Diary for 2001 GO BUSH Safari Kimberley Adventure by Willigan


Day 1

Tuesday, 30 October

Darwin to Timber Creek

After a near miss head count (there were only 9 of us so toes were not even needed) FL tooled the Coaster out of Darwin on a hot sunny  30th October 01.  The air conditioning working fautlessly. 

After an uneventful trip to Noonamah we picked up Ian Morris and subsequently nearly ran up the rear of an ORV doing a “U”ey on the Stuart Highway.  After woollybutts and stringy barks (poor cousins to their Eastern relatives); geological changes from sedimentary through to granite outcrops to limestone and road kills of black kites, agile wallabies, the history of the old rail line and how the electorate of Lingiari got its name, land management by control burning we ran out of diesel at Katherine. 

Very hot where the air conditioning gave up the ghost.  Narrowly avoiding having to push we refilled we proceeded to the banks of the Katherine River for a well-deserved lunch among the flowering gums and black flying foxes.  A few women braved the threat of crocodiles to splash in the river. 

After lunch the males sweated and the women perspired all the way to Victoria Crossing.  Noting the changes to limestone terraces and the appearance of the Victoria River palm, one of which has miraculously sprouted near Ian’s water tank (must have picked up a seed on his boots). 

Crocodiles failed to appear in the Victoria River but the iced coffee was welcomed by FL and IM.   Helicopter trees were burnt out as were the silver cycads but we saw a helicopter. 

After a diversion to the Kuwang lookout and fresh Antilopine kangaroo  we arrived near dusk at the Timber Creek camp, chores, happy hour, shower, spring rolls, crocodile searching and finally the welcome cot.   


Day 2

Wednesday, 31 October

Timber Creek - Keep River

When we arrived in Timber Creek for our first night at camping, we met up with Willigan, Matthew, Troy and Ambrose, who had taken a bus from Fitzroy Crssing.  Ambrose came well prepared with two fishing lines. Before heading off on Day 2, we had a good view of 'Old Grumpy' who was resting under the pandanus tree which overhung Timber Creek. We then did a scouting trip with Ian for the Gouldian Finch, but the only finches we saw were the Double-barred and Crimson Finches.

Took a swing by the old police station on the way out of town. We visited the Victoria River estuary at Big Horse Creek where we had sweeping views of the Victoria River.

We had morning tea at Gregory's Memorial Tree Park - named after Augustus Gregory, who started his exploration through the Northern Territory to Queensland from here in 1856.

We also learned from our guides that there were two species of deciduous Eucalypts, E. grandifolia and E. confertiflora. We had to stop at one of these trees which had no leaves but total flower coverage - a most unusual sight!

As we travelled westward on the Mitchell grass downs, Ian recounted the story of the flooded Saddle Creek from many years ago when he and a friend were persuaded by a local station worker, to abandon their high ground to be pulled across the flooded creek. There they were to be abandoned "in mid stream" when the rope broke. They were able to tie off Ian's uncle's Holden station wagon somewhere downstream to a tree & retrieve it several days later from an undignified suspended position above the creek bed.

Lunch at Keep River Ranger Station where we met Ranger John. On to Nganalam Artsite to see the traditional artwork of the Mirawong people, traditional owners of the Park.

Then on to Gurrandalng Campground to set up our campsite. Everything was bone dry and it was so hot that we deferred our hike till the following morning. Instead we just sat around and got sloshed on warm wine. Ranger John joined us for tea and handed out cold beer.


Day 3

Thursday, 1 November

Keep River - Kununurra

Due to high temperature (43) and general fatigue in the group we did not make it to the Brolga Dreaming walk yesterday, so we started with that today before breakfast.  We enjoyed the cool, mountain air and magnificent scenery.  We were even lucky to spot a kangaroo who curiously looked at us from behind a rock and perfectly blended in colour wise with the background. 

Just as we had crossed the border to WA we were greeted by a family of big antilopine kangaroos.  At spillway Creek we had a nice swim despite of the sign posts warning against swimming.  I shall never forget John Sinclair sitting in the middle of the stream with all his clothes on, hat and sunglasses and a broad smile. 

In the afternoon we had a magnificent trip on the Ord River as it carved through the Carr Boyd Ranges.  We saw very small crocodiles with their mouths open in order to cool the brain.  Lots of flying foxes in Melaleuka trees they should taste well according to our Captain.  You see them hanging upside down and flying but never walking on the ground.  We saw Cycads pointed out by the captain as Dinosaur palm trees.

When we came back the sun had set and John had raised our tents.  My chores partner, Matt is cleaning the bus and I am writing the diary, as far as I am concerned my washing up chores are the worst. So here comes a sink-song. 


Cleaning Up FL's Splodge

Scouring out the porridge pot

Round and round and round

Out with all the scraith and scoopery

Lift the eely ooly droopery

Chase the glubbery slubbery gloopery

Round and round and round

Out with all the doleful dithery

Ladle out the slimey slithery

Hunt and catch the hithery thithery

Round and round and round.

Out with all the ubbly gubbly

On the stove it burns so bubbly

Use a spoon and use it doubly

Round and round and round.

Day 4

Friday, 2 November


There was an early start.  Nobody though waited for the scheduled wake up call and all those going on the flights we waiting when the Alligator Airlines bus pulled up in the driveway.  Alas the plans of an early morning flight to avoid a bumpy ride and to get the clearest visibility proved not to be the case.  It was so bumpy some people failed to appreciate the flight to these spectacular landmarks.  The wind and the smoke haze from the fires which we had seen all the way from Katherine also reduced the clarity.  Nonetheless those who didn’t resort to the sick bags were glad to have seen the Bungle Bungles. Willigan who was scheduled to be making the flight had tried to weasel because he said he didn’t enjoy flights in small aircraft.  Mercifully for him Alligator Airlines didn’t have a seat available for him.

Back at Kona the Intrepid Guide took the bus in to town to have the air-conditioning fixed.  This was duly done with only a bill of $77 to remove some gas from the system. 

The Bunuba contingent relaxed away until they received a visit from a former Fitzroy Crossing resident and Willigan mate, John Shooter.  As the aviators were returning to Kona about 9.30 am John and the Fitzroy Crossing crew were heading off to contact friends and relatives in Kununurra and we later only saw them briefly for our visit to Mirima National Park for the rest of the day.  They ended it a Blue Light disco which kept them out of bed until the wee small hours and left them very washed out the following day. 

After some pancakes and scrambled eggs we set off with John Buchanan to plunder his orchard of mangos star apples and other fruit before a quick tour of the irrigation area to gain some insight into the Ord Irrigation Scheme. 

After lunch and a rest and swims for some shopping we made our way to Mirima National Park for a less than spectacular sunset (due to the haze) we picked up Phyllis, some beer and icecream and headed back to Kona for an early relaxed evening. 


Day 5

Saturday, 3 November

Kununurra - Home Valley

I was woken this morning by the flamin' peacock fluttering down from his tree to land by Shirleys tent.  

Luckily for the peacock it was 4.51 am and Shirley was still asleep or else the peacock might have lost its life the and there. A peacock sans tail was observed later wobbling around the campground. Did Shirley get her revenge after all?  A delightful family of babblers were also playing around or camp his morning.

First stop of the day was The Grotto, where a well -camouflaged tawny frogmouth watched Barbara and Wlligan in the water. Several of the party decided to eschew morning tea and Ian led a foray down the creek to find a gallery of aboriginal art, a new find for the tour. Notable were the figures with headdress. There were axe stencils and many hand stencils.

The Marglu Billabong was brilliant. We saw 43 different species in a 30 minute stop there with very good sightings. Highlights for me were the four yellow chats and three zitting cisticolas drinking at the edge of the water about 3 metres from the hide. At the far end were a dozen Jabirus.

The start of the Gibb River Road was spectacular with the setting sun flaming the cliffs high above.  John takes a wicked delight in speeding through the bumpiest  spillways. He was finally slowed down by a tree across the road. He took the axe to it, Willigan swung the axe then Shirley single-handedly pulled the offending tree off the road. We were all happy to arrive at Home Valley Station.


Bird List Marglu Billabong

Bustard, Rufous Night Heron, Little Whimbrel, Greenshank, Black-fronted Dotterel,Masked Lapwing, Brolga, Jabiru, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Royal Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, White-faced Heron, Pied Heron, Swamphen,Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Black Cormorant, Australian Darter, Australasian Grebe, Lotus Bird, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Black Tern, Burdekin Duck, Green Pygmy Geese, Grey Teal, Magpie Geese, Australian Pratincole, Whistling Kite (nesting) Bar-shouldered Dove, Peaceful Dove, masked Finch, Yellow Chat, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Willie Wagtail, Restless Flycatcher, Yellow Chat, Cistacola, Rainbow Bee-eater, Peewee, Red-backed Wren, Pipit. 

Day 6

Sunday, 4 November

Home Valley - Mt Barnett

We went for an early walk after while F.L. tidied up and organised departure after the sudden storm we had the night.  We saw a purple crowned Fairy Wren which is n the endangered species also saw some Barred Finches and Yellow-tinted honey-eaters.  We released Eric the King Brown Snake, Good Luck to “him”.

We gave a lift to one of our treasured frogs from the camp, panic he jumped at Joanna’s throat, screams, has the frog lost a leg?????  “He” MUST be caught again!!!!! Success! “He” was recaptured and put into a cup and eventually released in the Durack River. Good Luck to “him” too,

Ian says the night is young so Carol an I can type all night, We had lunch at the Durack River where it was so hot that F.L, put up a tarpaulin as there was no shade. A few of us went to cool off in the river which was o war that we had to emerge from the water to cool down.

We travelled 341 kilometres of bone shaking rattling pleasure!!!! We went from sea level to approximately 900 metres.  It supposed to be cooler here?????


Day 7

Monday, 5 November

Kurraba walli nguani & Nyankurran

D 7 actually began at 2100 hours on D6 when IG led and intrepid group to identify frogs at Galvans waterfall.  Not only was that expedition successful (10 species) but several new species of growler frogs were heard in the campsite itself that night. 

0500 D7 saw OFL emerge to find that his throne room had collapsed leaving the throne gleaming white in the morning radiance.  Bouyed from the early morning exercise of re-erecting the Kazi, FL said, “Let there be shade”, and promptly began to sort out the shade making apparatus which had laid dormant or some 18 months and required some considerable cold hard logic to unfreeze.  The cold hard logic was so enthusiastically applied that the campsite sounded like a blacksmith shop.  All late sleepers (post 0800) were awakened and other campers hastily fled.

Following breakfast FL went for ice and the rest of us meandered down to the falls for swimming, bird watching (mainly honeyeaters) snake hunting (green tree snake) under the watchful gaze of water monitors and the Wandjina.  Some beautiful water lilies (3 species) were in flower.  Returning for a late morning tea, Ambrose, who was in a cone of silence spilt the custard over the new ice.  OFL and Joe slept off their early morning exertions. 

Following a surprise ham salad lunch we progressed to the Manning Gorge for another swim in crocodile infested waters and after a strange processing of swimmers, waders and canoeists admired the Dulux rock painting.  We sighted dollar birds and rainbow bee-eaters among others a green lizard (Magnon) awaiting the oncoming harvest of termites from their emerging stalagmites. 

Returning to Galvans Gorge in the Phillips Range (Bangi Country) conversation centered on development of Aboriginal leadership and problems of local communities and their business ventures. 

We hosted Morton Moorre (Mirrawong), Pansy Nulgtte (Ngaranyin) Peter Thompson (Gooniyandi) and Stephen grandson on Pansy and friends/relatives of Willigan for dinner. 


The Green-eyed Dragon of Mt Barnett

Ian Morris

This little guy is known as Diporyphora magna to the scientists. It is in it's breeding colours (dare I say it – “she” is a male) and these dragons display to each other for the right to breed. But the interesting thing is that all this happens during the 'build-up' and the entire event depends upon termites. They too are breeding and producing millions of alates (winged reproductives) which fly up into the atmosphere of an evening when the humidity level is just right - usually after a storm. They pair up, drop to the ground, find a place to set up a new colony & get about it.

 These alates are just like krill in the Antarctic because they are extremely high in protein and are preyed upon by almost every other animal species in order to develop in breeding condition themselves. There are more than enough termites to supply the rest of the ecosystem and still reproduce themselves. It is probably the biggest shot of energy the ecosystem receives for the whole year, showing what a major role in converting energy these termites play. It matters not that they eat the occasional fence post.

Termites have been said to be performing the same role in northern Australia as the vast herds of grass-eating mammals on the plains of East Africa

Day 8

Tuesday, 6 November

Galvin's Gorge to Derby

After breakfast, Jo, Shirley, Carol, John, Janet & I went for our last dip n this beautiful pool where Ian had identified 10 species of frogs the day before: the Rockhole Frog, the Magnificent Tree-frog, the Red-eyed Tree-frog, the Rocket Frog, the Wotjulum Frog, the Copland's Rock-frog, the Dwarf Green Tree-frog, the Measles Frog, the Ratchet or Bilingual Frog & the Marbled Frog. Ian recorded the dawn chorus.

We had all survived the night before when Tansy, Moreton and Peter, three old folk from the Kupangarri community a Mt Barnett had visited us for dinner along with some younger members of the family including young Steve who also ate with us.  The problem was not what they ate and the "doggy bag" which Moreton was enthusiastic about taking home with him but what they drank.  Moreton drank white wine like cordial and so when it came for him to drive home the car went through all sorts of leaping convulsions with the headlights lurching ominously towards the tent of Phyllis and Joanna.  Phyllis was urging Jo to abandon tent before they were run over, but Jo who was quite undressed murmured something like she wasn't getting up and if it was going to happen then let it happen.  Thankfully there was a revolt in the car first and a change of drivers before that happened and the mob returned to Kupangarri just before ULN returned from about three hours of private heaven recording an observing the wildlife of Galvin's Gorge. 

Stopped at a lookout for a panoramic view of the Phllips Range where there was a beautiful full crowned cyprus with a black trunk (Callitris intratropicia) We travelled through intermittent black soil sections with Acacia subarosa that occupies this area with the cracking black soil.

We stopped by Imintji Store for morning tea where we were joined by Teddy Bolton on the store verandah.  He told us stories of his droving days. Teddy is now 75 and was on the last great cattle drive down the Canning Stock Route, which is now the longest 4WD track in the world (Balgo in the north to Wiluna in the south). He is a member of the Bunuba clan and has Aboriginal and Afghan parentage. He has worked with cattle all over northern Australia & his favourite pastime is (was) rodeo.

Imitji is also not far from Saddler Springs, named after Scotty Saddler who established a roadside store their sometime ago, Willigan related the story of Old Scotty who was living with his Maternal Grand Mother at Saddler Springs after taking he away from Fitzroy Crossing when she was young. As she belong to the Gooniyandi clan group a neighbouring group of the Bunuba, after staying with Scotty for some time she started to get homesick for Fitzroy crossing. So old Scotty relented and took hr back to Fitzroy for a holiday, when they returned to Fitzroy Willigan's Grandfather Gnalanyu (Joe) was instructed by Goombi's (Willigans Grandmother) family to take Goombi away from Scotty. Old Scotty as very upset and searched for Goombi but she would not return to Imintji with him, Scotty was very heart broken and eventually returned to retire and pass away in Derby.

After morning tea we headed west with the Leopolds on our left towards the ranger station at Silent Grove. 

We had lunch at the Ranger Station after which Ian drove Janet, Carol, John II, Joanne, Shirley, Barbara and the three boys to the trailhead of Bells Canyon. Descending from the parking lot we saw several red back wrens. After a steep short descent, we reached the Bell River  and followed it downstream to a series of cascading waterfalls  culminating  with a spectacular drop and some of the group hiked further  along the cliff and descended t o swim below the waterfall and some above the waterfall.  The boys had found a  snake in a ledge which Ian identified as a brown tree snake.  Several trees which we encountered along the river were the Dragon Flower tree, the Bats-wing Coral tree.  We had a sniff of a Vicks herb.  It was difficult to leave this area on a hot day, so when we finally got back to Silent Grove, we all got a canning for being late.  We headed off into the sunset for Derby without afternoon tea with only 30 seconds to photograph the Anticlines and Synclines in the metamorphosed rock along the way.

It was a long straight trip with John heading into the sunset and 9 backseat drivers worried that he would stay on the straight and narrow, and we made it to Derby just before Rusty’s Supermarket closed (Woolies was already shut).  Luckily we were able to get fresh supplies and drop off Willigan and Phyllis at the hospital. 



John Sinclair

A nameless one once suggested with some relISH

That rendezvous times are irrelevant and HellISH

When they say they’ll meet you at 8.30-ISH

It isn’t a firm deadline; it’s merely a wish

Because other things they first have to finISH

And without worries one’s cares just diminISH


Day 9

Wednesday, 7 November

Flight to Cape Leveque

A blissful morning in a civilised campsite. With fresh supply of clean clothes we left at 8.30 am for the airstrip. In the airport we were all waiting to be loaded (scientifically balanced)on the planes. The flight lasted 40 minutes & was very beautiful. After a short (but strenuous!) walk we arrived at our cabins. With REAL beds, a fridge & freezer filled with food.

After a dip n the ocean & lunch, some of us spent the afternoon on the porch bird-watching. And then to show that we have got some culture, double-barred finch & brown honey-eater. At 4pm we started walking towards the west coast of the peninsula Our leaders had already laid the table on a flat rock with all the goodies for 'happy hour'. It was indeed a magical moment as the sun got red & shone on the red cliffs. Back home John served us an extra excellent dinner - soup, fish (golden trevally) & Christmas desert. We had a visitor, Dave Lesley, the acting principal of the school at One Arm Point, Telling about local school policy, & next day's program together with the children.


Day 10

Thursday, 8 November

Cape Leveque

Our day today is with the people from the One Arm Point School. David came to pick us up in the early morning with the kids of the school. We split the group at McCarthy Block. I joined Maureen's group to mud crab hunting and the boys went to spear fish.

The beach and surroundings were really beautiful. The tide was already coming up an we thought we wouldn't have much time for our fishing, but it turned out into a very interesting morning, finding a few mud crabs and going into the mangrove where Maureen explained a lot of things to us. Some of the kids also found many oysters and shared with us. They were really tasty. It was so interesting to follow the different activities, we didn’t know where to look, the one who was pursuing a fish, or trying to get a mud crab out of under the rock or cracking an oyster shell, or just looking at the beauty around us. In the mangrove we also saw remnants of and old fish trap.

After lunching in the staff room at school, David invited us to join the students and teachers at Assemble. We than went around visiting other part of the school, meeting different groups. The computer class showed us some of their work which was pretty amazing. It's good to see how the young ones take in the new technology. Next was to the room where the students work on the trochus shells.  We arrived a bit late and the students were a bit disappointed as they were looking forward to show us their work before the bell. We still managed to see some of it and bought a few shells and jewellery from them. Meeting the two teachers, Maureen and Rodney and talking to them was eye opening. The whole experience very valuable.

How many Bardi Words which we learnt on the crabbing expedition can we still remember?  Examples:  One Arm Point  = Ardiyooloon; crab = ngaronng; pandanus tree = idool; pandanus fruit = gamboor. 


Day 11

Friday, 9 November

Cape Leveque to Windjana

It was with great reluctance that we departed Cape Leveque this morning.  Some of us are determined to return to this corner of Paradise.  However, our sadness was lessened by the scenic flight back to Derby. 

It was a calm, still day, ideal for flying although it was still rather hazy.  However, we had great views of Kooljaman and One Arm Point and many of the 800 to 1000 islands of the Bucaneer Archipeligo (the number depending on the height of the tide).  We passed Sunday Island where it was originally planned to resettle the Bardi people.  However, it was considered too expensive to transport building material to the island so One Arm Point was selected for the community. 

The plane flew low over Cockatoo Island where we had a good view of the Resort and the BHP iron ore mine.  On the nearby Koolan Island the BHP mine has closed down and is being regenerated — I wonder when?  We saw the crater which has been opened to the sea as part of the regeneration plan. 

As we approached Talbot Bay, our pilot told us the best time to observe the Horizontal Waterfall was 10 minutes before the change of the tide.  He timed it very well as we banked and circled to give everyone a good photographic opportunity.  There was only about a 7 metre tide and it was an impressive sight from the air.  When the tide is as high as 12 or 13 metres it must be really spectacular. 

As we flew from Talbot Bay towards King Sound we skirted the Wyndham Range and flew over sand and mud flatsinterlaced with channels, shades of yellow and grey intermingled with patches of turquoise and azureof the sea with mangroves etching the shores.  Such a melding of patterns and colours forming the Meda and Fitzroy River estuaries made this a memorable experience.

Another “experience” awaited John and crew on our return to Derby.  The coach and trailer had been parked at the airport during our absence.  They found the coach had a flat tyre and the jockey wheel from the trailer was missing.  It sounded like a disaster but, while we Saturday in the air-conditioned Airport Reception all was rectified and we headed for the hospital to leave Phyllis and Joanna to see the doctor. 

Meanwhile we had a town tour visiting the old cattle holding yards where the longest drinking trough in the world is still full of water although Ian says the longest cattle are now extinct.  We saw the Boab Prison Tree and visited the old prison next door to the current Police Station.  This was in use until 1976. 

We left these horror scenes behind and headed for Mowanjum Community and spent some time (and money) at the Art Centre.  There were many paintings by local artists displayed and we met several artists. 

Then on to Windjana National Park our resting place for the night.  We arrived close to sunset and the rays of the disappointing sun reflected on the red cliffs was a touch of magic.  Windjana is a great camping area with plenty of trees, warmish showers and flushing toilets.  It will be a great pleasure to wake in the sun and explore the gorge. 


Day 12

Saturday, 10 November

Windjana Gorge to Fitzroy Crossing

We spent the Election Day happily (?) in the bush, except for those, who shall remain nameless, found who they could not vote! (Where did the papers go?).

As usual, our hardy walkers made an early start for a walk through the Windjana Gorge. We rise early, fiveISH, to beat the heat of the day. Seeing the gorge was wonderful & extremely beautiful. The scenery was formed by the limestone reef which rose majestically skywards. The whole day was interwoven with the history of Djandamarra, this being one of the few places in the world where the reef is accessible for investigation from the Devonian. Experts come from all over the world to study the rock and its possible value in monetary terms.

The hot weather kept the freshwater crocodiles in the water but a large and noisy population of Little Red Flying Foxes had taken up residence in the river red gums along the sides of the Gorge, which made an interesting sight.

Before lunch we explored a huge cavern (Tunnel Creek) formed in the reef which had been occupied by Aborigines through the ages. The entrance was surprisingly blocked by huge boulders which had fallen during the last two years. The boulders are smoothed by the floods which occur during the wet season. These floodwaters also dissolve the limestone (marble in this case) & this process has created the tunnel & its beautiful formations over time.

Torches were required once the first cavern was left behind and it was a revelation to discover that the whole complex was inhabited by many bats, a freshwater crocodile, frogs, an eel and other fish. Naturally there were also stalagmites and stalactites. This amazing tunnel went completely through to the other side of the range (750 metres). We also saw the rock art.

As usual, the day was very hot, but inside it was cool. We were able to enjoy our lunch in the first huge cavern.

Integrated with the scenery and physical aspects of the reef, Willigan interwove the Aboriginal stories of past peoples. The University of Sydney returned skeletal remains of Aboriginal people and in a touching ceremony these were returned to their last resting place, beyond the reach of tourists.

We passed many huge properties, some of which were owned by the Bunuba communities. Sometimes as few as 30 people occupied 300 acres or more. These include Fairfield, Old Leopold & Milliwindi. We ere travelling beside the Leopold & Oscar Ranges throughout the day.

We stopped to have a swim in a disused quarry from which they obtained blue metal to make Curtin Air Base.

After such a wonderful day, it was a mini disaster when the front doors of the trailer flew open and a great deal of our equipment and food was scatterered over the road behind us. Sharp eyes alerted us to the looming disaster, a loud holler from Willigan and the breaks were applied like never before. This action unpacked the trailer with a clatter, bang, whallop.  Then it was all silent.  We all stood in disbelief at the back of the bus as we surveyed the chaos, but in actual fact, our losses were minor and any resemblance to a train smash was purely coincidental.

Later in the evening we were startled by wild screams from our mate Monique. John R. dashed to the rescue, a large spider had climbed to her shoulder & disappeared under her T-shirt. The lack of undergarments was clearly no deterrent to the spider but it had a profound effect on John.

Even later in the evening we were dismayed to find the campsite was home to several million Singapore ants who seemed to resent our arrival. Shirley kept them amused all night while the rest of us tried to sleep. Dead ants were knee-deep in FL's tent in the morning - testament to Intrepid Guide's diligence during the darkest hours - or was it FL's socks? Needless to say, Singapore ants were the hot topic of conversation over breakfast - in fact, they were in the breakfast - no need for sultanas in the splodge today! By way of contrast, the birds were magnificent around the Lodge, particularly the serenade of the rufous songlark mingling with calls of the diamond doves.


Day 13

Sunday, 11 November

Fitzroy Crossing and Danggu

Rememberence Day.  Our remembering begins at about 2000hrs 10/11/01 whilst entertaining Bill Aiken for dinner, Monique jumps screaming to her feet ripping off her shirt and pleading to be saved from some bold insect that had taken a liking to her bosom. Wrong night not to wear a bra Monique. Night brought a storm which demolished Asa's tent and the dreaded Singapore ants took a liking to Joanna and Phyllis and to nearly every packet of food.

Undeterred we enjoyed a cruise on Giekie/ DARNGKU Gorge under the guidance of “A. J.” Aiken who introduced us to the Aboriginal stories covering the gorge including. how fire was obtained from the crocodile.  Apart from the crocs we sighted an Azure Kingfisher . A. J. also made fire from sticks as we enjoyed billy tea. 

The cruise was followed by a city tour led by Willigan who traced the development of Fitzroy Crossing including the murder of his grandfather by the local policeman and near shooting of himself.  It was pleasing to note Fitzroy Crossing was improving under the guidance of local leaders such as Willigan. 

Midday saw us back at the camp sorting out the problems caused by ants and the road incident.  After lunch in 41 degrees C temperature the pool was popular as well as bird watching in the park. 

First priority - we bought some personal insect repellant at the Ngiyali Roadhouse to fire back at the Singapore ants, ready for the second night of heavy fighting on the frontline at Fitzroy River Lodge. FL pledged that "Ordinary Australians should not have to tolerate these acts of wanton treachery from such cowardly insects who attack at night and then retreat down their burrows."

"We won't give up till we get them all," he was overheard to say from his temporary office near the green trailer. "This battle may go on for a long time, particularly in view of Shirley's startling discovery that they had in fact, penetrated our stronghold - the No Name Brand Rolled Oats." It is a well known fact that FL expects his army to march on its stomach and this is a severe blow to our morale. To boost morale, he told surprised onlookers that Weetbix would be "out of the question" & that these ants had envoked the wrath of one of the greatest ecotour operators of our time. We eagerly await more results.


Day 14

Monday, 12 November

To Mimbi and Halls Creek

We were serenaded in the morning by the sweet singing of the Brown Songlark.

We saw a bunch of Grey-crowned babblers building a community nest in a coolibah tree right next to our picnic area.  They are very territorial and build several nests in one area in which they live.  The females all lay eggs in one nest.  They then take turns and do shift work to incubate and all take turns at feeding and raising their young.  Usually it is about one egg per female which means 8 to 10 eggs in a clutch. 

We left Fitzroy Crossing at 10.00 am after buying supplies.  We went to Bayululu to pick up Vivienne Gordon, our Goniyandi guide for Mimbi Caves in the old Devonian reef.

Vivienne has a strong attachment to and a love f the land.  She said it is like her back yard and she felt a responsibility to take care of it. There is currently not  lot of interest in her community to do this and she is hoping that other young people in her community will follow in her footsteps. She will come up here to "go bush" for several months during the wet and she is looking forward to it.  There will be plenty of fish and her dog will be able to track goannas. 

In the cave we saw two species of bats — the common sheath-tailed bat and the little brown bat and Copeland's rock-frog and the Magnificent tree frog. 

After lunch in the recently erected shade shelter Vivienne accompanied us to the gate. 

On our way to Halls Creek we made two stops — Ngumban Cliffs where we said "Goodbye" to the Devonian Reef and the Pre-Cambrian sandstone and Mary River where we saw the Banded Honyeater. 

At the Mary River we prevaricated over whether to stop or to go on.  In the end we opted for the latter arriving in Halls Creek as the daylight was disappearing.  It put is planned for a more relaxed start in the morning for our rendezvous at Warmun.  Our trip to Halls Creek was marked by ominous clouds to the east which Willigan identified as a dust storm.  So we were pleased to be at Halls Creek even though we were short of wine and unable to procure any. 

While organizing our tents and with Willigan erecting a special tarpaulin over his bed we had some visits of police patrol.  Unfortunately though the only interruptions during the night were from the heavy rain!  


Day 15

Tuesday, 13 November

Hall's Creeek to Kunnanurra

It was a wet and cold little group that gathered for breakfast this morning. It had been raining most of the night, and some tents were less waterproof than others. The temperature was 11 degrees C.  By help of drying machines we could head on - nearly dry - towards Warmun about 9 o'clock. 

The rain had obviously been heavier north of Halls Creek.  Many streams we swollen and water was over the road at the Ord River and several other places.

At elevenISH we arrived at Warmun Art Centre, an aboriginal - very professionally run art gallery  - with wonderful oil paintings in traditional style.  The Aboriginal artists work and live for periods at this place.

After lunch we met a huge swarm of grasshoppers on the road, so now we have met a number of the Egyptian plagues:  Red water, frogs, mosquitoes (not to speak of Singapore ants), floods, and darkness (in the tunnels).

Our rendezvous with Chocolate, our guide for the cross cultural experience scheduled for the Bow River Station, was difficult to achieve because he couldn’t be found.  We therefore set off for Kununurra and on the way encountered the elusive Chocolate who advised that he had waited around for us all of the previous Tuesday. 

Except for our break to view the Ragged Range our trip to Kununurra was uneventful. 

After all the rain the previous night FL decided to put us into three cabins at Kununurra, where he prepared an excellent barbecue meal in smoke and steam, while Willigan functioned as a living fan, waving a lid briskly to disperse the smoke and keep the fire alarm quiet.  

(P.S.: F.L’s phone turned up not in Halls Creek but at Kona and only after he had purchased another one.)


Day 16

Wednesday, 14 November

Kununurra — Victoria River

After the hardship of a rainy night which has wet everything, John offered us the treat of a night in a cabin at Kununurra Caravan Park. What a luxury! Air conditioned, hot shower and to top it up a beautiful view of Kununurra Lake on waking up. What more can one ask?

Everyone wakes up refreshed, we don’t even realize it rained during the night. The sun shining on the lake and the water lilies through the tree foliage is a perfect morning call. We have a leisurely time, bird watching, walk along the lake, reading, watching a water monitor goanna chasing its prey or even better a family of four thorny frog mouth owl sleeping on a tree.

The day is uneventful, but the drive to Victoria River offers very pleasant views of a beautiful country side (which is now much greener, cooler and wetter than when we passed this way 13 days earlier).  (The Keep River National Park which had been so hot and dry when we had been there 15 days earlier was now closed to the public because it was so wet).

Lunch time is at Saddle Creek in our beautiful 360 degree, one million dollar view dining room, not far from the creek famous for the Morris family’s Kingswood adventure during the flood some years ago.

In late afternoon we have a photo and walk stop at Joe Creek to admire the towering and glowing red cliffs of the Gregory National Park etched with Livistona victoriae palms. The late afternoon gives an orange glow to the mountains and the vegetation is fresh and green as a result of recent rain.

The camp at Victoria River Road House turns out to be really good. The surroundings are beautiful, so is the weather and we enjoy a starry night.

It is Willigan’s last night with us, and after dinner we seat in a circle and Willigan talks to us about the different projects he is involved in, for example out of its 2 national projects the leadership program for young Aborigines, and also his work with the Bunuba community. With the help of his people, he has great projects going on and great expectation for the future and hopes to include other Kimberley communities too.

Willigan and Ian are also planning a book on the Kimberley  similar to Ian’s book on Kakadu, to increase awareness and understanding of indigenous culture and country by the wider public.


Day 17

Thursday, 15 November

Land of the Lightning Brothers

Victoria River is a lovely campground. The owls barked all night, the stars were bright and we were woken by the cacophony of corellas and blue-winged kookaburras. The purple-crowned fairy wren refused to appear again, but the hot gossip is that one early bird did manage to flash his purple colours before the binoculared Jannet.

We were off to an early start to Innesvale station, owned by the Wardaman people and renamed “Menngen”. They were the traditional owners but had to buy the station back. It was a lovely drive, we saw many antilopines grazing and watching us pass, also big flocks of the varied lorikeets.

We met Billy Harney at the homestead and set off for the first site, a very special place among a pandanus grove and banyan trees and a glorious salmon coloured Eucalyptus bigalerita.  Billy sat in the shade under the painting and etchings and told us the story of creation in the dreamtime. These were created during the dreamtime and the foot prints are those of the animals in the mud. Ian had his tape recorder on. Billy led us on around the rocks which revealed more sites and we sat spellbound listening to him.

On we went to a second site where we bid farewell to Willigan who had to leave and catch a bus back to Fitzroy Crossing.

This was the Cockatoo Dreaming Site, a spectacular painting on the soft sandstone overhang. Below were the soft ochre rocks that are used in paintings, colours in reds, soft browns, yellows and white. Billy led us back past a women's site with four engravings.

It was back to the homestead for lunch with Billy and after lunch he played his digeridoo and sang for us.

In view of the thunder storm build-up, John decided to push on to Katherine and a motel for the night. Hurrah for air-conditioning!

Day 18

Tuesday, 16 November

King River to Darwin

Departed Springvale Caravan Park at 9.30 ISH leaving behind the baby cane toads, cicadas and agile wallabies.  Katherine River was swollen with the first rains of the Wet Season. 

Went to Katherine and then back to the Caravan Park to pick up the tupperware left in the fridge so we actually left at 11 ISH. 

Stopped for lunch at Nitmuluk National Park, a very pretty place.  You could see the escarpment of the Arnhem Plateau.  Swimming at the pool was very popular.  Three of us had a very rewarding walk to Leliyn Falls which were quite breath taking.  We were privileged to see a young tawny frogmouth that had just taken its inaugural flight. 

On the road to Darwin Ian entertained, informed and confused us with information on Aboriginal kinship system and some amusing stories.

We had an afternoon tea stop at the Adelaide River, another deja vu experience for the day with contrasting weather experiences. 

Then it was on to Riyala where we unloaded the trailer and our Intrepid Guide in this oasis.

Our fervent thanks to John, Ian, and Willigan for a memorable experience. 

We asked people which were their favourite places on the trip.  Joanne, Monique and Janet voted for Cape Leveque. Phyllis voted for the Ord River boat trip, Barbara and Asa voted for Windjana Gorge, John for Keep River and Shirley and Carol for Galvin’s Gorge. 

We trust that you all had a safe trip home and wish you all a Happy Christmas. 

Knowing the Score

John Sinclair


Facing the Kimberley in November was a 2001 safari encore

Here are just some of the adventures with an appropriate score. 

For those who believe that GO BUSH Safaris are just for the game,

Let me assure you that Willigan’s first one was relatively tame.


When we set out from Darwin the countryside was parched and sere;

17 days later it was transformed because the “Wet” was here.

We rate our various Go Bush disasters from one to ten,

Depending on degrees of discomfort or the amount of disruption. 


The rush from Bells Gorge to Derby was quite an ordeal

So was the flat tyre at the airport and losing the jockey wheel.

The forty five heat wave at Keep River from the relentless sun

Caused no change to the itinerary so it barely rated a one.


The early evening storm at Home Valley which so violently blew

That it knocked down a few of our tents scored merely a two,

Many interesting people were met; wonderful things we did see

But Morton’s threat to a naked Joanna in her bed nearly made three.


The tormenting Singapore ants and the Halls Creek downpour,

Seriously disrupted our sleep so they both scored four.

We experienced the Kimberly and its culture; great places we’ve been;

We achieved it all with an aggregate score being merely sixteen.


Comment from one who witnessed a 9

Alan Monger

It must have been a relief to travel with Willigan —

A gentle trip with barely a thrilligan.

Your poetic descriptions of life in the raw

Was made more interesting by giving each a score.


We were intrigued by Joanna who was baring her gizzard.

Could it be that "Morton" was a whopping great lizard?

Now if it was lacking the legs of mice and men

An olive python would have given Joanna a perfect ten!

And I.G.’s Score

Ian Morris

If the Iced Coffee’d run out in the sweltering heat,

then IG would have feinted, just flopped in his seat,

thus blocking the view with the soles of his feet,

and the score would be 10….but reality’s sweet!


Films and videos

As promised this is a list of some of the films and videos relevant to the Kimberley and other topics we discussed during the Kimberley trip. 

“Land of the Wandjina” is a video about the Kimberley by the ABC Natural History Unit in which Ian Morris was a technical adviser.  It  narrated by Leo McKern. 

“Land of the Lightning Brothers”is a 26 minute video made in 1987 about the Wardaman rock art some of which we saw with Billy Harney.   

“The New Rangers” Film Australia 1980.  A film about the first Aboriginal Ranger Training Program which was held in Kakadu National Park.

“Monsoon” one of the four films Geographic in the “Eye of the Storm” series made by the ABC for National which deals with the impact of Australian climate on wildlife.  Ian Morris was technical adviser for Monsoon which dealt with the Tope End and the Kimberley.

There are several films made dealing with Kakadu which are relevant:  Ian had a big hand in “The Big Wet”, an ABC video.  “Living Edens” deals with wildlife of the Top End as does “The Call of Kakadu” built around the breeding cycle of the Blue-winged kookaburra. 


Kimberley Basic Recommended Reading

From Ian Morris

 “A Black Civilisation” Lloyd W. Warner


Follow-up — A Social Study of an Australian Tribe  Gloucester, Mass. Peter Smith 1969


“The War Years of Kalumburu”         (no details available) Written by a Pallentine Monk during & after the 2nd WW


“Traditional Aboriginal Bush medicines” Conservation Commission of the NT. Darwin 1993 NT Govt Printer


“The Kimberley: Horizons of Stone”  Alasdair McGregor & Quenton Chester, Hodder & Stroughton 1992


“Kakadu Man: Bill Neidjie”  Big Bill Neidjie, Stephen Davis, Allan Fox 1985


From Fearless Leader

"The Forrest River Massacres" Neville Green, Freemantle Arts Centre Press


"Kakadu National Park", Ian Morris, Steve Parrish Publications. 


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