Broome to Derby Take 2

Trip Start Mar 14, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Caravan Park

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, October 26, 2009

Our second effort was much more successful.  We got up nice and early and the road had already reopened.  We drove through the blackened landscape, where some gum trees continued to smoulder - the acrid smell of smoke filled the van.  Derby is only a short distance from Broome, so en route we stopped only once, at the Boab Prison Tree.  Boab trees are peculiarly bulbous things, with very grey bark that looks like it’s on the point of bursting under pressure from the bulging flesh underneath.  They are often enormous; many are thought to be up to a thousand years old and are sacred to some Aboriginal groups.  This particular specimen had special significance, as it was hollow and had been used to keep prisoners who were being moved from their homes to work camps.  Often, these prisoners were Aboriginals who were being taken away from their communities to provide labour.  We got as close as we could, but were careful to obey the sign that asked visitors not to approach the tree - if they couldn’t be moved by the plea for cultural sensitivity, they would certainly heed the warning that snakes live in the hollow.

We made it to Derby without incident,  and then spent some time driving around taking pictures of Lisa next to any sign that had ‘Derby’ on it.  The highlight would have to be the shop that displayed ‘Derby or Bust’ next to a giant pink bra.  We then went to the tourist information office.  A cheerful lady, with very bad breath for someone working in customer service, told us all about the highlights of the town.  Number one was the BP petrol station, where a gum tree and boab tree had grown together and intertwined - would be call that a goab or a bum?  Number two was a particularly high tide that could be viewed from the wharf, but we’d already missed it that day.  Never mind, eh.  Instead, we decided to find - you’ve guessed it - an air-conditioned café, where we could chill out with coffee and cake.

‘Diamonds and Pearls’ was a nice little place which looked like an adult entertainment centre from outside but which, inside, was cool with lots of big sofas.  I managed to get in two skinny lattes before they informed us at noon -  midday, on a Saturday - that the café would be closing.  ‘But where are we supposed to go?’ I asked the waitress, and heard the note of desperation in my tone; it’s not like Derby was chock-full of choice in the entertainment department.  She recommended the swimming pool and that’s where we went.

Unfortunately, the pool was where the entire juvenile population of Derby was to be found.  After all, it was another blisteringly hot Saturday in a town where there’s nothing to do.  Swimming laps proved to an interesting and challenging undertaking since it would appear that my superpower is that I become invisible upon contact with chlorine, but only to the children of Derby and their adoring parents.  I was dive-bombed, hit by volleyballs, kicked up the ass and became entangled in a nest of foam noodles.  I soon got out and went to lay in the sunshine.

The reason we’d come to Derby, aside from seeing the ‘Derby or Bust’ bra sign, was to organise a tour.  From Broome, there are two ways to drive to the town of Wyndham and on to Darwin.  The first is to negotiate a 660km-long rough, dirt track which ploughs through the centre of the rugged Kimberley.  This wild expanse, arid in the Dry and inaccessible in the Wet, is scarred with deep gorges and has some of the most dramatic scenery of Australia.  The Gibb River Road is often closed entirely in the wet season and even in the dry, necessitates the crossing of several rivers without the conventional aid of a bridge.  I probably don’t need to say that this route is best taken by experienced 4WD drivers, in an appropriate vehicle. 

The other way to get to Darwin is to skirt the Kimberley on the Great Northern Highway.  This road is bitumen all the way, so is smoother going and while it‘s less spectacular, it still offers amazing views across the rocky outcrops of the vast wilderness.  In our wee Wicked van, we had little choice but to take the highway, but we didn’t want to miss out on the Kimberley entirely.  We wanted to take a tour from Derby to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. 

On arrival in Derby, we were informed that the tour we wanted was not running until much later in the week.  The exciting prospect of a very high high tide could only keep us occupied for so long.  We couldn’t be sitting around Derby waiting to do the tour.  We decided to hire a 4WD for the day.  This would allow us to see some of the sights of the Kimberley before returning to Derby, picking up the van and continuing to Darwin on the wuss road.

Our final job for the day, therefore, was booking a vehicle and picking it up.  The car we ended up with was a monster Land Rover, with fat tires and a periscope funnel in case we went under water - eek.  It also had powerful air-conditioner, which the owner requested we used instead of opening the windows to keep the red dust that stained the interior to a minimum - no complaints there from us.  We also got a discount by taking a car she hadn’t cleaned up yet - hey, I‘m not too proud for sloppy seconds.

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