May 2009

  • Cover Page
  • Map of Trip-2006.
  • Map of Trip-2008.
  • Map of Trip-2009.
  • Map of Trip-2010.

  • Yet another great month in the lives of the nomads. I still have to pinch myself on occasions to make sure its not just a big dream, and believe it or not, we are not even vaguely sick of this lifestyleand I'm not sure we will ever be. When we last left you we were about to leave Broome and make our way along the Gibb River Road and up to Kalumburu. We will be up there for 8 weeks.

    We had a slow getaway from Broome doing a bit of last minute shopping (I forgot Mother's Day was only a couple of weeks away - oops!) so we got out late morning. We had planned to get as far as Bell Gorge, camp the night and finish off the journey the next day.

    The Gibb was in very good condition having just opened and also just graded. Although we covered a lot of kms the trip was effortless and we arrived at Bell's Gorge just before dark. We are getting very slick at the ‘camp setups’ and it was all over in 5 minutes. After a little firewood collection, the fire lit and dinner cooked, it was time to sit back, have a drink and relax.

    Kalumburu Sign

    Next morning it was an early getaway for the final leg of the journey to the most remote community in W.A., and one of the most remote in Australia. We got 2/3 along the Gibb River Road to the Kalumburu turn off and then we headed north. The Kalumburu Road had only opened a couple of days prior to our arrival so we did expect it could be a bit ordinary in places. The road as far as Drysdale Station was in good condition and we thought the remainder of the trip was going to be as uneventful. Little did we realise. We stopped in at Drysdale to fill the car up again and have a bite to eat. This is a nice station that has also taken on being a tourist attraction to help keep it afloat in the bad times. The campground is great for a stop over and it has a restuarant and bar. There is plenty to explore and some great swimming holes close by peppered along the Drysdale River. Another advantage is that this is a 'Croc Free' area, so you can swim your heart out without looking over your shoulder all the time.

    The last 75 kms into Kalumburu was not a road, it was not a track, in fact I am not sure what it should be called. The 75 kms took us over 4 hours with us doing the last hour in the dark. Now wasn’t that fun! We averaged about a walking pace with the spotlights pointed down to the ground just in front of the car, with Chris and myself perched on the edge of our seats, eyes glued to the track. At times the spear grass on either side of the car was 4 ft high, as it also was between the wheel tracks and there were times when we had no idea if we were even on the track, as it seemed we were just making our own way across the paddock. The road was washed away with drop-offs big enough to comsume an elephant. Parts of the track were like driving up a rocky river bed. We had about 5 rivers to cross, luckily none up to the bonnet. Then there was the mud. I am talking thick black mudholes 100 metres long with the mud mounded on each side of the bog 500mm high. There was no way around, only through. Low range, foot down, fingers crossed. Now the only options if we did not make it through the mud was to sleep in the car until morning, with nothing to eat. As it was so early in the tourist season, seeing another car at that time of the day was most unlikely. (In fact we only came aross one other car the whole day after turning onto the Kalumburu Road.) We hit the mud hard and the foot remained down, with the wheels moving much faster than we were. The slower we went, the harder I pushed the right foot to the metal. It was like time slowed down, but finally we did come out the other end. Someone was looking out for us that day.
    So either by good luck or perhaps a little good management we finally spotted the city (ok, a few lights) in the distance. It was a great relief to have finally made it.

    The Track The Track The smallest mud hole

    We found the local camping ground that is owned and managed by the Kalumburu Mission. It is a small camp with lovely green grass and a basic but clean toilet block. It even has a camp kitchen that is as good, if not better than most you see.
    Sunday morning up nice and early again and around to the house, and what a house it is. Its a modern 3 bedroom, two bathroom house that comes complete with a new Honda quadbike and a dog named Rosie. The yard is a tropical oasis within a tropical oasis, palm tress, hibiscus and plenty of lush green grass. This will do us for a couple of months.

    The House The House The dogs and the quad
    Kalumburu Map

    Let me tell you a little about this place. Kalumburu has a population of about 400-500. It has a nice school (with 12 teachers believe it or not) and two shops, both of which have takeaways. The Health Clinic is large and modern and was only completed a few months ago. It was built by the Army as part of the intervention. The community is built on the King Edward River and is about 10 kms to the closest beach. It is a popular place with the tourists as the fishing is very good, not to mention the oysters. The small oysters are as big as the palm of your hand with the bigger ones being nearly as big as a dinner plate (so called dinner plate oysters). No lie. The most popular beach and camping area with the tourists is McGowan’s which is 20 kms from town. It is a very pretty spot and the best beach for the sunsets, as the sun actually sets over the water at this particular spot. They have been very busy out there over the wet and it really is looking a treat. We try and get down to Mc Gowan's at least once a week just to get our feet back in the sand, watch the sunset and have a drink.

    The next beach along is Honeymoon Beach which sounds better than it looks. A few years back it was the place to stay  but has been a little neglected over the past few years, which is a shame. It certainly has potential. Then the final beach is Pago (pronounced Pargo) which is the site of the original mission.

    Kalumburu Beach Kalumburu Beach Kalumburu Beach McGowans Beach McGowans Beach McGowans Beach

    Kalumburu History

    In 1905, the second Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Abbot Fulgentius Torres, was requested to establish a mission in the virtually unknown land of the Drysdale River area In 1908 he decided on a beach in Napier Broome Bay where there was water and the advantage of a landing place further inland on the Drysdale River Pago Mission was established and continued almost thirty years. The Benedictine Sisters arrived in 1930. Their convent stood near the still-evident bakers' oven. But plans were already afoot to shift the mission to a spot by a marvellous pool near the King Edward River called Kalumburu, about thirty kilometres from Pago over land. Using donkey carts and anything with wheels, the big move began in 1932 and went on until 1937. The Pago church was dismantled and simply rebuilt at Kalumburu. As much as possible was brought across from Pago.

    Kalumburu Mission The Museum Mission Grounds
    Father Anscar McPhee The Church The Church The Church

    This area is steeped in history and was even bombed by Japanese Zero fighters a number of times during WW11 on 3rd March 1942. There are a number of old plane wrecks scatterd in the bush close to town, although I have no idea what type of planes they actually are. Not too far from Kalumburu across the water is Truscott (it is part of the mainland but is inaccessable by road). There is a large ex military airstrip there (& not much else) that was built originally prior to WW11 and then refurbished many years later, when Australia was worried about an invasion from our northern neighbours. Luckily the Japanese intel during WW11 was not too accurate and they were unaware of the big military strip at Truscott, and  bombed the old dirt strip in Kalumburu instead.

    Those interested in history would find the tour at the Mission very interesting. Father Anscar McPhee (a Benedictine Monk from New Norcia) has been living at Kalumburu for many, many years and is a bottomless pit of historical information. The museum at the Mission  is outstanding (also brand new) and really is not to be missed, regardless of whether you have a bent for history or not.

    Our swimming hole

    So what else have we been up to. You really have to wonder where the time goes. There are a couple of beautiful safe swimming holes complete with water falls close to town. These are those 'jewels' that the tourists don't find out about. We were taken there by the teachers and it really is outstanding. So beautiful, so peaceful and so private. You would rarely ever see anybody else there. You can have it all to yourself. Unfortunately you don't find that much anymore in this great country.

    We have also had our first visitor this year. Mum dropped in for nearly 2 weeks after spending time in Adelaide seeing Grant, my brother. It was great to have Mum visit and again she loved her time in another aboriginal community.

    Next weekend we are off to Mitchell Plateau and Mitchell falls. We are really looking forward to that, as this is one place we have waited a long time to see. Stay tuned.