Come with me on a camping adventure in the Kimberley. The Kimberley is an outback Australia destination in the north west of the country, not to be missed if you’re looking to explore some remote and untouched scenery. Today it’s Day 4 of our 12 day trip with Adventure Wild Tours and we’re heading from Ellenbrae to Home Valley Station along the Gibb River Road, with a glass of champagne to look forward to at sunset as we overlook the ancient and massive Cockburn Ranges.
If you missed Days 1 – 3 of the trip, da-da … here are the links:-
Day 3 – Wild Hibiscus and Bobtails
And if you’re looking for good reasons to visit The Kimberley and do a trip like this, then scroll down to the 13 Reasons To Go Visit Outback Australia at the end of this post.
Becoming one with the rhythm of the Kimberley
It’s Day 4 and some of us are looking a bit camping scarred this morning. If it’s not grubby clothes, it’s mossie bites or unkempt hair, but on the plus side everyone is more relaxed because the pace of life is different here in outback Australia, and concerns about work or home are far away.
To begin with I worried about being up in time to be helpful around the camp, but happily I find that I’m always woken by the light of dawn uncovering my swag like a mother pulls a sheet from a sleeping child. And I’m not worried about being ready in time to leave a camp each day either, because Dave and I have somehow managed to get packing-up into a slick routine, each helping the other and not duplicating roles.
No worries. None at all!
By Day 4 we have all come to understand that there are camp chores to be done, and everyone pitches in with the preparation of food, or the washing and clearing up. No questions asked, it seems as if we have morphed into dynamic interaction.
We appear to be slowly discovering our true selves, not mirrored by the world at large anymore but rather we find ourselves within ourselves, in a new space not missing home comforts and modern conveniences instead relaxing into a simpler life that is stripped down to basic requirements.
With some added extras. For today the yoga begins.
Salute to the Sun
Peter our resident yoga master has kindly offered to lead us in 30 minutes of yoga each morning.
We drag our swag mattresses into a line and roll them out on a groundsheet by the dying embers of the camp fire that Chris is trying to rejuvenate.
We are a bunch of stiff, camping wearied bones but the swags make comfy yoga mats.
By 6am the temperature is already touching 28 degrees. The sun rises higher as we do a “Salute to the Sun” pose. It’s an energising session during which we realize how creaky we’ve become, and many of us make promises to keep up the yoga when we get home to the real world.
After yoga the girls relax for today is Mother’s Day, so the boys
are forced opt wash up breakfast things! Then we head over to the homestead for a look at the David Bulyard paintings, and the Ellenbrae gardens. We feed the tame wallaby, laugh at Ned and chat to Karen who has made lemon scones which Sylvie and Moira kindly buy to share with us all for morning tea.
We leave Ellenbrae at 8.30am. It feels like the middle of the day already as we head on to Home Valley Station where I’m looking forward to jumping in the swimming pool and spotting a Green Tree Frog or two.
As we cross the Durack River we see another Jabiru.
“That brings the total up to 7 in 4 days,” says Choccy. “It’s amazing how many we’ve seen on this trip. Sometimes we’re lucky to see just one.”
We cross Bamboo Creek where there are huge Eucalyptus trees with silver white barks. It’s cool and shady, a welcome interlude to the red gravel of the Gibb River Road. At the next small creek we spot 2 Brolga’s doing a dance, the sunlight is dancing off their feathers which seem to change from grey to silver to white.
They are such graceful creatures and as they dance they leap into the air with outstretched wings.
“Sometimes you can hear them trumpeting. Did you know that they fly all the way to Siberia in the summer,” Choccy tells us.
No petrol? No problem for one lucky girl.
Just after a water crossing we see a stationery vehicle by the side of the road. Two boys are sitting on camp chairs and a slim young girl with blond hair is hugging a yellow jerry can.
“You are the first vehicle we’ve seen in two hours,” she says to Greg. “We’ve run out of petrol. Is there any chance of a lift?”
In a region as remote as this, she’s lucky today, and we ponder the possibility of running out of fuel or having tyre problems, or worse an accident and realize again what good hands we are in with Adventure Wild.
On, on deeper into the outback, and the next stop is at Bindaloo Falls where a waterfall trickles over sandstone rocks into an enormous bowl of a creek below. There are trees amazingly growing out of the rock face which has predominant colours of coal, sandy yellow and olive green.
“That would make a nice water feature in my back garden,” somebody jokes, and we begin devising plans to replicate a similar structure in suburban gardens.
Then we come into sight of the big flat topped Cockburn Ranges and stop for a quick look-see.
The views are never ending, and stretch for kilometers into the distance, around and beyond the huge fortress like structure. Distant horizons, sweeping plains, and the ephemeral reds, greens and sandy browns that distinguish the Kimberley’s open spaces are all layered before us under a duck egg blue sky.
It’s mesmeric. I’m looking forward to returning at sunset.
For now though it’s back into the bus and on to the oasis that is Home Valley Station.
Home Valley Station.
“Umm, I don’t want to sleep in a swag again tonight!” I say a little tentatively.
“No problem,” Choccy says. “There are plenty of tents. Here you go.”
What a relief.
As Dave and I learn how to put the tent up (it’s not rocket science) I say a little prayer to the tent god and ask him if tonight might be a little cooler, without mosquitos buzzing and dingoes howling or prowling.
Did I really say that? Crikey I’ve become a wuss.
Outback Australia different to African Bush
I think back to our camping days in Africa when we had lions, elephants and hyenas much to close to the canvas for comfort and malaria was a constant risk. I realize that I have become soft – far too soft. I wonder if any of the others feel the same, or is it just me descending into the comfort zone of post middle agedom.
We feast again at lunchtime, so much choice. Just ‘cos I know you’re wondering … I opt for a salad and egg wrap with beetroot because I’m trying to be good and not end this trip kilos heavier.
Be warned, future travelers. You will be fed well!
The afternoon is hot and it’s ours to do with as we please. Greg and Sylvie begin to make wild hibiscus jam on the camping stove, others head to Home Valley’s welcome blue swimming pool which is cold, bracing but refreshing, and it sits under a large picturesque sand-coloured shade sail.
It’s super hot today though. I’m glad to be on a sun lounger with a book, which quickly gets discarded for some zzzz’s. I think of Greg and Choccy, probably doing camp chores or planning tomorrow’s route and activities, and applaud them for keeping so even tempered in such a full-on environment. For now, I’m glad of my own company and absolutely nothing to do. Not even a cell phone signal to remind me that the outside world exists at all.
What’s it like at Home Valley Station?
Energised, Dave and I have a look around the station. There’s Dusty Bar, a selection of chalets, a small shop that sells maps, hats, ice creams, a few books and limited supplies. The spacious gardens are full of big palms, boabs, frangipanis and green grass. It’s a cool and pleasant place to be as the sun is going down and we head back to the camp site which is proudly situated on a large expanse of grass out of which jut some small sapling trees.
There are clean roomy showers and flush toilets here. The ablution facilities are five star compared to the bush camp at Ellenbrae. There are washing machines and a washing line too if you feel inclined to do some washing – it all feels everso civilized and you can quickly forget that you’re actually miles from anywhere.
In fact you’d think that we had just rocked up for high tea at a fancy hotel because tea and lemon scones are being served as we return. Sitting on camp stools, eating fresh scones dripping with wild hibiscus jam, drinking hot tea out of camping mugs and clothed in no more than a swimsuit and sarong, makes the world feel just perfect.
The Cockburn Ranges
Just before the sun begins to set we head back to the lookout point over the indomitable Cockburn Ranges . Approximately 1800 million years old these soaring massifs were once part of an ancient sea bed. This thought makes Perth and the small towns in Western Australia seem very young, very young indeed.
Champagne and nibbles appear from eskies (cool boxes) and the ranges are lit up by the setting sun. A fire is blazing across the valley in the distance and as it gets darker big wads of smoke billow into a sky flecked with deep pink and orange swirls.
The fire quickly progresses along a ridge and as the night darkens the orange glow is fierce and seems unpredictable, but as we know it’s a controlled burn, nobody is worried about much except taking the perfect photo. Others phone home, for there is a (limited) signal up here.
Salute to the nurses and Greg
With our own camp fire blazing back at the campsite it’s time for evening duties, washing up the lunchtime dishes and helping Choccy prepare supper, but it’s not difficult or arduous armed as most of us are with a cold beer or glass of wine and a merry quip or two to keep the laughs coming.
Then one of our party trips and falls. She manages to save the two glasses of wine she’s carrying but gashes her leg. Greg, who has first aid skills, is called over to supervise, and when our poor patient faints due to low blood pressure Greg is aided by not one, but three highly qualified and competent nurses on the trip.
We are all worried. We haven’t actually seen the damage. But she’s in good hands. However, after this shock there is nothing to do but for everyone, including the recovered patient, to head to Dusty Bar for a drink!
Tonight we forget the sun and Salute the Nurses and Greg instead.
13 Reasons to visit the Kimberley in Outback Australia
You can sleep in a swag under the stars – totally devoid of light pollution
You will spot crocodiles in the wild
You might see a cattle muster
You can be dwarfed by gorgeous chasms and gorges
You may swim in waterfalls
Or swim across rivers
You can walk amongst ancient rocks, ranges and reef systems dating back 350 million years
You can wade in water through a pitch black tunnel nearly 1km long
You can have campfires (in designated places)
You could practice yoga, in a natural environment, miles from anywhere (very spiritual)
You can dine al fresco
You can walk on really really red earth
You can stand in a Boab tree