Sunday, 21 July 2013

Kununurra to Broome

Koolama resting in Wyndham Harbour.
We made Kununurra our base for our East Kimberley tour and we settled in on the dusty powered site allocated to us. The outback town of Wyndham will always hold a special place in my heart, as the old harbour is the resting place for the state ship Koolama. I was so taken when I learnt about Koolama’s last voyage, I wrote a song about her for my “Songsin the Key of Sea” album. As I looked out to sea from the five rivers lookout I noticed myself singing “Koolama, Koolama, how are you? I’m resting in old Wyndham harbour.”

Zebedee Springs.
We were sucked in by all the hype and we took Dwarf (R1200GS) for a run out to Zebedee Springs. Zebedee is part of the El Questro Wilderness Park but it’s a wilderness that is found by hundreds of people every day. As you enter the car park a signpost reads “If the carpark is full, so too are the springs. Please visit another time.” We were lucky to arrive just as group of people were leaving the top pool. Steve and I took ownership of the tiny hot tub but that didn’t deter a family of five joining us for a bath. The pressure on this thermal spring has to be seen to be believed. The general public must vacate the springs by midday, then the tour busses move in; wilderness? I don’t think so. Emma Gorge was more able to absorb the numbers and we enjoyed a walk and a swim in the natural pool at the top of the gorge.

Red Dwarf.
The ride from Kununurra to Halls Creek is nothing short of spectacular. The Kimberley landscape, with towering hills and escarpments in every direction, is impenetrable and I felt the environment seemed more hostile than the Nullarbor. At Warmun roadhouse I spoke to one of the locals and we both agreed that it was the rocky hills and valleys that made it seem this way. When the terrain returned to open plain it seemed “safer” in my mind’s eye.

The roadhouse at Halls Creek was full to the brim when we pulled in for fuel at midday. Amongst the hustle to complete the refuelling as quickly as possible, Steve pumped 12 litres of diesel into the R1200GS. Steve realised when he tried to put the slightly larger diesel nozzle into Devil’s (F650GS) intake and Devil said “no.” The air was blue for a while but luckily Steve hadn’t started the big GS and she looked like a beached whale, tucked away in the corner of the roadhouse car park, while we figured out what to do. We got the RAC involved, as the roadhouse had no means of siphoning and then disposing of the contaminated fuel. A quick call to our BMW dealer in Perth confirmed that our strategy of siphoning the fuel out of the tank, then half filling the tank and siphoning again should work out just fine. Some of the local kids were fascinated by the bikes and they wanted to know “how much?” while they stroked the BMW badge on Devil’s tank. When I said “hey guys, just look, please don’t touch,” they did what they were told. Under the stress of the moment Steve and I started snapping at each other and I noticed an old Aboriginal man looking sad and concerned as he watched what was going on. All is well that ends well and the big GS ran as sweet as a nut on that lick of diesel.

Geikie Gorge, Fitzroy Crossing.

We spent the night in the caravan park at Halls Creek and when we walked into town for a bite to eat we found the best biltong ever at the local butcher. The chef at Russian Jacks cooked us a great pizza and the waitress told us to help ourselves to a complementary bowl of salad; when we went to bed that night we were all smiles again.

Fitzroy Crossing was another wonderful outback surprise. When we last passed this way, way back in 1985, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing were places to avoid. These days you can pitch your tent on a patch of grass, and at Fitzroy River Lodge you also get the use of the resort pool; excellent value.

The scenery on the ride from Fitzroy Crossing to Broome is less dramatic as the Kimberley landscape gives way to the red dusty plains that are reminiscent of the Pilbara. There are plenty of stray cattle on the side of the road but you begin to feel a little more street wise, after thousands of outback miles, and you start to make judgements on what the cattle are likely to do. I slowed down for one lone beast that was facing the road and sure enough he galloped to the other side just meters in front of me.

Sunset at Cable Beach.
When we arrived in Broome we checked into the Palm Grove Caravan Park only to find that the camp site they had allocated to us was in “tent city,” an area full of backpackers working for a living. We stood there for a while looking at the dust bowl with no shade while one of the friendly dudes explained that they party pretty hard and he had been evicted from Cable Beach Caravan Park not long ago. After listening to this we did something we had never done before. I went straight back to the office and asked for our $220 back. Our rent was refunded without a question and now we are happily camped at Cable Beach.

We will hang out in Broome for a while, soaking up the last of the warm weather before riding home to Perth.

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