Adelaide To Kimberley Week 3 - Broome to The Pilbara

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 22:43

Member - Carolyn & Peter L


Wednesday 3rd June
What an Oasis! Cable Beach Caravan Park is a huge park with Lots of shade – in our case it wasn’t worth the effort of putting up our kwik awning. People seem to sleep in a bit longer even tho the sun comes up at 6. We were led to believe that you couldn’t book caravan sites in Broome, but certainly for this early in June it wasn’t a problem, although we booked from Kununurra a week before our arrival. Beware the fees increase in June tho – from $45 a night to $52 for a powered site.

We spent the day doing some washing, grocery shopping and checking out the visitors centre then driving around town.Broome is very spread out, with the main town being centred around Roebuck Bay on the eastern side of the peninsula, with the airport in the middle and cable beach to the north. You can’t see many of the beaches from the road due to mangroves and sandhills, although the town beach is quite pretty and of course cable beach, where you can drive onto the beach, is superb.

We met our neighbours behind us, ‘locals’ Helen and Colin, from East Victoria, and they live at the Cable Beach Caravan Park for 6 months of the year! They take 14 days to drive up or back, taking it slow. They have been doing this for 20 years now. We also met three or four other couples that do the same (I suspect there are many more too, we only met some of them), and as Helen says, they have become their winter family. We really enjoyed their company and conversations, it was like being at a massive caravan and camping show – chatting about our travels, different types of rigs and things to do and see. They have happy hour every few days where they congregate at each other’s sites talking and having a few drinks. We were invited but our evenings were taken up with trying to get shots of The staircase to the Moon so we had to decline.
I had planned our arrival in Broome to coincide with Staircase to the Moon, a phenomenon that only happens in this part of Australia where there are large tides, and when the full moon rises on a low tide it has the effect of a staircase with the light reflected in the shallow pools.

So on our first night we headed off to The Mangrove Resort Hotel in Roebuck Bay to view the moon rising. We had been warned to come early, and that the best spot was up on the balcony. First off, the car park was packed! We drove down the road a bit and walked back up the hill. The place was packed!! No spare spots left on the balcony and too many people on the terrace, several having already set themselves up along the edge of the terrace with their tripods. I left Peter lined up at the bar to get drinks while I checked out for a spot on the balcony. There were three lines at the bar- each with about 6 people! After seeing there were no spots left up on the balcony, I returned to pete to find out the the the guy in front of him had paid $40 for their first round of 4 drinks – 2 softies and 2 glasses of wine. Yikes!

Since the staircase to the moon is over 3 nights, we decided to try again earlier the next night and head on down to the town markets. Lots of food stalls, jewellery, souvenirs and the like. We bought some delicious crushed frozen mango – yum!! There was a stall for natural wonders – good riddance mozzie repellant which I purchased. Smells beautiful – lemongrass which I had read is used in natural repellants. The jury is out on its effectiveness tho, not sure if I didn’t reapply it often enough or I was bitten at night, but I did end up with a few bites. All is not lost tho, it’s a great moisturiser as well so all’s good! There was a drum group who entertained the crowd – all done up with LED lighting on their clothing and bodies, which would have made some fantastic pictures, but we couldn’t get close enough to see them properly, never mind take photos!

We headed back the 10 min walk to the car, and decided to drop into Matso’s Brewery for a pale ale and dinner. It was busy so we had a short wait for a table. Matso’s actually used to brew and bottle on site, but the demand is too great now, so they send the kegs of brew down to Perth for bottling. We chose their alcoholic Ginger ale and had a grazing fish platter with Thai fish salad, salt and pepper crumbed fish, grilled Barra and prawns with dipping aioli and bowl of wedges. Nice to have a night off cooking and the setting was just wonderful in the garden with all the lights, very tropical bali-like.


Thursday 4th June
Rest day!!! We had booked an extra day in Broome as we could only get onto the Horizontal Falls Tour on the Saturday, so we had plenty of time to rest. It was much cooler by now, no repeat of the humidity of 93% on our first day. By the afternoon it would still get to 31-33, but it wasn’t too bad in the shade with the 12v fan going. I sat around camp sorting out brochures and planning our upcoming trip to Karijini, recharging all our electrical appliances and backing up photos. Pete pottered around the car and kamper then took a trip to Bunnings (Gemma works in head office in Melbourne and wanted him to go and see what it looked like). He also found a Car wash but was a bit frustrated with continually having to put in coins every minute. it was worth it though to wash off the dust and bugs! I also made up some salads for dinner and lunches and popped them in ziplock bags in the fridge. (Ruth - they were chorizo, avocado, capsicum, olives and Lebanese cucumber; and Hungarian salad with mixed veges, apple, walnut, sour cream and mayo)??

I had been asking around and checking out online for a better venue to photograph staircase to the moon, rising this time an hour later at 7.06pm. we drove to the golf course, further round on Roebuck Bay. We couldn’t see the beach from the car park at the top, or easily see any paths leading down to the beach through the sandhills. Pete chatted to one of the golfers at the clubhouse who pointed out a track through the sandhills, about 2/3 of the way along the carpark. So off we headed, me as the forward scout to check out the site with camera, torch and phone, and pete bringing up the rear with the chairs and esky pack with drinks and nibbles.

It was quite a trek through red sandhills, twisting and turning through the vegetation but I finally found it! Pete overshot the mark a bit (it was nearly dark and unfortunately I had both the torches, oops!!). A phonecall and 5 minutes later and he made it to the same spot. There was still an hour to moonrise so we settled in (it was actually cool enough for a light jumper but I hadn’t thought of that) and enjoyed the views we had of the port and jetty lit up at night, sipping our ciders and munching on crackers and dip. We used the time to phone Philippa and had a lovely chat. It was getting close to moonrise so thought I would pack up the esky bag, and was excited to see three rather large hermit crabs had decided to visit our esky bag and get into the crackers too!! So THAT was the crackling noise I had been hearing in the dark, I thought it was the tide going out over rocks, but it was hermit crabs and the sandhills had heaps of them, scuttling and clicking their way down to the beach!

Next minute we could see the gloaming of the moon before it rose, so it was a rush to get the camera set up back on the tripod and a mad dash down the last couple of metres onto the beach to try and get pictures in between the boats that were moored in the harbour, so their lights didn’t get in my pictures. Poor pip, I left the phone with Pete and just took off in the dark with my torch! He joined me soon enough and we moved even further towards the port to try and avoid the boats. It was so exciting, but straight away I could see the settings I used for a sunset wouldn’t do as there was so much less light, and the shutter had to be open for so long that there was movement showing on my pics from the breeze moving the tripod (I had a 2 second delay so I knew it wasn’t my hand movement on the camera causing the blur). I quickly turned up the ISO to 1600, then ended up using shutter speed priority to get a quick exposure,a finally getting it right for the last few pics, and I just kept firing!

At least there was one more night – I could give it another go! We traipsed back up to the chairs, packed up after kicking out the hermit crabs – there were 5 by now and lots more on the sand. The trek back to the car was a bit problematic, trying to find the track through the sandhills and dense vegetation, but we made it. The car park was deserted, we were the only ones left! After all the excitement and the nibblies we had, we decided it was too late for dinner so headed off to bed early..


Friday 5th June
In the morning we checked out the shops in the main town area – lots of pearl and jewellery shops where I managed to keep my credit card in my purse! Quite a few cheap Asian clothing stores, and also a few more upmarket design stores well the price was more upmarket but the clothing was still mostly mass produced. A lovely art gallery where you can see James Down’s quirky work. Bit like Ettamogah Pub meets vibrant colours of the Kimberley! He was in residence, painting a large piece that was being commissioned for the Toyota Dealership. He told us the boss was going to mount it in his office so only people who got to buy new cars would get to see it! It was a map/ picture of the town with all its quirky people and places. Very tempted to buy a mounted print – they were very reasonable for only $50 – maybe when we go back later!

There was also a photography Gallery which we really enjoyed. Yane Sotirosky had some beautiful photographs in the gallery,many printed onto metallic paper then mounted under an acrylic block. Unfortunately the other photography gallery, red dirt, wasn’t open at the time.

The plan was to drive to the lighthouse and walk out to see the dinosaur footprints at low tide, but on the way there we stopped at the town beach to choose a spot to revisit The Staircase to the Moon again that night, and realised the tide was fully in - I had read the tide charts wrong - so no dinosaur footprints this trip! Instead we found the St John of God relationships museum, all about how the SJOG sisters first came to Beagle Bay and the school and medical services they set up. We would have stayed for longer but we arrived at 12.40 and the museum is run by volunteers, and they close each day at 1pm So onto the other museum, telling the story of Broome and the Pearl trading. There was a huge amount of memorabilia, including a shell collection that was donated to the museum from one of the locals, Phyllis McDaniel whose husband was a Pearler. She came to Broome in 1914, and the family donated the collection to the museum in 1975.

The best part of the museum for me was the video of The Hello Girls. It was a Documentary that was done about the girls who ran the Broome Telephone Exchange, and through their interviews much of the richness of Broome was revealed. How the Hello girls always knew what was going on, how people would phone the exchange and say they were leaving the phone off the hook, if the telephonists could check every now and then and if there were babies or children crying, they could reach them at so-and-so’s place!!!! One of the girls, Leonie, used to go to work in her bikini. They talked about the town’s open air Sun Pictures cinema, (still in operation today), and how there were different sections for all the different races – until the lights went down! The high tide used to come right up through the picture theatre and you would be sitting watching a movie with water up to your ankles!!!

The museum also held many artefacts and photos from the Pearling Days, and how the aboriginals and the asians made the best divers, but it was very dangerous work.

That evening we returned to the Town Beach to photograph Staircase to the Moon – take 2. It was much later rising by the third night at 8pm,so we were able to enjoy our dinner first then head down to the beach an hour before moonrise. Still quite a few people but we moved down the beach to where we thought would line up with the rising moon. My shots were much more successful this time, tempered by the fact that the moon was no longer truly full – the top was a little flattened.

Still, I had captured it and I was very happy! We have been told to get the correct exposures on both the reflective staircase as well as the moon itself, the commercial photographers take 2 separate shots at different exposures to be able to see the craters on the moon and avoid over-exposure. I took separate shots, might have to do a course in photoshop when I get home to patch the 2 together!

Saturday 6th June
Bucket List stuff today! It’d wanna be for getting me out of bed at 4.30am for a shower before being picked up at 5.30am!!! We were the first on the minibus, driving around to pick up another 5 or 6 couples also on the half day tour before heading to the airport. Each of us had a nametag with the letters of the registration of the seaplane we were to board so we didn’t get on the wrong plane. There was another bus or two, and all together there were four seaplanes that took off in rapid succession for King Sound, just as the sun started to rise.

The flight was just over an hour, and before we knew it we were landing on King Sound, Talbot Bay! We taxied up to the pontoons where the tour operators had two large 2-storey boats, connected to each other and then to a series of pontoons for the seaplanes, helipad and shark cages and the two jetboats that we boarded soon after landing to make the best of the tides through the falls. The area has up to 11.8m tides, and the tide was falling fast. The horizontal Falls are formed when water is trapped in one tidal pool and can’t escape quickly enough into the next. There are two falls, one wider than the other. We could see the tide differential a little rushing through the first one, about a meter or so, but when we approached the second one it was much more noticeable, at least 3 metres difference, and the water was swirling so powerfully it wasn’t safe to go through, but we didn’t know that til after, the jet boat took us powering up to the entrance, being tossed about by the current. It was just amazing and there was that bit of doubt – will they go through or won’t they? They told us after that its rarely safe to pass through the more narrow falls, but we didn’t know that at the time. The boat operators were excellent at powering up to the entrances from all different directions so that everybody on the boat got to see, and take photos. Although I have to say there was a jerk sitting in front of me with his hand and mobile phone in the air (presumable on video) the whole time!! I did manage to get some speccy shots despite him though! We were sort of wishing his phone would go overboard – no such luck. Would it surprise you to know he was the only one we had to wait for on the pick-up bus in the morning?? No, I guess not!
Before we knew it we were headed back to the pontoons for a delicious bacon and egg roll breakfast with juice, tea and coffee and cereal and yoghurt. No prizes for guessing why they didn’t serve that up before the boat trip – it was pretty choppy out there!

Next we headed down to the shark cages on the pontoons. A few game people got in. it was pretty safe, the sharks were Tawny Nurse Sharks, about 2.5m long. The operators were feeding them fresh barramundi and the sharks loved it! There was one they had nicknamed Timmy who was missing one of his front feelers, they had trained him to swim on his back when they tapped him on the head. There were also quite a few large batfish who came in for feeding too.

After the shark cage we got back on the jet boat for a cruise up the Kimberley Creek, to the quiet bay where they store the pontoons in the wet season, before heading back to the main pontoon area to board our flight back which took is over more of the Buccaneer Archipelago, then Cape Levique before heading back down the coast to Beagle Bay, Willy Creek And Cable Beach.

What a rush it had been! Horrendously expensive at $795 EACH but so worth it, something you won’t get to see anywhere else in the world, and the photos I got out of it were fantastic.

Back down to earth and the afternoon was spent with the never-ending proverbial washing, restock shopping and an unscheduled visit to Telstra to eventually get our new wifi modem replaced as it was faulty. I really should have headed down to cable beach to photograph the camels coming in at sunset, but I was just looking forward to a quiet night in camp, and as Helen our camp neighbour said, we would be back to Broome in a week or so and I could get those photos then.

Sunday 7th June
Sunday morning saw us packed off and headed south towards Port Hedland then inland to Karijini National Park just north of Tom Price in the Pilbara. We hadn’t really planned to go south of Broome, particularly as Pete had no desire to return there after working there for a year, but I had never seen it, and its only 2 days drive from Broome. We changed our minds when talking to a couple at The Bungle Bungle who said they had just come from Karijini and it was the highlight of their trip!

The drive from Broome to Hedland is pretty mundane, and without event we pulled in to the De Grey River free camp spot 82km north of Hedland at about 4.30 – and struggled to find a spot! We think there may have been up to 100 rigs dotted along the river bank and up the top near the road – it was amazing! We eventually decided to take the less scenic option up the top in like a paddock off the road with a 200m walk to the drop loo and we knew from wiki camps that it was on a cattle station and the brahma cattle wandered through the area quite happily. Having said that, when having a little pit stop at midnight it was a bit unnerving to have a brahma cow or bull bellowing just behind you in the dark!

Monday 8th June
Early next morning we drove into Port Hedland – much bigger than I anticipated, a thriving town of 18,000 people. We needed to get fuel and some batteries for our tyre dog so spent a bit of time sorting that out ( along with the prerequisite latte and muffin we seem to indulge in when going through a town).

We headed inland a bit south of Hedland, and the drive was much more interesting. They had had 3 days of rain about 3 weeks ago, and it was so green with a lot of water lying around. There were lots of road trains on the road carrying iron ore – Pete thought they were most likely coming from Gina Hancock’s Roy Hill mine, as she hasn’t got her railway built yet like BHP and Rio do. Lots of red dust on everything.

We turned west just north of Tom Price to drive in to Karijini, stopped at the visitor centre to pay for camping and headed to the Dale Campground where our camp hosts had a nifty system of assigning camp spots, and could tell me which ones had morning sun and afternoon shade, and off we went to Kangaroo Loop, site 42. It was a great site, only about 25m from the drop loo, only 1 neighbour who was sort of behind us anyway. It was so green, red gravel camp sites with the usual red dust, but we were very happy to set up.

Tuesday 9th June
Getting too used to taking time out, we spent the morning round camp after our wake up call from the dingoes down the road , me reading while Pete tinkered with a few jobs on the kamper and the battery system for the car. After lunch we headed off to Fortescue Falls lookout, and walked down to the falls (800m, 1hr return grade 4 walk). Absolutely beautiful! It was a tough descent down and up with steep steps, but the view was worth it. Once we got to the falls we continued to the Fern Pool along the gorge floor 300m further on. People were swimming but it was too cold for us, so we just enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and waterfalls – just beautiful with massive native figs growing out of the rocks along with maidenhair ferns (Mum, you would die if you see how easily they grow in the wild!). Even saw a couple of bats over the other side of the gorge hanging in the trees.

On return to camp I set up the weber q again – lamb leg roast with garlic and rosemary for dinner!!!! THIS is the life! So much cooler at Karijini than in Broome, it was only 22 and overcast when we arrived, but since then the days have been 23 – 25 with the nights a lot cooler down to about 7 – had to get out the winter jimjams!
And therein ends week 3!

Take me back to my home
To the spirit of the land that calls me
Colours and textures, light and birdsong
There I can breathe, and restore my soul
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