I’d like to say our next stop was ridiculously amazing, full of gorgeous scenery and a peaceful respite as we communed in complete harmony as a family. But it wasn’t because kids and trees. Read on for more from the Chronicles of Dodgy Parenting and Couldn’t Be F$%ked Maintenance.

Kathleen Falls
Kathleen Falls at Flora Nature Reserve. Spot old mate fishing.

We shopped in Katherine like it’d be our last stop in civilisation for months, spending more on booze than food which Fiela saw as a Big AA Problem but which I viewed as Good Planning. Horrifying rumours of the restrictions on the amount of alcohol you can purchase at any one time in any one day were rife about Kununurra (our final shop stop before we tackled the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley), and after almost running out of wine and beer on our last trip in the same area, I was keen to avoid this at all cost because red dust drives you bloody crazy. Not to mention paying $25 for a bottle of bottom of the line Jacobs Creek Sauvignon Blanc in some Kimberley outstation is also fairly irritating. #outbacklife.

Parenting On the Road with The Uys Huis

Anyhoo, laden with fermented grapes, hops, groceries and about 20 packets of chips, we headed West along the Victoria Highway toward Flora Nature Reserve, a place we’d read about as being beautiful, peaceful and well worth a stop. After the usual Is It A Dead Cow Or A Dead Kangaroo? game for a 100 kms or so, we turned north into corrugated, washed out dirt road. 50kms later, the road and the kids began to work on each other’s and Fiela’s nerves. If you haven’t stopped the car, made your kids get out and driven off, have you really ever had a good go at parenting? Today was Fiela’s day to join those ranks (I’d done this about two years ago but then, I’m an over-achiever)!

Kethleen Falls
Djarrung Falls, Flora.

With a screech, the kids were out of the car and as we drove off, their screams at being abandoned were met with a South African tinged “RUN (julle klein bliksems!)” I laughed heartily and managed to get him to stop 100 metres down the road and as we watched in the rearview mirrors, the little buggers slowed down to a walk when they realised we weren’t moving. The foot went back down on the accelerator with more shouting to run. Much dirty, tear streaked ‘sorrys’ later #qualityparenting, we pulled into the Flora Nature Reserve to find not one, but two redeeming features: Hot showers and an empty campground. The kids thought the turtle shell and kangaroo bones they found 3 metres from the camper were pretty cool too.

Djarrung Falls
I contorted my body over croc-infested waters to get this photo. You’re welcome. Kathleen Falls, Flora.

Gwining/ Flora Nature Reserve

The falls we had come to see were apparently beautiful, I couldn’t really tell because of the overgrown foliage and abandoned viewing platforms. Coupled with the fact we were still firmly in saltwater crocodile country so we couldn’t even go for a swim  in the searing heat, the whole destination seemed like a complete waste of time. That is until we saw some locals who were fishing up on the falls pull out a 90cm barramundi. Talk of getting the fishing rods down were firmly quashed. We would not be staying here two nights.

BOab 2
Boab tree country.

The 50kms of dirt road on the way out seemed especially long, but after the disappointment of Flora we had the absolute delight to drive through the Judbarra/ Gregory National Park on our way to the next destination, Keep River. This section of the Victoria Highway is absolutely magical. Huge escarpments of low tree covered rock rise up, leftovers from when the Kimberleys were an inland sea, with gorges running off into the hills and the vivid red  of the rock contrasting with the muted greens and impossibly blue sky. It’s one of those landscapes you cannot hope to photograph and capture the magnificence of.

Keep River NP
Keep River NP

Keep River National Park

By the time we got to the turn off for Keep River National Park, just 3kms from the Western Australian border, I wasn’t sure it could get much better, but of course, it did. The Keep River NP has been called a mini Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) and upon entering the Goorrandalng Campground, it was obvious to see why. Right next to the campground were huge weathered sandstone outcrops which have eroded in layers. We set up in the dust and marvelled.

Keep River scenery
Keep River NP.

The next morning, we stood to attention as the Head Ranger of Keep River, Christian, began his Reading Country talk through the Goorandalng loop. I’ve never heard a ranger talk with such passion or knowledge. He began with a bit of cultural positioning, explaining why the Keep River is important to preserve, his journey and identification with certain Aboriginal country and why their ancient language and knowledge is disappearing so rapidly from existence. We learnt that the sap from the bloodwood can be used as an antiseptic, like liquid nails for spears or stuffed into wounds, but only depending on which particular tribe or people you come from. That this mob can hunt for barramundi but not crabs and that mob can hunt crabs but only in certain seasons. That when certain winds blow, its time to burn off the country, but only this or that bit, and how mosaic firing is a practice that can help pastoralists, not just aboriginal custodians or socialist hippies in ranger khakis. How getting this knowledge from Aboriginal elders has been a lifelong process, how family and tribal relationships are just as complicated as ours are come 2pm during the extended family Christmas dinner, and how part of observing Aboriginal blood lines means that from a certain age, cousins, brothers and sisters are no longer allowed to have any contact and that this makes for fairly interesting decision making in the current bureaucratic government agencies of today.

Best Ranger Ever
Best. Ranger. Talk. Ever.

It was sad, intriguing and beautiful and all framed by the spectacular ranges of the Keep River.

Keep River NP talk

Deciding to employ the Darwin theory of survival of the fittest, straight after the talk we took the kids for a 8km loop walk through the Jarnem lookout and Nigli Gap with limited water and no food in the middle of the day at 36 degrees. The walk was bloody hot, and breathtakingly beautiful, with amazing vistas of sandstone rock, Aboriginal art and cool crevasses lined with pandanus and palm trees amongst the vivid red sandstone. I’m sorry to say that had it been a true survival of the fittest, Marguerite would have been the first sacrifice, wilting in the heat and dehydration. Caesar and Fiela seemed to thrive which makes me next in line.

Keep River Ranges fam
Jarnem Lookout

The rest of the day was spent sucking on ice before we headed up back up the Goorrandalng loop for sunset drinks (Ranger Christian: “This is the best sundowner spot- make sure you bring a few beers!”) and to watch the full moon rise. It was beautiful!

Full moon 2
Moonrise. A savvy photographer type told me to take this photo. I’m still shit with photos unfortunately.

Having cooked up all our veggies and eaten all the fruit in preparation for our trip across the border and its quarantine station, we felt buoyed by the amazingness of Keep River NP and ready for the start of our Western Australian adventure and the true beginning of our trip with Brown Wills…

Keep rocks
Still in the race for survival.

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