2014 Trip Blog,
June(speedo 25,008 klm)
Sunday 1st June, Broome, WAThis morning we went for a wander around the local weekend market. Only a small market but plenty of interesting stalls to check out. The market is held in the very pleasant Court House Grounds, surrounded by large lawned areas with tall shade trees, Pandanus Palms, Frangipanis and Boab Trees.
We left Cable Beach and headed back to camp. Don was anxious to try out his Quadcopter Drone. It had been quite a difficult task to assemble it and program the camera so he was looking forward to testing out the flight characteristics. This Drone should be able to produce some very interesting photos if he can get it all worked out. (I have every confidence in him.)
Whilst Don headed out to find a quiet open spot where he could test out the Drone, I headed to the pool for a swim. Another great day in Broome.
Monday 2nd June, Broome, WAWe were due to take the early Hovercraft Tour this morning but opted instead to take it at sunset when the lighting may produce better photographs. We used the morning instead to head into town for some stores to stock up the larder.
Back at camp, we didn’t have to go far to capture a bit of wildlife, first a Great Green Bush Cricket settled itself down on the inside of the shade cloth, then a Mimetic Gum Leaf Grasshopper alighted on the outside. Getting closeups proved a bit difficult though, due to the angle they were on.
With nothing planned until later today, Don took the opportunity to get in another practice run with his Walkera QR X350 Pro Quadcopter. He was very pleased with himself as he had studied Google Maps and found a dirt track leading into the middle of the Mangroves to a nice circular, cleared area which was out of the way of curious onlookers and gave him enough space to practice manoeuvring the Drone.
At 1600 we made our way down to Broome Hovercraft for the sunset tour of Roebuck Bay. We were happy to get seated right behind the pilot of the Hovercraft so Don was able to check out all the dials and controls. At 40kph, the 20km around Roebuck Bay to our stopping off point seemed to go very quickly. The ride was smooth and the commentary very interesting. It was very strange to be passing fisherman on the shore side then looking seaward to see them standing in water only knee deep, quite a way out from the shore. It looked very odd. As explained, the tide recedes to about 1.5 km out into the mud flats, which is quite a dramatic lengthening of the shoreline at low tide.
Reaching the shore where the dinosaur prints were located, we cruised to a stop and clambered out. This alone was well worth the journey. The rocks along the shoreline here are an open book on the history of the landscape. Eons of weathering by the sea, sun sand and other natural occurrences against the sandstone rocks are apparent in the porous layers of the cliffs and along the shore, giving an amazing glimpse, with a little imagination, into how the landscape has changed and evolved over millions of years since the reign of the dinosaurs.
Weathering and the elements are gradually destroying the prints closest to the shoreline but as the sandstone rocks further back are broken down they will eventually reveal more dinosaur prints hidden below.
It was past sunset by the time we returned the Hovercraft to its hangar. We had both enjoyed the tour but the whole area was so interesting we would have loved to stay here longer and explore some more, perhaps we can access it by road.
Leaving the Port, we headed to Cable Beach and Zanders Restaurant where we had a very enjoyable meal. Afterwards we took a short walk along the shore then returned to the truck in the carpark but before we could head off, we were approached by two young Italian guys who were mesmerised by the Iveco. They loved it and wanted to know all about it, so we spent another half hour chatting to them. This is not unusual, as we are always getting stopped and asked about the truck or being asked if it’s OK to take a photo. This is ironic, as we deliberately tried to keep the truck subtle to avoid attention. So much for anonymity. But we are not bothered in any way by people’s interest as it is a fantastic truck and we are happy to bestow its virtues. We are sure we will see many more on the roads in the months to come.
Saturday 7th June, Broome, WAI have not done the Blog for a few days as we have just been ‘chilling out’ enjoying beautiful Broome. Relaxing, reading, walking, biking, swimming and checking out all the great eating places.
The historical facts of the Japanese bombings on Australian soil showed my ignorance as to the extent to which these air raids took place and how under-equipped we were to meet this threat. NT alone, incurred 64 air raids in total. The first and most deadly attack on Australian soil was carried out by 242 Japanese Aircraft, hitting Darwin in February 1942. Further attacks occurred in Darwin as well as Batchelor and Katherine in the NT, Bowen, Townsville, Mossman and the tip of Cape York Peninsula in QLD, Broome, Derby, Port Headland, Wyndham and the Exmouth Gulf in WA.
Wreckage of 7 of the 25 Aircraft lost in the attack on Broome in March 1942 still lie on the mud flats of Roebuck Bay, being partially exposed and visible during the low Spring tides. At least 88 people, the precise number never being fully known, died in this attack. Many were Dutch women and children who were waiting to disembark on ‘safe’ Australian soil after being evacuated from the Dutch East Indies (Java). An American Liberator was also shot down shortly after take-off, the crew and more than 30 wounded personnel on-board were killed. The nine Japanese Zeros encountered only light arms fire from the ground. There were no Allied Fighter Planes based in Broome at the time.
The Australian public were never informed of the extent of the attack on Darwin. The Government was embarrassed by its unpreparedness for war and evoked its powers of censorship to downplay the damage and loss of life in the attack. Newspapers recorded the deaths as 15-17 with 24 injuries. The facts were far more devastating. 243 lives lost with 300-400 casualties. Enough on the horridness of war.
What was far more pleasing, was to look about at the people walking around the Museum. Caucasions of a few different nationalities, Asians and Aboriginal, mixing, smiling and intermingling with each other. Only a very small piece of a much larger world……..if only.
Monday 16th June, Broome, WAWow! What a week it has been.
I have literally been ‘on holiday’ and have neglected the Blog, intending to write it up every day but my good intentions were over-shadowed by my lazy ‘holiday mode’. Broome has a way of doing that to you. Too many interesting things to do and too many good food places to check out.
I have outlined the highlights of our week to share with you. I apologise for the length of this Blog today.
Having always had a fascination for Astronomy and the sky in general, going on Greg Quicke’s Astro Tour was a must. Greg himself is quite a quirky guy and his Astro Tour proved to be just as quirky from the ‘usual’ Planetarium tours we have taken in the past.
With directions sms’d to us on how to find him……..…unmarked track on left. NOT track on bend! Follow gdn lites 500m.. KEEP RIGHT! HIGH ROAD ONLY! Low beam! Drive slow. PARK at SIGN and walk……….
We headed off, our eyes peeled in the darkness so as not to miss the track. Once headed up the track we could see why the HIGH ROAD ONLY was emphasised, as the LOW road ran straight down into a huge ‘borrow pit’. We found the PARK here sign in a cleared area amongst the bush, above the ‘borrow pit’ and headed towards the dim figures we could see in the distance. As we neared, we could see some large telescopes set up around a circular area and a very animated guy hurrying towards us with his hand extended. We had to presume it was Greg as it was too dark to make out any facial features, although these were almost hidden anyway by long hair and a long beard.
We spent the next 15 minutes or so, checking out the Moon, some Constellations and best of all, a close-up of Saturn, complete with rings, then with us all seated in a semi-circle, Greg began his commentary on the wonders of our night sky. Using two amazingly powerful green laser beams to point out the various Stars, Planets and Constellations he explained in his very animated way, the Southern and Northern skies, both of which can be seen from Broome.
Two hours later and after partaking of hot chocolate and biscuits provided out of the back of his van, we headed back to camp. It had been a very interesting evening with a very interesting and charismatic guy.
We’re always keeping our eyes out for the different species of reptiles and have been a bit disappointed not to have spotted a Frilled Neck Lizard, up close, so far in our travels. Well disappointment no more…….we finally had the good fortune to be close to this beautiful creature, and of all places, right near our camp site.
I was able to get very close to take some photos and was quite surprised at how large he was, estimate around 70-80cm. The fully grown Frilled Neck Lizard averages around 85-90cm. Both Don and I thought they were a smaller Lizard so it was quite an awesome sight to get so close to this one.
The large ruff of skin which formed the Lizard’s frill was folded back against his head and neck with the spiny cartilage that attaches the frill to its jawbone clearly visible. I was lucky enough to see the beautiful red colouring of the frill when he turned his head towards me and although I would have loved to see the frill expanded to its full glory, I’m happy that he didn’t feel threatened enough to extend it.
Having decided that ‘fear’ was not going to be a stumbling block to my enjoyment on this wonderful Planet, I took my silly fears and put them where they belong……right out of my head……. and with my new, healthier attitude, agreed to join Don on a light plane flight up the Dampier Coastline. Don was delighted albeit skeptical that I would be able to accompany him without freaking out. These ‘fears’ had a long history.
What an anti-climax after years of giving in to these ridiculous phobias. No-one was more surprised than myself, when after having made the decision to ‘get over it’, I did exactly that without so much as a stomach flutter. It was quite unbelievable really that once we arrived at the Airport and jumped out to meet the Pilots, I never even gave ‘being scared’ a thought.
We arrived at the Airport early, 0630 and after a short briefing on safety procedures we headed onto the tarmac and took our seats in the plane, a GA8 Airvan. A high wing aircraft making it more suitable for taking photographs. Our two Pilots, Andrew and Robert, were excellent Pilots with friendly, outgoing personalities. There were six of us on the aircraft, Don and me, a Norwegian couple and the two Pilots. We strapped in, put on our headsets and before long, taxied down the runway and took off. The beautiful blue of the Indian Ocean glistening in the morning light below as we turned and headed North along the Coast, passing across, Cable beach, Willie Creek, James Price Point, Middle Lagoon, Pender Bay and Beagle bay and the many other secluded bays that make up this amazing coastline.
There was plenty of photo opportunities as we circled the Falls a couple of times then turned SW, heading across the King Sound. Flying over the King Sound was quite amazing. We could see both sides of the Sound from the air and were flying at around 200kph and yet it seemed like we were standing still. It took approx 15-20 mins to fly across. The large expanse of turquoise water below was coloured with swirling patterns of light brown, the result of the constant movement of the huge tides moving in and out, never giving the silt on the bottom time to settle. The colours were stunning.
We were lucky we booked and obtained a table right on the water over-looking the mudflats. We arrived at the Mangrove Resort with enough time to have dinner before the Moon began to appear over the horizon. As the time neared, all the lights were extinguished and all eyes were cast towards the mudflats. As the red glow preceded the Moon over the horizon, Robert Dann, a Nyul Nyul man from the Indigineous community of Beagle Bay, approx 160kms North of Broome, began to play the didgeridoo. Nothing could have set the mood more than the haunting tones of the didgeridoo, played expertly by Robert Dann. It was truly magic.
Slowly, the large orange Moon became visible over the horizon, surrounded by a deep red glow. Watching it appear as the didgeridoo played in the background was something I’m glad I didn’t miss. The huge orange ball glowed brightly against the dark sky and slowly ‘built’ its staircase on the mudflats before it. As the Moon rose higher over the horizon, the ‘staircase’ extended downwards, its bright orange ‘rungs’ glowing brightly underneath. It was sort of surreal in a way. Another wonderful event experienced at beautiful Broome.
Tuesday 17th June, Broome, WAHappy Birthday to me!
Wow! What a fabulous birthday. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the temperature was perfect………. and as always, so was the company.
The day started with some lovely phone calls from family and friends then breakfast at Arli’s, an award winning restaurant in Broome, especially well-known for its breakfasts and great coffee. Although under normal circumstances we would have considered the prices outlandishly expensive, Don said we weren’t counting $$ today, so I sat back and just enjoyed the atmosphere and the good food.
After a long breakfast we went for a drive around Broome, stopping off to buy a waterproof camera before heading back to camp to get ready for our ’big adventure’. Don has embraced my new attitude about putting all those ridiculous fears and phobias behind me and buoyed by my success with the light plane flight he has decided to tackle his own little ‘demon’………..water.
Trying to keep up with my newfound confidence, I had mentioned a few days earlier that I would love to have a go at Kayaking but knowing Don does not even ‘paddle’, I figured that kayaking was not going to be on the list of our ‘to do’ things. But I was wrong.
With a big grin and a great flourish of his hands, Don produced tickets to go on a 3hr Kayaking adventure out onto the Indian Ocean and around Gantheaume Point. I was not only surprised, I was flabbergasted and also terribly moved by Don’s gesture. I knew it was quite a thing for him to tackle the ‘water’ thing.
With tickets in hand, we drove down onto the beach, making sure we parked as high as we could up the sand. Almost every other week, there is at least one or two people caught out with the huge tides here. They leave their cars parked on the beach then hop on a fishing charter or head off on a cruise for the day then return later, only to find their vehicle has disappeared. Not to be seen again until the tide recedes. This has proved a great little money earner for the local towee.
Excitedly we got out of the truck and headed down to the waterline where a guy was unloading some kayaks from a trailer. He looked up as we approached, smiled broadly and beckoned us over. Six kayaks were heading out today. Three couples, each in a kayak, Don and I in another, one guide in one and the other guide sharing one with a single guy from Wesburn, Vic. After a short briefing on getting in, getting out and the technique for paddling, we pushed our kayak into the water and took up our positions in the kayak…………brains in the front, brawn in the back. (Not my words) Then with surprising swiftness, we were heading out and away from shore.
Then with equal swiftness, we were beginning to turn in circles. Don, well-known for being ‘master of almost everything’ found his achilles heal……….co-ordination. What he lacked in ‘rhythm’ he was making up for with strength……..not a really good idea when you have a paddling partner who has her back to him and can’t see what he’s doing. In actuality, the person in the rear is supposed to paddle in unison with the person in front, who obviously cannot see what is happening in the rear, but in our case, the person in the rear was so intent on what he was doing, or in what he thought he had to do that the words, ‘unison’, ‘partner’ nor rhythm never entered his head.
As we navigated around the rocks that could be seen just below the waterline, we were reminded that by the time we were headed back this way, these rocks would be exposed and well out of the water. I looked back towards shore and the amount of water in between and found this hard to believe. We continued on, traveling parallel with the shoreline where the beautiful sandstone rocks jutted out from the cliff face. The sea was quite calm with just a slight swell, so paddling did not really require too much effort. Unfortunately, Don was not quick enough to capture the ‘running’ fish we saw as they leapt out of the water and literally ran along the top of the water for about two metres before dropping back under the surface. It was quite an amazing sight.
The Sea Turtles eluded us today but there were plenty of other interesting things that made this kayaking adventure so enjoyable. Just being on the water together, so far out from shore was amazing. It was so beautiful and so peaceful gliding through the water in such an amazing part of Australia. The colours are something you can never get enough of.
The swells were slightly larger as we continued further around Gantheaume Point but paddling was still no effort. Once around the Point we paused for awhile taking some photographs then headed back the way we had come. About 1km from shore we paused for about ten minutes to watch the sun set over the water. How absolutely beautiful! The sunsets are always beautiful in Broome but sitting out there on the water as the sun set below the horizon was an extremely exhilarating feeling. Once the sun had disappeared over the horizon we turned and paddled for shore, manoeuvring around the large strip of rocks that were now a good three feet out of the water from when we manoeuvred around them on the way out. With a large swell aiding us into shore we pulled up slowly as we ran aground on the sand. With reluctance, we both got out of our kayak and looked back at the water. What a wonderful experience. I looked at Don. He had a huge smile on his face and I knew he had enjoyed it just as much as I had. “Do you think a kayak would fit on the top of the truck?” I asked him. “I’m working on it” Don replied.
We finished off the day with a favourite meal of mine………Japanese and a beer. A super day, a wonderful birthday!
Thank you Don and thank you to all those who sent me their wishes. It was very much appreciated.
Wednesday 18th June, Broome, WAToday we decided to take a drive down to the Bird Observatory, about 25km SE of Broome located on the Northern shores of Roebuck Bay. This is a Ramsar site, designated a wetland area of International importance. There are over 300 species of birds in the Broome area, over one third of Australia’s species and nearly one quarter of the world’s total species of shorebirds.
We had been a bit tardy heading off, so it was almost 2pm before we headed South down the dirt track that would take us to the Northern shoreline of Roebuck Bay. We also wanted to scout out this area for a way in to the shore where the Dinosaur tracks are located.
Roebuck Bay is quite an amazing 550 km2 with diverse areas of sandy beaches backdropped by long, red, sandstone cliffs beautifully striated with various colours from white through to deep brown/red and large areas of mangroves and linear tidal creeks. The extensive 160 km2 of mudflats are exposed by the huge tidal range varying from 1 m to 10.5 m on the highest Spring tides with tides traveling at up to 20cm per sec during certain tidal cycles. The extensive seagrass beds that abound in Roebuck Bay support a large diversity of fish, crustaceans and sea creatures that feed and breed in this richly diverse area. Dugongs, Green Turtles and Snubfin Dolphins are among these.
The last 6km of the track running parallel along the shoreline was quite corrugated and a bit rough but the truck breezed over them with ease. We pulled off the track onto a short cutout that overlooked the beach and got our first glimpse of the many birds grouped along the shore. It was the Pelicans that caught my eye, as they are such magnificent looking birds. Perched on the rocks preening themselves, strutting along the shore with their wings outstretched or just waddling along the beach as if they own it. They are always so interesting to observe.
We watched from this vantage point for awhile then moved further on down the track to an area where we could access the beach. We spent about an hour here, wandering up the beach then just sitting on the sand watching the birds. The birds were hovering around on the shore or perched on the rocks waiting for the tide to go out so they could feed on the mudflats.
As the tide receded, a fish was left floundering in the shallows and was soon pounced on by a vigilant seagull. He pecked at it warily, then with more vigour as he found his way through the scales and into the intestines. First one, then another seagull tried to get a vantage point where they could attack the fish but the first gull, after manoeuvring around it for a few minutes, picked it up and flew off with it. It was quite a large fish and must have been heavy.
Thursday 26th June, Broome, WAOur activities over the last week have been the usual type of things you would do when enjoying a beautiful place like Broome. Biking, walking, swimming and dining but today we decided to head up to Willie Creek and check out the Pearl Farm.
We were lucky to arrive mid-way between Tour Buses, so were able to grab a coffee in the Kiosk before it got busy. The covered decking near the Kiosk surrounded a small lily pond where little finches darted about, dipping down onto the large lily pads to drink or bathe. We finished our coffee and took the walkway down to the small landing at the water’s edge. As I stood there gazing out across the calm, crystal clear water, glistening as the sun danced across its surface, I imagined how pleasant it would be just sitting here in one of those covered swings, swaying back and forth and thinking about absolutely nothing, just enjoying being alive.
Unfortunately the Aquaculture Centre being built here was another couple of weeks away from being completed so we missed out on that but it should be worth seeing once it’s up and running. Perhaps next time. Leaving Willie Creek we headed back to Manari Road turning North along the track that runs along the Coast and followed this up to Quandong Point before turning back.
We arrived back in Broome and headed straight to Cable Beach (so named because of the Underwater Cable laid by the British/Australia Telegraph Co. in 1889, linking Australia to Java, Indonesia. The Brits called this link…..the Extension. This was the third submarine cable laid to link Australia to Java, the first one being laid to Darwin in 1872 and a second in 1880 but submarine volcanic activity eroded both of these necessitating the need for a third to be laid away from the seismic zone. The cable at Broome was in use until 1914 when it was superseded by a new cable that was laid linking Australia to Africa, the Cable Station being located at Cottesloe, near Perth).
We made our way down to the beach and wandered along the rocks between the general bathing and the Nude Beach further North. It was such a beautiful day. The beach is always such an interesting place when the tide is low. The rock pools are a haven for hermit crabs of all sizes, tiny fish and other small crustaceans and shellfish. They also provide a safe place for the SeaGulls to bathe and clean their feathers. I found this especially interesting as, of all the SeaGulls I have seen I have never seen them bathing before. Don captured a great pic of a very small fish hiding in an empty Pippie shell. Its tiny black eyes just visible as it peeped out from under the shell.
We came across a couple of different kinds of Jellyfish washed up on the beach which confirmed to Don that going into the water today was not an option, but even though we did not have our bathers with us, I couldn’t resist and paddled in up to my waist. There are many different types of Jellyfish, of which only two are dangerous and potentially lethal. Both of these can be found at Broome. The more common Chironex Australian Box Jellyfish and the Irukandji, a tiny thumbnail size jellyfish with one tentacle on each corner. The pain from the sting of these two Jellyfish is excruciating. Ouch!! After writing this, I think Don was the wiser of us today.
Postscript: I have finally found the answer to my very itchy sand fly bites……….good old Colgate Toothpaste. A small smear over the bite and the itch goes away almost immediately. Amazing! I’ve tried every other method known to man since succumbing to these little critters and the answer was sitting only 2ft away all the time. Whilst I have suffered almost daily from these bites, Don has not had to endure one of them! mmmmmmm………not sure how I can capitalise on this bit of info yet.
Saturday 27th June, Broome, WAAnother lovely day, so we decided to spend it wandering along the sand and amongst the rocks at Reddell Beach around the corner from the Port.
We were determined to get a photo of one of those little Sand Bubble Crabs today, diligently checking each pile of sand balls for any movement. Our patience finally paid off as Don managed to get a shot of one little guy as he popped out of his burrow. They move so fast there is hardly time to focus, but luck was with us today.
We left Reddell Beach and headed around to Gantheaume Point to check out the cast of the Dinosaur prints as the tide will not be low enough for us to see the real thing before we leave Broome. These prints have been cast in concrete and are not quite the same as seeing the real thing immortalised in the sandstone rocks but at least they give an idea. To see the real thing embedded in the sandstone cliffs below, it is a precarious climb down the rocks which are slippery and then only when there is a very low tide, so a lot of people would be unable to see the real prints anyway.
The rocks in this area are extremely ancient. The weathering and erosion highlight the beautiful bands of colours, the shapes ever-changing as they continue to crumble and wear away. Another beautiful spot where you realise just how great it is to be alive in this beautiful country.