Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crocodile deaths.

Our experiences watching crocodiles in the Kimberley while on our Extraordinary Taxi Ride reminded me about the sad situation we encountered in South Africa, up at Imbambala Wilderness Trails Camp situated in Loskop Dam Nature Reserve.
It's a beautiful part of South Africa, and Imbambala is a great place to game view, and I wrote about our rhino incident here- rhino incident

Prior to travelling to SA, I had been researching our trip and the Loskop Dam area on an online forum for SA National Parks. It's probably the best forum I have come across for the wealth of information on all sorts of wildlife, plants, and the whole range of traveller facilities available throughout all the National Parks in SA. Take a look here- SA Parks Forum . I really like the ambience of the forum, and the helpful and welcoming tone of all the members. There is a thread on whatever animal, insect or plant you could think of. It's a credit to the administrators and members alike. Well done!

I was briefly reading a thread regarding the deaths of crocodiles in the Olifants River system in Kruger Park and it had perked my interest - croc deaths so I read the full thread mentioning over 30 deaths, and followed the link -Media release on crocodile deaths.

Then thought very little about it until the day we were power boating across Loskop Dam towards our stay at Imbambala, late last July.Colin ,our host gave us an interesting run down on the reserve and the lake, then he mentioned that the Olifants River flowed through the dam.So I asked him about the croc deaths in the river further down in Kruger, and he was very aware of the problem.The fish in the dam are dying.In one bay he reckoned they pulled from the water 21 tons of dead rancid fish!Cause of the fish deaths is thought to be contaminated water because of mining run offs flowing into the upstream rivers. water report The report at that link is more specific as it cites changes in the phytoplankton "We think there may be a possible link between two phytoplankton species that we found in the lake, and which interact with the aquatic ecosystem foodweb". And that change may have been the result of mining run off upsetting water quality.Or it may be because new types of phytoplankton have been introduced and found conditions ideal for a bloom to occur.It is a popular recreational lake for boaties, and new organisms can be introduced on boats or their gear.Now in New Zealand we're facing an ecological disaster in our once pristine rivers and streams from Didymo,rock snot thought to have been introduced into the country in anglers gear, quite probably their felt soled boots.I've had a very strong interest in this , not just as a keen amateur biologist but from the perspective of my trade as a custom shoemaker.I am often asked to remove the felt soles from expensive wading boots and replace with a non-slip rubber sole.Felt soles have been banned to try and limit the spread of the spores further.

But back to crocodiles.It is thought the deaths of crocs is because they feast on the dead and often rancid fish, and this then causes pansteatitis in them, causing their fatty tissue to harden to a degree where a crocs mobility is so affected they can no longer move to catch prey and they starve to death.Crocodylus niloticus  or  nile crocodile doesn't stand much of a chance.
And nor does the associated river systems reaching right across Kruger National Park, South Africa's greatest wildlife treasure.It needs concerted action here to stop this ecological disaster getting worse.

An epilogue to this post concerns this photo nearby of two crocodiles.I couldn't find the Nile croc photo we took down towards St Lucia in South Africa, so many to go through , so I posted this photo of two Siamese Crocodiles we photographed in a cage while travelling in Cambodia, Jan 2007.
Read here. Critically endangered Siamese Crocodiles
Read about the virtual elimination of this species from the wild in SouthEast Asia.Sadly hunted to near extinction for it's skin which is of the softest of all the crocs.Sure, 1,000's exist in croc farms, often in appalling conditions and killed and skinned inhumanely.All for the sake of fashion.I suggest the only redeeming feature of croc farms is that at the very least they have kept the Siamese Crocodile  from absolute extnction.And the loss of any one animal species is sad for our biodiversity.
So all you out there wearing real croc shoes, and carrying a real croc skin purse, look what you're doing to this world!
Oops, found our Nile Croc photo....
And just a point, we weren't silly enough to get up close to that croc!He's faster than we are.It's just the camera angle makes it look close.You gotta keep your distance, as they can cover ground so quickly.No way was I going any closer as my wife can run faster than me!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

We were very brave....

Doug, our maverick taxi driver on the Extraordinary Taxi Ride  took Reg and me, in the late afternoon of our first day in Kununarra on a wee detour to show us the sights, and we arrived at the Ivanhoe Crossing of the mighty Ord River.This crossing is a road built as a weir, not a bridge.
Check any of the videos out here-so exciting .. Ivanhoe Crossing video
I don't have any photos as the campaign guys had told us they'd be supplying us with cameras so I had left mine at home.
As we drove  up, and the crossing hove into view I had the distinct feeling I'd seen this place before.Took me a while then memories of a wildlife TV documentary flooded back.This was the crocodile crossing!There's a terrific feature of this crossing where at a certain time of the year the fish are running up the river to spawn.And crocodiles congregate here in huge numbers for the feast.The documentary showed this crossing with many crocs lined up side by side,salties and freshies,on one side of the weir, mouths open just waiting for fish to jump in to their gaping jaws.Now there's 2 types of crocs in northern parts of Australia, Freshwater(Freshie) or Crocodylus Johnstoni and the more dangerous Saltwater (Saltie) Crocodylus Porosus.And here both will be found.
A few locals were fishing from the banks.And when we asked about crocs, "Not worried about them , long as you keep your eyes open you're right!"
We didn't want to test that as we just didn't know what to look for.And as we watched a guy come back from fishing the far bank, and carefully walk across the weir towards us, Doug regaled us with tales of another local guy doing the same foolish manoeuvre, get taken by a Saltie a few years ago at this very spot!
All through our 9 days Gibb River Road we knew to ask locals if there were any crocs in any of the rivers or swimming holes.And next day when we'd flown up to Michell Falls Wilderness Resort, and I was swimming in the resort's pool, (which was just a swimming hole in the creek running through the camp and supposedly croc free..)I couldn't help remember that film Jaws and that huge shark coming up at that swimmer from below.But in my imagination it was a huge saltie coming up for me!
Later on at Windjana Gorge we were to see crocs up close.Mainly the freshies which tend to shy away from humans.But dangle a limb in the water, and they'll go you if they mistake you for a fish, and their extremely sharp teeth will make a nasty wound.
I measure the size of a croc by the number of shoes I could make out of their belly skin, being the canny shoemaker I am.But I hasten to add that long ago I made a decision never to use the skins of an exotic specie just for a pair of shoes.I reckon the skin looks more beautiful on the original wearer!And sadly it had meant that crocs have been hunted to the edge of extinction in the past.Particularly the saltwater kind.It's only the belly skin that is used in designer bags, shoes and belts, and the freshwater croc has extra ridging in the belly area so they aren't taken for use.A very useful defence perhaps.I can remember way back in 74, and Kay and I doing the sort of unthinking usual touristy thing of visiting a crocodile farm in Singapore.And coming away disgusted with the cruel practice of farming such awesome, deadly but beautiful reptiles.Never again have we been to such places.
 Windjana Gorge is an awe inspiring place.An ancient reef formation in the eons ago sea that once covered this land.A testament to the massive forces and the millions of years of Nature's architectural handicraft.Now the reef stands a 100 metres high.The gorge itself  and surrounding area now a national park. A river runs through the gorge and crocs inhabit it's many pools.Reg and I were filmed walking through the gorge and observing the crocs.
But we were then held in fixed awe as we observed a white heron alight at the water's edge and proceed slowly into the water.A foot at a time , so carefully placed so as not to alert the fish.We knew there were two crocs just a few metres away.Did that heron know also?The tension mounted as one croc slowly moved nearer....no visible movement....just like a drifting log....would it get within striking distance?Cameras silently rolled as each of us saw this drama unfold.No sound or movement from any of us...just a silently drifting 'log'...and a heron so carefully placing one leg at a time in front,intent on catching it's supper...and a croc intent on catching it's, gliding closer....ever closer...not a ripple breaking the surface.
Would we catch the strike on camera? We all held our breath as we watched a drama played out in this paradise of a natural setting.
Then the heron walked the other way, and the croc gave up! Tension lifted and I guess we were all quite happy the heron survived.

And I'm thrilled salties have survived their past persecution.They are dangerous.They will go for the unwary.Authorities now reckon that since the ban on their killing and trade in their skins , numbers have recovered to over 60,000.But they are after all part of this natural world.Loss of apex predators such as these can have unforeseen and unwanted effects on eco-systems that have developed around them.Awareness, and respect of the dangers they present is the key.And for we Kiwis, coming from a country where we can walk our forests without fear of a bear lurking,or swim in our lakes and rivers  not having to think a saltie  may be about to strike,and walk  through knee deep grass and  not worry that there could be a snake  hidden there,to sink it's fangs in our ankles , having to constantly remind ourselves of these dangers, is ever on our mind.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Extraordinary Taxi Ride, Day 5-9, Reg's Blog

My mate Reg has offered this blog -
Day5 4th June

We started today with another delicious breakfast of fresh tropical fruit followed by smoked salmon and poached egg, sort of eggs Benedict without the sauce, yum. The cooks at El Questro get everything just right, even down to chilling the fruit to just the right temperature. In fact El Questro does everything right but I guess in that price bracket one should expect that. [$1800 a night!]
We set off at 8am doing quite a bit of filming on the way including the Pentecost River crossing, now known more as Kidman’s crossing due to the famous clip from the movie Australia.
A lot of the scenes in Australia were filmed in the Kimberly’s and as we continued on our journey to Home Valley Station we saw more of the country side used in the film. Home Valley station incorporates 3.5 million acres of pastoral leases and is owned by an Aboriginal corporation set up to train aboriginal folk in catering, tourism or station management. Upon arrival at Home Valley we went straight to lunch then to Bindoola Falls for a swim. It was a lovely spot with waterfalls that we were able to swim right under.
The next stop was a lookout to watch the sun setting on the Cockburn Range whilst enjoying some very nice French Champagne and cheese and crackers.
Later in the evening we sat around a camp fire and sang along with the guitar until after 12am.. The TVNZ crew were there filming and earlier on when I got set-up to go on stage, I hope that’s not going onto NZ TV!

Day 6 5th June
More filming today with TVNZ accompanying us, as they have the last 2 days. It started with a mini cattle muster in which Doug, Jim and Charlotte [the TVNZ interviewer] all rode horses rounding up cattle in a yard. Then we had yet another interview with TVNZ which apparently will be showing on NZ TV11th or 12th June so for all my Kiwi friends, look out for that.
Later we drove to Mount Elizabeth Station which was supposed to take 4 hours but somehow were stretched to 7 by the time we stopped for various film shoots. The day finished with a lovely BBQ and then an early night.

Day 7 6th June
Someone said to me that looking at gorges in WA with their beautiful waterfalls and pristine pools was a bit like looking at cathedrals throughout Europe, they all look beautiful and standing there looking at them just blows you away. It’s not something you can capture on camera, whether it be video or photography because you have to be there to FEEL it. And that wow factor was there again today when we visited Galvan’s and Bells Gorge. Both mind blowing experiences but I think I will remember Galvan’s more because I was able to have a swim there, swinging off a rope Tarzan like for an almighty body slam in the pool under the waterfall. It was great fun and I came out of there absolutely buzzing. It was also memorable because it was easy to capture in one frame, the tall Boab tree at the top waterfall, the bottom waterfall and the pond all surrounded by rugged cliffs of ancient rock towering above us. Now that is one photo I will get blown up and framed for my office wall.
Bells Gorge was a different proposition being so much bigger and a more difficult walk to get to but also very awe inspiring in its own way. I was able to film a big lizard at the top of the waterfall for about 5 minutes as he worked his way down a rock wall having stood at the top overlooking the fall just observing for 2 minutes. Either that or summoning up the courage because it was a long way down if he slipped!
We arrived at Mount Hart Homestead about 6-30pm after yet another long but thrilling day.

Day 8 7th June
Our long day started with a 6am breakfast. Taffy the owner at Mount Elizabeth Station is a real character and a conservationist to boot. He has cleared the land of all cattle to encourage the wild life back. He also has pet dingoes which were a lovely dog to pat and take pictures with.
Today was the day to see wild life, as it happens. We saw lots of kangaroos as Taffy doesn’t shoot them on his property, also a King Brown snake, crocodiles, a bunger lizard, bats and a wide range of birds, flocks of them often. This wasn’t just on Mount Hart but also on our long drive to Derby. We also saw the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in shades of pink, purple and greys. Stunning. I just hope the photos capture some of it.
On the way we stopped at Windjana Gorge to see all the crocodiles then on to Tunnel Creek. Unfortunately I was unable to climb over the big rock fall in the entrance so missed out on seeing pythons, more crocodiles and bats but thems the breaks!
As the sun dropped down in the sky we headed to Derby. In our convoy of 5 I was in the back vehicle catching everyone else’s dust. It was quite stressful as often you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you. I was quite relieved when we finally got onto sealed road.

Day 9 8th June
Our day started with a stop at the Derby Visitors centre to learn a bit about the area and then to the wharf for a bit of filming. The Derby Boab Prison Tree was next, that tree must be many 100’s of years old.
The drive to Broome was uneventful arriving mid afternoon after stopping at a road house for a bit of filming plus a photo opportunity at the end/entrance to Gibb River Road. We had finished successfully, got the T shirt too!
It was time to catch up on emails, do some laundry and recuperate from a pretty hectic 9 days, a little out of my comfort zone but well worth the effort.

Day 10, 9th June
The Extraordinary Taxi Ride was at its end but we still had a day in Broome where our support crew took real good care of us , as usual, going out for a bit of a tour around town, lunch at Matso’s Brewery where I tried Mango and a Chilli Beer. The Mango was so-so, the chilli yuk! We also had an alcoholic ginger beer which was quite nice .We then shopped for some indigenous music and took a look at some cultured pearls. Just looked!
We had started the day with a live radio interview on ABC Kimberly and later in the afternoon a telephone interview with a Perth newspaper columnist. They are certainly getting lots of exposure for this Taxi ride campaign.
Dinner was at the resort we stayed at, Cable Beach, VERY NICE. Must come back here one day, there’s lots to do and see here. I can see why it is such a popular tourist destination. We were able to dine with the leg 11 passengers Joe and Jim, which was great. They are two brothers from Liverpool, one is blind. What a wonderful experience it will be for them. It really proves that the thing about WA is not only the stunning scenery, which I am sure his brother Jim, will describe to Joe, but the feel of the place and the people you meet. All along our journey along the Gibb River Road we have meet many lovely friendly people and felt a relaxed pulse from people who really care about the environment and eco tourism. I will have to come back one day to take a look at what we never had time to see on our extraordinary journey. We flew out at 10pm for Perth and then the next day Jim flew home, back to the grindstone. I still had more to see and had booked a 3 day trip to Monkey Mia, about 900kms north of Perth and then a 5 day tour to Esperance. which is to the south.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Extraordinary Taxi Ride, Gibb River Road, Kimberley, Western Australia.

Right from the start this Extraordinary Taxi Ride experience has lived up to or exceeded expectations. It’s amazing how little I knew about this huge country, and now I’m presented with a fantastic learning opportunity. It’s a bit like starting a new school perhaps, or new job, where every minute a new is fact revealed, a new thought prompted, or another new vista of wildlife discovered. The top end of Western Australia is a whole new university in the school of life and travel to attend, and our lecturers, the guides, pilots, and tourism staff that we’ve met, know their job thoroughly, and treat us so well, that we’ll graduate this semester with flying colours. I am amazed at the enthusiasm and depth of knowledge our guides have for this ancient, exciting and scenic land. I know so little, so now hang on every word they say, and soak it up.We’re being taken beyond and behind the usual tourist stops, sights and experiences and being exposed to a deeper, more meaningful side of this ancient,jagged country.And all that we experience, every place we visit, is available to any other traveller , that does take the time to explore this vast,unspoilt and beautiful land. This university is billions of years old.You can feel it in the jagged rocks you walk.
Day 1.
We’d arrived in Kununarra in the late afternoon of  31st June, after a long and eventful flight from Wellington, via an overnight in Melbourne,then an early morning flight to  Perth, then onwards via Broome.
Kununarra Country Club our first night accommodation is clean,well presented, and the meals were excellent. A special mention for the salt water barramundi dish. Very juicy ,thick fillet in a delicious sauce with shaved Baobab root seasoning creating an amazing  flavouring.
And the only hotel we’ve stayed where the aircon filters were impeccably clean.I reckon you can judge the standard of hygiene maintenance in a hotel by how well maintained the aircons are.And a lot of accommodation providers are real slack when it comes to basic maintenance of aircons.Too often  we'll book into a room, check the aircons, only to find a filthy grimy mat where clean filters should be.This place was pristine clean!
Day 2.
It was an early start for our flight up to breakfast at Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge.Kurt our pilot with Slingair, provided a very chatty and informative commentary of the history, station lifestyle and geographical features of the huge terrain we overflew on the 500 km’s up to Mitchell Falls.Flying at 6500 feet gave us spectacular views over the land.So vast, and no sign  of human disturbance.The mangrove lined rivers and estuaries stood out in stark relief to the sandy salt pans, and thinly vegetated country.I'd really recommend this flight rather than 500 KMs by dirt track! Just a couple of bumps and jolts and we were safely landed on that dirt airstrip.
Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge tented chalets were in a very rustic natural setting amongst the pandanus, and Livistona palms with a natural creek swimming pool (croc free) at our tent’s back door. The Plateau is the only place where this particular genus of Livistona Eastonii palms are found and in such density.
The ride after breakfast up to the trek start point by 4WD Landcruiser was exciting. Powering through the red mud bog holes, with a red tidal wave thrown up each side of our vehicle was heart thumping stuff! You didn’t want to get stuck because there were no other vehicles getting through to be able to assist.We were on own!Max our guide/driver was going to have one hell of a job cleaning that Landcruiser! He’s a very knowledgeable guide, and kept us informed of the plants, bird life and history of the area.
A very scenic and not too taxing walk took us into the falls area. Little Merhtens Falls was an especially significant rocky outcrop with a natural jagged rock sheltered cliff overhang.For eons, Aboriginals have used the area..There is an aura about the place.Somehow,seeing those rock drawings,painted so skilfully 17,000 years ago,and realizing that since then successive tribes people have venerated that site, can wield a spell upon you. I felt it to be the single most significant place I had been to in the last two days.It’s a special and spiritual place! Trekking through such beautiful country,visiting and inspecting those rock drawings, then enjoying the vista from behind the waterfall where it throws itself into the lake was almost overpowering.
A short trek then took us up to the Mitchell Falls.Where we were able to overlook the series of 4 terraces taking a huge volume of water after the recent unseasonal rains.We were seeing this normally dry land alive with a full carpet of green grass, and brilliant verdant forest.And powerful torrents of water pouring through jagged chasms and over high rock ledges.Couldn’t have been a better time to appreciate this huge wilderness.The country seemed to me to be alive and breathing.
The view from the top of the falls is spectacular with commanding views out over the river and surrounding countryside.As far as we could see, no sign of human interference with this wild environment.
Hiking back down to the lower falls, our short wait was rewarded with the arrival of our pick up helicopter.Yep!Taking the easy way out.I was prepared to hike out, but our guide Max reckoned if I did, he’d take my seat on the copter!Max was left to walk!
Back to Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge, a welcome cold beer, a refreshing dip in the croc free creek pool, and the best meal of fresh snapper ever!Gee these guys know how to cook.
Met some wonderfully friendly people over dinner, on a 13 day tour out of Broome.Seems a popular way to visit Mitchell Falls and the Gibb River Road sights.Many were self driving around Australia, but  they'd hopped on the tour so as to get around places only accessible by 4wd.
Day Three.
I made a special point of arising early,and getting to the pool patio area, just to sit quietly to listen to the dawn bird chorus for some time prior to our breakfast. Sublime. Breakfast was plentiful and well cooked.A choice of cereals,yoghurt, fresh fruits and the usual bacon and eggs.
An early morning hour and a half flight took us to a bumpy landing at El Questro Station.And we met Chillie. He’s one of those marvellous icons of the real Australia, who has a Master of Arts in the subject of Life in the Outback, but has never had a tutor! More correctly, I should say he’s been self taught, and also learned off the best and the hardest this harsh land has produced during those rough cattle rearing years out here. The land that was made famous in the great epic film Australia!
Chillie was our guide for the day at El Questro.A day of learning about the environment, bush tucker, the history of the station as a cattle ranch and it’s subsequent changes of ownership and development into a major tourist destination.55,000 visitors a year in this million acre tourist destination.
We were lucky enough to be lodging in the homestead.This overlooks the river with very scenic views.Don’t ask about the tariff because if you need to ask, you shouldn’t be staying here!But believe me, worth every dollar.Caters for the very top end of the market.And we were top end !(For 2 days at least).
An awesome dining experience that night.We were led to our private dining area, on a cliff side rock ledge, 50 metres above the river. Reg ,Doug our taxi driver and I enjoyed fine dining while observing the floodlit scenery. Just not the place to drink too much….one stagger and it’s over the edge and you’re croc tucker.Those hundreds of swarming catfish, the occasional barramundi , and snapping turtles knew a meal could be coming! There is supposed to be a resident saltie down below.We didn't want to find out.
Day 4
El Questro Wilderness Park truly lives up to it's reputation as one of the most unique holiday destinations,offering accommodation and camping facilities for the full range of travel styles.The Homestead where we stayed is just one part of this million acre operation.Plenty of camping and cabin choices for the average traveller.
We were taken by boat up the Chamberlain Gorge.No outboard motors here destroying the serenity of the environment.Electric motors pushed us quietly and slowly up the gorge to the 'No Fishing Allowed " area where tame fish abounded.As we slowed I'm splattered by water and turn to see fish spurting water from their mouths.Many Archer's fish were aiming their spurt at the guides hands He's teasing these trained fish with  feed pellets.We're surrounded by hundreds of them.And suddenly up from the depths a huge barramundi broaches.Wow!That was so fantastic!
A short drive then trek in the afternoon took us to Zebedee Springs.Where a hot stream cascades down from the high rock face, and Nature has provided we weary travellers with many natural hot pools set in between huge boulders and palm trees.Kind of cool to have tadpoles tickling our toes!Spent a very relaxing time languishing in the pools.We've got lots of hot pools at home in New Zealand but nothing quite as intimate and in such a natural garden setting.

Taxi ride Leg 10

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Goodwill Forever!

I've been to over 40 countries with my wife Kay over the years and I have learned to appreciate and explore the indigenous music of such places.My travel souvenirs are usually CDs of music we hear along the way.Whether that's the music we'll hear sitting in a ger tent in Mongolia listening to a family sing and play the morin khur, or being farewelled by the lodge staff in Namibia, there's a real pleasure in listening to those musical performances played and sung from the heart of the ordinary folk we meet in our travels.My collection contains CDs I have bought off groups playing Cape Town's Waterfront,or Shiba a street performing group in Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland,and there's Gypsy music from Hungary and Romania,and throatsinging from Mongolia to think of just some.
And this Gibb River Road Leg 10 through the Kimberly region of Western Australia has  been much the same, with the discovery (for me anyway) of Australian Indigenous music.

And that has come about because of Tahn, of mixed Indigenous  descent,she has added an extra dimension to these past days.Tahn has sprung on me a few CDs of music she's passionate about.The first CD we heard was Peter Brandy , who had entertained us so well at Home Valley ,and impressed me with his professionalism , his vocal range , and his guitar skills.Just hearing the first song he sang that night, marked him out to me as a star.

Tahn has also introduced us to Rode Werks,and the Pigram Brothers , who have been appreciated by the whole crew.There's also a CD of Western Australian Indigenous music .So first stop on our return to Broome was to a CD music shop so I could load up with such music to take home.There's a marvellous thing about collecting music while travelling.Playing it often at home can allow you to be transported back to those wonderful times and places.And the people met along the way spring to mind so readily and don't fade so easily from one's consciousness.
And in that way  music imprints times and places upon your memory forever.I'm lucky enough to be able to play music all day long in my little workshop.So loading up my 5CD player with music from around the world,hitting Random Play, carries me back to so many countries while I'm working.
And there's an incident that happened at Galvin's Gorge that kind of got to me.We were trekking down to view the gorge and pools and came upon a stone cairn marking the track.Tahn was walking through so I said I'd show her a Mongolian custom travellers use to invoke good luck for their journey.So we walked around it three times then placed an offering upon it.Tahn thought this was quite unique and responded by leading me towards the river.Taking a rock, I had to then wipe my sweat upon it, saying out loud my name, and from where I'd come,I had to throw it in the stream.She then talked in her tribal language.I asked her what this meant and was told it's her tribe's custom of asking the spirits in the area to accept me, and protect me as I mean no harm.And she was translating my words into her tribe's language.We don't need to believe in these customs, but accepting and respecting them brings forth each individual's goodwill to travel well together.
I'm impressed with the way Tahn has imparted her tribal knowledge, shared her love of plants and animals as we've moved through this country.It's been felt by others and commented upon.She's been that added bonus on this trip, and opened the door a wee bit on Aboriginal culture.We can learn a lot from people like her.
There has also been Paul, our Road Manager with us.A very keen Birder and wildlife enthusiast.That has been another great add on to this trip.Consequently we've all taken a great interest in spotting birds and trying to identify them.And I've been invited to hassle him for all the photos of wildlife taken on this Gibb River Road Leg, so I can then go about identifying them .And so many birds.Flocks of parakeets, budgies,rosellas, cockatoos and more.The unseasonal late rains have benefited all the wildlife in the area.
And Doug, our taxi driver, with his knowledge of all the lizards, monitors, goanna's and snakes we've seen.
There will have to be another road trip, but this time with my wife Kay.But perhaps we'll never see this country as we were lucky enough to see it this time around.The late unseasonal rains have brought this country alive.Doug has travelled here many times in the past and has never seen it like this.Not the dry dusty land usual for this time of year.But lush grass, and trees and shrubs springing forth new growth.It's brought a bounty for the animals as there's plenty of food around and they are in great condition.Doug reckoned the lizards we caught he'd never seen them so fat!

Travel is not just about seeing the sights,photographing them and moving on to the next photo opportunity.
It's about experiencing , learning, and coming away with new or changed perspectives.And by collecting music CDs , I'm taking home a piece of the people and country, and getting under the skin of a country.This trip certainly has done that for me as a first time traveller to Western Australia.


Friday, June 11, 2010

That tingly feeling....

Just back from exploring the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and this stands out as a highlight of our adventure.

Anyone had anything like this happen?
We visited a Buddhist Sanctuary at Cable Beach Club Resort in Broome, W.A. just a few days ago.
Buddha Sanctuary
There's a curious energy about the place. A member of our convoy took us there on our last day. As we walked up my senses picked up a strong presence or energy surrounding the entrance, and while the others walked in with their shoes on, there was no way I could walk in without removing them. We've visited many temples, shrines, etc in our travels and most require you to leave your shoes at the door, but I have never experienced this energy before.
There was something I can only describe as a welcoming 'wall' of energy at the door: I couldn't see it, but it was there. I couldn't bring myself to enter, until I'd removed my shoes. And having done that, that 'resistance' faded, well more like being able to flow through me rather than being blocked. I followed my companions into the large hall which opened out onto the courtyard and timber decking. Then as we walked into that courtyard and approached the statue, my fingers started tingling. That spread to my hands, then all through my arms. They felt warm, and full of pulsing energy. Gee, I was just not prepared for that. I asked our lady guide to feel my hands and when she did, hers in comparison felt to be icy cold. Weird feeling.

She's mixed race descent (Aboriginal/European) and quite intuitive. And told me I was receiving the energy of the place. It was strongest up by the statue where my arms felt hot and pulsing.
So she said to have a talk with the lady that looks after the centre, who said it was nothing unusual as many experience it, some so strong they cry. Apparently the spiritual leader had recently revisited the centre to 'recharge' the place.
It's something I was quite unprepared for. But they have links with sites back in NZ so may go seek it out and see where it takes me, being better psychologically prepared. It was a wonderful feeling as if my hands and arms were charging and flowing with energy.
And now everytime I think about it, some of that feeling comes back.


Extraordinary Taxi Ride Itinerary. Leg 10 Gibb River Road.

 For those that asked, below is our basic itinerary.I'll be following this post up with impressions and reflections of our wonderful time exploring the Gibb.It's an awesome part of the Kimberly region and Reg and I had a ball! Got lots to write about so keep visiting this site. But we can refer back to this post so we can keep track of when whatever happened.
Can't post photos yet as all on Reg's laptop and he's taken an extra 10 days touring around Western Australia.Lucky blighter.Me? Back at work already.

Sunday May 30th. Qantas flight Wellington to Melbourne.

Day 1.Mon. May 31st.
Qantas Melbourne to Perth.
Flying  Skywest Airlines Perth to Broome then on to Kununurra.
Overnight Kununurra Country Club Resort.

Day 2.Tues.June 1st.
Slingair flight to Mitchell Plateau.Transfer to Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge.
4WD to Little Mertens Falls and Mitchell Falls.
Hike to Mitchell Falls
Helicopter flight over  Mitchell Falls.
Overnight Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge.

Day 3 Wed. 2nd June.
Fly Slingair to El Questro Station.
Tour of El Questro Wilderness Park.
Overnight in El Questro Homestead.

Day 4 Thurs. 3rd June.
Filming with TVNZ.
Chamberlain Gorge Cruise.
Zebedee Springs walk and thermal pools.
Overnight El Questro Homestead.

Day 5 Fri. 4th June.
Filming with TVNZ.
4WD El Questro to Home Valley Station.
Bidoola Gorge trail and pool swim
Cockburn Range Sunset Tour.
Evening dining entertainment by Peter Brandy.
Campfire entertainment.
Overnight Home Valley Station.

Day 5 Sat. 5th June.
Filming with TVNZ.
Cattle muster.
4WD to Mt Elizabeth Station.
Overnight Mt Elizabeth Station.

Day 6  Sun. 6th June.
4WD to Mount Hart Homestead via Galvan's Gorge and Bell's Gorge.
Overnight Mount Hart Homestead.

Day 7 Mon.7th June.
4WD to Derby via Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek to Derby.
Overnight King Sound Hotel.

Day 8 Tues.8th June.
Local sites and Prison Boab Tree.
4WD to Broome.
Overnight Cable Beach Club Resort.

Day 9 Wed. 9th June.
Broome local sites.
Skywest flight to Perth.
Overnight Crowne Plaza .

Thurs.10th June.
Qantas Perth to Wellington via Sydney.