Monthly Archives: June 2015

Back in Broome

With a full moon imminent, on our return to Broome, we decided to stay a few days to witness the “Staircase to the moon”. Only a handful of times each year, the moon rising at dusk over a low tide in Roebuck Bay, and the light reflected across the sand flats creates the effect that gives rise to the name. Amanda was equally excited to see that there were markets at the same event. Once again expectations had been set high and fortunately this evening they were exceeded. As the moon rose hordes of photographers were in their element for 20-30 minutes, then an explosion of music erupted from the market area.

A carnival style band called Wasamba then entertained the audience to a high octane energetic performance of dance and drumming, with colourful costumes lit up with lights. The kids went wild, loving the rhythm, and the crowd loved every minute, so much that everyone left the evening with a feeling of elation, still tapping their imaginary drumsticks.

Also whilst in Broome for a couple of days the tides were just low enough to visit Gantheaume Point to look for dinosaur footprints. When the tide drops below 2.1m for a very short timeframe, history some hundreds of million years old is revealed. Well actually we had to look quite hard as no-one there knew where to look or what to look for. Finally with 15 minutes before the tide was due to turn the footsteps of ancient dinosaurs were exposed on the rock platform, with some still submerged. The kids were more interested in looking for fishing tackle amongst the rocks, and were quite successful at it too.

Another event in full flight during our stay was the Cable Beach Polo event. As I walked onto the beach I noticed a “Beach closed” sign due to sharks. Ironically, a saltwater crocodile had been spotted swimming off the beach but to avoid unwanted negative press while the even was on Sharks seemed to provide an acceptable deterrent to stop people swimming. On such a hot day on the beach the horses were doing it tough but the crowds seemed to enjoy the spectacle and the loud commentary by someone who didn’t appear to know much about the sport.

Meanwhile the famous trains of camels rode to and fro up the beach in the background.

Then we met our first Frill-necked lizard, strutting around the park like he owned it.

It was a very relaxing few days and we didn’t see a lot of what there was to offer in Broome but re-fueled and re-stocked, with the kids having almost completed their schoolwork, it was time to hit the road again, the Gibb River Road.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Essence of Ardi festival, Lombadina

Coinciding with our visit to the Dampier Peninsula was the inaugural Essence of Ardi festival. We moved up to the resort at Kooljaman in Cape Leveque to be close enough to attend. Local musicians, artists and dancers, some from all over the country, were scheduled for 5 hours of celebration.

Cygnet Bay pearl farm were present selling delicious pearl oyster sushi, our friends from Goombaragin had a stall promoting not only their accommodation options but also demonstrating how to make clapping sticks. Amanda had a go but found that it wasn’t as easy as it looks, especially with a blunt hatchet. There were community stalls, some for alcohol and drug abuse, others with more positive stories highlighting how communities are getting better representation with social and corporate matters. One of the favourites with the kids was the Bardi Jawi Rangers stall that had videos of their involvement with catching and tagging dugongs in the Middle East. They gave the kids Ranger patches and were very keen to talk about their work with the local environment, and posters on their display highlighted some ambitious but important objectives over the next few years. Displays of local artwork were particularly eye-catching, especially a nautilus made from mother of pearl and ebony. Another local man displayed his ability in spear making, turning the shafts in the fire, and catering to two types, a fishing spear and a crocodile repellent / dugong hunting variety. A few food stalls were busy selling everything from bread loaves, cooked at the local bakery, to chilli mud crab, frozen ice blocks and lolly bags! Local celebrity, Stephen “Baamba” Albert acted as master of ceremonies, reeling off jokes and stories between acts. He played a part in the 2009 movie Bran Nue Dae. A local dance group kicked the entertainment off, the small group of schoolgirls performing a number of combined traditional and contemporary dances. Then the local bands were introduced, representing young and older generations. Albert Wiggins, who grew up at One Arm Point sang about his father and growing up in the area, and as with most of the acts had political songs for, or about, the prime minister, clearly showing their discontent with the way they have been treated. The Bardi Traditional Dance Troup came on later with three men tapping boomerangs and chanting songs (no didgeridoos in this region – just clapping sticks and boomerangs for music) as the dancers with painted bodies performed. Each dance to the uninitiated seemed similar in terms of steps, but the dancers held different patterned shields, obviously symbolic for each song. The last dance involved a hilarious character dancing at thrice the speed scaring children who had strayed onto the dance floor. The last act was Kerrianne Cox, from nearby Beagle Bay, a passionate and talented indigenous singer who worked hard on the youngsters in the crowd instilling pride in their heritage. As an inaugural event it seemed to be a great success, and the number attending would have pleased the organisers. Fifty Toes loved it and gave it full marks!

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm

Very close to the northern tip of the Dampier peninsula are two interesting places to visit. The first is the Trochus hatchery, at Long Arm point, where the Trochus shells are bred. Unfortunately for us the hatchery was closed but Jack, from Goombaragin Eco resort, who works there gave us an insight to the place, and if we get to return we’ll definitely check it out.


The Trochus shell is a conical shell that has many uses, from ornamental (when polished) to make-up and even providing the metallic allure in certain paints. The hatchery also has a number of fish tanks where you can see barramundi, monkey fish (jawfish) and archer fish.

We headed back down the coast a few kilometres to Cygnet Bay to the oldest cultured pearl farm in Australia. It commenced in the mid 1940’s and remains one of only three Australian pearl farms still in operation, thanks to their continued passion, research and development in the industry. Their showpiece is the largest cultured pearl in the world with a diameter of 22.24mm for which they have refused a couple of offers in the millions.

Before our tour we took in the views over the bay from the lookout (still no crocodiles spotted), then the kids jumped in the pool for a quick dip to cool down.

The tour included an overview of the industry from origins to the modern day, a video from old footage in the 50’s, an overview of the operations and pearl lifecycle, then included opening a pearl oyster, extracting it, getting it assessed for quality and priced. Finding out about shape quality, lustre and skin feel was fascinating and our pearl turned out to be valued at $600. Hannah couldn’t be persuaded to swallow it discretely! A very interesting and educational afternoon indeed.

Categories: Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

To Broome and the Dampier peninsula

The next stop was Eighty Mile Beach, a short diversion off the main  road. Everyone hit the beach looking for the perfect sand dollar shell. With no shortage of sand dollars and other shells, everyone started wandering up the beach, then Roving Reeves appeared on a fishing mission. We had a quick catch up, watched the line of fishermen along the beach catching nothing, then mid afternoon bade farewells and headed off again.

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The overnight stop was at Stanley rest area where Hannah did her Naplan tests and we met up with 110AroundOz, another couple from Sydney with three girls almost matching our kids ages and all with Sydney Distance Education too.

The following day was a relatively quick trip into Broome for fuel and supplies, but we decided to press on to the Dampier peninsula, Middle Lagoon and Goombaragin Eco-Resort.

Four nights at Middle Lagoon was a pleasant relaxation after the dirt road in. The camp site above the beach commanded gorgeous views of the bay, which was crocodile free according to the locals. 5km to the north and south were plenty of warning signs and how the crocs knew not to go in the middle I have no idea. We spent much time in the water, snorkelling, and fishing was rewarded with a 56cm Golden Trevally.

We then moved to Goombaragin run by Kathleen and John, a very friendly couple and a small private property with glamping style tents and a couple of camping spots. They both spend time with visitors, and despite other commitments Kathleen found time to show the kids various bush tucker plants, bush passion fruit, bush chewing gum(sugar-free), and how to make clapping sticks. There were lots of new birds to spot, including great bower birds, double barred and long tail finches, mistletoe birds and plenty of others.


Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dampier peninsula

The Dampier peninsula is nowhere near the town of the same name. Often referred to as Cape Leveque, it was a place we were really keen to visit, and after a long dusty road from Broome we arrived half way up the peninsula at Nature’s Hideaway, Middle Lagoon. We managed to sustain a stone chip “bullet hole” on the windscreen on the way up, but that wasn’t about to dampen our spirits. We camped on the Ridge overlooking the beach and marvelled every day at the glorious sunsets. By day we snorkelled over the reefs, swam and fished, even catching dinner one day. Lots of new birds flourished amongst the trees on the property and there wasn’t a crocodile to be seen! Five kilometres north and south there were warning signs at water holes, creeks or beaches but apparently they don’t frequent Middle Lagoon!

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Our next stop was further east, where we managed to book a few nights at Goombaragin, a much smaller, friendly setup with two campsites, several “glamping” tents run by Kathleen, John and his son Jack. Located in Pender Bay with access to land up to Bells Point this is a more private place than Middle Harbour, with beaches safe for swimming too. The red jagged cliffs make a stunning sunset and we were lucky enough to meet up with our friends Nathan and Bloss, the “Grismacs” and Simon and Hillary, “110 around Oz”, also staying there. Between them the eight kids had a ball, and our hosts found time to show them bush tucker (bush passion fruit, the chewing gum berry, and more), the great bower bird nest, how to carve trochus shells, the pet stensons python, and much more. I snorkelled with Nathan “Grismac” and Jack as they went spearfishing, and saw plenty of marine life from turtles to corals and plenty of fish.

Simon and I took the cars down to explore the track down to Bells Point at sunset and made the most of the photo opportunities. On our last night there Oscar spotted a wild Stensons python so we picked it up. It took a serious dislike to Amanda, only settling when put in my hands, even striking at her when she walked past.

Time flew by relaxing there and before we knew it we had to decamp and head up to Cape Leveque for the Ardi festival. We visited One Arm Point and witnessed the terrific tidal currents that race past the point at up to 22 knots.

Kooljaman was a disappointment for us after the first two places where we had been spolied. The campsite was crowded, with minimal privacy, overly expensive, but provided more than adequate facilities. We stayed only for the Essence of Ardi then popped in to Beagle Bay to see the famous church, adorned with mother of pearl. The church was built in 1917, with aboriginal help, by three pioneering monks, and the mother of pearl decorations throughout took two years to complete.

Ten days in the peninsula was not enough and this is a place for a future visit.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dampier, Port Hedland and beyond (just)

We both love the movie Red Dog and we had to visit Dampier to see the statue of the Pilbara Wanderer. We had to! We weren’t planning to hang around though as we had to pick up the next assignment of schoolwork for the kids, and Naplan tests from Port Headland Post Office, where we thought we might stop.

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Amanda was so excited to see the statue of Red Dog and the first to point out the jetty that his owner drove along every day, but there was little else to celebrate his life. In fact the visitor centre in the mining town of Tom Price, near Karijini, had more about him. If you have no idea what I am talking about, or have never heard of Red Dog, watch the movie. a typically Australian but wonderful true story about a very adventurous and loyal dog.

Driving into town comical statues and sculptures in all sorts of shapes and sizes have been set in the salt lake that lines the roadside. We found a beautiful palm-lined beach for a quick lunch, found some Sturt Desert Peas by the side of the road then pressed on.

Karatha was bypassed and with the day fast closing we drove into our target campsite in Port Hedland. Port Hedland is a major port connected by rail to the Pilbara. We saw trains carrying over 200 carriages of iron ore to the dock for loading onto ships that take it to fuel the now waning construction boom in China. Cattle too are exported from here and many livestock pens are positioned just off the highway near the docks as you drive into town. On arrival we were told that unless we had a dog or a van of some ridiculous length they couldn’t take us. It was 4.40pm and we had to make the post office or face an unplanned  weekend in a town that no-one speaks well of. At 4.55pm Amanda was running around the streets trying to find the Post Office and realising we were in the wrong street I was bee-lining for the PO via another route. Flustered but relieved Amanda emerged with two packages, then hearts sank when we realised we were one short. Amanda flew out of the car and banged on the now closed door. Luckily she got a different cashier who found the missing parcel, the first one having reluctantly found the first two and had no inclination to look for more.

It was late but we didn’t fancy hanging around and set off for a beautiful free camp called De Greys. We arrived in the dark to find caravans everywhere, but the place was huge and as we drove in further it thinned out and we finally found an excellent spot by the river. The only noise at night was that of a boobok owl and a few grazing cattle as they past by in the dark, snorting and stomping as they went.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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