20 April - Broome
Woken by the birds (what's new?), the humidity had dropped, it was a beautiful morning. Found a praying mantis in the gents loo, sitting on a tap, and a frog in the shower. The frog soon disappeared into the ladies to greet Ruth. We packed up, then showered and hit the road. It was a really nice campsite, we would have stayed longer but for the car service we had booked in Broome. Back down the fairly corrugated dirt road to the Highway, a few 'rabbit cows', as Ruth calls them. They look like a cross with brahmin cattle (from India?) and they have large droopy ears, just like a rabbit!
The Highway was as boring as usual, we were overtaken by two road trains carrying cattle. Modest size, only the tractor unit and three trailers, Ruth didn't count the axles. Saw a lot of peregrine falcons, a bit of a surprise as it was mostly grassland with few trees, where do they roost? A small group of cattle along the way. A stop for some Timtams and a drink.
We finally left the Warlu Way ( hadn't realised it extended this far north) and joined the Savannah Way to Broome. Into Broome and to our campsite at Cable Beach, very friendly guy at the desk who gave us a nice shaded site, near the pool. We set up and then headed into town to check out the car service centre. They had only recently been appointed by Suburu as their service centre so they weren't quite organised. Anyway made arrangements for the service tomorrow and they would drop us in town and collect us after the service. Good result.
Next stop, the visitor centre, to get some information on what to do here and on Cape Leveque. Very helpful lady at the desk gave us lots of info and ideas. Need to sit down and decide what we are going to do. Quick stop at the supermarket and bottleshop then back to the campsite. Dinner, scanning brochures, realising we may not be able to drive the Gibb River Road as it has been, and still is so wet, so thinking about an alternative route to Darwin via Fitzroy Crossing. Realised we had left our solar powered light at the last campsite. Emailed them. A large stick insect flew onto the tent above us, must have been 12 to 15 cm long. It was still hot and humid - there had been the threat of a thunderstorm late this afternoon - we saw lightning flashes, but it failed to hit Broome. Pity, as it might have cleared the air.
Up early to get the car into town for a service. Very friendly people who ferried us to a shopping centre while they serviced the car. They took us in a brand new Pajero Sport and very comfortable it was too. The shopping mall was air conditioned throughout so whilst the wait, nearly two and a half hours, was boring was at least bearable. Ruth took full advantage and had her pedicure and nails painted and a hair cut. We took advantage of an hours free wifi to catch up n App updates.
We returned to the campsite cafe for lunch, as yesterday's special was so good and todays did not disappoint. We spent a while in the cafe researching trips we could do from here then drove into town to try and talk to some of the operators about their trips. Butnfirst to the post office to check on the errant parcel. Discovered it was in Karratha, but parcels officer couldn't have it sent to Broome, the retail section would do that. The retail section couldn't do that but gave me a number to call. Called the number and 45 minutes later I was no further forward and totally frustrated by the incredible, impenetrable bureaucracy. We went to nearby Chinatown, an historic area built by the Chinese pearlers, (but no Chinese today), where, we were told were the offices of the tour operators. Well they were and all were shut! Went to Matso's, the local craft brewery for a sundowner, very nice cold beers and air conditioning.
Back to camp to cook dinner, it was very hot and humid again this evening, we saw huge thunderclouds in the distance with a lot of lightning in the clouds, but no rain here.
Noisy night, screaming and crying children, they must have been too hot - it was very warm and humid. Anyway, we got up and after the usual routine went into town to the saturday market at the courthouse. Not really impressed with the markey although we did enjoy a mango smoothie, really cold and refreshing. Spotted, I did that is, a possum in a tree above one of the stalls. It was making a sort of mewing noise and looked very cute perched in the tree. The park did have quite a few boab (baobab?) trees, so we will return when the park is quieter to take some photos. Off to the post office to post some cards and too use their wifi before heading to the supermarket for a few things for lunch. In the meantime we had found a brochure for a 12 day trip into the Gibbs River region of the Kimberley, Broome to Broome, and we wanted to know a little more about the tour so we arranged to meet with Simone of Adventure Wild We found her house and had a long chat, Simone gave us lots of info and we left saying we would let her know once we had digested the info.
Back to the campsite for lunch and after a rest, went for a swim on the lovely pool on site, so refreshing. We decided we needed to do more walking, even in the heat, after all the sitting around we do travelling, so we walked to Cable Beach, about a 15 minute gentle walk. Cable Beach was huge, the tide was out but even so it was a long way to the Ocean. Big signs at the entrances warning of dangerous jellyfish, someone had been stung by an irrikandji yesterday. These jellies' sting can be fatal as the toxin attacks the nervous system and potentially the brain cells. There were, of course, people in the water! Cable Beach is named after the first submarine telegraph cable to be laid between Australia and what was then Java.
We wandered along the beach and saw the camel trains in the distance, so we sat on a rock, talked about the Kimberley trip and waited for the camels to return and the sun to set. There were lots of vehicles on this part of the beach. The camels duly returned, they all had passengers, often two people, and each camel linked to the one in front by a short rope. Sunset was beautiful, five frigate birds flew high overhead. We walked back to our campsite and saw some huge fruit bats (flying foxes?) flying about. We were definitely hot and sweaty by the time we got back, now for an ice cold beer.. Quick shower and cooked dinner. Our neighbours wandered over for a chat and we talked about doing the Gibbs River Crossing, encounters with people at campsites on our respective trips and generally putting the world to rights. They were a farmers from Porongurup, an area we had visited and really liked. Another quick shower then bed.
Lazy Sunday morning before setting off town to check a few things out for the Kimberley trip. First to the post office for wifi but then we found just about everywhere was closed. Bought some jump leads which we should have done a while ago, but hey. Sunday market on at the Courthouse but it looked much as yesterday so we didn't go in, instead returned to the campsite to enjoy the pool. And that was it for the day really, pool, relax, pool, lunch, relax, pool, relax. The pool is beautiful, 30 metres long in a gentle serpentine curve with a large waterfall feature at one end. Tropical palms planted around the perimeter and sunshades stretched across and now that the families are departing (school holidays coming to their end) it will be very peaceful.
Oh, but we did carry out laundry duties and i rescued a frog from the bottom of the washing machine - after the wash! Although it looked a bit dozy it was now a very clean frog, bright green (and it was a cold water wash).
We made arrangements with Ron at the campsite to store our car and trailer on a spare pitch while we were away and I wandered off to Cable Beach to watch the sunset. Saw several fruit bats flying over. Dinner, bed. Lovely relaxed day - much more like a holiday than we have managed so far and we plan to stay here bit longer.
Two birds fighting at first light this morning and what a cacophony. More campers leaving, we have lots of space around us now and hardly anyone in the pool, so I was able to do a few lengths. Cooled sufficiently we headed into town in our search for suitable shoes for the big trip. Tired all the shops that looked likely but nothing doing so back for lunch.
After lunch we went back to the other part of town and after checking out the other shopping centre found Yeung Wing General Store and there they were, just the shoes we were looking for. Ruth wanted some of the Matso's ginger beer to take with us, so we called in and had our sundowner there. Lovely ice-cold beer, plus Ruth ordered some edamame beans. When they came they were indeed the beans we ordered but they were fresh and green and still in their pods! Not quite what we expected but they were good.
The sun was just setting as we returned to the campsite. We just relaxed until dinner time, ate then went to bed. Early start tomorrow as we were going to attend the ANZAC Day service at 05.15 in town.
Well, up at 04.30 and drive into town to join the ANZAC Day service at Bedford Park. It was still dark as we assembled around the war memorial and the parade and service began. We were surprised at the size of the crowd which emerged as the day lightened. Bats flew in to roost in the very early light and finally the birds began to sing as dawn broke. A very moving service followed by wreath laying and finally the national anthems of New Zealand and Australia.
Back to the campsite for breakfast and then coffee at the cafe (Ron, one of the owners, gave us a voucher for a free coffee), tried to get our heads around planning the next few days - inconclusive! Phoned Adventure Wild and booked the 12 day trip around Kimberley and arranged to meet them later to finalise arrangements. Time for a dip in the pool. A bite to eat and the off to see Karl and Simone. Drove into town afterwards to check emails and then off to Gantheaume Point at the end of the Broome Peninsula. On the way we stopped to have alook at the Japanese and Chinese cemeteries. The Japanese had recently been restored so was very neat. Most of the graves were of pearl divers who either drowned , died of 'diving sickness' or were killed in one o the three severe cyclones to hit Broome since 1896. Some quite young men, sadly. A lot of the gravestones were simple rocks from the beach with an inscription in Japanese. The Chinese cemetery was less tidy and contained some recent burials. So, to Gantheaume Point. There are dinosaur footprints in the ricks there, visible only on the lowest tides and today was one of those. Well I walked around for about an hour and along with a lot of other people failed to find the footprints. Beautiful rock formations though - Devonian sandstones.
It was approaching sunset but we decided to get back to camp for a final dip in the pool, which we succeeded in doing though it was busy. Sat down afterwards with a sundowner and decided to go to Derby (which is not pronounced darby as in the UK) for the weekend, giving us enough time to get sorted for the Kimberley trip (departs Wednesday, 3 May). Leftovers for dinner. Bed.
A nice quiet night so we were up and ready to go by 8.30. We had decided to give the Cape Leveque road a go. We had heard all sorts of stories about the road, we should be in a 4WD, you can do it in a car, you should do it on a tour, etc, etc. The road is paved for a fair way but once we hit the gravel road it was gravel for the next 86km. The condition varied, a large part was relatively easy, 80kph stuff, but the odd bit was rutted, had large puddles or was very corrugated. All i all, it wasn't as bad as we had feared, but the whole road was pretty boring, no views, except of the long straights ahead of us. The bush came up to the road, not allowing any view to the side. After the 86km the road became paved again and eventually we reached Ardyaloon or One Arm Point. The village is an aboriginal settlement and they charged us $15 each to enter, which did include a visit to the hatchery, but we were specifically excluded from most of the village. Just as well, as it looked a real mess. There appeared to be no sense of pride in the village. We looked out over the bay at Round Rock to see the tide racing through the gap between some small islands and reefs and the mainland. Saw a turtle in the water.
We drove round past the airstrip to see the hatchery. Well, we are still not sure what it is they are hatching but they have about a dozen tanks, fed by seawater and containing an odd collection of creatures, seemingly whatever they could catch locally. There was no sense of actually hatching anything. They did have some pretty anemone fish, an archer fish, barramundi, small reef fish a mud crab and a green turtle. It was ok to see these things close up, but it was not what we were expecting. We drove on, back through the village to Kooljaman at Cape Leveque. Another privately owned resort, different aboriginal corporation, who again sought payment to visit. After our last experience we declined and decided to call it a day, even though the beach is supposed to be beautiful. We didn't want to go in the water here anyway, because of crocs and irrikandji jellyfish.
We drove the long road south. Saw a goanna in the middle of the road but by the time we got back it had gone. Stopped at Lombadina Roadhouse to top up with fuel and asked about the village. Yes, we were welcome to visit and yes there was a small charge, and the beach is beautiful. It was past lunchtime, we needed somewhere off the road so we drove into the village. What a difference! It is also an aboriginal community, but very well kept, the houses were in good condition, a lot of green grass and mature tees. We visited the little church, very simple, made of mangrove and paperbark woods in the early 20th century. They had a school, bakery and shop. Nice place. We drove on through to the beach road where the warning sign advised dropping tyre pressures to 18psi and the track was soft sand. So we didn't get to visit the this beach either. Had our sandwich lunch on the central green and left.
On down the road, Ruth cried out stop! Duly stopped and back up the road was a large lizard, very fierce looking creature. I managed to get a few photos before it scuttled into the bush. Back to the campsite via the supermarket without further incident, too late for a swim, so, dinner and bed. We are not sure what all the hype is about Cape Leveque, the beaches may be beautiful, but there are lots of beaches in WA with much easier access. The whole peninsula appears to be given over to the aboriginal people in accordance with their traditional 'ownership'. The road in is totally boring and/or difficult and offers no views. We were, to say the disappointed. Never mind, tomorrow's another day, another adventure.