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Kimberley roads and parks updates, new reader pages and pictures, environment minister needs help.
June 06, 2011

6 June 2011, Issue #035

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In this issue:
  • Roads and Parks Updates
  • Mt. Hart Update
  • Help our environment minister to make the right decision
  • New Reader Pages
  • News from the Home Front

Hi everyone,

I had hoped to get this update out to you last Friday. Alas, nothing's easy at the moment... (See my PPS at the very bottom as to why.)

Therefore let's jump right in and get to the most important updates. I have some good and some bad news for you...

Roads and Parks Updates

It's taken until early June, but finally it looks like the last parks and gorges along the Gibb River Road are opening.

The Gibb River Road itself is already open all the way through, at least for vehicles under 15T, which my guess is pretty much all of yours are.

You should still take care at all creek and river crossings and the floodways. Many have been damaged, the Pentecost is still at about 450mm, and the Durack at 700mm. The road also has soft edges in areas, you may still encounter minor damage, and of course ongoing repair works.

Everything inside the King Leopold Conservation Reserve-- that means Lennard Gorge, Bell Gorge and the campground Silent Grove, as well as Mt. Hart Wilderness Lodge--is supposed to open today, June 6 (Monday).

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek opened on May 20. The Fairfield/Leopold Road is open all the way through, but is restricted to high clearance 4WD vehicles between Tunnel Creek and the highway. A 4T weight limit also applies. The other end, between Tunnel Creek and the Gibb, is open to all vehicles.

As of June 1 all roads and campgrounds and most walks in the Bungles are open, only the Mini Palms Walk is still closed.

So that's all good. But now to the bad news...

The Kalumburu road is open for vehicles under 3.5T up to Drysdale River Station. That's it, and that may be it for the rest of the year.

The Kalumburu Road has been badly damaged over many kilometres, parts are still under water. SWEK (the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley, which is responsible for the road) simply does not have the funds that would be required to fix it (about $4 million).

After assessing the damage the shire put in a request for WANDRRA funding (Western Australian Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements). After all, this was a declared natural disaster zone. But who knows if the shire will get the funds, and if yes, when. It could be that the road remains closed this year.

That means no access to Kalumburu, and no access to the Mitchell Plateau, until 2012!

This is an absolute disaster, not only for tourists and the tourism industry. The cattle stations up there can't get any trucks in, not even fuel trucks. They will remain isolated for the whole year and they won't be able to get any of their cattle to market. They are really, really stuck. So are the Kalumburu residents.

We all knew that the road would be in a dreadful state and that it would be opening extremely late this year. But when I said in the last newsletter that you should "fuhgeddaboudit", I didn't mean for the whole year.

I meant, you know, until the next newsletter or so... Geez, it never crossed my mind that they might not be able to fix the road at all!

But that's on the cards now. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

I won't list all the details for the Territory, there are too many parks, and too many different places inside those parks, to give you detailed updates here.

I can however tell you that it's still very wet over there. Many unsealed roads are forecast to hopefully open in June, but notoriously wet areas (e.g. the Southern Access Road for Litchfield) will likely have to remain closed until mid July. The Katherine River isn't dropping much either. Swimming or canoeing will also have to wait until July.

As for the big names in Kakadu, Jim Jim Falls shouldn't be too far away (crocodile trapping is already underway), Twin Falls should open a couple of weeks after, maybe even late June. Gunlom is open. Maguk, however, is also a July candidate.

Please do check the reports that are linked in the appendix of Destination Top End for all the details, and if your departure is getting close and you need a more precise forecast, use the phone numbers listed.

Mt. Hart Update

I said above that Mt. Hart should open for business on June 6. But this year it won't be Taffy and Kim who are welcoming visitors at Mt. Hart.

The two have finally received an acceptable settlement agreement from the DEC. You can read the joint media statement by Taffy and the DEC here.

On the same page you can also catch up with Taffy and Kim's latest news, posted above and below the media statement.

No idea what I'm talking about? Start reading here.

Taffy and Kim have already left Mt. Hart and are on their way to their new home. It will likely be a while before we hear from them again. Obviously they will need some peace and time for themselves, now that the pressure is finally off. They will also be without internet and telephone connection for a while, since their new home is a virgin bush block. But they promise on their Kimberley Grapevine that they will continue to keep us updated.

I'm so glad that this ordeal is over, that they can close this ugly chapter and finally move forward. From the bottom of my heart I wish them the very best and I very much look forward to reading many more of their Kimberley Grapevine stories.

Help our environment minister to make the right decision

Many of you have played an important role in getting Taffy and Kim this settlement agreement. If it hadn't been for the many letters you wrote to the DEC and politicians, Taffy and Kim may never have gotten a fair chance to build a new life for themselves. Letter writing works.

And that's why a letter writing campaign has been launched to let our environment minister know that many of us have grave concerns about the future of the Kimberley.

The fight over the future of the Kimberley has been raging for a few years now. As most of you know, our WA Premier, Colin Barnett, is dead set to dig up and industrialise the lot of the Kimberley and squeeze out every dollar possible. As the Sydney Morning Herald reported:

"Perth-based Woodside Petroleum is pushing ahead with a $30 billion gas hub in the recommended heritage area north of Broome after years of bitter negotiations with Aborigines. Other companies plan dozens of large industrial projects across the Kimberley, including coal, uranium and bauxite mines, many of them in environmentally sensitive areas. Three companies have been granted leases to mine copper deposits adjacent to Horizontal Falls, a phenomenon where tidal currents hurtle through two narrow coastal gorges, creating a horizontal waterfall."

If you read the whole article you see that nobody here is so unrealistic as to be against development. We oppose inappropriate development. We want to see sustainable economic development. It's possible to move ahead without destroying the future.

Again from the article:
"Tourism, mining and Aboriginal people can coexist very well."
But that's not what Calin Barnett is aiming for. He couldn't care less about nature, tourism and Aboriginal people.

The gas hub on James Price Point is only the very first crucial step, the one that enables all future mining and resources projects.

Environment Minister Tony Burke must soon decide over the Australian Heritage Council recommendation to declare almost 20 million hectares of the west Kimberley as world heritage listed.

A heritage listing by the way would not prevent any of the planned developments. But it would ensure that development proposals undergo a lot more environmental scrutiny before being approved.

As Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said:

''We are worried … if the minister delays too long or decides against listing, we can wave goodbye to the Kimberley as one of the world's greatest wilderness and culturally important areas. The development pressures are extensive and imminent and the West Australian government appears hell-bent on industrialising the region."

"We have been shocked by the development pressures coming on to the region. We literally have only a couple of years to determine the future of the Kimberley."

I'm worried, too, and I know many of you are as well. The thing is, you can make a difference.

Environs Kimberley has put together an excellent flier that outlines what you can do to help (PDF document). It contains tips on how exactly to write and format your letter for making an impact, who to write to, how to address them, how and where to send your letter, or letters, depending on how much time you have and how many letters you can write.

June 30 is the deadline. by then Tony Burke must decide. Help him to make the right decision (PDF).

New Reader Pages

On to some happier topics...

I have received a couple of trip reports from readers who found themselves up north during this very wet end of our late wet season. As you can see, they loved it regardless:

Kimberley and Top End in April
Northern Territory During the Wet Season – Well Worth It!!

I also had a reader contact me to share the Facebook photos of the August 2010 trip of his family with two young children. After a bit of prodding Alain followed up with a detailed trip report:
The Lhasa and Noumea Walkabout

Thanks, Alain. You get first prize for most epic trip report ever :-).

The quality of the photos is outstanding, too. Well worth a look!

And last but not least some comments on an old reader page:

Four years ago I answered a question about crocodiles at Cable Beach. I think the answer is as relevant today as it was back then (which is not always the case with the hundreds of reader questions I have answered over the years...).

In that answer I predicted that crocodile sightings would become more frequent over the years. And indeed, that's what's been happening, both at Cable Beach and also at Cape Leveque. You can see in the comments to both questions that there have been several sightings in the last couple of years. This year Cable Beach has been closed twice already because of crocodile sightings.

Of course it is also still early in the season. Keep in mind how long the wet season lasted this year. The wet season and just after is the time when crocodiles are most likely to be seen in new places. Once things cool down they stop moving around.

Personally, I'd still swim at Broome's beaches and on the western side of the Dampier Peninsula during the cooler time of the year. If I'd worry about anything, it would be the Irukandji and the mosquitoes. But I also wouldn't be as surprised to see a salty as I would have been four years ago.

News from the Home Front

A little update on the knee saga, since I am still receiving many questions and even more lovely encouraging messages. (Thank You!!!)

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check the last couple of newsletter issues. All back issues are here.

I have been in Germany for nearly a month now, finally had an MRI, had some orthopedic appointments, and I get physiotherapy three times a week.

It is such a relief to finally be in very competent hands. I can't even begin to tell you how much of a difference it makes. And how shocked I am to see the difference in the level of competence!

Many of you have wondered what on earth I had originally done to my knee. Well, nothing. This problem was entirely created by the treatment I received for a very minor overuse condition. I had no problems when I first asked to see a knee specialist in mid December. I just wanted to know how I could prevent future problems! That was all.

Over the next five months the doctors, physiotherapist, and the visiting orthopedic "specialists" exacerbated the condition badly, which added a string of new problems, which were then misdiagnosed, which led to needless surgery, which was botched. I received no after care after the surgery, a week later I developed complications that I was left alone with, except for some totally misguided and inadequate suggestions for some silly knee exercises, which made things worse.

By the time I decided to fly to Germany I had been off my feet, unable to sit, stand or walk, for nearly five months.

I have been told by the orthopedist here that the damage that has been done can not be fully reversed. (He is wrong with that.)
I have also been told that to regain whatever functionality I can regain will not take many months as I had expected, but rather that I am looking at two to three years before I might be able to go bushwalking and mountaineering again (also wrong) and that there are no guarantees that I will be able to, ever.

These people are brilliant, but they aren't perfect :-). I say, next dry season is a very reasonable goal for full recovery.

When I started arguing, the orthopedist conceded that nothing is impossible, so we'll see.

My knee may not be back to normal just yet, but at least my mind and soul is :-). Everything else will fall into place with time.

I do have to admit, however, that this won't be easy. The problem is that gritting my teeth and fighting won't get me anywhere. It's not a matter of hard work, it's gonna be a matter of superhuman patience. And patience is something that I have famously little of...

Character building, a good friend of mine would say. Oh well, everything happens for a reason. I must be needing it :-).

Seriously, it may not be easy right now, but I am sure that when I look back at this episode in a few years time, I'll be able to see the good things that came from it. It always works that way.

I very much hope that none of you will encounter any character building obstacles on your trips, that it's gonna be all good times for everyone, and that you keep me motivated here by sharing your experiences on my website!

Happy travels and I look forward to hearing from you,

PS.: To answer another question I've been getting repeatedly, I expect to be back home in Kununurra in September.

PPS.: Apologies to everyone who is waiting for me to answer their emails or look at their itineraries. It's been very difficult to do ANY work. Due to my frequent physio appointments I am stuck in Munich, in somewhat crammed conditions, with lots of family and kids and non stop action... Great in many ways, but not so great if you are trying to get some work done! I should get some breathing space from next week onwards, so don't give up hope just yet!

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(c) 2005-2011, Birgit Bradtke. All rights reserved. The Kimberley Guide is published by Birgit Bradtke in Kununurra, WA 6743, Australia. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.
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