeans up. My sandshoes stayed on but I did take my sox off. And so I got drenched and squished everywhere! All part of the fun.
Once back at the car, we had a light picnic lunch which Rob had very thoughtfully and sensibly provided (thank goodness – I hadn’t even thought about it). After this we drove on to see the ruins of the old police station a bit further south. Again fascinating. Then we saw an old mine site before turning right into the Great Northern Highway and heading west toward Broome. Kimberley is also the only area (that I know of) in Australia that has Boab trees (don’t quote me on that one), which are really interesting. Amazing shapes. There are descriptions and stories about many of the things mentioned in these blogs in the book itself.
Fish and chips for dinner that night and Rob was able to be with me on the Monday – she had the day off. We met her friend for lunch and then visited the wonderful Short Street Gallery, featuring Indigenous art as well as some lovely skin care products (Rohr Remedy) before going to see the warehouse where the art work for the above gallery is stored. It is absolutely jam packed with the most superb works – we purchased a beautiful piece for Rob’s 30th birthday. We also did some shopping, visited the Indigenous Magabala Bookshop where we both bought probably a lot more than we should have.