Flying over the Channel country of Queensland with the sun setting behind us in the west and Brisbane coming up ahead. I’ve washed off all the red dirt and feel like I’ve really come in from the Outback, after many kilometres of driving and nine nights under the big skies near the Tanami Desert of Western Australia.
It took most of three days for us to get out to Lake Gregory. On day one we flew over from Brisbane to Broome, met our friend Seja who’d agreed to take us out in her 4WD, shopped for nine days of provisions, and met Libby Lovegrove from Wild Horses Kimberley to get the lowdowon on where the brumbies I’m researching could be found.
Day two we drove from Broome to near Halls Creek, and day three we turned off the bitumen and down the Tanami Road (via Wolfe Creek Crater).
The first two horses came out to greet us when we pulled over at the junction of the Mulan Turn off and the Canning Stock route, and that was an exciting welcome to the area. They galloped up and halted about 50 metres off and then trotted up and down, snorted at us, arched their necks and generally showed off.
We drove on to Mulan Aboriginal community and on to Lake Gregory in the Paraku Indigenous Protected Area, arriving at the campground just on dark and finding we were the only people there. God it was good to sit around a campfire, go to bed in a swag and sleep under desert skies again, with blazing stars, a crescent moon and plenty of little meteorites, as well as that immense desert silence.
I was awake the next morning well before dawn, up and out of the cosy sleeping bag and heading for the lake, which was a fair way from the campground because the water has dropped down since the wet season, leaving an open plain with dead trees and low vegetation. You could see the horses from a long way off and I was thrilled to come out and see several mobs of them grazing in the pre-dawn light. Andi followed me down and we crouched on the ground to watch for a while. They are very curious about humans, and if you approach them slowly they will generally come forward to see who and what you are. A little dance of advance and retreat ensues. If the horses don’t have young foals, they seem inclined to play the game for a while.
Next thing we saw two dingos weaving through the high grass, one black and one white. One of the stories of the lakes is about a black and a white dingo coming down into the system, one creating the salty lake and the other creating the freshwater lake, so it felt pretty special to see them. At one stage two bands of horses started galloping across the plain, one on each side of us, passing quite close.
That was the first of many horse encounters over the next few days. They are magnificent creatures – quite different from tame horses, full of power and spirit and pride. It was such a pleasure to watch them. At the same time, it’s obvious they are having an impact on the fragile landscape of that lake ecosystem, so their presence their over the past decades, with nothing to stop them breeding (except lack of food) is complicated.
It was an interesting time out there – talking to some of the local people about the horses, observing them in the wild and enjoying a landscape that’s pretty new for me – it’s only a few miles from the Great Sandy Desert, so it’s a remote spot. As well as the horses and some more dingos, we saw dozens of brolgas, flocks of green budgies, lots of water birds including swans and birds of prey. And we had an interesting moment thinking that the rolling black smoke we could see during our walk was our camp going up in flames – fortunately it turned out to just be some burning off, but you’ve never seen a campsite packed up so fast when we thought we needed to get out of there.
After spending four days at the Handover campground we started for home around the eastern side of the lake system and up the Canning Stock Route for about 100km, which felt very adventurous. A last night in the Indigenous Protected Area by a beautiful lagoon, and one final night camping by the road, which up there is a lovely thing as there’s little traffic during the night. Then back into Broome and civilization.
I also worked on my book about the last dog in Antarctic during the hot times in the day when I didn’t want to do anything else. That was quite surreal I must say.
I took about a zillion horse photos – there will have to be some serious editing before I can subject anyone else to them. So glad I lashed out on a new zoom lens.
I’ve come back with lots of ideas for the novel about the wild horses of the Kimberley, and lots to think about. I loved being out bush, away from the normal routine and the electronics and internet. It’s deeply relaxing and rejuvenating. There’s nothing like it.
To finish – here’s a few photos for your enjoyment.
what an extraordinary experience. You’ve taken some amazing photos where the light is just superb and the composition spectacular. Have I used enough adjectives yet? I can’t wait to talk to you about your experience and hear about the beautiful wild horses of the Kimberley.
What a great idea to buy a zoom lens – the photos are breathtaking. And what a wonderful adventure you’ve had. Can’t wait to see you both soon … love Kath
I think that gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach is envy. How beautiful it all looks. Hope the writing flows.
These photographs (especially the grey horse/steel grey mane & tail in photo 4) are mesmerizing. We need to do something to save the brumbies. You can call on me for support. Libby Lovegrove is also doing great work up there with the horses – have you come acrosss her? regards Tonia
FYI — Here is Libby’s contact details