The amazing Kimberley Canoe Experience (part II)

Imagine being in the Australian outback, sleeping in the bush under the open sky, gliding through pristine emerald waters in a Canadian canoe, watching nature pass byNo people, no sounds but the birds playing, the gentle strokes of the paddle and an occasional plop from a crocodile, sliding off the river bank to seek refreshment in the river. And sometimes, no sound at all… Our Kimberley canoe experience, part two!

Day two at the Cooliman Camp. After an exhausting but great day of canoeing on the Ord river, we wake up just in time to see the sunrise.

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An early bird catches the sun…

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The view when waking up in a mosquitonet-tent

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Follow the yellow rocks!

Before leaving the camp, we try to find a walking trail that Maka had told us about. “Follow the yellow rocks, they will lead to a magnificent viewing point!” It takes us a while to find because the path is overgrown with spinifex, a type of hard grass that is nearly impenetrable. Fortunately the yellow stones are easy to spot. The trail involves a climbing rope, a bat hole, a great river panorama and beautiful views on the peaks and cliffs of the Carr Boyd Range.

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Annoying spinifex
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Climbing up
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The view

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Let me tell you ’bout the birds

Back on the river, we’re much more relaxed because today we have only 9 kilometers to go. What is there to see? Reptiles, for one. We saw crocodiles (they always saw us first though, so we mainly heard ‘plops’ of them disappearing in the water) and lizards in different shapes and sizes. We saw wallabys on the river side as well. One time a giant wallaby was resting right next to the river in the shadows of a leaning rock, so as soon as we spotted it we stopped paddling and tried to be as quiet as possible. The current made us drift too close to the shore, and the wallaby got scared. It looked like it was ready to jump in our canoe, but then it made a 90 degree turn and took off in the bush. And, we saw birds. Loads of them! I’ve never been much interested in birds before, but on this trip the fauna has a way of grasping your attention. The birds fly, move and sing with such grace that it just can’t NOT touch you. The pelican quietly observing us from a rock just two meters away, the darter that elegantly spreads out its wings to dry and moves its long neck like a snake, the little black-and-white butcherbird with its beautiful and instantly recognizable song, the comb-crested jacana or lotusbird that walks on floating vegetation so swiftly that it almost looks like its walking on the water and the black-winged stilt, balancing in low waters on its seemingly delicate and incredibly long red legs. After spending two days on the Ord river, you love them all!

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Entering a creek for fun – sometimes you see loads of butterflies, other times you see loads of spiders…
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Dead end!

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A ‘little pied cormorant’ that moves a bit like a penguin
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A pelican resting on a rock.
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What a beauty!
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Pelicans putting up a show
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Or should I say ‘fighting’
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A darter or snake-necked bird
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A darter spreading out its wings to dry

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A stunning little beach island where we went for a swim

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At about 4pm, we push the ‘Pick us up’-button on our satellite phone. Organizer Maka told us he would find us on the river either way, and he was right: before he got our text message, there he was – along with a whole welcome team on the boat: four Aussie friends of Maka helped us get on board and presented a glass of champagne and great little snacks. Pretty cool 🙂

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Crocodile hunting

I don’t have any photos of the next bit, but I can assure you: it was magical. As soon as the sky turned black, literally hundreds of bats got on the move in search for dinner. They came out of the bush on one side of the river, flew over our heads in large numbers and disappeared on the other side. What a thrill! The little creatures fly so quickly and in such fast and unpredictable maneuvers that it’s impossible to focus on just one of them. After the spectacle is over, another one begins. We approach the Kununurra river and Maka gets out a huge spotlight and turns of the boat engine as we near the shore with its dense reeds. “This is where the crocodiles like to hide out”, he says. “Lets try to find some.” Without any noise, he lets the bright light travel across the river edge and we all stare captivated, our gaze focused on the illuminated water surface. And then, a pair of unmistakable yellowish crocodile eyes light up, a couple of meters from the boat. “There’s one!”, we all yell simultaneously and Maka steers the boat right to it. As soon as we tensely get close, the eyes disappear in the water and the next search is on. This night was one of the most intense, fun and memorable experiences ever. We hardly slept that night due to the heaps of mosquito bites we got during the croc adventure, but it was well worth it.

Oh and yes, we drank water from the river for two days and it was de-li-cious.

 

Click here for the previous chapter: The amazing Kimberley Canoe Experience part I

Click here (or on the video below) to see the video impression of our canoeing trip