And now for something completely different – the return to towns and caravan parks! We left Fitzroy Crossing and drove to Derby. Stopped to see the Boab Prison Tree (while I was talking to Amy on the phone) where prisoners used to be kept, checked into a caravan park (CP) and the visited the Derby jetty. That seems to be the main thing to do in Derby which experiences some of the highest tides in the world (in excess of 11 meters/36 feet). The jetty was the place to watch the sunset and eat at the fish restaurant there, which we did. On the way to Broome we visited Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Cultural Center, where we watched an excellant video explaining all about the Wandjina or God for the local aborigines. I bought two books there to read more about aboriginal history in this area.
Got to Broome in time to knock off some errands and shopping. It all feels quite familiar as we were here last August. Had four nights in Broome so managed to take full advantage of ‘city life’ – lunch and dinner out, shopping to top up my wardrobe with ‘Broome warm weather tops and sundresses’, manicure/pedicure to get my feet clean, found nice boab earrings at the Thursday night markets and for Dick trips to the hardware stores and repairs to the CB antennae. Seems fair to me!! We also walked along the famous Cable Beach and had a couple of meals with our friend Geoff from Port Macquarie. In true grey nomad fashion we joined in the pizza night at the CP, which meant sitting in our chairs under the clothes line listening to a fellow on the guitar and eating wood fired pizza from a mobile van.
It was a 220 km, 3.5 hour drive up the Dampier Peninsula to Cape Leveque, the first half on corrugations and the second half, in aboriginal lands, on bitumen. On the way we called in to the Beagle Bay community to see the Sacred Heart Church with its pearl shell altar. The church was built by hand by aborigines and missionaries in 1914-1918 and is still being used by the local community. We camped at Gumbanon, an aboriginal-run campsite on the coast just past Cape Leveque. It was a pretty coastal setting but we were not impressed by the hosts and it was very crowded, so we moved on after one night. Stopped at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, the oldest Australian, family-owned pearl farm operating since 1946. After having lunch in their restaurant we did the Pearl Farm Tour, conducted by a 4th generation aboriginal pearler who grew up on the Cygnet Bay property. We learned a lot about farming pearls and the history of aboriginal involvement in the pearling industry; plus a demo of pearl grading.
Headed back down the peninsula to our next camp, Embalgun (aka Smithy’s Seaside Adventures). This aboriginal host was much nicer and helped us park in a good spot close to the water. Took a pleasant walk along the beautiful beach here and are going to sleep to the sound of the tide coming in. Woke up to another beautiful sunny day and had a real rest day (Dick would call it a ‘Dick Stresau Day’ as that equals do nothing). Had a quick run into the water to cool off before lunch, read a book and then did a 6 km walk up the beach (and back) to the red cliffs at the end. Got back just as the sun went down over the beach. The next day we moved about 5 km along the beach, after having lunch with Geoff (who was in the area) at Whalesong Cafe, a very nice place situated on that same beautiful beach. We had booked three nights at Pender Bay Escapes in a private campsite with a bath tub (perhaps the only one in Australia). Its on top of a cliff overlooking more of that beautiful beach/coastline. So we can sit in the bath and look for whales in the ocean. Had another couple of rest days, a few walks on the beach, a few quick swims and one night we enjoyed local smoked mackeral (caught that day). After three days here we are the cleanest we’ve been since we left home.
Finished our time on the Dampier Peninsula with two nights at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, which is owned and run by the aborigines. It is called a wilderness camp but has the feel of a well-run resort. We booked a beach hut campsite so are close to the swimming beach. Had a good walk along the beach and a swim as the water is lovely. Checked out the sunset from the restaurant near the beach on the other side of the point, before treating ourselves to an amazing dinner at the restaurant. The Michelin- trained Irish chef uses lots of bush foods in an array of interesting, creative and very tasty menu offerrings. We shared two entrees, then another two entrees (so sampled a good portion of the menu) before finishing by sharing two desserts. Very decadent and NICE! Then we had our second campfire for the trip. The second day we had to move to a different beach hut, so after checking out and before we could check in again, we visited One Arm Point aka Ardiyooloon, (an aboriginal community). We had to get permits to visit ($15 ea) and could then drive around, look at their beaches and visit the fish hatchery, which is a working aquaculture centre where fish, Trochus (shells) and other marine life are bred and then released back into nature. A young aboriginal guy did our tour and gave some interesting insights into how they fish and what fish they like to eat, as well as lots of facts about the fish in the tanks. The town had a good feel about it, lots of the tourist material was prepared by the school students, houses and yards were neat and tidy and they had a well-stocked community store. Back at Kooljaman we got a much better beach hut;more private and closer to the beach with great views. Had more swims in front of our hut, more beach walks and saw the sunset over the Western Beach with its red cliffs. Very relaxing!! Before checking out I did an early morning beach walk and was just going to have a quick dip when I met a woman who just got stung by a stinger/jellyfish. Gave her some vinegar and decided to skip the swim. Completed the corrugated road back to Broome without incident, so will now get ready for the next stage going south down the W.A. coast.