Cape Leveque to Birdwood Downs – Sun 24th May to Sat 30th May

Goombaragin – Sun 24th to Thur 28th

Cape Leveque, or more correctly the Dampier Peninsular, is special.  Bordered with deep red cliffs stooping into crystal clear water, it is a beautiful place.

As ever we had looked for somewhere less developed than the main destinations.  Don’t get me wrong, we use caravan parks as necessary to top up with water, do laundry etc. but at other times prefer to avoid the cheek by jowl living.

Goombaragin certainly met our requirements.  Run by Kathleen and John, it is situated on Pender Bay, reached by a turn off from Middle Lagoon road.  So just the matter of c.175km of dirt road to get there; however whilst heavily corrugated in places the drive is pretty simple.

15-05-24 Cape Leveque 115-05-27 Middle Lagoon Rd

They have a few eco-tents plus a couple of camp spots, all located along the edge of the cliff and looking out to sea. Add in the hot showers and the communal firepit they light nightly and it’s a great place to unwind.

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A special hit with the girls was the olive python kept as a pet by John’s son Jack.  Only about a metre long they all took turns letting it slither over them.  Also a plus was John & Amanda and family arriving the day after us, the kids making the camp their playground.

Spear Making with Bundy

There are a few people running cultural tours on the peninsular.  One is Bundy, of the Djarandjin community, and as chance would have it Kathleen’s uncle.  Djarindjin is about an hours drive north of Goombaragin, and encompasses Chile creek, the location for the spear making course.  It all starts with straightening the fresh cut sticks over the fire, then removing the bark and attaching the tip.  You then head out into the incoming tide to try your luck.

15-05-26 Djaradjin, Spears 215-05-26 Djaradjin, Spears 3

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Fortunately some of  the local lads assisting Bundy had caught some mud crabs and surgeon fish, as us novices came up blank.  Crab fresh roasted over mangrove coals takes some beating.

15-05-26 Djaradjin, Spears 9

As well as spear making the course also provides a wealth of local knowledge – for example how the spinifex pigeons show where there is fresh water and how to find cockles among the mangrove roots – and highlights just how long the aboriginal peoples have been living in these areas, with 8,000 year old footprints in the rocks along the shoreline.

Cygnet Bay Pearls

This area also has a long connection with the pearl industry.  Located at Cygnet Bay, is the Cygnet Bay Pearl Company, originally set up by Dean Brown in 1946 as a mother of pearl business but now producing cultured pearls under the 3rd generation of family management.  They offer a fascinating tour of the facilities, explaining how the pearls are farmed.  It’s a real hands on tour, with the girls getting to extract a pearl from the oyster before having it graded.  Turns out pearls are similar to diamonds in being graded for certain key aspects like lustre, size and shape.  The girls were most disappointed not to be able to keep the necklaces, the one Pippa is sporting would be a mere $18,000…..

15-05-27 Cygnet Bay Pearls 1 15-05-27 Cygnet Bay Pearls 4

Beagle Bay

To the south of Goombaragin is the community of Beagle Bay, originally set up by Trappist Monks around 1890 then in 1901 taken over by the Pallotine Fathers from Germany.  The religious order has departed, but has left behind a very interesting church, which uses local mother of pearl to great effect.  It was completed in 1918 whilst the monks were under house arrest during WW1.

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Broome – Fri 29th May

It was unfortunate we had made arrangements we needed to honour, as the inaugural Bardi Jawa festival was scheduled for Saturday at Lombadina, adjacent to Djarandjin.  Hopefully it was a success, and becomes an annual event, sounded like a great showcase for the local communities.

Back in Broome it was a day of picking up supplies, posting work back to school etc.  Also collecting a couple of canvas panels we’d had made up to go around the kitchen area of the trailer – to give extra shelter either from sun or wind.

Birdwood Downs (the Gibb River Road!) – Sat 30th May

A result on the drive out of Broome; on the side of the road was a practically new camping chair.

There is not a great deal to see until you get near Derby.  About 10km out of town is the Prison Tree, a reminder of times past.  This is a huge Boab tree, hollow in the middle but with a split in the side which allows access – it was in this tree that prisoners en-route for Derby were held overnight.  A feature of early settlement was the charming practise of blackbirding, seizing the young men of the local people and pressing them into ‘’employment’’, particularly in the early mother of pearl industry.  One wonders how many of them spent a night in this tree.

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In the same spot is a cattle trough large enough to service 500 head of cattle, and Frosty’s Pool.  The trough is now fed by pump, but when constructed the artesian bore was reputedly so strong it created a 1km billabong; which would have dwarfed Frosty’s Pool, a plunge pool built by serviceman in WW2 to cool off – of course officers had first dibs, other ranks went second.

Birdwood Downs is a horse station at the start of the Gibb River Road.  The first c.100k of this road is paved, which is a bit disappointing; given the iconic status of this road it feels like it should be rough from the get go.  A good location to overnight combined with a horse ride for Charlotte, but the worst place so far for mosquitos!

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