An Account of Exploring the Kimberley
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An account of exploring the Kimberley (story told by Dan & Emma)
On the tenth day, we returned to the food cache where we were to meet Dave and Rachel. We were eager for some company and conversation. It turned out we would have neither. As we approached the site where the chopper had dropped us off and where the food cache had been hung, it became apparent that Dave and Rachel were nowhere to be seen and there were no fresh footprints. Our anxiety was soon dispelled when we spied a thermal top wrapped around the food cache bag. Dave and Rachel had been there!
A note within the bag told a curious tale. A couple of days after we left them Dave's condition had still not improved. So, when presented the opportunity to return to Mitchell Falls by a passing helicopter (surely a rare occurrence in this remote area) they jumped at it. They flew back to Mitchell Falls Campsite in the chopper, and its wash erased evidence of their passing!
Disheartened at the loss of their company, but glad that Dave and Rachel would not have to walk the last distance to the falls while sick, we spent the rest of the day at the food cache washing clothes, recouping strength and eating our fill.
The next day we set off across the plateau towards Mitchell Falls, leaving the gorge country behind. The walking on the plateau proper was much easier than it had been in the gorge country. The terrain was flat and generally grassy. We quickly worked out what size of catchment was required for a stream to still contain water in billabongs from our 1:100k maps and wound our way across the countryside following these lifelines. We did several detours onto hills to look for rock art, but evening always found us back at a billabong or stream, sometimes accompanied by curious brolgas or red-tailed black cockatoos. Even the smaller streams tended to have flat banks with many grassy camping options near water.
After nearly a week of easy walking we could tell we were nearing Mitchell Falls by the near-constant drone of helicopters ferrying tourists from the campsite to the falls. They would start at sun-up and continue until dusk. In a strange way they were a welcome sight as they contained people, which we had not come across for weeks.
Our first contact was with a retired couple who had been dropped at the falls by chopper. They had had been cruising in luxury on a cruiseboat that had come from Darwin and was heading to Broome. They had come for a morning swim, choppered in from their cruise boat, which was moored in Prince Frederick Harbour. They would be returning to the boat for a BBQ on the beach that evening. Surprisingly, they envied our freedom to walk as they had been cooped up on the boat for a week. We would have been quite happy to have a few days relaxing on their boat!
Soon afterwards we were at the falls and our trip almost over. We spent a couple of hours sitting overlooking the falls and taking photographs before starting the hour and a half walk to the campsite. It felt strange to be on a well-trodden track after weeks of picking our way through the bush. Again we were keen to catch up with Dave and Rachel and exchange stories.
The campsite was full of travellers in 4WD vehicles of every make, and with every luxury. We couldn't see Dave and Rachel, so went to the chopper pilots and asked them. We'd missed their departure for home by two days! Disappointed, we wandered over to claim a camp spot for the night. We felt very much the odd one out with only our packs to claim a spot, rather than a 2 tonne vehicle. It was easy to see why Dave and Rachel had left. The campsite was unpleasantly hot and shadeless by day, and filled with dust from passing 4WD's. At night the bare earth was uncomfortably cool.
In the morning we were up with the sun again and walked over to chat with the chopper pilots before being flow the last 15km to the airstrip. Our Cessna was waiting to take us back to Kununurra when we arrived. The day was bright and sunny, as had been all the others, and we were sad to leave. Now, sitting here writing this account of our trip, we can not wait to return, the Kimberley has a strange allure and most who go there just want to keep going back.....
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