We departed Larrawa Station late Saturday morning and made our way to Fitzroy Crossing. The town is one of two along the 1000 km stretch of highway between Broome and Kununurra. About 80% of the Fitzroy Valley population are indigenous Australians with a split of closer to 60/40 (Aboriginal/settler) in Fitzroy Crossing itself. Tourism, cattle stations and mining are the main industries in the area.
The town owes its existence to the Fitzroy River. Every wet season the river swells into a formidable torrent. It can rise up to 13 metres and flow at 30.000 cubic metres per second. The Fitzroy in full flood is one of the largest rivers in the world. We are in the region during the dry season so did not have to consider battling the regions wet season challenges. As it was late in the day, we decided to make Fitzroy Crossing our stop for the night. There were no free parking opportunities in the area so we booked in to the local caravan park and took an unpowered site. We were on lovely green grass area all to ourselves. A ‘quiet’ way to end the day.
On Sunday morning we decided to drive toward Derby but make a stop for the night ‘somewhere’ along the way. As it turned that ‘somewhere’ never happened. There were no stops that caught our eye and by 3pm we were in Derby. At this time of year both Derby and Broome are ‘chokka’ with tourists and travellers such as ourselves so we held little hope of getting any accommodation that night. As luck would have it, the site we had booked for Monday and Tuesday night in Derby had a vacancy for the Sunday nite – problem solved!!
Derby is located two hours north of Broome in Western Australia’s northwest. Derby was the first town to be settled in the Kimberley and is the main access point to the Gibb River Road, Windjana Gorge National Park, Tunnel Creek and the small islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. Located on King Sound, Derby has the highest tides in Australia, with the peak differential between low and high tide reaching 12 metres.
As with many states in Australia, employment is primarily in the farming, mining and tourism industries. There is oil at Blina, diamonds in the Phillips Range, stone is quarried from the King Leopold Ranges and lead and zinc from Cadjebut. We are in no doubt why they call it ‘the lucky’ country.
Derby is also the home of the Boab tree and more especially the Boab Prison tree. This huge tree is believed to be around 1,500 years old and has a girth of 14.7 metres. It is completely hollow in the middle and was used as staging point for aboriginal prisoners being walked into Derby in the early days. We took a drive to the tree on Monday and at a best guess we thought 20 or more people could be ‘housed’ within the trees central trunk. Amazing! – unless of course you are one of those ‘housed’ in the middle.
We made a visit to the old Derby gaol. It is the oldest building still standing in Derby and dates back to 1906. The old Derby gaol is symbolic of what the authorities felt was appropriate for keeping law and order in this remote part of Australia. The gaol is minimal to say the least! It differs to others in that it is not a substantial stone or brick structure but is constructed of galvanised iron and bars only. Chain rings can still be seen on the concrete floor where prisoners were chained by the neck. Early Western Australia was a rough and tough country and much of its history appears to be attributed to the resistance of the Aboriginal people to the new settlers – and after considering some of the history, who can blame them??
We had a lovely lunch on the Derby Jetty on Monday. Located two kilometres east of Derby townsite, the jetty experiences the highest tidal range of any wharf in Australia, the tide can reach up to an amazing 12 metres. The present jetty was constructed in 1963/64 and replaced the 1885 wooden structure.
This morning we were picked up at 8.15am to start our adventure to the Horizontal Falls in the Buccaneer Archipelago. The Archipelago is a beautiful area consisting of approximately 1000 rocky islands with small bays and secluded white sandy beaches. The area is made up of massive sandstones and was created some 1800 – 2500 million years ago. The area has huge 12 metre tidal ranges. This creates the phenomena of the Horizontal Waterfalls in Talbot Bay. The falls are caused by the differential created when the tide flows between narrow island gaps. The narrowest island gap is 7 metres and the widest is 20 metres.
It was a 10-minute ride from our camp to the Derby Airport followed by a 30-minute flight in a Cessna floatplane to Talbot Bay, the Horizontal Falls base. The base is a group of three houseboats rafted together with pontoons for the floatplanes and speedboats. We were welcomed by an enthusiastic group of employees who outlined our day. Oh to be forty years younger – we both would have loved their jobs!!
After a morning tea it was onto the speedboats and away to the Falls. We both have to admit to a wee bit of trepidation when we saw the 1 metre water drop – especially at the narrowest gap. However we barrelled on through and with no dramas. After a few runs through the falls we were then taken to Hurricane Creek, so called because of its position in Talbot Bay and the shelter it provides vessels during the hurricane season. At the conclusion of the Creek visit it was back to the base for lunch.
Those of you who know Dearne will be aware that she is scared of heights. After our Bungle Bungle helicopter flight however, she has developed a love of helicopters.The Falls base had a small Robinson helicopter on the roof of one of the houseboats. Thirty minutes later and with the wallet a $100 lighter, she was gone. The helicopter ride was far more important than the lunch!!
After lunch it was another quick ride through the widest fall (with the tide rising the narrow fall had a drop of about 3 metres and considered to dangerous to traverse) and it was back to the base to catch our floatplane back to Derby. We have had a stunning day. If you get the chance to come up here, make a point of visiting the Horizontal Falls. You will not be disappointed.
More shots of our Horizontal Falls visit HERE .
Tomorrow (30th) we make our way to Broome. Believe it or not we have a few days of paid work in Broome. One has to keep one’s hand in. Our plan is to be in Broome for about three weeks. We will keep you updated.