Getting there they say is half the fun, but that was before air travel was reduced to the mute hell of the modern state. Taxi, wait. Absurd questions, search, wait, queue, search, wait, sit, more searching. Repeat ad naeusiam until you arrive irritated but alive.
I had a motel near the airport, or at least that is the way it appeared on a map on the Internet, but not trusting the apparent closeness I got a taxi from the airport. 2 minutes and 4 dollars later I was outside my motel. The map was true and I could have walked. In fact Broome has grown around its airport and the airport is right in the middle of the town.
Having checked in, I went for a walk camera in hand like an obedient tourist. I failed to find canned air but did replace a lens cap that I lost on the plane. Where the lens cap got to I don’t know. I decided in a moment of suspended boredom to take pictures out of the window. Why on a commercial jet I did this I don’t know. When I went to put the camera away the lens cap had vanished. I even had someone at the airport go back and look for me and they couldn’t find it either. Just one of those bizarre space anomalies.
In Broome I saw my first Boab Adansonia gibbosa and duly photographed it. Not a striking photo, but what a plant. It has a kind of waxy knobbly skin, and was described by the first explorers as gouty. Its limbs do look swollen. The swelling is a water conservation adaption.
I did the standard things in Broome, looked at pearls that were beautiful, unaffordable and with a lack of someone suitable to adorn, unnecessary. Looked in vain for any of the old Broome tin shed architecture and stopped and had a beer and some delicious Thia fish cakes.
later I caught up with Wayne, Australian Photo Tours head honcho and our guide. I have been on two other of his trips and really liked them. I had high expectations for this trip. 15 days in the Kimberly.
I met one of my travel companions Mick, he is an interesting bloke who shoots with a panno camera that can do a full 360 degrees. He built the camera himself. He had lots of interesting tales to tell of diving and sharks.
That night we went to photograph the Stairway to the Moon a phenomenon where the moon over the sea forms a long bared reflection that looks like a pathway to the moon. The sky was overcast and so we got the merest glimmer and then it was all over. But we got to wand a night market buying yummy food at numerous stalls.
Tomorrow we were off.
Broome to Derby and onto the Red Dirt
It’s day one of the trip. The itinerary says L:D which means a walk into Broome for breakfast. An indifferent meal before the heat of the day is even a promise.
Then we are off, packing into the LandCrusier. We pick up Lisa who has a simply enormous bag, something we were to tease her about for much of the trip.
We chat animatedly as we head down the tar toward Derby. Lisa it turns out has an Epson P-2000 and has left her charger at home. She was delighted when I said that I to had an Epson and we could share charging. 30 minutes into the trip and already I had an offer of a kiss.
The original trip was to start off with Cape Leveque, but that is out owing to recent rain and the softness of the road, with the attendant possibility of bogging and general resulting unhappiness from this muddy state. This was sad as I have seen sumptuous photos of the cape.
We carry on down the road to Derby stopping at the Prison Boab. Boabs are a feature of the Kimberly area. A tree that is well adapted to dry climates. It has a large trunk that in the case of the Prison Boab has been hollowed out so that people could be held inside it. The Prison Boab is hard to photograph as it’s surrounded by a fence making it difficult to frame.
Next to the Boab is a stock trough big enough to water 500 head of cattle. It made for an interesting subject.
Our next stop was Derby for lunch and a look at the Derby wharf. The wharf is interesting because Derby gets 12 metre tides. Some of the largest int he world. The wharf at low tide looks bizarre, as though there had been a design error in the siting of the wharf.
Lunches on Wayne’s trip are bread, usually white as the extra preservatives top it going moldy. Some sliced meat, tomato, lettuce, cheese and a vast array of pickles, chutneys, mustards, and other condiments. Wayne gets all of his meats vacuum packed and everything remains fresh and delicious from trip start to end.
Out of Derby we turn off State Highway 1 and head up the famous Gibb River Road. Day one and we have left the tar goodbye and we are on the red road.
After 76Km we pull in at Windjana Gorge. This is an ancient coral reef (Devonian peiod) that is cut through by the Lennard river. The reef backs the camping ground, and is stained black.
I have seen gorgeous photos of this lit by the late afternoon sun, for us this was was not to be, the recent rain was still present in the form of lots of low cloud.
Instead I concentrated on bird photography, taking some interesting shots of Double Bared Finches Taeniopygia bichenovii, Tawny FrogmouthPodargus strigoides and the ubiquitous KiteHaliastur sphenurus
Windjana to Bell Gorge
Up nice and early and after a leisurely breakfast we headed into the Gorge. Crocks of the ‘friendly’ freshwater sort were very plentiful. In fact there were so many that getting close was not a problem.
Lisa got very excited by being able to get right up to such wild and fearsome animals. Freshies are much much less aggressive than their terrifying salt water relatives; salties, to the initiated.
Freshies can with care be approached quite close. Lisa’s excitement was catching, for her this was her big trip, an escape from Sydney and into the wilds to take photographs. She had come with a new Canon 20D, of which I was slightly envious, and a couple of nice lens. On our second day getting close to some iconic and glorious wildlife was quite a thrill both for her and for me.
I soon tired of handbags and started to stalk a flock of Little Corella. The basic technique is wait stop wait photograph, repeat until you get really really close. Every so often the flock would stop their eating and check me out decide I was basically harmless and carry on eating. I was doing really well until some Swiss tourists walked right past, disturbed the flock and off they flew squawking and chattering to themselves. Bugger I thought. Corellas though are eating machines and so they circled round and landed almost at my feet. Certainly too close for my 400mm lens to focus on them. I stopped cursing the Swiss and took some good photos.
After we had packed up, we headed up the GRR to Lennard Gorge for lunch. The Lennard Gorge is where the Lennard River cuts through the Leopold Range, the main range that straddles the GRR. The Lennard river is also the river which forms Windjana George.
It is an easy road in except for the last 1 km or so where Wayne got to show us his 4WD skills. The Gorge is a bit if a scramble to get into but a welcome swim once you do.
Our camp that night was Bell Gorge. This is a tremendously beautiful spot where the river cuts through sandstone and produces an endless series of waterfalls and cascades.
Bell to Mount Elizabeth Station
In the morning we walked back into the Gorge of Bell Creek. It was a much better morning place, as it took the sun a while before the sides of the Gorge were nicely lit. By getting their early we could avoid too many people and the sun washing out the rock detail.
I loved some of the shots I took, and clambering around through and over the rocks. Here was the first time on the trip I felt that my vision was coming good, and that I could see the shots I wanted to take, compose them into the camera and be happy with the results.
After breakfast we packed up, a time consuming but pleasurable process. Pack bag, roll up sleeping mats, always a chore. Drop and fold tents trying to expel all the air. Wash dishes pack away breakfast, hand it up to the roof where Wayne would stow. At the end of each day we reversed the process. I find the process of making a camp and creating order pleasurable and also in the breaking of camp; there is something pleasant about disorder of everything unpacked and all askew, to the ordering packing and tessellating of it back into the truck.
After leaving Bell we regained the GRR and headed out of the Leopold Range heading for Mt Elizabeth station.
We stopped for lunch and a swim at Galvans Gorge. This is a super swimming hole, which on the way in we saw a Merten’s Water Monitor. He (or she) its hard to tell, was happy to let us get quite close.
After lunch we drove a further 54 km we turned off the main road to head up to Elizabeth Station. This was to be our home for the next two days.
We hoped that at Mt Elizabeth we would be able to photograph cattle mustering, but sadly we missed the muster by a couple of days.
As a compensation we meet up with some pleasant fellow travelers, who happily built and set fire to an enormous pile of wood. I love a good fire and sitting round one late into the night.
Around Mt Elizabeth
Since there was no mustering we went for a guided tour of Mt Elizabeth Station with Scotty as our guide. Scotty is a very charming man who quietly told us his stories of the rock art that we saw.
I liked the way that he impressed on us the importance of passing on the stories reflected by the art we saw and the landscape that the art is in. I have been quite ambivalent about Aboriginal art but seeing it through Scotties interpretation gave me a new feeling for the art and what it embodies. In the past I had thought of art as a sort of supplement to a story, or a symbolic map, now I view the story as an integral part of the art that supports the art. And if the chain of passing on that story should be broken then some part of the art is lost forever.
At one place I was surprised to see that there was a skull and leg bones of someone looking out across the country. We were asked not to photograph it, which of course I did not.
Leaving you with a view of your country after your death seems a nice idea. I think that my grandfather was very happy with the view that could be had from his grave site, I wasn’t so sure that he would like the comparison in funery practices.
For lunch we stopped by a small billabong and boiled a billy. We spent lots of time attracting small red necked turtles to eat some of our lunch.
That eventing we ate at the station. There was our party and a party from a bird touring company I had been interested in. For some reason I didn’t approach them, though now I wished I had. They were going through checklists, which si something i am not sure that I enjoy. I would rather watch a bird or an animal that I know well in great details, than catch sight of some barely seen faraway bird and check it off my list.
Dinner was real country fare. Beef Wellington, Beef Strogonff, Scalloped Potatoes, beef curry and all local beef. For desert there was impossible cake.
Mt Elizabeth to King Edward River
Our intended target was Mitchell Falls the most spectacular in the Kimberly. But the last 85km of that road are horrid. So instead we drove down the Kalumburu Rd to the King Edward River where we planned to camp.
The Kalumburu Rd is a good road and we made excellent time to Drysdale River where we stopped for diesel 1.55 a litre! And ginger beer 1.20 cheaper than Melbourne, go figure.
I chased Butcher birds around the camp ground. These are Silver Backed butcher birds and are found only in the Kimberly.
The campsite at King Edward river is large and we easily found a spot on the riverbank. A swim was most pleasant.
A short distance from the river there is a fabulous rock art site where not only is there some great Wanjana paintings but also the finest Bradsahw painting I have seen.
The extra time that we had we used to gather a vast pile of firewood, so that we could build a giant pyre to celebrate the fact that there was no one to tell us not to.
We had got a drum at Drysdale station to use an improvised oven and Lisa used this to make a tasty Damper. Damper is a feature of Australian bush cooking and is much favored for tour groups. Often you see billy tea and damper being offered. Since a Damper is either a soda bread or a large scone I am all in favor of it but not quite prepared to get worked up over it. I have always loved a scone and make them for myself all the time.
At the end of the day Damper is just a simple bread, its very nice but its not the ambrosia its promoted by the tour companies as.
But that said there is something rather delicious about cooking over glowing coals.
The road from King Edward River is rough. Although it is only 85km it took us a solid 2.5 hours to drive it. On the way over the Mitchell Plateau we passed through huge areas of the endemic Livingstonia Palm.
Once we arrived at the falls we had a choice. Walk in and out, helicopter in and out or walk and helicopter. We decided to chopper in and walk out.
I got to sit in the front. I love helicopters more than is quite good for me; this one was the best., no doors so you could look straight out at the ground.
On the trip in I took 142 photos and the trip was only 30 minutes (I think). One or two photos were quite good. It was the first time I had ever tried to photograph from a chopper so even though most pics were very ordinary the ones that worked I was happy with. I really liked the look up, compose, wait for the chopper to rotate, take the shot. And then repeat the process. Unlike landscape photography there is no time to compose the shot or ability to move to the left or right, up or down. Of course i am sure if we paid for a more expensive charter we could have done just that, told the pilot where to go.
I enjoyed the freedom of leaning out of the chopper and taking shots when and where I wanted to.
The falls themselves are quite seasonal. In the middle of the wet they are a sight to behold, and in the middle of the dry they are mot there at all. We had a rather unspectacular silver band, but this was better than no water at all.
Don’t let my complaint at the lack of water belittle this sight. The falls are huge, with giant drops into a large pool, then another drop and so on down into the gorge. They are quite beautiful, but with such a huge space and little water it was an interesting challenge to get an image that did them justice.
The walk out showed how unfit I am, but we had the greatest of pleasures stopping at a billabong we saw a pair of Brolgas Grus rubicunda as well as my favorite bird the Cattle Egret <>Ardea ibis
That night we had another massive fire and more random talking, but not before the return 2.5 hours of bumping and grinding.
King Edward River to Cockburn Range
As each day has gone by we have got up slightly earlier and started the life of the camp more seamlessly. I was up at 6:00 and persuading our burner to give up the good hot water and the even better coffee, essence of the way to start a day.
After a relaxed breakfast of fruit yogurt and sweetbread, my favorite, we got ready to leave. Breakfast consists of cereals of all sorts, Wayne is most accommodating to various dietary requirements.
We checked out some more rock art and then headed back down the Kalumbaru Rd toward the GRR. Our plan was to get to the Pentecost River and then lave the main road and duck around the side of El Questro station to a sight where the most perfect boab silhouettes could be found. A distance of 412 km from where we started.
We traveled easily back past Drysdale station so I could try my hand at the Butcher birds again and Wayne could get our spare repaired. We holed it on the way into King Edward River.
By the time we got to the Pentecost it was getting late in the day. The Cockburn Range was ahead of us and all lit up. I tired for a stitched panno which might have worked. It was one of those times where the eye sees something that the camera can’t. All the shots were showing lots of scatter and haze. Shame.
We did several crossings of the Pentecost so that we could get the Landcuiser in motion shot. Pointless but lots of fun and making for good location/travel shots. I think Wayne takes an immoderate amount of pleasure in this sort of driving.
Over the Pentecost we started to head around the Cockburn range traversing the side of the Pentecost river. The road was quite rough and we were racing both the road and the setting sun. I was convinced that we were passing by fantastic shots looking for uncertain Boabs in the dimming light.
Eventually we stopped and found some Boabs. I found one filled with Ibis that would have made a wonderful shot, but all of us charging up in a group spooked the Ibis and they flew off to a quieter roost.
Lisa was most apologetic about spooking ‘my Ibis’ but I think that they may have left even if it had just been me. They are a nervous bird when they are roosting.
We bush camped that night, thousands of stars kept us company.
El Questro Station
The morning was perfect. There was just the amount of high haze that one would want for a sunrise. We were up at 5:30 am like all good landscape photographers.
The sun came up all glorious and golden turning the reds and browns the colour of warm honey. It was a great moment to be alive. The boabs that the night before had provided wonderful sunsets provided the perfect foreground details for the range in the morning shot
We had intended to do a circuit around the back of the Cockburn range, but the last part of that the road was closed. A large sign immaculately lettered said No Enrty [sic] and so we retraced our steps back the way we had come.
On the way we explored a few of the side roads and fence lines to find suitable spots for later.
Toward the end of the road back out we passed a farm dam and I took some nice photos of Plumed Shellducks Dendrocygna arcusta and Rajah Shellducks Tadorna radjah
A little further on and another billabong and I thought I had found a Jabiru but they were far away and determined to stay that way. After careful examination of the pictures fuzzy though they were I realized that I was really looking at Straw Necked Ibis not so far away, and with less wistful thinking.
Right after that some Bustards Ardeotis australis crossed the path and obligingly stayed while whilst I scrambled to photograph them.
By lunch we had driven into El Questro, showered and set up camp. El Questro has two parts, the one for millionaires that features on Getaway and other ‘lifestyle’ programs and the other half for the hoi polloi that features a lack of hot and cold running servants but lots of simple amenities like showers.
We went for a bit of an explore and went up to Rancho’s lookout. This overlooks a bend in the Pentecost rive. Lisa said it all “Yeah Baby”.
El QuestroMy notes say it all.
- Zebedee Springs
- Jackaroo's Waterhole
- Moonshine George
- Razerback Ridge
Each night Wayne cooks rather nice food. Spag Bol, Steak, marinated chicken, risotto. Each meal is tasty, and the meals always start with a selection of snacks, cheese and biskits, olives, dip etc etc. That and a nice cold beer, or tea in the case of Mick who was teetotal or a shandy for Lisa and it was a perfect way to end the day.
El Questro to Kununurra
We left suitably late from El Questro for the short run to the end of the GRR, and the end of the red dirt. Suddenly we back on the tar and it all seemed so civilized.
Kununurra is one of those super engineering projects from the 50s that today would never happen. The Ord river is dammed making a huge inland lake, the lake is a huge storage dam for the Ord River Project which is a massive irrigation scheme. The Ord River discharges a vast amount of water. I was told some statistic like the entire water consumption of Perth for a year each and every 24 hours. I am not sure if that is correct, but certainly pollies far to the south have looked at this ‘waste’ with envious eyes and imaged vast hydro schemes to move this south. Now Kununurra is 1000s of kms from Perth so a pipeline, or a canal would be an engineering work of stupendous proportion, not to mention manifold stupidity.
Kununurra saw us check into a motel and it also meant that we got to have a cruise on the lake at sunset.
The cruise was sublime. Our boat is a huge barge with a couple of quiet motors so we just puttered past crocs (freshies again) and a plethora of birds.
I really noticed that I couldn’t handhold my 400. Though with this huge barge it was quite possible to set up the tripod and use my trusty sidekick bracket. The problem of course on every boat like this is vibration. So you either choose vibration or hand holding. Luckily there were no kitted out Canon dealers around so I couldn’t plunk down on a 500 F4, my current lens Object de Lust.
I saw a photographed Jacana sometimes called Jeus birds because they walk on water. The males have a bright red crests. I saw lots of Darter, with one magnificent photo that had it been sharp would have been fantastic. Another reason for the 500 with its image stabilization.
We passed a huge rookery of fruit bats that I would like to have explored more, but how to get there was the question. Finally toward the end d of the cruise the most magnificent sunset over the lake.
I so enjoyed this trip I would have done it again, and longed for a boat that I could just quietly stooge around in doing my own comings and goings.
That night we dined at the motel’s restaurant. I somehow expected the worst but it was really delicious. I ate fish and it was tasty and fresh.
The next day was designated for our own devices. This was beause in the last trip, te truck had been shaken apart on the Gibb River Road and needed running repairs whereas this trip all was sound. So Waynne rather generaously showed us around.
First we went for a dawn rise (not sunrise cuase it didn’t) over a rock formation known as the little Bungle Bungles. there were nice views of the town and some of the Ord river farms.
I spent some of the morning sending emails, and helping Lisa send a few photos, Waynne reset up his mail box, while he was away his DNS had expired and other sundry IT tasks. I also printed a few photos at a camera shop, to turn into post cards.
The post card thing is a very cool idea. Use one of the instant print from memory card machines. Take you images and stick on a post card backing. Not really nessesary but its hard to write on the back of most prints due to the waxing.
I have been thinking that a little postcard printer would be a very cool thing to take travelling. I sent prints to the usual suspsects
This was also our resupply point and we shopped for another weeks food, meat, and drink. I even managed to find some canned air, something that i couldn’t get in Broome.
In ther afternoon we drove to Wyndam. This is a dead end port, it used to have cattle processing but that has eveporated, and the town seemed dead and abandoned, all it needed were some tumble weeds to complete te picture.
Above Wyndam is a high hill where you can view five rivers from, the rivers that discharge into the West Arm of the Cambridge Gulf are King, Pentecost, Durack, Forrest and Ord Rivers. The view is sweeping one of the single most impressive vistas, in terms of sweep and features we saw. I tried and tird to compose it into a phtograph. Part fo the problem was that we were there in the mid afternoon. Hardly the time for anything in the way of visual acuitiy. And part was that I needed some sort of super super super wide lens.
When we went down to the port, we started playing on the mudflats. One of the nicest photos of the trip resulted. The mud was cracked and covered in salt. Walking on it it felt like an endless field of marshmellow, soft and giving but solid underneath.
That night we headed back to Kunanara and ate dinner out at the Lonesome Miner, or lost Camel, or some other name that was suitably kitch.
To the Bungle Bugles
The run from Kununurra to the turn off to the Bungles is 200 km. Its all along tar and is uneventful. Along the way I thought about what i had brought photographically and where I would like to go. Here I list my kit and models etc, really to give the reader some idea of what i like to use. I am not the model number kind of person, or maybe I am but like to think that I am not. My kit consisted of
- Tripod Gitzo 1327 Carbon Fiber with a Kirk B1 ball head. This is the best legs and head in the world I think. Rock solid and much taller than me so it can be sued in all sorts of odd ways.
- Wembley sidewinder for tripod. Converts the head to a gimbal mount.
- Canon 10D Camera
- 17-35 F2.8 My favorite lens, one that i use all the time.
- 70-200 F4 All purpose zoom and people shooter
- 400 F5.6 Bird lens. Oh for more, more more.
- Cleaning stuff
- Visible dust cleaning brush, a digital necessity.
- Lens pen, various
- Bottles of cleaning goop,
- Canned air, and I don’t care about cleaning things too much
- Canon 420 EX flash
- Really right stuff flash bracket
- Minolta 8x40 Binos. The little birdies special
- Assorted cards for half a meg down to not very big
- Epson P-2000 storage and file viewer
- Chargers for camera, Epson, phone, and iPod
Of this list the only thing I would change was the 400 F5.6 This I would swap for a 500 F4 and 1.4X converter. This is to cater for my obsession for little birds. And for little birds too much is never never enough.
I might also add a 100mm with a macro, because I am always taking pictures of plants etc. I have no desire to go really close. That takes more exacting than I find enjoyable but getting somewhat closer I would definitely like.
The thing that has been the real revelation is the Epson P-2000. these are simply fantastic devices. Easy to use and great to review photos on. I found that I was selecting my shots from every day into a best of album. Apart from letting us all chimp to our hearts content it was also great to show to people ont he road. We would frequent conversations that went like.
"Oh you must be serious photographers"
Me, “no not really” .... a pause .... “look at this” showing them the Epson in brag mode. Very effective and gratifying too as people liked what they saw.
Eventually this long revere was broken when we arrived at Turkey Creek where we stopped for fuel and soft-drinks. Mick would never have a softie, he was against them, which might explain why he was rail thin.
From Turkey creek the turn off at Spring Ck is 21 Km and the road into the Bungles or Purnululu National Park is only 52 kms but the 52 ks took 2 hours to travel.
When we got into the park a further 26Km saw us at the airport and Lisa and I went for our second flight. Mick and Wayne elected not to come. This chopper was smaller and more fun that the last. The day was past it’s best for aerial shots, but oh my god, it was fantastic, shooting across the plateau at 2-300 metres and suddenly coming across a Gorge that was another 200m deep was just a buzz.
Again I took many many shots, a very few of these I am happy with but the process I enjoyed hugely.
That night we took some great sunset shots though it is hard to find a site that will get standard landscape people a shot and Mick’s rotational camera a shot. These are not never the same place.
The westering sun burned the hills a bright fiery red. I have now a magnificent print of the western end of the bungles. the colours are so intense it is sometime before you notice the person in the foreground.
To cap off a stunning day, we had the nicest Barra for dinner that I have ever had.
Bungle BunglesThe Bungle Bungles camp ground like many others we stayed at had
The first morning in the Bungles we wanted to get a good sunrise and so we went to the western end of the Bungle Massif to Picaniny Gorge. This offered an almost perfect site with something to accommodate us all.
Spinafex in the foreground and then a rising series of domes stretching back to the horizon, a sky with just a hint of cloud for interest.
Picanny gorge was 25 k from our camp so an early start was a must. As the sun came up I kept running from spot to spot trying to find the right foreground without too much distracting scrub in the way.
Later we went to Echinda Chasm. This is a slot canyon carved through conglomerate and for me was one of the most satisfying and magic parts fo the trip. Wayne had nailed the time to be there, the slow was filled with light, the shapes the slot made where long gashes in each frame and I kept wanting to go more more more with the wideness of my lens.
On the way out there was even a bonus of a bower birds bower. Seemed like a Great Bower Bird based on the two avenues and white objects. the Bird was nowhere to be seen, nor could we hear his ugly creaking call.
For lunch we headed back to camp, I spent a lazy afternoon reading, writing notes and trying to shoot crows. but crows true to form were having none of it.
Later we went back tot he western wall to shoot another stunning sunset.
This bare recitation of the facts, makes it hard to convey just how magical this place is, wonderful sunrises and sets, interesting shapes, morphology, and composition abound. It was the hight of being relaxed and involved.
Bungles to Halls Creek
Again a perfect sunrise, and then we went into Cathedral Gorge which is just magical, it is like being in the bottom of a huge wine bottle, luckily for us we were there early enough to have the space to ourselves. As we sat and contemplated I felt the silence within me grow.
One of the things I have liked about traveling with Wayne is that he has a food sense of the moment, things are not filled with idle chatter, but he also has a good sense of when to talk and a fund of things to talk about. This was one of those moments to be silent and we all were.
On the trips that I have done with Australian Photo Tours it has been interesting the range of travel ling companions, fit, unfit. Overbearing morose, vulgar refined. Lots of people that seem at an edge in the range of the possible rather than humdrum, variety, even extreme variety makes travel more enjoyable, makes the moment feel more alive.
And in this huge quiet space, aptly named a cathedral, I found the solitude for the integration of the personalities in this trip into a whole.
The spiritual moment passed and then round the corner to Picanniny Creek. this time we left the carpark and started to walk up th canyon. The canyon floor is limestone etched with striation of water in one direction and the domes of the bungle provide a different set of striations in another.
By the time we got back to camp for breakfast and packing up it was hot. I packed up the tents and hauled them over. Hot and sweaty work. Then we were packed and leaving the Bungle Bungles. A magical place that even before I left I wanted to return to.
The drive out didn’t seem to take as long but it was still a good 2 hours to the road. Then it was another 80 or so kms to Halls Creek.
Halls Creek is a scary place, the town is fortified, every window is bared house and shops have barbed wire fences 3 meters hight around them, our hotel looked like a fortress.
That night I got to see why, the locals, all aboriginal, drank and fought and caroused till late at night. I don’t know if this was an every night thing, or if this was just a night to let of steam, or where there was money around to get booze.
Its a sad way for a community to be, that is the easy thing to work out, how to make it better is a hard thing to determine.
The one feature near Hall’s Creek that we wanted to see and photograph was the Great Wall of China. A quartz reef that looks like a wall. We drove out to it and the sky was grey, overcast and the landscape dull and lifeless.
We got to the site and looked and I thought it hardly worth getting cameras, but we did.
No sooner had I set my camera up than the sun popped out from behind a cloud bathed the whole seen in a wonderful yellow glow. I let off several shots and the sun went away again. A little moment of serendipity.
Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing
Sleeping in a bed again we were up later than had been usual but still far earlier than my city life. We had plenty of time to get to Fitzroy Crossing so headed out Sawpit Gorge to see what was there. On the way we passed through Old Halls Creek. This is the original site of Halls Creek before it was moved due to repeated flooding. All that really remains is the Post Office which must have been an imposing building it its day. The Post Office was built of mud bricks and was in danger of collapse. To prevent this a large roof conforming to the shape of the original Post Office has been raised over the remnants. This steel structure complete with wire mesh to step anyone getting in to the original structure looks like a building in a prison and proved impossible to photograph. The rest of Old Halls Creek consists of rubbish and street signs, there are no other features that tell you that this was once a town where people lived and worked. In a way the lone street signs are quite evocative and in another way there is just really nothing to see. But like good tourists we dutifully traipsed around and pointed cameras, after all we were on a photo tour and we were going to get our monies worth.
Heading out to Sawpit or Sawtooth depending on the map that you refer to we passed some long abandoned vehicles and spent a while fooling around taking various odd photos, not of which on reflection are any good, but of course it was fun to try. This sounds a bit negative but it was lots of enjoyment. Lisa used the movie feature on her little camera to film short clips of us driving these burnt out wrecks. Lots of stupidly later we left smiling from ear to ear.
Sawtooth was pleasant, it would b a much nicer place to camp than staying in the fortress that is Halls Creek. There was no water int eh river but there were still deep pools left. Eventually we started toward Fitzroy crossing, the plan was to arrive so that we could photograph Geikie Gorge for sunset.
On the way we arrived at the site of a crash, a car and caravan had rolled. Happily the driver and passenger had only minor injuries. The caravan was a total mess, it was basically destroyed. Wynne tried to arrange for us to take photos, it didn’t happen and I can’t say that I was sorry. It always seems slightly ghoulish to take photos of crashes and wrecks.
Geikie Gorge for sunset didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, too much playing around in the morning, too long at lunch, hold ups on the road.
We got to Geike Gorge just on sunset and blasted away but we had really missed the sunset and the chance to find a good spot to watch it from. What we did see was glorious, some things are just not meant to be, it would be a place to come back to.
We stayed in Fitzroy crossing at the camping ground. We stayed in permanent safari camp. Basically a house made of canvas. I imagine that they could be quite romantic, but with Wayne, Mick and myself scratching and farting it was more like something from a bad Basic Training movie than a romantic spot. We dined out again tonight, I had prawns (I think) and we ate some sort of sticky desert at Lisa urging.
Sunrise at Geike Gorge is an industry to itself. We were there very early and secured ourselves on the boat. The boat is a giant barge seating 6 across and having about 9-10 rows of seats. If one barge wasn’t enough another was bolted on to make a barge train. We must have had a couple of hundred people on our tour. With that many people it just wasn’t possible to use tripods or anything like it. I bolted on the trusty 400 and blazed away. It proved hard to get the magical sunrise shots that I had seen, I think you really need your own boat, as trying to do this from a giant tourist boat where the operator is trying to give all the people a go makes it really hard to satisfy the demanding photographer.
I did however take a magical shot. Its of a Little Pied Cormorant, Phalacroconax melanoleucos with a Cherbum in its beak. A Cherbum is a freshwater prawn. Whilst this shot is good it is not really sharp, as are nearly all the shots that I took on the barge. The need for a monopod and some Image Stabilization, (oh where is my 500 F4 !S) becomes obvious
We packed and left Fitzroy Crossing and headed for Broome. The plan was to drop people off at their hotels, find Wynne a room and then head to Cable beach to takes the classic camels on the beach photo. It turned out that Wynne couldn’t find a room, but since I had a spare bed I suggested that he share my room.
Having deposited everyone, we picked everyone up again and headed for Cable Beach. The camel shot I had thought of was a silhouette but that didn’t work. Turning around with the sun at my back yeilded the classic Cable Beach shot trouble was the the background was littered with four wheel drives. It is considered the thing to do to bring the vehicle down onto the beach and do whatever from it. This made getting the classic camels on Cable Beach shot problematic. I ‘cleaned one up’ in photoshop to get the shot that I wanted. That is probably cheating.
Finally we headed back, and had a last supper in Broome.
All in all a fantastic trip, one that I would absolutely recommend, one that will linger with me for a very long time. A trip that showed me a wonderful part of Australia and places that I want to go back to again. If you can do this trip do it, you won’t regret it.