Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Alternatively, simply click on the following link to jump right there:
http://theblackstump.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/.

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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Derby: Not a place to take many photos...



Date:
25 - 27 /05/2017
Location:
Derby [via Mary Pool] (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
714 km
Temperature:
Min:
17.5

Max:
36.2
Robberies foiled (?):
1…

Sorry folks... For those of you who like to jump onto this blog, scroll down a bit and just check out our photos (skipping past the earnestly crafted prose that punctuates these snapshots), unfortunately this post is sadly picture free… There was remarkably little to take photos of during these few days – but I felt that the story accompanying this little part of our wanderings was something that should probably be included in our family chronicle. However, that said, if photos are more your thing, that’s totally cool – I love sharing them too! Don’t worry, they’ll be back in screeds next time (oh wow, there are some awesome snaps coming up of our Gibb River Road adventure!). But until then, if you’re not into the ‘talky bits’ here’s a random selection of some of my favourite YouTube channels until a less narrative driven post turns up:


(There may be more of my YouTube fancies revealed in future posts… But I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for channels I should check out in the comments below [That’s what the YouTuber’s say, isn’t it?!?])

For those of you who want to stick around for the pictureless action, here’s the post:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Waking up far earlier than I’d hoped in our Mary Pool free camp, I stumbled out of our trailer to come face-to-face with the early morning sun. The glowing orb was already well on its daily climb and was rising steadily over the Mary river.

Unfortunately, even in the cool, crisp air of the new day, the toilets of the free campsite didn’t smell any better than the night before. “Urk”, I thought, and suddenly felt eternally grateful for the little tree near our camper trailer, which had helped out the boys and I in the middle of the night. Ahh blessed tree; thank you for your minty eucalyptus fragrance.

In the light of the day, we could see this area in its full beauty. Truly it was nice place to stop for the night. Life along the banks of the Mary River was quiet and serene – until, that is, when 5:30am came around and the older travellers (aka, the ‘grey nomads’) crept out of their beds and began making a great cacophony of noise – rattling kettles, clanging frying pans and greeting each other in loud booming voices (surely, there is never the need for that much exuberance so early in the morning). Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time for sight-seeing. No, we still had a long way to travel on the road before the sun began to creep its way down towards the horizon and back into bed. And so, without much ado, we quickly packed away our humble belongings and were soon trundling out of the Mary Pool rest stop onto the Great Northern Highway once more.

For the most part, we spent the day cruising down the Great Northern highway; creeping ever closer to our next stopover point: Derby (WA). This was going to be one of those LONG car journeys, without much chance to stretch our legs or have a wander about. And so, with a mixture of audio books, maths lessons and spelling words to be learned, we edged ever closer to our next restocking point.

Pulling in to the small town of Derby, it seemed this entire region revolved around either providing accommodation to travellers, or helping them restock and get back on their way. As we were intending to make the ‘Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park’ our home for a couple of nights, we fell in the former category.

The caravan park was certainly very ‘functional’, but it lacked the charm and appeal of many of the places we’d parked up on the journey so far. Still, the staff were friendly and our allotted site was nice and flat (an important feature, particularly if you don’t like the feeling of roll downhill whilst lying in bed).

We pulled up and wrestled the camper trailer into its set up position. As soon as that was done, we cruised back into town to hunt and gather fresh food to eat. I can’t quite remember what we shoved down our necks that evening, but with dinner out of the way and the boys tucked up into their cosy bed; all seemed to be going swimmingly. That is, at least, until took my normal seat outside the van; with cameras and laptops spread out in front of me, in the hopes of taking  few moments to transfer the data files from my camera to the laptop and (in turn) to the USB backups.

There I sat, quite merrier bumbling away at my nightly toil. The sooner the photos were made safe, the sooner I could get onto hacking out a blog entry. Then, quiet suddenly, I had the feeling that you sometimes get when there is someone looking at you. I jerked my head up from the bright light of the computer screen and saw a thin male figure standing a little way in front of me, just on the edge of the stark glow cast by our trailer’s light. He was just standing there, looking… Looking at my laptop and camera… hmmm.

In a repeat performance of Gregg vs the Grinch-Queen of Edith Falls, I stared back. A cold, ‘don’t you dare’ kind of stare. And dare he didn’t. No, off back into the shadows he slunk. And with his departure I picked up my laptop and camera - with more than a modicum of haste – and away they went into the safety of the caravan. With everything carefully tucked away, I took a torch and went to make sure the coast was clear.

Nope, to my dismay, our little gentleman caller was no more than a few caravans away, lingering, nay, lurking, in the shadows. Once more a staring contest ensured, with our ghostly spectre probably aware of the fact that the longer he participated in this staring contest, the more details of his visage would be noted by the other party. So, in a short moment or two, off he went. Five minutes later, as I was Googling the phone number for the Derby police, the first of many police patrols came driving (at speed) through the caravan park. With the doors to our little trailer firmly locked, I watched as their search lights combed through the bushes. I hadn’t even had chance to call them, so I had an inkling that someone else must have. I continued mulling over photos and banging out my musings about our recent explorations of the northern part of Australia throughout the night. But, here and there, my contemplative enthralment was periodically interrupted by the engines of police cars and occasional flashing of red and blue lights. In the end, I did make it to bed (in the wee early hours) – but, not before I’d had a serious internal debate about the pros and cons of making the 400 meter dash to the toilet (I think that went on for about an hour or so). In the end, as a police car made its way around the loop by our trailer, I took the opportunity for a late-night evacuation run.

The next morning, I went to reception to get some money changed, so we could put a load of clothes in the washing machine. While I was there, the guy in front of me was giving to the caravan park owner of a description of their own encounter with the night-time wander. As it happened, his description matched my own experience of this very same late-evening apparition. However, the man in front of me had not been so fortunate as us. He had woken to hear the sound of his car being broken into (leading to the first cop car making an appearance). “Bugger,” I thought, “and we’re meant to stay here another night…”

Whilst standing in reception, a few others joined the conversation; each adding their own tales of night time encounters into the mix. This jumble of tales was curtailed briefly when the owner of the caravan park took a phone call from the police… The few of us in the room listened intently to the side of the conversation we could hear. In the end, we learned that last night had been the busiest night for Derby police in modern history. Six calls had been received, with 18 drive throughs of the caravan park conducted by the poor constables on duty that night. Fearing a repeat performance of the previous night, as well as the possibility of a mass exodus from the caravan park (and indeed the town – both of which would be bad for the economy of this small community, which relied heavily on the passing trade of visitors), the police soon came back into the park and installed a series of surveillance cameras around the perimeter, as well as throughout the living areas. The nearest of these cameras was only 20 meters from our own little van. Those of us in the reception were also issued with cards containing the number of the local police station and the mobile number of the park owners.

And so, with that done, we decided we might as well stay for our second night after all. To be honest, if there were other options available we might have left.  But, out here, we didn’t really have anywhere else to go – particularly as we were booked in to our first destination on the Gibb River road the following day.

The remainder of our second day in Derby was spent preparing ourselves and our car for the next part of our adventure. Fortunately, our temporary neighbours were lovely and were quickly won over by our boys playing with their dog, as well as Nat’s curiosity into their explorations of this area and my genuine inquisitiveness about their campervan set up. Yup, we hit them hard with a general sense of being interested in everything about them and their travelling experience. As such, we were invited for a drinks and nibbles after dinner.

As such, the evening was passed in a much more civilised and chilled out manner than the night before. With such a communal atmosphere in our little corner of the park (as well as news of the surveillance cameras and high police presence spreading through the little community like wildfire), there were no more night time visitations by unwelcome intruders. Although, I must admit, our computer and camera stayed firmly under lock and key for the rest of the time we spent in this sleepy little backwater.

In the end, we said goodnight to our passing friends and turned our attention to the next leg of our journey. We were all stocked up, packed away and ready to go.

The trailer was put back in storage again – for today we were turning out heels in the direction of the Gibb River Road!

Yup, the time had come again to trade in the lovely bitumen for another serving of rocky corrugations, water crossings and sandy drifts. Over the past few days of long hours in the car, we had skirted around the Gibb River Road in a big arc. That is, we had circled  around on the sealed roads from Kununurra / El Questro station at the top of the Gibb River, to Derby at the beginning of the western part of this unsealed passageway. We would have liked to have driven the whole length of the Gibb River road (well, I’m not sure if liked is the proper word… endured, might be a better description), but unfortunately our little on-road trailer would have likely fallen apart at the seams if we’d tried to take it with us. Rather than leaving out trailer in Kununurra and completing the full length of the Gibb River (which would have meant us backtracking 900-odd kilometres [or a full round trip of 1800km] to continue our way down the Western Australia cost), we decided to bring it with us and leave it on the ‘right side’ of the country. From here we would take our Pajero and tent halfway up the Gibb River; then it would be a matter of turning around, heading back to Derby, picking up our van and heading on our way. Hope that makes sense…

So, with the trailer tucked up snugly in a sunny spot of grass, we drove out of Derby. Down the highway we flew for a few kilometres (free of our hefty load behind), then straight onto the first section of the Gibb River Road…

Woohoo! Let’s see what adventures are in store for us over the next week!!

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg


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