After a couple of phone calls to the tourist office and the police we were told that the road at Fitzroy Crossing was still closed but should re-open later in the day. We would be able to make it to a caravan park there and then see what would happen next. So it was a quick sprint to pack up and go.
Our journey is taking us inland and we will now be leaving the Indian Ocean, which we have followed since meeting it at Cape Leeuwin, on the south coast of Western Australia. We won't see the sea again until we reach Darwin when it will be the Timor Sea. We are still travelling on the Great Northern Highway, which will take us all the way to Wyndham.
We had been told by a lady in Broome that the journey from Derby to the border with Northern Territories is a lovely road to travel along as we will be running travelling through hills. So we set off with high expectations of a nice trip (not that our previous trips have not been nice) as we like the hills. The road passed through bush with lots of high grass, trees and shrubs but apart from two hills named the Erskine Range we saw no other hills. The scenery here is very green due to the recent high rainfall the area has experienced. It seems strange that when we were travelling through Victoria and South Australia it was spring and early summer yet everything was brown, whilst up here in the Kimberly's there is so much greenery in the Autumn. It really shows the difference water makes to the landscape. The road also crossed many creeks and rivers, all of which had water in them. Some of the rivers were very fast flowing and we did look for crocodiles but saw none. We knew before we reached our destination that the road had re-opened, as after a quiet first part of our journey we began to wave the road trains again after lunch, just for something to do to break the boredom.
Fitzroy Crossing is situated on the banks of the Fitzroy River and has some of the best pastoral country in Australia. We had passed entrances into a number of cattle stations and Aboriginal Communities. When I say entrances I am meaning just that, we would pass a gate with a sign indicating how many kilometres to travel and a dirt road heading to nowhere. This was to be the same all the way to Wyndham.
The old town of Fitzroy Crossing began where there was a suitable place to cross the Fitzroy River, but sometimes traffic could be held up waiting to cross in the wet season. In 1935 a concrete bridge was built which for the next 40 years made the crossing a little bit easier, but even this low bridge could be closed for months during the wet season, stranding travellers. A new high bridge was constructed in 1974 further down the river moving the focus of the town; it was this new bridge that was closed due to the intense flooding these past few days. When we arrive at the town we went to look at a couple of caravan parks. One was in the town and we could see some of the roads going down towards the river closed due to flooding; in fact people were swimming in one floodway. The second park was across the bridge and close to the river. As we crossed the bridge we could see how high the water was and it was very fast flowing. Later on the news we saw pictures of the bridge with the water much higher up and all the road trains queuing up to cross. We wondered what the camp site would be like but where the caravans were sighted it was away from the river frontage and was not wet. The site also offered tours, but on enquiring about these we were told that none were running due to the state of the roads.
Next morning we returned to the town, on crossing the bridge we noticed how much lower the water was from yesterday. The lady in the tourist office was very chatty but still told us that Geikie Gorge was not open and was not expected to open until the 16 April, another 15 days away. This was a shame as this is the only gorge we would have been able to reach under our own steam as it has a sealed road all the way to it. We were also informed that Purnululu National Park, home to the famous Bungle Bungles was also closed and the only way we would be able to see them would be from the air. The park had been expected to open on the 1 April but the recent weather had postponed this and no date had been set, so once more the cyclones have caused us a few problems. We are actually here a little too early as things do not really get going until May when the wet season is well and truly over. The tourist office was a bit of a dejected place this morning with a fair number of tourists wondering what to do now that most of the area was inaccessible. Some had hired off road vehicles in order to get into the more remote parts of the Kimberly, so we were not the only ones disappointed today.
Before we moved on we decided to go and see the legendary Crossing Inn, built in 1897 as a shanty inn and trade store for travellers passing through or having to wait to cross the river. It is the oldest hotel in the Kimberly still on its original site. In 2000, inspired by the success of the Fitzroy Crossing District High School winning the Olympic art prize, the Crossing Inn invited the young people to decorate the walls of the historic inn. The result is a wonderful display of art and culture for visitors to enjoy. There is also a room of Aboriginal Art Work which can be purchased, if you have a good bank balance. We wanted to visit the original crossing but it was still under water, so thankful for the new bridge we drove on to our next destination.