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Journeys : MNJ Aug Sep 2011
On the day of our close encounter w ith crocodiles, we enjoy unusually benign conditions on our crossing of the often wild Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, an inlet of the Timor Sea between the Northern Territory and Wester n Australia. Nicknamed ‘Blownapar t’, this stretch of water, roughly the same distance across as Bass Strait, has claimed praw n trawlers that foundered in storms. As well as sleeping aboard the boats, we camp one night on the floor of a machinery shed at a remote fishing camp. But the most memorable evenings are those spent in the company of the workers on Paspaley pearl farms along our route. We cruise the coast for seven days, usually starting soon after dawn and arriving at our destination on dusk. A typical day’s travelling is around 150 nautical miles (280 kilometres) and whenever we can, we skip along at 20 knots. The days pass watching the GPS tracker marking our course between islands, across fast-r unning tidal races and through choppy overfalls. In Prince Frederick Harbour we nudge into a mangrove- fringed creek, encounter the local crocodile then find a magnificent reptile-free freshwater pool and waterfall. At Raft Point and Bigge Island, we go ashore to gaze in awe at Aboriginal rock art on cave walls and overhangs. As the tide recedes from the massive 400 square kilometre expanse of Montgomer y Reef, we edge into a channel to watch saltwater cascading from the lagoons in the fossil reef ’s coral surface – turtles splash lazily and sharks patrol the shallows. We spot f lying fish, their pectoral fins a blur of energy as they skim the waves in flights of 100 metres and more. There are sea snakes, dolphins, humpback whales and the constant leap and splash of fish, large and small – these tropical seas teem w ith life. Inland are the only relatively accessible parts of the Kimberley – Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Kununurra, linked by the Great Northern Highway or the Gibb River Road. But our journey follows the inaccessible coastline, a ragged tracer y of r ust-red and jet-black crags, salt-whitened above the high-water mark; mud, mangroves and low, cliffy islands; coral reefs and domes of yellow sand that vanish under the tide twice a day – the crumbled edge and last bastion of an ancient, worn- down continent, nibbled away by the warm, salty sea. After eight days of calm seas and light breezes, we hammer for hours on the last day into Broome, drenched to the skin by spray and jarred by the thump of the hulls as they punch into a short chop on a low ocean swell. This page, clockwise from above: Paspaley pearl ship Christine; the Kimberley journey; en-route to a croc-free swimming hole; Rob and Aboriginal rock art at Raft Point Opposite page, clockwise from top left: Baobab trees at Raft Point; Paspaly pearl ship Roslynne; Dace, master of the Christine, with a panel of pearl- bearing oysters; the Oceanic Discoverer; cruise ship guest and RACT member Peter Morice; Bigge Island vegetation; Rob enjoys a cool shower Out of Tasmania today 48 August / September 2011 Darwin Anson Bay Faraway Bay Osborne Island Winyalkan Island Kuri Bay Deepwater Point Broome
Jun Jul 2011
Oct Nov 2011