My Kimberley encounter
Mary Lowe is a seasoned traveller, now in her late 70’s; Mary has seen many an amazing site on her journeys. When asked to nominate her top pick in Australia she instantly singled out her three week Kimberley sojourn. We asked her to share her thoughts on the transforming experience of delving into the haunting beauty of this vast region.
“Arriving by air into Alice Springs for the start of this adventure, I was excited by the prospect of what we would discover, but nothing could have prepared me for just how magnificent this experience would turn out to be. I’m a member of a bushwalking club in Sydney and we had booked a guided camping tour with a South Australian tour operator, Exploranges. There were 19 of us from the club and together with our hosts, (two drivers and a cook), we headed north aboard two massive 12 seat ‘OKA’ exploration vehicles”.
A great way to travel the expanses of the north!
Mary emphasised the advantages of taking such a trip with experienced tour guides who had all the right gear and the inside knowledge. “I can’t stress enough the value of doing a trip like this with the right guidance. There is no way you would see or experience what we did if you were on your own. Our group was predominantly retired folk, so the security and comfort of travelling in purpose built vehicles with all the gear and food provided meant we could just soak up the adventure every day”.
The expedition was run with military precision – not surprising, given the army and air force backgrounds of the tour guides, as Mary relates. “The camp organisation was outstanding. The process of setting up camp each night, organising meals, cleaning up and packing up the next morning ran like clockwork and gave us more time to enjoy the sights each day. It was a carefully managed routine and we were all assigned into teams to share the camp duties, which was great for socialising and camaraderie. The food was fantastic too and the camp bedding very comfortable”.
Into the heart of the region
The route took them north to Tennant Creek, then north-west into the dramatic beauty of the ancient Kimberley region. In a vast three week circuit they passed through Kunnunurra, Wyndham, Derby, Broome. Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and the great Tanami desert, before heading back to Alice Springs. View the route here.
The diversity of the landscape along the way brought a new awe-inspiring delight every day, as Mary explained. “The scenery was beyond imagination. The Devil’s Marbles, Keep River National Park, the gorge country and then stunning coastal views; it was just breathtaking”.
“The benefit of being on a planned trip meant that the way you explore and experience each of the major sites is all arranged in advance, so that we got the most out of every day’s adventures. For example, on arriving at Sir John Gorge a fleet of canoes was ready and waiting for us to take to the water, while at Geikie Gorge we were straight onto a touring barge. The guides knew the best places to swim or to see wildlife or to take an off road bushwalk. It was just a huge advantage to have their insight into each location – even down to the timing of our arrival at the coastal mudflats right on the full moon, so that we could get the best view of the famous ‘stairway to the moon’ effect”.
Revealing the regions mysteries
“Even down to the finest details, the guides just kept surprising us with their knowledge. I remember on one night we took a walk away from camp by torchlight. The guide suddenly stopped and placed his torch so that the beam shone along the ground. Immediately there were thousands of tiny shining dots spread out before us, which turned out to be the eyes of masses of tiny desert spiders reflecting the torchlight. It was spectacular sight and something you just wouldn’t know was there if you were on your own”.
“It wasn’t just the landscape they knew about. The night sky was remarkable too and they could point out the constellations and stars, which just brought it all to life”.
The benefits of a group experience
Mary also told of how the enjoyment of such a trip is made greater through the shared experience and jovial conversation around the campfire. “Being able to relive the days’ events with each other over dinner made it that much more pleasurable. It’s the social aspect that really does add to a trip like this and the friendships develop freely because there is so much to share together and everyone can relate to that sense of discovery and adventure. I really do recommend it as a great way to see this region”.
For more information visit Bush walking tours.