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7 The Kimberley region

sunny 28 °C

19th June
After completing the pack-up chores we headed south to our free overnight roadside stopover, Leycester’s Rest on the Great Northern Highway.
This was quite a large stopover place, with a basic toilet that reminded me of a Paris Youth Hostel in Paris that I stayed at in the 1960’s. Quite a few other caravanners also decided to stay in the pleasant stop with very little overnight road noise. It appeared to be the remnant of a storage depot from a few years prior when there was a massive realignment of the highway to accommodate a high-level bridge that would reduce flooding over the very old concrete bridge that it replaced.
The site was named after a young lad of about 13 who was killed close by a few years ago and the family and locals clubbed together to have it renamed as a memorial to a loved son.
The roads were now flatter with smaller trees as we weaved through the ends of ranges of red hills. Not one of the great roads to travel because of the lack of significant features.
We set up and managed a good night.

20th June
A rather cool start to the day as the wind rose with the oncoming day. Sweaters were brought out and after quick visit to the toilet block before breakfast we departed. The road views were much the same as the previous day except that we had more straight and flat roads with fewer hills interfering with our travel to Mary Pool stopover. A brief stop at Hall’s Creek for petrol and then we headed south again. We arrived at the Mary Pool stop to find a very large venue that eventually housed over 50 vans, camper trailers and motor homes – with room for another 100. And a better set of toilets!
Brian and Maureen managed to score a site under the trees and overlooking the river. Good planning! We were nearby under a shady tree and got set up quite early. We all went for a stroll over the old concrete bridge that now showed serious signs of old age, and, as for the previous site, had apparently been a work site for a major road realignment and bridge replacement – and put to very good use.

The river stroll soon revealed a pelican, two cormorants, and a spoonbill, all sitting warily on a tree stump. Coming closer we soon saw a smallish (1.4M) freshwater crocodile resting in the sun. Warily stalking it we managed to get a couple of photos to prove how brave we were! Cattle wandered the riverbank also. Many corellas nested in the trees and made quite a noise as dusk approached.
As I was on cooking duty I set up our portable camp gas cooker until Mary noticed that we had a gas leak. Checking the setup I noticed that a rubber ring inside the connection hose was fatally frayed, so dinner ended up being cooked on the inside gas cooker instead. As it was a rather cool night we stayed indoors.

21st June
The shortest day of the year dawned with a very cool and gusty wind that had us all getting out those sweaters again! We headed off a bit early and wondered why Brian and Maureen were so long catching us up. As we stopped to try our UHF radio they arrived and advised that they had had some trouble getting all their van secured. We headed south with a brisk and cool tailwind that seemed to also come from both sides at times, and stopped a bleak rocky outcrop for morning tea in the now even more cool and gusty wind. A hot coffee soon helped and we jumped into our cars and continued our journey to the famous Fitzroy Crossing for a couple for nights. Long straight roads and low trees and millions of ant hills on flat plains were the day’s sightseeing experience. However, we did see one eagle hurriedly leaving his roadside meal, and then a couple of brolgas flying across in front of us.

Arriving at Fitzroy Crossing we found the Crossing Caravan Park and booked in to find ample powered sites among many mature trees and even some actual grass! We were soon set up and, after lunch, headed into the main township (pop 1500?) to find that the only store in town had been broken into and was closed for the day. We found solace in a very welcome ice-cream from the local Shell Roadhouse, and then headed back to camp for a peaceful night. We were not disappointed and slept well, apart from some vehicles moving about the park very late at night.
This establishment is apparently run by local Aboriginal folk who were most welcoming.

22nd June
We headed out to the Geikie Gorge National Park for a bushwalk to be followed by a one hour river cruise. Once again we had the cool blustery wind to start the day, but that soon dropped and we ended up walking in a pleasant warm day. Fascinating sandstone rock formations with black upper rocks and white low ones illustrated the range of wet season floods. In fact the rather bizarre turret formations of the black topped rocks looked as if they had been in the Lord of the Rings series.

The river cruise was a pleasant one of one hour during which we saw the obligatory freshwater crocs and a goanna.
Mary had intended to buy a T shirt after the cruise, but the staff had gone for lunch and everything was closed up. Too bad that they lost a lot of business as others also hoped to buy after the cruise finished. However, we met a lovely young family with an eight year old boy with Angelmans Syndrome, and we had a lovely chat over lunch. Mum, dad and three boys in a camper-trailer and having a great time travelling through the outback. I am sure that the kids got a real education as they travelled.
Arrived back at camp after filling up at the local Shell station to find that a large motor-home had parked in front of us leaving a very small opening for us to connect the van up for departure in the morning.

23rd June
After another quiet night we started departure preparations when the lady from the motor-home advised that they were leaving very soon, and so we managed to get hooked up without any problems and set out for Derby, about 260 Kms southeast.
The journey was uneventful with very long straight sections of good quality road all the way through to the Derby turnoff. Vast numbers of termite mounds looking as if they had been the victims of some small child’s play-dough attack! Increasing numbers of boab trees also became apparent.
We arrived in Derby at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park at about noon and managed to score adjacent sites in a very pleasant tree lined setting. One of the best van parks so far with well maintained facilities and not at all noisy.

After setting up we had headed out to find a garage to have my car’s 90’000Km service check done and were fortunate to get a booking for the Friday afternoon – just before departure for Broome on Saturday. We tried to buy a replacement gas hose for our two-burner cooker, but to no avail so will have to cook inside until we get to Broome where we expect a larger tourist centre will be able to provide the specific part.
Had dinner and then watched a travel video for the next leg of our trip. We all felt tired afterwards so headed off to get a good night’s sleep.

24th June
Mary was up before 6am to grab a washing machine to catch up on the growing pile of washing. The two loads were soon on the line and had all basically dried by morning tea. We do love this tropical climate! Time for that coffee and then we headed off to see the Boab Prison Tree, nearby, then to Frosty’s Pool (a ‘swimming pool about 3m square that a corporal made during their time serving the area in WWII), then Mary had to see the Royal Flying Doctor Service for possible souvenirs before we headed to the Derby Jetty to see the tide come in. Weird, eh? However, the vast sand flats from the Fitzroy River system cause huge tidal flows that affect local shipping. Saw an interesting Thai restaurant at the Jetty so we decided that we had earned a treat and booked in for 5pm to enjoy the famous sunset, then followed by dinner. Life is so tough on the road!
Well, just finished afternoon tea and now have to get a haircut – the first in about eight weeks, so can’t complain.
Haircut complete and just in time for us to pile into our car and head for the Point Restaurant at the famous Derby Jetty to watch the sunset and to eat. Arrived just in time to take heaps of spectacular photos and then to eat a sumptuous meal at very reasonable prices. Yes, there should be more day like this, but the budget and waistline urge constraint!

Posted by psstevo 05:05 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

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