We arrived in Katherine for a 6 day sabbatical as we have apparently broken the shockers on our van – opps! But it was nice to stop running about for a few days and just take stock. Plus it was meant to be as far as Jamie was concerned as it was Katherine Cup Day on our final day. It was a fun day out, I read on the grass, Jamie punted his arse off – successfully mostly and the kids made good use of the free bouncy castle and face painting.
But we were back on the road and heading to the NT/WA border soon enough. Just before the border is a mine and campground called Zebra Rock, where they mine – drumroll – Zebra rock. I know pretty crazy right. I stumbled over the place on wikicamps where they are getting rave reviews and I can see why. Down a dirt road – Jamie is not pleased at the dust on his newly cleaned van – there is a little oasis.
The camps are all bush camps – no power or water – but there are flushing loos and showers – warmest at 2pm and beautifully cool at 7pm. The mine and camp are run by a husband and wife team and their 4 year old girl, Opal. Opal is a wild child with crazy blonde hair and bare feet.
There is a black headed python that lives in an enclosure by reception, everyone got a hold – Jamie got a new hat – and when it was ready to go back Opal spent 3 minutes stuffing the snake in, and I mean stuffing without a drop of fear, it was awe inspiring and terrifying that a 4 year had so little concern about handling a snake. Unsurprisingly Zachary and her hit it off like a house on fire. Soul mates who spent most of the day climbing dirt piles, looking for rocks, snakes and lizards and rolling around in the dirt fighting.
We took the mine tour and heard the story of how Kim spent years wandering the land looking for Zebra rock, met Ruth and persuaded her to sell everything, buy the land and move to the middle of nowhere based on 6 rocks he found. Now they run the mine and campground, the campground is there to help raise funds to keep the zebra rock in the ground. The rock is found no where else in the world so if they mine it all that’ll be it. To try and save the zebra rock Kim and Ruth are working to earn enough to build a cover over the exposed zebra rock and leave it in the ground so that it was be enjoyed and seen by future generations. In this day and age it’s an inspiring story. So we spent a few nights enjoying the star filled nights and hunting for Zebra rock.
Then we left and crossed the border!!
We headed to Kununurra for a few nights and made the decision that we were not going to make it to the Kimberleys this time around. Time seems to be slipping away and to be honest we are over gorges. I can’t face anymore red dirt and dragging kids up mountains. I want days on white sandy beaches, snorkelling in crystal clear seas and being amazed by an underwater land. Turns out it was pretty easy to persuade Jamie, the thought of his clean van getting a dot of dust in it makes him twitch. So after a trip to Ivanoe Crossing for some fishing we packed up and headed South.
We hit Halls Creek, it’s a place with a slightly weird feel, but we filled up and moved on. 15kms out of Halls Creek as Jamie’s chatting on the phone the car hits a bump, we both look at each other and suddenly shooting past the window goes a wheel, our wheel in fact. Turns out when we replaced a wheel at the Zebra Mine – we had somehow damaged the rim – Jamie had hand tightened the wheel but forgotten to double check before we left. I put it down to running late and Jack puking his guts up and freaking us all out. You don’t know fear until you are enclosed in a small space with someone who has gastro. So the bolts have all seared through and we lost the wheel, so grateful we were on an empty road!
Anyway I am charging down the road trying to keep an eye on a wheel that is flying away from me. It disappears into the scrub, I note down the nearest bush and then head back to help Jamie (by help I mean stand around and making encouraging noises as he does all the work). We call the RAC and while they are working their end to help Jamie is working our end and manages to get the hub off and pack it into the car. Better yet we find the missing wheel which is fine and pile that in too. RAC calls back and says they have found someone to come, but hey don’t worry we have taken care of it. So we cancel the call out but head to their nominated garage. This was a mistake. The less than lovely Deliah was not impressed with her loss of $160 from RAC for a call out. So after finding us replacement bolts which we happily bought, she then attempted to charge us $77 for labour to cover the strenuous 30 seconds of work her mechanic did to knock out 6 bolts. Jamie was unimpressed, less so when she explains she has to charge us that as she missed out on her RAC money and we need to cover some of it. I am now hiding in the car cause I can completely see which way this is going. Jamie refuses to pay for the labour charge and in return she throws the 6 broken bolts at his head as he walks away, 2 hit him and another 2 hit another customer’s car outside. Then the mechanic threatens to knock Jamie’s teeth out. I am completely impressed that Jamie throughout this keeps his temper, apart from asking ‘What the hell are you thinking’ and telling the mechanic to ‘try his luck’ he is remarkable calm. We get in the car and get the hell out of Halls Creek – utter craziness. The next day we called the RAC and they fell over themselves to apologise, in fact we find out this is not the first complaint they have had. Nice. I just count myself lucky that Jamie is as handy as he is.
We make for a free camp for the night and in the next day I drag the family down dirt roads – opps – to Tunnel Creek and we go exploring.
It’s a cave system you can wander through and historically it was used as a hideout by the aboriginal warrior Jandmarra. We saw bats and, fish and even a freshwater croc hiding in the corner. Everyone got a bit wet, Zachary was mostly terrified of imaginary things but enjoyed it in the end.
We headed into Broome for a quick refill and low and behold we have arrived on Broome Cup Day. You can already see where this is going right? So we rearrange, book into a campite and head to the cup after all Katherine was fun and Broome is meant to be the bomb. The first warning should have been the rather steep $20 per kid entry price, turns out kids are not encouraged to come to cup day. Unfortunately we did not realise this or find any information about this until we were already inside settled on the grass and I was trying to figure out how you can charge $20 for kids but have nothing to keep them entertained. This rather pertinent bit of information is hidden down the bottom on the membership details page on the Broome Turf Club website. I am currently in a snide but polite email conversation with Broome Turf Club on their shite website. So the day was a bit of bust – although Jamie backed a few winners – and I got pad thai for dinner – silver linings and all that!
We also made the decision to take the van up to Cape Leveque. We had read a few reports about how terrible the roads were and had made plans to leave it in Broome but turns out it’s really not that bad. We ended up at a bush camp called Gumbanan, we managed to grab the last site overlooking the sea and settled in for a few days. The camp has a 5 generation fish trap that they still upkeep today, and the kids had a great time hunting crabs and fish when the tides went out. The tides are huge, you can see the difference in the below photos.
On the second day they found squid in the trap and between the kids, Jamie and a few other campers we managed to snag them and ate fresh calamari that night!
We also went up to One Arm Point – where they have a hatchery. They don’t hatch anything but they do collect and polish trochus shells there (they look a bit like a tent) and we managed to tag onto a tour of the pools. The kids got to choose a rejected shell which Jamie has been nominated to polish when we get home.
Then Jamie tried his luck at fishing afterwards and although we got no fish we did see Dolphins and turtles swimming past. Can’t really complain about that!
On the last day we headed out on a tag along tour with a local guide Brian Lee, which was perfection – bar the nasty sunburn I ended up with! But we swam in crystal clear waters, drove over sand dunes and heard stories from his family. The kids even got to hold a ghost crab Brian dug out for them.
We finished our Cape Leveque trip with a stop at Middle Lagoon, a beautiful white beach with gorgeous sunsets. Jamie and the boys went for a fish when we arrived and saw a heap of turtles and whales just off the coast. A relaxing end to the week and now we head back to Broome to try our luck again!