Kooljaman Camping Resort at Cape Leveque, Western Australia


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Our vehicle is well and truly christened! Red Australian bull dust has decorated our formerly white vehicle. Of the 200 km from Broome to Cape Leveque half are unpaved with corrugated sections (Canadian translation: washboard) alternating with bull dust. Geoff likens it to driving in heavy snow that never lets up, sometimes with 2 wheels navigating corrugation and 2 in the dust.

Along the road we counted 14 abandoned and often burned out vehicles. It is cheaper to leave older ones than to have them towed out and repaired.

Mostly it is the noise I notice in all the jouncing about. The Land Cruiser is built on a truck chassis with only a metal grill separating the back seat from the camping storage. The noise level increases as gears grind up and down in 4WD, the diesel engine working extra hard, and the pots, plates and cutlery bang against each other – constantly. When a truck passes in the narrow sections the smell of dust makes this a full body experience!

“Don’t Trash Country” a sign reminds travellers that this is the traditional territory of the Bardi-Jawi people who live in communities down rough unmarked red tracks off the main road. “Country” in aboriginal usage is akin to “the Land” as understood by indigenous Canadians. Here is my limited grasp of this concept. It encompasses territory and all the plants, animals, insects, geographic features, stories and song that are inherent to the place, the food, medicine and sacred features that hold meaning. “Country” calls forth reverence. Far richer than the European/North American concept of nation or country it situates a people and all that makes them who they are in a particular place.

Kooljaman is a camping resort owned by the traditional owners of this land. Food in the outdoor but covered restaurant is exceptional. Lunch was grilled barramundi and pulled pork. Red peppercorns were dropped artfully alongside my tartar sauce.

We are in a palm frond covered shelter with a picnic table and simple outdoor shower overlooking the beach. We still sleep in the tent on the Land Cruiser roof. Yesterday we swam in turquoise waters warmer than Stoney Lake, read and napped. Calming, hot and restful.

The WIND! Oh my goodness, the wind that wakened us in the night kept us awake until dawn. The fly was beating against the tent slapping down, and just when it seemed the wind was dying, the pattern of lifting and slapping again resumed. All boat tours have been cancelled. Red dust gusts fog what was previously clear. Sand whips your legs and erases footprints along the beach. We are told it will last until tomorrow noon.

The blessing in this – I was up before 6:00 a.m. (!) and saw a whale, its tail breaking the water as it swam south. In other natural news: a fisherman caught a 23 kg Spanish mackerel. Hanging from the scales it looked to be almost as tall as Sean, our 9 year old grandson. There were teeth marks along its tail. The guide said it fairly jumped into the boat trying to outrun a shark. In the dishwashing sink Geoff looked into the eyes of an almost translucent green frog which promptly slid into the drain hole so only its head was visible. It was gone this morning.

The waiter wiped our table clean before we began lunch. As I finish writing this an hour and a half later, red dust covers the serviette I swipe across the table. The wind is unrelenting. Guess I’m more urban than I thought!

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