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Wet season may last longer? Mitchell Plateau and Dampier Peninsula under threat.
January 22, 2009

22 January 2009, Issue #014

In this issue:

** The wet season may last longer?
** Perfect storm brewing over Kimberley. (No, this is not about the weather.)
** A question for Gibb River Road veterans and a trip report.
** About Kilimanjaro (Huh???)


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I hope that you had a great start into 2009!

I started this year with a major overhaul of the Kimberley website. I hope what I've done makes it a bit easier for you to find the information you need.

Now, if you are within a specific section (e.g. any page about the Bungles or the Gibb River Road), look at the right hand column and you see all other pages relevant to the topic, including reader submissions and important questions we discussed in the past.

The wet season may last longer?

In the last issue I told you why we can't predict what will happen over a wet season or when roads will open again.

(If you are new here, you can access all back issues via this page:

But that doesn't stop people from doing it anyway. One reader was advised by a Broome tour operator that this year's wet season could last longer...

The comment made me smile.
Of course it could!

While I know where the operator is coming from and why he made that warning, the fact remains that EVERY wet season COULD last longer... We never know what will happen. NEVER.

So why would the Broome operator say that?

The weather bureau has indeed forecast a wetter than normal season.

They can predict that kind of thing from the ocean temperatures.

What it means is that there is a higher probability of cyclones developing, a higher probability of monsoonal troughs rolling across the Kimberley and dumping insane amounts of water on us.

But a higher probability does not necessarily have to result in a higher number. And even if it does, we still don't know when or where exactly that rain will fall, which path exactly the cyclones or monsoonal troughs will take, when the last one will move through...

This Wet started early. Sometimes that means it ends early.

A couple of late cyclones on the west coast could also suck cloud and moisture away from the east Kimberley and some tracks could dry up early. Or we do indeed get a late, big cyclone as we did in 2000, when even the main highway was cut off for over four weeks in April...

Bottom line, big Wet or not, the road opening dates are as unpredictable as ever!

What we can predict somewhat is the order in which roads open.

And the last road to open after a wet season is usually the Kalumburu Road with the track to the Mitchell Falls.

The Mitchell Plateau is an area of lush rainforests and rivers that run deep and fast, long after the rain has stopped.

The reason for this is the structure of the rock and soil on the plateau, which functions like a massive sponge. It hangs on to a huge amount of water and only releases it very slowly, allowing this unique habitat to exist (and making it hard for you to get up there early).

Well, if things go as planned, then travellers in future years may not need to worry about closed roads up there any more. The rough track may turn into a wide road, and the sponge may disappear...

A perfect storm is brewing over the Kimberley

This isn't about the weather. This isn't even my line. I stole it of the website of the Wilderness Society.

If you own a fairly recent copy of Destination Kimberley then you already know about this.

If you are interested in environmental issues you may have come across it on my website:

The planned bauxite mining development on the Mitchell Plateau is one of several projects of massive disaster scale that are looming above us.

Bauxite mining is strip mining. Big parts of the plateau could disappear, and with them the "sponge" that stores the wet season water and keeps the rivers and creeks and falls up there flowing until late into the dry season.

It's the sponge that enables the unique ecosystem and the many endemic species in it to exist. Once the sponge goes, everything goes, including the rainforests and the plant and animal species in them.

(This is not even taking into account yet the effects of pollution, of introduction of feral weeds, the increased traffic and all the other negative impacts of mining development.)

And there are more species we may have to wave good bye...

Our government has expressed a very strong commitment to large scale industrialisation and agricultural development across the Kimberley. Decisions are made over the heads of the people who live here and will be affected by it. And the decisions are made and projects pushed ahead with total disregard for environmental and even native title issues.

The government intends to compulsory acquire whatever land it needs for its plans, and it doesn't care what that means for humpback whales, dugongs and flat back turtles.

As our premier announced, a massive gas plant is to be built on Prices Point on the Dampier Peninsula.

(If you own Destination Kimberley, look under "Northern Beaches" in the Dampier Peninsula chapter. The whole area will be affected by the plant. The impact it will have on the whole coast line, the reefs and the sensitive ecological balance we can't even begin to imagine...)

But as the Wilderness Society points out towards the bottom of that page:

"There are still legal processes including negotiations with Traditional Owners and environmental impact assessments that will need to be undertaken. This is not a done deal!"

People are determined to fight the government all the way, and you can help.

Please spare a moment to sign the online petition to protect the Kimberley from industrialisation

Thank you.

A question for Gibb River Road veterans and a trip report

Back to more cheerful topics. I want to also say thank you to everyone who has contributed their views and experiences on the website.

I am impressed with the quality of the submissions and with your detailed and thoughtful responses to the reader questions. Several of those question threads have become excellent knowledge resources, presenting every possible angle and view on a topic.

This is something that one person alone would never be able to do. I can't begin to tell you how valuable this kind of input is!

And since it has been working so well, here is a new question for you to consider. It is a question for people who know the Gibb River Road:

Lack of time is the biggest issue for many travellers. If all you had is three nights on the Gibb, where would you spend them? What, in your opinion, are the must see highlights, the impossible to skip attractions?

And which are the best campsites for those three nights?

I'm sure not only Eric but all future readers on tight schedules will appreciate your thoughts on this one, so please share them in the comments:

And here's an excellent reader trip report for those who are still looking forward to their first Gibb River Road or even Australia trip:

Our Aussie Trip

Remember Jenny?

Do you remember Jenny? Jenny who had lost her memory card with ALL the photos from her Kimberley trip? To everyone who helped, I received this:

"We want to express our thanks to you and those who forwarded photos, be they via email or CD, when you placed the notice in your newsletter. The response was overwhelming and I now have lots more photos than before!!!   Thanks again, Jenny & Rod Hooper"

Many people wrote to me as well, not just directly to Jenny, so I did get an idea of just how overwhelming the response was. You people are impressive. Thank you!

About Kilimanjaro (Huh???)

Apologies to all the new readers who would have no idea what this is all about!

In issue #10 from August 23 I mentioned that I was in Germany, preparing for a Mount Kilimanjaro climb together with my mother.

As a result I received a large number of emails from people interested to hear more about it, asking for pictures, our experiences, a trip report...

I promised I would put up something, and I did. This is to let everyone know where they can find the promised pictures and info.

Because I spent an insane amount of time researching this trip, and because we also spent a full 6 weeks in the area in Tanzania, I have a huge amount of information to share.

Of course I couldn't help myself. Instead of a trip report on some free blog site I made another SBI website.

If climbing Kili is something that crossed your mind at some stage, or if you are just curious about what's involved, how hard it is, or how my 64 year old, unfit, cigarette smoking mother went, have a look:

(By the way, we chose the Rongai Route. You find our pictures on the Rongai page in the photo gallery. Any other pictures throughout the site that have the website name on them are also from our trip.)

If you find the site useful and think it could help others, please spread the word. Mention it on forums, share it on social bookmarking sites, and if you have a blog or website, please consider linking to it. Every link helps.

Thank you!

Apologies again for straying that far off topic. It won't happen again :-).

More from the Kimberley soon!

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(c) 2005-2009, 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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