We were still waiting for parts from Kedron so we left our problems behind in Derby and headed for the horizontal falls!
The horizontal falls is the name given to a natural phenomenon on the Kimberley coast first described by David Attenborough as “one of the greatest wonders of the natural world”. It is a fast moving tidal flow through 2 narrow gorges (one 20 metres and the other 12 metres), of the Mclarty Range which is on a wild remote area of the Kimberly coast. Tides in this area can be 10 metres, so it’s easy to see how this can occur. We had been told by friends from Darwin that we HAD to do this trip and they raved about. IT WAS AMAZING! Thanks Rick and Louise! M
We met all the other people we would be spending the next 24 hours with. We were a group of only 11. We had a nice group of people who were mainly grey nomads traveling. We also met the resident sharks and heard about the bull and reef sharks that sometimes show up. Then we jumped in our speed boat and headed over to see the falls around the turning of the tide. On this tour we were to see both an in going and out going tide but we were also taken out this first time to see it comparatively flat, so we could see the difference. The boat had 3x 300hp motors, so that we could sit in between these narrow gaps in the rock with turbulent water and whirlpools everywhere. You needed to be very skilled with the boats to hold them in this position. Louie was a pro!I think he was a NZ jet boat driver in another life and gave us a bit of speed now and again which was a lot of fun. M
After the excitement of speeding through narrow gaps in gorges at full speed with the feel of a roller coaster at times, we went for a slow cruise up Cyclone Creek into a bay and did a bit of fishing near the mangroves. We were told we already had dinner sorted but we could catch our entree if we liked. There were a few keen fisherman on the trip hanging out to wet a line. There were also 2 newbies like Steve who had a go. M
Cyclone creek is so named because it is a very safe harbour. The old pearlers used to bring their boats in this bay during cyclones for safety. This business does the same thing in the wet season when there are no trip for 4 months. The boats and pontoon and left up here and spend a good deal of their time sitting on mud at low tide so there is less decrusting of the bottoms of the boats. M
We then headed back to the falls to see the outgoing tide. It was now 2 metres high and it was now unsafe to squeeze through the narrow gap only being safe up to a metre. It was pretty exciting just having the boat sitting just outside getting very close to the rocks and in the middle of the turbulence. M
And if all THAT wasn’t exciting enough, we next went on a helicopter ride to view the falls from the air a bit more slowly. The 2 choppers from the pontoon came to pick us up and take us up for the sunset. M
We got up very early the next morning to see the sunrise on the speed boat out in the bay and returned for a relaxed breakfast. It was a bit cool but a lovely way to start the day and this fantastic trip. If you are up this way, it is something worth saving up to do. A trip you wont forget. M
Another annual event at Boab Festival time is the Mowanjum Festival. This is held out at the Mowanjum Aboriginal Community, not far from Derby on the Gibb River rd. The community comprises of people from three different language groups, the Wororra, The Ngarinyin and Wunumbul. Traditionally language groups did not live together. All these people were moved off their different lands when white man came along and took it. No longer able to live their old way of life on these now mostly cattle/sheep properties some worked for the new land owners (on their old lands) as stockman, drovers or kitchen hands or maids. Others were moved onto church missions. Eventually these missions were closed and the three groups of the area were moved (yet again) to a combined community of their own. This is Mowanjum. The festival is a celebration of their culture and to share their culture with outsiders. Everyone seemed to really be enjoying themselves, particularly the older dancers who took the dance very seriously.
We started at the cultural centre and art gallery. I saw a paining I REALLY would have liked but managed to get back out the door without it. We have repairs to pay for now!
Well we are stuck in Derby waiting for parts. There is only one caravan park here and it is not bad as caravan parks go. It is full of people who have just come off the Gibb (many doing repairs or cleaning the dust out of everything) or are about to start it. We probably would not have come here otherwise, but it’s probably the best time to be in Derby, as we are here for the Boab Festival. The first night here we went to the “Mardi Gras” street parade which looked like it attracted the entire town. There were numerous floats, the police, fire dept, SES, local business owners, aboriginal health service etc. We lined the main street watching and had candy thrown at us from the people on the floats. You’ve never seen so many gray nomads picking up lollies off the ground! I even saw patients out the front of the hospital, out on the street with a nurse with them watching.
The next night we were off to the Mary Island fishing club for the crab races. Marine Biologist Lesley back in Sydney, will not be happy about this. Never having been to a crab race we were not sure what to expect. We bought a “racer” crab for $10 and tried our luck. We named it speedie. The winner got a crab pot with their crab in it which we planned to give to a fishing nomad neighbor at the caravan park.
We thought we had to see what a crab race was about. I did feel sorry for the crabs in the end though. Apart from the terror of the race they all ended up in a pot after all that racing and were eaten at the BBQ later. We couldn’t eat any crabs that we had met, so we went down to the wharf for the sunset and to eat other sea creatures at the restaurant there.
Leaving our limping caravan at Windjana Gorge, we headed down to Tunnel Creek for a day trip. Like at Windjana Gorge, a river has carved its way through the ancient limestone reef, but this time mostly underground. Apart from the interesting natural spectacle this provides, it was also the site of the hideout of Jandamarra – an aboriginal freedom fighter who lead a series of non-violent and violent resistance actions against European settlement.
Jandamarra and the Bunuba resistance.
Jandamarra is probably the most famous of the Aboriginal Freedom fighters. He is important because many people have said that Aboriginal people never fought for their land. He is a good example that this was simply not true. From 1885, for 10yrs he led the Bunuba people in preventing colonisation by white people occupying their hill country. This ended with his death.
Next we headed to Windjana Gorge but not before seeing our first dressed termite mound in Western Australia. I thought this was quite a nicely dressed one too. Almost too nice. I thought the shirt might look good on Steve!
Windjana Gorge cuts through a 300 million year old limestone reef. It’s towering rocky walls border a sandy creek bed that normally contains many pools of water that are home to what is probably the largest concentration of freshwater crocodiles in the country. When we were there, the river bed had been reduced to just 3 pools due to the preceding poor wet season. In contrast when we visited 16 years ago, there were numerous pools all the way up the gorge. Of the 3 remaining pools (and one tiny puddle) – two were teeming with crocodiles, especially the first one where I counted over 120 crocks.
A short eared rock wallaby next to the entrance of the gorge
Just before leaving Mornington we noticed that the chassis cracks that had been re-welded earlier had started to reopen. Getting under the caravan with a torch, I found that one of the suspension bolts showed signs of having shifted position. When I investigated I found that it was quite loose and after removing the nut, saw that the bolt has been jiggling around and badly eroded into the upper side of the slot in the hanger. It appears to me that because of the resultant misalignment from this eroded hole, when the suspension arm moves up and down it now puts quite a high twisting force on the axle bar and this is probably causing it to crack where it attaches to the chassis.
Given this situation we were rather wary about driving any further than necessary until we could get replacement suspension bolts and bushes and get the hanger and chassis fixed properly – especially on the corrugated Gibb River Road. So while we had planned to back track a bit to see Manning Gorge, Galvans Gorge and another Australian Wildlife Conservancy property at Charnley River, we now decided to just drive slowly and carefully directly towards Derby, a town of about 3000, which has a specialist welding company that could do the necessary repairs and arrange for the necessary spares to be sent there. We called Kedron, who agreed to send us the spares, and advised us that if we just tightened up the loose bolt, it was very unlikely to cause more damage and that we need not alter our original plans. However, while their reassurance made us confident that we could limp all the way to Derby (still about 400km away, 300km on unsealed roads), we did not want to push our luck and do an additional 300km that our original plan would have required. Getting a broken down caravan put on a truck and taken to Derby would cost about $4000 and since our insurance would cover only the first $1000, we didn’t want to take this risk.
So plan B had us make our way to Imintji, a small Aboriginal community on the Gibb River Road where we spent two nights and left the caravan to do a day trip to Bell Gorge. From there we moved on to Winjana Gorge (just 20km off the Gibb River Road) and again left the caravan there while doing a side trip to Tunnel Creek. We then drove on to Derby and upon getting there noticed that the tyre on the wheel which had had the worn shock absorber had started to crack badly where it meets the rim and needed to be replaced.
OK, to change the tone of the blog entry from doom and gloom, here are some photos of Bell Gorge and around Imintji.
Having seen over 300 birds so far on our trip in the past 8 months we actually saw no new birds at Mornington. After spending 6 weeks or so in the northern savanna regions, means we have probably seen most of the easier birds to see in this type of environment. It was however, a very birdy place and doing wonderful things for the Gouldian finches and Purple crowned fairy wrens in this area of the Kimberly among other things. On our last morning we did the bird tour with ecologist Riannon and had an amazing 2 hours spent at a rather dismal looking water hole that was only days away from drying up. It was however a bird magnet and we saw a huge array of different birds. M
It was a pretty amazing 2 hours despite not seeing a new type of bird! M