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Published: August 29th 2013
Some destinations are a major attraction in them selves, but Derby historically has been a staging post and a cultural melting pot.
I guess the town is most famous (along with this part of the Kimberley) for its Boab or Bottle Trees. Yet even these wonders of nature have a significant place in Derby History. As trees go, they are a mid height deciduous tree with a bottle like trunk. However, they do not burn, live long lives and have hollow centres which become home to many creatures including snakes. Its thought that the Prison Boab tree is about 1000 years old.
They are also a wonderful shade tree when in full leaf giving relief from the midday sun.
But these same trees have been used also as prison cells for Aboriginal People from the West Kimberley as far as Fitzroy Crossing. Many aboriginal men appear to have been enslaved and brought to Derby to work as divers on the oyster beds of the pearling industry. These men, in iron were held in the hollow of the boab trees overnight. It is also thought that Jandamara, an Aboriginal Resistance fighter may have been held in the 'Prison Boab
Tree' about 5 miles east of Derby. This tree was the last stop for those being brought to Derby to face court.
The aboriginal people here also ascribe great powers to some of the Boab trees, life changing power in fact.
Not far from the Prison Boab Tree is a number of huge termite mounds. We have been fascinated by these as we travel as they range in colour and size. Early farmers gauged the soil types by the colour of the mounds. Anyone with a camera and imagination can see all sorts of shapes including the Grim Reaper in the shapes. The termite mounds here at Derby are huge, some more like a haystack. The Grim Reaper is associated with these mounds as some of the tribes people have been buried in the mounds, and it is reported that given a short space of time, the termites have sealed off the grave as the departed used this as their staging post to the next life.
Marg and I visited the local Aboriginal Cultural Centre where there is an excellent and thought provoking video of these people. As a visitor, I have little knowledge of the full
history of these three tribes now centred in Derby. Successive governments have moved these people out of their tribal lands in a south westerly direction, and the last move brought them al to the outskirts of Derby. They have had various missions live and work with them, and what is noticeable, despite their dislocation from their home lands, they hold little animosity. In fact, here we have been able to chat to locals quite openly and have received a courteous and interesting response.
The tribal beliefs of this group is that all life has its origin being created by their god Wandjina, a spirit god that is like a friend and person who guides and protects, supplies their needs etc. It is easy to see how those missions found a lot of commonality with these three tribes, and Marg and I felt that same something special that we are a people under God who does care and provide. Their paintings of Wandjina mostly have three faces or figures along side each other. This represented the blessing given to the three tribes who worshiped Wandjina.
Derby is famous for its tidal movements, the seventh greatest in the world. The
four of us plus two other ex Brisbane friends, Kevin and Elaine, that we met up with here, had an early fathers day dinner at the jetty, timed for sunset. David and Mary came here 3 years ago and saw one of the best sunsets ever. We might have missed that, but enjoyed our meal anyway. From the restaurant we watched the tide come in - a bustling swirling mess with the water dark with churned up sand.
Unless you want to make Derby your staging post for the next life, then don't come swim here with the hidden salty crocs! The only safe place to swim here is the town swimming pool.
Many travellers use Derby as the staging point for a journey up the Gibb River Road. While the first 100ks or so is sealed, the balance of the journey is really suited for off road type 4WD vehicles. We did drive 5 ks down to the aboriginal centre, so I guess we can say we have driven on the Gibb River Road. However, I don't think we qualify for the T-shirt!
We have enjoyed a feathered visitor to our site - Percy the white
peacock. Most hansom, eats from your hand, and put on a magnificent mating dance to try and woo a peewee. Must find a peacock shrink for Percy.
From Derby we are heading to Fitzroy Crossing and north, or is it east. The sunrise and sunset times keep changing at the moment and then of course, we will change time zones as we cross into the NT.
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