Caitlin and I were up early as we needed to be at the horse place by 7am. The others were up when we left and happily waved us off. Caitlin was extremely excited (and pleased that her jodhpurs still fit her – she’s grown so much since we left home that there was a chance they’d be way too small). We drove out to the Yeehaa ranch, and the owner met us at the gate. He was very friendly and welcoming, and I felt quite comfortable letting Caitlin go on a trail ride with him. He introduced us to his 2 workers, young men who’d been through the training program he runs, helping boys get an agricultural certificate. It felt like a fantastic place.
Caitlin rode an appaloosa called Dollar. They ride Western style here, which she hadn’t done before, but she adapted quite easily. The boys took her out on the trail, and I chatted to the owner then sat under a huge boab tree and read my book until she came back. She loved the ride, they trotted a lot, and rode to the river and along the base of a big rock called Elephant Rock (although she didn’t see the elephant side). When they got back they had a bit of time left and tried to get the horses to canter in the arena – her horse was more interested in coming over to look at me instead… She dismounted and while the boys put the horses in the stalls we chatted to them about the training program and riding and rodeos etc. It was a really lovely morning and Caitlin had a great time.
On the way back we called in at Coles to get a few more supplies, and then to the op shop to get a jumpsuit Caitlin had seen the day before. Back to camp where we had a bit more breakfast and then Tony and the kids went for a swim, while I got ready for our day out. After they came back we had a bit of lunch and then headed out of town.
Our first stop was the Zebra Rock Gallery – with zebras being one of Millie’s favourite animals it was too cool to pass up. The zebra rock is only found in this area of the world, each rock has unique markings, stripes or blotches, and look so incredible. When we got there we met 2 dogs in the yard, and the owner introduced us to them. We wandered through the gallery and looked at all the different types of rocks, some shaped like animals, some just pieces of rocks. We made our gold coin donations and took a piece of bread each down to the jetty where we were able to feed the fish – catfish again, so many that they formed a kind of carpet on the top of the water. As we walked down to the water one of the dogs (a kelpie like dog) came with us, and headed straight into the water, he kept swimming through the group of fish and scattering them everywhere, it was hilarious. There were archer fish there and if we waited long enough without throwing any bread in, the catfish would move away a bit and the archer fish would come in and shoot their streams of water at us – we all got squirted and then happily gave them our bread. The girls used their bread up fairly quickly, LiAM was very frugal with it and spent a lot of time patiently waiting for the archer fish to come in, he really enjoyed it. There was a great view along the river of Elephant Rock – it really did look like an elephant.
Back up on the lawn near the gallery, LiAM and I played totem tennis. Caitlin bought a mango smoothie (it was $8!!) and we all shared it (the gallery is on a mango farm). Millie browsed the rocks trying to decide which one to buy. One of the dogs came and sat between Caitlin’s legs, he really seemed to love her. Millie eventually decided, and the owner gave each of the kids a small piece of zebra rock for free. We went out the back and talked to the corellas and cockatoos in cages there, and met a couple from Silvan (not far from our place). We played some more totem tennis, had a play in the playground, browsed the gallery again and eventually tore ourselves away – such a great place to hang out.
We drove from there up to Wyndham, past a lot more cool hills and escarpments. The land around the hills is very dry, lots of boab trees, kapok flowers and some gums, all quite spread out, with straggly grass in between. We drove across a huge flood plain – a very wide flat area that had a creek or two through the middle of it, that would flood completely in the wet. As we approached Wyndham we started to see large areas of mud flats – dry, flat, white areas leading to a bit of green foliage on the edge of the rivers. In the wet I suppose all those mud flats would be under water.
The buildings in Wyndham looked very old and fairly rundown. There was an old hospital that looked like it was falling apart, later we saw a newer hospital building. There were several rehabilitation centres and a sobering up hostel. Lots of the houses had bars on the windows, or were boarded up. We drove through town, reading a few of the historical signs, then continued on towards the wharf. There were some old trains on display, and lots of discarded machinery around. We could see a wide expanse of water to our left, which would be the gulf that leads up to the Timor Sea. We reached the wharf area and saw a large conveyor belt leading out to the ships, and some large ships anchored in the water. There were mud flats on either side of the road and it felt like no place we’d ever seen before. We drove back to the foreshore once the wharf road became unsealed (it felt pretty desolate out there, the least bustling port we’ve seen). There was a community jetty which we walked out on, and were amazed at the speed of the water flowing underneath. The tide must have been going out and the water was swirling past the jetty at a fairly alarming rate. Anything that got dropped in there would be out of reach very quickly. The water was slightly choppy and there was no clue as to how deep it was. There were mangroves along the edge of the river and we could see where the waterline had come down a little recently. The end of the jetty was a pontoon that could float on the water no matter what its level. There were a few people fishing out there, and we hung out for a while, watching the water and imagining what might be in there.
On the way back to the car the kids found a large dead fish, LiAM examined it quite closely. We drove back through town and up to the Five Rivers Lookout. The view was phenomenal. We could see the 5 rivers (Ord, Forrest, King, and two others) which empty into the gulf here, all winding through the flood plains between the escarpment and Wyndham. Each of the rivers was flanked by a large expanse of mud flats, especially the Ord. It was cool to think that yesterday we were swimming in the lake that feeds the Ord, and we’d fed fish in it early today. To the north there were more mountain ranges on either side of the gulf. There were a lot of people up at the lookout, and everyone was blown away by the view, which was made extra beautiful as the sun set. One guy I was talking to said it was the best thing he’d seen so far, in part because it was unique. Tony and I had said the same thing, that this place was like nothing we’d ever seen before.
We prowled up and down the walkway of the lookout, watching the sun set from different angles. Once the sun was down we got out our stove and boiled some water for cup-a-soup and cup-a-noodles. A couple of other families stayed up at the lookout and had dinner as well. The sky continued to get a darker orange before finally fading to black, it was gorgeous, and the rivers kept changing colours as well. We could see fires burning out on the flood plains of the Ord river, which became brighter as the night got darker. We had a lovely picnic dinner and eventually packed up and headed back down the hill.
We stopped once on the way home for a toilet stop and marveled at the stars – we were a long way from any sort of light source so the stars were extremely bright. We got back to the tent around 8pm and quickly got ready for bed, everyone was exhausted after 2 huge days. We read Inheritance for a while, and closed all the tent windows, it was quite cool (17 degrees), then went to sleep fairly quickly.