Pandanus Spiralus

Plant Profile : Pandanus Spiralus

Screwpine

Name: Pandanus Spiralus

Alternative names: Screw pine, Pandanus palm, Screw palm

Location: Generally around coastal regions of Northern Australia, throughout the Kimberley and Top End, and in Queensland.

 

The pandanus palm has a narrow trunk and long, thin leaves with prickles on the edges.  The leaves can grow up to 2 metres long while the tree can get up to 10 metres tall.  The leaves grow up the trunk in a spiral, hence the name – pandanus spiralus.

 

Pandanus Spiralus

 

They constantly grow upwards, producing new leaves at the top and the old leaves at the bottom die and hang on to produce a grass skirt around the trunk.  When bushfires occur, the dead dry leaves burn quickly and turn the tree into a huge fireball, but the plant survives.

 

The tree produces a cluster of woody fruit. The fruit is ripe when it turns a reddy-orange colour but the best time to eat the seeds inside is when the fruit turns brown.  Because the fruit is so tough, you need to put it into a vice and saw through it.  The seeds are said to taste a little like peanuts and coconuts mixed together.

 

The pandanus is very important to Aboriginal people and has a variety of uses from food to craft and even medicine.  They would make didgeridoos out of the trunks, toys from the fruit and would use the leaves to make necklaces, mats or string satchels.

 

 

Our Encounter:

We first saw pandanus palms when we arrived in Broome.  There were a few growing in town but it wasn’t until we were driving through the Kimberley that we saw them in the wild.  We were on the road to Mitchell River when we were suddenly surrounded by a forest of them.  We had never seen such a landscape before and it was like we were transported to some tropical island.   Also, when we went to the Keep River, the banks were lined with pandanus palms and we stood amongst them while fishing.  Don’t get too close though, their prickles are really prickly!

 

Lure fishing

 

Frogs love the Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 2

About halfway along the Gibb River Road is a turnoff that heads north to Mitchell Falls.  If you are well prepared for the trip, do it – the drive might be long but the hike to the falls is worth it.

 

Mitchell Plateau

Located in the Northern Kimberley, the Mitchell Plateau is home to the Mitchell River National Park, which covers about 115,000 hectares of rugged wilderness.  The road in is more rough than the western end of the Gibb River Road, with lots of sharp, rocky bits, river crossings and muddy tracks with big red puddles.

 

We saw a few dingoes that looked more like wild dogs and passed forests of livistona palms which really added some great character to the landscape.

 

 

Miners Pool

Our first stop along the Gibb River-Kalumburu Road, Miners Pool is a great place to stop and rest.  The camping area is equipped with oil barrel toilets and camping fees are payable at the Drysdale Homestead.

 

Drysdale Homestead

We needed to top up on fuel and water so we pulled into Drysdale H/S.  As expected, fuel prices were through the roof – even more expensive than the Nullarbor – petrol was about $2.40 p/L while diesel was $2.35 p/L.  The store wasn’t much different, with flour going at $6 a kilo and a box of shapes was just over $5.

 

Drinking water was free though, and we filled up every vessel we could.  There is also a beer garden and food outlet, and the people that we met were really friendly.

 

 

Lawley Lookout

In between the King Edward River and the Mitchell Falls National Park is a rest stop that overlooks a valley filled with livistona palms.  It’s a great view and worth stopping to take a look and stretch your legs before you continue on towards Mitchell Falls.

 

Mitchell Falls (Punamii-inpuu)

Located within the Mitchell River National Park.  Entry fees apply but if you have a WA Parks Pass you’re all sorted.

 

The 8km walk to the falls proved to be a great day out.  Some parts of the track were rocky and difficult while other parts are level and easy.  There were heaps of flowers along the way, as well as lizards and frogs.  Make sure you wear your togs because there are heaps of waterholes for a nice swim.  The area is sacred to the Wunambal people, please respect the area and approach waterholes quietly and courteously.

 

 

Little Merten Falls – This was the first water feature of the day, and even though it’s called Little Merten Falls, it’s a long drop down into the waterhole.  We saw a goanna basking in the sun, and climbed down behind the waterfall to check out an Aboriginal art gallery with a few Bradshaw style drawings.  We stopped here on our way back to camp to cool off under the spray.

 

Big Merten Falls When we arrived, we could see why this was called the Big Merten Falls.  The drop down in the gorge was at least 100 metres and it was daunting to look down.  We crossed the river via stepping stones at the top of the waterfall.

 

Big Merten Falls

 

Mitchell Falls – Wow – so much water, power and noise!  The hike was definitely worth the view as the Mitchell River cascades 150 metres down into the gorge.  The water in the river is drinkable so we sat down, had lunch and rehydrated before heading back to camp.

 

 

Camping

It’s $7 per adult per night to camp, and the facilities include Jumanji drop toilets, fire pits and generator/no-generator zones.  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter whether you were camped next to a generator or not, it was bloody noisy all day because of the helicopter operation next to the campsites that flew tourists over the Mitchell Falls.

 

The campfire curfew was between 4pm and 8am, which is just enough time to make dinner and breakfast!  While we were cooking up some faux fried rice, we got some camping neighbours and they turned out to be a great couple.  Andrea and James (aka Fox & Lamb) were holidaying for 2 weeks in their Lambcruiser and were on their way back home.  We sat around the fire, chatted and sucked cans well into the night, shared stories and had some great laughs.  It was totes awesomeballs to meet these guys – absolute tits!

 

The Lamb

 

Surveyor Pool

After spending the night at Mitchell Falls, we headed north to Surveyor Pool in the morning.  Access to the pool is via a 4WD track with 2-3 metre tall grass on either side, plus a short walk to the river.

 

It was like an oasis – the river tumbled down into a beautiful pool surrounded by pandanus and livistona palms.  We only saw one saltwater croc – and that was enough to confirm that we weren’t going to climb down into the gorge.  We stayed on top of the falls and had a refreshing dip in the shallow rapids.

 

 

Eastern Kimberley

The scenery in the east of the Kimberley is really picturesque. In the distance and at the side of the road, there were fantastic rocky outcrops, escarpments and mountains.  Once we got back on the Gibb River Road, the scenery became more striking but the road became shittier.  We were now a few days into our Kimberley adventure and we were definitely grateful for all our recovery gear, but felt silly that we didn’t properly stock up on supplies.

 

Eastern Kimberley

 

Take care of your vehicle

Don’t go during the Wet Season between September and April.  The roads are often closed or impassable and if you get stuck, it’ll cost you big time. The Dry Season is best – and if you go at the start of the season there will be more greenery and water.

 

Check with locals about the road conditions and always be prepared with spare tyres, a tyre repair kit, and even a snorkel to get you over the river crossings.  Petrol vehicles need not apply.

 

Stock up!

We did a shocking job of stocking up before entering the remote Kimberley.  Sure, there are stores within the homesteads where you can buy essential items, but we couldn’t justify playing $6 for a kilo of flour when we could have prepared better and got it for only $1.

 

Good things to stockpile include WATER, crackers, peanut butter, rice, tinned tuna, carrots, potatoes, canned vegetables and meals.  If you want to make damper, you’ll also need flour, butter and milk or milk powder.

 

 

Emma Gorge 

As soon as we got there, we wanted to leave.  Emma Gorge is occupied by a big, fancy pants resort with green grass, a gift shop, restaurant and stylish accommodation.  Plus, we had to pay $10 each just to be there.  We declined and left.

 

The Grotto

When you reach the end of the Gibb River Road, turn north at the Great Northern Highway and head towards Wyndham.  The Grotto is about 15kms up the road and is a shaded waterhole within a gorge.  There are 140 manmade steps down into the gorge and it’s a nice place to cool off.

 

During the Wet Season, there is a gush of water that pours down into the gorge.  It was a little dry when we were there so the water was murky and stagnant, but it was still a nice place to be.  Plus, the water can be up to 175m deep.

 

 

Warmun (Turkey Creek)

The roadhouse is a great place to stop and shop for groceries or a decent steak sandwich, and there is a nifty mechanic in town in case you need any spare parts for your 4WD.  Warmun is one of the Kimberley’s largest communities with a population of over 400.  Please be respectful – Warmun is a closed aboriginal community.

 

The Bungle Bungles

A relatively new discovery in the Kimberley, the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park are definitely worth the 2 hour drive along the 50km dirt road.  Check out our post on the Bungle Bungles here.

 

Reflections - The Bungle Bungles

The Derby Prison Tree

Plant Profile : The Boab Tree

The Majestic Boab Name: Boab

Scientific Classification: Adansonia Gregorii

Alternative Names: Australian baobab, bottle tree, dead rat tree, gouty stem tree   The Boab has become the symbol of the Kimberley due to its unique and interesting shape.  It is a hardy, bulbous tree with silver grey bark that grows best in sandy soil and can live for hundreds of years.  During the Wet Season, they blossom with large white flowers that attract fruit bats, and during the Dry Season, they lose their leaves and leave behind massive nuts.   These nuts are either oval or round in shape and contain edible flesh and seeds that can be eaten raw or cooked by putting the whole nut into the fire.  They are a good source of vitamin C and protein and can be packed for long distance travel because if you don’t open the nut, the seeds will keep, so they’re a little like a food time capsule.  You can also carve the outside of the nut and made a pretty ornament.  The flesh of the tree trunk holds a lot of water so if you’re desperate for a drink, cut a piece off and chew it to get the moisture out.

 

The Kimberley 2013-05-25 003

 

The Australian boab is related to the ones that comes from Madagascar, India and South Africa, and possibly made it to Australia via the trading routes from Madagascar and South Africa to Indonesia.  The seamen may have stocked up on the boab nut and if they crashed their ship, the nuts could have floated their way down to the Kimberley coastline.  In 1837, when George Grey first started exploring the Kimberley, he saw the Boab and thought that the odd-shaped trees were diseased.  Another theory is that boab trees have survived on the Australian continent from when it was connected to Africa around 65 million years ago.

 

Dreamtime Story

Back in the day, the boab was seen as such a proud and arrogant tree that the Dreamtime spirits said, “We’ll fix you!”   The spirits pulled the boab out of the ground and stuck it back into the earth upside down!  The twisted branches you see are actually the twisted roots, and the kooky thing is that the story that the natives in Madagascar tell about their baobab tree is quite similar.

 

Our Encounter

Apart from the logo on our camping chairs, we didn’t spot a boab tree until we were near Broome.  You can’t truly appreciate these bizarre, twisted trees until you’ve actually see a few of them in person.

 

They’re scattered all over the northern parts of WA and NT and some of them are huge!   Some of the more famous boabs to check out are the Boab Prison Tree (one near Derby, one near Wyndham), the Gregory Tree near Timber Creek, and the ‘biggest boab in captivity’ that is located at the caravan park in Wyndham.  We even heard about a ‘tapped’ boab tree somewhere near El Questro – turn the tap and water comes out!   We’ve both come to love the silhouette of these majestic trees, with their warped branches and fat bellies.  We’ve also both tried our hand at some boab nut carving – it’s more difficult and time consuming than we thought!

 

Disclaimer: We are not bush tucker experts!  We have a bush tucker guide and we will only eat wild berries and such once we are 100% confident that it’s safe.  We must stress that you should not eat anything until you are also 100% confident and educated that it is safe and non-toxic.

 

Boab sunset - The Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 1

The Kimberley is a huge savannah plain in the north of Western Australia.  It stretches from Broome in the West to Kununurra in the East, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek in the south to the coastline in the north.  The area is bigger than Tasmania and Victoria combined.

 

 

Some areas of the Kimberley have been settled by Europeans since the 1800s, while other parts are only newly discovered, like the Bungle Bungles.  It is considered to be one of the last remaining wilderness areas on earth and if you’re game enough to explore it, the Kimberley will give you the ultimate outback experience.

 

The land was first explored in 1837 by George Grey, and the area boomed during the 1860s due to pearling, sheep and cattle farms, mining for diamonds, gold and iron, and cotton picking.  It is believed that the Kimberley coastline was possibly the original landing spot of the first aboriginals who came from South East Asia thousands and thousands of years ago.

 

The natural attractions are plentiful – gorges, waterfalls, palm forests, rocky outcrops and swimming holes – and you will find yourself surrounded by wildlife like crocodiles, birds, frogs, lizards, kangaroos and dingoes.  Cattle stations are scattered throughout the Kimberley and you will see their stock grazing at the side of the road.

 

Aboriginal Art Styles

We saw lots of aboriginal art galleries in the Kimberley containing drawings of crocodiles, kangaroos, people and handprints.  There were two distinct aboriginal art styles that we saw – Bradshaw and Wandjina – and it was really interesting to see the difference between the two styles.

 

Bradshaw Art depicts people like fat stick figures.  Sometimes they hold weapons or wear ceremonial clothing.  Most of these are painted in red and they are believed to be at least 17,000 years old.

 

The Wandjina Style is represented by ancestral beings surrounded with halos and sun rays, with big eyes and a nose but no mouth.  It is believed that this is a more recent style of art from about 1000 years ago.

 

When we departed from Derby, we promised ourselves one thing – no laptop activity until we finished the Gibb River Road.

 

Gibb River Road

Considered to be the artery that travels through the heart of the Kimberley, the Gibb River Road is a 660km stretch of dirt road that was constructed in the 1960s to transport cattle from the stations to the ports of Derby and Wyndham.

 

There was heaps of wildlife to spy as we drove along – brolgas, bustards and the occasional cow – but the real attractions were the gorges.

 

Windjana Gorge

Located within the Windjana National Park, the entrance to the gorge is equipped with a picnic area and toilets that actually flush!  There is an entry fee into the national park but if you have a WA Parks Pass then you’re all sorted.  Camping is permitted in designated areas and the 7km walking track into the gorge starts at the Day Picnic Area.

 

Windjana Gorge - The Kimberley

 

The first thing we noticed as we entered the gorge was the towering cliffs overhead.  As we passed through a narrow corridor of rock, we followed a trail alongside the Lennard River through lush vegetation and trees wrapped by vines.  The path led us down on the banks, where about a dozen freshwater crocodiles were sunning themselves.  When Juz saw the first one, only 10 metres away, she jumped up and grabbed Dave, but the crocodile didn’t budge.  They were all perfectly content with lazing about in the morning sun like statues.  We hung around taking photos of the crocs and waited for a bit of action, secretly half-hoping that a bird (or a tourist!) would get just that little bit too close…

 

The birdlife was incredible, with lots of little finches, rainbow bee-eaters and birds of prey.  We also found a tree laden with noisy fruit bats.

 

 

Lennard Gorge

A decent hike from the car park along a dry creek bed brings you to a lookout that provides great views of a waterfall and the gorge below.  On the way back, we found ourselves sweaty and stinky so we deviated from the path and found a little creek under the shade of a tree and had a refreshing dip amongst the frogs and lilies.

 

 

Bell Gorge

This gorge is a clear favourite.  The hike from the car park was nice and easy and brings you out to the top of the waterfall.  We were spewing that we forgot our togs because it was a great spot for swimming.

 

 

If you cross the river, you can follow another path to a great viewpoint that overlooks the waterfall.  You can even scale down the rock cliff into the gorge for a quick swim.  Watch out for crocs though.

 

Adcock Gorge

After a short, tight and rough track leading to this gorge, we were very well rewarded. Adcock Gorge is a great location for a dip, but watch out for all the St Andrews Cross spiders!   Juz kept screaming ‘Jumanji’ and desperately avoided their webs out of fear of wearing a spider silk mask.

 

The calm pool leading up to the waterfall was full of flowering lilies and as we navigated the stepping stones, Dave stumbled upon what he first thought was a snake but later realised it was a legless lizard wiggling about on the rocks!  The waterhole itself is lush and full of moss and overhanging roots from rock fig trees.  Despite being a little bit murky, the water was cool and refreshing and Juz had a quick swim.  There is also some Aboriginal art on the rocks next to the waterhole.

 

 

Galvan Gorge

A short walk from the car park will bring you to another waterhole with a water fall that you can swim in.  There is another aboriginal art gallery to the right of the waterhole.

 

Barnett River Gorge

Not the most picturesque gorge in the Kimberley but a great place to camp out for a few days.  When you enter the gorge car park and camping areas, you’ll pass a house that says ‘”Trespassers shot on sight” – not exactly the warmest of welcomes so leave them alone and keep moving.

 

 

We found a nice patch to set up camp that was relatively shaded and private, and close to a shallow creek and the path towards the gorge.  While we couldn’t find the actual gorge at first, we found a series of shallow falls that turned out to be the perfect place to cool off and wash the sweat off your back.

 

We later found a trail along a dry river bed that led us into the gorge.  There was a tour group already there, with a few members having a swim in the river.  Juz was about to jump in with them but found out that there were some freshwater crocs inhabiting the water less than 50 metres away.  She wussed out, the tour group had a bit of a laugh and we returned to the shallow falls back near camp.

 

Burnett River Gorge - The Kimberley

 

Stay tuned for The Kimberley – Part 2!