Exploring the Kimberley Region of North West Australia

Out in the Back Country by Hugh Brown

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hugh brown
The explorer, Frank Hann, in his travels of 1898 discovered the Charnley while looking for fresh pastoral country and named it after Walter Chearnley of Nullagine to record his gratitude to the latter for his assistance in supplying him with cattle on a number of occasions while in that area. He was later to write, "it would require a man greedy of trouble who would want rougher country to travel over". This, I was to realise sooner than I would have liked!
 
The evening of day three revealed the most spectacular of sites. A 240-foot basalt cliff face that rose out of nowhere was sufficient to mask my exhaustion and cause me to grab for the camera as the sun made its daily dash for the horizon. The first photograph below shows the midday vista and the second the view prior to sunset. Sheets of sandstone were scattered with debris from the recent wet, and in the distance, the resident crocodile could be viewed as it lay on the surface of a deep round pool. The vista was incredible.
 
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Midday Vista Sunset Crocodile

"Wow. Sitting in the most awesome setting. Sheer cliffs, eighty metres high and the most unusual colour: black and yellow . I have never seen anything like them before".
 
"Im going to have a day off tomorrow so that I can soak in this scene a bit more and give my blisters a rest. I've covered a greater distance today than I had hoped but it was hard going: mainly because of the gear that I am carrying. This spot that I am camping at is so beautiful: it is really hard to describe. The terrain today has been mainly sand and small river stones. Today’s five and a half miles has some serious blisters. It's hard to conceive that such beautiful spots as this exist and that I am one of only a very few white people that have ever visited here. I had some crows follow me for much of today, which was a bit disconcerting. I wasn't sure if they were waiting for me to keel over or were instead watching out for me".
 
"Day five, to say the least, was tough. Well, I thought that today would be brutal and I wasn't wrong. I've just climbed down a 450-foot scree slope to get some water and the flies are quite unbearable. The
scenery though is amazingly spectacular as the orange cliffs generated the most magnificent reflections in the most fantastic green water below. We got going at a tad after 0600 this morning and both Kanch and I look like we've come out of a war zone. Kanch is black and nursing a couple of blisters from his pack. I've got cuts and scratches from pushing through chest high spinifex and boulders. Twice, this morning, I badly rolled my ankle and was very lucky to be able to walk. Having said that, though, the scenery easily makes it worthwhile".
 
This morning, I was faced with my first difficult choice for the trip. The first part of the gorge runs for about five miles and I knew, from the helicopter flight, that it was impassable without carrying flotation gear. On the South side there looked to be some very easy walking, but then no way to climb down to fresh water. I took the north side and wondered whether I had made a wise choice. It's still too early to tell, and I was getting worried until we found this scree slope, as we were both getting badly dehydrated. It's funny how life out here brings you back to the basic choices: choices that really do have life and death implications.
 
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