ARDI - A REMOTE WILDERNESS PARADISE
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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TOURING CAPE LEVEQUE
ARDI- in the Bard language "ardi" means north east and covers the 300kms of Dampier Peninsula.
We had packed our stuff at the 7th Day Adventist Caravan Park and were keen to join our Cape Leveque tour this morning. Roger Chomley's owner/ operator had told us we could park the van in his company yard and so we arrived there at 6am as the guide and Roger were finalising the packing of food and equipment needed for our 3 day tour.
As the first tourists into the bus we had first choice of seats and by last pick up all 13 seats were taken.
Unfortunately our guide was on his last trip and was a bit grumpy and negative at times but overall he got us, the commentary and the organising done.
The road to Cape Leveque is rough and sandy and we bounced around in the Arkana- an adapted Toyota Land Cruiser. We were all happy to reach our first stop, Beagle Bay where the main point of interest was the Sacred Heart Church, stark white against the blue sky. The church is well maintained which makes the aboriginal settlement where it stands look shabby and uncared for.
The story goes that some Catholic monks established a mission here in the late 1800’s to help the aboriginals who were being treated so severely by the pearling industry who kidnapped them and forced them to dive for pearl shells. The church was built in1917 and the altar is lavishly decorated with pearl shell.
There is nobody about this morning and Martin served a substantial "smoko", his terminology for morning tea under a shady tree. Plunger coffee is a very impressive highlight of this tour- most supply instant coffee only and we notice that there is an assortment of Twining teas.
It is a very hot day and we wander around the community which seems deserted and really the church is the only attraction.
The Dampier Peninsula stretches 300 kms north of Broome, and is remote aboriginal land, where you come across different aboriginal communities, some of which offer unique cultural and natural experiences for tourists. The beaches are pristine with white sand and cool clear aquamarine seas. We came across many beaches where we could snorkel, swim and fish.
Lombadina, our next stop is 200kms from Broome and presents neatly with green lawn and tidy buildings. Apparently an elder got the place going by making the rule that people could only live here if they had a job and the outcomes are obvious. The whole peninsula is “dry” so you cannot buy alcohol but tourists are allowed to bring in drinks for their own consumption so don’t forget to stock up in Broome.
Lombadina has a bakery and general store both closed today but we visited the old mission church built of corrugated iron, bush wood and lined with bark.
Back on the road sealed now, so the trip was smooth. We reached Kooljamin camp ground on Cape Leveque at lunch time and set up our tents and beds and kitchen.
After lunch it was time to meet “Pete” our aboriginal mud crabbing guide. We drove south for 45 mins through a private sandy road and after donning reef boots and selecting a crab hook we followed Pete, Colleen and Terry through the extensive mangroves at Mudnunn. It was an eerie place with the tide way out and huge empty muddy shore line between the sea and the mangroves. In this vast wilderness you could easily lose your way.
We were happy that the team led by Pete which included the lovely Nairn family on vacation from England had much more success than our group. The best part was when Pete took us back to the trucks, lit a camp fire and threw the big fresh mud crabs onto the ashes; sadly they were still alive when they hit the coals but we guessed death would be quick. Pete a man of few or was it no words took charge of the bbq and we were soon rewarded with the delicious sweet crab meat. Colleen and Terry were more communicative and we were asking lots of questions about the area and techniques of crabbing.
Then it was back to Kooljamin for a swim in the beautiful beach and down to the Western Beach for a colourful Kimberley sunset. This is pristine paradise!
Martin prepared a generous bbq under the bright moon and dark night sky. Our group of 13 was made up of really different characters but the communication and camaraderie held together. We loved the 10 year old English boy Samuel, so entertaining with his stories and antics, yet at the same time conscious of proper behaviour.
Sleep was easy in the breezy tent and you could just here the waves as the tide came in overnight.
Sunday morning our group had strict instruction up, packed and breakfasted by 8am. For us and the English family our gear stay put as we were enjoying one more night here.
Eddie and his 10 year old offsider Zac pulled up along side us to lead the way on the 4wheel drive tag along tour to Swan Point, exclusive bays, beaches and remote generally inaccessible Aboriginal land. On this occasion we were the only “tag alongs” so we felt pretty special. Unfortunately the highest sand dunes on our tracks were too much for loaded truck and yes, we got bogged. So it was everybody out, let the tires down, and those that could push pushed and on our 3rd attempt we cleared the dune!
Next stop is a pure white beach and time for swim and a try at fishing. Eddie explained the spear fishing techniques of aboriginal people but the tides were against us and no fish were caught. However everyone raved about the beauty of this remote beach, the coolness of the water and the stories told by Eddie about land and culture.
One of those amazing moments experienced was to see London resident, 10 year old Samuel and Cape Leveque/Bardi indigenous Zac becoming instant friends, swimming, body surfing and relating without any cultural or international barriers; they laughed and played the whole journey and at journey’s end, Zac invited his new friend to return to this place; they shook hands and said farewell..
We explored the coast as far as Swan Point, the northern tip, watched turtles, fish and birds from the rugged red cliffs and saw in amazement the tide rushing out between us and Swan Island – Swan Island, Eddie told us was for secret men’s business only.
Morning tea was spent under the shade of a Gubinge tree if you could pull yourself away from snorkelling above plentiful fish at the beach.
The 4wheel drive ploughed over the white sand dunes east to Cygnet Bay where we toured the pearl farm and learnt the history and processes of pearling. This farm is Australia’s oldest pearl farm and is situated on privately owned pristine coast. By this time, hunger pangs drew us to the outdoor table under the shady trees where we devoured a generous and delicious spread prepared by the café chef.
After this wonderful day it was back to the campsite where those that were heading back to Broome looked jealously on us, as we settled down to another night at Kooljaman. We had booked dinner in the Kooljaman restaurant and enjoyed the sunset and the food on the outside deck.
On Monday Kath braved the early morning to catch sunrise over the eastern beach and exclaimed to everyone that the sun was deep red as it emerged from the horizon. With her early morning energy, she hiked across to the western beach were low tide made walking to the point easy.
We spent good times with the English family swimming, exploring, relaxing and avoiding the hot sun. We also enjoyed meeting some “Cape Leveque regulars” who came here with their boat to fish offshore. We admired their catches at the end of the day as they filleted for the fish for eating and told yarns of their experiences.
Late that afternoon Roger Chomley collected us all for the 3 hour bumpy return to Broome.
Cape Leveque- on the Dampier peninsula is a remote paradise of white beaches, blue seas, red cliffs and indigenous cultural experiences.
We were thrilled with the trip and vowed to return one day.