Chile Creek – A Lull in Proceedings

Well perhaps not exactly a lull in proceedings, more an unplanned change of pace. We have now been in the same place for two weeks & expect to be here for almost another three. Quite different from the regular ‘moving on’ we have been accustomed to since leaving home, different to the two weeks we spent at James Price Point, because we know we are staying longer & different because although we have made a few small connections to the local community we are still just temporary residents. Not quite tourists, but not fully fledged residents. We expect the next place we go to might be a little different in as much that we will be there for longer, it will be Wet season which just being up here then shows a degree of commitment, & we will no longer be camping. At least those are our expectations, but we have also learned to not put too much store on our expectations but instead wait to see how things pan out.

Chile Creek is a small aboriginal community,  just 6 people live here, one of whom established the campground for tourists. She is currently overseas & the other residents essentially have nothing to do with the tourist venture. A dirt road between the campground & the houses divides us by 50 metres or so. We have occasional contact with the others here who are always friendly, but we feel uncomfortable about ‘intruding’. It is school holiday time & there have been a number of family visitors staying for varying periods of time, so we feel those who live here have enough on their plates without us adding to their load. Things may change once school holidays end & the visitors have gone.

The campground has not been operating for a while, just how long is difficult to establish, but long enough for neglect to have had an impact. This is country where it doesn’t take long for nature to get the upper hand if left to it’s devices. The harsh unrelenting sun shortens the life of many things, the dust, leaves, humidity, geckos, & other ‘wee beasties’ have a habit of making clean things less so very quickly. This has all become far more apparent since we have been doing what we can to be helpful by cleaning & tidying. Just hours after we complete a task it looks like it never happened. Quite remarkable. That one lady has been largely responsible for maintaining the campground, (a number of very large ‘safari’ tents & a number of ‘bungalows’) makes us wonder how she had the time & energy to do so. We think that perhaps her energy ran out, & understandably so. The amount of work required would be much the same regardless of the number of paying guests. All the accomodation needs good air flow if it is not to become dank & musty & good airflow means that dust, leaves & forest critters can get in, bringing smells of their own.

Despite all that, we have what for us seem like luxuries, running water, a shower & flushing toilets, a 240v fridge to supplement our travel fridge & even a clothes line. A little maintenance was required to get the shower working. Showerheads needed dunking in vinegar to unblock the build up of bore water deposits, the toilet needed some maintenance as they were dry when we arrived – mainly because the water had been turned off due to plastic pipes, not UV resistant, being used to supply the roof mounted solar hot water units having crumbled away. We now have cold showers as a result, but these are actually just right for this hot climate. Cold here is tepid to warm anywhere else! The water is good to drink, better than most bore water we’ve tasted, it passes the ‘tea test’ very well with not a smidgen of scum left in the cup. The green frogs who live under the rim of the toilet & occasionally get flushed down (but always seem to return) don’t seem to mind it either.

Our daily life has an evolving routine. Rise soon after dawn – 5:30am (or miss out on the best part of the day). The ‘hissing’ of the numerous Great Bower Birds is the dominant sound. One comes to drink from a nearby leaking water pipe regularly, flashing his erectile bright pink nape at us as he does so (never of course when I have the camera handy). The heat is pretty much up to full strength within a couple of hours of dawn. On our lazy days we move position several times throughout the day to remain in the shade. Other times we take the car out to explore some of the accessible tracks through the forest. Some are ‘dead ends’ reaching gates with ’No Entry’ signs, some take us to unoccupied beaches where we walk, fish, laze & watch. We have seen a 3.5 metre salt water croc on one beach who slithered into the water to get away from us & a 1.5 metre shark cruised past us in the shallows. Turtles occasionally make an appearance & we have seen bush fire.

We visited the mission settlement of Lombadina & it’s neighbouring township (& general store) of Djarandjin close by & introduced ourselves at the ‘office’ before going to the Health Clinic to register ourselves. Until then we had not been sure how we might be received by an aboriginal health clinic. Would we be turned away & told to access services back in Broome, 200kms away? Nope, it was just like going to any other surgery, except this one run by a RAN (Remote Area Nurse) was more welcoming than most. We learned that they have regular visits from a GP, & of course are familiar with dealing with crises requiring air lifts to Broome from the nearby airstrip. Sonia the RAN, a Kiwi with 30 years experience of ‘RANning’ made us feel very comfortable & exuded an air of competence, precisely what we hoped to find. We discussed my need to to get a medical procedure done in Broome, & the potential for ongoing follow up. No problem, & when we are at our caretaking venue, closer to Beagle Bay than to Lombadina, she will transfer us to the Beagle Bay clinic if we wish. The clinics also provide free transport to Broome Hospital & back 4 days a week, which we are welcome to use if needed. As peninsula residents we have access to such services just the same as those who live up here. In addition we also qualify for the PATS scheme. (Patient Assisted Travel Scheme) which subsidises patient travel & accommodation when seeing medical specialists. I have an appointment with a surgeon in Broome, & will receive both a fuel allowance to travel there & back, in addition to two nights accomodation for both MrsTea & myself – all up over $300 worth …. and the PATS office in Broome were just so helpful, arranging our accommodation for us. We just turn up. Whilst I’d rather not need the services they really are extremely helpful, particularly given that we are unfamiliar with what is available, all arranged & with a minimum of red tape.

One thing we have struggled with are the ‘biteys’. Mozzies seem more prevalent at dusk than dawn & both of us have found the need to cover up & to use repellant sprays. Neither stop the disturbing whining in the ears – something we just need to adjust too – easier said than done, but we are improving, & the number of fresh bites is smaller than it was. Daily antihistamine tablets seem to have kept the swellings & itches to a minimum. The same however cannot be said about the sandflies. Thankfully they don’t seem to find me tasty, but MrsTea must be a real sandfly delicacy given the number of red itchy lumps she has sustained. Worst from the local beach at high tide/full moon, but they are everywhere in the forest, given that the forest has a sandy floor. At one stage MrsTea’s arms had more red itchy lumps than white skin & she was not a happy girl. Itch creams containing lignocaine & steroids helped a little, but nowhere near enough. Over days the despair grew & tears flowed …… until the ‘great discovery’. [Drum Roll] The Hot Spoon Treatment,  once discovered, has been so effective that after existing bites had been dealt with we were joking about the need to get more bites as it seemed that the hot spoons were addictive! Method: Place two teaspoons into a cup of hot water or even tea, to heat them up to just bearable temperature, remove one at a time, placing the currently hot spoon onto an itchy swollen red sandfly bite. The result as described to me is ‘pleasureable’ “like scratching an itch which relieves it almost immediately. Repeated once or twice a day, although time consuming (depending upon number of bites) brings about resolution. The heat apparently helps to dissipate the toxins somehow. Most remedies found ‘online’ focus upon prevention rather than cure. A mix of antiseptic (Dettol)& baby oil, laced with eucalptus, teatree or lavender oil seems popular. Every evening around dusk MrsTea now smells like a freshly cleaned toilet but it keeps her largely bite free …… but it’s having the hot spoons to fall back on which gives peace of mind.

A highlight since being here was meeting a chap on a remote beach where he & two youngsters had just returned from their days fishing from their aluminum dinghy. This on the eastern side of the peninsula on Rumbul Bay where the water is much calmer (King Sound) compared to the western side (Indian Ocean). He was a warm gentle man who asked me to hold his boat. I stood there doing so for a while, thigh deep in the clear water, just metres from where we had seen the croc the previous day! I mentioned this to him & he told me he had seen it a short time earlier, around the other side of a small promontory a little north of us. He seemed like a man who cared about others & I felt confident he wasn’t asking me to risk my life, but nevertheless I kept a good eye on the water until he returned! ‘Uncle’ Kevin it turned out comes from Pender Bay & thus will be our neighbour in a few weeks time. After checking me out & finding me suitably respectful he offered me a large ‘Sweetlip’ fish from his catch as a ‘Welcome to Country’ gift. Boy it was good eating! I hope we get to spend more time with him later.

On another occasion we finally got to use our pair of Maxtrax. These expensive pieces of plastic have travelled with us for the past 15 months, but had remained unused until our first visit to the Chile Creek Beach. For those unfamiliar they are ‘sand ladders’, for use when bogged, & bogged we were! (again!).

“Don’t go off the track” we were told……. but I did. I’d missed a turn & wanted to turn around, saw some other tyre tracks & thought ’She’ll be right mate”. 5 metres off the track & we weren’t going anywhere! The Maxtrax worked well, needing to be used 4 times to get the front wheels back onto the track where they could pull us out without digging deeper into the white sand.

Well that’s it for this post – everyday life in a new environment. We’ll kick back & do more of the same for the next week or three. All good prep for the months we’ll be down at Pender Bay.

Here are a few pics taken recently.

A satellite pic from Google Maps. Chile Creek community is circled.
‘Selfie’ taken with the laptop entitled ‘Two old farts at Chile Creek’
15 months since MrsTea last dyed her hair. this now almost the natural colour. Time has allowed me to ‘come to terms’ with it gradually.
‘Home’ at Chile Creek
Water supply is plentiful, but pressure variable. Solar array provides power -most of the time.
Red Backed Fairy Wren – impossible to know if it is male or female as they look identical when male is in ‘Eclipse’. A group of six visit daily, one must be the male. Elsewhere we have seen the striking Red/Black Male.
Rufous Whistler
The surrounding bush, thick spear grass covers the ground.
Gubinge (aka Kakadu Plum), turns black when ready for picking in December. has 30 times the Vit.C of an Orange.
One of the beaches (shell beach) on Rumbul Bay where we saw the croc before he nicked off into the water.
We watched the bushfire closely as a change in wind direction could potentially have cut off our return to Chile Creek. The wind did change, but blew the fire away from us.
A paddle among the mangroves was tempting, but felt too risky.

Airing up the tyres on the way back from Rumbul Bay
Lombadina ‘CBD’
Lombadina Beach
After getting bogged at Chile Creek we decided to leave the car & walk to Lombadina Beach. It was a long tiring walk across the soft sand.
Lombadina. From the top of the first dune the contrast between the white sand, the red pindan , the lush green & the clear blue sky was striking.
Covered & smelling like a freshly cleaned dunny for one of our evening strolls.Something about the photo reminds me of a classic painting. Perhaps she needs a clay pipe in her mouth?
Double Barred finch
Blue beaks together. Double Barred finch & Peaceful Doves. (& a long tailed finch).
Mainly juvenile Gouldian Finches (green), with a few Long Tailed Finches , a couple of Double Barred Finches & one colourful adult Gouldian Finch who was showing the youngsters where the water was. Breeding populations of endangered Gouldian Finches are rare so seeing all the youngsters (there were many more, with more adults in the surrounding trees)  was special.
Fast running currents at the entry to King Sound at Ardyloon (One Arm Point). The second highest tides in the world cause huge amounts of water to run in & out of here.

Chile Creek Beach

Some of the rock formations were treacherously sharp (as well as harbouring hordes of sandflies).
Red Capped Plovers on Chile Creek beach.