Broome Bird Observatory Camp and Derby Kimberley Entrance caravan park

Thursday, Jul 18, 2013 at 08:52

Member-Heather MG NSW

gi]Monday July 15th.

We arrived yesterday and are staying three nights at the Bird Observatory approximately 24 kms from Broome, 15kms of which, for us, was the roughest dirt we have travelled so far in WA on this trip. Although it is a lovely quiet little campground, we are experiencing difficulties in coping with temperatures which we are only accustomed to seeing in mid summer on the hotter days. As the camping is unpowered and in a place frequented by bird enthusiasts, we have not even asked about running a generator but would really love to be able to keep cool that way during the hottest part of the day. The heat and the bloody horrible rough road makes me wish I had booked somewhere powered, closer to town! I do not cope well with summer at home and we have air conditioning in the house so I guess we rarely have to put up with uncomfortable heat any more but I do know it is probably character building and I should ‘toughen up princess’, as it is only for a few days.
Camping fees here are $15 per person a night and the campground has toilets, hot showers, a shade house camp kitchen, and a few short walks, one of which goes across the road to Roebuck Bay. Our van would be the longest which could fit I reckon, and we had great difficulty parking in our site without scraping the roof on a diagonal sloping tree which was inconveniently placed. (Why is it that sometimes even big sites have obstacles to dodge I wonder?). But I digress! I’m already thinking about just how we might be able to drive back out without hitting the roof on overhanging tree branches and we only arrived today!

The benefits of staying here are that it is very peaceful with many lovely birds to watch. Just behind our van there is a bower built by a very proud male Great Bower bird and its so entertaining to watch his efforts to lure his prospective partners into it. I spent a couple of hours outside yesterday observing him and a female who seemed to be interested. On our way into Broome this morning we saw lots of beautifully coloured rainbow bee eaters up close.
Another positive is that there’s a place to launch our boat into the bay, within 500 metres of the campground, down a rough 4WD track to the water. Although there is a warning about crocodiles, we think we will go out tomorrow on the rising tide and try to fish for a few hours. After my efforts in Cape Keraudren last week I am ‘hooked’.
This morning, before the day became too warm, we walked across to view the bay when the tide was out. Then we drove into Broome to have a look at Cable Beach, Chinatown, the Shell House and Gantheaume Point, relishing the airconditioning set on 19.5 degrees! Afterwards, we shopped for groceries and bought fuel before returning to the van and temperatures similar to yesterday of around 34 degrees inside the van. I didn’t buy any refrigerated or frozen products apart from vegetables. Have decided to wait until we are closer to a supermarket and have a powered site and air conditioned van interior to pack meat and other products into the freezer then, although the fridge is doing a wonderful job of staying below safe temperatures when set on 4, despite the sun shining directly on the fridge side of the van. We do have a shadecloth awning protecting it to some extent.
To try to help us survive the heat, we are swathed in wet towels and they are doing a great job. Added to that we have the sirocco 12v fan running to keep the air circulating which John reckons is keeping him quite cool. With a slight breeze only I am also trying to determine whether keeping the windows and curtains on the sunny side of the van closed during the afternoon and so far the temperature has risen steadily to 35.3 degrees….
Last night I cooked our meal outdoors on our gas burner, despite hordes of hungry mosquitoes which attack any bare skin not covered in insect repellent and clothing, even toes, at any time of the day. I am testing a brand named ‘YaMate’ strong formula which is made from totally natural, safe ingredients and which is very moisturising and pleasantly perfumed. It does have to be applied often and I wouldn’t trust it when sandflies were around but it seems to be effective against mossies.
During the night I did have difficulty sleeping, despite opening all the curtains and windows, and it took until very late in the night for the temperature to drop to 22 degrees. We put the fan on a 2 hour timer but I might put it on for 6 hours tonight and see whether that makes a difference.

Tuesday July 16th.
I tried a different tactic today, closing all windows on the sunny side of the van and closing the door to the ensuite in an effort to keep the remainder of the van cooler. We watched as the temperature climbed slowly and steadily, lying under the cooling fan and with wet towels again draped across our bodies. After an early lunch, we set out with lots of water, our bodies covered with copious amounts of sunscreen and insect repellent, and protective clothing and put the boat in the Bay, as the tide rose.81054,250,175,L[/gi]
It was a really pleasant few hours out on the water and much cooler than being back near the van. Before John had his line in the water, I had pulled in an under size mulloway, and then another, both released back into the water! There were comments muttered about taking me ashore by the captain of the vessel if I continued to out fish him!! And then his reel fell apart, surely a sign sent from the heavens if we were believers! He continued to fish with a handline which may have been a disadvantage had he hooked anything sizeable. We both managed to land a few catfish each which were also returned to the water before deciding to return to the boat launching place. By this time the wind had whipped up small waves and it was a rough, bumpy ride back to shore. Despite not catching anything exciting, it was a lovely afternoon.
The washing down of the gear, re loading of the boat and then re packing the rear of the Pajero was a long slow process but surprisingly pleasant with a cooling breeze off the water and we were happy to stay there until the sun had dropped below the trees surrounding the camp ground.
I opened all the windows and it didn’t take too long for the van to start cooling inside. We had showers and then, for me, a pot of decaf coffee, and, for John, a few cooling XXXX beers, and both enjoyed the pleasant evening temperature. I sat outside and again enjoyed the calls and efforts of the bower bird as he attempted to court his prospective partners!
Dinner was a simple meal with pita bread base dry fried in the pan, salad, and topped with sliced medium rare lamb fillet and hommus, one of our favourite summer meals.
Wednesday July 17th.
One of the really lovely things about staying at the Bird Observatory has been waking to the sounds of the many and varied bird calls each morning, some well before daylight. Other special things about this place are the silence, and natural light of stars and partial moon at night, with only tiny solar lights dotted around the sites and lights near the small amentities. So unlike van parks! I think the couple of days we have had here have been unusually hot and in that regard we have been a bit unlucky, but I am very glad we stayed here instead of in Broome.
We packed up after quite an early breakfast this morning and managed to exit the campground with no problems despite the trees and branches overhanging the tracks. The lower tyre pressure on the Pajero and a slower speed back to the bitumen also made for a much improved ride, although it did take a little longer. We stopped to put air back in the tyres before re joining Broome Road, and started out on the drive to Derby, approximately 210 kms away.
The thermometer in the Pajero rose to 35 degrees by the time we reached Derby just after Midday, surely an unusual temperature in July. We located the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park, where I had pre booked a powered site for three nights, and I joined a queue in the Office, waiting to book in. Powered sites cost $40 per night. I was given a very friendly welcome, some information on what Derby has to offer, and we were able to extend our stay until Monday as we are doing the Horizontal Falls Seaplane adventure day trip on Sunday.
The park seems quite large and very busy, and the sites are allocated according to the size of the rig. Ours is very generous we think compared to some places with plenty of room to park both vehicles and put out the awning. It was extremely hot work setting up for John, doing all the outside jobs, but my first priority after turning the fridge to AC was to turn the Air conditioner to auto and let it get to work, and I was soon feeling the benefits.
I also soon had two loads of washing done and on the lines under the awning, and with the hot gusty winds and high temperatures, they were dry in no time.
After lunch, we took a drive around to locate the supermarket and buy a few groceries, also visiting the PO to send a small package back to the grandkids, and the jetty to check out the possibility of fishing during the next few days. There was also a visit to Big Barra’s One Stop Shop where a new reel was purchased to replace the one which fell apart the other day so I guess there is now some pressure to ensure that it does the job!
It was very nice to return to a cool van to package up some meat and other perishables to place in the freezer and fridge. I’m not sure just what happened to the remainder of the afternoon however did fold laundry, make a pizza dough and then use half for our evening meal, and spend some time online, enjoying the fastest internet we have had in ages. It will be a good place to upload some photos to my blogs on EO.
John lay back and watched Queensland win the third and final State Of Origin ARL match while sipping a few beers, so happy to have digital TV again, but I must confess I do not miss TV one bit when we are away from the towns.
We turned off the air conditioner around 9pm and opened the windows. By then it was lovely and relatively cool although the fan ran most of the night for my comfort.
Thursday July 18th.
After breakfast we set off to walk to the Jetty from the van park for some exercise. It was a totally flat walk, mostly on a cement bike/walk track then around the cemicircular jetty and back partially along the road for a bit of a change.
The remainder of our morning was spent driving to the Historic Boab Prison tree a few kms from town, a huge old tree which was used to house ‘prisoners’ in past times. We also visited the Mowanjum Cultural centre which contains an exhibition of quality local indigenous art works, mostly paintings in the Wandjina style. I was really impressed and thought about buying another piece to add to my collection however there is little remaining space on the walls at home so I bought a small boxed pack of cards instead.
Afterwards we stopped to visit the Hardware shop, bought a 10 litre fuel container for the generator and an extraordinarily expensive 1 litre bottle of Methylated spirits at $7 (unavailable from the Woolworths supermarket I was told as they are prohibited from selling it), and a stop in the Main Street to photograph the line of boab trees which are planted down the very green central divider before returning to the van for lunch.
Today is a far more pleasant temperature although still warm. We are enjoying the luxury of the air conditi[gi]oner and spending a very lazy afternoon.
I have just booked and paid for a 4WD bus and scenic flight day trip to the Bungle Bungles leaving from the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park on the 31st July, and have booked us a powered site there for two nights, arriving the day before. This is a little later in the month than we wanted but looks like being the first available, so we can now plan how to fill in the 8 days after leaving here next Monday.
As we are the first two to be booked on this date, I do hope that it goes ahead and spaces are soon filled up. At a little under $600 per head it seems like good value. The powered van sites are $45 per night at the Bungle Bungle Van Park but will enable us to run our air conditioner should we have very hot weather there.
Friday July 19th.

An early start today, so we could spend a couple of hours fishing from the area near the Boat Ramp in Derby, which looked as good as anywhere and a bit sheltered from the wind. The water was a murky opaque brown and because we were close to mangroves, we kept a watchful eye out for crocodiles. Didn’t see any but have no idea whether they were there or not.
The fish were tiny and despite many small nibbles, I did not manage to hook any. Lost plenty of bait though! John was the winner, landing a few herring sized catfish and others which were thrown back in disgust! He didn’t want any photos for some reason either!
We used our bait and then decided to take a drive around to see whether there were any other places to throw a line in, finding only mud flats or what looked like salt pans stretching for ever. It was interesting to drive some of the back streets in the town and see the poorer area off the main tourist routes. The streets were littered with broken glass and almost all the windows in the dwellings were smashed, the buildings very dilapidated. We didn’t waste any time getting out of there, and felt like we were intruding but this is a common scene in places which have a high Indigenous population. It is disgraceful, to me, to think that in an affluent country like Australia these people are living in horrendous conditions, largely ignored by the charities who seem more intent on raising the funds to save the starving millions overseas.
Back at the van we had a very lazy day, reading, playing on the laptops with John discovering games on my second machine and sitting for hours trying to win, while I had a look at places we will be visiting and reading up on the Kimberley! There were phone calls to family as well back in the east where winter is in full grip.
The weather has thankfully returned to more comfortable, normal, temperatures which don’t require the use of air conditioner to keep cool.
Saturday July 20th.
A day spent getting organised to leave for more remote camping on Monday as tomorrow we will be away on the Horizontal Waterfalls day tour. Washing dirty laundry, buying diesel and generator fuel, groceries and the like, and re-packing parts of the van.
Was hoping to try for fish again however he who organises the fishing activities said he wasn’t interested in that. He did have another marathon session on the games though. I think I have created a monster!!
Sunday July 21st.
A totally exhilarating day, and long anticipated. We boarded a small seaplane and flew to the Horizontal Waterfalls around 9am, having been collected by a bus from the entrance of the caravan park and driven to Derby Airport. There were enough passengers to take two planes.
Our pilot appeared to be not much more than fifteen years of age, however was very proficient and professional, and we had smooth and incident free take offs and landings. It was quite an experience to land and take off on water for the first time.
The flight both to and from the Falls were wonderful opportunities to view the land as continual indigenous works or contemporary abstract paintings. I thought about how incredible it was for people who had never boarded a plane or viewed the land from the air, to produce maps of their country.

Although I took many photographs, there was still plenty of time to sit and drink in the Kimberley landscape. The mud flats near Derby were particularly striking I thought, as were the myriad of small islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, protruding from the turquoise blue water, also the spine of the rugged ranges twisting and turning like ancient dinosaur spinal columns closer to the Falls.
After landing we pulled in alongside pontoons and a large vessel with plenty of welcome shade, and welcomed by the young, enthusiastic staff. There was time to have a cuppa and snack before we boarded one of the big powerful jet boats for our first trip through one of the narrow openings between the gorge walls, where the water pours through both on the incoming and the outgoing tides as the water level rises and drops. The water level was not thought to be safe for the narrow second opening so we returned to the pontoon area and watched the large circling sharks fighting over small pieces of food, thrown from one of the staff members.
There were two other jet boat trips, one back through the bigger opening and then up a tidal mangrove lined creek, where we were shown a rustic houseboat which the skipper of our boat said he prefers to sleep in, rather than on the other one with the overnight guests and other staff. We also disembarked onto a small pontoon and he few some butter fish? (I think) and other varieties who visit whenever he arrives with a boat. The second was through the narrower opening where we witnessed the incredibly fast flowing water already pouring back out towards the ocean. We went back and forth a few times and with each there was a real adrenalin rush for me as we bumped and crashed our way through, propelled by the powerful engines of the boat.
Lunch was BBQ barramundi, salad and bread rolls, eaten on the top deck of the boat with a wonderful backdrop of the red Kimberley gorge walls and the occasional sea plane landing or taking off. Below in the water the many large sharks circled, surrounded by small fish like tug boats guiding a large tanker into a harbour! We also saw the giant Queensland groper ‘Gordie’ as he swam lazily beneath the water.
On the flight back to Derby we took a longer, more circuitous route over the islands of the archipelago and all too soon were back on the tarmac, arriving around three pm. By now there was lots of friendly banter and we felt as though we were all good friends after a relaxed day together. We boarded the bus back to the van park and felt that the approximately $1300 for two was money well spent. The experience of a lifetime!
There will be hours of photo uploading, editing and sorting, a job I always relish. And tomorrow another week on the road begins.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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