SATURDAY 22 JULY THEDA STATION TO HONEYMOON BEACH 105kms
It was a cold night again.
We were up at 6.30am, and packed and away by 9.30. No speed records there!
Our little freshie friend watched proceedings with great curiosity from the far side of the pool, for a couple of hours. He didn’t disappear until the tent was down.
Turned north again, on the Kalumburu road. North of Theda, the road was very variable. It was quite reasonable in parts, in others just wheel tracks on stony rubble.
There were regular water crossings, most shallow and not very wide at all. Some just a muddy patch on the road.
We drove into one such water crossing, following the tracks of a much larger vehicle that had entered the water on our side of the road. There was a car load of aboriginals approaching the crossing from the other side, so John kept to the one side. The water was very muddy.
We ground to a halt in the middle of what was basically a very large puddle! Even engaging the diff lock didn’t budge us. Eventually John worked out that we were hung up on a large rock. The tracks we’d followed must have gone each side of it, but he’d had a higher clearance!
The aboriginal vehicle rocked and scraped, crossing beside us, but got through.
We had to winch out, but – as usual – there is never a good big tree around when you need one! However, there was a very large rock that we used.
It was not easy to set up for winching, with truck mired in knee deep water and mud. John hurt the soles of his feet, wading around getting out the needed gear and setting it up. Another tourist vehicle approached from the Kalumburu side, and he helped John with the winch. His wife complained to me about how expensive it had been at the beach camps there. They had gone and camped in the bush instead, and then been told off for being where they shouldn’t be.
The winching out produced a loud scraping noise from under Truck. We hoped it wasn’t a vital area! Our tourist helpers scraped their rear and exhaust, crossing where it was “good”. We wondered what this crossing would be like by the time we came back this way.
Obviously a big vehicle had churned up the crossing, recently, despite the supposed road closure to vehicles over 7 tonnes.That might have been the truck noise we thought we’d heard a couple of days ago. We were pretty annoyed.
Further on, we encountered some locals in a conventional car, stuck in another crossing. He was a white man, with an aboriginal lady and young child on board. We winched them out. We thought they would have more trouble where we were stuck, and warned them about it.
The lady said there had been a BP fuel road train into Kalumburu, because the town had run out of diesel. He’d been and gone, so our theory seemed confirmed. Pity they couldn’t have barged some fuel in, like they do in the Wet!
We travelled on, through some picturesque country, with hills, stony rises, creek gorges, and the black rock faces of the Carson Escarpment. The crossing of the larger Carson River was no problem.
The Kalumburu township did not look too bad, but it was all closed up, of course. It looked fairly well kept. There was some litter, but we had seen worse.
Kalumburu began about 1905, when Benedictine monks from New Norcia, near Perth, set up a mission for the aboriginals of the remote Drysdale River area – at the Pago Creek, some 30kms north of the present location. In 1930, the monks were joined by Benedictine nuns.
In 1932, the mission was moved to a site by a pool in the King Edward River, not far from its mouth, where there was permanent water. The mission was reliant on sea transport for goods it could not produce itself, although as air transport began, an airfield was built.
In WW2 the Drysdale air base became a significant part of the war against the Japanese, and Kalumburu was attacked and bombed. Many of the mission people were evacuated to Wyndham for the war. In 1944, the Truscott airfield was built on a peninsula on the other side of the bay, and the Drysdale base became less important.
Until 1951, the settlement was called Drysdale River Mission, then the name changed to Kalumburu. Cattle grazing and some cropping were successful activities, with the place being largely self sufficient. There was an emphasis on education – albeit for limited roles – and improving health.
The 1970’s saw the construction of a road south to meet the Gibb River Road, so land transport to the mission was established, in the Dry season.
In 1981, despite much resistance from the Mission, who did not regard them as capable of running their own affairs, the aboriginals obtained independence from the Mission and after that, Kalumburu was administered as an independent settlement, which now has about 500 people. It has the usual, store, Town Office, school, medical centre. The Mission remained, though, in its own premises, staffed by a few priests and nuns. It runs a church, store, museum, camping ground, and has the only fuel outlet in town.
Those religious staff who remained at the Mission must have been so disappointed to see the decline of the place under self-determination, and the descent of the people into welfare dependency, with increasing alcohol and drug issues, decreasing school attendance and literacy rates.
We had thought to stay in the Mission’s camp ground, but there was not anyone in it, so we decided to go and see what else was on offer. Our Kimberley guide wrote of two camp areas on the coast, run by local indigenous families. We aimed for Honeymoon Beach, the further of the two, but written up as the better one. It was about 26kms north of Kalumburu.
The road went out past the airstrip. Having the Moon’s guidebook was a godsend here, as signposts were non existent. The gravel road soon became more of a track. It was sandy in places and in others rather hard to follow. It was a matter of going the way that looked the most used, and hoping. There was a rudimentary sign at a fork in the track – left went to McGowans Island, straight ahead to Honeymoon – we hoped.
That last section of the track was quite tricky. New tracks had been formed, there were detours. There were a couple of signs at crucial points, thankfully.
We came to the end of the track, at Honeymoon Beach, and thought it looked quite good.
The Les French family lived is a large tin/steel shed structure, with a large open air veranda section. There were a lot of young children around. An old lady sitting under the veranda structure took our camp fees – $10 per head, per night. We paid cash – the only option – for two nights, and were sent off to find our own place to set up camp, down a slight slope from the shed.
We set up camp in some shade. There were 6 or 8 other lots of campers around, in quite a big area. We were able to connect into a power box – electricity was an unexpected luxury, out here. There were water taps, at intervals, around the camp area. There were two toilets – flushing – and two showers – all unisex – in a partly constructed block. The rest of the block featured a toilet sitting on a cement slab – not walled in yet, and presumably not plumbed or in use! There was a wood heater for the showers.
Our set up seemed to take ages. We were tired and hot. John had to change the plug on our electrical lead for it to fit the power point here, which is 10amp not 15.
We could just see the turquoise sea, down the hill. The sound of it was very strong.
I had a very welcome shower and washed my hair which felt full of Kimberley dust!
Just on dusk, we went for a walk along the beach – really pretty. There was a track down from our campground level to the beach, and down there was a large tin building, with campers staying in it.
There were people gathering oysters from rocks, further around from the beach – big ones!
We talked briefly with some of the other campers staying here. There were mixed comments from them about beach fishing here. John may go out on one of the fishing trips that Les French offers, at $40 a trip, which seems a reasonable rate – but John does not really like small boats.
We decided that, overall, this is quite a nice spot, and we would probably stay longer than the two nights we’d paid for, at this stage.
Tea was cold leftover patties from last night. John had baked beans with his.
After dark, the water went off. This did not auger well for the condition of the toilets, by morning!
It was very pleasant to drift off to sleep, lulled by the sound of the sea.