Friday, September 7, 2018

Derby - 2 Sep 2018

You are never too old to have a new experience!  I did breakfast this morning at the Runway Cafe after I attended 7 am Mass at the Cathedral.  Outdoor tables, each knitted out with a wooden box containing salt and pepper shakers, sugar, cutlery and napkins .. A common enough arrangement these days.  But also in each box was a can of AEROGARD to deal with the flies!!  That was a first for me.

I got on the road at 9 am, taking National Highway 1 towards Derby.  The road was in good condition and presented no problems.  Lots of traffic, mostly 4WDs but plenty of caravans and road trains as well.  Quite a boring drive.  The countryside is completely flat, not a hill in sight anywhere along the 230km journey.  Covered in thick scrub as far as the eye can see, with a good sprinkling of termite mounds adding variety.  Passed a few turn-offs into cattle stations, and in the middle of nowhere a very large abattoir.  I stopped for a leg stretch and Weiss bar at the Willare Bridge roadhouse, an hour south of Derby. 

Booked in to the Spinifex Hotel, sampled their lunch menu, and had a nap.  The hotel is quite modern, with a large accommodation block next to the tavern.  Outwardly it has somehting of the appearance of miners' quarters with lots of corrugated iron and steel pipe structure.  But inside the apartments are really first class.  Spacious, with a lounge area for TV watching, fully fitted out kitchen, laundry and bathroom.  Good aircon.  One could very comfortably spend  a week or two here if ever had a need to be stuck in Derby that long.  

The town claims to be the oldest in Western Australia, being gazetted in 1883. Population is 4500, so it is pretty much a typical small country town.  A Woolworths and a big BP service station are the only big city businesses that I could see .. All the rest small and local.  The main street is split by an avenue of Boab trees, making for an attractive aspect.  But when I did a drive around the back blocks, the overall impression is of a very tired and somewhat neglected place.  

On the way in to town I stopped at the Prison Boab tree which has been carefully preserved and provided with excellent information plaques.  This was an overnight stopping place where groups of Aborigines chained together we're being marched to Derby to be pressed into service on the pearling fleet.  At least the local historical society is upfront about the horrors of those days when the young men were rounded up from all over the Kimberley and walked in chain gangs for many of them to early death at sea.  The local Pioneers Cemetery is home to their graves, but are all unmarked and unknown now.  Near the Prison Boab Tree is a bore that was sunk in 1910 to provide water for cattle being driven to the port.  A windmill still pumps water from the bore today -- but just as an historic memento.

Derby has the largest tidal range in Australia at 11 metres.  I joined many others at the wharf to see the sun go down across King Sound.  It was near high tide, so didn't get a feel for the huge difference between high and low tides.  There is a very nice fish restaurant at the wharf with a beautiful outlook over the water, so I settled for their grilled barramundi and prawns with mash and veg for dinner.  The breeze even got a little chill to it, a change from the 30+ daytime temperature.

The town is home to the Kimberley School of the Air -- drove past their setup near the high school, but of course Sunday meant everything was closed.  The Flying Doctor is also based here at the airport a few km south of the town.  There is a disused jail on the edge of town, seemingly occupied now by Aboriginal squatters.  The hospital is much larger than I expected, but it has to service a very large area of the Kimberley and not just the townsfolk.  The Catholic church was locked tight and has a sizeable and well appointed primary school attached.  And that was about all Derby had to offer me on this sleepy Sunday.

Today's photographic offerings are here.

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