After saying good morning to the Kimberley form of the Grey Butcherbird, an isolated subspecies Cracticus torquatus latens, we headed for the Mt Barnet Roadhouse.
The previous day we had set up the satellite phone and taken advice from our home mechanic regarding the steering. It was suggested that we get the car towed. That’s a 1200km round trip tow. What about the trailer? Or that we pour oil into the empty reservoir and try our luck. The appropriate oil is ATF if that wasn’t available try anything light. I was considering cooking oil as a field expedient, it would have made an interesting story for the blog but Mt Barnet was well stocked with all sorts of oils including ATF. We filled the reservoir and hit the road.
At intervals we refilled the reservoir. Fortunately we had bought quite a lot of ATF because the system had a bloody great hole in it somewhere inaccessible. Driving in a straight line was easy, anything else was not.
Some of the Gibb River Road’s best scenery is in that stretch.
It wasn’t our intention to stay in Derby but we broke the drive to Broome into two stages. It gave me the chance to photograph a sculpture that is carefully arranged to be at its best against the setting sun.
Next morning we did the sights of Derby and headed for Broome.
Administratively Broome is part of the Kimberley but in terms of geology and biology it doesn’t quite fit. If you drive north to Derby you cross the Boab line and then the Fitzroy River. Now you’ve got one toe in the real Kimberley.
As you approach Derby the Prison Boab is off to your right. The tourist will want to have a quick look. The bird watcher will also want to stop. There is a cattle trough adjacent to the venerable tree that attracts the odd thirsty bird.
The next stop for the birdo is the sewage pond. On the left just past the speedway sign you’ll find a sign to Derby Wetland pointing down Conway Street. The road surface changes to dirt (dry season, mud in the wet). Don’t be tempted by the bitumen off to your right. At the end of Conway turn left, the ponds are now on your right, turn right again to keep them there. Shortly you encounter tracks off to the left both will take you to the wetland, the second one is usually in better condition.
The sewage plant may be the only one in the world to have a Boab tree within its boundaries. There was a fine White-bellied Sea Eagle sitting in it when I was last there. Good birds can be seen through the fence.
The wetland has been improved in recent years. The waste water used to run out the back making a very nice wetland where I’ve seen Ruff and other delicacies. The Golf Course coveted the water. So a pond was created to give the illusion of a wetland and the water was put to good use. It’s now an ideal place for Purple Swamphens and White Ibis. Whereas in the past every serious bird watcher in Australia found their way to Derby in the course of their career, maybe now every serious golfer treks here instead.
Then it’s into town, look out for Little Curlew on the ovals. I have even seen them on the median strip. The port is worth a visit. You can peer into the mangroves at the boat ramp. There’s a nice cafe by the pier.
Someone in an air-conditioned office thought it would be nice to put a walkway between the port and town through the most desolate landscape you’ll find this side of the Sahara. If you’re planning to migrate to Mars you could train here.