This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels August 24

FRIDAY 24 AUGUST   FITZROY CROSSING TO BROOME   400kms

Managed a reasonably early start, having been able to stay hitched up.

Refuelled – $1.44cpl.

Fitzroy River from bridge at Fitzroy Crossing. Caravan Park on right

Checked out the free camp area at Ellendale as we passed, but of course M was long gone – although we did wonder if her plans had worked out as intended, and she had even been there. Won’t know till we get to Broome…..

Today’s drive was less interesting than that of yesterday – no dramatic scenery of distant and near ranges.

The only points to note, amid the dry and dusty grass and scrubland, were the crossings of the impressive Fitzroy River – at Fitzroy Crossing and again at Willare Bridge, closer to Broome.

Fitzroy River from Willare Bridge

At this time of year, the river was a small flow in the huge river bed. It was hard to believe how high and raging it could become in flood times. In 1993, I’d bought a postcard of the caravan park where we’d stayed last night – with only the elevated amenity block showing amid the floodwaters from the river.

The Willare Bridge was one of the long, single lane bridges that feature in this part of WA. Again, it was hard to credit that, at times, Highway 1 could be closed here by the river in flood.

Willare Bridge (Google)

We reached the Palm Grove Caravan Park, at Cable Beach, Broome, about midday.

M was already there, of course. From her overnight stop at Ellendale, she’d had a good head start on us. She had found Old Halls Creek and its surrounding area, interesting, and worth the visit. But she had driven out to explore some of the area and at Caroline Pool had felt quite intimidated by a group of locals who told her white fellas weren’t welcome there. She didn’t stay round to argue the point.

The caravan park sites were on the small side, gravelled, but adequate. The amenities were reasonably modern, and clean. It was not the most upmarket park we’d stayed in, by any means, and really didn’t justify the $255 we paid for the mandated week’s stay. But, hey, that’s Broome.

M’s site was across the access road from ours, so at least that was convenient.

We heard that two of the Cable Beach caravan parks, including this one, had been sold, to be turned into resort units. That would put the squeeze on caravanners to Broome, even more. It was really hard to find a vacancy in a caravan park here, in the winter months. The overflow area used at this time of the year, at a gun club, was even hard to get into. It is one of those areas that poses real dilemmas for accommodation providers: in the winter months, a few more caravan parks could be easily filled, but for the rest of the year there would be insufficient patronage to be viable.

We set up, then went to the Information Centre in town, to see what we could suss out.

When I say, in town, it is because Cable Beach and the main Broome town were separated by a few kms  of scrub and industrial land. The original town of Broome, and the modern one that has grown up around it, is located on a peninsula that juts into Roebuck Bay. The much more recent development of Cable Beach is located on the other side of this peninsula, facing out into the Indian Ocean.

Broome and Cable Beach (Google)

We drove around the town, looking at the changes since we were last here in 2000. There had been a lot of development and building since then. Broome seemed to be really booming – we thought this might be due to the offshore oil and gas developments. Even Cable Beach seemed to be growing rapidly – and not only tourist resort development, but housing as well.

For our Friday fish and chip dinner, we walked from the caravan park, a few hundred metres, to a van parked overlooking Cable Beach, which did a roaring trade in take away food. The prices were reasonable, the food excellent. It was very pleasant, sitting looking out over the ocean, eating our dinner. Great to be by the sea again!


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2007 Travels July 16

MONDAY 16 JULY     MORNINGTON WILDERNESS CAMP

Today’s activity centred mainly on Sir John Gorge – further upstream on the Fitzroy River from where we were yesterday.

First, we stopped en route, to walk  the Termite Trail, which had been set up in an area where there were a lot of bulbous shaped termite mounds. These were very different in appearance to the ones we were more used to, from places like Litchfield National Park and Pungalina.

A walk track meandered around, past various termite hills where information boards gave all sorts of unexpectedly interesting information about the termites and the roles they play in the savanna grassland ecosystems.

Essentially, termites recycle dead plant matter to provide nutrients for more growth, so enhancing the productivity of the area. They also improve water penetration.

We spent longer there than anticipated, finding it so interesting.

Next stop was at Bluebush Waterhole – another large waterhole on the Fitzroy River – where we wandered about for a while.

Fitzroy River at Bluebush Waterhole

There were some large sandbank areas there – the product of deposition by the river at flood times.

Here, the leaning tree effect of Wet Season high water flows was very evident.

Washed downstream by floods, but still alive….

Finally, it was on to Sir John Gorge. The character of this was very different to that of Dimond Gorge. The latter just cut straight into the King Leopold Ranges, making the deep gorge. At Sir John, there were great flat slabs of rock beside the river and the start of the Gorge was more gradual.

Fitzroy River at Sir John Gorge
Deeper section of the Gorge in the distance

The Gorge did not seem as deep, at least in the small part of it that we could access. It was also more open and broad, which meant we could walk up into it for some distance.

River wider here….
Further into the Gorge….

We had not been prepared to pay $200 for the exclusive use of the only canoe at Sir John Gorge, but decided to do what we could on foot. However, as the Gorge is 23kms long, we didn’t see a great deal of it!

The scrambling around on the rock shelves was enjoyable, and we were able to do some bird spotting. Saw a Sandstone Shrike Thrush – a hard bird to find. There was a Great Egret fishing in the river at one point.

Great Egret

Ate the lunch I’d packed, sitting by the river, enjoying the solitude and scenery. At one stage, there were a couple of other people visiting there, too, but mostly we were alone.

Sir John Gorge
The tenacity of some trees…..

Eventually made our way back to camp. We were enjoying this place so much that we decided to stay an extra day, and walked up to the Reception/bar area to make the booking for that.

The men who set up camp nearby last night, were a very rowdy group. A lot of alcohol consumption seemed to be happening. They also stayed up quite late – much more than us. So they were not the greatest neighbours.

Our camp lantern was playing up. It was a good quality kerosene fuelled one that normally lit our camp brightly. Now, it was sputtering and faltering and the light was dim. I thought it might have been blocked somehow by dust.


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2007 Travels July 15

SUNDAY 15 JULY     MORNINGTON WILDERNESS CAMP

After breakfast, at Reception, we paid $60 to hire a canoe to go paddling at Dimond Gorge, on the Fitzroy River. That fee entitled us to use the canoe for as much of the day as we wanted.  We were given paddles, mud map and lifejackets. The canoes were permanently in place at the Gorge, for the season.

Followed a rather roundabout route the 23kms to Dimond Gorge. The track had to follow valleys through the rather grand ranges.

Spectacular range country

On the way we took a short side track to a low rise that was a lookout, giving an elevated outlook onto the surrounding ranges.

Track down below the Lookout

At Dimond Gorge, it is about 80kms down the river to the town of Fitzroy Crossing, where we were a few days ago. Not really far at all, but there are no roads through that rugged country.

Dimond Gorge – Fitzroy Crossing about 80kms that way!

It was a bit of a hike from the car park, across sand banks and rocks,  to where the canoes were stowed, close to the river bank.

Dimond Gorge

M and John did the first paddle in the open, two man canoe, downstream and into the gorge.

While they paddled off into the distance – and back – I wandered about, rock hopping, taking photos, and enjoying the chance to do so in my own time.

Eventually they reappeared and paddled back to the starting point. Then M and I did the same paddle – she was quite happy to repeat the experience.

It was possible to paddle a fair way along the river, which was a series of long waterholes here, interspersed with narrow rapids areas and rock platforms.

The first part of Dimond Gorge, where we canoed, was essentially a long and winding waterhole. The water was calm and the paddling was easy. The solitude was wonderful.

By the time M and I got back to John, another couple of campers had appeared and were organizing a canoe. It felt quite privileged to be able to enjoy such places with so few other tourists around. Amazing the difference  90km  of side track makes!

Rock banks scoured by Wet Season floods

Ate our packed lunches, sitting on rocks at the gorge, then started back the way we’d come.

Detoured up a side track to visit Waterfall Gorge, which could be seen from a distance as a very narrow valley going back into the range.

Track to Waterfall Gorge

Parked the vehicles at the end of the rather rough track, then followed a faint track up beside the creek, to a little waterfall that was as far as we could go.

There was some boulder hopping and scrambling involved. M managed to slip on a wet rock beside the creek and finished up with one soaked walk sandal and a wet derriere.

Oops……

Further back towards the Camp, took another side track that led down to Cadjeput Waterhole, further upstream on the Fitzroy from Dimond Gorge. Cadjeput is a name for the big paperbark trees found along many northern rivers.

Cadjeput Waterhole

This was a serene place, with lovely reflections on the water.

Trees are pointing downstream

The trees beside the waterhole had a distinct downstream lean, indicating the force and huge volume of water that could come down the river in the Wet season. We were seeing it at a deceptively tranquil time.

After walking around, exploring there, for a little while, returned to camp.

Outback Spirit had a tour group in, staying in the safari tents, further down the creek. Their tour groups are not large ones. As we relaxed back at camp, could hear, and catch brief glimpses of, some of the tour members doing the Riparian Walk on the other side of the creek from us. We decided that, for people who did not have the equipment or confidence to drive themselves in remote parts, that sort of small group, ethical, specialist tour was a good option.

Right on dark, a party of three men arrived in “our” camp clearing and set up their camp a little further along from us – close enough to be heard.