This morning, M and John went fishing, off the beach and rocks. John caught a whiting.
A second yacht came into the bay, anchored, and the guy came ashore. He obviously was interested in talking to campers, so we obliged. He was an advisor to the Qld Premier, he said.
He asked if anyone was driving into Kalumburu, who could give him a ride in, for some supplies. We had heard a barge was due around now, and M wanted to take her truck for a drive to charge up the batteries for her fridge, so she decided to give him a ride in and check out the store. She came back with some fruit and vegies. We hadn’t seen it go by out in the Bay, but the barge must have snuck in and out, at some stage recently.
There was no bread, though. We’d long been reduced to having lunches of dried biscuits with cheese and vegemite – or sometimes pikelets or flatbreads, if I could stir myself in the heat to make these.
JC came by. He said he could take M to Truscott tomorrow. John decided he would go too. It was going to cost $100 each. Despite the charge, I think JC really wanted to go check the place out, himself, too. Maybe he was seeing it as a potential tour offering, to add to the fishing trips he already took out. M was really pleased that the Truscott visit was going to happen.
McGowans Island – which was not on an island – was named for a little rocky islet just off the shore, nearby. A Father McGowan, from the Mission at some time way back in the past, used to go fishing from it.
There were no night time dews here, like there had been at Honeymoon – maybe because this place received more breezes in the night. The Honeymoon dews were a pest because the place was so dusty that, in the mornings, dust would stick to the still damp tents. Our tent had darkened several shades at Honeymoon, and I doubted that would ever come out.
After breakfast, I did washing. No machine here – done by hand in our plastic basin.
John went for a walk – the other way along the beach. He was gone for about two hours. M went exploring the way we went yesterday; she was back at camp before John.
When we arrived two days ago, there was a Trakmaster caravan here. I had noticed it parked in a little clearing beside the track in, just before the house. I had been hoping to get to have a chat with the people, but they left today, before I had a chance to.
After the morning’s activities, for the rest of the day we just sat about, because it felt too hot to do much else. Today was not as windy, though. Being in the Kimberley from August onwards often has the issue that the heat makes it hard to be motivated to do all that much.
It was very pleasant, just sitting in the shade, looking out to the view over the sea.
It is worth staying at McGowans just for the sunsets!
About 9.30 last night, a group of six men in three vehicles arrived and set up camp just across from us – there went M’s view of the sea! They were a bit close to us, and thus intrusive, but did not seem to be hard drinkers, unlike our Honeymoon neighbours were. They had been made aware that the guys who run the show here, strictly enforced the two fish a day rule. That was soooo good to hear.
After breakfast, John and I went for a walk, exploring along the coast to the north. It was a pretty walk, with great coastal scenery and interesting rocks.
We were told there had been a croc on the beach here, yesterday morning.
It was very windy again. A yacht was moored in the bay, sheltering from the strong winds. The people came ashore to get water, periodically. We swapped some books with them – fresh reading material!
Late in the afternoon, John tried fishing from the beach and nearby rocks. No luck.
While we were walking, this morning, M sought out JC, who runs fishing trips from here. He thought he might be able to get her across to the old Truscott Air Base, from here. It is across the other side of the Bay, somewhere. M was on a mission for an aging relative, who was stationed there during WW2, and who asked her to do that for him. JC said he would see if he could get permission to go there from the local person whose traditional land it is on.
JC told us that we could have bought diesel here at McGowans, for about 20cents a litre cheaper than at the Mission in town!
We got chatting to a nearby camper, here on a break from his job as a FIFO worker in the Qld coal mines. Turned out he was a friend of the guy who was the chopper pilot at the Monsoon Cafe, when we were there last year. Small world, yet again.
SATURDAY 4 AUGUST HONEYMOON BAY TO MCGOWANS ISLAND
It was a hot, sweaty, dusty pack up of camp. John’s back was sore, so he was rather tetchy. Even though we were only going a few kms, everything still really only went in Truck one way – and that was properly packed!
There was no sign of Les or Ruth by the time we left Honeymoon. I’d have liked to say farewell, but so be it.
It did not take very long to drive around to McGowans.
A house at the entrance to the campground was the home of an extended aboriginal family – the owners of the area, and it was here that campers stopped to book in and pay. It cost us $20 a night.
We found a spot to set up camp, on grass – a luxury! M and J selected the site – for the grass and because it gave us a (small and limited) view out over the sea. It was a bit close to the amenity block, though. The tents would be in full sun for most of the day, but there were some trees nearby we could sit under for shade.
Behind our site was a framework structure. It was a bit hard to tell if it was something that had been partially built, then stopped, or a proper building partly cyclone wrecked.
There was actually a breeze here! Wonderful – no biteys.
We were not allowed a campfire here, so could not dispose of our rubbish by burning, and would have to take it away with us. An option was to dump it at the Kalumburu tip as we passed.
Setting up camp again was a very hot experience. It was well and truly time for lunch, when we were done.
There were two non-indigenous men at the house when we had booked in. They seemed to be in charge of the campground, developing it, improving it. I didn’t think they were just hired managers, they seemed to be somehow linked to some of the local owners. Paired up?
One of the men – JC – came by in the afternoon and we got talking. He came mainly to explain about no fires, take out own rubbish, and a strictly enforced fishing policy of only two fish per person, per day. He and his mate certainly seemed to have ambitious plans for the place.
There was no hot water in the showers – yet. But there were flush toilets that worked properly. The showers had cold water. Above all, the amenities block was CLEAN! We noticed over succeeding days that it was regularly cleaned by one of the family. But no toilet paper supplied – BYO again.
The tap water was excellent. JC said it was their best asset.
McGowans seemed to be run with interest, unlike where we had been.
We sat around, in the breeze which had become a wind, for the rest of the day – enjoying the better environment.
The views over the sea from here were excellent. The sunsets were to die for.
There was no power on at all today. I was glad that we hadn’t paid the extra $5 a day for that almost non-existent service. Our Chescold fridge ran well on gas, anyway, and M had been taking the Troopy for a drive often enough to charge up her batteries that run her Engel fridge.
M and John went off in the Troopy to drive to the ruins of the old Mission at Pago. I had seen these before, and the Troopy only took two anyway. John thought it was a good idea for M to have someone with her in these parts.
They reported back that the track was very bad now, and the ruins hard to find.
While they were away, I talked with Les’ wife for a while. She was on her own at the old shed, the various family members having left over the last couple of days. She said that the little female pup that I so liked was going to one of the white guests currently here – so I hoped that it would have a good life, after all.
Had a session in the phone box – not particularly pleasant in the heat! Now our movements were clearer, I could try to firm up some places to stay. Phoned our caravan park in Kununurra and booked us back on site there, for three nights from 18th.
Knowing that accommodation could be hard to get in Broome, at this time of year, thought I should sound out what might be available at Cable Beach – our preferred place to stay, simply because we had not stayed out there on previous trips.
The first park I phoned informed me, quite abruptly, that they were full, and that I should phone closer to the time to see if there was a cancellation. I did not like the tone or attitude – I was only asking on the offchance!
The next park I called said they could take us for a week, from 24th. They only took bookings for week long blocks of time, and only from Friday to Friday! Take it or leave it. We did not really want a full week in Broome, but seemed like there wasn’t much choice about that. I guess it made their reservation system easier to work…….
I took the offered week, from 24th. Maybe we could have a few days in Derby, before going there?
The Bushtracker people came in with another large haul of red emperor for their freezers. The exploitation of the fishing here was really annoying and saddening me. I was really cross that white southerners assumed it was their right to behave like this, and presume on the inherent reticence of the aboriginals, in charge of the place to challenge their blatant over-fishing.
Late in the afternoon, Les wanted John to drive him and Ruth into Kalumburu. His car had gone with some of the family to Broome, a couple of days ago. He clearly expected John to agree to this. John said no. I think Les was quite miffed. Eventually they went off with someone else.
So, overnight, there was no one here who wasn’t a guest. No one in charge…. No power. Nothing. The dogs barked and prowled a lot through the night.
We talked about what could come after Broome. John had originally thought that we should go home via the desert: via Telfer, Kunawarritji and the Gary Junction Track to Alice Springs. That route had been in our sights for a while now, and was one we had not previously tackled. Now, he had changed his mind, saying we would stick to the coast, then go across via Kalgoorlie. Part of me was a bit disappointed – new territory always attracts – but part of me was relieved that I wouldn’t have to hassle about, trying to get a heap of permits to travel through the aboriginal lands of two states.
At night, I trekked back up to the phone box, and by torchlight – no illumination in the phone box – phoned son and dictated a list of fruit and vegies for him to buy in Kununurra on his way through to us.
I was so sick of the heat and grubbiness here. Sometimes it is a mistake to return to a place. We had a great time here, before, but it was not the same place now….
A fairly early start, so M and John could go out fishing with Les. I went down to see them off. Les’ old faithful dog was down there, looking forlorn and miserable, obviously not happy at being left behind by tourist groups. I persuaded him to take her too. They reported she behaved very well. I made a dog happy for the day!
John caught two bluebone, and Les gave him a small one he caught. M didn’t catch anything. Rather expensive fish! But John enjoyed the time, even though it was hot out on the sea in the open boat with no shade. They got the bare four hours promised for the trip – rather less actually out where the fish could be caught. Les was anxious to return to working on his old truck.
I helped John and M clean, fillet and divide the fish between us. Now we had fish for tea – and enough for two or three nights.
The fishing party next door to us left this morning, after a prolonged pack up. So much gear! They left behind two full drums of rubbish, plus some more left out in cartons, which the crows and then the camp dogs proceeded to strew around. Two couples with camper trailers who had also been not far from us, also left – to go camp at Kalumburu. They were waiting for stuff to repair broken shock absorbers, to be flown in on the mail plane. They did not like it out here, they said. I could see why! They also left a lot of rubbish, which the crows also attacked.
The two Bushtracker caravan men, who had a boat, came in this afternoon with a heap of red emperor and fingermark. They must have had at least thirty red emperor. They gave Les some whole fish, plus all the fish heads, for soup, after the rest had been filleted. They both had sizeable freezers in their vans, that they were hoping to fill whilst here.
Now that the fishing party, with its freezers, had gone, Les did not run the camp generator at all at night. The caravan people had solar panels for power. The silence was lovely.
Today was a day like yesterday – stiflingly hot, and lazy. However, John did not catch a trevalley, and they did not go oyster hunting.
We realized that Les had actually been turning off the camp generator through the daytimes, and only running it at night. This was probably to save money on fuel.
The fish camp people next to us had at least two large portable freezers, as well as camp fridges.
So they were having to run a couple of generators through the day, to keep all these cool. Meant the days were noisy for us, rather than peaceful. We thought that the men were filling the freezers with fish to take away with them. They went out every day with their boat, fishing. I thought there were considerable limits on taking lots of fish away, in these parts, with significant penalties if caught. It seemed that any such rules were not being applied here, even though Les was supposed to be some sort of Ranger. There were no apparent limits on the size of people’s catches, or the number of the same species kept, or even on whether the catch was of legal length. Open slather. From the number of campers here with boats and considerable freezer capacity, it would appear that Honeymoon had developed a reputation……..
Les was still, if pressed, taking out fishing parties in his boat. M and John persuaded him to take them out tomorrow morning. It would cost them $125 each, for four hours in the boat.
Sausages for tea tonight, with tinned tomatoes. The pantry was running somewhat low.
It was an extremely hot and wind-less day. The heat was enervating and it was an effort to do anything much at all. The flies were really plentiful and persistent all day.
John fished from the beach. He caught a trevalley – not all that large.
He and M went off in the afternoon, to drive around the shore a little way then gather some of the huge black lipped oysters, that abound in this area. They returned with about a dozen – enough for the two of them. Not to my taste!
I wrote up diary notes and postcards, did some sewing. For the sake of exercise, went for a walk along the beach.
At tea time, M and John set about opening the oysters. Not very scientifically – John wielded a set of pliers and M used our small miners pick! I suspect more than one bit of shell was consumed, along with the critter.
I cooked John’s trevalley for the rest of his tea. I only felt like a cup of soup – too hot to eat.
After breakfast and a tidy up of our camp, we drove back into Kalumburu.
Kalumburu’s origins as a community lie with the setting up, in the early 1900’s, of a small Benedictine Mission – to bring the “benefits” of Catholicism and European ways – at Pago. This was moved. some twenty years later, to where there was more reliable water and soil – by the banks of the King Edward River, near its mouth – Kalumburu. As was the practice, gradually the initially belligerent aboriginal groups were quietened, and many brought within the control of the Mission. Agricultural activities and cattle grazing provided food, and the children received some education.
World War 2 saw an influx of military activity based on airfields at Kalumburu and then the newly established Truscott Base, across Napier Broome Bay. The Japanese bombed Kalumburu and most of the non-military people were evacuated – some further inland, some to Wyndham. I remember Les being quite indignant to us, in 2000, about this – as a child, he was sent to Wyndham – “why they bomb us, we done nothin’ to them”.
It was the mid-50’s before a road track gave land access to Kalumburu. Before that, all contact with the outside world was by sea or air.
As happened to other Missions, in more recent times, control of the community passed to the local people and governments. But the Mission did not close down and go away, and a rather unusual side-by-side system operated. Schooling by the nuns ceased. A community store was built and existed along side that run by the Mission. A police station was set up and staffed. The community’s affairs were run by a council of locals.
Again, as happened elsewhere, the standard of education achieved by the community’s children declined, as did the agricultural activities that had made the community more self sustaining. Law and order issues became more evident, and social cohesion declined. (Postscript: in later 2007-09, a number of men from the community, including council leaders, were charged with child sex abuse offences).
We noticed the community had quite a number of new houses and fences – replacements due to cyclone damage, I presumed. There was a new under cover sports area – a full sized basketball court size. It was roofed and open sided, as is the norm in these parts.
We studied the community notices, posted outside the Store and Office area – always informative! One stated that the community was not receiving the government’s hand out of white goods, because too many houses were being vandalized. Notice was given that parents who were not looking after their children, would be punished by being made to pick up rubbish around the community – rather reminiscent of the old emu-hunt discipline meted out to naughty school children! Another notice forbade children from playing card games during school hours – this hinted at two problems within the community: not attending school, and the prevalence of gambling on cards – poker in particular.
John had our gas bottles refilled at the Community Workshop. The guy manning that said his wife worked at the school. He said they were short of teachers and tried to convince us to come and teach there! But the things he was saying about the school and the community made it sound very reminiscent of Doomadgee school. No thanks – been there, done that. Never again!
Refuelled Truck at the Mission – the only source of fuel (we thought). The diesel was $2.288cpl. The priest who served us was quite belligerent when John commented on the price. Privately, we wondered what taxes – if any – as a church, they paid on the profits from their enterprise? The Mission was also running a campground, and a Store, in competition with the community one. I got the impression that any co-operative spirit that used to exist between Mission and community, had dissipated.
At the community store, there was no fresh produce. A barge was due “soon” we were told. I was running low on potatoes. Bought some frozen sausages. We would not be coming in every day to check whether the barge had arrived, so unless we heard somehow that it had, would just manage meals with what we had.
On the return trip, drove in and looked at the Marra Garra barge landing. Also thought we’d have a look at the set up at McGowans Island – another campground, in competition with Honeymoon. Back in 2000, this was supposed to have water problems and be almost non-functional. But now, after seeing it, M and John decided we’d move there on Saturday, when our week at Honeymoon was over, rather than stay on there. McGowans looked more interesting for M to explore, the rock fishing appeared better for John, and the campground appeared much nicer. There had obviously been big changes there to bring it up to a much better standard than it used to be. I was not as enthusiastic about moving as the other two – saw lots of mangroves there and thought the sandflies would be even worse.
I served John fish and fries for tea; to conserve potatoes, I had some pasta with sauce from a packet.
After breakfast, I did some washing – by hand, in our plastic bowl, was the only option through most of the Kimberley, of course. Pegged it out on the tent guy ropes.
John got his fishing gear set up, then wandered down to try some fishing from the beach – no luck to be had.
M went for a long exploratory walk, then joined John down at the beach.
I nursed sandfly and mozzie-caused itches.
M had gotten chatting with some of the men from the next camp. She must have made a favourable impression, because I came back from a little wander around, to find a large jewfish laid carefully on her little foot step.
As M and John were at the beach, I started the fish cleaning task. Took it over to the “table” that was set up for same – a board laid between two 44 gallon drums. Some of the guys from the next camp came to help – apparently they had arranged with M to go halves. They brought across a small cod too.
According to them, big jewfish and sharks out in the bay have made the more desirable red emperor hard to find in the past few days. They said this was very unusual.
Later in the afternoon – mindful of the time zone difference – I phoned son, eventually figuring out how to use the public phone! His move of house went alright. He was booked to arrive in Darwin early on the 11th, and was happy to meet up with us at Home Valley.
I cooked some of our share of the fish for tea, with potato fries. Just dipped the fish in flour, then pan fried it – very nice.
I had already noticed that – now a number of the family members seemed to be living out here, in the house and the big shed, instead of “in town” – Kalumburu – there were a number of camp dogs wandering around too. They roamed all over the campground and filched whatever they could find. I suspected there were fleas about too. Between the dogs and marauding crows getting into the rubbish drums spread around for campers to use, there was a fair scattering of litter all about. It all felt quite grotty really, in a way it hadn’t seven years ago.