Category Archives: History

Trip 3:Wednesday, September 6 Part 1

Up at 7:00, had breakfast, and got a tour of Nikki and Richard’s wonderful garden. (The hedges around the front gate are rosemary, so the place is fabulously fragrant.) Then we packed the ute (an Aussie pick-up/utility vehicle), hitched up the camping trailer, and headed out bush again. Richard’s years as a tour bus driver and outback guide were about to be put to good use.

We drove out of charming Nuriootpa, through delightful Greenock, among the rolling hills and spring-green fields of the Barossa Valley. Grazing sheep, vineyards full of awakening vines, and flocks of galahs alternated with small towns and large wineries.

Brief stop in Kapunda, where I photographed the town’s centennial statue of a miner. Before even bigger deposits were discovered in Burra, this was an important copper mining area.

Then on the road to Clare, rolling through a countryside that might be English but for the gum trees. Into Gilbert Valley, where large patches were brilliant yellow with canola flowers.

Into Auburn, birthplace of poet C.J. Dennis, author of The Sentimental Bloke. I’m a fan, so I was pleased. If you’re interested in knowing more about Dennis and his charming verse, I posted about the poet last year: C.J. Dennis post.

As we continued through the Clare Valley, we were surrounded by vineyards, but then we drove into a grain-growing region—one of the best in the world, Richard told me. Their specialty is malting barley that is so highly regarded it is even exported to Germany.

Before long, we could see the lower Flinders Ranges in the distance, across the miles of undulating, green farm land. We pulled into Georgetown, a classic little old town with buildings of field stone, with iron lace and wooden verandas much in evidence. We past the old railway hotel, a feature of most of these old towns, and stopped at the charming 1912 General Store. The interior of the store was as iconically rural Australian as the exterior. Here, we enjoyed a lunch of excellent meat pies with sauce and locally produced ginger beer.

Then on the road again, heading toward Port Pirie, across the hills, then swinging north, with the lower Flinders to our right and Spencer Gulf to our distant left. Yellow, gold, and purple flowers lined the road.

We joined Highway 1 and continued toward Port Augusta. We stopped briefly to watch stumpy-tailed lizards crossing the road. Samphire flats stretched toward the water. (Samphire is an edible succulent plant, sometimes called sea asparagus, pickleweed, or sea beans, that grows on some shorelines, marshy areas, and mud flats.)

The country not directly adjacent to the water was drier than that we had left behind. The mountains got closer and higher. Glorious flowering bushes surrounded us. We got closer to Spenser Gulf as got nearer to Port Augusta.

Not surprising, of course, but it’s quite a bit colder here than it was at the top of the continent. However, as we drive farther north, the clouds are clearing and the bright sun is warming things up a bit. Fortunately, Nikki was able to lend me some warm clothes for camping out in colder weather.

And into Port Augusta. Just a short stop, to buy groceries for our stay out bush—and to stretch our legs after the long drive. After buying food, we headed across the street to the grog shop, to buy some Strongbow cider. (I had learned to love Strongbow during my first trip to Australia–well before it was available in the U.S.) Then we were off again, heading for the Gawler Ranges.

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September 4, Part 2

After lunch, we did a little more browsing among the shops along Carnarvon Street. I bought a lovely little, locally collected seashell: a Cypraea cylindrica, which is indigenous to this stretch of coastline. Then we caught the 3:30 bus to Cable Beach.

Cable Beach is a long (22 kilometers), beautiful stretch of white sand bordered by red cliffs, graced with purple-flowered vines and palm trees, and dotted with eroded black rocks. The beach gets its name from the trans-oceanic telegraph cable that was strung from Australia to Java in 1889, allowing Australia to then communicate with the world more quickly than sending a message by ship.

We walked and observed and photographed. When Belinda and Athena perched on rocks to rest, I continued on my own. I picked up bits of coral and tiny shells, photographed a hermit crab and the sand balls surrounding the burrows of sand crabs. (The sand balls are created by the crabs, who roll up and rubbish after eating and eject it from their burrows.)

As sunset approached, a couple of strings of camels were led down onto the beach. Riding a camel along the beach at sunset is one of the “things to do” in Broome, and sunset-lit camels appear on a high percentage of the souvenirs in town. I photographed the camels and then rejoined Athena and Belinda, who had been joined by Mim, Hazel, Shirl, Graham, Leslie, and Don from our recently completed tour. We exchanged notes on what we’d seen and what we would be doing in Broome, then said good-bye again.

Athena, Belinda, and I climbed a nearby hill to await the disappearance of the sun. By 5:30, the huge, golden orb was well on its way towards the water. There were not a lot of clouds, so the sunset was not quite as stunning as in some photos we’ve seen, but it certainly seemed far larger than usual, perhaps attributable to our proximity to the equator.

Once the sun had set, we caught a taxi back to the hotel. I did a quick load of laundry, hung the wet clothes all over my room to dry, changed clothes, and rejoined Athena and Belinda for a quick taxi ride back to Chinatown. We stopped at a fish and chips shop with a surprisingly impressive menu (salmon, snapper, shark, squid), but we just bought chips (fries). Then the three of us headed for Sun Pictures, “The Oldest Picture Garden in the World.” (Are there others?) By picture, they mean movies. They would have been showing silent films back when this place was built in 1913. The façade would lead a passerby to believe Sun Pictures was a relatively normal theater. But behind that façade, the roof only extends for a few feet, to cover the ticket office and a bit of wooden lattice work, and then ends. The “theater” is a broad, green yard framed by palm trees, completely open to the sky. Rows of deck chairs are lined up in front of the large outdoor screen. It’s quite wonderful. The movie was actually incidental to the experience. The heat of the day faded into what seemed cool in comparison. The air was fragrant from all the flowers. Stars were splashed brilliantly across the sky overhead. Absolutely delightful. The place was packed, with locals far outnumbering tourists. Great fun. Highly recommended.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and said a final farewell. I stayed up another hour, ironing my clothes and organizing my luggage. But by 11:30, I was too tired to do any more, so I went to bed. (It was not just the fifteen days of camping that have worn me out; I’m still hurting a fair bit. Definitely think I broke a rib or two back in Kununurra.)

Anyway, it was a fine last day to this part of the adventure. And tomorrow, onward.

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Trip 3:Monday, September 4, Part 1

Up at sunrise. A moment’s excitement upon discovering a tarantula in the loo. There was a grasshopper, as well, but that was less daunting.

Headed alone to the beach for as long a walk as I could manage. I had until 9 a.m. at my leisure, but the tour was scheduled to end at 10, and we still had to drive to town. But that gave me a couple of hours to enjoy my surroundings. I was joined by wading birds, an egret, and sea eagles. Mud hoppers skipped across the mud. (Also known as mud skippers, these are fish that can actually breathe air.) Snails emerged from their shells and explored for food. Red rocks, black rocks, gray mud, blue water. Beautiful morning.

Mud Hopper

Layered Rock

Snails, large and small

I lingered on the beach till the last possible moment, then headed back to camp, to climb into the 4WD one last time.

Most of the gang was dropped off at the posh Mangrove Resort, but Athena, Belinda, and I continued on to the more modest, less expensive, but still very nice Tropicana. The yard was filled with flowers, particularly the wildly fragrant frangipani, so the place smelled heavenly.

We allowed ourselves half an hour for settling in and showering, and then the three of us met up and set off to see the sights. Our first stop was at the nearby Broome Historical Museum. It was a wonderful little museum, filled with relics, photos, and documents from Broome’s earliest settlement to the glory days of pearling through the devastation of World War II (Broome was bombed by the Japanese), and up to the present. There were artifacts from all the many peoples who have inhabited (and do still) the region: Aborigines, Europeans, Japanese, Malay, Indonesians. Delightful place, and astonishing history.

Leaving the museum, we walked on the road bordering the mangroves and beach. We continued to be amazed by the brilliance of the turquoise water and stopped frequently to photograph it.

We visited an art gallery and an upscale jewelry store (this stretch of coastline is famous for its huge, exceptionally white pearls, and they’re worth seeing even if they are too costly to consider), then continued toward Chinatown. The gum trees along the road were in bloom and were wonderfully fragrant. Ibises wandered on the court house lawn, and kites (the birds) soared overhead. We all commented that this was a good place to ease ourselves back into civilization, as there was enough of the exotic to make us feel that this was still an adventure.

Chinatown was a real shock. When I first visited, it was a quiet, sleepy area, even though it’s the center of town. The broad streets then were covered in red dust but otherwise featureless. There were no sidewalks. The cars parked somewhat randomly down the center of the street tended to be rusting, practical, and sporting protective bars to minimize damage when encountering kangaroos or water buffalo. The stores were very basic tin-roofed structures that were generally Chinese owned. Now, though still open and amiable, the area is very upscale, with nothing more than a couple of Chinese restaurants to give validity to the name “Chinatown.” Carnarvon Street now has sidewalks and a parkway covered with grass and dotted with palm trees. The street is lined with posh boutiques, souvenir shops, jewelry stores, health food stores, nail salons, tour operators, and delis serving quiche and mocha lattés. Wow! What a disappointment. I had so looked forward to the funky, rustic, multi-lingual Broome that I had been telling Belinda and Athena about before we arrived.

That said, at least it was a convenient disappointment. We browsed through a few shops, where both Belinda and Athena found gifts to buy for folks back home. Then we popped into the comfortable (air conditioned!!) and apparently popular Bloom’s Gourmet Deli, where I had iced coffee and the mixed salad plate (Greek, pasta, and potato). Athena asked if any of us had any sense of being in a remote corner of the Australian Outback. No. Well, at least not until we went to the restroom, which is a corrugated iron shack at the far side of the hot, dusty backyard.

One thing on Carnarvon Street that had not changed from my previous trip was Sun Pictures. I photographed it in the daylight, and we agreed to return this evening.

(For more on the changes in Broome, check out my earlier post on Broome Old And New. There, you can see contrasting photos of what I saw during my different visits.)

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September 3, Part 2

Derby is a wonderfully spread-out town, on the shore of King Sound. The streets are wide, the buildings low, and the dirt is red. There are lots of plants (including boabs, of course). It’s a strange, carelessly laid out little town that comes close to being quite attractive.

With a population just under five thousand, Derby is one of the three largest cities in the Kimberley (the others being Kununnura, which we visited earlier in the trip, and Broome, which is our destination this evening). Aside from boabs, the things for which Derby is most famous is its tides. The difference between low tide and high tide is 36 or more feet—the most extreme tides in Australia, and second only to the Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

We did a little grocery shopping while in town. It was fun to see what a fabulously eclectic, cosmopolitan selection there was in the warehouse-like grocery store, from health foods to Asian foods to European delicacies. Remarkable. The town may be remote, but that doesn’t mean people don’t still want to eat well.

We enjoyed lunch by the shore, near the jetty. The jetty, which stretches out across the mudflats at low tide, is a popular spot for watching the water rush toward shore as the tide comes in. After eating, we wandered a bit, partly to explore and partly to stretch our legs before getting back into the 4WD. A huge, black cockatoo watched us from atop a street lamp. I photographed the sign that advises against swimming. Unlike those at Windjana Gorge, the crocodiles here are the massive, dangerous saltwater crocodile. Stay out of the water—and even on shore, keep your eyes open.

Then we strolled out along the jetty, to see how far the mud flats extended, and to see boats stranded by the absent water. I also liked the current patterns left in the mud by the tide.

Then we were off again. We stopped to see the famous “prison boab”—a boab so massive that, in the old days, prisoners could be held in its hollow trunk until other arrangements could be made. Then we continued on to Broome.

The tires hummed as we traversed the two hundred kilometers of blacktop to the outskirts of Broome, where we turned onto a red dirt road for the 15 kilometers drive to the Broome Bird Observatory. We’re not here at a high-migration time, but this is considered one of the best places on earth for bird watching.

When the brilliant turquoise of the Indian Ocean suddenly burst onto our view, it was stunning. The contrast of the deep-red dirt, white sand, and turquoise water was wonderful. As we drove, we saw a white-breasted sea eagle perched in a tree, surveying the water, looking for dinner. Glorious creature.

After putting up our tents, we walked down to the beach, stopping to admire a stick insect near the path. Wonderful to see how well its camouflage works. If it hadn’t moved, we would never have seen it. On the beach, red rocks and red sand bordered gray mudflats and blue sea. The red of the cliffs was brilliant, and it was set ablaze by the lowering sun.

The tide was on its way out and, though we had hoped for a bit of a splash, it was leaving too fast to catch it across the sticky mud and puddled sand. So we just hiked along the beach and enjoyed the scenery: the sun on the red cliffs, the turquoise of the water, the weirdly worn black, tan, and red rocks so reminiscent, but on a smaller scale, of the rocks of Windjana Gorge—the ancient seabed lifted up.

There were thousands upon thousands of seashells. I managed to limit my collecting to two token specimens: a couple of angel wings (and those who know me will know how hard it would be for me to limit myself when collecting seashells). Then, before sunset, we headed through the graceful, fragrant, short trees along the shore, back to our campsite, where our first hot shower in a long time was greatly enjoyed.

It was another amiable evening. We exchanged addresses and began talking about saying good-bye. Because of the trees so close about us, we had a much-reduced view of the stars, but the sound of the ocean waves and the breeze whispering in the branches was fine compensation.

It was a somewhat later evening than usual. Though we were all tired, we were reluctant to end this last night with all of us together.

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An Aside – Awed by Antiquity

As an aside, before continuing on with reporting on this adventure, I think it’s worth noting that this remarkable barrier reef, heaved up from the ocean floor to become the Napier Range, is not the only stunningly ancient bit of rock in this corner of Australia. It’s all mind-bogglingly old here. In fact, the Hamersley Range, a bit south and west of here, and which I visited on my first trip Down Under, is believed to be the first part of the Earth’s crust to have cooled after the planet was formed.

Here’s one of the posts I did a few years ago about my time in the Hamersley Range, after a visit to Hamersley Gorge, one of many breaks in the range, but one that is famous for showing clearly the effects of the tremendous pressure that formed and shaped some of these ancient rocks.
https://waltzingaustralia.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/hamersley-gorge/

Then, just a few years ago, on a sheep ranch at Jack Hills, not too far from the Hamersley Range, scientists found what they believe to be the oldest chunk of rock on the planet—a zircon crystal that they estimate was formed at the planet’s dawning.

Here’s an article with more details on this ancient zircon—and a photo.
http://www.livescience.com/43584-earth-oldest-rock-jack-hills-zircon.html

So I was traveling through a region where phenomenal antiquity is the norm. One more reason to love this remarkable place.

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September 2, Part 3

We headed back the 30 kilometers to where we had set up camp. We had no need to change clothes, as the hot weather had already dried everything after our wade through the tunnel, but we did drop off flashlights before walking the short distance to Windjana Gorge. Tall, mostly black, deeply striated walls, in places touched with red, rose before us, but a short cave in those walls gave us access to the main gorge. Wow.
approachingwindjana
The rock formations were wonderful, black, red, pink, and cream. Weird, knife-pleated stone covered parts of the wall and rose to peaks in some places. It was easy to imagine the formations being at the bottom of their original ocean.
windjana-ancientcoral
The gorge was remarkably beautiful, with clear water down the center, surrounded by pale sand, with paperbark trees and lovely green ivy adding a touch of color.
windjana-boulder-light windjana-reflections

Athena and I hiked for about an hour up the gorge, stopping to photograph freshies and a white egret, vines, trees, the rocks, and glassy water. When we met up with Belinda, we turned back toward the entrance of the gorge. Belinda and I stopped to swim, but Athena was worried about the freshies, so she sat on the beach.
windjana-longview-egret
The most astonishing thing was the cockatoos. There were hundreds upon hundreds of little white cockatoos (corellas). It must be the mating season, because we saw them exchanging “gifts,” rubbing heads, and flapping wings in little dances. They covered the beach, filled the trees, and stood on the cliffs. It was astonishing.

When we got back to camp, I headed for the shower–an outdoor affair, with walls but no roof and only cold water—but it was bliss getting cleaned up. (We got wet in the underground tunnel, but not clean.) Then it was have a cup of tea and circle the chairs around the cooking fire, for another friendly evening.
Butcher birds were very brave, and approached us to see if we might have food to offer. The willy wagtails were on hand, but they were skittish and never got close. Blue-winged kookaburras were nearby, noisy but out of sight. Wonderful.

Among the birds, only the crows are annoying. Two nights running, the crows have destroyed our garbage bags, tearing them apart to look for goodies. It’s not hard to imagine how the expression “Stone the crows” arose. I’m told the crows here will even kill newborn lambs. So not all the birds have endeared themselves.

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August 30, Part 2

The sky filled with clouds as the afternoon wore on, and then (as has been true every day) began to clear again. There were just enough clouds left to make a spectacular display as we drove into Mt. Elizabeth Station at sunset. Mt. Elizabeth is a working cattle station, but it also has facilities for visitors. This station has been in the Lacy family for two generations. Frank Lacy, subject of the book The Rivers of Home: Frank Lacy–Kimberley Pioneer, was born in New Zealand in 1899 and came to this region in 1923. He took up the lease on this station in 1945. He is the father of the current owner. Both Frank Lacy and his wife, Theresa, are buried nearby.

Frank’s son, Peter, now owns the station, but he is out with the stockmen, mustering the cattle, so we didn’t get to meet him. We were met by Peter’s wife, Pat Lacy, and her niece, Kim. We actually get to sleep in beds here, and Pat showed us to our rooms. After I dashed off to photograph the sunset and the gravestones of the first Lacys, I enjoyed a cold shower and then dressed for dinner.
mount-elizabeth-station-lighter mount-elizabeth-sunset-lighter
We were introduced to another “family member”—a pet wallaby. Pat explained that the wallaby had been hut by a car, and the Lacys nursed it back to health. This actually happens with some regularity, so Pat knows what to do—and what to expect. As soon as the mating season is on, the wallaby will return to the wild.

I was surprised to meet another American there: Will Chaffey from Boston, who is up here doing a story for Australian Geographic. He has had some remarkable adventures up here, getting stranded in the wilderness and being reduced to the point of eating grasshoppers–“going feral” as he put it.

Pat Lacy served us a lovely, civilized dinner, with tablecloth and china, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

We chatted after dinner, sharing tales of our own adventures around Australia (some of ours more amusing than Will’s, but he won for hardship). Then we returned to our rooms before the generator was shut down for the night at 9:30.

Nights get surprisingly cool, now, though not until about 2 a.m. It’s amazing that is still gets so brutally hot during the day.

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