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
effortless and we arrived at Bell's Gorge just before dark. We are
slick at the ‘camp setups’ and it was all over in 5 minutes. After a
firewood collection, the fire lit and dinner cooked, it was time to sit
have a drink and relax.
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
be a bit ordinary in places. The road as far as Drysdale Station was in
and we thought the remainder of the trip was going to be as uneventful.
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.
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
75 kms took us over 4 hours with us doing the last hour in the dark.
that fun! We averaged about a walking pace with the spotlights pointed
the ground just in front of the car, with Chris and myself perched on
of our seats, eyes glued to the track. At times the spear grass on
of the car was 4 ft high, as it also was between the wheel tracks and
times when we had no idea if we were even on the track, as it seemed we
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
bonnet. Then there was the mud. I am talking thick black mudholes 100
long with the mud mounded on each side of the bog 500mm high. There was
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
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.
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.
We found the local camping ground that is
owned and managed by the Kalumburu Mission. It is a small camp with
green grass and a basic but clean toilet block. It even has a camp
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.
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
the fishing is very good, not to mention the oysters. The small oysters
big as the palm of your hand with the bigger ones being nearly as big
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
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.
In 1905, the second Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Abbot
Fulgentius Torres, was requested to establish a mission in the
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
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
carts and anything with wheels, the big move began in 1932 and went on
1937. The Pago church was dismantled and simply rebuilt at Kalumburu.
as possible was brought across from Pago.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.