Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 7 - Derby and a thunderstorm

Three times lucky: Johan's first words to me upon our early rise: "So…shall we go to the point again?" He spent time yesterday googling the dinosaur tracks and found an intriguing article in a scientific journal that lends credibility to the tourist marketing hype. The tracks are indeed genuine, belonging to ancient creatures that inhabited the earth 160 million years ago, long before the reign of dinosaurs, 60 to 120 million years ago.

Glass is strewn in several places across the Gantheaume Point car park. After our experience being burgled in Alice Springs three years ago, our wariness is high about those who prey on unsuspecting tourists. I stay back while Johan goes in final search of the dinosaur prints. I enjoy a round of qigong and a muesli breakfast before Johan returns. He’s excited and energised by his find, the elusive prehistoric prints:

The rocks are slippery getting down to them, he warns as he points me in the right direction. Before the slippery rocks, I find a delightful pool nestled in a secluded spot in the striated red rocks that lie just above the high tide mark. A sucker for water on a hot day, I strip down to my bathers and slide in for a cool soak. The rocks aren't too bad getting down to the surf, but I feel vulnerable by myself so close to the water's edge. If a giant freak wave swept towards me, there's nowhere to run in this chaotic scramble of boulders. I keep an eye out for footprints as I move across the flatter rocks at water level, but my real concern is getting out of this situation unscathed. My cursory search doesn't meet with luck so I make my way back up the boulder pile. Here the rocks really are slimy and I move slowly and cautiously -- one slip could send a person crashing down into dangerous crevices. Every way up seems impeded by these slippery slopes and for a moment I panic, wondering how I’ll get out of this situation. In the end I decide to hoist myself up onto a dry boulder, where I land flat on my belly and manage to stand firmly, brushing away a bit of dust and pride.

We bid a sad farewell to Broome and head out further along the Great Northern Highway towards Derby. But first we take a short detour south to a portion of the highway we found flooded on our way in. We recall seeing many bird species there and this may be one way to catch a flavour of the bird sanctuary we missed yesterday. Indeed there are many shore and wetland birds fluttering about, along with quite a number of raptors. But viewing is made difficult by their wide dispersement, narrow shoulders to stop the car on, and frequent interruptions by passing trucks. Perhaps a glimpse is enough.

Derby is tiny and relatively untouched by tourism compared to Broome. Most of the residents we see are black, except down at the fishing harbor where we enjoy lunch against a welcome sea breeze. Huge clouds are gathering and a sense of impending rain hangs in the air. We find the start of the 2km long jetty across the mud flats, once used to transport cattle to the port and now a public walk trail, replete with solar powered lights if you prefer a night stroll. We think it’s a good opportunity for a bit of exercise, plus a chance to view the gigantic storms brewing to the east and west. Luckily the one moving in from the west blocks out the sun just in time for our wander down the jetty. The expansive views of mud flats and open sky are enthralling.

Thirty kms out of Derby, Johan pulls off a side track and suggests it’s time to call it a day. The red dirt road has no recent tracks so it seems certain we’ll have it to ourselves. We pull out the chairs, plunk a couple of beers in our newly purchased stubby holders and sit back to watch the brilliant sunset light up the cloud castle sitting majestically in the eastern sky.

After dark, we turn on the camper lights and are immediately inundated with a throng of beetles. This is cow country and to quell the growing fly population, pastoralists brought in the humble dung beetle to chew up the cow poop, the preferred seeding ground for fly larvae. Great idea, only at the moment these little pests are far more irritating than the ubiquitous fly, which at least goes to sleep at sundown.

I wake in the night, feeling the oppressive stillness of the hot air and buzzing insects. Moments later a light breeze flows in through the open doors. Not long after, the breeze turns into a wind and the darkness lights frequently with flashes of lightening. Occasional claps of thunder break through the air. We watch the popping light show out the back door and shudder when a huge flash is followed by a deafening thunder clap. That was close.

Rain soon joins in the night symphony and I bustle around to close the windows and doors. The back hatch provides a shelter from the rain so we leave it open and watch and wonder at our first encounter with the Kimberley wet season. It dies down soon enough and then the insects return. A post-symphony dirge accompanies the rest of our night: the buzz of mozzies and beetles banging against the inside and outside of the campervan, the nearby bleeting of cows and the distant howling of what could be either wild dogs or dingoes.

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