A Summer Holiday Down Under

Part 8: Kimberley Coastal Camp

16th & 17th June 2008. Days: nineteen and twenty.

In brief : We go inland to find Aboriginal culture and have a brush with a crocodile on the way back, go across the bay in search of mud crabs for our supper, and visit Bella's favourite rock art site - the Migration.

Weather : Kimberley blue days, but one cloudy early morning gave an interesting sunrise.

Click here for our holiday travel map


Today we take a ride in Warabi, Rocky's bigger boat, and travel up to the head of the large bay where the lads are going Baramundi fishing.

Bella, Ann and I are going in search of rock art in the region of the Lawley River.

The sea journey gives John and Bella time to chat.

As do I with Baz.
Bella gets more animated as the story develops.

Rocky slows the boat as we reach the shallower part of the river.

At the head of the tidal section of the Lawley River he drops us off so that we can start our walk.

Away from the water's edge, we're back into dry grass country.

Yellow Wattle plants in the foreground as we disturb a flock of crane-like Brolgas which take to the air and fly a short distance away.

There is something magical about these larger birds, the Brolgas, Cormorants, Kites, Ospreys or Eagles.

It must be that they show the land is healthy and there's plenty of food about in the food chain.

As we walk on, we cross areas of flat rock which reflect the heat of the sun, even at this relatively early hour.

We stop by a pile of unusually placed stones. Bella explains this is an Inquest Site.

When an important member of the Aboriginal Tribe dies his body is laid to rest under a temporary grave of stones on the rock. After a year or so the decomposed body, of which only the bones remain, is retrieved, they are ceremonially embalmed with oils and pigments and re-interred at some special place such as a cave or rock promontory.

If the tribesman died in unusual or suspicious circumstances, then the Elders place a rock circle around the body, each stone representing a tribe member. As the body decomposes the body fluids may drain out towards one stone in particular, and this is taken to indicate guilt of that tribe member. The guilty person was then punished by expulsion from the group or even death. This inquest was held in private amongst the Elders but no stones were marked or recorded. There was no appeal procedure. It represented a harsh, basic, hierarchical form of discipline but it kept the tribal system in balance and ensured the survival of the group.

From the Inquest site we moved on, passing more wonderful Gum Trees

This was a large bush of Kimberley Heather.

Bella knows where to find more paintings.

She explains their significance and I have the opportunity to take a few photos.

A feathered headress of some sort
A six fingered hand
A more unusual style.

Six fingered hands feature a lot in early paintings. This must be a throwback to some genetic trait of the people at that time.

This is classic Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) Art and is very, very old.

The Kimberley Rock system was once part of the Gondwanaland Continent, a tectonic land mass that also included Africa and India.

Could these tall, tasselled figures have anything to with the ancestors of the African Masai people? The pictures show the characters carrying some sort of boomerang like hunting weapons. These weapon images have also been seen in ancient rock art on the Indian land mass.

Perhaps we are reflecting on the migration of early man, as he made his way around the pre-historic world . . .

in what the Aboriginal people refer to as the Dreamtime.

A tasselled Bradshaw figure with long hair and boomerang.
Make of these what you will, but these too are very old.

A different cave and a different, peg like character.
Caves are classic places to look for art.

Caves were also places the indigenous peoples of old could go to stay cool in the heat of the day.

As a result they often places where paintings were done, events illustrated, stories and folk lore recorded in order to educate the younger members of the tribe. The shelter of the caves has preserved these paintings allowing us to study and enjoy them today.

Bella lies back to try and interpret some drawings. I seem to be more intent on finishing that apple !

Heads with 'wings' and six fingered hands again.
Apparently creatures in Bradshaw Art are very not common .

The original paints are long gone, but the colours have stained the rock, and the paintings have become permanent within the rock.

Time and tide wait for no man, so we made our way back to the river and started our walk back to meet the boat.

The dark colouring indicates the extent of the river flow in the wet season.

Before we reached the tidal part of the river, we passed a few small waterfalls and Bella had left enough time for us to swim in one of the pools.

Ann relaxing in her natural jacuzzi tub.

I dive into a deep pool in the rocks . . .
. . . and Bella sunbathes after her swim.

The water was beautifully clear.

Salt pools down at the tidal section of the river
Bella takes the opportunity to collect some bush tucker for camp

These pools are at the extremity of the high tide salt water flow and so have the opportunity to fill with water occasionally and then dry in the sun.

This left a collectable amount of rock salt and an empty plastic box is brought into use to take some home.

Rocky returns to collect us.

The tide is lower and there's a rock bar to cross further down before the level falls too low to navigate across it.

Lunchtime - refreshments on the move . . .
. . . includes a cool can from the 'Esky box'

Did I say we had a brush with a crocodile ?

Rocky was talking about what you should do if by any chance you fall in. Apparently the thing NOT to do is splash and shout, as this attracts attention.

To illustrate the point he splashed the boat's deck broom in the water and a waterborne log suddenly comes to life.

Close and closer, the croc approached the commotion.
Don't worry, it's only Bucky, the local friendly crocodile.

Bucky, so called due to his buck teeth. Rocky has met him before and knows he just likes a rub on his head with the bristles of the brush.

Occasionally, if he has any spare fish or bait, Rocky will throw him something to eat, but not today.

He's not partial to Tortilla wraps.

We made our way back to camp, the other lads having gone back earlier.

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That night we went to bed to the sound of the crickets calling.

We found him on the bedside light

so put him carefully outside

in order to settle into a more peaceful night's rest.

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The morning dawned fine but overcast, giving a different sort of sunrise as the sun illuminated the underside of the high clouds.

First light on Rocky's private bath.

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Out to sea the sky was clearing, so it was a bright sunny day by the time we piled into the boats in order to go Mud Crabbing.

Mick and ourselves leave Warabi in the smaller boat, headed for the small creeks in this part of the bay.

Our equipment today consisted of a short crab net made up of a circular base with bait (fish head) strongly attached to the centre.

This then had a netting side and draw string.

The plan was that the net lay on the mud, the crab crawled on to eat,

we arrive back and pull the cord, lifting the net up and trapping the crab

which was then hoisted into the boat.

[ The bottle acted as a float to locate the cord if required ]

So much for the theory, now see if it worked
Mind your fingers as you clear the net !

We travelled up the creeks laying about five pots in each., then backtracked after quarter of an hour to check on progress.

Another successful find, I haul the net on board.

Note the bottle in the tree to locate the net on our return.

Baz looks for the next bottle and string in the Mangroves.
Mick finds them more easily by consulting his Gps tracklog !

By keeping his Gps running from the start of the day, he could re-locate the pots in areas where one Mangrove tree looks just like the next.

Sometimes the pots were missing, taken perhaps by a croc. We saw one such net being moved by something underwater,

so by grabbing the float we hauled the line from mid creek and salvaged the net, if not it's contents.

Sometimes the nets yielded large mud crabs . . . sometimes not !
This was a dog fish (or small shark) returned to the water afterwards.

We checked with the other boat to find out how they were doing.

As we had enough to make a good meal, we called it a day and went back one last time to collect the nets.

Baz hauls in a smaller female crab this time
Mind your head, the tide has risen since we were here last.

It was only the adult male crabs that had the large claws, so the young males and the females were thrown back to live another day in the creek.

Home Mick, follow those toes !

Back at base after a mornings crabbing . . .
. . . time to relax over another fine lunch.

After a period of relaxation to let the heat of the day abate, Bella took us out again,

this time locally, in search of a favourite piece of her local rock art.

The walk from camp was slow going at times as we climbed between fallen trees . . .

. . . but they had marked the route with stone cairns to show the way.

More spear sharpening marks along the way.

Time to sharpen their tools and weapons could also mean time to paint !

Under an overhanging rock, tucked into the shady part of a cliff top lookout, Bella took us to what she has named the 'Migration Panel'.

Not a lot of examples of art here, but what there was was beautiful and most unusual.

The people all seemed to be moving as if in a crowd . . .
Were they chasing the animals, or were the animals moving with them ?

This Migration Panel is a different style of painting. It has the vertical characteristics of the previous Bradshaws but the characters are thinner, more like stick or peg people, and have no tassels or adornments. Perhaps this painting talks of enforced migrations rather than of ceremonial events ?

This art often poses more questions than it provides in answers.

Twenty thousand (?) years ago when these paintings were done the climate, and for that matter, the sea level may well have been very different.

What would the early Aboriginal people have been looking out on from here ?

We stop in the shade of the cave and ponder these and many other questions.

See Bella's site for more information

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On the way back, we discovered a few more examples of rock art.

Smaller thin, multiple spears from a different age.
Simple or unfinished art ?

Old paintings revealed as newer yellow over-painting fades.
Time to be getting back to camp as the sun starts to go down.

The fire is lit again . . .
. . . and the moon has risen . . . life goes on.

Ann tries to finish her book on our last evening.

We relax at the fire before dinner is served.

The ladies of the camp . . . Pixie, Bella and Steph . . . with Mick pulling a face behind !

Together they organised the brilliant food and kept the camp running.

Rocky and Bella . . . seen here in defused light (camera flash would have spoilt the atmosphere !)

Rocky was a dab hand at the barbecue.

Pixie prepares the salad, no chef's chequered trousers for her.
We sit down at the long table again, extended this time to take more guests.

Mud Crabs are on the menu tonight.

In the relaxed atmosphere John helps Rocky with the washing up ! Steph teases him from behind the shelving.

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Apparently, each night this week there has been a large python found curled up on the work top in the kitchen.

Known as Ollie, he's a nice enough guy, non poisonous and of course he helps to keep other smaller animals from raiding the food.

I asked Bella to wake me in the morning, in order to join her as she opened the kitchen prior to breakfast, so that I could see him for myself.

- - - o o o - - -

No need to get up that early she said. . . He's up above your heads now.

Sleep tight !


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Technical note: Pictures taken with my Cannon G7 or Ann's Ixus 75 Digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . a quick second check of our cabin before we also retire for the night.

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