Leaving Broome after nearly two weeks was bittersweet. We were stressed because of the delays caused by waiting on couriers, but also enjoyed being in the one place for a bit longer.
The roads to Derby are a hive of activity with roadwork crews repairing and, in some cases, replacing large sections of road which were damaged during the floods of the wet season just gone. 639mm of rain fell in four days, leaving sections of road underwater and Broome itself cut off from the rest of the country. It was the western Kimberleys that received most of the rainfall and interestingly, from the couple of people that Kirstine spoke to while in Broome, residents were happy about the “good wet season” and not at all perturbed about being isolated. It’s all about perspective!
The Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park had offered us a powered site for a couple of days, and on arrival we joined the queue of caravans checking in. Ian was happy to see us and had allocated us a super large and shady site, equidistant to two amenities blocks, meaning the Legend was well placed. We were quite amused when the staff member checking us in pointed out the lovely civic pool in town, telling us that “there isn’t a beach here. The crocs have taken it”.
After setting up, we went for a drive around town. Several streets are lined with beautiful boab trees, the symbol of the Kimberley region. In many ways these trees exemplify the resilience of nature in this remote area. The fibrous trunks swell as they take in water during the wet, lush green leaves covering the branches. In the dry, most of the leaves fall, and the tree produces short-lived beautiful creamy yellow flowers which become boab nuts. The nuts themselves when they fall, are a source of vitamin C and protein, lasting for months. It’s common to see them carved and sold as souvenirs. Boab trees and termite mounds are sacred to the indigenous people of the Kimberley, and as such it is illegal to take nuts from wild boab trees. There was one at the caravan park however, and the kids took great delight in picking up the fallen nuts, smashing them open and trying the dried pithy type fruit inside.
The jetty at Derby is a popular place, the most extreme tides in the southern hemisphere are most visible here, as the tall pylons appear decrease drastically in height as the tide comes in and stand proud and tall in shallow muddy water when the tide is out. We stopped to have a look and were quite mesmerized by the hundreds of fish in the water, feeding. Apparently, these are called gob-eye mullet, and they were everywhere in the shallow water chasing their food. A man was catching crabs by lowering a baited basket down into the water, and the kids were quite agog at the size of the crabs he was hauling out, compared to the teeny ones they were catching at Broome. The crabs were still below legal limits however, and had to go back, and there were disappointed “aww”s from the kids.
The Prison Tree at Derby is an important heritage site, yet still bears the graffiti from those who disrespect its place in the history books. Back in the day when it was common for indigenous men to be “rounded up” (abducted) and taken over to work on the coast, the Prison Tree is where they were secured while waiting for transport.
Nearby is Myall’s bore, and the trough which is the longest in the southern hemisphere. It was a common resting point when droving cattle through the area, and the water in the trough is still good enough to drink, as Luna can attest to.
That night as we were preparing tea, the kids remarked that they could hear bagpipes. We were sure it was coming from the tv, yet when our eldest daughter went outside, she told us there was a man strolling through the park playing the pipes! Talk about a surreal experience! We stepped outside to see others emerging from their caravans to listen and take photos. It was rather a special evening.
The next morning, we stopped at the Pioneer Cemetery, and paid our respects to the resting place of “Larry Kunamara” of the Ungarinjin people. He was a police tracker and was awarded a Coronation Medal by HM Queen Elizabeth II for fifty years of meritorious service. Life as a police tracker could often be difficult, and usually the authorities took steps to make sure that trackers did not have to try and locate members of their own mob, as this would cause considerable issues.
On our way back through town, a large block had been prepared for burning off, and was lit from all sides, carefully supervised by the local fire brigade volunteers. What amazed us were the vast numbers of black kites flying through the smoke, their keen eyes searching for anything tasty making a run from the flames. There were literally hundreds of birds, and every so often one or two would swoop the ground to grab something unseen to us. We later joked about fat bellied kites sitting on power lines around town in food comas, having gorged themselves on flame singed tucker.
That evening we made our way out to the dried mud flats to fly the drones. Paul had already assessed the requirements for flying at Derby, even contacting the RAAF at Curtin to ensure there were no concerns. Icom Airband radio switched on, yet quiet at that time of day, Paul flew the Phantom 4 Professional to capture images of the sunsets that Derby is so famous for. Conditions were perfect, and there were only a few homeward-bound kites that we needed to look out for as they returned from their hunting near the jetty. Kirstine had every intention of flying the Mavic Pro, but with the sun having set and feeling particularly unwell, she erred on the side of caution and we returned home, albeit via the Dinner Tree (a giant boab), where Paul captured a stunning image for our records.
We had been given some excellent tips for sights to see in Derby, and the beginning of the Gibb River Road beckoned to us, though our limited time means these attractions and that iconic off-road trip will have to wait until we return to enjoy dusk again in Derby.