A Voyage To The Ends Of Western Australia

.tags Virtually unaffected by the dirt of civilization lies a land in the Commonwealth, just beyond the coastline of Western Australia. After your plane lands, you must trek through the sweltering 9AM heat to the only hotel in Derby, Western Australia. It proves unproductive to search for help, from the dining room to the office.

Your anger abates as a sweet voice brings opera to your ears. Your search brings you to the bar, where live conversation and light, cool beer tempt you. Then you are distracted by the sound of a game of pool and look over to find a one-man game being played by a tall jackaroo with side burns, bush hat, tight jeans, and high heeled stock boots.

The whole of Derby lies along the road to the airport, with a few houses, one-story offices, and a school, and the sole town square. Perth and Indonesia are closest to Derby’s 1,000 citizens, only 1,350 miles and 900 miles away, respectively.

Despite appearances, Derby inhabitants are not stereotypical, subtropical, small town types. Except perhaps for Lucky, the Scandinavian with a pot belly, one of the pair at the bar, who tells stories of two up games in the gold town of Kalgoorlie with 5 pounds as the lowest bet when five pounds really was something. Later, you find that the nice pilot who flew you 40 minutes north to the land of iron ore in Cockatoo and Koolan Island once worked for an English airline. This is because Derby gives him the better deal, in which he makes more in a month than he could in a year at home. With air conditioning, he can withstand any heat in the comfort of his own home. To top it all off, there are the rugged Kimberleys, surrounded by cattle country.

Exaggerations have a way of building on each other, from the height of the mountains to the density of the bush. Lucky for you, a reliable cattle rancher makes himself available that evening. At 6 the next morning, stocked up with steak and eggs and coffee and before the heat has blanketed the land, you are on road to a cattle station on Kimberley Downs. The dirt road is rough, and after a point no tarmac is left. The fat bob trees and the bush are on either, side, behind a thick red cloud of dust. You pull up to a gate an hour and a half later and are met by four black cowboys. These are the natives, aborigine stockmen.

The Kimberley Downs is finally below after climbing the last rise. A pair of flat hills enclose the homestead, stockyards, and horse corrals. A large fissure in the middle of the hills allows one’s eyes to follow a tree-spotted, grassy plain to the Blue Mountains yonder. Next door are the Napier Downs, and both are run as a single unit covering two million acres.

The 12 white people, 150 aborigines, 600-700 horses, and 40,000 cattle barely cover the expanse. It is a majestic estate with brown gardens from the December weather. Rain has not fallen for six months, and the horsemen kick up the dust.