Flight to the Horizontal Falls 29 March 2007 Western Australia
7 Apr 2007
The flight was supposed to take us over the Buccaneer Archipelago which consists of up to 1,000 rugged islands with patches of rainforest, secluded beaches and a fringe of mangroves set in a turquoise tropical sea. The huge tides in this area create a phenomenon known as the Horizontal Waterfalls where the massive water movement rushes through two small gaps in the high cliffs forming the effect of a horizontal waterfall. David Attenborough has been very enthusiastic about the horizontal falls and I presume he spent more time and witnessed them during a very high tide. We just had the one chance and the tide was about 4 metres, (it had been 10 last week).
During this journey we were dodging rain showers and the colour turquoise was non evident. Our pilot Karl looked after us very well and we were accompanied by Chris, a new recruit to the company who needed to learn the travel route and the patter.
The result of the rainfall from our three friendly cyclones is that the routes to the tourist gorges are impassable and the Kimberley region is looking its best. Karl was very keen to point out all of the lovely greenery and the many streams and waterfalls, and no, he has not ever been to Scotland. Apparently if we were to take this flight in three months time the whole area would be dry and coloured in brown and reds.
Our flight first took us over the local Mowanjum Wandjina Aborigine Village which houses about 300 people and has over 2,000 registered as staying their. It seems that the aborigine people need an address for government purposes and as long as they live within the region, which does stretch for some considerable distance, it is ok.
Next we were crossing the mud flats and the King Sound. The mighty Fitzroy River enters the King Sound below and to the west of Derby. Karl informed that the mud flats were the result of the erosion of the Kimberley hills which would have rivalled the Himalayas thousands of years ago. He was also adamant that the King Sound is the mouth of the Fitzroy River, and May and Meda Rivers are tributaries to a river mouth that is so big, (the largest in the world), it has been given its own name. In the mud flat area is two large circular tanks where fish farming takes place. The crop is king prawns which are sold to foreign shores.
Bearing right at the area where the army do their survival training, (if you don't come back you have failed), we avoided a rain fall and was told a young couple were caretakers of the area. They, and their baby, live under this rain so on this trip we would not be crossing over their homestead. We were shown the only road to their home which at present is impassable, and told Karl would be transporting the man to Derby later in the day. The aeroplanes windows remained dry allowing me to take photographs which in no way did real justice to this magnificent area.
We crossed hundreds of close hills in a terrain which seemed to stretch for ever, and water ways resembling fiords which no doubt broke up some of the land into the islands of this coast. The sense of the remoteness and vastness of the Kimberley region was very strong. It was a shame we could not visit the tourist canyons for our selves but we would not have wanted to miss this experience.
When we came to a long ridge Karl informed Chris this was the line in to the Horizontal Waterfalls and by turning left at this point it was impossible to miss; and we turned left. There are two long narrow inland lakes alongside each other, and each has access to the sea only by a narrow waterway between high cliffs. At high tide the water rushes through the gaps creating the impression of a horizontal waterfall. The best trip to be on is probably the one where the float plane lands on one of the inland waterways and you watch the tide from ground level, staying the night on a boat, watching the sunset, and then travelling back the next morning. This more expensive trip is not available until at least the middle of April.
The tide's run four times a day and we witnessed a morning tide. With this tide, and from this height, it did not appear to be anything like a waterfall to me, and the cliffs through which the water went did not seem so big. However I drank in the experiences and was glad I was their. Sylvia, who had read avidly about the falls before our journey, was much more impressed and believes my expectations were unrealistic; and she is probably right.
Our pilot then took us over the pearl farms. As at Broome, oysters are held in cages and hung beneath the water. They need to be lifted and cleaned every two weeks. This task is done by backpackers who are flown in to work for two weeks before being flown out; many are said to return for further stints of work.
Karl had hoped to show us his special waterfall, one of his own personal discoveries in this vast region. Unfortunately the weather prevented this and we took evasive action by travelling left towards beautiful blue skies whilst avoiding a lot of black sky to our right. Karl informed that to our right was the most intense rainfall we would ever have seen and if we were to fly into the rainstorm we would die. There was no mutiny; we just left the route to him
The next experience was to circle an island where turtles lay their eggs and view a big old crocodile, which enjoys turtle meat, and spends his spare time lying on the beach. It is not currently turtle time and Karl believed our crock was probably seeking out a female crocodile which had been seen a few islands further up. Still life in the old crock though I'm not sure what the tourist board thinks of this dereliction of duty.
Our journey back was uneventful. As we past over Point Torment Karl informed a new deep water jetty was planned for this area which had originally been intended for the site of Derby. The Point was so named because of the number of mosquitoes in the area and so the present Derby site was chosen; which apparently has about the same number of mosquitoes without having the same accessibility to a suitable deep anchorage. This flight with Karl and Chris was unforgettable. Despite not matching the advertising bumf we had at last had a chance to experience part of the Kimberley region and had dutifully looked at the many green trees, the streams and a few waterfalls. We even looked down on a few termite hills; which is a pretty poor way of linking in my picture and an interesting fact I wanted to include.
Amongst the many pieces of information we have come across I learned that aborigine people revered the termite hills, and would open up a 'hill' and intern their dear departed; the termites soon re-sealing their home. The termite hill in the picture is a very old one which is close to the Boab Prison Tree. I listened very carefully but gained no clue as to how many people might be inside. It's amazing how many large termite hills there are, and Sylvia has also read this information. If my contributions to the blog site should cease .......