“Man was born in the desert. Desert is home.” writes Bruce Chatwin. The Kimberley in North West Australia is not a desert but the extremely hot and tough conditions and wide open desolate plains certainly makes Bruce Chatwins words ring true to me.
The Kimberley is an area in North West Australia of wide open spaces, stunning scenery and vast desolate expanse creating an amazing sense of wonder and adventure. A land as old as time – and almost as timeless to quote a very funny Australian comedian. It is much larger than Great Britain but only home to less than 30,000 people. The Gibb River Road runs from one end to the other and was originally built for transporting cattle. It is an unsealed rocky corrugated dirt track most of the way and usually only accessible by 4wd – sometimes not even by 4wd. Although it is fast becoming more accessible and touristy in the cooler months of June and July it is still a rough and rugged experience travelling it and an experience like no other in Australia. September is a very hot month to hit the Kimberleys but the upside is you will have the scenery and the mosquitoes to yourself!
I cannot describe how much I love travelling through the Australian far outback like the Kimberleys. It feels like home. It creates an actual physical reaction in me. I simply love it. It can make me incredibly sad as well. I just want to stay for all eternity. I want to roll out of my swag in a bush camp on the Gibb River Road every morning every day and shoot sunrise like the one I caught here:
I want to travel through the bush and end the day every day with sunsets like the one I caught here in Purnululu (also known as Bungle Bungles) National Park:
I never want it to end…
Having said that; a little pit stop is alright. 14 days of bush camping in stinking hot humid heat with flies and mozzies can get to ya; even to me. It was pushing +40 degrees all days in the sun; it was 37 degrees in the shade at Mount Barnett. The buildup to the wet had already started and conditions were trying. It is an experience like no other. I cannot count the number of mozzie and ant bites and bruises and cuts on my arms and legs (fire ants are bloody lethal!). Shooting every day at sunrise and sunset means you take the full force of the first wave of attack! I have a heat rash so bad I had to buy bloody skin irritation cream relief lotion crap stuff today at a pharmacy. I then had to apply the lotion to arms and legs. Not normally into any kind of bloody lotion! But I was scratching myself to a bloody pulp. All minor details though and totally worth it!
Shooting the Kimberleys
I shot thousands of shots and many large stitched panoramas. Lightroom 2.0 is killing my laptop so I have just exported these 2 quick and dirty previews of the many shots to come when I get home. The Kimberley light is a tricky thing to master; it so incredibly bright and harsh with a dynamic range no camera can capture and it takes a lot of practice and a different shooting style. I’ll go into more details in a post some day. All my equipment survived the Kimberley just fine; but my Canon 20D backup camera did see action as I lent it to fellow photographer Rosi from Sydney to use after her 350D died.
A sad day in Bungle Bungles
A very sad note about the Purnululu Sunset photo; actually from my second visit. The smoke is from a 1 kilometer long bushfire started just hours earlier by a helicopter crash and explosion that killed the pilot and all 3 tourists. I did not know this when I shot the photo and it makes it very weird to look at now. I was up in those very same helicopters just a week before during my first visit to Purnululu and had booked to go up again the day right after the crash. All flights were cancelled of course after the accident. Accidents happens unfortunately and I still feel safer in any helicopter than in any car. But it is a very strange uneasy feeling looking at this shot now knowing what is causing the fire. A bad day in the Bungles.
Funny story. Today I arrived back in Darwin for 2 days of pit stop and lotion. Some of the people working at the hotel know me by now and as I stepped in the door towing bags of camera gear covered in red dust they all shouted “hey mate; how are ya; how was the Kimberleys; got good shots?”. Then because I had to wait an hour before my room was ready they upgraded me to a town house! A bleedin’ 2 story larger than my flat town house with downstairs kitchen and living room and upstairs bedroom and bathroom. I just want a swag and a sleeping bag!
So you will have to excuse me; I am busy applying lotion to my skin in a feckin’ town house! Thank the maker I go bush again Friday morning as I take off for Kakadu National Park!
Oh man, sounds like you're really feeling alive.
Others fall in love with someone named Kimberley, but you've got a bigger fish to fry.
Enjoy your town house, heal up and God bless your voyage, mate
Thanks mate, see ya soon!
Good to hear of your Kimberley experience Flemming ! I can't wait to return to the magical land again myself. It certainly is a harsh yet majestic land.
Upon hearing the tragic news of the chopper crash I was wondering where you were at the time – I too have been up in the chopper there – pure magic ! 🙂
great shots Flem. sum up the australian outback perfectly.
very sad about the helicopter crash though. and does create a weird mood to the image knowing what the smoke represents.
enjoying reading about your travels also.
a bit of comic relief is always welcome 🙂
a man traveling through the australian bush, complete with camera and lotion…
Hi Tony and Stephen, glad you like my writings!
I have now cut down on the lotion bit, the heat rash is gone and so is the lotion 😀
It sounds like you are having fun, with a note of sadness too. Aviation incidents always leave me cold.
I'm not sure if this will help for heat rash but I do this when I am in the African bush and it definitely cools the body down – wet a cloth and stick it behind your neck. The water evaporates and keeps your cool at the same time.
Hi Tyger. I am loving it, I think I was born in the bush and meant to live in the outback. Feels like I'm home.
Took 3 days for the heat rash on my arms to go away so dunno if the bloody lotion helped at all or was just expensive vaseline 😀