Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Half-lap Day 63 - Fitzroy Crossing

All back in our own beds we slept a lot better, although Caitlin still didn’t feel great in the morning. She was improved on the day before though, and her thumb was feeling slightly better too. Our plan had been to stay the one night and then keep moving towards Broome, possibly checking out Geikie Gorge on the way – but the kids really liked this caravan park, and they were all quite tired (travel days wear us all out more than very active exploring days) so we decided to stay a second night. Another factor was that the Fitzroy Rodeo was on this weekend ‘the most exciting weekend in Fitzroy’ and some of us were quite keen to check it out.

We’d managed to put the tent in the perfect spot so that our table and chairs were in morning shade until after 11. We had a very relaxing and fun morning at the tent, we had breakfast then the kids played with the boy from the tent near us – they played cricket and with some circus equipment he had. Tony and I chatted a bit to his Mum. After they left for to go and explore, Tony, Caitlin, LiAM and I played Euchre, which the kids loved and I didn’t find stressful for the first time ever I think. Millie had just bought a new game on the iPad so she played that or played with her stuffed toys around us.

Once the sun was on us we were ready for a swim. I took the kids over and Tony started organising things for us to go out. The water was cool but refreshing – when Caitlin got in she started shivering again and needed to sit in the sun for a while. She was able to ease back in and swim for a short while, then headed off for a shower. LiAM and Millie and I played tag for a while then got out ourselves. Back at the tent we finished getting ready and set off for Geikie Gorge.

We’d read that this was the most accessible gorge of the Kimberleys. The road out was unsealed for part of the way but easy to drive on. Along to our left we started to see amazing dark grey rocks, like they were in vertical layers but seemingly one piece. They were different to anything we’d seen so far. We had a picnic lunch in the information gazebo at the gorge, and the kids chatted to the ranger about crocodiles and other animals. He gave them a book on identifying Western Australian birds, which helped us identify the nest we’d seen at Big Horse Creek (a bower bird) and some other birds we’d seen around. There was lots of information in the gazebo – a big board listing all the types of fish in the area (interesting to see how some of them differ a bit from their Northern Territory versions), boards showing the history and geography of the area, and markers showing the flood levels of the Fitzroy river in various years. On 2 occasions the flood water had been 2m above the roof of the gazebo! (It was nearly 3m high itself).

We briefly considered doing the boat tour then decided to save our money. We set off on our walk along the gorge. There were more of the dark grey rocks next to us, and we discovered that they used to be part of a coral reef, when this area was a sea. So they were limestone and weathered differently from other rocks. Many of the formations we saw reminded me of things I’d seen in caves, which makes sense because they are usually limestone as well. The other striking feature about this gorge is that the bottom half of the rocks, and of the red cliff on the other side of the river, is white, because the sand carried along in the water during the wet grinds away at the limestone and makes it white.

The white shows the level that the water usually gets too during the wet.
The river flows along the base of that cliff. We were walking on the other side of the river, where there was a large sandy area between the cliffs on our side and the current water level
The first part of the walk was quite difficult as it was all on sand. Millie was tired and I piggy-backed her for a while. Caitlin wasn’t looking well and we considered turning back, but she wanted to keep going so we took it easy. I went ahead with the big kids and Tony and Millie came at a slower pace. There were lots of cool trees to look at and we got occasional glimpses of the river. LiAM was checking out the rocks and plants and got a large number of burrs on his clothes. They were sticking in to him quite painfully. I started to pull them out and had several pierce my skin quite deeply – these were the nastiest prickles I’ve come across, even worse than the ones we used to get in Griffith. These were smaller and softer, but like small porcupines, there was almost no way to grab them without getting spiked, and there was one very long needle like thorn on each one. Eventually we were both free of burrs, by which time Tony and Millie had caught up. We reached the end of the track and had a beautiful view of the river, it was lush and green at this point (although it’s possible that most of the green stuff was weed…).

We had a quick look around at different views of the water and the cliffs, then headed back. LiAM was so keen to check everything out that he got burrs a few more times, not so badly though. Caitlin was getting tired so we were a bit slower on the way back. It was cool to see the rocks and cliffs from a different angle and notice different formations. We also saw a very old boab tree, with lots of leaves still on it, some yellow and some green.

Back at the start of the walk we saw a kangaroo, bigger than any we’ve seen for a while, foraging in the long grass. The kids had an icy pole each from the ranger station, then we set off back into town, having to slow for cows a few times as they wandered across the road in front of us.

We went straight for the rodeo, worried that we’d left it too late and would miss everything. The lady at the gate said that they were nearly finished, just doing the bull riding finals, so we could go in and watch and didn’t need to pay. We wandered over towards the arena and could see kids running around in it so figured we’d missed everything. We went closer so that Caitlin could see the horses in the pens nearby, and heard the announcer still talking – the rodeo itself was still taking place in the next arena, this one was more like a warming up/warming down area, so we excitedly went over there.

The riders for the finals were drawing the names of the horses and bulls that they would ride. We found seats in the stands and soon one of the marshalls came over riding along the fence so that kids could pat his horse. Caitlin was straight over there, and the others followed. He had a tassel off one of the bull riders outfits and asked if anyone wanted it – Caitlin was very thrilled to have a souvenir of the rodeo!

We were there in time to see the saddle bronc finals and the bull riding finals -  2 of the most exciting events. One of the horses in the bronc finals was very hard to catch after he’d thrown his ride and almost ran into the fence right in front of us – very exciting. There were some good rides and some near misses, and the hard-to-catch horse had fallen and rolled over his rider – no serious injuries though (he stood up and ran out of the ring). One guy got stuck on his bull and injured his arm, which was a bit scary to watch. There was a great atmosphere and it was so great to be there for part of something that is so important in this part of Australia. Caitlin looked out for her trail-ride guides as they do rodeo, she thinks she might have spotted one of them from a distance.

Our neighbours from the campground were there so we chatted to them and walked back to our cars together. We looked at the pens of bulls and steers and horses, and had to give way to a 3 trailer road train full of cattle as it left. The kids and I wandered around a bit more to see some of the horses being settled down for the night, including a Shetland. We got very muddy feet getting back to the car.

Back to the campground, where Caitlin and I went to the laundry to wash everyone’s shoes, LiAM and Millie went to our neighbours to play with the boy, and Tony cooked dinner. The man on our other side gave us some cup-a-noodles and soup that he didn’t want anymore. The kids came back and we ate together, then sat outside for ages, LiAM and Millie on my lap while we watched Music.ly videos on Caitlin’s phone, and Tony browsed accommodation options for when we get to Broome. After a while we headed in to bed, feeling very happy that we’d stayed the second day, and read a couple of chapters of Inheritance.

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