Derby is a town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It has a population of 3,093, with about half of Aboriginal descent. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of only three towns in the Kimberley to have a population over 2,000. Located on King Sound, Derby has the highest tides in Australia, with the peak differential between low and high tide reaching 11.8 metres.
During World War II, Derby was bombed by Japanese planes because of an air base and jetty that was steadily used by Australian forces. More recently, refugees are housed at Royal Australian Air Force Base Curtin, which is located to the south of Derby.
Derby was famous in the 1920s as the terminus of the first scheduled aviation service in Australia, West Australian Airways Ltd. They began their service with a first flight on 5 December 1921. At one time the Perth to Derby service was the world’s longest passenger airline route.
We arrive just in time for the local Boab Festival. We also play golf at Derby Golf Club, famous for the fact that there are no bunkers or hazards – just boab trees everywhere, including in the centre of the fairway ! And guess who got stuck behind the biggest ? (see photo).
We just arrived at the caravan park in Derby, stopped to top up the water tanks and when Bob opened the front boot to get the water hoses, he was greeted with a boot full of smoke. Fortunately, there was no fire. We had no electrics but, luckily, we found a local auto electrician who had us up and running the next day. An overnight stay at a hotel courtesy of RACQ was quite welcome.
2 nights at Fitzroy Crossing gives us the chance to take a boat trip along the stunning Geikie Gorge, in its own National Park. The gorge was named in honour of Sir Archibald Geikie, the Director General of Geological Survey for Great Britain and Ireland when it was given its European name in 1883. Sir Archibald never visited the gorge and in due course the traditional owners, the Bunuba people, hope that it will be more generally known by its Aboriginal name, Darngku.
The gorge has been formed by the Fitzroy River and the level of the river in the wet season can rise by up to 16.5 metres (54 ft). The flood level can be clearly seen on the walls where the abrasive action of the floodwaters on the limestone has scoured the surface white. The limestone was originally a reef formed not by corals but by algae and lime secreting organisms that are now extinct. The river water sustains an abundance of life including barramundi, sawfish and freshwater crocodiles all of which can be found in the gorge.
Again, a quandry, too many photos – well, here goes.
We thought a night’s stay in Hall Creek may be on the cards but we decided to just drive through – not the most attractive town in the Kimberley. However, it does have 2 points of interest – 1, a bin to dispose of live cane toads ! and 2, a statue commemorating the feat of Russian Jack, Ivan Fredericks (1864–1904), a goldminer of the Western Australian gold rush in the 1880s. In 1885, while working in the Halls Creek goldmines, he pushed his sick friend in a wheelbarrow 300 Kms through the Great Sandy Desert to Wyndham, the nearest town with a medical centre. He is buried in Fremantle Cemetery.
Fortunately, after a one night free camp at Mary Pool, we discover a great farm stay at Larrawa Station. 4 Kms of dirt road take you to the farmstead of a 500,000 acre working cattle station. We shared the camp with a guy who is travelling with his own home-made helicopter. He is trying to start a business selling filmed documentaries. It was quite strange parking the caravan next to a helicopter. Fresh farm eggs at $4 per doz and beautiful fresh and clean bore water were bonuses but best of all was the camp fire and stars. Also, we were adopted by the farm dog, Morse, for the afternoon.