By Rachel Dillon.
Visiting the Kimberley region of Western Australia, you quickly come to realise that here, Mother Nature has the final say. In the east Kimberley she can be beautiful, soft and subtle one moment and harsh and unforgiving the next. It’s an addictive, sensory adventure in an environment of extremes. And endless surprises. There are many reasons I can't help coming back each year and here are ten of them. Have you experienced them too?
1. The Warmth - Yahoo! The plane has landed. I stand at the top of the stairs, we're in the depths of an Australian winter, yet the tarmac I am about to cross seems to pulsate in a near molten state. A warm breeze skims my face and there is not a cloud in sight. The vista of Kununurra’s striking rock formations is in touching distance. The jumper I wore from chilly Perth now seems ludicrous!
2. Rugged hills and inviting gorges - The drive from Kununurra towards Wyndham winds through dramatic and varied ranges. I’m itching to get amongst it and inspect it up close, but for the next hundred kilometres I have to be content with glorious views out the car window.
3. The marsh – adjacent to the town of Wyndham is an immense expanse of marsh. In the wet season the marsh is often covered in water and bird life but at this time of year it dries to a crust of barren mud flats. The mud flats provide a highway-smooth shortcut to our destination – the cattle station, Digger’s Rest. We get out of the vehicle on the marsh to fill our lungs with the fresh, mildly earth flavoured air and enjoy the almost horizon-less open space. I have a sensation similar to taking off a heavy coat and realise it’s the leaving behind of the small concerns of city life. I leave that coat right there on the marsh every year.
4. Spinifex – Soon I’m opening the front gate of the property and noticing a sweet and sour scent on the breeze. It took me one or two seasons here to figure out that the bright green spinifex domes that stipple the red soil hills are responsible for this memorable fragrance.
5. Boabs – It’s impossible not to love Boab trees. They are so like the people of the Kimberley - iconic characters that are slightly weathered, terribly resilient and a little bit quirky.
6. Aboriginal culture – I would have been about seven when my Dad’s excitement for aboriginal rock art started to rub off on me. It is an immense thrill to find rock paintings or carvings, tools or peckings in the bush and to learn about the history, stories and culture of our first people.
7. The tides – the river here drains and fills twice a day. That’s right. It drains like a bathtub. Empties out like someone pulled the plug, leaving a muddy riverbed. Then the water gushes back in, rising up to eight metres from the riverbed. If you stood at the low tide mark (which you wouldn’t, because of the crocodiles) you would be constantly stepping back because the tide comes in so quickly. The change of tide also excites the barramundi enough to make them jump on my fishing line, and that’s never a bad thing.
8. The stars – from the verandah of my little bush hut (about 80 metres from the main homestead) I have an uninterrupted view of the milky way which is so packed with stars it seems to glow as one continuous mass. It doesn’t take long to spot falling stars every night. It's wonderful to see them streaking across the sky on some unknown journey.
9. The crackle – it doesn’t matter how exciting a day you’ve had or what incredible things you’ve experienced, sitting down together around a crackling fire to share stories over a drink and some home cooked food as tiny embers rise then disappear into the blackness will always be one of my favourite things.
10. Mornings – Even in July it’s light about 5am. The pre dawn light is sublimely delicate and pastel soft and the air is warm. Small birds flit from shrub to shrub while wallabies munch tranquilly. The sun peeks over the hill, its light staining the uppermost cliffs of the Cockburn Range like the juice of a million cranberries.
Then dawn seems to erupt in a din with corellas, babblers, bower birds and red winged parrots appearing out of nowhere and clamouring to find each other in distant tree tops. The banging of buckets and of hinges and chains on horse yard gates signal the serving of breakfast for horses as do the accompanying squeals and rumble of hooves. The station dogs join the mayhem with a volley of yaps and taunts directed at a hapless emu. I don’t want to miss a thing so I get dressed, slap a hat on my unbrushed hair and hurry down to the homestead for a hot billy tea around the fire. We clasp our tin mugs and hang on every word from station owner, Roderick about what’s in store for the day.
Photos are by R.Dillon and TC Nguyen.
On the Verandah
Kimberley Creative Adventures
ABN 77 685 780 283
PO Box 716
Mob 0428 254 529
Phone 08 9388 1513
Tourism Accreditation No: TCWA-ANW-02-0395