The brolgas are dancing

I’ve been having trouble sleeping during our Kimberley cruise – I’m not used to sharing a bed and my ageing body prefers a softer mattress.

I wake at around 4.30am, unable to drift off again because my hip is hurting from a combination of firm mattress, middle-age, not enough stretching and trying not to flump around too much in bed in case I wake DD.

We haven’t set an alarm, but DD wakes as the sun is rising and we head to the deck to admire the view. We are the only ones awake for about 30 minutes and it’s blissfully quiet.

After breakfast, we’re back in the tenders to explore Careening Bay. It’s famous because a boat called the Mermaid was repaired on the shore in 1820. The crew carved the ship’s name and the date into an enormous boab tree that’s estimated to now be more than 1000 years old.

As we walk towards the boab tree, we see large bird prints in the sand and look up to find three elegant brolgas standing metres away from us on the grassy dune. They launch into the air and circle above our heads. The crew tell us it’s the first time they’ve ever seen brolgas in that area.

For the rest of the day, the traditional Aussie Christmas song is on repeat in my head:

Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing
Lifting their feet like warhorses prancing
Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging
Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing
Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.

We return to the Reef Prince for morning tea and chef Jayden motions for me to come over to the bar. He asks if my husband wants to watch him fillet a fish in the galley. I decide not to bother telling him DD is just my boyfriend. DD had mentioned to Jayden the day before that he was keen to see the master at work and the ginger-haired food ninja – who previously worked at a hatted-restaurant on the NSW South Coast – was happy to oblige.

DD returns awed by Jayden’s skill. He was also impressed to see the makings of our dinner: oranges were simmering on the stove in preparation for a special cake for dessert (which is later served with a luscious Cointreau cream), as were the makings of fish pie. First Mate Fritz’s eyes light up when I tell him what’s on the menu, he promises Jayden’s fish pie is superb.

We have another one of our Kimberley splashes in Dolphin Bay in the afternoon. I’m not in this photo as I was being bitten by water fleas and retired to the shade

I’m collating a comprehensive list of things I should have brought on the cruise: a sarong to cover my legs on the tenders, a long-sleeved shirt to cover my arms, more sunscreen, a better hat, walking shoes (the only covered shoes I brought were Converse), more than one pair of shorts … I packed like an absolute airhead.

I didn’t even get my evening attire right. I packed a full-length, beaded kaftan with tassels, pom poms and vibrant splashes of red and yellow. It was bought on impulse at a market years ago and it never made it out of the wardrobe because it’s so out there. I figured a cruise in the Kimberley was finally its moment. But I didn’t pack any skin-coloured underwear to wear under it. All my undies and bras are black and the colourful kaftan is made of thin cotton. My only deviation in the lingerie department is an emerald green bra and undies, which has to do. Fortunately the lovely crew are happy to put on daily loads of washing for the passengers.

I might have packed badly, but we are awed by how well we have chosen our holiday. It is like something from a dream. We look back on the photographs we have taken over the last six days and can’t quite believe we have seen so much in so little time.

It is literally the experience of a lifetime.

DD is delighted by it all, the sharks, the crocodiles, the sunrises, the sunsets, the quirky crew, the amazing landscape constantly unfolding around us.

Speaking of the quirky crew, here they are:

From left: Fritz, Jayden, Jess, Annie, Julie, Nick, Paul & Alan.

Over dinner, we regale our table with the tale of how we met on RSVP and fell in love. Later that evening, an older woman who was listening comes over and tells us that she had 25 years with her second husband, who died two and a half years ago. She tells it – I think – as a story of hope for our future together. It’s quite inspiring to be surrounded by these men and women in their 60s and 70s who are so eager for adventure.

It was amazing to watch 77-year-old Trish (pictured above) climb the waterfall with us the previous day. Fellow passenger Paulo took a photograph of her on the prow of a tender under the falls and the look of pure joy on her face almost brought me to tears. I love the idea that being in your late 70s can bring such blissful moments.

After dinner, First Mate Fritz entices some of the women onto the dancefloor to the strains of Super Freak.

We dance to a few songs, then someone races into the main cabin with the news that a four-metre crocodile is floating beside the boat. We rush out onto the back deck to gasp at the enormous beast, who is joined by another prehistoric wonder, before the pair glide off into the darkness.

I head up to bed to write a few notes on DD’s laptop to remind me of all that has happened that day. The sound of laughter drifts up the stairs. Despite the early start tomorrow, no one wants the day to end. Smiles are wide and eyes are sparkling.

Read more about our day over at The Thirsty Travellers. Click here:

Song of the day: Rick James “Super Freak”

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