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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Across The Kimberly

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 9 July 2008 | Views [4553] | Comments [3]

From Darwin, I joined another Landcruiser based outback tour, this time going to Broome, with an international cast of nine - Becky (England), Caroline (La France), Mandy (Australia), Ruby (Taiwan), Steve (England), Tanam (Switzerland) and Wouter (Holland).  Andrew, our guide came from Derby in Western Australia, which is pronounced like 'D-urr-by' instead of the original 'D-arh-by'.  Why?  'Because that's how it's f###ing spelled'!

Room for one by the (saltwater crocodile infested) Victoria River

We had an excellent time, mainly driving the Gibb River Road through The Kimberly.  Unfortunately we had some stormy rain right at the start, so couldn't get into the improbably-named Bungle Bungle ranges.  The Bungle Bungles - a huge area of massive beehive rock formations - were only 'discovered' in the mid-1980s.  The fact that a huge national park was sitting there unknown to anyone except a very few locals shows the size of Australia's wilderness areas - it's now a World Heritage Site and is massively visited by tourists.  But not us, though we did go to another national park which is nicknamed 'the mini-bungles', which had otherworldly rock formations in layers of red.

We swam in countless billabongs, hot springs and waterfall pools along the way, some of them like something out of the Timotei advert.  Also, we camped under the stars every night, again getting the chance to watch a nightly shooting star show.

A Rock Wallaby showing off

One night we camped on an island on Lake Argyle, supposedly the largest volume of freshwater in the Southern Hemisphere.  A massive area of plains surrounded by hills and mountains was flooded in 1969 to make the lake, which is used for irrigation and a bit of hydro electricity for the tiny local towns.  It's also home to tens of thousands of freshwater crocodiles.  We managed to spot quite a few, plus had fun jumping into the warm water from high rock ledges.

But the best thing there was when - stopped in our little boat on the lake - Andrew suggested we try holding some bits of bread out over the water.  Held about a meter from the surface, it was only a moment before the bread was squirted with water as if someone was firing a water pistol.  It soon turned out this was the work of a crafty fish called a seven spotted archer.  About 30 cms long, these normal looking fish poke their lips just above the surface, and fire a jet of water up at possible food.  They normally do this to knock insects off branches or stones into the water, but seem to have a go with most things.  Once the bread was dropped into the water, often the archer fish stayed hungry, as there was a sudden feeding frenzy from the much larger (and uglier) catfish, which were circling around.

Once we were out of bread and sat chatting in the boat, some hungry archer fish decided to have a go at me instead, and twice almost knocked a contact lens clean out of my eye - amazingly accurate firing from a fair distance!

Caroline and Tanam

Our guide Andrew was the owner of the small company, Kimberly Adventure Tours, that we were with, and had everything, including the cooking of a full roast using a campfire and two pots, down to a fine art.  The only things that gave him grief were animals - he chased several smaller crocodiles, but couldn't catch one to wrestle with.  He did manage to creep up on a big water monitor and grab it by the tail, then hold on tight as it went berserk and tried hard to take chunks out of his hands and arms.

While swimming near this waterfall, Steve noticed a snake peering from a rock by where we were having lunch.  This turned out to be a small king mulga snake, even at that size another one of Australia's deadly beasts which can kill several people without much trouble!

I read somewhere that of the ten most deadly species of living thing in the world, all ten come from Australia, but I'm not sure if that's true.  Statistics & damn lies etc... the hippo has killed more people than any other animal, and I don't think Australia has any of them, yet the Australian inland taipan is thought to be the most poisonous thing on dry land.  But there's no recorded cases of anyone ever actually having been killed by one.  You do the math!

Another river crossing... some of them were very long and deep - at one we saw the remains of a brand new Merc 4x4 that had been washed down the river.

Aussies are known for their no-nonsense bluntness, and I got a dose of this one morning when I walked into a small roadhouse in the middle of nowhere to buy an iced coffee (very good and available everywhere).  The lady at the counter rang up my purchase on the till, looked up at me and narrowed her eyes, then said 'You look rough', and held her hand out for my cash!  After that, 'You look rough' became a running joke, mostly aimed at me... fair enough, I probably did, my defence is that showers were a rare thing, and we all looked fairly rough most of the time!  Here's proof though - one of Tanam's photos:

Aboriginal art in a style that's unique to a small area in the Kimberly.  Several books have been written which explain how an advanced alien race came and visited the aboriginal people in prehistory - some of the pictures show people wearing odd, modern-looking clothing and belts.

Caroline from Paris had us in hysterics quite a lot.  Once, when someone used 'faux pas' in a normal English sentence, it was the only part that she didn't understand.... 'I'm sorry, but what do you mean by zese words... faux pas... I do not understand zis.'  We said them many times, and explained that they were actually French words, but she didn't get it at all for ages and ages, until suddenly - 'Aahhhh, shiiiiit, you mean FAUX PAS!! Mais oui, aahhh, FAUX PAS!'  This kind of thing happened quite often!

Tanam's picture of us going into a huge cave system, which had crocodiles, shellfish like big prawns/small lobsters and carnivorous bats.

Another angry looking croc

Due to a fire in a hostel in Broome, we had a last-minute change of plan, allowing us a day in Derby to go mud-crabbing.  We already knew how tasty these big crabs are, since the night before we'd cooked some in the campfire coals.  Woulter and I had stayed up and cooked and ate several hundred dollars worth, as they needed to be either eaten or chucked.  But we weren't so good at catching them - using lots of pots just like lobster pots, we got about six between us, but only one was big enough to keep.  They all seemed fairly big and vicious to me though - apparently their pincers are strong enough to break fingers, and they were pretty quick at defending themselves!

Tanam's picture - that's Andrew holding the crab, which was saying 'No, we've got to be at least this big before you can keep us'!

We finished up with an excellent night out in a proper Aussie pub / drive through bottleshop / live venue / bookies / motel in Derby called 'The Spinifex', which could have easily been a living museum of Aussie stereotypes!  Andrew introduced us to the most vicious drinking game I've ever played, and the night finished up as a bit of a blur.

The next morning we were off to Broome at the unpleasant hour of 6am.  As well as having dry beds and warm showers, Broome has the enormous Cable Beach, where we spent a fair bit of time.

That was over two weeks ago, but I've only now had the chance to put it online... Stay tuned for the next installment!

Tags: gibb river road, kimberly, road trip, western australia



George I am just catching up...it is nice to see a pic of you...after how long? ten years? You look the same :) - no, I didnt mean "Rough" :)

  UL Jul 31, 2008 10:10 PM


Australia is dream land for tourism, tourist can enjoy in australia of desert land (Great Victoria Desert),snowfall (South Wales and Tasmania), rain fall(Darwin) and beach tour(Bell Beach, Bondi Beach, Cactus Beach, Casuarina Beach).

  Ravi Mathur Apr 5, 2010 7:07 PM


Hi Guys, That's very awesome it was a lucky day for the crocodile to show off his entire mouth without being grilled! Ah! It could have been a tight meal. Hey guys I also love offroad and outback if ever you get a chance to do this again.

  Sid Jul 28, 2010 3:14 PM



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