Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Australia Day 8 – Wednesday 6th June

We had another early morning call at 6.00am to leave on the early zodiacs. It had been quite rough at some point during the night – I could remember the ship seemed to be going up and down rather a lot – didn’t keep me awake so it might have been a dream! Paul said he felt it too, so it wasn’t a dream. This is rather a small vessel, so I am sure it doesn’t take much to make it bounce around. We were warned it could be chilly at this time of the morning, but to us it was like a summer’s day! We left Orion for a trip up the Hunter River, and then into Porosus Creek. As we left the ship, the tide was coming in to the river, and the wind was blowing the opposite way, which made it a bit choppy. That didn’t last long though, it soon calmed down. We had Max as a guide again today, and he soon spotted feet tracks on a sandy bank, which meant a crocodile had not long passed that way.

We soon spied a small one on the bank – although to me it looked just like a rock. The tide was coming in really quickly, so within a few minutes the water was up to the “rock” and it swum away. We just moved a few hundred yards around the corner, and then spied a larger one just swimming in the rocks. It was not in a hurry to move, so we were able to track it for quite a long time. We were hoping that it was going to climb up onto the beach, but it had other ideas, and swum into the rocks. As we turned left into Porosus Creek, so named after the Crocodylus porosus, we hoped for lots more crocodiles. Instead, we found the skies to be the best place to point the camera. We saw osprey, and sea eagles, and wedge eagles all soaring gracefully above our heads. I even got a few pictures that were just about in focus! Hurrah! As we turned off the engine and just floated on the creek, it was so peaceful. The birds were singing, but because of all the mangroves either side not one of them could be seen. Paul then spotted another crocodile – he has got a name for himself, as we are known as the crocodile spotters, and “we want them in our boat!”. It went under as soon as he saw us, and never surfaced again. Obviously the chap that named the creek had a lot more luck at seeing them than we did. Just as we were on our way back, we spotted a nest in the trees. It was a brahmany kite nest, and there were two birds in it. One in the nest, and one perched just above it. The one in the nest sat very happily as we snapped away at it – the other spread its wings and flew right into the sun, so I didn’t get a chance to take its photograph. Never mind – I got a few good ones when it was in the tree. Time to go back, and we headed full speed out of the creek.

Just as we rounded the corner to get into Hunter River, we spied another zodiac with the umbrella and flag. We pulled up, and Gabor was serving cornettos. How much more bizarre can this get? Gabor is the Hungarian Maitre d’ – and is most charismatic and hard working maitre d’ I have ever come across. Who else would park up a zodiac with a freezer box for a few dozen guests whizzing by?

Breakfast was finished when we got back to the ship just before 10.00am, but then I don’t know if I fancy breakfast after a chocolate cornetto. Breakfast might have finished, but they were then laying out morning tea – sandwiches and soup. Oh well, that will do then!

After a couple of hours, it was time for our excursion to Mitchell Falls. This was one that we chose to go on – and at $495 each it had better be good. Paul was bullied into going – he could have taken it or left it. I should have taken me and left him – it would have been half price then! We got on the zodiac to go the short way to the beach on Naturalist Island, where the helicopter was to land. We got a few metres from the shore and then stopped – we were waiting for the helicopter to come in. One of the crew, Kevin, produced an umbrella to sit under to keep the sun off. What will they think of next? The helicopter came in, and we had a four seater all to ourselves. The pilot, who was called Will and seemed very similar to my Will, (full of youthful energy and mischief) sat up front, and Paul and I had the back seats. We may have had seats, but we had no doors. It was completely open. We strapped in, and put the headphones on. “Press the black button to speak” said Will. Paul asked what the red button did which was next to the black button. “Ejector seat” said Will. What did I say – just like my Will! We took off, and effortlessly rose into the air. As we had a wet landing, the helicopter had sand in from our feet. “They don’t mind about that” we were told. “As there are no doors they fly sidewards for a bit to tip it all out.” Can’t wait! We followed the Hunter River for a bit, and saw Porosus Creek that we had gone up this morning in the zodiacs. We looked into the water trying to find shadows of crocodiles, but couldn’t see any. Got some amazing pictures from up there. I did lean out a bit to try to get a better shot, and the wind would have blown me away had I not been strapped in – it was so strong. Lovely and cool though! We took about twenty minutes to travel over the acres and acres of land full of rocks, trees and not much else. No wonder this area is only accessible by sea.

We landed at Mitchell Falls, and made our way over the plateau to a beautiful large swimming hole. No crocs here – or so they say! Several people were already swimming, but we took the hike to the look out points instead. Look out point number one was fairly easy to get to. It was ten minutes over fairly large rocks, that were quite flat and easy to walk on most of the time. From here, three of the four waterfalls were in view. Look out point number two was a different matter. “Go as far as you think you can, then go further” were the instructions. What sort of instruction is that? We did, and then went further and further. This involved scrambling over rocks, scrambling round rocks, jumping down and climbing up. But the view was worth it. From here, you could see all four falls at once. Out of the gushing spray at the bottom one there appeared a rainbow – which made it look magical.

After taking several pictures, we made our way back up to the top, and then hopped in the helicopter for the return journey. Anya, one of the marine biologists from the ship, rode shotgun next to the pilot, as we were the last people to leave. Apparently, there is lots of Wandjina art in the rocks all over the Kimberley. Hikers sometimes stumble on it, much of it isn’t documented. I suspect that there is much, much more as the aboriginal people have lived in this area for hundreds of years.

After another very scenic flight back to Naturalist Island, the zodiac is waiting to take us back to the ship – and afternoon tea! What another lovely day! At the recap tonight we saw another set of amazing photographs that Mick had taken on the trips out today. His wildlife photography is something else – so clear and he knows all the birds, what they do, where they go and anything else that anyone asks. He truly is a master at his job! At 6.00pm we set sail for Vansittart Bay, which is to be our first stop tomorrow. An early night, after another exceptional dinner of course, was the order of the day. This expedition lark is wearing me out!

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