Day 8 of our Reef Prince cruise in the Kimberley is a scorcher as we explore the wreck of a WW2 plane at Vansittart Bay (below) and a cove filled with indigenous art.
I am swathed in my burkha-like head-to-toe outfit of long black skirt, fisherman’s shirt and hat that leaves only my eyes and nose exposed. Soooooo sweaty.
The DC3 plane is incredibly well preserved considering it crashed in 1942. It was forced to emergency land after it ran out of fuel on its way from Broome. Miraculously, the passengers and crew survived the landing and were rescued within a few days.
Our next stop sees us clamber over rocks to look at ancient Bradshaw art and I wish that its mysterious origins could be revealed, as the figures the Bradshaw artists painted are so surreal and different to other indigenous art.
The Bradshaw Foundation explains: “The remote coastline of north western Australia was probably the first landing site on this continent, as groups of our early ancestors crossed by boat from Timor up to 60,000 years ago. The Journey of Mankind Genetic Map can prove when this event occurred, but it can only point to what these early settlers did on reaching the Kimberley region; at some point, they began to decorate the red sandstone rocks with exquisite and detailed rock art, now referred to as the Bradshaw paintings, or Gwion Gwion. Wandjina paintings, a rock art of a very different style, are also endemic to this area of Australia. The number of rock art sites in the Kimberley region, both for the Bradshaw paintings and the wandjina paintings have been estimated to be over 100,000 in number, but only a fraction of these have been recorded.”
I am grateful to be back in the air-conditioned boat for lunch … until the captain announces over the loud speaker that rules have changed in Darwin and we will need to have COVID tests – and negative results – before we are allowed to disembark.
The journalist in me is filled with so many questions about why there is a new rule. What has been happening over the last eight days since we left Broome? Has the outbreak spread?
But I decide my questions will have to wait, I have a headache from the heat and retire to my cabin. It tends to be a bit warm in the cabins in the afternoons, with the cool air directed to the dining and living areas, but I remembered this morning that I had stashed the room’s portable fan under the bed to give us more wardrobe space. I dig it out and curl up with DD’s laptop and enjoy the cool breeze while I catch up on my blogging. So much happens each day that I am sure I will forget all the details if I leave it too long between updates.
DD has left me a present in the bathroom: a chunk of rock completely encrusted with shells that he found while waiting for the second tender ride back to the boat. My present to him was a can of icy cold Diet Coke that I ordered from the bar staff the moment I stepped onto the Reef Prince. We are both very happy with our gifts.
I’m less happy about the mystery surrounding why we need to be COVID tested in Darwin. We’re not even allowed to enter the harbour, we must stay at sea and wait for a nurse to board the boat. It will cost the owners of the Reef Prince $13,000 to get the tests expedited so that they can offload us and prepare the boat for its next load of passengers.
It seems outrageous that boats are being subjected to such punitive costs at a time when tourism is pivoting to recover from the loss of foreign tourists. I will be doing some serious Googling when I get wi-fi again.
In the meantime, there are sunsets to admire. laughter to enjoy and wines to sip … I’ll cope somehow …
Song of the day: Annie Lennox “Why”