Monday, 4 May 2015

The Colours of the Kimberley

As part of my job, I recently travelled to the far north of Western Australia into the Kimberley region to work alongside some of our projects.  It was a combination site visit, needs analysis, and evidence-gathering experience to better inform the management of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island small grants program.  It was a remarkably enlightening, distressing, and inspiring journey, and C2 and J shared some of it with me.

 The state of Aboriginal disadvantage in Australia is acknowledged and much has been published from both sides of the political and social spectrum.  It is a national tragedy with few clear pathways toward really "closing the gap".  I am not going to posture in this blog entry about where, how, or why consecutive governments have failed to make meaningful inroads but fresh eyes, a clear perspective, real intent, and local ownership are obviously needed.  We are hoping our project is moving in that direction.

The start of the Kimberley's renowned Gibb River Road
We flew up to steamy, tropical Broome at the end of the Wet and were rewarded with clear, sunny, HOT, and HUMID temperatures day after day for the week.  For the first two days, I was occupied with work and local travel while my 2 guys enjoyed some downtime and father/son time.

On day 3, C2 and J accompanied me on the long drive east, away from the sea, through Boab-studded plains from Broome to Derby where I had work to do.  A Boab tree, is native to the inland Kimberley and is recognised by its unique bottle-shaped trunk.  The Boab retains water in its cells so will collapse if absent water.  It is an iconic symbol of this part of Western Australia.  We drove for several hundred kilometres of plain populated by these amazing trees and thousands of termite hills the size of cars.   It is a remote and sparsely-populated part of the Outback, and we may have passed 20 other cars on the to-and-back journey.  We stopped at several river crossings and Billabongs (water holes) where we had been told to watch for the Crocodiles but they were sleeping in the heat of the day, probably just as well as J was in a panic each time C2 and I approached the water’s edge.  Time to watch Crocodile Dundee I think.

After 4 days of yarning with amazing, inspired, and dedicated people, we turned to Cable Beach in Broome and a much needed 3-day family holiday.  Stunningly beautiful Cable Beach did not disappoint!  One of the iconic Broome experiences is to ride camels along the beach at low tide and at sunset.  J was excited but a little put-off when our camel, Boaz, grunted, snorted, spit, and leapt to his feet, nearly flinging me off his back.  However, all was ultimately sorted, J mounted Boaz, and within minutes, animal-loving J had discovered a new passion, and it was love.  Such was the love that we did it again the next evening.



As it was, technically, still part of the Wet, the water of the Indian Ocean was still hot, about 31c and too warm to kill of the Irukandji jellyfish, the extremely venomous variety found in the northern waters of Australia.  We were very uneasy as the last sting had been only10 days earlier, but we were ultimately coaxed into the gorgeous azure waters by the presence of others, and by the assurances of the Surf Life Savers who sampled the water twice a day.  And the water was….well I don’t have the words!

When we were not in the sea, we were walking the beach, collecting shells and connecting as a family, sitting by the pool with our books (C2 did teach J how to do backflips off the side of the pool – oy!), or sipping iced coffees to keep the humidity at bay. 

The northern Indian Ocean has some of the biggest tides in the world, and we were fortunate to be in Broome during one of the biggest of the year.  The tide was described as 10 meters but that equates to volume displaced; in distance the tides ebbed and flowed up to 200 meters between low and high tides.  We did a kayak tour up the coast and witnessed nature’s power of that tide as evidenced by a blow hole only viewable once or twice a year.   

It was a perfect 3-day escape and we are eager to return as we never had the opportunity to explore the region’s pearling history nor the war history.  Along with Darwin, Broome was bombed during WWII.  All the more reason to return.