Natasha’s Blog – Her Experience on MV Great Escape Southern Kimberley Experience September 2012

Cruise reviews

Day 1
Scenic flight with BAS to the Mitchell Plateau where folds of pindan speckled earth met rich green /blue river estuaries, meandering through the ancient landscape creating tree like patterns from the air.

Clumps of green mangroves line the coast with thousands of small islands hosting rocky outcrops and plateaus surrounded by the sparkling sunshine hitting the water. These wonders adorn my canvas, the bird’s eye view of the wild Kimberley coast en route to the airstrip at Mitchell Plateau.

Our helicopter chariot arrived and soon we were air bound yet again, this time with the doors off! In no time we were landing on top of our home for the next 8 nights, MV Great Escape anchored between red rocky cliffs in the Hunter River. Charlie our pilot precision landed on top of the boat while our stewardess with the mostess Vicki clung to the washing!
The AFL Grand Final between the Swans and Hawks was in full flight thanks to the wonder of modern satellites. Our guests were Swans mad and the atmosphere in the lounge was none too similar to being at the G! Mitch our chef whipped up some homemade beef pies for half time, scrumptious.

After the guests erupted in the lounge upon the Swannies getting up it was time to don the fishing shirts and rods and try our luck for some Barra, finger mark or mangrove jack. Alas, success for many of the guests!

As we fished in silent tranquillity, apart from the odd bird call and teasing fish biting, the sun set magically dipping into the Indian Ocean and a glorious full Kimberley moon appeared above us.

We had steamed from the Hunter River to Boongarri River and here she rested for the evening after a decadent dinner of Thai chicken spring rolls, pistachio crusted lamb rump and chocolate brownie with ice-cream.

This little duck has definitely left Kansas.

Time to bunk down in my spacious horizon view stateroom. Sleep will come quickly tonight and I’ll dream of biting Barra!

Day 2
Awake to the sensational smell of bacon wafting through the boat.

After a spot of housekeeping and brekkie we jumped in the tenders on our way to Bonno’s pool.
Floating on aqua green water, tall gums surrounded us on either side of the narrow river ravine. Low tide presented us with a few muddy rocks to scramble over before we were hiking through a lush river bed, scaling over rocks and crossing fresh flowing streams, waterfalls a plenty. We were rewarded with an oasis upon the completion of our long hike – a large billabong surrounded by tall gums, boabs and the ever familiar rocky red escarpments framing our canvas. The sun was high, the sky clear blue and in no time we were swimming in the refreshing rocky billabong cooling our warm bodies. The kids on board had a ball and many jumped from great heights to splash us all.

Careening Bay: A lovely beach with significant historic importance. The cutter “The Mermaid” captained by Philip Parker King was careened here in 1820 as it was leaking badly and the crew were in dire need of fresh water. The King of England at the time apparently instructed King to leave evidence that they had indeed been there that would stand the test of time; the engraved Boab tree beyond the beach is evidence of this. We happened to be there on the 192nd anniversary of the landing. This Boab tree is recorded as one of the oldest in the Kimberley.

Afternoon on the back deck indulging in cups of tea and Arnott’s assorted with the guests before a spectacular fire red sunset and an equally impressive Ruby Kimberley full moon.

Sometimes you need to pinch yourself and be thankful for such natural beauty as the incredible Kimberley coast. It’s good to be alive!

Day 2 was topped off with yet another superb offering from Mitch – roasted spatch cock and crème brulee for dessert…decadent indeed.

Day 3
Awoke to the serenity of the Prince Regent River…yet another day begins on a trip of a lifetime.

Fishing was first on the agenda. It had been decided over a few good glasses of plonk the night before that a “chicks” fishing expedition was in order. The fanciful idea of dressing up in our high heels, frocks and makeup was quickly discarded and replaced with “proper” fishing gear including fishing shirts and wide brimmed hats with plenty of sunscreen. Callum, one of our esteemed deckhands had the privilege of skippering our dinghy. The girls fished well with more fish than fingers counted on one hand. Finger-mark was the prize fish this morning and the gals were mighty proud to have beaten the bloke’s morning catch! Their excuse was a crocodile stalking their boat!

Mitch whipped up some chilli mud crabs for lunch which were hungrily demolished due to our incredible hike up over the stunning Kings Cascade. Rock after rock we slowly ascended each step rewarding us with breathtaking views of the Prince Regent and surrounding rocky gorges. Ancient gums, woolie butts, rock figs and pandanas paved our way through billabongs and mighty waterfalls. Clothes were discarded for cossies and the cooling waters of the fresh water holes restored our body temperatures as the white grey clouds above dotted the blue sky. Simply awe inspiring moments and we all savoured the moments of this particular scene.

The humidity was rising and the tide was spot on to try our hand at trawling for Barra with lures. Back into the “chicks boat” as we meandered down the mighty Prince Regent River, again marvelling at our surroundings. The sky had turned from blue to grey and we could all smell rain.

It has to be said that we folks of the Kimberley become very very excited after a long dry season, with first the first rain of the new season teasing us and this afternoon very probable.
Suddenly, the heavens opened up and it poured and poured and poured with rain.

We all had a celebratory drink and delighted with the drops cooling our skin, the first rain for over 7 months. Before long the rain became horizontal and we were completely and utterly drenched, though all laughing out loud and revelling with joy as thunder cracked overhead and lightning beckoned. There is something truly magical about being caught up in a tremendous downpour surrounded by God’s own spectacular country.

Upon arriving back at the boat it was a scene of much merriment and frenzy as the crew scrambled to put the doors back on the chopper and a rush to the clothesline and upper deck to ensure crew swags were put to dry ground and the washing powder wasn’t water logged! After a hot cuppa and a dry down the brightest rainbow appeared in the sky like magic. Yet another breathtaking moment. We were being spoilt by the good Kimberley spirits.

Scallops quail and freshly caught barramundi tipped off yet another amazing day in the Kimberley on board MV Great Escape.

Day 4
The build-up has started, the days are warmer and the clouds are a welcome relief from the sun. Surely the Barra would be biting today.

The “Chicks Boat” has now become a daily occurrence. Callum’s patience is to be applauded, as there were many a tangled or snared line amongst much girl talk and giggling! Clearly the water temp wasn’t quite right as the Barra weren’t biting today, so we tried our luck with finger mark and mangrove jack – much better although most were catch and release so we could catch them next time when they were bigger.

Camp Creek provided yet another artists canvas of pure rugged beauty. Tall gums, winding streams and rocky escarpments. Within an hour of so we had all hiked up to the magnificent waterfall and billabong where a long swim was in order. Particularly welcoming for yours truly after I clumsily walked into a green ant nest! I’m sure the guests watching thought this was most comical with me jumping up and down waving my arms about and discarding clothes hastily. Thank you Shimah for assisting me with the de-anting process! No damage done.

Speaking of green ants our chef Mitch creates the most incredible green ant sorbet. At first I thought he was pulling my leg, though not to be, he gave me a taste and it was incredible. I’m still waiting for the recipe though catching the green ants might be a bit tricky back home in Broome.

After an energising swim in the fresh water underneath the waterfall our helicopter chariot awaited to carry us over the distant lands to one of the most incredible ancient aboriginal rock art sites I have ever seen. Wandjana’s over a metre height covered the cave roof overhang, their presence eerily powerful. I felt privileged to be able to experience such wonder. The red, yellow and orange colours still vivid and bright like they were painted only yesterday. This was a goose bump moment and one to always remember.

Choppered back from the art sites back to the boat for a lovely glass of wine and Mitch’s yummy prawn and basil wontons whilst watching the sky turn fifty shades of pink as it dipped into the Indian Ocean right before the Kimberley moon appeared golden red in the east.

Dinner tonight was confit duck leg with miniature duck pies complete with pea puree & beetroot followed by berry cheesecake with raspberry coulis. Simply divine.

Day 5
A spot of oyster picking. Tools required: a good flat rock and a screw driver complete with co-ordination whilst chipping away at the oyster. Such a feeling of joy and reward after some hot sweaty work prizing them from the rocks. We soon had our bag limit and looks like oysters might be on the menu later.

Speaking of food whilst steaming to Sale River we ate a hearty breakfast of poached eggs, smoked salmon, guacamole, crème fraiche and capers on lovely grainy toast.

A long scenic journey in the tenders eventually led to a gorgeous rainforest retreat. A small hike along the stream brought us to a pretty little shallow water whole for swimming followed by a gourmet picnic lunch under the shade of the willowy gums overlooking a stunning river.

Back on board MV Great Escape the spa was filled and it was an afternoon of girlie chit chat and champagne.

Floating chairs and eskies was the scene before us as we tendered to an emerging sand bar in a secret location. The beauty of the Kimberley and her tides gave us an island experience like no other, with the sun setting over the distant horizon an enormous bonfire was constructed, Mitch whipped up some gourmet mini pizzas for starters and corona’s were the beer of choice. This was definitely a wow factor for both me and the guests as the sun faded and the Kimberley stars shone brightly.

Back on board we feasted on lamb shanks and chocolate mousse. The music cranked, the broom stick came out of the closet and it was time to Limbo on the back deck. Bets were placed for Mitch to take the title however Taylor on of our other deckhands may have just knocked the master off his Limbo throne!

The red flowed and the back deck became a dance floor, all under the illuminating canopy of a wondrous star filled, moonlit Kimberley sky.

Day 6
Morning fishing in the “chick’s boat” again. The Barra were teasing us this morning showing themselves in the low tide near the sandy banks, begging to be caught, though testing our casting skills. Rach was the Barra queen today catching a 65cm much to the delight and cheering from the rest of us. Madge made us all laugh as usual and Shimah shined with her newfound casting abilities.

We cruised along a maze of green river streams through mangroves under the bright blue skies towards Ruby falls. Deckies Cal and Talyor assisted us over slippery rocks and we immediately all stripped off into our bathers for another invigorating dip in the cool water hole beneath the picturesque Ruby Falls.

Another gastronomic delight for lunch, a feed of freshly caught Barra, finger mark and mangrove jack tantalised the taste buds with yummy salads before we steamed to majestic Raft Point where we disembarked tenders on a rocky beach and hiked high up the ravine to a breathtaking ancient rock art site.

A few of our male guests opted for heli fishing and were rewarded with stunning vistas from above in the chopper to land locked fishing spots in a secret another secret location. They returned victorious with many a Barra hooked, most released for next time.

Rach, Madge and Shimah opted for the Heli art site option. Charlie flew to a spectacular site where they were mesmerised by more ancient cave paintings. Flying back to the boat while the sun was setting simply took their breath away. Another incredible spiritual experience they told me.

Meanwhile, I stole a moment of silent reflection on the top deck while the rest of the guests and crew went fishing. There was barely a whisper of wind and the only sounds were the faint hum of the engine, the far off bird calls and the trickle of water surrounding me. The sun slowly set in peaceful tranquillity.

We indulged in the oysters we picked yesterday 4 different ways. There we no leftovers! Main course was scotch fillet steak cooked to perfection medium rare with pepper sauce and sides of peas and a French potato bake. Miniature cupcakes were served with lemon sorbet to complete the evening’s eating extravaganza.

Before turning in I stole a final glance at the night sky to watch yet another golden orange Kimberley full moon rise into the night sky…

Day 7
Montgomery Reef has to be seen to be believed. A stark like beauty with cascading horizontal waterfalls and crystal clear water. Plentiful turtles glide by the boa,t many just enormous. There are hundreds of them sharing this wilderness wonder with sea snakes, giant rays and dugongs. We swam in the clear shallow waters by a tiny emerging one man sand island feeling one with nature.

Many guests opted to take the scenic heli flight over the reef. They soared at 500 feet over the reef and Montgomery Islands viewing the shallows, the deep channels and the overall immensity of the area. They saw plentiful fish including mantarays, hammer heads and tiger sharks, marvelled at the intricate sand patterns formed due to daily extreme tidal movements and viewed the now extinct “Tall People’s” (Yadabi Peoples) ancient burial sites and stone structures. To quote one of our guests Eric “It was the most spectacular chopper flight…I’m awesomely gobsmacked”.

Our last port of call before steaming home to Broome was a salubrious visit to Silver Gull and the entertaining characters who reside at the Squatters Arms, Phil and Marion. They are true Kimberley characters and charmed us with their colourful conversation, beautiful gardens and amazing vistas. Upon departing as we were leaving on the tenders, high on the hill they gave us a cheeky farewell, much to the amusement of the guests.

The last supper was crispy skinned chicken breast with pea risotto and sticky date pudding for dessert, followed by the DVD presentation of all the photographs taken on the trip and much laughter. The guests were all very sad to be leaving the boat the next morning, they all departed with fond memories of “a trip of a lifetime”, as did I