Adelaide to Kimberley week 5 - Brooome take 2 and Dampier Peninsula

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015 at 23:18

Member - Carolyn & Peter L

Wednesday 17th June
Leaving Cape Range National Park we had to travel back into Exmouth – such a hardship so we celebrated with a visit to Brumby’s for coffee and maybe a few extra calories?!

Back on the road and heading north there wasn’t much to see, the road is very similar so I settled down with a good book on my kindle to help pass the miles. Our stop for the night was Robe River a free camp near Fortescue. We pulled in at about 3.30pm and had to do a couple of circuits to find a place to pull up. Very popular and not as big as the De Grey River stop we used on the way south, it was crammed with over 25-30 RV’s all squeezed in. The bins were overflowing when we arrived ( so we didn’t stop near them!) but the guys came to empty them while we were setting up. Pete did a tricky bit of manoeuvring to put us neatly in between two other rigs parked parallel along the fenceline. Neat fit!.

Thursday 18th June
We had about 4hrs to go into Pt Hedland, and on the way detoured into Dampier and Karratha, both very large busy Ports. Pete found a BP that had car washing facilities, so the car and kamper enjoyed a wash down. We stayed at point Cook Caravan Park in Pt Hedland – not startling but ok for the night. Shower was welcome and got a bit of washing done.

Friday 19th June
The drive to Broome was another 600km. We stopped to set up our lunch at Sandfire Roadhouse ( we had stopped there on the way south too). They have a lovely outdoor rest area under shade with a little pond and water feature –quite lovely and a few peacocks, including an albino one, strutting around.

After lunch I took over driving for the remaining 3 hrs into Broome – pretty boring road I have to say! Thank God for the iPod and some sing-along music! I thought Pete would have a nap but he had downloaded “Flinders” – all about Matthew Flinders onto his kindle – and he read the whole way. Great to see him so involved in a book.
Finally arrived back in Broome just before 5pm, different campsite this time but it felt like coming home!

Saturday 20th June
Sleep in! Boy have we acclimatised to holidays! Spent the morning doing 3 loads of washing – even gave the quilt a wash this time! Off shopping in the afternoon. The. We had to hang around the phone a bit as our house sitter Fiona phoned to say our pet cat, Fifty, had been limping for a few days and she was taking him to the vets, so we had to wait for the verdict (and the bill). Fortunately nothing drastically obvious so an anti-inflammatory shot and wait-and-see approach were all that were needed for the moment

In the evening we decided to join the local community for Mass at the Catholic Church, really enjoyable but a little different to our own community at home. The church also boasts a beautiful pearl alter, in a similar fashion to the one at Beagle Bay.

Sunday 21st June
Ummmmm……another sleep in? Well we are on holidays after all! I spent most of the day trip planning for the great Gibb River Road, which we are hoping to have 3-4 weeks to enjoy. No phone or internet – could be very interesting!

In the late morning we walked around the park to catch up with our friends Helen and Colin whom we met on our first visit to Broome. They come up from down south for 6 months of the year to the caravan park, have been doing it for 20 years! Both Helen and Colin were thrilled to see us again and enjoyed looking at our photos of our southern detour – places they had been to themselves before.

In the late afternoon we packed up and headed down to the infamous Cable Beach. You can drive right down onto the beach at low tide (Colin had been able to tell us the tide times). The last thing on my bucket list for Broome was catching the camels at sunset by photograph – I thought this would be more appealing than the actual ride along the beach!

There were dozens of cars already on the beach (with a lot more still to come). The camels go at 4pm – 2 separate strings – and then again at sunset. I managed to get a few shots, but the sunset ones they came back a bit early, and then cut back behind our car so I didn’t get the silhouette shots I wanted. It was really hard to take a decent photo with just the camels, without all the cars on the beach and the dozen or so people (like me) trying to take photographs! Oh well, not stunning but ok. I had planned to go for a swim (even donned the cozzie) but in the end once we put up the Ostrich Wing Awning it was just too pleasant in the shade sipping a cider to venture too far into the water (I did dip my toes though). Trish we keep on getting heaps of comments about the awning, haven’t seen any others up here yet, but one guy came over to chat as his son has one.

Monday 22nd June
Earlier start to pack up and head to the Dampier Peninsula. The turnoff is 20-odd k’s from Broome, then its bone-shattering corrugations and very soft sand for 113km! Took a couple of hours, a lot of the time having to slow down to 30-40 km/hr to deal with the corrugations and uneven road surface. A lot of it was like being in a semi-circular half tunnel, with the sides of the roads extending above the top of the car. A few rusted car wrecks nestled in amongst the trees! We came across a station wagon stopped not even on the side of the road, and were about to stop and ask if they needed any help, but the vehicle had been abandoned (and trashed) and left just where it was! One of the other travellers we spoke to in Beagle Bay said it had been there for a few days, and it looked like it had hit another vehicle or a very big animal as the front was all pushed in. We have seen quite a few vehicles abandoned and trashed on the side of the road, particularly south of Broome heading down to Port Hedland and Exmouth.

Finally we reached the bitumen! Cheers and rejoicing…….and so quiet! Only 30km or more down the road and we reached the turn off for Beagle Bay. The Trappist Monks came to Beagle Bay in 1890 (known as Ngarlun Burr by the traditional owners, the Nyul Nyul people). The first Baptisms took place in 1896 in a church built from bush timber and paperbark.
The Trappist Monks learnt the local language and in turn taught them French and Latin, but eventually left the area as they felt their monastic lifestyle was not suited to such remote Missions. They were replaced by the German Pallottine Missionaries who continued there for the next 100 years. In 1907 the Sisters of St John of God arrived from Ireland. In the relationships museum in Broome there is a lot of information about the SJOG sisters and what it was like for them, and what they did.

The Sisters devoted themselves to teaching and nursing and the care of the Stolen Generation children brought to Beagle Bay under government orders. The great great grandchildren of the original owners and of the Stolen Generation continue to serve and celebrate at The Sacred Heart Church, and run the community.

The church is also famous for its beautiful shell altar and decorations, which were made by one of the priests along with the people of the community. Even the window frames are surrounded by mother of pearl, cowries, volutes and olive shells collected from the local beaches. The result is a combination of traditional Nyul Nyul, Mimanborr and Bard symbols and materials with traditional Christian symbols and European mosiac techniques resulting in a unique expression of art and faith.

The little church and community are also part of Di Morrissey’s novel, Tears of the Moon, set in Broome in the Pearling Days.

We opened up the kitchen on the kamper to prepare lunch, and enjoyed it in the shade while chatting to other travellers who had been on then peninsula for a few days already.

Back on the road we headed north to the turn off for Middle Lagoon, another aboriginal-owned and run campground which I had already booked on-line. Well the road into Middle Lagoon was even worse than the dirt road before! Lots more sandy with seemingly no grading or maintenance done for a very long time! We realised we should have let our trye pressures down but continued on at a slow speed and finally made it.
The guy at the “office/tin shed” found our booking on his computer (they had satellite wi-fi and Telstra reception was available within about 20 m of the office). He gave us a mud map and directed us to our spot, instructing us to go down the the boat ramp then turn left up the hill and back around to our campsite. Well that was fine but he neglected to tell us the road to the left had been closed, so before we knew it we were at a standstill right in the middle of the soft sand of the boat launching area. Pete realised we hadnt been given the right directions so started to back out – until we stopped! Ok, so he went forward a bit, but the sand was too soft. He tried going back again but realised the brakes were engaging on the trailer as we reversed, so I jumped out and flipped the cuff down (which disengages the brakes). He tried again. Still wouldn’t reverse past a foot or two, it just stopped – I checked and the cuff had flipped up again. Bloody brakes! Didn’t help that the trailer had full tanks of water either.So we had the back passenger and front driver side wheels embedded nicely in the soft sand – yes we were bogged!

So we did what we should have done at the start, and let the tyres down to about 20psi. We still had the max trax if needed but Pete was fairly confident he could drive it out once the tyres were down. Did I mention there would have been about a dozen people and vehicles lined up on the beach, all viewing what was going on with interest? Seriously embarrassing!

Anyway, 10 min later with all the tyres partially deflated, I stayed on the sand watching while Pete got back in and just calmly drove it out! Easy as – well he had to go forward onto the beach to turn the trailer round but no probs at all. So we headed back up where we thought we should have gone, only to find the mud map didn’t match up with the track, surprise surprise, but the long term resident camping at the top came across and pointed out where we had to go. He had been watching us from his site high up on the sandhill, and admitted that if we hadn’t got ourselves out he would have come down with his vehicle and snatch strap – says he does it quite regularly! And yes, his wife later admitted that the bloke in the office “wasn’t very good at giving directions”. Ah no, I don’t guess he is!!!

When we finally arrived at our site, it was a find. Quiet secluded campsite high in the sandhills with a lovely view of the beach where we just got bogged! We set up the kamper then decided to walk down to the main camping area and check it out. The ablutions block was a good 300-400m from our campsite, but had flushing loos and hot showers!! Even a washing machine out on the verandah. Most of the other campsites were nestled behind, in a very open space with little shade. Along the top of the next beach were some seriously great camping spots, right at the top of the ridge overlooking the bay, with a short walk down the sandy cliff to the beach. However they were packed in pretty tight, with no shade, I think we had the best part of the deal after all, even if we had to walk further to the ablutions and to the beach..

Sunset was lovely and I got a few pics.

Tuesday 23rd June
You guessed it – sleep in! We were originally going to explore the rest of the Peninsula today, but decided due to the state of the road we would do it after we left tomorrow, save having to come back 35km on the soft and corrugated road to Middle Lagoon.

Lucky we weren’t leaving today as a large amount of condensation had formed both inside and outside the tent – and was dripping onto the bed! It wasn’t long before the sun came out and started to dry things off, but it made us realise we needed to pack up the awning tonight to avoid having to pack that up all wet in the morning.

At about midday we decided to drive the short distance to neighbouring Whale Song Café, a turn off about 5km down the sandy track. We had read reviews on wikicamps about this delightful cafe in the middle of nowhere. Also run by an aboriginal family, the café sits on top of the beach, and serves delicious gourmet pizzas, fresh squeezed juices and smoothies! How they manage to run it with only a weekly trip into town for groceries is amazing. They also grow a lot of the greens onsite in their vege garden, and there was a unique lily pond, made out of a canoe! They also have a campground with an open air bathroom but it is all back behind the cafe so we couldn’t see that. We really enjoyed shared pizza and mango crush and apple, mint and lime juice drink – will have to try that one when I get home – it was so refreshing!

It wasn’t a long drive back to camp, to catch up on the blog and pack up the awning once the sun had gone down.

Wednesday 24th June
Well today has made up for the inactivity of the last week! We woke early as it had been a very windy night – the windiest we have had so far. Good news was with the wind there was very little condensation like the night before. Up at 6am, sunrise over breakfast then headed out from Middle Lagoon at just after 7.30.The road out was much easier with the tyres deflated, and knowing the worst bits and where they were. On the way in we were never sure just how much further we had to go, or how much worse it was going to get.

After reaching the main (sealed) road 35km from Middle Lagoon, we headed north about 60km to the tip of Dampier Peninsula, Cape Levique, One Arm Point , Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and Kooljaman resort. You cant see much from the road, just miles and miles of bush.

One Arm Point is an aboriginal community that required a permit to enter, but we didn’t think we had time to enjoy it much so after a quick look we headed back south to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, just on the eastern side on the peninsula. The tours weren’t for another 1 ½ hrs, so we just walked down to the beautiful bay and boat ramp, up to the lookout and through their information area and shop. Cygnet Bay is the only saltwater Pearl Farm in Australia, but buyers beware as in Broome you can get a lot of freshwater cultured pearls, but these are all made overseas. The Pearls were beautiful but way out of my price range, $900 for a pair of earrings, $11,500 for a beautiful pearl bracelet!! The girls in the shop said they made a sale of $34,000 not long ago, and they have a necklace there (which I believe Eddie from Sunrise got to wear on their recent visit, then nearly dropped it in the infinity pool when she found out it was worth over $54,000!!!!!). .

One of the most interesting things I found out (because I asked about it), is that Cygnet Bay is the only freehold privately owned “white” property on the Peninsula, the rest being totally owned by the aboriginal land trust and communities. There was never any argument about land rights, because the owners, the Brown Family, have always had such a great relationship with the local indigenous people, many of them working on the property, even to the third generation today. When land rights were being settled, the local indigenous never disputed the Brown’s property ownership, and the Brown’s even gifted some of it back that wasn’t needed for their Pearl farm. Quite unique!

The girls in the shop were giving us heaps of background about all the research that goes on at the Pearl Farm, and how CSIRO and different universities all come to do research – the Pearl Farm puts them up in accommodation and helps out with equipment etc. One of the recent groups discovered a new species of monitor lizard that can only be found on the Dampier Peninsula, the Dampier Peninsula Monitor, a quite small creature only about 23cm in length. She even showed us pictures on the internet! When we were leaving I got excited as a small lizard looking very much like a small goanna scuttered into the bushes and let me take a photo. I took the camera back in to the shop, to find that it was the more common “Ta-Ta Lizard” called such as it would lift up its front legs and wave them in the air – looking like it was waving goodbye!Still interesting I guess. While we were at the Pearl Farm we visited the restaurant upstairs for latte and cake, enjoying the view and the beautiful infinity pool recently installed.

Back down the main road a few km we turned west into Kooljaman Resort. Once again owned by aboriginals, this is a very slick resort on Cape Leveque. Full resort accommodation, eco huts and tents and even bush shelters for campers overlooking the beach plus a normal small campground. Very pricy – the beach shelters are $75 a night, but the views are superb from some of them. Its usually booked out most days. We had to pay a permit price of $5 each to be able to walk through the resort, see the old lighthouse and if we wanted to we could have swam on the beach (but we didn’t).

On the road again we headed south then west off the main road for about 3km to Lombadina, a totally self sufficient community where you can stay in cabins for $175 a night. You can join in lots of different tours to experience local indigenous lifestyle, go out traditional spearfishing in the lagoon, boat charters, mudcrabbing tour or kayaking. They have a store, bakery where bread is baked 3 days a week, craft shop. Just to visit is $10 per vehicle, which also gives you access to their beautiful beach a short drive through very soft sandhills– the best on the peninsula I think!!!

I asked if I could visit their medical clinic which they were happy for me to do, and I was able to chat to the two nurses who are currently there.Hannah has been there for 12 months and says its one of the best she has worked in of all the remote areas she has worked in. They have a doctor come from Broome and sometimes Derby, 2 days a week. Their clinic seemed very well set up and supplied, much better than what I enjoyed over 18 years ago at Binjari out of Katherine. The girls told me they have an excellent immunisation rate, often a problem in indigenous communities. Although the community is not a dry community (yes they drink too much alcohol they said!) but there was very little alcohol related violence altho Ice was beginning to be a problem, but nothing like it is at One Arm Point and in Broome. Maybe in part because all the people in Lombadina work for a living?

Before we left we were able to visit the craft workshop where I chatted with the resident artist, CS Bosido, talking about how she does her silk screening and some natural silk dyed with a native puffball mushroom, giving a lovely earthy colour similar to iron rust dying which she said she had done a bit of as well. I couldn’t leave without buying something, so purchased a cotton printed sarong with a water lily design and a necklace made from local seeds. Sadly she is the only one in the community making and selling arts and crafts, the young ones don’t seem interested.
Before long we were back on the “main” road to Broome, and over 100km of corrugated very sandy unsealed road. It was much better this time, due to letting the tyres down but also once again knowing where the worst bits were was helpful.It only took us 1 ½ hrs this time instead of over 2! We arrived back at the Roebuck Plains Roadhouse caravan park just after 5.30pm, where we are staying for the next 2 nights while we restock before the Gibb River Rd.

So there ends week 5 plus 1 day…..a much less eventful week (if you don’t count getting bogged). This next week we will finally be travelling on the famous Gibb River Road, an unsealed 4WD road from Derby to Kununurra, taking us through the amazing Gorges and cattle stations of the Kimberly. Just under 900km long, it can be driven in a couple of days but you wouldn’t get to see much. Most people take about a week. We have set aside 3 to 4 weeks so we can take our time and see as much as possible. It will be a test though, most likely no internet or phone contact for the whole 4 weeks! Only a couple of basic grocery supplies at a roadhouse and a couple of the stations along with fuel, so we have to plan very well and take all our food and some extra fuel with us. The next update you get could be a month away. No news is good news. We have the satellite phone we can use in an emergency, and will probably text the kids from that every few days to spread the word that all is Ok. Catch you all in a few weeks……
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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