The Bush Camp Comes In

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Tues 5/06/01

0545 hours: Delma hears a thump on the hull but it’s doesn’t wake me up.

0845 hours: Cloud haze to the east is subduing the sunlight. Clear sky elsewhere. Delma sorting out brekkie. Placing tomatoes onto opened egg cartons has proven a good way to keep them. It helps too if perishables can be stored as low in the hull as possible below the waterline. We also individually wrap vegetables like onions, carrots, potatoes and zucchinis and sling them in netting up in the forward berth area. They keep well like this if kept aired but out of sunlight.

1000 hours: Delma sits in the dinghy beside the boat casting lures while I fix the other fishing rod. It needs 5 new runners and the reel hasn’t been used for a long, long time.  It needs some tender loving care too. Later on we work out a rough itinerary to include a visit to Napier Broome Bay to the west and return home.

Surprised to see a charter fishing boat Bush Camp come up the river. Bush Camp has some charterers aboard and pokes its nose right under one of the waterfalls. Delma and I jump into the dinghy to go over and say hello. They invite us aboard for a shower but we decline. We learn they operate from a tourist camp called Faraway Bay about 9km from here. I hadn’t heard of this place but it’s new and remote enough that it’s not yet marked on the latest marine chart of the area.

018 end of kgr  019 eastern falls
Above: The King George River ends abruptly here. Note the black stain around them showing the extent of the torrents in the wet season. The fishing boat ‘Bush Camp’ is sitting under the western falls. Over time both of these falls have chewed back into the rock making their own separate little ‘rooms’. The cliffs are maybe 30 metres high. Above: The eastern falls. It’s like an amphitheatre in there and it echoes when you talk. The current can be a bit strong and care must be taken.  There are nice relaxing rock pools at the top.
020 western falls  021 bush camp
Above: The western falls divides into two after falling onto a rock ledge about half way up. The ‘Bush Camp’ is about to back up to the waterfall and give its clients a shower. Above: The water coming down is cold. These people don’t stay under it for long.

Civilization is starting to intrude even into these very remote spots. People are now flying into these camps then taken fishing, sightseeing and hiking. It must be just a Dry Season thing though. There’s no roads that I’m aware of into this particular area. Travel is likely only by air or sea.

Afternoon: After lunch we go fishing for a couple of kilometres down the river and back. A cormorant stands guard on a rock with its wings spread at the entrance to a little shallow mangrove inlet. As we enter we start casting lures about and Delma catches a mangrove bush. The lure goes in so deep it’s impossible to retrieve and have to cut it loose. We later learn there is supposed to be a resident crocodile in here but we didn’t see any sign.

Not even a nibble or a touch on the lures until we’re almost back to the boat when Delma catches a nice golden snapper about 40cm long, which will be good for our dinner. The sun goes down below the level of the cliffs. Keep the dinghy away downstream to clean and fillet the fish in order not to attract crocodiles around Lowana IV. Tasha appears around the bend. They’d come into the river this morning and spent the day down there. By the time I’ve cleaned the fish Tasha is looking for a spot to drop her anchor.

The dinghy leak is really bad now. Lift it onto the stern davits, drain it and apply a 2 pack epoxy mix called Ferropro, which has the capability of hardening underwater. Awkward job to get at the leak site and it requires a balancing act on the targa to reach the floor of the dinghy, but eventually get it done. Leave it to set overnight.

1830 hours: Tasha has anchored about 100m away. Delma and I sit in our cockpit having nibblies and drinks. The motor is running to cool down the eutectic refrigeration plates, since this hasn’t been done today yet.

2100 hours: Have had our fish for dinner. It was nicely crumbed. Wash up and then have our usual hot chocolate drinks.

We take a bucket wash on deck to the opposite side of Tasha in the moonlight with the strains of some rhythm and blues playing downstairs. Delma goes first and is trying to tell me how wonderful the water is.  I think she’s trying to set me up because I know how cold the water is. Its’ more brackish than briny here because of the fresh water coming over the waterfalls. Despite the gasps the wash is really refreshing.

Delma decides to do some washing. The night is lovely, not warm or cold – just a nice coolness to it. The ships batteries don’t seem to be holding a charge. They were up to full yesterday but right down again today. This might be a problem and will need watching. I think I might also have a small refrigeration gas leak in the fridge system since there are bubbles in the sight glass underneath the floorboards.

Weds 6/6/01

0740 hours: Get up relatively early this morning beating Delma for a change. The morning sun is shining straight down the gorge lighting the walls and the falls. Fish are flicking on the surface all around the boat.

0800 hours: We’re going back down-river today to visit the waterfall at the head of the eastern arm near the mouth. Listen to the scheduled radio weather forecast and it doesn’t seem too bad for tomorrow. The plan is to head towards Napier Broome Bay on the other side of the peninsula.  This will include an overnight stop at Butterfly Bay and then rounding the potentially nasty area around Cape Londonderry.

0830 hours: Dip the main water tank. We’ve used 50 litres over the 7 days aboard purely for drinking and cooking. Our water usage rate might not sound much but we’ve had other sources of fluid like juice, milk and soft drinks. Seawater is also used for some cooking.

0930 hours: Fix a diesel leak at the secondary filter. It’s been slowly losing diesel fuel into the bilges through a perished fibre washer on the retaining bolt at the top. Also fix a water leak around the fuel breather tube on the deck, which has been allowing water to leak through onto the quarter berth mattress below.

Delma checks the freezer and a couple of items of food are starting to thaw out. We’d only run the fridges for an hour yesterday so must be more attentive to this.

1030 hours: Des has been ferrying his crew across to the spot where it’s possible to climb to the top of the waterfalls. They drop by with some letters for us to post when we get back to Darwin. They’ll be staying in the Kimberley region for another couple of months yet.

1045 hours. Prepare to weigh anchor. Des has stayed on board Tasha but the rest of the crew have reached a rocky outcrop halfway up the slope. Give them a cooee which echoes around the gorge walls in the still air. An answering whistle echoes back. Wrap and stow the inflatable into it’s place on the stern davits rack. Set up the deckwash pump and get the anchor in. The sediment mud brought up by the chain is thick and black.  Am glad now I’d decided to replace the old broken down pump to keep the decks and chain locker clean.

024 leaving fallsLeft: Looking back as we leave the waterfalls at the head of the river. ‘Tasha’ can be seen at anchor at centre photo.

1130 hours: Motoring down the river. Fridges are cold and the batteries are at last showing a good charge. Glorious day with the canopy up. Nice cool breeze. Not a cloud in sight. Water colour is almost an emerald green and flat. Can’t get over just how beautiful this place is and it’s ever changing aspect. Delma offers me an orange as a big shoal of fish shows up on the sounder halfway to the bottom, just over 7m deep here.

1200 hours: Anchor near the entrance to the eastern arm about 2 miles from the entrance to the river. Have a light lunch of damper, dry biscuits and avocado or vegemite. There are fish showing on the sounder and Delma is keen to try fishing again. Set up a rod and she fishes off the bow for a while. Get the dinghy ready to explore the eastern arm. It’s just a bit too blowy to be setting out crab pots or doing any oyster hunting right now, but it does look to be a promising area for it. Set off to explore the eastern arm waterfall.

025 approach east arm falls 026 close in east arm falls
Above: The falls are just around the corner. They’re at the end of the eastern arm closer to the river mouth and accessed only by dinghy over a shallow inlet. Above: This flows over a large rock pool up on the ledge above. There is a cutting to the right of photo which is climbable and comes out above the falls

1515 hours: The waterfall is still running but it’s not in full flight. Scenery is just as pretty though. Lots of fish activity on the surface of the inlet splashing about but we haven’t brought our fishing rod with us. Can see lots of oysters on some rocks on the southern bank, but the tide still a bit too high to get at them. No sign of any crocodiles but I know they’re here. Both of us are feeling a little uneasy and I’ve learned to trust the feeling no matter how illogical it may seem. We don’t stay long. There’s still a small leak in the dinghy which requires bailing and sopping with a sponge from time to time. Not as bad as before though. Return to Lowana IV.

1600 hours: Having a cuppa. Delma has claimed a shady spot on deck up forward. Very pretty spot up that eastern arm.

Spend the rest of the afternoon lazing on board. Read a book. Delma persists with fishing though there’s no fish activity around or showing on the sounder. The yacht isn’t really sitting in a spot suitable for fishing but full marks for effort.  Decide to move Lowana IV to a better potential fishing spot but the anchor doesn’t grab and we settle back past he point where I want to be. Not going to do it again so we both have a little rest for a short while.

1830 hours: Raise the dinghy onto davits and secure it for the night. Have some nibblies. Can hear loud swishing noises in the water coming from the mangrove area on the opposite shore. We would later hear this same noise again being made by a large crocodile we knew definitely to be in the area.

It’s been a very pleasant day despite the wind being a little bit too blowy. Funny how pleasantly tiring it can be on board a boat even if nothing much is being done. Steak for dinner.

2015 hours: Hot chocolates in cockpit. Moonlight is shining on the flat water. Wide expanse of water where the eastern arm joins the body of the main river. Moonlight is reflecting all the way back to the boat. The surface looks like it is lit up with thousands of little flickering candles. Lovely cool of evening.

2100 hours: Perfectly still. Water flat. Moonlit cliffs perfectly mirrored on the flat surface of water. Occasional fish jumping. Willie Nelson singing love songs on tape. All’s well with the world. Good forecast for tomorrow.

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