Australia - Broome

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Day 1

A lengthy (620km) cross-outback trek lay ahead so we got up at a respectable 7am and indulged in a large filling breakfast before packing up, filling Gizmo's belly with diesel and embarking on the marathon at 9:15.

Taking turns throughout the 8 hour journey we eventually pulled into Broome just in time to catch the visitor centre before it closed. We picked up a few brochures and local maps for us to browse through during the evening and then did a quick circuit of the town to get our bearings.

Parking up at our caravan plot we were greeted by an unusual welcome party; a small kangaroo frolicking around in the dust about 5 metres away from Gizmo (PICS).

After staring at the roo until he disappeared to the other end of the caravan park we took a dip in the pool and then settled down with our brochures and leaflets to plan the next couple of day's activities.

Day 2

First port of call of the day was to suss out where all the local tourist attractions were, what would be the best time to visit them and in what order to ensure we fitted them all in. Having popped into the Crocodile park and driven past the gate for the crystal Buddha we soon established that almost everything was better seen (read open!) later in the afternoon.

One site that was open and we were interested in seeing was the Japanese cemetery which dates back to the very early pearling days and bears witness to the hundreds of young Japanese divers that died either from the bends or drowned in the 1908 cyclone (140 men). A Japanese benefactor funded the restoration (and ongoing maintenance) of the cemetery to its current pristine condition (PIC). Sadly no-one has stepped forward and gifted the same upon the adjacent Muslim cemetery (PIC).

After a brief walk around the cemetery taking in the harsh reality that many of them were not much older than ourselves, we headed out to Roebuck Bay (PIC) which is renowned for its fishing (and evidently not much else sadly).

Unable to get any decent access to Roebuck Bay we progressed to the next door Town Beach for a stroll before checking out the local shops and jumping on the internet to waste some time until the croc feeding.

We arrived at the crocodile park just in time for the 3pm feeding tour where we were taken around a number of the larger crocs (salties and fresh water) enclosures. The guide talked through some of the characteristics of the crocs and some of their individual stories whilst enticing them out of their pits with a tasty lunch of half chicken carcasses (feathers and all!). Some of the feisty salt water crocs were up to 5 metres in length and put on a real display of obtaining their lunch (PICS).

For some unexplained reason the park also housed a number of orphaned kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos (PICS) - hopefully they weren't intended as dinner for the crocs!?. A couple of the more unusually coloured roos (albino and black) seemed to take a real interest in us, coming up close and happily posing for photos. We were lucky enough to spot a joey poking out of its mother's pouch and then even luckier to spot the aforementioned albino and black roos busy trying to make a baby roo of their own!! (PIC).

By the time we had finished at the crocodile park the Buddha centre was finally open (and just around the corner) so we popped there for a quick peak at the giant crystal Buddha (PIC).

From our readings we had ascertained that today at 5pm was one of the rare occasions (in the whole year!) where the tide was low enough to expose the dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point. This was also the area that had the local lighthouse and Anastacia's pool; a pool carved out of the rock by a former lighthouse keeper for his arthritic wife. We figured we would kill a few birds with one stone and see the dino prints while taking in all the other sites at sunset.

Reaching Gantheaume Point via an unsealed detour (the main road hasn't been finished yet!) we pulled up to the car park with just enough time to stroll passed the lighthouse (PIC) down to Anastacia's pool (PIC) and then precariously descend the rocks to the exposed sea bed to hunt out the dinosaur footprints (PICS). The footprints were actually a lot smaller than we expected and thought to have been created by a 3 metre high dinosaur.

As we scrambled back up the rocks the stunning sunset was a cause for further snapshots (PICS). It was at this point that a Japanese girl asked us if we could give her a lift back into town as she had walked there on her own in the daylight (!?!)- a two and a half hour trek, which she did not fancy repeating in the dark.

As it turns out it was a wise move on her behalf to ask for a lift as not only was it a lengthy trek back to her accommodation but we also saw a huge 2 metre snake slither across the road shortly after leaving the would have easily eaten her whole for dinner!

Good deed done, we said goodbye to our ever-grateful Japanese friend, and drove back to the campsite.

Day 3

With all of Broomes key sites (bar one!) visited the previous day we took the opportunity to have a late morning and spend some time giving Gizmo a thorough spring clean before preparing him for a bug bomb to rid him of all the little critters that might have still been lurking (we hadn't seen anything for a few days but had already bought the bomb and didn't want to take any chances).

We set the bomb off and headed down to Cable Beach (PICS) while we left it to do its work. Cable beach has a big reputation and is considered to be Australia's most popular and beautiful beach....we beg to differ. After the hype and build up from other tourists and literature it turned out to be quite a let down.

In comparison to most beaches in the UK it is still stunning but we have been to quite a few that were much prettier; Esperance, Bunbury and even Sydney's to name but a few. We stayed for around an hour, taking a dip in the azure waters and lounging on the white-ish sand before calling in at a bistro for lunch to kill some more time.

Back at the campsite we tested out the huge pool for a while before aerating Gizmo. Luckily the 'bomb' didn't leave any kind of residue or even much of a smell so it was just a case of leaving the doors and windows open for a while before closing all the cupboards and draws.

Showered and refreshed we headed to the local internet café which tripled as a grocery store and newsagent. While Andrew spent some time on the web, Verdi took the opportunity to catch up with the folks on the mobile phone outside...which turned out to be more dangerous than it would sound; sat at one of the outdoor tables chatting away a large ute suddenly started to reverse out of the car park straight towards the seated area....only becoming a problem when he didn't stop and continued to plough through the barriers directly at Verdi!! Luckily enough Verdi had been watching him in disbelief and managed to jump up out of the chair and out of the way in time. She was left gobsmacked as the seemingly drunk driver didn't even stop to look out of the window or apologise, he merely swerved forward and drove off. Verdi's parents heard the commotion down the phone and were slightly more shaken than Verdi while Andrew remained inside at the PC blissfully unaware of the whole fiasco.

Having exchanged a few books and picked up dinner at the café we returned to the campsite for the night.

Day 4

Our longest drive yet lay ahead, and required an early start to finish before it got dark. We were heading for Kununarra but the journey was too long (over 1000km) to be possible in one day. We aimed to drive to Halls Creek the first day and then complete the journey to Kununarra the following day.

The 700km trek took us through immense mountain ranges (PICS), through dried up creeks and rivers and even through a couple of flooded ones. At one point we had to drive across a floodway which must have had about 0.5m water in it. This doesn't sound like a lot but when you drive through and the water surges up over the height of the van then it seems a bit more extreme.

The recent wet season didn't seem to be having much effect on the roads or most of the rivers on the journey, but the scenery was a lot more lush and green than we had expected. This however did not stop a number of bush fires sprouting up (PICS) along the roadsides at regular intervals, some of which were scarily close to the van.

Soon after crossing the Fitzroy River (PIC) we called into Fitzroy Crossing; the other 'main' town on the road between Broome and Kununarra. There was not a great deal in the town, which seemed to be largely populated by aborigines, so we just filled up with fuel and stopped for lunch at the Fitzroy Lodge on the outskirts of town for some lunch before carrying on with the journey.

We finally pulled into Halls Creek as the sun was setting (PICS) and checked into one of the few basic campsites in town, which again appeared to mainly be an aboriginal community.

After a quick dip in the pool we popped into adjoining tour shop which offered flights over the Bungle Bungles. We had already deduced that we were not going to be able to drive around the Bungle Bungles as much of it is off limits (designated sacred aboriginal sites) and the rest of the roads are only accessible by four wheel drive; flying over them was going to be the only way to see them.

Halls Creek is closer to the Bungle Bungles than Kununarra (making their flights slightly cheaper) and most air tours offer a combined flight taking in the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater. (Tours to the Bungle Bungles from Kununarra fly over Lake Argyle, instead of the crater).

We would have liked to have seen the crater (the second biggest in the world) but it was not meant to be as we could not get booked on a flight the following morning (not enough interest from other customers to warrant a flight) and we did not want to hang around in Halls Creek for another day in the hope that one would become available.

The most eventful thing that was to happen in Halls Creek was taking a shower; the already uninviting amenities block was to become like a scene from a horror movie(or comedy depending on your outlook) as Verdi took a shower. Choosing what appeared to be the best shower of a bad bunch Verdi set about washing her hair when she noticed a giant spider (well...fairly big anyway! Verdi has an inherited morbid fear of spiders) on the wall next to her but figured she could just keep her eye on it while she quickly rinsed her hair. The plan was going fine until the lights decided to go out!! Panic set in as Verdi weighed up the idea of making a naked dash to the light switch as opposed to just finishing in the dark and hoping the spider kept its distance. Luckily the lights flickered back into life before the naked dash became a necessity and Verdi was relieved to see the spider hadn't moved much. Certain death averted....for the spider that is.
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