We found a great spot to leave the tent pegs in for a week… Broome! We’ve had a great break from the packing up and setting up routine this past week, but before getting here we did have to deal with some gale force winds on the Dampier Peninsula.
In a last ditch effort to bag the big Barra we left Derby about two weeks ago and spent a couple of nights on the Fitzroy River where Ben could get the boat in. There’s not much to do here except fish, so that’s what he did and there were definitely fish to catch – eight Barra over the two days but each of them just falling short of the 55cm legal limit! Although the pan was bare Ben still had a lot of fun pulling them in. The boys entertained themselves with a boab tree nearby, climbing it to get the nuts down, carving some and trying out the flesh of those that didn’t make it to the ground in one piece.
Cape Leveque, Cape Leveque, we’d heard so much about Cape Leveque and in particular Kooljaman Resort in our recent travels that we felt almost obliged to go there. It’s a very popular place though, when trying to make a booking from Derby the very busy receptionist informed me that there were no vacancies for over a week and that she’s have to call me back… she never did, so we didn’t stay there!
Our first stop on the Dampier Peninsula was past the protest camp situated at the junction of the Cape Leveque and James Price Point Roads. The protesters at the camp are trying to stop the Woodside gas hub that is planned for James Price Point from going ahead. The traditional owners of the area signed over their land to Woodside earlier in the year, but that deal has divided the Aboriginal community. Joining the indigenous protestors are those trying to preserve the landscape and animals of the area. Woodside have started some clearing work and as recently as last month there were some fairly heated scenes as protesters tried to stop heavy machinery from entering the area. We didn’t actually go right to James Price Point, but in retrospect perhaps we should have, it may never look the same again if Woodside do go ahead with the development.
We stayed at Quondong Point, about 15kms south of James Price Point. Quondong Point and beach were beautiful and there were a surprising number of people camped along the beach, with the dunes we were all able to get our own little hideaway though and were sheltered from the wind which had started to pick up over the couple of days we were here.
There was more fishing for Ben and playing in the sand for the kids. We met up with Chris and Marion here, so was good to have some friends again!
We’d been warned about the road to Cape Leveque being really rough and it definitely was. It was perhaps the worst piece of road we’ve travelled on as far as corrugations go. The road to the top was about 200kms long and we certainly had had enough of the bumpy ride after about a quarter of that when we stopped to help a couple of guys who’d lost their trailer wheel. There wasn’t really much we could do to help other than letting them use our satellite phone to call for a tow truck. Here’s hoping the Bulloak makes the distance! To our great delight the corrugated road ended after about 100kms and we were back on bitumen again, we thought that this surely wasn’t going to last, but it did – all the way to the top… brilliant!
With Kooljaman Resort not returning our call we decided to stay at Gambanan Campground which is run by the local Aboriginals near One Arm Point. It was an excellent spot on the water overlooking the entrance to King Sound, although King Sound is so huge that you can barely see the other side of it. We launched the boat and had a beautiful afternoon doing a bit of fishing and looking through the crystal clear water to the coral reefs below. Tobey managed to catch a Blue Lined Emperor, but that was the total tally for the day. Far more exciting were the huge turtles we saw poking their heads out of the water and the dolphin I think I saw, although it could very well have been a shark I suppose… it was the briefest of glimpses and I was hoping it was the former! That was to be the end of our fishing in the boat though, the wind picked up after our first night, so aside from a couple of short outings that Ben made himself it was really too rough to be out in the Sound. We had hoped that the fish trap may have some surprises in it at low tide, but that wasn’t to be. The locals said they’d caught a heap of squid in it the day before, once again we were a little too late!
We couldn’t come all this way without going to Cape Leveque itself, perhaps the wind altered the beauty of the place, but we really felt that all the hype of Kooljaman Resort was a little unfounded. Or maybe we’ve seen so many beautiful places lately that our standards are extremely high!
One of the funniest sights we’ve seen in a long time was a guy mowing the grass around the air strip at One Arm Point. Admittedly it was not a large airstrip, but he was mowing it with a whipper snipper!
We rounded off our stay on the Dampier Peninsula by playing on the sandbar in the middle of the bay that becomes exposed on low tide. The kids had races with a couple of new friends (more from close to home – Narrabeen this time) while Ben collected the empty crab pots. We’d been paddling in the water through the afternoon, no more than waist deep, because although there were not supposed to be any crocodiles around this area we were still a little doubtful as to why the many hundreds of crocs from the Fitzroy River and Derby area wouldn’t come out here, after all it is the same body of water. Our concerns were well founded too, when Ben pulled the crab pot in he found that something had been having a little play with the buoy. We then learned that crocs really like white coloured buoys and they are often left out as a type of croc indicator… if there are bites in the white buoys there are crocs around… well, there were crocs around!
We had hoped to stay at Middle Lagoon on the way back to Broome, but the looming smoke from bush fires in the Beagle Bay area made us change our minds. Just driving through the smoke for a few hundred metres was scary enough. With visibility down to a few metres it is so easy to understand how frightening it would be to be caught in a bush fire.
We passed a few more roadside tragedies on the journey back to Broome, there was a boat trailer minus both wheels, a camper trailer with the axle screwed around and one wheel coming out the back and another camper minus a wheel… this is seriously the most damaging stretch of road we have been on.
Our timing in Broome could not have been better, we arrived in time for the first day of the Shinju Matsuri festival. The festival celebrates the pearling industry in Broome and in particular the multicultural population of the community, in the words of the festival organisers, it is the only Australian festival with a Japanese name and a Chinese Dragon as it’s centrepiece. We spent the week enjoying the festival parade, markets, family beach day, art displays and the festival of lights.
The star of the festival of lights is the ‘Staircase to the Moon’, which occurs for a few nights every full moon when the rising moon shines across the mudflats in Roebuck Bay and creates a vision of ‘stairs’ leading to the moon. Unfortunately, on the nights that we were there so was a haze over the horizon which meant the moon didn’t get it’s chance to shine until it was fairly high in the sky. The photo on the left below is what we should have seen and the photo on the right is what we did get to see…still fairly impressive even though the moon was a little high in the sky.
Of course Broome has a whole lot more to offer outside of the festival. Ben and Chris spent a couple of days out in the boat fishing and we even had fish for dinner two nights in a row! Woo hoo! Indianna and I checked out Anastasia’s pool and the beautiful colours at Gantheaume Point, Indi was disappointed she couldn’t share the pool with ‘her’ Anastasia though (her cousin). Of course we swam and watched the sun go down at Cable Beach and we went to the movies for the first time in eight months at the Outdoor Cinema, sitting on deck chairs under the sky watching “Red Dog” which is based just a little further south of here in the Pilbara.
But what visit to Broome would be complete without a camel ride on Cable Beach! We boarded our ships of the desert on the morning we left Broome. Tobey and Jake were riding Waltzing Matilda, or ‘Tilly’ for short. Tilly is the smallest camel of the herd, but she had the biggest attitude – as far as we were concerned this definitely should have been Indianna’s camel!
You see all sorts of things on Cable Beach, see if you can spot what doesn’t add up in these two photos.
Departing Broome means leaving the Kimberley area and all of her stunning beauty, just as we expected this has certainly been a highlight of our journey and a part of Australia which everyone should make the effort to get to. It certainly is a long way away from almost everywhere else, but definitely worth getting here. We’re excited to be moving on to the Pilbara though and to see just how much things have changed in the 16 or so years since Ben and I were last here.