After Munurru we headed for Kalumbaru an Aboriginal Community on the north coast of the Kimberley. We were a bit sad to say goodbye to our new friends but we needed to restock we had run low on some essentials….like coffee!!!
As expected and advised the Kalumbaru road north was narrower and a bit rougher than the Mitchell Falls road some patches had been graded some patches were really had nasty looking big sharp rocks so we took it pretty slow. Along the road we spotted lots of brumby’s which we later learned were the legacy of a nearby station returned to the traditional owners and the horses were abandoned.
Each time we have passed through any aboriginal land they have controlled burning off which is always done in the dry season over patches to prevent the ‘big wild fires’ that could easily roar through the dry land. So on the way to Kalumburu we weren’t surprised to see a fire next to the road.
Kalumburu is an aboriginal community and home of the Kwini and Godari tribes. Originally established as a Mission by the Benedictine Monks in 1908 the a lot of history. The Mission was established to assist the large indigenous community living in this remote area and provide education (albeit religious influenced) and community support. The current population of Kalumbaru is approximately 450 residents and 30 support workers. The town is a dry community had a reasonable vibe around the streets.
We did our shopping at the community store as soon as we arrived as the store closes for siesta (a tradition passed over from the Spanish Monks) The store had some fresh items and a reasonable range of staples thankfully they had coffee although not the real stuff!
When the native title was granted the Traditional Owners Elders decided to allow the mission to continue in the form of a parish similar to the Sacred Heart Parish in Beagle Bay (near Cape Leveque).
One of the historic buildings was an old ‘Bakery’ which was really a shed with a huge wood fired oven. The most unbelievable part of the bakery was the fact that the nuns baked bread there until 2006! Hard to imagine what the working conditions must have been like!
This fresh bread certainly would have been wonderful compared with the frozen bread brought in via barge / road each fortnight. In the wet the only access to Kalumburu is via boat or plane so it becomes very isolated.
The Mission Museum and the old Mission buildings had some fascinating history about Kalumburu. It was bombed during the World War II attacks on Australia, presumably because the community had an airstrip nearby the mission became collateral damage and tragically the priest was killed along with 5 others.
The mission has a small art studio space for the community which we visited and met with some local artists and I bought a painting.
After the museum we had lunch and shot some hoops at the community basketball court nearby – it was a shady spot for lunch.
We met the local Brolga that hangs around town, his name is ‘Lanky’ and he seemed friendly but when we turned to walk away from him he pecked Aaron on the shoulder!
One of the sights we visited were the wreckage of planed bombed during WWII which remain near the airstrip. The history and information about the war and Australia being bombed was fascinating to the children and we were surprised to learn that we had been bombed outside of Darwin.
Further north of Kalumburu there are a few camping options along the nearby coast and hosted by different indigenous families. We chose to stay at Honeymoon Bay. We drove out following our trusty Hema maps and missed a sign stating road closed so we were surprised to be on a narrow sandy track until we got to the end and found a road closed sign!
We arrived and Honeymoon Bay and were greeted by the traditional owners. It had a very laid back feel and there were quite a few campers long the beach front we were told you can swim in the water and it is safe on a ‘clear sunny day’ when you can spot the crocs and we were warned the children should stay away from waters edge as there are crocodiles…big salties not the friendly freshwater type. They had a 4m croc sighting just the day prior. Unfortunately it was overcast whilst we were there so we couldn’t swim! We agreed that despite it being very hot even on a clear day we would refrain from the tempting water.
Our camp was near a giant majestic boab with a view along the beach but we were up high enough that no reptiles would visit during the night. The Kalumbaru area is renowned for fishing and we tried fishing off the beach but had no luck – a bit nervy worrying about the reptiles in the water. (time to give up this sport!) The fishermen with the boats had plenty of success.
Our camping neighbours had some battery trouble and Andrew gave them a jump start which did not work so he then gave them a snatch up the hill to get them started so they could drive to town and get a new battery.
Being a bit further north the nights at Kalumbaru were much hotter than the Mitchell Plateau which meant for hot restless sleep. This combined with the fact we couldn’t swim we decided that after two nights we would head south back to Munurru for another night and a swim. The camp ground at Munurru was again quite busy and there were a number of camper trailers left while the owners went to Mitchell Falls. It was great to jump into the cool river for a swim in the King Edward River and met a lovely older couple Stuart and Judy. (Judy took this family photo for us!)
It was back to camp to make pumpkin soup and scones with jam and cream on the campfire!