Oh, The Places We’ll Go

Manning Gorge
Manning Gorge, Gibb River Road

Just over 2 years ago my wife and I cracked open a bottle of wine and weighed up whether to stick around in Melbourne or pack our bags and move to Broome. We had a nice little apartment in Melbourne, steady work as a photographer and architect, and all the luxuries that come with living in one of the world’s most liveable cities. Life was good. Melbourne was a city of culture – the perfect place for my wife to get her Masters – and for me it was a city that introduced me to the world of commercial photography with all its joys and frustrations. In deciding whether to move to Broome or not we would ask ourselves the same question; In 40 or 50 years time are we more likely to look back and regret moving to Broome or regret having never taken the opportunity while we had it?
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The Kimberley Vs. Kakadu

Parry's Lagoon
Parry’s Lagoon, East Kimberley
Don’t get me wrong, I like Kakadu. World heritage listed for good reason, it is the home of a 50,000 year old Aboriginal culture and consequently the home of some pretty impressive rock art. It is a hotspot for experiencing some of Australia’s great natural attractions and a wetland of international importance. For all of these reasons it is a big name attraction. On top of that it also has the infrastructure to make it safe, reliable and convenient to visit. But it is that same infrastructure, for me, that robs Kakadu of its magic. The dusty, corrugated roads of the Kimberkey make the journey itself feel like an adventure and the roads are just rough enough to keep the masses out. On Kakadu’s sealed roads it feels more like an amusement park where people are shepherded from one attraction to the next. In Kakadu the phone coverage is a convenience. In the Kimberley the lack of coverage creates a sense of isolation and remoteness that is rare in an over-connected world – it is a place where phones don’t vibrate and the wider world quietly disappears.

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Beware Of The Mozzies!

Saltwater Crocodile
Saltwater Crocodile

Oh, how history repeats itself. First night in Kakadu and we are devastated by mosquitoes, just like last time. We arrived at sunset and set up shop next to a picturesque little waterhole right on the edge of the national park – a beautiful little spot recommended by a friend of friend. Quick dip to cool off and refresh and then, sure enough, in true Kakadu style the onslaught began. Mosquitos don’t normally like me. In fact, while Ali soaks herself with insect repellent most nights, I can’t remember the last time I used the stuff. Tonight insect repellent is my friend – a friend that promises but doesn’t quite deliver.

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A Sense Of The Unspoiled

Bungle Bungles
Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park

There’s something special about leaving the first footprints in sand. That sense of the unspoiled. Turns out we are the first of the season to tackle the Picaninny Gorge hike into the heart of the Bungle Bungles and we have the place all to ourselves – not a footprint to be seen anywhere. The national park opened just a week ago and officially the hike is still closed but the ranger kindly gave us the green light after assuring him we had the means to boil water along the way and an emergency locator beacon tucked away in our backpack just in case. Less than 1% of park visitors are able to do this so we’re pretty pumped as we load our backpacks and head off for 3 days in the mighty Bungles Bungles. I won’t wax lyrical about the history of the park or the unusual geology of the domes – suffice it to say this place is simply spectacular.

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A Timeless & Ancient Land

Mount House

Along the Great Northern Highway the Kimberley reveals itself slowly. This is very much the heart of cattle country – vast endless flood plains peppered with termite mounds and hardy eucalypts are interrupted only occasionally by billabongs, river crossings and isolated Aboriginal townships. The Great Sandy Desert sits just to the south, just out of sight. It is flat and seemingly endless. Then suddenly, from nowhere, a limestone or sandstone range rises to grab your attention and just as quickly disappears as the road changes direction – as if swallowed up by this vast country. Without exaggeration or hyperbole it is a timeless and ancient landscape. At 1.8 billion years old these red rocky ranges are considered some of the oldest surface rock anywhere in the world. As Hugh Edwards writes in his book ‘Dreaming to Diamonds’, this is a place that exists on a grander scale in terms of climate and terrain. It is a land that has seen gold rushes, hauls of pearl shell, great cattle drives, a battle of cultures and an endless ongoing struggle against the elements. And set against this backdrop people like us come to experience something that is increasingly difficult to find back home in an overcrowded world – space and unspoiled nature. A timeless place indeed.