Broome and Bust.

Broome, WA. 19th September 2015.

Somehow I managed to spend ten days in Broome. What was it that kept me there? Lethargy, to some extent. It was hot. Very hot, with temperatures in the high thirties. I dread to think what it must be like in Summer. Unbearable I should imagine. But Broome is a nice town and it’s easy to get attached to it. Initially I only booked the Kimberly Klub hostel for four nights, but kept adding more on. I kept finding reasons to stay.
But I was certainly busy too. Cleaning, mostly. Myself, my riding gear and my bike; all were crying out for attention and the tears were red from the dust that stained everything. The hostel’s washing machines gave good value and were worked hard. Across the road is a servo and it has a jet wash. That got worked hard too. Across three or four days everything got nicely cleaned up and I began to feel human again.

Ricarda and Hieke, by the Chinese cemetery.

Ricarda and Hieke, by the Chinese cemetery.

When I’d been in Kununurra I’d met a German woman called Ricarda at the hostel there. She was also at the hostel in Broome. It was nice to be able to chat to her, along with another German woman, Heike. Ricarda was due to fly off to continue her travels and that morning the three of us walked down to the cemeteries, European, Japanese and Chinese. They reflect the cultural mix of the town. The Japanese was the most interesting because there was a memorial to the divers who died of the bends, known then as Divers’ Paralysis. It affected far too many of them as the condition wasn’t understood back then. One way of combating the effects was to smoke opium, although it was never stated which of the two noxious substances did for the majority of divers.It was clear there had been some mixed marriages over the years, with one set of graves having a Japanese family name but with a mixture of Japanese and English forenames.

Memorial to lost Japanese divers.

Memorial to lost Japanese divers.

In the European section there was a very decorative grave with a Maori name and symbols on it, reinforcing the nature of the cultural mix of the town. I don’t often go walking among the dead but sometimes it can be quite instructive.

Large Maori symbol on this one.

Large Maori symbol on this one.

Outside the cemetery we came across a ‘drive thru’ coffee shop. What a great idea! Essentially, it was a stall in the lay by outside the cemetery gates, but nothing like the traditional lay by tea stall we have on British roads. Our surly, middle aged man, with his three day growth of stubble and suspect looking teaspoons sitting in a mug of dirty water, was replaced by a smart woman, dressed in baseball cap and polo shirt, with logos to match those on the stall, who cheerily greeted the occupants of cars as they pulled up, relayed their orders to the operatives of the espresso machines inside, then handed the freshly brewed coffee to them, cheerily waving them on their way. How refreshing. As was the coffee we bought. Not having a car, we sat at a picnic table nearby and speculated on the inventiveness of some people and noting that they seemed to be constantly busy.

Drive Thru coffee, any one?

Drive Thru coffee, any one?

On the morning I took Doris over to the servo for her clean up I also did some other necessary jobs. The dust seemed to have affected the indicators and the engine kill switch. The carb was flooding too. I’d bought some WD40 type lubricant and set about stripping and cleaning the handlebar switches. The indicator problem was actually corroded connections on the flasher unit but all three problems were eventually cured, along with a couple of other small jobs that needed doing. I have to say that working on your bike is a very pleasant way to spend a sunny morning.
The previous evening I’d been chatting to Heike and she introduced me to another German woman, named Kez. They had plans to head down to Cable Beach, not only to swim but also to photograph the sunset. Once I’d finished with the bike I set off to find them. Cable beach was so named because it’s the point where the telegraph cable from Indonesia, which finally connected Australia to the rest of the world, came ashore. It’s twenty two kilometres long, has nice white sand and a tide that can vary by as much as ten metres. That’s a lot! Fourbys are permitted on the beach but drivers are warned to remember about the rising tides and to avoid the fate of one Land Rover, which has been renamed Sand Rover. It still sits there, at the far end of the beach, as a reminder to the incautious. Further up the beach is a ‘clothes optional’ area, for those who want all over melanomas.

It's hard to resist a nice sunset.

It’s hard to resist a nice sunset.

Sensibly, I left my bike in the car park and very soon managed to find Heike and Kez. It felt more like Arabian Nights than sunset over the ocean. Three different companies provide sunset camel rides along the beach and it seemed a popular past time. Each company had different colour saddle blankets and the one with the red blankets somehow seemed to have redder camels too. They were all Dromedaries, one hump rather than two, but looked sweet enough as they strolled majestically past the setting sun. Kez is a keen photographer and spent quite some time, with her Canon and tripod, taking plenty of shots of the sunset and its afterglow. Heike and I just took the usual snapshots, admired the camels and chatted.

Camel riding at sunset. Not a bad way to round the day off.

Camel riding at sunset. Not a bad way to round the day off.

Heike and Kez told me they’d cook something for us all so I was relieved of food duties for the evening, apart from eating it of course. We were joined by another traveller, a French woman named Jo (Josepha). She had just completed a guided trip along the Gibb River Road and hadn’t been too impressed by their driver/guide. A bit miserable apparently. Unfortunately Heike and Kez were about to undertake the same tour so weren’t too pleased to hear her views, wondering if they’d made the right decision.

Kez and Heike.

Kez and Heike.

With Heike and Kez gone I focussed on trying to sort out the sticky zips on my tent. That damn dust seemed to get into everything and the door zips on the inner tent were reluctant to move properly. I’d bought some zip cleaner/lubricant in a camping shop so I sat on the balcony outside my room and did my best to smooth up the operation. After a few hours I felt I had improved things but only time would tell by how much.

Jo and Doris. Two nice girls.

Jo and Doris. Two nice girls.

Jo had gone off on a kayaking trip, out to sea to mix it with some turtles. I’d been tempted to go on a whale watching trip but it was just a little too late in the season to be guaranteed a sighting so had held off from that. I went for a walk around the town instead, picking up on some of the local history.

The outdoor cinema, which has been open for over 100 years.

The outdoor cinema, which has been open for over 100 years.

The CBD is also called Chinatown, a reflection of the fact that most businesses were Chinese owned. The exceptions were the big companies that owned the pearl luggers and associated industries. Most of the buildings were the typical corrugated iron constructions that predominated in those parts, including those that housed the rich, European owned businesses. They were just bigger. Those of Chinese occupation often had little touches that told that tale, such as windows or balconies with an eastern style to them. Some inventive means were adopted to provide ventilation too; essential during the very hot summers. A place I really liked the idea of was the outdoor cinema, where film goers would sit in chairs arranged across a roofless auditorium. The cinema was still operating, over 100 years after being built. It’s a shame that I didn’t get around to going there. There was a modern shopping centre too, with a useful selection of shops, including a large supermarket. Out in the public spaces were some statues dedicated to those involved in the pearling industry. Standing by the Runway Café I was fascinated to see a variety of planes flying low overhead as they came in to land at the nearby airport. I think the main street must have lined up with the runway, as well as with the setting sun.

A good selection of films.

A good selection of films.

A house mounted on concrete piles, to guard against the high tides that used to occur. And with a strange ventilation system.

A house mounted on concrete piles, to guard against the high tides that used to occur. And with a strange ventilation system.

Broome is situated on a peninsular which juts out into the Indian Ocean. Its history is centred on the pearl industry. Since the mid 19th C, oyster shells have been collected from the sea bed and sold around the world. Their value didn’t lie with the pearls that were sometimes found within but with the shells, otherwise known as Mother of Pearl. It was used for all sorts of things – buttons, cutlery handles, ornaments etc. If a pearl was found then that was a bonus. I visited a couple of pearl tour centres while I was there and learned a lot about the old and the current industry.

The Sam Male, Pearl Lugger.

The Sam Male, Pearl Lugger.

In the early days divers just held their breath and swam down to the sea bed, felt around with their hands and hoped to bring something up. If they were by an oyster bed then they were successful, if not then they moved on. The divers were usually Aboriginals who had been tempted, but mostly forced, into the work. Some devious and dark dealings were common in those days, not dissimilar to the press gangs that ensnared men for naval duty. Whips and guns were used to round up Aboriginals to do this work. Favourites were the pregnant women, who seemed to be able to hold their breath for the longest. The theory is that pregnancy increases the amount of red blood cells, therefore more oxygen could be delivered to the lungs. Despite the relative inefficiency of this method the profit was huge and the town of Broome was established off the back of it. In its heyday Broome was pretty much the richest town in Australia.

This was what they were after. That's a lot of buttons!

This was what they were after. That’s a lot of buttons!

In 1884 the fully enclosed diving suit was developed and was exported to Australia. The Aboriginals refused to use them and that’s where the Japanese came into the picture. They were experienced divers and were happy to risk this new equipment because of the enormous sums of money that could be earned. And that’s how things stayed until WW2. The Japanese were interned and the government decreed that the pearl luggers be destroyed ‘just in case’. After the war the industry picked up again but the demand for MOP had dropped because new materials, such as plastic, were replacing it. But around that time the cultured pearl industry took off. The methods had been worked out in the 1930s but the man who did so, Mr Gregory, was basically run out of town by the vested interests who owned, and got extremely rich from, pearl diving. In the 1970s the diving suit, and its attendant risks, were replaced by fin divers, who could work much more flexibly.
My first trip was out to the area’s biggest pearl farm, Willie Creek Pearls. Since the post war demise of the MOP industry the pearls themselves became the focus of attention. The aforementioned Mr Gregory’s research into culturing the pearls at last came to the fore. Only about one in every 100,000 oyster shells will contain a pearl, nowhere near enough to meet demand. Therefore culturing them is the only way. Here’s what happens.
Pinctada Maxima is the type of oyster used. It grows up to 30cms in diameter – as big as a dinner plate. They are gathered by divers from various locations around the coast and brought to the farm where they are allowed to settle in. They are increasingly produced in hatcheries too, reducing costs. When big enough they are ‘seeded’. A natural pearl usually grows around a grain of sand which has found its way into the oyster shell when it opens for feeding. Normally these grains are removed by a soft shelled crab which lives inside the oyster. In return for shelter it keeps house for the oyster – the perfect symbiotic relationship, I would suggest.

The various parts of an oyster. The seed goes into the gonad.

The various parts of an oyster. The seed goes into the gonad.

This is the real thing.

This is the real thing.

Seeding the oyster involves bringing it into a laboratory on board a ship where a technician inserts a tiny piece of Mississippi Mussel shell into the oyster’s gonad, along with a piece of the mantle tissue. The oyster is placed in a cage on the ocean floor and undergoes a turning process which encourages it to produce the calcium based ‘pearl juice’ that coats the seed and grows the pearl. Importantly, it helps the pearl to become round too. Eventually the oysters are suspended in their cages from lines strung between buoys. It takes two years to grow a pearl and during this time they are x-rayed, to check progress, and regularly cleaned to remove marine fouling organisms from the shells. While the seeding process requires expert technicians, the cleaning work is a typical Woofers’ job. 10-12 hours per day, for weeks at a time, scraping oyster shells with a chisel, if you fancy it.

All this has to be cleaned off.

All this has to be cleaned off. This oyster has been infected by fungus.

Oysters can be seeded up to four times and each subsequent seed will be the same size as the pearl that was last grown, thereby providing pearls of different sizes. The success rate of each subsequent seeding operation falls significantly, one of the reasons why larger pearls are so expensive. After the fourth seeding operation the oysters are used to provide Mother Of Pearl for the traditional uses as well as to make paints and make up. If you buy a car with pearlescent paint, that’s where it came from. Each oyster is worth £5,000 to the business so they get well looked after. Even the non-round pearls have a value as they can be fitted into brooches or pendants.

The cages that the oyster grows inside of.

The cages that the oyster grows inside of.

The pearls are assessed for quality, which falls into five different categories: size, lustre, shape, colour and quality of surface. A large pearl, with high levels of quality in all its features could cost £50,000 or more. Cheaper pearls tend to be cultivated in mussel shells in freshwater. The difference between the two is obvious when you see them side by side. If you are ever worried that a pearl may not be natural then rub it against your teeth and you will feel the roughness of the surface of a natural pearl – provided that your teeth are natural too! Lots more info can be found by following the link.
Willie Creek is located at the top end of Cable Beach and we were on the look out for crocs too, although we didn’t see any. Our guide told us that they expected the Wet to arrive early this year as the crocs had stopped laying their eggs early too. It seems all these things tie in together.

A nice selection of oyster shells, in various stages of growth.

A nice selection of oyster shells, in various stages of growth.

The second part of my pearl education was a visit to the Pearl Lugger museum. It was here that I learned about the early days of the industry and the diving history. A group of us were shown into the museum, which had plenty of relics to examine. We had a talk from a guy who told us the tales of how it was and explained the diving process. The divers were almost all Japanese and were extremely well paid. They worked with their own attendant, whose job it was to respond to the signals that came up the rope from the seabed. The divers would give directions as to which way they wanted the boat to move according to where they thought the oysters were. All very difficult considering there was no vision at the 25 metre working depth and the luggers had no engines. The suits they wore were huge, designed for large Europeans, not small Asians. In the winter they wore several layers of best Scottish woollens, toe to neck, also of a European size.It was almost impossible to move and the divers developed a kind of curtsey motion to enable them to reach the seabed. The rest of the crew were Malaysian or Indonesian and the divers tended to give them bonus payments when they’d been successful. They weren’t paid very much and it was important for a diver to have them on his side, especially the guy who worked the hand cranked air pump! Each lugger had two divers, one over each side, with their attendants sitting on a framework suspended over the side. It took them an hour and a half to get ‘suited up’ and they were in the water from dawn until dusk, often more than twelve hours, with a fifteen minute break every three hours. It’s no wonder they suffered from the bends or that they enjoyed their opium.

A legendary diver.

A legendary diver.

It was this industry that made Broome the multi-cultural town it became, with Aboriginals, Japanese, Chinese, Malays, Fillipinos and Europeans all living there. It wasn’t always sweetness and light, with friction occasionally arising between the various groups. But up until WW2 things seemed to work. Everything changed completely at that point and the pearling industry was effectively stopped in its tracks. Those Japanese still remaining were interned and the government decreed that the pearl luggers be destroyed in case they fell into the wrong hands. It’s worth pointing out that Indonesia, eventually occupied by the Japanese, isn’t very far away. It took a long time for the industry to recover when hostilities ceased.

All about the luggers.

All about the luggers.

On Saturday one of my Aussie mates arrived. Craig works for Telstra, the biggest phone company, installing communications satellite dishes. He travels all round the country, mostly by plane, but also rides a Suzuki DR650, Australia’s most popular trallie. I first met him in Brisbane.
He had hired a scooter for the afternoon so we rode around to a couple of places to see some sights.Gantheaume Point was the first place we went to. Named after a French explorer, it’s home to a lighthouse, very prettily coloured rocks and, seen at very low tides only, dinosaur footprints. Because this was a period of very high tides, there were also very low tides too so they were visible. It was very strange looking at something made by an animal over 65 million years before. Reckoned to be from Sauropods, there’s about ten of them scattered around. The area used to be above sea level, was probably swamp, but had shifted, along with the earth’s surface.

Dinosaur footprint.

Dinosaur footprint.

We rode along to the port area and went down onto the beach. There was a marquee set up over on one side and various people arriving. Obviously a celebration and we soon realised it was a wedding. ‘Keep your eyes on the sky’ one of the guests said to us. Sure enough a helicopter soon arrived and delivered the bride and her father to the ceremony. Now that, my friends, is doing it style – Aussie Style. We were suitably impressed.
We socialised over the weekend, between other calls on our time, and I enjoyed a very nice Sunday lunch at Craig’s hotel. Almost too much beef to eat and very reasonably priced.
During the Autumn, Winter and Spring months Western Australia enjoys a natural phenomenon known as the Staircase to the Moon. It’s all about the effect of the light from the rising moon as it shines across the sea. In Broome it can be seen at Town Beach, on the eastern side of the peninsular. During the three days when the full moon coincides with a low tide, this effect is at its most dramatic. It occurs an hour later each day, so I arranged to meet Craig down there on the Monday evening. There’s a leisure area behind the beach which was full of stalls selling clothes, trinkets and food. It being a bank holiday weekend too – a queen was having a birthday somewhere – the place was jumping. We found a spot among the crowd out on the old jetty and waited. We weren’t sure how good it would be because the moonrise, at 18.03, came soon after the 17.40 sunset. We wondered if the sky might be too light. We needn’t have worried. It was wonderful to be able to still see the horizon as the red moon rose up above it. It wasn’t too long before the staircase effect became apparent as the moon got brighter while the last of the daylight faded away. Because the tide was completely out the moonlight could reflect on the wet sand without any waves spoiling the reflections. That’s what makes it so good. It was quite magical, as I hope the photos show.

The new moon rises just after sunset.

The new moon rises just after sunset.

The staircase effect begins.

The staircase effect begins.

The staircase effect in full flight.

The staircase effect in full flight.

Craig wasn’t around the next day but I went up there again, just to compare the difference. The moon rose a whole hour later, so it was completely dark this time. Although the light on the water was brighter, quicker, I preferred the previous night because the whole effect was better when the horizon could be seen.
So that was about it for Broome. There were a number of things that I didn’t get to see and places I didn’t get to visit. There really is a lot to do and you tend to do them slowly because it’s so hot. I could easily have spent a few more days there, but I needed to head south, to cooler climes.

Arriving at your wedding in style.

Arriving at your wedding in style.

The outline plan was to sweep down the west coast from Broome to Perth, calling in at points of interest on the way. There’s plenty to see along that 2,000kms stretch, including some national parks that lie inland. My first port of call was to be Port Hedland, very much a mining orientated town. I knew they ran mine tours from there and I fancied going on one.
It was a long ride, which included an overnight stop. When I pulled into a roadhouse for fuel and coffee at 3pm, there were two bikers there that had already stopped for the night. The heat had beaten them, they said. I could understand what they meant. It was close to 40 C and the heat just seemed to suck the life out of you. I pushed on, aiming for a beach front camp site further down the line. When I got there, and was told they wanted $26 just for me and my tent, I left again. Simply too much for three square metres of grass (possibly) and a shower. Instead I went to a roadhouse about 100kms further south and paid $12, pleased that I hadn’t wasted money or time. Progress was good.

In common with other states, WA provides areas for travellers to rest at overnight. Toilets, picnic areas ,and 24hr camping allowed.

In common with other states, WA provides areas for travellers to rest at overnight. Toilets, picnic areas ,and 24hr camping allowed.

I reached Port Hedland at 10am next day and headed for the visitor centre, where I booked on to the mine tour, at 1pm. With time to spare I went to the nearest camp site and promptly did my ‘What, you must be joking!!’ act when they asked for $46. I thought the other place was bad enough. A 16kms ride out to South Hedland brought me to another camp site, charging a much more reasonable $20. They even threw in a free gale. The wind was so strong I couldn’t put my tent up. I got it half done then had to leave it laying on the ground with my heavy bags on it, holding it down, while I went back for the mine tour. ‘The wind always drops in the evening,’ I kept saying to myself.
The port is used to export various products – salt, cattle, various minerals. But far and away the biggest is iron ore. In the year ending 2014 a total of 370 million tonnes of cargo was exported. 364 million tonnes of that was iron ore. That’s one hell of a lot of horseshoes! The port has been improved in various ways over the years, as you’d expect. It has a ship turning area in the inner port which is 300 metres across. Some of the ships are over 280 metres long. They have 16 tugs with some very skilled crews! There is an island which is used for loading vessels too, giving the port a total of eight ore loading berths. BHP constructed a 1.6km tunnel out to this island, inside of which is a conveyor system for getting the ore to the ships.

Storing the ore until needed with computer controlled machines.

Storing the ore until needed with computer controlled machines.

The mine tour was fascinating. It didn’t actually involve a mine though. Instead it was a tour round the storage and loading facility, owned by BHP Biliton, which receives the iron ore from their inland mines and loads it onto ships for export. The ore comes in by train, not road, and just never stops arriving. It used to be crushed at the port but following complaints from the town, it is now crushed and graded out at the mine. It is stockpiled and then loaded onto the ships. With the exception of driving the trains and operating the ship loading machinery, the whole site is computerised and operated from Perth, over 1,600kms to the south. It has 98kms of conveyor systems delivering enough ore to fill a 250,000 tonne ship at a rate of 12,500 tonnes per hour. In fact the record throughput in one 24 hour period was over 2,000,000 tonnes. Phew!

two hundred tonnes of diesel locomotion. Up to six of these are used per train.

two hundred tonnes of diesel locomotion. Up to six of these are used per train.

The main mining hub is about 420kms from the town and the trains delivering the ore are quite something. There will be up to six American built diesel locomotives, two front, two middle and two rear. Up to 340 wagons, each with 32,000 tonnes of ore. The whole train will be up to 3.3kms long. When it reaches the port the driver stops the train at a particular point and the computer takes charge. It moves the train through an unloading shed where machinery turns three wagons at a time through 180 degrees so the ore falls out into a hopper underneath. Meanwhile the driver goes off and has his lunch, afternoon nap or whatever. The plant has its own maintenance works for the locos and wagons. It’s tempting to think of an operation such as this as a crude, dirty, noisy hell, reminiscent of those old black and white information films depicting heavy industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clean and efficient, in fact. One thing I learned, which really drove that home, was that the latest version of the ore wagons had the steel support structure for the sides moved from the outside of the wagon to the inside. The locos use around 5,000 litres of diesel per trip and this improvement in aerodynamics saves the company $1 million per loco per annum. There’s nothing crude about that kind of thinking.
I enjoyed that tour and came away feeling I’d been educated, as well as having had some assumptions kicked into touch. I was impressed.

Before loading ......

Before loading ……

........ and after. Quite a difference.

…….. and after. Quite a difference.

Before heading back to the camp site to do battle with the wind, I strolled along the water front, watching the loading operations and enjoying the well laid out park and recreation area. Funded by the mining company, of course, as they do for many other town and educational projects.

Salt storage on the way out of Port Hedland.

Salt storage on the way out of Port Hedland.

On the way out of town I stopped to look at the solar salt mine, run by Rio Tinto. It harvests salt from the sea simply by filling pools with sea water and letting the hot sun and wind evaporate the water away. 3.2 million tonnes of salt per annum is the result of this solar powered operation.

Solar powered salt production.

Solar powered salt production.

Back at the camp site the wind had dropped, as expected, and I was able to win the windy battle. Tomorrow I was heading out to Karijini National Park. Ho hum, another gorge or two to walk along.
A very nice ride along a recently upgraded road got me there mid afternoon. There’s two camp sites in the park and I went to the one near Dales Gorge, planning to head to the Eco Tourist Retreat, on the other side of the park, next day. The park was quite busy as it was the two week mid-term school holidays. It was far too hot to walk so I just took things easy, making plans for an early, heat beating start next day.

The iron hills, with pretty plants I hadn't seen anywhere else.

The iron hills, with pretty plants I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

By now I had visited several national Parks in various parts of Australia. All of them had different geology and different rock types, although those in North Queensland were a bit short on the rock. Much more given over to sand and with much nicer trees. I’d seen plenty of sandstone, sometimes laced with karst. By now, a fair bit of limestone too. But Karijini and the surrounding area, as you’ve probably guessed, is all about iron. The rock in the gorge I walked through, and round, the next morning, is different to any I’d seen so far. A mixture of red and grey, it tended to be layered in slabs, with sharp cornered faces and angles. Nothing gentle about its appearance at all. These 2.5 billion year old rocks have been lifted by earth movement and cut into by numerous rivers, forming the landscape I walked through. Sometimes the rocks would be laced with soft yellow ochre, looking a bit out of place among the hard, grey iron.

This little slitherer got a bit upset when I nearly trod on it. And yes, it is a poisonous one!

This little slitherer got a bit upset when I nearly trod on it. And yes, it is a poisonous one!

There were deep, cool pools at each end of the gorge and the creek had plenty of water in it. Stepping stones were the order of the day whenever the path crossed over. There were plenty of trees and plants to admire, some of them unique to the area. There were some interesting rock formations too. Hard as it is, even iron ore will eventually erode, or be carried down when the softer rock around it gives way.

Cool, deep pools and hard, gray rock, down in Dales Gorge.

Cool, deep pools and hard, gray rock, down in Dales Gorge.

It was a steep, rocky climb down into the gorge and an equally steep one back out again, aided by some steel stairs and walkways. The sun’s heat was starting to get itself noticed too. So I was pleased that the walk back along the rim of the gorge wasn’t too difficult or too far.

Erosion always wins in the end.

Erosion always wins in the end.

I packed away my tent and gear and set off to ride to the Eco Tourist Resort. But on the way I stopped off at one of the park’s two water tanks to fill up my water bottles. I was quite surprised by the number of bees and other insects that were buzzing around the damp outlet hose. Closer examination revealed that those ‘other insects’ were rather large hornets. I must confess I’d never seen any before and given that they looked about four times as big as the average wasp, I wondered about the comparative size of their sting. But none of them paid me any attention so I filled up and moved on.

These little buzzers gave me a start until I realised they weren't interested in me.

These little buzzers gave me a start until I realised they weren’t interested in me.

There are four gorges to explore near the Eco Resort so I planned to stay a couple of nights. Having called in at the visitor centre the day before, I rode past it and took to the gravel track that crossed the park. I didn’t like it much. Unusually, it had longitudinal ruts, rather than corrugations, and the gravel was deep in places. I disliked it so much that after 5kms I turned round and went back to the visitor centre, having decided that with it being school holidays I’d better check they actually had room for me. I didn’t want to ride that track if I didn’t need to. That’s how much I disliked it. The guy at the VC rang the resort, where they had plenty of room for one man and his tent. He expressed surprise that I was going along it on a bike but I assured him I’d be OK on my off road bike.
I set off along the track once more, riding steadily at a reduced speed of 40-50kph and trying to stick to the chicken track at the edge. All was well until after about 10kms the front wheel dug into some gravel and I was spat off the bike. This time I landed really badly and as I moved to straighten myself out I realised I had broken my collar bone. I knew the feeling as I had broken the right one about seven years ago. Now I had a matched pair. I didn’t bother trying to get up. It’s a busy track and I knew someone would be along soon to help me. I was right and within a minute or two a couple of fourbys arrived. Some guys picked up my bike and moved it off the track and a family put me in the back of theirs to take me on to the Eco Resort. They were good enough to bring the bags off the back of my bike too. I knew that I’d gone down really hard that time because the straps holding the bags onto the bike had snapped, something that had not happened before. If you’re familiar with ROK Straps you’ll know this is very hard to do.

Sebastion and his Dad Simon, who took me to the Eco Resort.

Sebastion and his Dad Simon, who took me to the Eco Resort.

The nearest town is Tom Price and the people at the Eco Resort called an ambulance and in the meantime gave me iced tea to drink while we watched the AFL final on the TV. It’s a very strange game. There was a doctor staying there who confirmed what I already knew about my collar bone. Dan, the Head Ranger, came by to tell me he’d ridden my bike back to the visitor centre and it was safely locked away, along with me gear. He assured me it could stay there as long as it took me to be well again. Now that was a real weight off my mind. What a top bloke.

Head Ranger Dan, who now looks after Doris.

Head Ranger Dan, who now looks after Doris.

The ambulance crew were St John’s volunteers. I suppose I wasn’t too surprised as it seems very common among Aussies to get involved in their local emergency services. In fact, very often volunteers are all there is, with the exception of police. Tiny and Sharon delivered me safely to the hospital, all in good order.

L Clavicle Obl
Being a mining town, Tom Prince has a small hospital and they processed me efficiently, if slowly. Eventually the on-call radiologist arrived and I was duly x-rayed. Broken collar bone confirmed and the doctor said it would need pinning. Looking at them I was inclined to agree. It looked a mess. I was given a room to myself where I was able to get a very much needed shower and some food. I had been given a disc with the x-rays on it, in case I wanted to receive some of my treatment in another state.
Clearly, transfers from outlying hospitals to bigger towns and cities are common in Australia. The Royal Flying Doctor Service is heavily involved in this but I had no need of it. With my arm in a sling I was provided with a ticket for Sunday’s QUANTAS flight to Perth and a travel voucher for a taxi from the airport to Royal Perth Hospital. My transport from Tom Price hospital to Paraburdoo, the nearest airport, was left to Gilda, my lovely radiologist who had, coincidentally, just finished her tour of duty at Tom Price and was also flying to Perth. I think I happened to be her last patient there. Perfect timing. All went smoothly and a taxi delivered me to RPH about 7pm where I went through the emergency department’s procedures before finally getting a room.
While I’d been at Tom Price I’d had two phone conversations with the orthopaedic surgeon at RPH, discussing my options. The idea was to be able to pre-plan an operation for Monday. I thought this an excellent idea and it meant that, barring some big emergency, my op was on the list before I even got there. And so it was that on Monday I was screwed and plated back together and was back in my room in time for lunch. Fantastic.

Pinned and plated.

Pinned and plated.

On Tuesday morning the physio came and showed me some gentle exercises I should do and provided me with a sling to wear. The main instruction was not to use the arm for six weeks and no heavy lifting for three months. It’s likely I’ll be OK to ride the bike after six weeks but too much activity before that might separate the screws from the bone. It sounds like some sitting down doing nothing very much is going to be the order of the day. I’m not very good at that!
Once I’d been checked over and given my instructions on how to be a good boy, I was taken down to the transit lounge where my medication was organised and a discharge letter written up for me to take away. Initially they assumed I’d be going to Brisbane, as that’s where my Aussie address is, and therefore didn’t book an outpatient’s appointment in Perth. The ortho doctor had said to come to the clinic in two weeks so I had to tell the doctor in the transit lounge of this so he could arrange it. Once he’d got that right I was free to go. Gilda, my favourite radiologist was staying at her brother’s in Perth for a couple of days before heading off on holiday. There was room for me there too, which gave me time to get something organised for my sojourn in Perth. I rang her, she came to collect me and off we went, me feeling a little strange without my bike, Gilda carrying my bag for me, just to emphasise how helpless I’m going to be for a while.

Gilda and me doing the selfie thing in Fremantle at sunset.

Gilda and me doing the selfie thing in Fremantle at sunset.

Kimberley’s Delights.

Kununurra, WA. 7th September 2015.

Kununurra bills itself as the eastern gateway to the Kimberley Region. This region is a highlight of any visit to the north of Western Australia because of its plethora of gorges, waterfalls, flora and fauna, and general abundance of nice things to see. Plenty to visit and be amazed by, although most of its treasures are down dirt roads. Chief among these is the Gibb River Road.
Running from near Kununurra, the road takes you west and south to the town of Derby, which lies on the coast. The geography is very similar to Australia’s Red Centre, which I’d just left. That means very dry winters and very wet summers. It also means over 600kms of dirt, in varying states of repair, depending on when the grader last came through, and no shortage of red dust. It goes near, or through, two mountain ranges – the Leopold and the Cockburn. Hence the reason for plentiful opportunities to walk a gorge, swim in a waterhole or even relax in hot thermal springs. The road was constructed to enable road trains to move cattle from the various stations in the area to the ports of Wyndham and Derby. It was this change in the strategy of cattle movement that led to the closure of the Canning Stock Route. That route is another on the list headed ‘Iconic’, a list that seems to be quite long, I’m pleased to say.

Good news on the weather front.

Good news on the weather front.

I didn’t rush too much when I left the hostel. I didn’t have too far to go to get to El Questro Station, my first overnight stop. From here there is access to several gorges and some hot springs. The ride in from the GBR took me across the Pentecost River, via a very stony ford. It wasn’t all that deep but the problem with stones is how to tackle them. Go for it, and risk hitting a large rock? Or very slowly, with the chance of getting stuck in a hole? I took the latter option and had to power my way out a couple of times. Luckily it didn’t take long to put my tent up and leave my wet boots out to dry.
It was too hot to do too much until later in the afternoon, when I went for a walk up to the nearby lookout on Telegraph Hill. It was very pleasant watching the birds of prey wheeling around on the thermals, looking for their next meal, as the sun set.

'Roos in the evening shadows.

‘Roos in the evening shadows.

I got up early and headed out to walk some gorges. Moonshine Gorge and El Questro Gorge were on my list, hopefully to be followed by a dip in the Zebidee thermal pools.
Moonshine Gorge was quite a tough walk, of about 7kms. The track from the car park went up onto a ridge, then down to the creek which runs through the gorge. It was very stony in places and the path by the creek involved lots of scrambling over boulders. It was tough going and it was lucky that the path had been marked out well as it crossed and recrossed the creek several times. The info boards always suggest a likely time for completing the route. I always try to beat it by as much as I can, just because I enjoy the exercise and the challenge. 2.5 to 3 hours is recommended. I walked it in 1:30. And that was without rushing, because you can’t.

One other frustrating aspect is that you can hear such amazing birdsong but rarely see the birds, hidden away in the foliage. When you do, you discover that they are as beautiful as the songs they sing.

Well marked, but rough trail.

Well marked trail, but rough …….

Leading up the creek into Moonshine Gorge.

…… leading up the creek into Moonshine Gorge.

At El Questro Gorge I didn’t go right to the end. That would have involved climbing over and around huge boulders and would have taken too long. This walk went close to the creek the whole time and the challenge was more to do with staying upright over slippery stones. Because of the nature of the gorge and the ever running creek, there were different plants and trees here compared to outside. Livonia Palms were the most obvious, along with Ferns and other typical damp area plants. It’s very easy for micro climates to exist in these hidden places, and to see flora and fauna that simply aren’t there a few hundred metres away. Often there’ll be plants that only grow in one small area too.

Livonia Palms.

Livonia Palms.

Up into El Questro Gorge.

Up into El Questro Gorge.

Zebidee Pools is only open in the morning, shutting at 12:00. This is to reduce the wear and tear on the roots of the palms which surround the pools, which would suffer severe damage otherwise. So I had a nice, warm twenty minutes before the ranger came to shut us out.
For the afternoon I’d booked a 4×4 drive out to Explosion Gorge, with a boat trip and sunset viewing to round it off. We left just after 2pm and Lew, our driver/guide, explained about the ownership of the station over the years. The original one million acre station has been broken up. Some of it is El Questro resort, some a cattle station and some part of the NP. The resort is now American owned, one of many around the world, it seems.
Lew talked to us about how high the rivers can go in the Wet, pointing at a previous flood level, easily 15 or 20 metres above the current river level. I find it puzzling that less than a metre of annual rainfall can have so much effect but it’s simply because the ground won’t absorb very much of it so all the water runs down to the rivers. The sandstone rock absorbs a lot, then releases it slowly, and that is why many of the rivers have water in them all year.

A collection of large Boabs, and our chariot.

A collection of large Boabs, and our chariot.

We stopped by a Boab tree and Lew found a seed pod which he broke open for us. The white powder inside contains a very high level of vitamin C and is also very good for keeping teeth white. But the seeds inside it give you diarrhea!

Inside a Boab seed pod. Plenty of vitamin C and it tastes like lemon too.

Inside a Boab seed pod. Plenty of vitamin C and it tastes like lemon too.

Don't eat the seeds or you'll be needing a cork!

Don’t eat the seeds or you’ll be needing a cork!

The land surrounding Explosion Gorge has not been affected by the uplift in the Earth’s surface, which has affected other areas. So the layers of different rock in the sandstone cliffs are almost horizontal. As we made our way serenely down the gorge Lew would point out previous flood levels, etched onto the cliff face, and some of the geological features. I’m always impressed by how knowledgeable the guides are. They almost never get stuck for an answer. The boat was electric, an absolute must for sensitive eco areas like this.

An Egret, I think.

An Egret, I think.

Looking down the gorge.

Looking down the gorge.

Reflectins.

Reflections.

After that pleasant ride we were taken up to Branko’s Lookout where we could see right across the Pentecost and Salmond river valleys. Of course these valleys have sandstone cliffs and of course the setting sun gave us magical colour changing scenes to enjoy while we sipped a cold drink and ate cheese and biscuits. What a civilised end to a day.

Looking down the Pentecost River as the sun sets.

Looking down the Pentecost River as the sun sets.

El Questro has more to offer but I believed I’d seen the best and felt it was time to move on. My next destination was the Mitchell Plateau, where I was going to visit the spectacular Mitchell Falls. Unfortunately they aren’t quite as spectacular this time of year, at the end of the Dry. I was told there would be some water flowing over them but not much, and also that the visit would be worthwhile anyway because the whole set up is pretty impressive. I hoped this would be true because I’d also been told that the access road was spectacularly rough. Lots of spectaculars, not so many particulars. Time to find out.

Getting to El Questro across a stony ford.

Getting to El Questro across a stony ford.

I crossed the Pentecost River for the fourth time, this time with far more confidence and much drier feet. Once back on the Gibb River Road, and heading west, I made good time to the turn off to the north that I needed. The road is mostly well graded but there are always heavily corrugated sections to suffer and sometimes patches of the dreaded deep sand. The Kalumburu Road goes north for over 260kms to the Aboriginal township of the same name, situated close to the coast. It would have been interesting to visit there but it required two different permits, one of which has to be obtained from Perth. Definitely not a scenario that’s compatible with my spur of the moment planning technique. So I rode up to Drysdale Station, filled up with petrol and coffee, and carried on to the Mitchell Plateau turn off. Seventy two kilometres later, after riding easily the roughest road I’ve been on so far, my brain seemed to have turned to mush because I misread the sign at the left turn that would have taken me the last 16kms to the falls and the camp site. Instead I rode further along the road until it was obvious I was going to have to find a bush camp as the sun was very low. I went a short way up a track leading to a water cistern, and put my tent up next to it. For the first time I was camping on ground that was so hard I couldn’t get my tent pegs into it. Sensibly, I’d bought a tent that could be used without them.

Geological make up of the Mtchell Plateau.

Geological make up of the Mtchell Plateau.

I got down to the visitors’ car park fairly early next morning, before the heat had risen too much. I set off to walk out to the falls. Not difficult at first but soon the well marked trail had me scrambling over rocks and round boulders. It was well worth the effort though. Little Mertens Falls comes first. Hardly any water flowing but they are far from little, with a long drop into a deep pool. Next to them is a nice lilly pool and it looked very refreshing. Onwards to the main event. The Mitchell River is very wide just above the falls and is easy to cross in the Dry. There is a heli-pad on the far side so you can walk out and get flown back, if you want to and can afford it. I didn’t and couldn’t.

The pool the Little Mertens Falls drops into.

The pool the Little Mertens Falls drops into.

The best view of the falls is from the cliffs on the far side so I crossed the river and made my way along them until I was able to look down and across at the falls and the huge pool at the bottom. It isn’t possible to get down to the bottom of the cliffs but the view across was still very good. It would have been magnificent had there been a good flow of water but even with the small amount there was, their majesty was easy to discern. They have four tiers, getting wider as they drop down into the turquoise pool at their base. The river then flows out through a gorge to the sea. It is, the signs said, a popular place for crocs. OK, point taken.

The very wide, but almost dry, Mitchell River. The Heli-pad is on the other side.

The very wide, but almost dry, Mitchell River. The Heli-pad is on the other side.

I’d enjoyed the 9km walk although it was definitely getting very warm by the time I got back. I’d taken two litres of water and drank all of it. The heat is deceptive and there really is a risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion. You ignore the warnings at your peril. But it had all been worth it because the falls look great, even with very little water. The best time to visit is early in the dry season when they would look simply magnificent.

Four tier waterfalls. Shame about the lack of water.

Four tier waterfalls. Shame about the lack of water.

After eating my snack, while sitting in the shade, I put on my far-too-warm riding gear and set off to tackle the road out. To be fair, the first part, taking me back to the main access road, isn’t too bad because although rough, it’s also challenging. Its surface is rocky and stony and it twists around, with some steep climbs too. That is a good trail riding challenge so is enjoyable. But when I got back onto the main access road I was back to the huge corrugations, cross ruts and unforgiving surface I’d had to endure on the way in, with no respite. Most definitely not fun. Ninety kilometres and two hours of riding, mostly at 30-40kph. By the time I reached the main Kulumburu road, and turned south for Drysdale Station, I was exhausted. I turned up the gas a bit because the shop there closed at 5pm and I wanted to get fuel. On the way down my rev counter started acting up, reading far higher than it should. After a while I remembered why that happens and sure enough, when I pulled up at the petrol pump at Drysdale, I had no electrics. The main fuse had blown. Sometimes I manage to get things right and one of my sensible decisions had been to retro-fit a kick starter just in case something went wrong with the electrics. So I was able to restart the bike and get onto the camp site, with plans to fix it in the morning. Well done Suzuki for making a bike where I could do that (the kick starter is no longer fitted to electric start models) and also one where the ignition system works without a battery.
Before leaving in the morning I replaced the blown fuse, although there wasn’t any obvious reason for its failure. The bracket which held on the controls for my heated handlebar grips had broken off. That would have to wait. The indicators wouldn’t flash. Who cares on a dirt road? The circlip that secures my front sprocket had disappeared so I fitted the spare. Such is the effect of super rough roads on my poor little bike.

Bike, sand luggage, leg. They all seem to have got mixed up, somehow.

Bike, sand luggage, leg. They all seem to have got mixed up, somehow.

All good to go, so I set off for Windjana Gorge, about 375kms of dirt road and another good sized step westwards along the Gibb River Road. My return ride up to Mitchell Falls had increased my confidence on the dirt roads. Where I used to slow down a bit, ‘just in case’, I was now keeping the throttle open and just powering through the rough patches. Unfortunately I’d forgotten about sand so, needless to say, when I came to a 100 metre long section of red sand, perfectly blended into the red road surface, I was going too quickly to deal with it. It dealt with me instead and in no time at all I was lying down and eating dirt once more. In case you wondered, all sand tastes the same. Once more I was taken back to my time in Mongolia because my left leg was trapped under the pannier with the full weight of the bike on it. My ankle and knee were twisted round a bit, making movement painful. I un-shipped my luggage from the rear rack but it didn’t help. I was trying to use the handlebars and front wheel to twist the bike up and maybe take enough weight off my leg to let me slide it out. No go. Eventually the solution was to get my right leg across the bike to the left side, which enabled me to reach back and dig my foot out of the sand. I was free. And it surprised me that once I’d stood up and eased the strain in my knee it stopped hurting.

The only damage from my 'off'.

The only damage from my ‘off’.

All this took about fifteen minutes, during which time no vehicles came by. In the ten minutes after I’d got up, four fourbys came past, all stopping to see if I was OK. Well I am now, I thought, but where were you when I needed you! To be honest, I was pleased to have been able to get myself out of trouble once more. These things don’t always happen on popular roads.
After a while I got to Mount Barnet Roadhouse and, having refuelled, took the opportunity to clean up a bit and treat myself to a sandwich and coffee. I deserved it. Checking round the bike I found that my number plate had snapped in two, but that was all. Another repair to be done later.
There’s a camp site in the Windjana NP and I was there in plenty of time to set up, make tea and glue and screw my number plate back on. I was pleased to find showers here so I was able to remove the red sand and sweat, a very sticky and messy combination. I began to feel better.

The Gibb River Road cuts through the Leopold Range.

The Gibb River Road cuts through the Leopold Range.

The kind of sign you see out on these tracks.

The kind of sign you see out on these tracks.

I was out early next morning to walk the gorge before it got too hot. Windjana, I decided, is my favourite gorge so far. It’s different to all the others because the hills are limestone rather than sandstone. Coming along the Gibb River Road, I’d passed through a gap in the Leopold Ranges. These hills are part of an ancient limestone reef. Most of it is buried but here it’s been exposed by earth movement and erosion.

The ancient story of the reef.

The ancient story of the reef.

Formed about 360 million years ago, it used to be seabed. So as I walked along the gorge I could sea old shells buried in the rock and other evidence of ancient sea creatures. Limestone erodes quite quickly so the rock face was pockmarked with holes, large and small, as well as caves. Although the higher part of the cliffs were the usual iron ore red, the lower parts were white, having been kept clean by the water flow.

From the days when land was sea.

From the days when land was sea.

The river was very wide in places and there were a number of isolated pools, some with freshies in them. They get stranded there after the Wet but so do fish and other creatures, so they survive well. On the way back I went over to them and got lots of close up photos. They aren’t dangerous to humans as long as you respect them and, in particular, don’t get between them and the water.

Old Crock.

Old Crock.

The trees and plants in this shady gorge were very green and they reminded me, in many ways, of a country walk in England. I’d become used to seeing only a small variety of trees and not much by way of shrubs and other plants. Here there was a nice variety of mixed trees, shrubs and others, such as creeper vine, all interlaced and wound around each other. A very pleasant change. There was a colony of smelly, noisy fruit bats too. I have no idea how they manage to sleep because they’re always getting disturbed and flying around from tree to tree.

Fruit bats. They never seem to stay still.

Fruit bats. They never seem to stay still.

There were plenty of birds around, probably more of them because I was out early. It seems to be the case that wherever I go there’s different birdsong to listen to. Always a great pleasure.
A really nice walk now completed, I went back to camp, packed away and headed off to my next destination of Tunnel Creek. On the way I called in to look at the ruins of Lilliloomorra police station. Its place in history was secured when one of the Aboriginal trackers, Jandamarra, ‘went native’ and shot his white colleague. Well worth a read. Follow the link.

A story worth reading.

A story worth reading.

Tunnel Creek runs through a tunnel in the Limestone. What a surprise! An extreme example of what erosion can do.It’s a spooky place, as you can imagine. You have to take a torch with you and you will end up wading through water during your walk. There are bats, stalactites, sandbars, rocks and a croc. A freshie, fortunately. It looked dead, but it wasn’t fooling me! Fortunately the tunnel is wide enough to be able to give it a wide berth. Halfway through there’s a section where the roof has collapsed and daylight and fresh air can get in. So can the smell of the fruitbat colony in the nearby trees. At the far end the creek comes out into daylight and is very pleasant and peaceful as it continues on its way. It’s all very nice and cool so the hot sun feels even worse when you come back out.

Inside the tunnel.

Inside the tunnel.

Back in the car park I got chatting to a family whom I’d met at Windjana Gorge. When I told them about my journey one of the guys said ‘You’ve got real balls mate.’ And I thought ‘No, I’ve got Doris, mate.’

The sign said the road was open! Not difficult to get across though.

The sign said the road was open! Not difficult to get across though.

Another 70kms of dirt and 45kms of bitumen got me to Fitzroy Crossing and to Fitzroy Lodge, easily the swankiest camp site I’ve been on so far. It’s also a rather expensive hotel/motel and has a nice, cool swimming pool. Once my tent was up I took advantage of it. Hanging around the pool was a bird. A Cookaburra, in fact. It is a member of the Kingfisher family and looks very much like one too. I also met an English couple, Malcolm and Margaret, from St Albans. They’re enjoying a holiday and had been to see some of the Gibb River Road’s sights as well.

Cookaburra.

Cookaburra.

It was very warm that evening and there were a few spots of rain too. But by morning the skies were clear once more and I had plans to explore one last gorge before heading to Broome.
The Fitzroy River runs through the Geike Gorge and I was down there in time for the 08:30 boat cruise down it. Malcolm and Margaret were there too, along with a guide who was showing them around that day. The visitor centre was inside an open sided building which was about five metres high. It was fascinating to see the signs denoting how high up the walls previous flood levels had risen. The highest was two metres above the roof!
Our Kiwi Skipper told us that the Fitzroy River has the 3rd or 4th fastest flow of any river in the world at 29,000 litres per second. Wow. That’s a lot of water! The flood plain for this river is 35kms wide in places. Deep and wide, it looked like it would need it.

The 2011 flood level was two metres above this roof.

The 2011 flood level was two metres above this roof.

Eroded limestone, with high water mark.

Eroded limestone, with high water mark.

The cruise down the gorge was very pleasant and the limestone rock showed us its many faces. Black and red up above, pale grey at water level. Very obvious water erosion effects. Under some of the overhangs were the nests of bottle swallows. The photo shows why they have that name. There were plenty of interesting rock formations. One looked a bit like a croc, another looked a lot like Richard Nixon. A croc and a crook then.

Tricky Dicky.

Tricky Dicky.

The cruise was over soon enough and I exchanged details with M&M before saying goodbye and setting off back to town. At the servo I bumped into Victoria, a roomie from back in Kununurra. She travels around taking blood. Nice to see her again.. By 11am I was on the road to Broome, about five hours riding away.

Malcolm and Margaret. A long way from their home in St Albans.

Malcolm and Margaret. A long way from their home in St Albans.

As I passed the junction with the road to Tunnel Creek I saw a fourby with some young women standing by it, so I stopped to see what was wrong. Nothing, in fact. They were just pumping their tyres back up after being off road. I saw them again at the roadhouse where I stopped for coffee. Further along the road I saw a Nissan fourby with its bonnet up. I stopped again and this time the young German couple with it did have a problem. Their battery was flat and they told me they’d had to jump start it that morning. I checked the water level and all the cells were dry so I topped them up ad told them to wait a while to see if the battery recovered. If it didn’t they’d have to flag someone down for a jump start. They were going to need a new battery, either way.
That little interlude relieved the boredom a bit and I made it to Broome before 5pm. I found the YHA hostel, found that I was in a room by myself so once my gear was unpacked a bit I walked up to the nearby Woolworths for some supplies. Included in these was a selection of cleaning products. Me, my clothes, my riding gear and my bike all needed a damn good scrub up. Everything was full of red dust. It was quite nice to have ginger hair again though.

Big, mad Boab tree, on steroids.

Big, mad Boab tree, on steroids.

I’d enjoyed the Gibb River Road and its secret little places. They’d been well worth seeking out. The road itself also had its pleasant side. Unlike, for example, the Tanami Track, the GBR crossed some interesting terrain. The hilly sections made the riding more enjoyable and the vegetation changed too, as I headed west. Mostly scrub and spinifex grass at the eastern end, much greener and more pleasant at the western. In fact, I didn’t ride the whole length because I’d turned off down Leopold Downs Road to Windjana. But there was only another 120kms before reaching Derby, with nothing to see on the way. I’d been told that Derby itself wasn’t especially interesting so had given it a miss.
What’s certain is that if Alice’s charms are somewhat in your face, then Kimberley’s are hidden away but well worth the effort of seeking them out.