Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

There are a lot of rocks in the Kimberleys

It's been some time since I have travelled to a remote place in the middle of nowhere for that "edge of the earth" feeling. This particular trip has been on my wish list for many years, and there have been several false starts attempting to find my way there without success. In the end, it was a safari planned by another - all in the name of breaking a travel curse that has plagued me for several years with a few major holidays cancelled due to illness during that time. (I've spent the last five months in as close to a bubble environment I could create without actually being the "no touching" Bubble Girl - all to avoid infections that might knock me over before I could fly. It paid off. The curse is broken, finally!)

The Kimberleys region in far north western Australia has been number one on my must see places for as long as I can remember, probably first desired not long after I caught the bug as a child accompanying my parents travelling across the globe. Along with the World Heritage listed Bungle Bungles, it is unquestionably known as a place of natural beauty. It is pretty much on every list of places to see before you die for natural wonders of the world. It is also a place where, if you say you are going "off-grid", it is true. Over the vast expanse of land out there, there is no access to phone or internet. For this aspect alone, it was a miracle to be free to connect with only the surroundings unchained from the world wide web.

I went "old-school" - packing my journal and camera along with hiking boots and swimming* gear among essential clothing, and as much sunscreen and insect repellent as I could carry. (The Australian sun is harsh, capable of burning skin in as little as 5 minutes, and the bug life here can have a nasty bite.) This was about as much preparation required in an otherwise completely personalised experience, courtesy of Helispirit Safaris. No expense spared, two years of my travel budget savings blown in one trip, enabled by two friends willing to do the same, we had our own pilot (Sam) and helicopter able to take us to places no car could ever reach. (An experienced hiker might be able to do in several months what we did in six days). (*Swimming is only possible in rock pools on the plateaus above the salt waterways and sea - too many salt-water crocodiles with their vice-like jaws hidden in the mud and shade.)

I won't gloat with blow by blow details of all the incredible places we stopped and explored during our flight across this extraordinary land. A map of our path is shown below.

But I will say this - there are a lot of rocks in the Kimberleys. This place would be a geologist's wet dream. I hiked over sand, through gorges, over many river stones, and across rocks and boulders of varying sizes, scaling and slipping my way awkwardly on walks of varying difficulty (Grade 2 through to 5). This included crawling through a cave into a pitch black cavern (with only forehead torches to light up our way). After a particularly abundant rain soaked wet season, there are also a plethora of waterfalls cascading over some of the red rocks. Of course, we see faces in the rocks, we cannot help ourselves. There is a word for this phenomenon, how we humanize things, it's called paradolia. Yet there are micro-organisms in the rock - for example, bacteria coat the stone in the Bungle Bungles, protect the sand from erosion. It is alive!

Sunrises and sunsets over the coastline barely touched by any human took my breath away. As did the aerial views of rivers fanned by mudflats, multiple varieties of mangroves and the turquoise sea lapping the land. The colour in these surroundings is eye-popping bright.

It takes a bit of effort to see the wildlife that resides in this remote land. But there is a wealth of birds (ospreys, sea eagles, kytes to name a few), fish (red perch, barramundi, golden salmon), turtles and frogs (splendida tree frogs are native, alas the cane toads are not). These are mostly harmless, as are the orb spiders. The same cannot be said for the snakes and crocodiles. I confess, the birdlife was so impressive, I purchased a copy of the "Field Guide to Birds of Australia" on my return home. Bird watching has been an incidental bonus of my hiking pursuits but it's time to get serious and accept I should embrace this part of my inner Thoreau personality as an ongoing hobby proper. The flora was also interesting (trees thriving as they clung to cliff faces). Allergies aside, the red flowers of native wild grevillea a unique light in the surrounding green.

No travel report is complete without some reflection on the spiritual insights acquired when standing in the middle of nowhere. In truth, the journey was over before it really started - there was barely enough time to take in the remoteness. (There was much more written in my private journal which will remain so.) A few more months would have made this version of mindfulness a fulsome commune between nature and my inner-self. The local walks near my home will allow me the time for more head-clearing, purging the past, embracing the now, and letting go of any anxiety about what the future holds.