Rain, red water but still no ‘Big Wet’.

On 11th of January we drove to Beagle bay, that was the last time we left the property.

Usually it takes 45 minutes to get there via the back road. This time it took us close to 3 hours! . Lots of trees & branches down over the tracks from our last storm which needed clearing. Got to within half a km of Beagle Bay & found a large expanse of water over the sand flats we usually drive over, 100’s of metres wide. Not sure if fresh water from the storm or salt water from a high tide a few days earlier. There was no consideration that we might try to drive through it, chances of doing so successfully were around zero. Instead we found another track which looked like it would take us around the water, around the town & bring us into the southern side of Beagle Bay. Wrong! We could see buildings in the distance through the trees but the narrow track wound back & forth through the trees & just kept going & going & going – following a dry creek & taking us ever further away from Beagle Bay out into the scrub. We had plenty of fuel & could tell from our GPS we were heading east along the Bobby Creek toward the Cape Leveque road. The GPS map showed no track but we decided to stick with it so long as it was safely driveable. Apart from an occasional rut or hole to avoid it wasn’t too bad. It took us over what was obviously a flood plain, flat & open, with plenty of grass to sustain the population of wild donkeys we saw. We didn’t know there was country like that up here on the peninsula & so found it quite interesting, made more so by the bunch of Brolgas which flew up in front of us. Eventually made it to the Cape Leveque rd, pulling out on to it from a track you could pass whilst on the bitumen & never notice it,  just in front front of the Peninsula’s only cops – 2 of them based up at Lombadina. They followed us down to Beagle Bay where, it turned out, they were going to the store to buy themselves lunch. We said G’day when they pulled up at the store. “Just gettin’ a bite to eat before we go & harrass some deserving folk” one said with a grin. We think he was joking. Seemed like a nice couple of blokes. They knew the Bobby Creek track we had just followed saying they hadn’t been along there in quite some time, but that the last time they had driven it they had staked a tyre.

There are more Goanna’s around. Two are regular visitors. Both a bit smaller than the one I photographed for the last post. One is very skittish, spooked easily & runs off as fast as his little goanna legs will take him, which is actually quite fast & entertaining to watch.

Another has been indifferent or even curious. I was fixing a chainsaw & it stood just 3 feet away watching me for 15 minutes or more, & didn’t even flinch or move away when I fired the saw up.
This one also seems attracted to water when I have the hose out. It stands & watches the water for a short time & then runs to where the water is hitting the ground, into the flow, & wriggles on the wet ground getting it’s belly wet. all within a couple of feet from me & seemingly thoroughly enjoying itself.

So good to have contact with wild animals who are not scared of us humans.

As is her way, MrsTea has named this Goanna with an alliterative name. We once had Phillip the Pheasant, now we have Gordon the Goanna. Gordon is the one who likes hose water & chainsaws.
What is it called when you see faces & heads all around you in the natural world? Here we have a Queens head looking out to sea.

So……….Where is the Wet? we are waiting. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) declares the wet has started once more than 50mm of rain has fallen after September – well we haven’t reached that yet, let alone the daily monsoonal downpours! Plenty of clouds, rumbly thunder & night time sparky skies – but not a drop since those first two storms we thought were signalling the beginning of the Wet several weeks ago.
It feels like a waiting game. It’s not as though we are finding conditions oppressive, just that we believe something is going to happen & we are becoming impatient. Rather like the child waiting for Christmas morning to open the presents which have sat tantalisingly under the tree for weeks.

We’ve heard it said locally that this years build up has been fairly mild humidity-wise & cooler than usual. (And we thought we had been coping so well with the build up.) The wild gubinge (Kakadu Plum) harvest is delayed as a result. We think we are back now into build up, just the ‘teasing’ has increased. We remain hopeful that a wet season will occur. Locals seem confident it will come sooner or later, but we ‘blow ins’ have no experience to base that on.

We spend almost as much time looking at weather predictions online as we do watching the ever changing skies.

Even so, the rain we did get that I wrote of in the last blog post has had a significant impact on the country – areas which were bare burned ground from fires are now covered in a lush green carpet – it’s like the beach – we leave our footprints & next time we visit all is once again fresh & new. Bushes  have ‘risen from the dead’, greens have become richer. Spear grass is popping up everywhere, it really is not hard to imagine this place being absorbed back into jungle if abandoned, within just one or two seasons. New trees are growing out of the tracks, bushes press ever closer to the sides of the car each time we take it out. Vines have popped out of the ground & are winding themselves up trees & around anything they can. Just metres away from our bedroom we have watched ivy-like vines climb half way up the tree, but then leave it, sending their snake-like growth toward the building. We contemplate, unsuccessfully, how or why they do this. They have no eyes, How does a vine know that several metres away there is a structure & grows toward it, when it could just keep growing up the tree?

These flowers only lasted a day. Birds liked them.

Later – we have had a few drizzly days & 3 more storm events

Light rain.

Early morning. Sun rising behind a curtain of rain
Rainbow on a drizzly day

The scary storm – we were on the beach & saw clouds approaching over the rim of the Pindan cliffs, coming across land. Best get back we thought. Thunder rumbled & lighting highlighted distant clouds, but 50 metres from our chalet we almost shed our skins. KA-RAACK- KA-BOOM!! No lightning close by but the violent crack of the thunder seemed that it was upon us. Here we were watching & listening to an incoming storm , no gradual approach, moments ago it was in the distance, now it was right here, we felt it with every inch of our bodies, 50 metres out from our chalet & we were pretty damn exposed & vulnerable, & got ourselves back to shelter quicksmart, reaching the ‘safety’ of ‘home’ just as the rain began. Not a big fall as it turned out, just enough to not need to water the garden the following day. Kimberley storms, even little ones are unlike those we are used to. They look impressive, they behave impressively. You can see them coming. Back home it’s possible most of the time to pretty much ignore the weather & go about your daily business. Here it is the opposite. Everything stops for a storm. This wasn’t really a scary storm, we just called it that because of that one scary moment. 🙂

A few days later we had the ‘dry’ storm

……Big clouds built on the horizon & moved slowly over the bay toward us. As the first clouds passed over us us a wall of red dust could be seen maybe a kilometre away, slowly advancing & filling the space between cloud & ground, coming our way. No lightning, no thunder, no rain. Suddenly as though out of nowhere the wind we knew was coming hit us. Trees bent & cowered, instantly the dust arrived creating a red fog. “Come on rain” we shouted impotently into the wind as we scurried inside for shelter. It was almost on dusk when we had first noticed the cloud build up, clouds with pink highlights, & night fell very suddenly as the storm cell blocked out the last of the days’s light. We sat inside marvelling at the sounds of natures force around us & rued the fact that there was no rain. And then it started, “Was that rain on the roof” – “I think so” ….but by the time that reply had been spoken there was no longer any uncertainty, the force of the wind battered the tin roof with swathes of water. It was hard to tell if the rainfall was heavy ,as the noise of the wind lashed the roof with what sounded like waves breaking. A small leak of wind blown rain found it’s way through the roof & ceiling somewhere, the revolving blades of the ceiling fan spreading it in a neat circle around the room. Brief exploratory looks outside with torches revealed that whilst the rate of rainfall was enough to wet the ground & puddles had formed, this was not yet a repeat of our first storm creating a lake around us. Not a monsoonal deluge. Nevertheless it was exciting & fun. As the storm moved away & the rainfall lessened we were treated to some half hearted thunder rumbles & an odd flash of lightning somewhere in the distance. 45 minutes it was all over bar the frog chorus.

The ‘Dry’ Storm approaching at sunset. As the long ‘shelf’ passed over us the winds underneath hit the shore creating a red ‘fog’of dust.

The following morning we found a few wind damaged trees , snapped in half like matchsticks. some needed dragging off tracks, others needed cutting to clear the way.

The Red Water storm – This time pounding rain for an hour or so put our bedroom back into the middle of a lake within moments. Very little thunder & lightning, but different this time was that being daytime we could see through the rain for a distance. We watched first as puddles grew, then waterfalls burst over the edge of the cliffs into the gully below where a raging red river evolved minutes after it had been a mere trickle. Warm rain. We sheltered & watched as the deluge changed the still life of the boulders & pindan into a moving frenzy. As the rain stopped I was already on my way down to the beach to see the impact of the red water flow, I wasn’t quite sure what I might find but had an idea it might be worth seeing & recording. Picture a stark naked ‘adventurer’ , save for a pair of rubber shoes, carrying a camera wrapped in a plastic shopping bag, scrambling down a steep pathway, now a creek in itself, gingerly crossing sections of slippery red mud, all whilst navigating a now unfamiliar route. Rocks had moved, sand covered previous familiar markers. This was virgin country, just as the beach is after every high tide. Several times I needed to re-orient myself as I descended. The skies still looked ominous but I was a man on a mission. A naked man on a mission, a fact that both amused me when I wondered what anyone might make of this dripping madman descending the cliffs, & made me feel a little more vulnerable among some of the jagged rocks. The fleeting consideration I gave to returning to dress was dismissed by the pressing nature of the mission, to get to the beach whilst the red water was still flowing. It will be obvious to you the reader, I expect, that this was no planned mission. A thought bubble which surfaced & was acted upon just as the rain began to ease up. MrsTea, happy not to accompany me, observed my progress from the dry & comfort of our verandah (thinking, as she explained later, “That camera will be the death of him”!). I survived the wading through dark red knee deep water hiding loose rocks – recent arrivals just as I was, & sinky sand which tried it’s best to hang on to my rubber shoes on several occasions & found myself in ephemeral & almost surreal surroundings. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Courtesy of MrsTea’s IPad.

 

Pindan stained water creates a red waterfall.
And turned the ocean red

 

Cyclone Riley.  – We had been keeping an eye on a variety of weather forecasting resources for over a week as they were all suggesting the possibility of a ‘Tropical Low’ forming to the North of Australia between East Timor  & the North Kimberley coast, developing into a Tropical Cyclone & heading our way. Predictions varied greatly on the details, but there was broad agreement that we were likely to see some sort of ‘action’. All quite exciting for a pair of cyclone newbies – with it must be admitted a light sprinkling of apprehension thrown into the mix. Joining the ‘Broome Weather Group’ on Facebook was a great move. A bunch of folk who love nothing better than to discuss this area’s weather, & with local knowledge to temper our apprehension. In fact there was a clear desire among the membership for us to get a cyclone, & the postulations around if & when were quite contagious. A couple of days after the ‘red water storm’ the tropical low had intensified to a category 1 Tropical Cyclone & thus was named (TC Riley). It was heading south west, parallel to the coast. During the night before it officially became a cyclone, it took a southward turn – toward us, but by morning had realigned itself on it’s south western course parallel to the coast & the Bureau of Meteorology placed us on ‘Blue Cyclone Alert as the unpredictable nature of these things meant it could easily have swung back in our direction. It passed us as TC Riley late the following night, continuing south west toward the Pilbara coast, strengthening to a category 2 as it went. Pilbara coastal towns were placed on Blue alert & Riley was predicted to intensify to category 3 (above Category 3 there are 4 & 5 but once they reach 4 they are then considered a ‘Severe Tropical Cyclone’ rather than a ‘Tropical Cyclone). Apparently it passed us with much wind & heavy rain according to MrsTea. I slept right through it all! We had spent the previous day making arrangements to keep ourselves safe should it have come across ‘our’ piece of coast, but were comfortable enough with the reports to go to bed as normal in the end. Riley never made it past Category 2 & took a western turn away from the Australian coast with all alerts cancelled a few days later.

Two days before TC Riley
Same spot the morning after TC Riley passed by!
Two days before TC Riley
And again the same spot the morning after TC Riley passed by!

The morning after Riley had passed we both went back down to the beach (clothed this time! ) to see what erosion had occurred and were taken aback by what we found. Riley’s passing had coincided with a monthly king tide, the highest we have known a tide to come since we have been here. Rather than more erosion, Riley had pushed huge amounts of sand back up onto the beach. Now rocks were not so tall & all the eroded channels & gullies had been filled in, as though a plasterer had been and covered it all over. The photos above of before & after comparative shots show just how dynamic this country is. This overnight (literally) change confirmed for me that my naked scramble had been the right thing to do. What I saw & what you have now seen was special, made even more so by only existing for such a short period of time.

Fruits & blossoms are beginning to appear on unknown trees & plants. Dragonflies have appeared & seem to be mating.. March flies made a bit of a comeback as have the flying ants – although this time they seem to be a larger version of flying ant. They still just come out around the lights at night, & leave their wings on the floor by morning. Bit of a mystery where they take their wingless bodies. Grasshoppers numbers have increased along with variety. We now see ‘hoppers’ from less than a cm long to the big’uns up to 12 or 13cm long. No further sightings of our Olive Python, although we have seen tracks we think may be his/hers. Have run into several more Stimsons Pythons mainly outside since I blocked the floor access to our en-suite. Just today though we have found what good climbers they can be, with one wedging itself between the metal rafter & the tin roof, directly above the shower head. We don’t mind it being there, I just don’t want it taking up night time residence on the toilet seat like the last one. Oh and whilst on critters we have come across one or two centipedes lately. Interesting to look at but apparently capable of giving a disablingly painful bite. I’ve heard it said that the pain is severe enough to require opiates. Don’t wish to test that! Two have been in the kitchen sink, the other was on the ensuite floor. Scanning our surroundings before going to the loo or taking a shower has become second nature! Tonight,  just a few moments ago we discovered our first scorpion, a tiny one, less than 2cm long, scuttling around on our bedroom floor. Hmmmm don’t want to stand on one of those little jiggers with bare feet either!

Centipede in the kitchen sink
Out in the sunlight the colours of the centipede are more easily seen.
Dragonfly
A Coffee Bee Moth, apparently found in many places around the world. We had never seen one before. Have seen several since.
Ta-ta’s are little posers

………….…. With all this talk of rain & storms you might be forgiven for assuming the Wet season is now in full flight. We began to think that, but were wrong, in fact the Wet Season is still yet to commence. Through the knowledge & resources of the Broome Weather Group we have developed a better understanding of just what the Wet Season Monsoon is, & how it works. If you are interested this easy to read short & simple article explains it well.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-18/monsoon-explaining-the-complex-weather-phenomenon/10722716  This year’s monsoon is now very late in starting here. The monsoon trough is still expected to move southward & to reach here, but when is anybody’s guess.

Ok, enough of all this weather nerd talk, there have been some consequences on the ground from the few rain events that we have had recently. I have no idea how much rainfall has fallen , but suspect it is peanuts compared to what the monsoon can/will bring. However it has been sufficient for our access to Broome to have been cut. Yesterday the Broome  – Cape Leveque Rd was declared closed including it’s northern sealed section. The latter quite a surprise to us. We know that we cannot reach Beagle Bay Community via the back road any longer , but had never considered the sealed road might get closed. The closure notice does seem a little ambiguous however advising caution etc if driving on the closed road (see notice below).

We have sufficient food supplies for probably another 3 weeks, but are just about out of all fresh produce. We plan to make an ‘exploratory’ drive to Beagle Bay in a few days time, as much to clear the tracks of the many fallen trees we expect to find blocking our path, as to see if we can get some fresh produce & collect some mail. We could just ring the store for road info, but we need to know the tracks out from here are clear for when we make what we imagine will be an extra long day down to Broome for another ‘Big Shop’. That is info that we can only find out by checking the tracks ourselves. It’s likely the road to Broome wont be closed for too long, but what driving conditions will be like on it’s 90km dirt section is anyone’s guess, so we really don’t want to be dealing with fallen trees the same day if we can help it.

The water often seems to change to this milky pale blue colour as storms approach.
Pink puddle on the beach
After the puddle dries up a layer of pindan coats the sand. As this dries it curls & looks like leaves.

Nature’s rock painter took lessons from Pro Hart
Stormy light

And finally another pic of a Singing Honeyeater – one of my better efforts with the new monster lens.

5 Replies to “Rain, red water but still no ‘Big Wet’.”

  1. I only just joined your blog after Birgit Bradke mentioning it.

    Loved the read (I write a travel blog myself) – we are currently doing a lap of Oz and spent over a month (1200km) in the Kimberley last August, then two weeks up the Dampier Peninsula.

    Absolutely loved all and are glad to be able to relate to your writing with better understanding.

    Would love to experience the rainy season up there.

    We did the 2-week Kimberley Coast Waterfall Safari on the ‘Odyssey’ early April last year. It was fantastic.
    We even witnessed one of those spectacular build-ups almost identical to your photo of the ‘dry storm’ that brought the red dust.

    Looking forward to your next report,

    Chris and Katherine – Kimberley Crusaders (our heading for the trip we are on)

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  2. Hello up there sounds like you are having a wonderfull time If I was a bit younger or if my hubby would enjoy it I would love too experience what you are Be safe and have hun

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  3. Wow Mr & Mrs Cuppa! Spectacular photos of an incredibly unique part of this great country. Having been to Cape Leveque in May 2017 and unable to imagine the diverse changes to the landscape during the wet season, you have given a detailed description of the buildup. I look forward to your next account and photos after you’ve experienced the Big Wet

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  4. Another wonderful read I feel like I am there with you What an exciting experience Thank you for sharing keep them coming Take Care
    Great photos
    Helen the HTFFBO

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