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Friday, August 7, 2009

Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia

Pink cliffs

The Kimberley covers 421,451 square kilometres (approx 261,000 miles), and is three times the size of England. But only 40,000 people live here, which means there are fewer people per kilometre here in the Kimberley than almost any other place in the world. It's one of the last great wilderness areas left to explore.

Fitzroy River in flood 2002

The small Kimberley town of Fitzroy Crossing is made up of mostly Aboriginal communities on the banks of the Fitzroy River. In the wet season, the flow rate down the 15 kilometre wide flood plain is estimated to be 30,000 cubic metres per second. What a sight that must be.

Eighteen kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing is the Geikie Gorge National Park. Cruising the placid waters of the Fitzroy River, we saw lots of harmess little fresh water crocodiles, rock wallabies, unusual birds and the magestic grey, pink, black and red coloured cliffs.

Built in 1897, many a stranded traveller spent some happy hours here at the Crossing Inn.

I was surprised to learn that fresh water crocodiles are very different from their cousins, the salt water crocs. Freshies, as they are called, have a narrow snout, a single row of scales on their head, grow to 3 metres and are not considered dangerous if left alone. However, salties grow to 7 metres, have a broad snout and two rows of scales on their heads and will sometimes come into fresh water to breed. They feed on crustaceans, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, and the occasional careless human being.

We are staying at a very nice caravan park called Fitzroy Crossing Lodge and noticed four vehicles coming into the park on the back of tilt-tray trucks, with their caravans in tow. It seems all four got dirty fuel at Halls Creek, 280 kms up the road, and the 4WD's seized up completely.

Old post office, now Backpacker accommodation

They think a new tanker driver put some unleaded fuel into the diesel tank by mistake, so they got a very nasty mix. Having to be towed out here is an expensive exercise, the driver told Dennis he charges $3.30 per kilometer on bitumen and $5 on the dirt. We've just upgraded our NRMA insurance to the top cover.

This part of the country sure is remote, it's like being on the moon.

The old single lane concrete bridge built in 1935
In the wet, the little town was completely cut off for long periods.