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Mabel Downs to Broome

...via Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing and Derby

sunny 28 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

After a rather hot stay at Mabel Downs, we set off on our next leg of 437km to our overnight stop at Fitzroy Crossing. After about 150km, we reached Halls Creek. Along the way we lost the boabs and drove through some fairly uninteresting scenery but then came across vast areas covered with termite mounds. Halls Creek did not have a great deal to recommend itself to us but we took a side road to China Wall, which was fascinating. This is a vein of white quartz, rising to about 6 metres above the surrounding countryside. This is the most prominent part of the vein, which extends for many kilometres and can be seen at lower levels further along the road. The vein at China Wall is quite fractured, giving the impression of large squarish 'bricks' enhancing the 'wall-like' appearance. It is a striking sight and well worth the short detour.

China Wall descending into a river valley

China Wall descending into a river valley

Close-up view of the 'brick-shaped' quartz

Close-up view of the 'brick-shaped' quartz

Fractured surrounding countryside

Fractured surrounding countryside

View along the river away from the wall

View along the river away from the wall

Very different rock strata opposite the wall

Very different rock strata opposite the wall

Senna pendula flower (apparently a weed) growing among the rocks opposite the wall

Senna pendula flower (apparently a weed) growing among the rocks opposite the wall

A further 109km along the road, we came across the Mary Pool Rest Area. This is one of the nicest free camping sites we have come across and we wished we had been able to stay there. The rest area is actually beside the Margaret River which was named on 29 May 1879 by the explorer Alexander Forrest, during an expedition in the Kimberley area, after his sister-in-law Margaret Elvire Forrest, wife of his brother and superior, Deputy Surveyor-General John Forrest, who was later to be Premier of Western Australia. The camp site has composting toilets but no water. Swimming is inadvisable due to the possibility of crocodiles being present. Despite that, it is a well-treed spot with plenty of birdlife.

7c840350-cbe0-11e9-bace-015e96b5df68.jpgA couple of shots of the countryside between Halls Creek and Mary Pool

A couple of shots of the countryside between Halls Creek and Mary Pool

The causeway at Mary Pool has seen better days!

The causeway at Mary Pool has seen better days!

Crotalaria (aka Rattlepods)

Crotalaria (aka Rattlepods)

Australasian Darter, White-faced Heron, Intermediate Egrets and Little Black Cormorants on a sandy spit

Australasian Darter, White-faced Heron, Intermediate Egrets and Little Black Cormorants on a sandy spit

Crewcut Kookaburra!

Crewcut Kookaburra!

Diamond Dove

Diamond Dove

Our last 178km was uneventful and we were happy to find our tented accommodation at Fitzroy River Lodge (just before the township of Fitzroy Crossing). It was very comfortable and spacious with adequate shading and the food at the pub was pretty good too.

Some of the areas en route were smothered with termite mounds

Some of the areas en route were smothered with termite mounds

Agile Wallabies to greet us at the Fitzroy River Lodge (they also ventured into the accommodation areas)

Agile Wallabies to greet us at the Fitzroy River Lodge (they also ventured into the accommodation areas)

Our Hilux beside our tent.  It doesn't look flash but was very nice inside

Our Hilux beside our tent. It doesn't look flash but was very nice inside

Fitzroy Crossing takes its name from the river which was explored in 1838 by Captain Stokes, who named it after Captain Fitzroy who had been a commander aboard HMS Beagle. Later on, local Aboriginals resisted European settlement and there were several bloody battles in the area (Aussie Towns).

While we were in Fitzroy Crossing we learned that the accommodation we had booked in Derby had been cancelled as the hotel had closed! The alternative offered to us had pretty dire reviews and, when we got there, indeed looked rather ropey, so we were glad to find Spinifex Hotel where we had a very comfortable stay. To their credit, Booking.com through whom we had made our original booking, refunded the difference in price - Spinifex was more expensive but worth it. Generally we try to find cabins or similar but, close to Derby, we had been unable to find anything of that ilk, so ended up at a motel. On our way there, we stopped at another very pleasant free camping spot, Ellendale, for a coffee break - here we were relatively fly-free! Our lunch site had a huge boab but the flies were so numerous that we had our lunch inside the vehicle and only did a minimum of exploring! Naturally, before checking into our motel, we visited the famous (infamous) Prison Tree, a very impressive boab.

An Emu kept us company for a short while

An Emu kept us company for a short while

A bulbous boab at our picnic site - fly ridden unfortunately!

A bulbous boab at our picnic site - fly ridden unfortunately!

The Prison Tree just outside Derby

The Prison Tree just outside Derby

Fruits of the boab

Fruits of the boab

Colours of the Kimberley

Colours of the Kimberley

Derby was named after Frederick Arthur Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, who between 1885-1886, was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies (Aussie Towns). It doesn't have a great deal to offer but was not as bad as some people had suggested.

We had been told that Derby Waste Water Wetlands were worth a visit and we did indeed see a good variety of birdlife, both from the shaded viewing point and around the car park area. Once we had our fill of wetlands birds, we headed off to the jetty where we enjoyed a wonderful sunset, while enjoying a good meal at the Wharf Cafe.

Brown Falcon

Brown Falcon

Western Corella - should be white but it has been dusting itself in Kimberley sand!

Western Corella - should be white but it has been dusting itself in Kimberley sand!

Grey Teal splashdown

Grey Teal splashdown

Red-kneed Dotterels

Red-kneed Dotterels

View over part of the wetlands

View over part of the wetlands

Brolgas

Brolgas

Why do we always have to mess things up?!

Why do we always have to mess things up?!

bf861f10-cd95-11e9-80ac-c5329a496836.jpgTwo images of an unidentified white and black butterfly

Two images of an unidentified white and black butterfly

Black Kite (we think!)

Black Kite (we think!)

Boabs spreading out over the wetlands

Boabs spreading out over the wetlands

Sunset at the jetty

Sunset at the jetty

Fishermen at sunset

Fishermen at sunset

When we moved on, it was a fairly short drive of 224km to Broome where we stayed in a lovely Airbnb cottage/flatlet in a densely grown tropical garden. The bathroom was alfresco but private and as the weather was good, this was no problem.

Peeking through from our chalet to the Hilux

Peeking through from our chalet to the Hilux

Our al fresco dining area

Our al fresco dining area

Outside the chalet

Outside the chalet

A four-poster bed, no less, for our sleeping area

A four-poster bed, no less, for our sleeping area

On 27 November, 1883 the Governor of Western Australia, Sir Frederick Napier Broome, declared that there would be "a townsite on the North Western point of Roebuck Bay hereafter to be known and distinguished as Broome." Broome was not driven by ego. He did not name the town after himself. The Western Australian Surveyor–General, John Forrest, had named the town. However it was Broome who proclaimed it. He was, however, less than impressed with the settlement claiming that it was nothing more than three graves and a few itinerants. He didn't realise that it would attract over 300,000 tourists every winter and become one of Australia's most famous holiday resorts (Aussie Towns).

Broome had been a bustling pearling port but by the 1970s was struggling. Lord Robert Alistair McAlpine arrived and saw the potential. Over a decade, he helped transform Broome into an internationally renowned tourist town. He founded Cable Beach Club and the Pearl Coast Zoological Gardens for endangered species. He founded the Broome Preservation Society which restored many old buildings and generally promoted and supported local culture, indigenous art and the pearl industry. He was made a Freeman of Broome in 2012.

On our first full day in Broome we drove into town, then out to Cable Beach for a quick recce and then down to Gantheaume Point. This was named in 1801 by Nicholas Baudin in honour of Honore Joseph Antoine Ganteaume, a distinguished French naval officer (for some reason an 'h' was added to this chap's name). The red sandstone cliffs are very striking and we were fortunate enough to see a pair of Ospreys at their nest in the lighthouse tower. Unfortunately, we were not there at low tide, so we did not see the dinosaur footprints below the cliffs.

Broome is, at times, a quiet tropical town

Broome is, at times, a quiet tropical town

Cable Beach

Cable Beach

Osprey near the nest

Osprey near the nest

The lighthouse tower in which the ospreys nested

The lighthouse tower in which the ospreys nested

The rocks at Gantheaume Point were colourful and showed signs of significant disruption and weathering

The rocks at Gantheaume Point were colourful and showed signs of significant disruption and weathering

View over the cliffs towards Cable Beach

View over the cliffs towards Cable Beach

From the Point we headed back to Cable Beach for the sunset. We did not get right down to the beach to get the iconic camels at sunset shot but it was a lovely sight anyway. Had we been down on the beach, we would probably have been jostling with other photographers for the best position, which may have taken the edge off our enjoyment!

Bust of Lord McAlpine in honour of his contribution to Broome's development

Bust of Lord McAlpine in honour of his contribution to Broome's development

View over the beach showing camel groups

View over the beach showing camel groups

Camels on the beach at sunset

Camels on the beach at sunset

The camels return to unload their passengers

The camels return to unload their passengers

Sunset over Cable Beach

Sunset over Cable Beach

On this trip we have booked more organised trips than previously and they have all worked out well. Willie Creek Pearl Farm was no exception! We were picked up and taken out to the farm where we given a thorough guided tour of all aspects of pearls and the pearl industry, all absolutely absorbing. Outside the main building, we were enthralled by Red-headed Honeyeaters, Yellow White-eyes, Double-barred and Zebra Finches in a tree just above our heads and then on a water feature right in front of us. We were so carried away that we almost missed the next part of the tour!

The long red road to Willie Creek

The long red road to Willie Creek

Willie Creek

Willie Creek

One of our guides explaining the intricacies of pearl farming aboard our cruise boat

One of our guides explaining the intricacies of pearl farming aboard our cruise boat

The main building at Willie Creek, including the very tempting shop

The main building at Willie Creek, including the very tempting shop

Yellow White-eye

Yellow White-eye

Double-barred Finch

Double-barred Finch

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)

Red-headed Honeyeater

Red-headed Honeyeater

Red-headed Honeyeater with Double-barred Finches

Red-headed Honeyeater with Double-barred Finches

Singing Honeyeater

Singing Honeyeater

Another worthwhile trip was to the Broome Bird Observatory but before our afternoon trip there, we had a rewarding trip to the Waste Water Treatment Plant (the things we do to find birds!) and then had a look around Broome itself and found some fascinating relics of old pearling days.

Royal Spoonbills

Royal Spoonbills

A raft of Australian Pelicans

A raft of Australian Pelicans

A restored lugger on display

A restored lugger on display

Another old lugger in need of some TLC

Another old lugger in need of some TLC

An old diving helmet

An old diving helmet

It would be remiss to leave Broome without a photo of the famous/infamous Roebuck Hotel

It would be remiss to leave Broome without a photo of the famous/infamous Roebuck Hotel

The road to the bird observatory is pretty bad and, if you don't follow their instructions, your GPS is just likely to lead you into even worse roads. We managed to navigate our way there but stopped about 4km short of the reception area at a little pull in by Roebuck Bay. We stopped for lunch and found ourselves gazing out at a rock about 100 metres from the shore - it was heaving with birds. Mainly knots of one sort or another but also herons and gulls.

Some of the birds on the rock - mainly Great Knots with some Terek's Sandpipers

Some of the birds on the rock - mainly Great Knots with some Terek's Sandpipers

Crested Tern

Crested Tern

At the slightest movement the rock erupted as birds took to the sky

At the slightest movement the rock erupted as birds took to the sky

Steve sitting among the strange shapes wrought by sea, wind and weather

Steve sitting among the strange shapes wrought by sea, wind and weather

Beautiful and strange shapes caused, mainly, by the sea eddying around the sandstobe

Beautiful and strange shapes caused, mainly, by the sea eddying around the sandstobe

Intermediate Egret (with Eastern Reef Egret in cave)

Intermediate Egret (with Eastern Reef Egret in cave)

Intermediate Egret with an itch!

Intermediate Egret with an itch!

Having checked in for our tour, we had time to visit the viewing platform where a beautiful Brahminy Kite sailed back and forth in front of us. On the tour, led by Merren, we saw a good variety of birds but Yellow Chats were conspicuous by their absence! These are one of the star attractions but I think I'll settle for my memory of the knots wheeling in huge flocks off the rock and round and around before settling again, quite magnificent.

Brahminy Kite

Brahminy Kite

Black-shouldered Kite seen on our tour

Black-shouldered Kite seen on our tour

Our tour vehicle late afternoon, in search of Yellow Chats

Our tour vehicle late afternoon, in search of Yellow Chats

Posted by SteveJD 04:46 Archived in Australia Tagged birds coast camels broome derby fitzroy_crossing halls_creek boabs great_north_highway china_wall mary_pool bird_observatory

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