Clouds like spun cotton float above the land on an updraft of hot steamy air. The land below is flat grasslands. Ochre coloured roads scar the surface as they crisscross, coming from nowhere and heading nowhere.
Time passes in a haze of wonder. We leave the grasslands behind. Below is a landscape of sparsely covered ranges…a prehistoric lizard resting on its way to the ocean. Suddenly the pilot banks left. Each of us stares in disbelief, as the low mulga brush appears to glance off the plane. The engine noise increases. We look left and right, steep cliffs on both sides, blue green water below. The seaplane lands with a gentle touch. We have arrived in Talbot Bay, North West Western Australia.
Our tour guide for the next four days introduces himself, Adrian. We jump in his state-of-the-art fishing vessel, Category Five, and head to our accommodation, BarraShack, hidden away from the fly-in, fly-out day trippers. We meet the rest of the crew, a young new recruit, Cameron, and Adrian’s lovely wife, Aline. Aline cooks, cleans and takes care of us for the next four days. We want for nothing and her cooking is first class.
Time and tide waits for no one on our first day. We drop off our gear, have a quick morning tea and are back in Category Five within half an hour. The horizontal waterfalls are next. We swap boats back at the City. The City is where the day trippers and overnight people stay…where the sea plane lands…where helicopters wait for their next passenger. Donning lifejackets we take the fast boat ride to the waterfalls.
The Horizontal Waterfalls have been described by David Attenborough as “Australia’s most unusual natural wonder”, Horizontal Falls is a natural phenomenon that is as intriguing as it is stunning. In the turquoise water of Talbot Bay, the fast moving tidal current squeezes through two narrow gorges of the McLarty Range, pushing the water into rapid like formations which rush through the twin gaps at an astonishing rate, producing waterfalls turned on their side.
The powerful tides in the Kimberley can reach more than 10 metres and the direction of the flow reverses ensuring the water flows two different ways each day.
We arrive at the entrance to the falls. Adrian takes the boat part way in, checking out the fall and speed of the water. Then with 3 x 300hp motors at full throttle, he heads into the narrow gap. We hang on for dear life, laughing and screaming with a mixture of terror and excitement. Today the tide is kind to us. We ride back and forth through the rushing water, each time as thrilling as the last.
Back to BarraShack for a sumptuous lunch and unpack. Later that afternoon, we hear the distinct chop chop of a helicopter…we have been warned, there are no doors. With only eight guests on board BarraShack we go in two by three and one by two. No doors ensure the trip is excitement filled. We hang on with one hand and film with the other. No one speaks; we are too busy taking in the breathtaking views.
The day is not over yet. We stop for afternoon tea; then back on Category Five for an afternoon of fishing. Salmon and fingermark are soon on ice…breakfast, lunch and dinner assured.
And this is our first day. Sharks circle the boat that night. We photograph them as they glide in and around the boats, but we are all too tired to care.
Three days more, our heads are spinning and our minds fill each day with the wonders of this pristine, unique, natural wilderness few get to see or experience. Two more helicopter rides gives us a bird’s eye view of our temporary habitat. The waterfalls from the air are even more impressive. Mangroves come and go with the huge 10 metre tides. The reef is exposed one day, producing rushing powerful waterfalls, the next hidden from view.
We trek up and over huge boulders the second day for a swim in a fresh waterhole, the next through rainforest in search of fresh bait and another cooling off swim. We fish each day. For the moment the girls have it, barramundi, fingermark and salmon. Barramundi is served for lunch and dinner. We take only what we can eat.
From our floating home, ochre rich mountains that look like giant serpents sleeping, surround us. The colours are like a painter’s palette, red, blue, green of all shades.
A full moon is on the way, the build up, magical. Stars fill the night sky. Some of us stay up late, spotlighting for crocodiles. There are two we can see, their bright white eyes clearly visible in the stream of light. We flash them hoping they may come closer. They move towards BarraShack, one in the front and one on the side.
BarraShack is a 60foot houseboat. It has a 12 metre pontoon hanging off the rear, aluminium dingy on one side and Category Five on the other. We are a large floating tin can. The crocs are now both at the rear. We watch fascinated as they swim towards each other. Are they male and female, we wonder?
With a loud crash, we think not. The larger of the two submerges and comes up with a thud, head butting the smaller one. A croc fight, quick and to the point ensues. The smaller one swims off leaving the other to entertain us, or are we his entertainment for the evening. His brazen attitude both excites and frightens us. By now, we five are standing on the pontoon. He comes closer, his beady eyes assessing us as tasty morsels.
He waits for us to make a mistake, slip from the pontoon, get to close to the edge. Although those of us still up are passed that halfway mark in life, we are like children, laughing and squealing in horror as he comes closer. Hearts pounding we decide to call it a night.
Next morning we are full of stories, stretched to make those who missed the excitement regret their decision to go to bed early.
The Kimberley Experience is one you will never regret. There is a saying used for another state; if you never ever go you will never ever know. The same can be said for the Kimberley, the colours, the wildlife, the landscape are unique and breathtaking.
The land, the water, they have a spirit few are privy to. The dream serpent lies quietly waiting for you to come. If you listen you will hear him call. Once you answer you will be called back over and over.
Our thanks go to Adrian, Aline and Cameron for a wonderful adventure.