May 3-4 – Dampier Peninsular

Broome is one of those places where the tides are big – today for example was around 8 metres between the morning low and the midday high. Being able to see some of the key attractions  in Broome is very dependent on this – the Staircase to the Moon needs an evening low in conjunction with the full moon rising, some of the wrecks of a fleet of flying boats bombed by the Japanese in WWII are exposed on a very low tide, (not low enough while we’re here) and an assortment of dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point are able to be explored on a low tide below 1.7m – today was our day (Thomas – you wouldn’t believe that these footprints are real! – the boys are in denial that dinosaurs were really truly roolee real!!).

Broome dinosaur prints

Now the downside was the low tide was 6.30am and at 6.31 the tide started coming back in very very quickly – so you need to be out there well before low tide to clamber around the steep cliffs and waters edge – so it was an early morning. A few people were already there but no one seemed to have found any prints yet. Finally a combined effort located some three-toed prints of the Theropods which were 2 or 3 metres high and 7 metres long – not the sort of carnivorous creature you want to bump in to! Other prints that are just round potholes in the rock may be Sauropods that were 5 metres high and over 20 metres long. The prints are only 100million or so years old so nothing to write home about except that you leave feeling insignificant in the bigger scheme of things!

We got back to camp and packed up. A final swim in the beautiful swimming pool got us ready for the drive out to Dampier Peninsular – worth mentioning that Cable Beach was not popular with us for swimming as two people in the past two weeks had been stung by Irukandji jellyfish which was unusual for this time of year as the dry season set in. We loaded up with fuel and supplies and hit the road out of Broome and shortly after turned north on the road that would take us to Cape Leveque and – further up the peninsular – to One Arm Point.

The road quickly deteriorates to a sandy, narrow, corrugated track with little room to squeeze past an oncoming car – you definitely don’t want to be at speed as there’s little steering control in the sand. We dropped the psi to soften the bumps and took it easy. Out here it’s the land of the the broken, burnt-out, smashed, rolled or otherwise abandoned car wrecks. We cruised along slowly and gave plenty of room to oncoming traffic which included large trucks that took supplies out to the Aboriginal communities and other accommodation, pearl farms and scattered residents. Beagle Bay community has the Sacred Heart church which has an altar made of pearl shell – intricately arranged with perfectly identical shells. The floors, window arches, side tables – everything is pearl shell. The history of the early missionaries trying to convert the Aboriginals (mostly unsuccessful to start with) and the constant destruction of whatever church they built by cyclones and other forces is all very interesting. Unfortunately the community bakery was closed today so we missed out on some meat pies or fresh bread for lunch!

We continued on and, after headed into Cape Leveque – Aboriginal-owned but unfortunately leased to a mob running a “resort” which in their mind meant that no one could access anywhere or do anything without money changing hands. At 3 o’clock in the arvo we just wanted to see the cape, cliffs and lighthouse for maybe 30minutes – they wanted $30 to walk there. To put up a tent in their campground (that gets pretty bad reviews online) – $75 per night. We walked away – a little bit in disbelief – drove up the road to a campsite called Gumbanan that is actually run by the Traditional Owners and camped in an idyllic spot overlooking the water. It cost us $30 all up for the two nights we were there – showers, flushing toilets, awesome fishing, campfires, great swimming beach.

Cape Lev Gumbanan camp

With a big high tide in the afternoon we had a go at fishing and had a lot of fun. The best catch was a fish called a Spanish Flag but not big enough to eat. The reef fish were quick to take the bait but were also quick to wedge themselves in the rocks – you felt like you were snagged but if you leave the line for a bit the fish swims out from the rocks and you have another chance to pull them in. The poor fishing line cops a fair bit of abrasion though! A reef shark – or lemon shark one person was calling them – came right into the shallow water where we were fishing. We kept an eye out for crocs but the local kids said there were only small ones that they’d seen.

Cape Lev fishing spot island

On Friday we drove up to One Arm Point and got a permit to visit the Ardyaloon Aboriginal Community. The highlight was the hatchery where a range of coral and sea creatures are kept and bred to restock local reef areas. Some cool fish including a few big barramundi that will take your finger off if you put it in the water. We helped feed the fish and even cleaned the shell of a turtle that was being looked after (after being speared).

While we were there a burn off from yesterday reignited and came crackling very close through the log dry grass to the hatchery – we decided to move on and spent some time over on the headlands and beaches. With the big tides at the moment it was a great place to see the force and surge of water moving through the channels between the mainland and the islands. At the boat ramp we found a dozen large sharks feeding in the shallow water – we stood on the edge of the water literally a metre away from the circling sharks.

Cape Lev a dozen sharks

Back at camp we went down to Squeaky Beach – a beaut little beach fringed by mangroves and crystal clear water. We had a fish but it was very quiet. We were brave enough to have a shallow swim and then some people we camped next to at Broome came along and swam and then half a dozen kids who had just arrived at the camp were in the water too so there was safety in numbers…maybe…?

We cooked some potatoes in the fire and enjoyed another beautiful sunset.

Cape Lev gumbanan sunrise

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