Brushing Broome Aside (reluctantly!)


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Oceania » Australia » Western Australia » Derby
June 28th 2011
Published: June 30th 2011
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Sunday 26th – we popped into the caravan park reception on our way out to leave an envelope so that some mail we have been expecting can be forwarded on. Unfortunately it hasn’t arrived yet but the receptionist seemed quite happy to help so it must be a relatively frequent request. It’s a big country, we know, but the post does seem to take a very long time to get anywhere. We had hoped to stay on a couple more days but the park was full to bursting and so were the other caravan parks. There is an overflow area in town but we decided that, as we couldn’t stay in Broome for ever, we might as well get on the road again.

The journey from Broome to our next destination – Derby (pronounced DURbee) – was very straightforward. Derby was signposted right from the outset and the road was fairly quiet. We’ve been very lucky lately with the small volume of traffic going our way and today we just had a few other caravanners for company for the 250 kilometre journey. We had a bit of a shock when we stopped at the Willare Roadhouse for a cuppa though. A huge road-train pulled in from the opposite direction virtually blocking us and another four caravans in. It was a cattle wagon so not a particularly pleasant sight to be confronted with as they cram the poor cattle in in huge numbers on two different levels and, of course, we know where the poor things are headed for! Fortunately it didn’t hang around for long and we were soon back on the road and within an hour we were arriving in Derby. Last time in Derby we had stayed at the largest and very popular caravan park right in the centre. But we had noticed an advert about a small park on the outskirts which catered for just 20 caravans – strictly no tents or doorslammers (annoying young kids in camper vans) – and with an adults only policy. It is a very popular park and is almost always full but we decided to see if they could fit us in. Sure enough, they had a site for just two nights which they were happy to let us have. It proved to be absolutely perfect and, at $33 per night, is possibly one of the best value-for-money parks we have
A lone cow oblivious to the dangerA lone cow oblivious to the dangerA lone cow oblivious to the danger

Beautiful flowering wattle trees line the road
been on (apparently the other caravan park charged $38!). We had a lovely shaded site quite close to the amenities which were immaculately kept. True, it lacked the usual hustle and bustle of larger parks but we don’t mind that. Most of the neighbours were of a similar age and, apart from one couple who were there for three months because the lady was a nurse with a short-term contract in Derby, they were all “on the road” for some time.

Derby isn’t a very big town. It has a small but important active port – the furthest one north on the WA coastline. There’s also a fairly large aboriginal community and with all the caravanners in town there was a surprising “buzz” about the place. It didn’t take long to drive around but, importantly, we spotted a garage with very reasonably priced diesel. It didn’t appear to be open and the staff at the Information Centre confirmed that it doesn’t open at weekends but should be open again tomorrow. I couldn’t remember much about Derby from our last trip but Graham recalled the jetty area which had a thriving café and which was a great place to watch sunsets from. We made our way there (too early for a sunset) and walked along the jetty. It’s very unusual in that it’s large enough to drive along and, with its circular design, it’s a “must do” for tourists just to drive the small circuit, avoiding the industrial section at the furthest point. Today, though, we just walked to the furthest point watching the many fishermen trying their luck. The water looked brown and murky and we wondered what fish caught in those waters would taste like. But the few we saw caught appeared to be very healthy looking. That evening we just relaxed at the caravan park after having a swim in a lovely, but chilly pool. TV reception was excellent so Graham set up the aerial and was surprised to find 14 digital channels and 4 analog channels – spoilt for choice in such a remote location as Derby is. We don’t usually watch much TV but its good to keep up with all the news and there are a surprising number of British programmes. One that crops up regularly is Time Team and we are often thrilled to be able to watch Francis, the brother of our dear friend Caroline of Tarran Gray fame, featuring very prominently, as he did tonight. The park became pleasantly quiet as the evening wore on and it was easy to have an early and peaceful night.

On Monday 27th June we had a few things in mind to do and as today was the only full day we would have in Derby, we set off fairly early. Our first port of call was a famous Boab Tree. Boab trees are peculiar to this part of Australia and their bulbous but sturdy shape makes them most noticeable. The particular tree we were heading for was actually used as a temporary prison cell. It has a huge but hollow girth with a very narrow opening. The local constabulary would often imprison felons in the tree overnight before they could be transported to more secure accommodation. There were plenty of signs explaining the significance of the tree and of the general area which appeared to be used for cattle “mustering” in times gone by. With a plentiful water supply, the only remnants of that bygone era are an extremely long cattle drinking trough (believed to be the longest in the Southern Hemisphere and able to cater for up to 500 bullocks) and a purpose built swimming hole in which swimming is no longer recommended. The area is also dotted with termite mounds of various shapes and sizes. On we went into Derby town centre which has just a handful of shops. We visited the Information Centre again as we have been toying with the idea of doing a tour to The Horizontal Falls - a particularly strange but natural occurrence which many people have highly recommended. It involved a flight on a sea-plane and then a tour through two sets of falls on a powerful launch. The only problem was that it cost about $800 each and we felt our limited funds could be better spent on a series of other tours. So we erred on the frugal side, knowing we would probably regret it, but kept in mind our desire to visit The Bungle Bungles which would be equally as exciting and less than half the cost.

From the Information Centre we went to find the cheap diesel garage. The long line of cars and caravans left us in no doubt where it was, so we delayed filling up until
A bit gruesome!A bit gruesome!A bit gruesome!

at the Roadhouse
later when we hoped it would be less busy. We visited the jetty and went around the circular drive before pulling up at the café where we spoilt ourselves with some latte coffees and a “Berry Slice” (we ordered just one piece for Graham and I pinched a corner). The display boards adjacent to the café gave details of the port’s long history and of the many large ships which have used it in the past. Sometimes the ships were so large that goods were often sent out to them by barge because they couldn’t negotiate the huge variations in tides – the second largest tide variation in the world. By the time we got back to the diesel garage, the queue had dwindled to just a couple of cars so we filled up and made our way back to the caravan via the Post Office so that I could post a postcard from Derby to Derby! Our afternoon was fairly leisurely but we both managed another swim in the chilly pool which, once again we had virtually to ourselves. Our onward journey tomorrow was to be a tough one so we made some preparations and settled down for the night although not before being serenaded by an owl in the tree immediately behind the caravan. But another peaceful night followed and in the morning we would be making the first day of a three day trek towards Kununurra.

The morning of Tuesday 28th June was just what we had come to expect – cloudless, sunny and bright. We made a reasonable start for us – on the road by 9:00am. Our target today was Fitzroy Crossing – not a particularly attractive place to head for but it was a convenient distance along our on-going route for an overnight stop. Much of the traffic was car and caravan combinations and we were passed by several speedier ones quite early on as Graham tries to keep to a modest speed, about 90-100 kph, to conserve fuel. On a single journey it probably isn’t very noticeable but, over the sort of distances we are regularly covering, it definitely makes a significant difference. Graham regularly monitors the speedo, the temperature gauge, the rev counter and, most importantly, the turbo charge register to determine whether PIE is working hard or not. The turbo charge readings are an excellent guide although, when we see a road-train approaching from behind, Graham isn’t averse to going like the clappers until we reach a point where it can safely overtake us. All other vehicles, including other cars and caravans, can usually be left to fend for themselves but, road-trains need (and sometimes demand) all the assistance they can get. They hate it when they have to slow down as it takes them an age to get back up to speed which for them is at least the upper limit of 110 and even faster!! We regularly listen in on our CB radio now and get a feel for what sort of day road-train drivers are having! Today, though, there were none travelling in our direction – only coming towards us, along with loads of “gray nomads” doing the anti-clockwise circuit and, astonishingly, two cyclists together on standard road bikes and, further down the road, a third cyclist on a three wheeler!!

Our “tea and cake” stop today was at a rest area called Ellendale. It was a huge area where overnight stops are allowed although there are limited facilities there. But they are very popular with those travellers who hate the idea of giving money to caravan parks and do their best to be totally independent. For us it was an ideal stopping place but, after about half an hour, we were back on the road for Fitzroy Crossing. We passed another rest area where we know Sarah and Darryl had stayed on their trip but it was so far off the road we couldn’t actually see it. We reached today’s destination at about 1:30pm and we were pleased to see a garage with reasonably priced diesel. Fitzroy Crossing is, in truth, little more than a roadhouse but with a large aboriginal population in the area there are slightly better facilities available. One of these is at Fitzroy River Lodge where there is a fancy hotel cum roadhouse with good camping facilities including a large swimming pool complex. It was here that we had planned to stay. We thought it would be busy because of its strategic location but we were surprised, as early as we were, to get virtually the last available site. Other sites were vacant but had been booked in advance and by the end of the day there would be well over 100 units there. Our site was very good – grassy, roomy and near the shower block. We also overlooked an area of bush where some wildlife, mainly birds, was active. We unhitched the caravan and went back into “town” to visit the garage and to top up with diesel. They even accepted a “Coles” discount voucher so it was a good move all round. We decided against having a swim as the pool complex was at the opposite end of the very large park. So we just relaxed and contemplated tomorrow’s journey which would be even further than the 270 kilometres we did today.





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On the road to Hall's Creek On the road to Hall's Creek
On the road to Hall's Creek

we hope we don't meet a roadtrain on these narrow bridges


30th June 2011

Geike Gorge
Hopefully you will find time for another visit to Geike Gorge whilst in Fitzroy Crossing. It was at the same caravan park that we left Sweetie and went off to Wyndjana, probably the worst road we ever experienced - even worse than the section of Gibb River Road that we did!!! x x x
2nd July 2011

Geike Gorge
Hi - no we didn't GG again because we went into the BUNGLE BUNGLES on a tour. It was just fabulous. We're not on power again tonight - we're in Kununnura but it's full here!! love M&D
2nd July 2011

The road to Wyndjana
It can't possibly have been worse than the road to the BBs (poor PIE!)!! Mum xx

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