If you’re looking for an adventure, let me tell you about my last visit to the Wilds of Oz! It started with a sunset at Mindil Beach Market in Darwin, and it finished with another on a camel ride on Cable Beach in Broome…… And in between……? An adventure like no other!
It’s an area called The Kimberley in the far North West corner of Western Australia. It’s rugged, remote and isolated. The scenery is typical of the red outback in all the brochures. 100 metre canyons, cascading waterfalls,swimming holes, walking trails, tunnels and caves. One of the most spectacular sights in the Kimberley is in Purnululu National Park – the Bungle Bungles. Formed over 20 million years, these bright orange and black dome shapes will take your breath away at first sight!
There are just two roads through the Kimberley – a rough and challenging four wheel drive on the Gibb River Road or the sealed bitumen route of the Great Northern Highway; and the latter was my journey with Pinnacle Tours. If you’d like to visit here, remember the wet season, from November to March, will mean the roads are closed.
Before we set off, we spent a couple of nights at El Questro’s one million acres of Wilderness Park. We walked to Emma Gorge and swam in the cool clear pool. In the afternoon we sat in the hot pools of Zebedee Hot Springs and later that evening it was a campfire supper at the Homestead.
Accommodation along the way was mostly camping, in varying degrees of comfort. Some had shared showers and toilets, some had luxury tents with ensuite facilities! We stayed at hotels too, if the overnight was in a town – a simple Comfort Inn in Kimberley and it was a welcome chance to phone home and shake off the red dust from your case!
Travelling with a driver and guide was great fun – the coach was comfortable and air-conditioned. We stopped wherever we found a “nice” spot – a billabong, a shady tree – and we’d spread out a picnic of fresh salad and cold meats, ice cold beer and even a cup of freshly brewed tea! It was great fun, and we all helped to set up and clear up before continuing on our way.
Among the highlights of the tour are four that stand out. Geike Gorge where we were escorted by a local Bunuba cultural guide and listened to his stories of aboriginal survival out here in the bush.
Tunnel Creek – 750m long flooded tunnel shaped like a long tube. With torches in the darkness we waded in water up to our knees to the other side, watching out for bats and eels!
And Windjana Gorge – 3½km long with sheer sides of 100 metres, we encountered dozens of freshwater crocodiles. Just basking in the sun on the river bank or “hanging” in the water to keep cool. Now, I’m told, that unlike their saltwater cousins, these crocs don’t eat people… but I kept my distance anyway!
This was a trip which took me out of my “security zone” over and over again, but I can honestly say the frogs at Fitzroy Crossing defeated me. There are 39 different species of frogs in the Kimberleys, green, grey, brown and yellow and I reckon they all live on the river bank at Fitzroy. Harmless and cute they may be to some, but my phobia set me panicking and I sought asylum in a safe and frog-free room at the lodge, while the rest of my hardy travellers enjoyed their froggie companions in their “Safari lodges” under canvas!
How lovely to finish my adventure in Broome at Cable Beach – and what a beach – 23km of dazzling white sand and turquoise Indian ocean. Riding a camel and watching my last sunset, I couldn’t believe some of the things I’d seen and done, but that’s the stuff that holidays are made of……