Just north of Broome is the Damiper Peninsula, an area known by the local aboriginals as Ardi, which means northeast. There are several aboriginal communities on the peninsula and you can visit some of them, learn how they used to go fishing and hunting and about bush foods and medicine, family and community. You will probably have to get a permit or pay an entry fee into the community – feel free to inquire at the Visitor Centre in Broome.
The road in was made of red dirt and as we drove through massive puddles, the Troopy got covered! The dirt was so red, it looked like a blood bath!
This was our primary destination – red cliffs contrasting with pale sand and blue ocean – we were bursting with excitement until we arrived at some resort caravan park and were told that we had to pay $5 each to look around. We had come about 200km from Broome to see these cliffs, so there was no way we were going to leave without seeing them.
We started our walk at Western Beach, which looks out over the Indian Ocean and is not recommended for swimming. We walked past the red cliffs, noticing the layers and variation in colours, and ended up at the point of Cape Leveque to see a small island about 100 metres offshore. We would have loved to explore the island. It too was made of red cliffs and sandy beaches but there were also green plants and palm trees – it looked like a tropical paradise.
As we came down the eastern side of the cape, we stopped at the swimming beach for a dip. The water was so warm, it was like having a bath! Juz did some snorkelling amongst the oyster-covered rocks and after a quick freshwater shower, we strolled past the lighthouse towards the Troopy and headed to our next destination.
Beagle Bay was named by J. C. Whickham in 1838 as he surveyed the northwest coast aboard the HMS Beagle, the same ship that Charles Darwin was on when he came to Australia. The Nyul Nyul people are traditional owners of the land and they were initially visited by the Trappist Monks from France, who came to Beagle Bay in 1890. They built a bush monastery and dedicated it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they learnt the Nyul Nyul language, performed their first baptism in 1896 and began to teach French and Latin before leaving Beagle Bay in 1900.
The French were replaced by the Pallottine Missionaries of Germany, who continued to run the mission for the next 90 years. When World War One erupted, the German priests and brothers were placed under house arrest with a police guard at the mission. During this time, they began to build a church as a statement of faith. It took two years to build from clay bricks and one year to decorate with shells and mother of pearl. The result is absolutely beautiful.
The Sisters of St John of God arrived from Ireland in 1907 and dedicated themselves to taking care and educating the Stolen Generation children brought to Beagle Bay under government orders. We were lucky enough to be in Broome while a ‘Relationships’ exhibition was on at the Sisters of St John of God College and learnt a lot about the work that the Sisters did in Beagle Bay.
The sun was low on the horizon when we arrived at our campsite at Point Quandong.
Juz went gaga at all the hermit crabs that were creeping along the ground, and we had a small path down to the beach, which was covered in hermit crab tracks.
Night of the Mozzie Massacre
As soon as the sun went down, the mosquitoes came out and before we knew it, we were enveloped in a cloud of blood-sucking, disease carrying miniature vampires. The Troopy was wide open because it was a hot, humid day and we just had dinner, and in a very short amount of time, our bedroom was swarming with mozzies.
We started with insect repellents and none of them were effective – even the tropical strength stuff that our friends got from Thailand. We lit mozzie coils and they did nothing. The only thing we could do was to climb into the Troopy and lock ourselves in with hundreds of mosquitoes.
We spent about two hours smacking, pinching, clapping and squishing. We only had two windows open – the ones covered in flyscreen – and we were sweating profusely, which didn’t help because mozzies are attracted to sweat! Dave worked the back while Juz managed the front and by 8pm, we were both exhausted. We knew there were more mozzies to kill but we couldn’t carry on. We went to sleep sweaty and covered in blood splatter and the corpses of our enemies.
During the night, the rains came but the mozzies remained. The rising sun was a welcome sight – we survived the night but Juz suffered – she was covered in bites.
Delica vs. River Road
The mozzies were still around in the morning so we packed up and headed for Broome. Unfortunately, the rain during the night turned the road into a river and there was no way to get around it.
We decided to wait it out and see if the water level would go down, and about 30 minutes later, a pair of grey nomads in their 4WD turn up who were escorting Swedish backpackers in a Delica van to the airport in Broome. Dave and the backpackers hitched up their shorts and waded in to the water to assess the depth. The worst of it was about thigh-deep and we watched as the Delica gave it a go, only to stall in the middle of the puddle because the diesel engine filled with water.
Another 4WD arrived to suss out what was happening and we advised them (they were French tourists), that because their vehicle was petrol, they shouldn’t go anywhere near the water. Another two 4WDs arrived, and these guys knew what they were doing. One pulled the Delica all the way back to the tarmac road, while the other dragged the petrol 4WD through the worst of it.
The Troopy had no worries and drove through the puddle like it was nothing. We had a few red mud splashes on it from the previous day, but after going through the road river, the Troopy got a good metres worth rust-coloured dirt all over it and all through the engine bay. Everyone was a winner that day – except for the Swedish backpackers, who probably destroyed their engine.