Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Quandong Point

After a few days in Broome we felt that we were prepared to head up the corrugations to Cape Leveque, a magical land of lagoons,  islands, amazing shells and abundant wildlife.

Until we hit the corrugations and the dust and the indication that this was going to be very bumpy. We couldn't do it. Fiela and I looked at each other a few kilometres up the Cape Leveque Road and knew without a shadow of doubt that we could not mentally make the drive.  90kms was too far and our Gibb River Road wounds were still too raw. So we turned off and spent the next week allowing them to heal at one of the most beautiful spots we'd been- Quandong Point.

Freecamping at Quandong.

This free camp had been another highly recommended spot from our Noosa neighbours Andrew and Kym. It was pretty magical; red pindan dunes topple onto white sand, and the Indian Ocean is the bluest blue. We managed to grab a spot toward the end of the rough sand track, shaded by some coastal acacias with our own private cove where on a busy day we saw perhaps four other people.

The view.

The weather was still unsettled being a little overcast, a little windy and a little cold. Fiela fished using ghost, rock and hermit crabs, getting yet more "hook ups"and actually managing to land quite a few fish though only one keeper- a nice sized trevally. He used the kayak for the first time with the crocodile threat finally easing this far down the coast. Saltwater crocs are still sighted as far down as Broome, but swimming is considered to be a safe past time since there are so few (at least that is the tourist office's official line). Marguerite was the chief crab catcher and had many hermit crab pets over our week here. I'm a little concerned at her apathy in terms of the fate of her crab friends; she's more than happy to have a running order of who's next in line for the fishing hook.

The bait bucket of death.

A likely bait candidate.

We drive down to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm and paid for the tour and the privilege of wandering through the sales room. Our tour guide (a backpacker surprise surprise) was great in a Bridget Jones oversharing kind of way ( she was looking for a boyfriend, had been living in Broome for a few months, grew up in Hampshire and was slightly hungover), and showed us the incredibly complicated and costly process of farming pearls. The pearl farm itself was way off shore, far enough so noone could quietly slip out in their tinnie and grab a few for next week's anniversary. Seriously, the maxima shells are expensive, with the growing of  each individual oyster  potentially costing $1000. However they yield many times that in regards to the actual pearls,  the shell of the pearl and the pearl meat itself which fetches over $200 per kilogram on the Asian market. The "pearl technicians" who are responsible for inserting the 'seed' into the pearl shell earn $80000 for three months work (though they must first complete a marine science degree then an apprenticeship of five years).

Bridget and the pearl demo.

We were served a morning tea of damper made with Matso's mango beer, possibly the only palatable use for it, and after a quick cruise up the river, we were led like sheep through the showroom. I don't own loads of jewellery but I think I would like a strand of big saltwater pearls, though at $30000, I'll be waiting a bit longer. Marguerite picked out the gaudiest thing there and said to her father "But I LOVE it!!" ( insert puppy dog eyes here); we managed to steer her toward something a little more tasteful and much less expensive.

Just $699, I can't believe they let her try it on; we were all so dirty three days into freecamping and strict water rations.

Back to our campertrailing reality and Caesar, completely non-plussed by the whole pearl thing, had fun climbing the huge boulders and rock formations. We swam in the little rock pools, walked up and down the beach and like all wonderfully relaxing holidays the seven days slid one into the other and quite suddenly the water ran out. It was time to head back to Broome. Quandong Point had restored our faith in our gear and we felt better- every bump in the road was no longer negotiated holding our breath. It was almost time to tackle the Pilbara.

Our little cove with the tide in a bit...

...and the tide out a lot.

"When will this pearl tour end..?!"

Tackling the Indian Ocean.

Fishing on a calm day.

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