Wyndham starts on the Bastion 065

OFF the SCALE

I am, we are all very small in the Kimberley. This natural world is so vast, so grand, it overwhelms and swallows us little humans. Incredible beauty of an ancient landscape with fossil records  providing proof of life lived  some billions of years ago. The landscape and it’s story is ever present and a constant reminder that this is a unique and wonderful part of the planet.

We’ve been in the East Kimberleys for over 12 months now and lived through the full cycle of drama that nature acts out. The wet built forming tremendous clouds and storm activity, heralding  rains that failed and disappointed. The dry season was a delight and we were able to get out  and explore more remote pockets in relative cool temperatures (although always avoided the hours between midday and 4pm). We were excited to host visitors; Francois, DLee,  EdieK, and our 91 year old neighbour from Currrarong Connie Heap, and show them our favourite places.  This is high tourist season and the town of Kununurra doubled it’s population. The car parks filled with 4x4s loaded with equipment to survive the wilderness and perishable food disappeared from the supermarket shelves faster than it could be restocked. Locals were forced to queue for a beer or coffee and to wait at  the roundabout for the tourist coaches to pass.

This is also the event season when those in the Kimberley celebrate outdoor life again. Rodeos and horseraces, the Ord Valley Muster , The Wyndham Bastion Concert are the big events that draw locals and visitors. They all take place in the great arena of the Kimberley. We were thrilled to attend all these and observe the social interactions of the  people, Aboriginal and others,  of this remote  world.

The unique flora  and fauna of the Kimberley has evolved over millennia to survive the extremes of weather. Plants flourished in the Wet and tinged the red of the dry season in green. Boabs lost their identity in a covering of leaves. The birds that have so fascinated and occupied us during the year also have their seasons. The ever present whistling kites riding the heat eddies in the dry disappear in the wet. Bowerbirds disguise their ugly call with the songs of others to impress the females and lure them to the bower. The finches and honey eaters, unknown  to us before,  have been constant  visitors to our tropical garden oasis. The numbers of frogs, lizards and toads dwindle during the dry and reappear in numbers with the rains.

We are preparing to leave Kununurra as the build up to the Wet one again starts.  I will leave with a heavy heart. I have loved being here and having a rich Kimberley experience. There are very few of us humans  in the  vast Kimberley relative to other parts of the planet. We are very small, very humble in this grand magnificence.

So Long to the Rodeo
So Long to the Rodeo

 

 

 

 

 

Rodeo saddle up
Tall Hats, Stretched Shadows & Long Road Train – Kununurra Rodeo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campsite by the Pentecost - Packup
Big Boab, Small Vehicle, Tiny People – Pentecost Campsite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diorama - Purnululu
Diorama – Purnululu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Wet - Amalia Gorge
Waiting for the Wet – Amalia Gorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forces of Nature
Forces of Nature – Keep River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half the age of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing by the Petecost
By the Pentecost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two in Whip Snake Gorge
Two in Whip Snake Gorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Cool Off - Moonshine Gorge
Three Cool Off – Moonshine Gorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As far as the eye can see
The passage to Harry’s Hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Cathederal
In the Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return Trek from Champagne Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the River of Time
Along the River of Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dry Season Fires from the Bastion
Dry season fires from the Bastion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face of the Kimberley

Its been quite a while since we  added a post to this Kimberley Blog. We’ve been liberated from the house by the relative cool of the season and have been out there exploring this incredible environment. As much as  I love the landscape,  I have also been captivated by the mix of the people here in the Kimberley.  The faces are an historical mix of race and colour  with the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley being the heart and centre of the communities. After 10 months in Kununurra  I have started to become familiar with faces, the Aboriginal families,  the accents, the stories.

Cowboy kid at the Rodeo
Cowboy kid at the Rodeo

The biggest event here in the East Kimberley is the Ord Valley Muster held in Kununurra each May. The Muster is a series of events over two weeks which draws the locals out of their Wet Season stupor  and attracts tourist from afar. My favourite event of the muster was the Kununurra Rodeo.  It is a celebration and demonstration of the pastoral roots and lives spread across the vast sprawling cattle stations of the Kimberley.   As a townie I don’t get to see much of this life; a glimpse of an akubra hat in town stepping out of a ute en route  to pick up supplies.  Aboriginal people have long been involved in the cattle industry in the Kimberley ( since the hooves and long horns soiled their waterholes and displaced their native food sources). In the last few decades many fewer Aboriginal people are living on the stations. It was great to see so many Kimberley Aboriginal cowboys at the rodeo.

Kununurra Rodeo
Kununurra Rodeo Kids

There was a broad cross section of people at the rodeo; big family groups, lots of kids who loved the spectacle and the freedom to explore. It was very cinematic with the charging bulls and pursuing horses kicking dust up into the light of the fading orange sun and the arena lights coming on.

R
Rodeo Ambition

While the spectacle of the Rodeo played in the arena, I was captivated watching the hard work and skills of the blokes in hats the behind the scenes. Men who looked to have spent their lives working with horses, cattle, fences and dust.

Bull watching
Bull watching

There are so many kids in the community that this small population is sure to burgeon in the next decades.

Rodeo Sweethearts?
Rodeo Sweethearts?

 

Andre and the next generation of cowboy
Andre and the next generation of cowboy

We ran into our next door neighbour Nicola and her two infants;  8 month old Lachlan and his older sister Amelia. Lachlan is a bruiser of a baby which a great disposition and constant smile. (Andre and he didn’t coordinate their outfits before the event I have been assured).

Francois in the the Beer Pit
Francois in the beer pit

Francois came up from a chilly Perth to visit during the Muster….he also has a great disposition and had a constant smile the night of the Rodeo. He had as much interest in the social exchanges  of the drinking area as he did of the main event in the arena.

Rodeo blokes
Rodeo blokes

 

After the picnic Thompsons Spring
After the picnic Thompsons Spring

Kununurra is a transient place. People come and go,  staying months to years. They often come on contracts with Government or with the many organisations that operate here. It has a feel of an expat community, at least to us in our first year. We mostly associate with people I know from work and many of them are outsiders with a small history in the town.  We pass on social tips and report on places we have been taken to or ‘discovered’ on a weekend. The photo above was taken on a recent trip to waterhole called Thompson’s Spring.  Neil (L)was the only local in our group trek out to Thompsons Springs ( and even he is a West Kimberley man).  Souxsie (centre) came to town in December with her partner Brett. Dawn (R) has been here two years with husband Paul and two adult sons.

Dawn
Dawn

 

JUNGART, ( SMOKING CEREMONY FOR A YUMBAJI - A NEW BORN BABY)
Jungart, ( smoking ceremony for a yumbaji – a new born baby)

One of the privileges of working with Wunan is that I do get out and involved in Community from time to time. Last year I was asked  to Caroline Pools, outside of Halls Creek,  to witness a baby smoking ceremony. It was amazing.  I felt as if I had been transported back centuries. A large group of women and kids had gathered on the dry river bed to perform a ritual that has probably taken place for millennia. The eldest women of the four generations of women present conducted the ceremony giving instructions in language (Gidga, I think)

Peter and son at Emma Gorge
Peter and daughter at Emma Gorge

Peter arrived at Wunan earlier this year. His French wife Ophillie was heavily pregnant with their first born. We met them on the walk into the spectacular Emma Gorge. Ophille’s mum, Chrystal, was visiting  from France to see her first grandchild. The introduction of the Gaul to the Kimberley.

Andre Krystal and Grandson
Andre, Chrystal and Granddaughter

 

Nathalie and the students at broome
Nathalie and the students at Broome

In May we travelled across to Broome. It was a work trip and Andre came with me to once again smell the ocean. Our Broome office had organised a Job Expo for local high schools. Kids came from Broome, Derby and all the small communities in the area.  The faces in the West include those with Aboriginal and Asian heritage. It is very exotic and distinctive. Nathalie works in the Office in Broome and seemed to be related to half those at the Expo…..except those two below!

Dudes - Broome Job Expo
Dudes – Broome Job Expo

 

Wunan crew at St Pats Fun raiser
Wunan crew at St Josephs  fund raiser

We have been enticed to a number of community events, such as this St Patricks Day Trivia Night fund raiser for St Josephs school. We sat at the Wunan table with Dawn from England, Alena from Wyndham, Deb from Moree, Alex from Malaysia ( and not pictured Blessings from Zimbabwe and Musonda from Zambia). You get the mix idea now!

Wunan Scholarship kids
Wunan Scholarship kids

In January we held a camp for all our scholarship students who study in Melbourne and Sydney . This all Indigenous, good looking mob are from Halls creek, Kununurra and Wyndham.

Coroboree laugh
Corroboree laugh

One of the events of the Ord Valley Muster is the Corroboree. This was a great community night where the young and old danced and moved among the dust and the dogs and the playing kids.  Elders on the sidelines shouted instructions to performers so that the performance could be remembered for this night and not forgotten in the future.

Next generation of dancers

 

 

 

 

Halls Creek March 2016 038

long weekend, eleven blackfellas one car Duncan cut can’t go home

Long weekend, too hot for too long,  had to get out of house, air con and Kununurra

Packed up,  left house early before heat turned on

Coleus Close Kununurra
Coleus Close Kununurra

Took the Great Northern Road south to Halls Creek.. storm clouds building

Build up to a storm?
Build up to a storm?

Passed through spectacular Kimberley country saw brolgas

Very stalky birds - Brolgas
Very stalky birds – Brolgas

Arrived Halls Creek at noon…all fresh and washed from a storm the night before

Halls Creek - road to The Duncan
Halls Creek – road to The Duncan

…… mental note come back and visit Taylors Store

Halls Creek March 2016 063 (2)

Both very excited to get onto the Duncan and head for Palm Springs – water hole oasis 45 kms away (The Duncan is 440 kilometres of dirt that runs from Halls Creek in the south to the Victoria Highway in the Northern Territory. Passes through some spectacular  and very remote country.)

Up the Duncan a few clicks
Up the Duncan a few clicks

Andre forged ahead checking the depth of the creeks

The Forger
The Forger
A few more clicks up the Duncan
A few more clicks up the Duncan

Not far from Palm Springs we turned a corner  to find that gravel and water had merged into a muddy flow

Duncan cut by Elvire River
Duncan cut by Elvire River

Andre pondered the situation, long and hard…river too deep and we can’t cross

To Forge or Not?
To Forge or Not?

What are we going to do???

11 blackfellas in one car go with the flow
11 blackfellas in one car go with the flow

Mob at river from community up road, Ringer Soak.  All stopped.. no way to get home  – maybe driving 800 kms all round  – no petrol. Wait till river drops in one,   two days maybe.

Old lady watches the scene
Old lady watches the scene

They enjoy the spectacle of the river in flood, take to the water to cool down and do some fishing….( what they gonna  eat, where they gonna sleep, what they gonna do all this time?)

Enjoying the water and mud
Enjoying the water and mud

kids playing lots of fun – no school couple days maybe

Andre cools down
Andre cools down

We’ re ok. We can drive back to Halls Creek, stay the night in the hotel, sleep in the bed, eat at the restaurant. We copy the mob and sit in the river…cool down watch time flow past

Storm from Kellys Knob 28.1.16 017

The WET – Yet?

Kununurra felt like a steamy soup when we arrived back  in mid January. Continuous days of heat and building humidity. We lived with the hope that this was the  ‘Wet Season’  – a weather pattern  which would deliver storms and rain every day bringing  relief from the constant temperatures. In late November and December we experienced  a couple of spectacular storms which had me asking the locals ‘Is this the Wet yet’? This is the annual question  when the build-up becomes unbearable and everyone seek reassurance that the first sprinkle heralds the beginning of The Wet.  Storms are a big event in the Kimberley – they commence with a build in pressure as the cumulus clouds pile ever higher and darken to pitch. Its all drama in Act 1. when lightening begins to flash and  thunder rolls and rumbles. In Act 2, enter the wind followed by the first heavy drops of rain.  All is resolved in Act 3 when the rain buckets and the temperature drops bringing great relief to the overheated audience.

Storm from Kelly's Knob
Storm from Kelly’s Knob
Fire and water from Kelly's knob
Fire and water from Kelly’s knob

The locals say that this is not a normal wet season ( I suppose that locals everywhere are saying this about the climate). We are often being teased by the build to a storm which passes, leaving just a sniff of rain and no decrease in temperature. And yet the countryside is verdant and the vibrant red ochre of the mountains and plateaus in the dry season has been hidden under a carpet of green.

Storm watcher
Storm watcher
Drama of the approaching storm
Drama of the approaching storm

When we do have rain,  the creeks and rivers rapidly fill and water again falls over escarpments. Too much rain,  and the dirt roads turn to mud and all this beauty the wet sows becomes inaccessible (to us).

Middle Springs after a little rain
Middle Springs after a little rain
The pool at Middle Springs
In The Grotto
In The Grotto

The hash beauty that we experienced in the dry season softens; frogs and lizards are in abundance  and the distinctive boab, the symbol of the Kimberley, is lost under a wig of leaves and fruit.

Boabs undercover at Black Rock Springs
Boabs undercover at Black Rock Springs

 

Boab in fruit
Boab in fruit

And yet the abundance of nature in The Wet is not reflected with what we can purchase in the supermarket. In fact,  the roads can become impassable and the shelves become empty …..no fresh food.Even the meat, dairy and bakery were depleted  after the cyclone on the Pilbara Coast last week.

The last chop
The last chop

Long may it Rain!!

 

Some like it hot ?

THE HEAT

Your correspondent at 5.15am

When we first moved into our Kununurra house , I thought that we had under floor heating and heated towel racks in the bathroom. This is the effect as the  whole house heats up during the day. Very important to put the beer glasses in the freezer before use!

The early morning is often the best part of the day, we set the alarm at 5am  so we can enjoy a couple of hours of relative cool on the veranda. During the day cooking and cleaning can be a challenge even with the aircon and fans on.  I can recommend a bit of  ‘windbaking’ after you’ve worked up a sweat. The kitchen bench is big enough to lay on and the aircon right above the bench cools you down.  And because off all the sweating (I’m sure one of these days I’ll win the wet t-shirt comp in the gym) there’s a craving for salty things.

Midday temperature on the veranda
Midday temperature on the veranda

Often I wake up after a night’s sleep feeling as if someone has hit me on the head with a brick…..a  lukewarm shower helps ( you never have to use the hot water in the shower). The  highlight of the day is when there’s a good storm with lots of rain. The humidity drops and everything cools down. The storms are wild and the rain pelts down on the tin roof,  coconuts and palm fronds fall from the trees and it is nearly  impossible to hold a conversation.

Recently we had a fair amount of rain and changes were noticeable straight away. One day flowers are popping up, the boab trees, leafless all dry season,  are getting leaves and suddenly there are millions of butterflies around (as well as mosquitos, but you can’t have it all!)

The constant heat means we can get a bit stir crazy having  to stay inside,  especially on the weekend. We have taken to jumping in the air conditioned car and go storm chasing. Huge cumulus clouds build up , thunder rumbles and lightening flashes and just when you are convinced the heavens will open, the storm passes on.

Storm Brewing Ivanhoe Crossing
Storm Brewing Ivanhoe Crossing

And there’s always beer to counteract the heat!  Well actually Not always.  Sometimes you can only buy low strength beer and no wine or spirits. Alcohol is regulated by the Kununurra police if there is a big event in the Aboriginal community about to occur. ….this is often a funeral. I was going to buy some drinks for Anthony’s birthday but to my surprise couldn’t buy any the whole week  because there were two major funerals on. You could buy alcohol over the counter and the pub did good business that week.

I look forward to the big wet and to the next dry season when this hibernation is over and we can once again get out and explore more country and get back on to the water and have a drink with friends.

Wunun Lake cruise 031

Baby it’s a Wild, Wild World up here!

NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE

We often go to a place on the river to watch the spectacular Kimberley sunsets… and have a drink or three….


sunset pumphouse 008

                                                                                                                                                                                           It was on the way home after one of  these three drink nights  that we had to hit the brakes to avoid hitting a crocodile crossing the road….. Can you believe it a crocodile crossing the road!

miscellaneous 2 Octoer 2015 027 (3)
Not the same crocodile that crossed the road – may be related!

On a recent trip Charlie the Kookaburra wasn’t so lucky. After we collided, metal on feather, we were surprised that it was still alive. We took it home and nursed it and Charlie survived the night. The next day I took it to the Kimberley Wildlife Rescue but it was too injured to be saved. Such a beautiful bird.

IMG_3984

We attract a lot of birds in the garden by putting out bowls of water…different types of finches; crimson and double barred  and honey eaters. Sadly, the birds also attract feral cats. I’ve got a hose handy  just in case. The other day I spotted a black cat on the front veranda and it didn’t move much so I managed to hit it full on , it ran through a drainage ditch and on to the road.  And as fate had it, just at that very moment on the normally quiet road, a car was passing !

misc. Oct. Kununurra 019 (2)

And since then we have discovered more stray cats snooping around and a litter of  5 kittens under the house. That ‘ll be another project.

Anyone wants some kittens?
IMG_4023

                                                                                                                                                                                 Every night without fail  the green frogs come and sit on top of the side gate. Who needs a dog when you’ve got guard frogs!


misc. Oct. Kununurra 013

BEST EVER BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!

WHEN TURNING 57 –  DO IT IN STYLE !

You may use my recent birthday celebration as an example.

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION!

Birthday Victortoria River NT 057

Get away from the Humdrum…BOOK INTO A MOTEL

TIP #1.  Ask for Room 3,  it always comes up trumps!Birthday Victortoria River NT 034

Tip# 2. Don’t judge  from the outside. Birthday Victortoria River NT 050

Interiors often don’t  match                                    Birthday Victortoria River NT 023

Who would have thought…Fully air conditioned with a separate sitting room,

tea and coffee making facilities                                                                                                                   and an entertainment centre!!                Birthday Victortoria River NT 026

HOST A DINNER

TIP #3. Don’t forget to invite your friends!

Birthday Victortoria River NT 041

TIP# 4. If your friends don’t show up for the event, spend the evening with the one you love most…..You don’t have to think about conversation topics    Birthday Victortoria River NT 076

and you can do exactly as you like after the meal, no matter how unfashionable!

Birthday Victortoria River NT 078

And  if the heady  social world isn’t your thing,  here are some tips for an alternative way to spent your birthday

Get out of the rat race and SPEND SOME TIME IN NATURE

IMG_3932 TIP# 5. Spend some time just being still & watching

The most surprising things may  come into your view……Birthday Victortoria River NT 066

TIP# 6. Dust the hiking boots off and head for the great beyond

Birthday Victortoria River NT 099      Enjoy  the beautiful expanses

 

or look closely and discover treasures       Birthday Victortoria River NT 109 (2)

Birthday Victortoria River NT 134   and palaces

And if none of this is your way of celebrating

go traditional and ACCEPT GIFTS

TIP# 7. Get you boyfriend to buy you a beautiful work of art

Alan Griffiths painting 002 (2)Alan Griffiths

There are many ways to celebrate turning 57, but if you follow this example you are assured of a great time.

*The Writers were sponsored by the Victoria River Service Station and Motel and the Gregory National Park on the 7.11.2015

10 weeks in the Kimberley; heat, red landscapes and intrigue

Landed in Kununurra and the East Kimberley 10 weeks ago……..some days it feels much, much longer than this. There is an intensity of experience here brought on by the extremes of nature; the heat…oh the heat!, the vastness of the land that spreads for thousands of unchartered kilometres in every direction….. and then there is the human!  A  town of 7000 or so inhabitants woven into a complex map  of  stories.. of indigenous  families  and those that were once outsiders, inter marriage and a long, long history  of a  culture that flourished, was attacked and  has somehow survived. But that is an unfolding story and I am an outsider and after 10 weeks I know fragments……. interactions with colleagues at Wunan,  the stories, the hearsay, the intrigue…

Perhaps as we pass through the ‘build- up’ period, experience the wet season and another  dry season some more of these fragments will be revealed….

THE TOWN

Kununurra from Mirima - an oasis on the Ord
Kununurra from Mirima – an oasis on the Ord

An isolated town where an airport makes it much easier for outsiders like ourselves to come and go and get involved for a while…. I remember Vince telling me before I departed for Kununurra that there are three types of people who come to stay…missionaries, madmen and misfits . I may be all three…

It is such a small community that your every move is noted as if under 24 hour security surveillance. ” I saw your car parked outside the pub last night” “I hear that Debbie was at your place for dinner on Saturday” blah blah blah

The centre of town - White Gum Park
The centre of town – White Gum Park

All but the most foolhardy  tourists have departed. As the daytime temperatures reach into the 40s and the humidity builds, it is too difficult to have a life outdoors. In the early dry season the Saturday morning markets were a  focus of social life. The 4 wheel drives of the travellers soon to head out on the road and Saturday morning shoppers congested the market car park and streets. Now there is but a  trickle and many of the business in town that survive on the passing trade have closed until after the wet season.

WEEKENDS  – My landscape muse

Now it is too hot for camping and going bush. Our weekends have been adventures as we headed  out of town to explore national parks,  stations and reserves. The natural world is magnificent and unique. The Kimberley’s themselves are incredible formations that tell stories of geological millennia in their weathered and titled formations. The colour constantly changing with the light and the season.  The formations are of such a scale over such a vast area that I often feel  but an insignificant (sweaty) dot in this landscape. The Gorges provide some coolness and are filled with birds seeking relief from the heat of the mountains and plains. There is still some water and taking a dip has been the reward at the end of a walk…mind the crocs!

a landscape without a man is a landscape (unscaled!)
a landscape without a man is a landscape (unscaled)
Parry's Creek
Parry’s Creek

 

Keep River N.P
Keep River N.P
Towards Wyndam
Towards Wyndam
Campsite Pentecost River
Campsite Pentecost River
Moonshine Gorge - El Questro
Moonshine Gorge – El Questro