The Kimberley Region of North West Australia

An Account of Exploring the Kimberley

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The Bradshaw Foundation was approached in January 2002 by Dan Clark, who was planning an expedition into the Kimberleys. The area of research, as yet uncovered, would follow the Moran River, beginning on the Gardner Plateau and flowing north west from Mt. Hann out into the York Sound, and the Roe River, a tributary of the Moran. The Foundation agreed to support the expedition for photographic material and field notes, which commenced in June 2002, resulting in a spectacular gallery of new material.
To view the results of this expedition
An account of exploring the Kimberley (story told by Dan & Emma)
Getting to the Kimberley was quite a logistical challenge. With the collapse of Australia's major regional airline the year before, and the subsequent contraction of tourist services to the Kimberley, finding our way to the Mitchell Plateau was not as simple as could be hoped.
The easy bit was getting from the eastern seaboard to Darwin. Dave and Rachel met us in Darwin on the 1st of July after travelling from their home in Dunedin on the south island of New Zealand the day before. The evening was spent rechecking our gear and taking advantage of our last opportunity for beer and steak at the local pub.
The next morning we were back at Darwin airport, boarding a turbo-prop flight to Kununurra in Western Australia. Because of quarantine regulations, we could not bring any fruit, vegetables or nuts across the border from the Northern Territory. We had allowed ourselves a couple of hours in Kununurra to buy most of our food. For an hour we madly rushed around the small Kununurra supermarket grabbing staples like biscuits, flour and rice. Before the trip commenced we had meticulously planned for each meal and came armed with a list of must-get items. After the shop, we spread our gear out on the veranda of the local Tourist information centre. The pile of food was large but we managed to divide it between the four of us, leaving some to put in the food cache. We planned to leave the food cache at the starting point of our walk, return to it after doing a 10 day loop, then use the food in the food cache to sustain us on our walk back to civilisation.
While sitting on the information centre veranda, surrounded by food and equipment, the pale cast to Dave's face was troubling. He related a tale of his workmates in Dunedin having come down with the flu as he and Rachel were leaving the country. By the time we reached Kununurra, Dave was starting to feel the symptoms. However, after coming so far he decided to press on and see how things panned out.
After lunch, bags stuffed, we headed back out to Kununurra airport to meet the Cessna that we had chartered for the next leg to the Mitchell Plateau airstrip. At the airport we and our bags were weighed. We were told that 6 kg had to go before we could take off. Either we would all have to run around the airport a few hundred times and loose some weight or leave behind some our food. We chose the later and left some of our luxury items such as self-saucing puddings, custard, and onions.
We flew out over the green patchwork of the Ord River irrigation scheme at about 2.30pm, and on to the Mitchell Plateau! Apart from the spectacular arid-land scenery, dissected by meandering rivers reduced to chains of pools by the dry, the two-hour trip was reasonably uneventful. We were soon flying over the red Mitchell Plateau, scattered with distinctive Mitchell Plateau palms. We touched down at the Mitchell Plateau airstrip in the afternoon heat and were met by the helicopter that would take us the remainder of the distance to the starting point of our walk.
As we would be returning on foot to the Mitchell Falls campsite in a few weeks time, we were all keenly taking note of the lie of the land and water availability as we flew off towards the south west. It looked promising and there were quite a few pools of water visible in streams with quite limited catchments. We noted the curious paths and trails at intervals beneath us and were told by the pilot that quite a few feral cattle roamed the grassy plateau country. The chopper set us down a half hour later on the sandy bank of a creek overlooking a pristine waterfall. Our cameras came out as the helicopter and its associated safety and link to civilisation thudded off into the deepening shadows of evening. We were alone at last, and quite excited by the prospect!
With only a half-hour before sunset, we set about securing our food cache in a nearby tree. Having heard about the Northern Spotted Quolls, which were very curious and would eat anything, we enclosed the food in two industrial plastic bags and then in a sturdy canvas bag, before hanging it as high as we could manage in a tree.
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