Sitting here in Broome, looking out towards the Indian Ocean it’s hard to conceive of how far we have come in four weeks. Over 5,600 kilometres, through four states and one territory, three time zones and through lush farmland, harsh desert and now stunning beaches.
In my last post we were in Alice Springs, collecting supplies and fuel and doing much needed washing. From there, out of mobile range once again to Gem Tree in the East MacDonnell ranges. The purpose there was for fossicking, searching initially for garnets. Never having done this before we had no idea what to expect.
We were taken to a piece of land that looked as though it had been attacked, piles of dirt and holes of varying sizes everywhere. Our guide selected a hole at random and explained what to do – dig into the side of the hole, not too deep, pile the earth into a sifter and shake and rub the dirt through it till you are just left with small rocks. Transfer these to the ‘wet’ sifter, plunge it into a bucket of water, wash the rocks, then the best bit – hold it up to the light and look for the deep pink glow of garnets. Neil was digger and I was washer and sifter. The excitement of seeing the glow of the garnets was addictive. We had a good spot and worked hard and when we took our haul back to Gem Tree to be assessed found we had 17 of cuttable size and clarity, a good result!
The next day we felt the exertion of the previous day, so did a walk around the Gem Tree area, with a booklet detailing some of the plants around the place. The above drawings are from objects I found.
The following day we left, but on our way to the Binns Track, which looped back to Alice, we decided to stop at the Mud Tank, an area where zircons can be found. Zircons, we were told, are the most ancient of gemstones, formed when the earth began, and have been pushed up from 17km below the surface.
We only had one sifter, a pick, a spade and a small bucket, not the right equipment at all but decided to give it a go. I think we got lucky with the spot we chose as we found a lot. We have no idea if they are any good, but there are some that are beautifully clear.
We decided to have an extra day in Alice to see the Henley on Todd Regatta – the unusual thing about it is that the Todd River is dry, only running after heavy rainfall, so all the boating events were adapted. The pictures speak for themselves. It was a great day, fun and relaxed with a great sense of community.
The next day’s driving was mostly on dirt, not too corrugated and fewer vehicles coming the other way – a couple of roadtrains and three or four 4WDs, not a lot in 370km or so. The sense of being somewhere remote was becoming more palpable, and our bush camp for the night made that clear. Down a narrow track and over a hill we found good flat ground well away from the road. Red dirt, spinifex and termite mounds all around. Clearly there were dingoes about, but we only saw footprints. Lots of small birds but no other animals. We were close to a gold mine and could hear machines working and lights glowing through the night but otherwise we were alone.
The following day we crossed the border into Western Australia and the track deteriorated, becoming rough, very corrugated with patches of loose sand or rocks. We camped for the night at Wolfe Creek Crater, just delightful after a tough day, so decided to stay a second night and walk the rim of the crater the next day. It’s the second largest meteorite crater in the world, and is an impressive sight.
Refreshed after a day off – the weather now getting very warm – to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek along a shocking bit of road. The best part was the scenery, the classic Kimberleys region icons of boab trees, kapok (as shown in the image at the top) and the dramatic black rocks of calcified coral reefs that make up the Leopold Ranges. In the pools in Windjana Gorge were large numbers of freshwater crocodiles, sunning themselves on the edge of the water.
And now we are here in Broome, on the opposite side of the continent. I am sitting beside the camper trailer, as close to the water as it is possible to be, soaking in the view. Glorious! One more day then on the move again, to Cape Leveque.
Once again, this has all been done on my phone, so I hope the pictures are clear and the words intelligible! Soon we will be out of range again, but the gaps will get shorter as we head south into more populated areas.