The Dampier Peninsula or Ardi as the Traditional Owners know it, has the red carpet out in unique style. The area is north east of Broome over what used to be 220km of a dusty red sand track ideally suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles only, “unless hired or stolen”. The road today is approximately 50% sealed and by the year 2020, depending on who you talk to, is expected to be fully sealed. Great for the majority with standard vehicles but definitely taking away the adventure and outback experience for those looking for more of a challenge. We both think it will take away some of the thrill and satisfaction of making it to these remote areas. This is Aboriginal Land yet the Traditional Owners welcome visitors to experience their land and culture with a generosity that cannot help but impress.
The original Cape leveque Road
Aboriginal Culture here is very much alive. It’s evident in the language and in the activities of families who daily venture out to go fishing and gathering oysters from the rocks and bays. The Bardi Jawa are saltwater people and the sea continues to be an important source of food for them whether its fish, turtle or dugong. Their Culture is also evident in their ceremonies and we were lucky enough to be present during the natural phenomenon, the Stairway to the Moon and have the absolute bonus of the world renown Bardi Dancers perform to the chants of the Elders singing traditional stories in time to the clap of the sticks. It’s a memory that will remain with us forever.
Full Moon and "Stairway to the Moon"
Bardi Dancers have danced in England and all over Australia, it was wonderful to see them at home.
We camped for 7 nights at Gumbanan, a bush camp with flushing toilet
s and showers. It’s a “just come in a pick your spot, we’ll be around later for payment” camp ground and it suited us perfectly as a base to explore, to sit, relax and watch the fairly dynamic 8m tide come in and out to reveal and then hide the fish trap.
That's us bottom right
Camp at sunrise with the moon lighting the car
On our first day at Gumbanan we headed off to the swimming beach after checking out the croc situation and got chatting to another couple only to discover that in 1982, Maureen (Mo) was an entrant in the 21stTunarama Quest in Port Lincoln and that same year, Fran was the Tunarama Co-ordinator… It’s a small world. Her husband Bill is a keen fisherman and he and Mo came for a couple of nights about 2 weeks ago and just kept extending their stay for another week or so at a time. We enjoyed catching up with them as well as Ann, a solo traveller of a more mature age who drove up from Perth in a Suzuki Jimni over a couple of lazy afternoon happy hours.
The Swimming Hole at high Tide
And at low tide
Catching up with Bill and Mo Newman
We drove down to Beagle Bay to see the famous Sacred Heart Church, which was designed and built, by German Pallottine priests and the local people in 1918 from a photograph of a German Village Church. The inside of the Church is ornately and extensively decorated with locally sourced mother of pearl shell. While in Beagle Bay Bazz spotted a bakery and of course no bakery can be passed without a purchase and consequently, we had a morning tea accompanied with fresh, warm banana muffin – perfect.
The Sacred Heart Church, Beagle Bay.
The pearl shell inlaid alter
Lombadina, another aboriginal community a short distance from our campsite asks for a $10 admission fee permit for which you receive a map and description, (brief history) of the community, access to their Church and craft shop and access to an air compressor to re-inflate your tyres after a trip to their beach. The beach is stunning, white sand fringed with turquoise water, too good not to stop for a swim and a picnic.
The Church at Lombadina with Paperbark Roof is a more humble structure.
Ardyaloon became our “local” as we shoped in the well-stocked and reasonably priced general store. The store is staffed by young Indigenous people in bright uniforms who are unfailingly friendly and helpful. There is a Trochus shellfish Hatchery and Aquaculture Centre that we have visited on a previous trip to the Peninsula but we will visit there again next week when we fly to Horizontal Falls from Broome, land at the Ardyaloon airstrip then do the bus trip down the Peninsula with cousins Matt and Carol who are flying in from Sydney to join us in Broome for a week.
Sunrise at Gumbanan
We also visited Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm for lunch and enjoyed a delicious meal, “cooked by someone else”, overlooking the Bay and Farm Sheds. The Restaurant is the only licensed facility on the Peninsula although any visitors to this region are welcome to bring their own alcohol.
Watching the tide move
For the last three days of our visit to the Peninsula we moved around to the better-known Kooljaman at Cape Leveque. This Wilderness Retreat has camping, powered/unpowered, more private beach shelter camps and high-end glamping tent accommodation. There is a souvenier shop, BYO restaurant and beach café on the eastern side. Swimming, fishing, beach walking along with a selection of “tag-a-long” tours to experience the hunting and gathering of fish and bush tucker are available.
Cape Leveque Lighthouse.
We have come to Cape Leveque to photograph specifically the red cliffs on the western side at sunset and the swimming beach, eastern side at sunrise and they certainly haven’t disappointed although everyone else seemed to have the same idea but then again why not, both are certainly spectacular sights.
Cape Leveque Cliffs at Sunset
Watching the colours change is a photographers delight.
It’s our second visit to the Dampier Peninsula, the first time we stayed at Middle Lagoon a little to the south of Kooljiman and we would have to say we have enjoyed this experience even more than the first. It has definitely been worth revisiting.