Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Day 15–Halls Creek to Broome

Readers I know you will have realized that in reaching Halls Creek we had passed back into Western Australia and another time zone.  This time we needed to wind our watches back 90 minutes.

Hall Creek Shire covers 143,000 square kilometres of mostly desert and large cattle stations. It’s the only town for 600km when travelling on the Great Northern Highway.  The town mostly serves the local aboriginal communities, cattle stations and mining.  It had a major crime problem associated with alcohol abuse.  In 2009 a ban was placed on the sale of packaged liquor with an alcohol content greater than 2.7 per cent from licensed premises.  However full strength beer, wine and spirits can still be purchased in conjunction with a meal at any of the town’s hotels or motels.  This ban; which is still in force; dramatically reduced the local crime rate.

In 1885 gold was found in Halls Creek leading to a gold rush and the town’s population exploded to 15,000.  However within three months the gold had petered out.  The climate was harsh and the land inhospitable.  The remains of miners can be found in the town cemetery.

It’s 700km by road from Halls Creek to Broome and by the time we reached Halls Creek it was apparent we wouldn’t reach Broome today.  Almost halfway to Broome is the town of Fitzroy Crossing.  This would be our next refuel stop.

Fitzroy Crossing is similar to Halls Creek in that it’s isolated with a small population of approximately 1300.  The majority of the population is aboriginal and the town serves their needs along with the local cattle stations and mining. 

The town is located on the Fitzroy River which provides and advantage Halls Creek doesn’t have.  In 1882 sheep stations were established around the mouth of the Fitzroy River.  Transportation was via coastal shipping.  In 1886 the first cattle station was established when Dan MacDonald purchased a lease from the government.  His brothers brought the cattle overland from Goulburn, NSW in an epic 3500km 3 year trek.

During the ‘wet’ season the local river can become raging torrent and the highway is frequently cut by floodwaters.  Traffic isn’t heavy and this can be confirmed by the fact that most of the bridges are long and single lane.

I completely forgot to take a photo of Fitzroy Cross.  Probably because it was so uninteresting! 

Because this part of NW Australia is subject to monsoon rains the vegetation also changed.  We were travelling at 100km/h when I managed to take a photo of an unusual tree.


Slightly blurred but you can see the unusual trunk.

It’s a Boab Tree  and unique to this part of Australia.  The tree can also be found on the east coast of Africa and scientists have yet to agree how they arrived in Australia.  Some of these trees are 1500 years old making them the oldest living thing in Australia.  Their seeds are edible and very high in vitamin C.  Actually almost every part of the tree is edible.

It was now late afternoon and we started to think about a campsite.  There was little point in pressing on during the night and there are severe fines from freedom camping around Broome so we found a small track to the south of the road and set up camp for the night intending to reach Broome tomorrow.

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