The Kimberley - Exploring the Drysdale River, Petroglyphs, Snapping Turtles and quad fun.

Friday, Jul 30, 2010 at 03:00


Thursday 29th July,2010
Barking Owl Camp, Drysdale River
The Kimberley WA

Our mission fo the day was to scout downstream on the quads to identify any points further north that would provide for vehicle access. Here we would meet the boats for a trip downstream to check out some petroglyphs hewn into a rocky face. Naturally, a hearty breakfast came first but it wasn’t too late in the morning before we were out exploring on the quads. Any access route north meant taking the quads out to Bulldust Yard then heading north across the plains . It was fairly open country for a good distance, the numerous wild cattle having cropped the grass closely. We had a bit of fun on the quads as we negotiated our way along the sandy banks of the river.

Once at the agreed destination, we awaited the boats to arrive. It took both of the tinnies to ferry us down stream to a point where a large slab of rock protruded across the river blocking it entirely. This was what obviously helped maintain the pool level of the large, deep stretch of the river that commenced at our camp, the rock providing a natural barrier or 'weir' if you like. This large basalt like slab was obviously inundated with water during the wet as evident by the huge dead tree washed high onto the upper reaches of the rock. This was a good 7 metres above the height of the current pool level giving an indication of both the volume of water coming down this river in the wet, and the raw power of that water!

On the upper reaches of this stony shelf many groups of petroglyphs that had been tapped into the rocks. Many took the form of an emu nest and eggs. Others were clearly outlined feet and hands.There was also the occasional wanjana as well as spears, boomerangs and other items of posible ceremonial significance. Some of these were rudimentary and yet others showed a degree of depth and detail that made it seem that they had been carved with more modern tools. In actual fact we were informed that these petroglyphs were classified as having been created in the past few hundreds of years or so. It was also widely believed the carvings with finer detail are even younger than that and had in fact been etched with the assistance of modern iron implements either found, taken or given to the local inhabitants by sailers and settlers in the region.

The number of turtles visible on the surface of the water was simply incredible. I counted nearly a hundred in total while heading in a single directipon along the river. After several failed attempts, I managed to snatch one as we passed, at grave risk to my fingers I later realised. These snappers have a fearsome set of jaws and a mean countenance that left me in no doubt that any digit straying into reach of that gaping orifice would be seriously damaged and hard to get back! We also spied a smallish fresh water croc sunning itself in the shallow waters. In some areas, sand bars and submerged boulders made navigation hazardous forcing us to travel slowly and keep a watchful eye on the waters ahead lest we snag something with the motor and damage the prop.

When we arrived back at the quads, we were amazed to see Barramundi swimming casually in the water by the banks directly beneath the safety offered by overhanging boughs. Perhaps I should upgrade from a line to a .22 calibre rifle for barra fishing. Knowing my poor track record in hunting the elusive fish, I’d probably do more damage to myself than the local fish population! Some serious messing about on the quads was had as we wound our way home along the river. The back wheel of our ATV came off the ground on one hairy decent into a wash away but all was well in the end as Vikki pushed us off the tree as we passed, all captured on video by John and Suzette behind us.

We spent the afternoon in camp taking care of a few chores and a bit of clothes washing. Vik and I have made the decision to leave tomorrow rather than spend another week waiting for Joc to sort out exactly what he’s up to. We’ll use the last two weeks to take in the sights of the Kimberley before heading to Kununurra, the Bungles and down the Tanami to the south. Scott and Gab are a bit undecided as to their route home yet but have a longer holiday period than us anyway.John and Suz will wait to assist the hike group get to where they’re going out towards Old Theda (if the group gets organised).

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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