Despite promising myself I’d keep current with my blogs, I’ve slipped behind again.
I can’t even use the excuse of no Wifi, because I’ve had Wifi on’n’off for the past month. I’m travelling through this ancient and most magnificent part of the world. The longer I spend on my keyboard or behind a camera lense, the less I actually experience of the seeing and hearing variety. What’s a girl to do eh?
So here I am, travelling easy and still writing about our cruise on Kimberley Quest II – the second half of the cruise anyway. I’m going to start forgetting stuff people, so I’ll try to make this quick. (Famous last words)
Sunday May 1st, saw us disembarking at Freshwater Cove to visit an Aboriginal tourism venture. Firstly, a guided walk to a cave filled with art telling us the stories of huge cyclones, naughty boys who disobey their mother to pay the ultimate price at the hands of raging whirlpools and temptress Spirit Women who follow men around to this day – hussies! – all because they didn’t ‘smoke’ themselves after visiting their ancestors caves. Craig (our guide) told us that he’d heard the One who follows his father, on the beach one evening and had hastily headed home to his wife!
We were then treated to morning tea at the Art Gallery featuring works by a range of Kimberley artists, including Donny Woolagoodja – the fella I spoke about in my previous post. He did the huge Wandjina that featured in the opening of the Sydney Olympics. Robyn, who seemed to be the boss lady, showed us a canvas with examples of all the featured figures her people use in their paintings. Someone asked about the beautiful birds and dolphins that seemed to be quite different to everything else.
“Oh, we had some gaps so we just filled them in” she laughed. All the girls in the back laughed too. Simple pleasures.
Back in the 1980’s an American lass named Ginger Meadows was killed by a saltwater crocodile right at Kings Cascades falls. Today there are all sorts of stories and fables about her. As far as I can ascertain, it was a tragedy waiting to happen – a ‘bury your head in the sand’ kind of situation. In today’s litigious society, the skipper would end up in jail.
Twenty-five year old Ginger and her friend swam in the cove that King’s Cascades plummets into. They hopped out of the mother boat (Lady G) tender with the skipper and swam toward the falls, maybe 25-30 metres away. They were young and fit, so they figured they’d climb the rocks and explore above the falls up close and personal. The skipper was above them and saw the croc following them. He yelled a warning but they had nowhere to go, ending up on a rock ledge where they were still in the water.
The other girl apparently hurled her shoe at the croc but Ginger, in a moment of insanity (there’s no other explanation) thought that she could out-swim the salty and made for dry land. She never made it. They managed to salvage her armless body from its watery grave, but it’s said they had to end up getting a Customs boat to collect her remains because of the crocs that were still trying to get to the remainder of the kill. Eeew! The stuff out of nightmares!
The story certainly didn’t help my morbid fear of these beasts. I was on high alert for anything that looked like a floating dinosaur-lizard whenever I was within fifty metres of water in these parts. Despite constant heckling from my fellow travellers, who think I’m over cautious, I’m still in one piece. Go figure!
Back to our experience of these parts – rock art up the river then climbing and swimming up behind the falls. The ‘must do’ shower under the falls. Yes!
Grant, Matt and Nick (the handy Chef) helped us to traverse dense jungle and boulders to reach a swimming hole, filled by a terrace of waterfalls, fit for kings (and princesses). We belly flopped into the dark fresh water (to avoid the possibility of neck injury from submerged rocks – ever the safety conscious) and treated ourselves to water massages under the falls. We spent the next hour climbing upward to find the origin of the waterfalls but gave up at level three. Matt went up higher and reported an even better swimming opportunity on level five of the upper falls. We’ll just have to believe him.
That afternoon I joined Dan on a fishing expedition so that I could say I had fished. I must say, it’s kind of nice being able to return from a fishing trip and someone else takes care of all the cleaning and filleting. I actually received a commendation from Chris (one of our deckies) that night at dinner for my fishing prowess (or it could have been because I didn’t complain when the outboard motor snuffed out). I thought I might get a mention for getting the most snags but Leah beat me to it by casting right onto the mud – not a drop of water within 50 metres (could be a bit of an exaggeration). Sorry Chris, I’m guessing you’ll never see the photo below of your bum. I couldn’t resist.
The week went by in a blurr.
Careening Bay was where a chap named Phillip Parker King (an Australian born explorer) beached, or careened his ship for repairs in 1820. The incredibly old Boab tree there still has the engraved name of the ship ”Mermaid” in it. Just shy of 200 years ago. They did it tough for sure.
A chopper flight over Mitchell Falls was an expensive experience, but worth it for a once in a lifetime thing.
The take off and landing on the boat was exhilarating in itself. Fortunately for us the Mitchell Plateau copped heavy downpours of rain the day and night before we arrived, so the falls were plummeting – spectacular.
The previous evenings’ storms were a show in themselves from our vantage point at sea. The electric light display was mesmerising and impossible to photograph. Believe me – I tried for quite a while. The thunder! We thought we were witnessing the roar of Thor himself. Maybe it’s the echo off the rocks or something but it’s quite a different, breathtaking, earthquakey sort of rumble compared to other storms I’ve heard.
We followed up with an exploration of Swift Bay.We learned about middens (evidence of a feast. The shells are all thrown onto a stack) and were able to spot our own art sites as a result. Chris led us to the find of our trip. A wonderful example of untouched Tassle Bradshaw rock art.
Oops! Almost forgot the prawn trawler we happened across one night. Another guy the skipper knew. In exchange for a bit of money and some up-to-date New Idea and Womens Weekly magazines for their female cook, we scored a serious bag of BIG prawns. Of course Nick created feasts with them. Some of us began to look like prawns.
We visited the wreck of a DC3 plane wreck that was heading for Broome on a rescue mission after the Japs bombed it There you go, I didn’t even know Broome was bombed – did you? Amazingly the crew survived but it took ages for them to be picked up. Thanks to the skills of the radio technician, they were able to receive supplies by air-drop.
Anyway, we dutifully inspected the wreck but the real highlight was this little character. A true blue Australian ghecko. Not one of those chirping Asian things that hide behind your picture frames and poo down your walls. He was quite the little poser. He never once tried to hide. Just arranged himself in different positions, like a super model, and stayed stock still for us to photograph him.
At Jar Island some fished and a few of us went fossicking for rock art. Dan chilled out on the boat and read which turned out to be the most sensible choice.
The heavens opened up and we all got swamped. I was astounded at how quickly little waterfalls started to run. By the time we reached the tender to head back to the big boat, the island looked liked the Trevi Fountain from where we stood on the beach. Riverlets chased us all the way to the water. It’s easy to see how people get caught in gorges when it rains up stream or on the plateau.
The Drysdale River wouldn’t let us in on the evening of our arrival – too shallow – so we spent a rather uncomfortable night anchored at its mouth – rocking and rolling. As soon as there was enough water over the bar in the morning we cruised on in with 300 millimetres to spare under our keel.
The skipper took us in the tenders to meet a character named Donald, who lives upstream. He’s chosen a remote spot alright, but he isn’t left wanting for much. Visiting boats share supplies and bring much needed fuel. Apparently his grandson lived with him and was on school of the air, so he has a couple of massive satellite dishes right there. Telstra put a new posh one in for him at a cost of $180,000 but never allowed for maintenance, so it’s slowly falling apart. Fancy eh? He isn’t a hermit either as one may expect way up there. He can chat about pretty much anything and everything and has a sound knowledge of the Share Market as a Day Trader. He has a pet Cod that visits in season and is given treats from him in return for company and entertainment. An odd duo.
The tides worked against us however, so we were unable to reach too much further up the river, depriving us of its breathtaking colours and rock formations. Art in itself. Another afternoon downpour left us all looking like drowned rats by the time we got back to the big boat.
With two days left the piece d’resistance was yet to come. King George Falls. For the life of me I can’t think of an apt description. Awesome in the true sense of the word.
As we slowly crept up the sound toward the dual falls, our boat was almost silent. We gaped and sighed at the beauty of the place. The falls themselves were’t in full swing because of the dry wet season, but we got the gist. Lack of thundering water meant that we could get up close and personal with the falls. The skipper said it’s the closest he’s ever been able to get a boat in – as usually the volume of water coming over the falls pushes out to the entrance. Take a look at the photos.
We climbed right up top for a swim in the rock pools but there wasn’t enough water to swim so we cooled off by sitting in little flows and watched a water monitor watch us.
Around the top coming down to the Berkeley River was challenging for me. I’ve been known to be sea sick on a boat that was still on its trailer. So after a number of years learning how to be a Skipper’s First Mate of sorts on Dan’s boats, I figure I know just about every seasickness remedy on the market (and some that aren’t on the market). For me, none that are available in Australia work that well. As soon as the Kimberley Quest started moving in that familiar washing machine way, I put myself to bed and stayed there till all was well with the seas we were on. What bliss to be able to do that. No need to worry about feeding guests or being sociable when you actually feel like flinging yourself overboard.
First thing that jumps out at you is the Berkeley River Lodge. It’s like – what the …? Perched on top of the river’s wind swept sand dunes, it looks quite out of place and vulnerable. Apparently it’s a popular and very expensive haunt for wealthy fishermen and people wanting something really different for a holiday. You know, isolation, fishing, crocodiles, cyclones, isolation …? I admit, it did have a rather nice beach to ponder on. But further along the river turned into a gorge and there we we were, playing our part in another magnificent vista. The photographers went nuts.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and we finally mad landfall in Wyndham. An interesting spot that has seen the rise and fall of the live beef trade and mining exports. As a port it once flourished, but there’s little left to see now besides wide salt pans where the king tides inundate the coast. The halt to the live beef trade may have been its lethal blow and during that time business ground to a halt. Any FIFO workers left now move in and out of Kununurra or stay onsite. . There are still people trying to make a go of it up there. The port still operates to bring in supplies and to take out cattle again. Only time will tell.
Phew! Kimberley Cruisin’ done and dusted! For us, it was a kind of an anticlimax. Often the way after an amazing experience. How do you end it? A few went straight on to El Questro. Others went straight home. For us, our journey was really just about to begin.
Back to Broome to meet our travelling companions again and to restock the Van, in preparation for the trip back east along the Gibb River Road.
Not before we’d seen Cape Leveque however, on the Dampier Peninsular.
That’s our next stop.