By Ellen Hill for Christian Fellowship Tours
Towering waterfalls, rugged Outback landscapes, ancient Aboriginal art and abundant wildlife. Discover the remarkable Kimberley Coast on the Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) cruise of the West Australia area in August.
Tour passengers will see the most recognisable natural and manmade attractions of the Kimberley Coast during 10 escorted, unforgettable days cruising between Darwin and Broome.
In the north, discover the majestic King George River with its towering 80m twin falls and the mysterious Bradshaw paintings of Bigge Island.
Explore the Mitchell plateau and cruise the Kimberley’s “big’’ rivers before experiencing beautiful King Cascades, remarkable Montgomery Reef and the amazing natural phenomenon of the Horizontal Falls in the south.
With two landings most days by the unique “Explore’’ excursion vessel or inflatable zodiacs, passengers will have more opportunities to fully immerse in the spectacular setting.
Each evening, passengers will retire to comfortable accommodation with private facilities after dining together.
The tour will include a Christian tour leader throughout the entire trip, daily devotions and Sunday worship, a 10-day cruise, accommodation, most meals, airfare and transfers.
CFT managing director Jason Cronshaw, who will lead the tour, said: “Exploring the remarkable Kimberley Coast by small ship helps you grasp the majesty of the landscape and the awesomeness of our Creator’s handiwork by being amongst it.
“It’s such a privilege to be walk across the salt flats to view the wreckage of a US Air Force DC3 which crash landed on the beach during World War II and visit secluded spots not many other people get to see.’’
More than a leisure cruise, the Kimberley Coastal Cruise will be an opportunity to learn about the history, culture and landscapes of each location visited through on-board commentary, presentations and briefings.
Past travellers have come from varied backgrounds and churches, yet enjoyed the shared experience of travelling with likeminded people.
One said they appreciated the care and support they received on tour, while another enjoyed the bond they formed with fellow travellers.
“The drivers and tour leaders are always helpful especially for those who have physical or other issues or who travel alone.’’
Others also commented that travelling with CFT was an excellent way for single people, especially women, to explore the world in a safe group where they could make new friends.
Travellers on the Kimberley Coastal Cruise tour will have the opportunity to worship together on board the ship on Sunday and take part in the daily devotions for which CFT has become renowned.
The Kimberley Coastal Cruise tour departs from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane on August 1 and returns August 14.
Bookings and information: www.christianfellowshiptours.com or 1300 635 358.
- Christian Fellowship Tours is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
Words by Ellen Hill Photos by David Hill
IT might be the smoky aroma of the air, the hypnotic flame, the warmth on your front and cold on your back. Or it might be that in the flame-tinged darkness, you feel safe that no one can fully see you. It might just be the bottle of red that makes you congenial, loosens the tongue and makes you believe these people look familiar. You’re probably never going to see them again anyway.
There’s something about a campfire that causes your most intimate secrets to start flowing in a trickle before coursing out into the night air for all to hear.
You see the newcomers, the ones sitting apologetically in the shadows, legs crossed, nervously nodding and smiling towards the jokes and conversation. They’re the ones who twitch with a start when a stranger asks them where they’re from, and they answer in the most basic terms _ “Germany’’ or “the UK’’.
When pressed, they might reluctantly give their city _ “Sydney’’ or “Amsterdam’’.
They can’t help themselves. They take the bait, and before they know it the newcomer is haughtily defending the intelligence of their neighbours, the righteousness of democracy, the freedoms of their country, the weather in their land. They start crowing about how their country’s contenders wiped the pool at the Euro Song Contest this year and Ugg boots are back in fashion because of their top supermodel.
The old hats have broken another one in and sit back in smug satisfaction. Relaxed chatter and banter continues.
The campfire routine can happen anywhere.
A few years back, my husband was lolling sleepily on the deck chair next me while our son played in the pool. “Is he still alive?’’ asked an unfamiliar voice.
It wasn’t long before his wife was also chipping in saucy tit-bits about their life, family and travels. I don’t think their daughter would have approved of their proud naming her as the head of a particular government agency. “Hasn’t changed, though,’’ her proud dad boasted. “She’s still the same as she was as a girl.’’
At a communal breakfast at an obscene hour one morning, two young chaps struggled to find English words to ask where the milk could be found. It then seemed rude to take our meal to the opposite end of the room, so we plonked ourselves next to them and made mental notes of the best attractions in northern Italy while they politely ignored our seven-year-old’s table manners.
We spent the first three days of our Outback holiday trying to hide the fact that our son had contracted the highly contagious although usually harmless Slap Cheek virus. The poor child’s inflamed cheeks and ears were hard to disguise, but we managed to convince a chemist to hand over some flu relief without divulging our secret until another woman spotted the condition and loudly announced by the flickering light of a campfire that her daughter had been sick with the same thing the week before.
We first met the Belgian fellow around a campfire at an Outback station where he was bravely holding his own while being interrogated about Belgian’s cosy relationship with Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe by a less educated camper.
While asking for change for the washing machine in the foyer of our next destination, we were pleasantly surprised by an excited bellow in our direction. The Belgian had inadvertently followed our tracks and turned up at the same place, son in tow.
We gleaned much interesting trivia about wild and exotic destinations on the other side of the world from this pair during fleeting sightings in the next two days.
The campfire routine can happen in the most unlikely of places and you don’t have to leave home to test it out.
Try rolling your eyes at the nearest motherly looking woman in the shopping queue when your child announces loudly they’re busting for the loo – again. She’s bound to throw a knowing nod and wry smile your way and tell you her third child also needed to pee exactly 15 minutes before the movie finished on cheap Tuesdays and the ushers used to have the door already open in preparation.
Dramatically throw up your hands and pull a face in exasperation when two elderly people with matching shopping trolleys stop suddenly in the middle of a crowded footpath and loiter for a long-winded conversation about how poor the food is at the retirement village. You’re bound to bridge a generation gap with someone wearing a mohawk, earrings all over their head and a t-shirt that reads: “Even my mother hates me’’.
And if you mutter loudly
The fruit and veg doesn’t taste like they used to'',The boss may as well just give my pay straight to the bank’ or “Oil companies are like bushrangers”, you’ll have an immediate new group of friends.
These fleeting meetings with new people have many benefits: you meet lots of interesting people and learn fascinating trivia, you realise the world isn’t such a dark place after all, and if it is at least you’re not alone.
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill
BEING caught between the cusp of a new day and the last flickers of night is like witnessing two of nature’s most intimate acts – birth and death. Secret and mysterious, only a select few are privy to its glory.
Today, we are that select few, a group of strangers pressed together in a wicker basket like sardines in a can, suspended 1000ft above the ground smack bang in the centre of Australia.
In the pre-dawn silence when the nocturnal animals have bedded down before the birds awake, the sun sends tentative golden strands across the red dirt until it glows like an ember. Its radiant tentacles stretch out slowly as they have done for millennia, highlighting desert features of oaks and mulga scrub, rock wallabies and craggy outcrops.
On the opposite horizon a sleepy full moon melts down like an egg yolk behind the rugged outline of the MacDonnell Ranges, leaving the sky silvery blue in its wake.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the 30m tall balloon with its cargo is carried along with it.
Hot air balloons are the most basic of aircraft. But all fears and concerns for the world below and the flimsiness of our craft have whooshed above our heads as the pilot pumps the burners to send jets of orange, blue and white hot propane fuel into the balloon.
We float aimlessly through the first heaven, unaware of our progress. There is no airspeed, no aerodynamic lift, no vibration and no wind noise. We cannot pitch or roll.
The G-free experience is like gently levitating rather than flying.
My seven-year-old son, almost too terrified to join the flight, pops his head up from the base of the basket to get a better look at the unfolding palette before us.
He remains there mesmerised until the basket scrapes the top of a tree on its final descent back to terra firma.
Out here, the ranges are no fuzzy-topped mountains emanating a soothing blue haze but a jumbled stretch of rocky outcrops and hills that appear much larger and further away than they really are because the pathetic scrub is no more than a few patches of scrub and that accursed spiky buffel grass.
This is one of the most isolated and arid places on earth, a place where you can wander far into the horizon and not see another soul. A place where all there is for company is the melancholy “Ark, Ark, Aaaah’’ of a lone crow, the crunch of your feet in the never-ending dirt and the gentle wail of the breeze. Where the sun beats down so hard it feels like it’s pushing you into the rock hard earth.
Here in the second largest desert in the world, clouds become a myth and the clumps of spinifex grass haul themselves out of what must be imaginary moisture. This desert of 1.3 million sq miles receives just a Biblical rich man’s drop of water on its tongue _ 5 inches a year. Some parts of central Australia only get relief once or twice a decade, just enough to torment. This collection of small deserts is called the Outback, and takes up 44 per cent of the continent.
Mile after mile of river and creek beds wind their way through this parched land, baked to that red dust and rock in the merciless Outback sun. The “Floodway’’ signs that appear at regular intervals along the highways seem ludicrous as the waterways snake through the landscape as a mocking reminder of the thundering rains that will surely come.
Then myriad dry lakes fill with water and the lowest point on the continent, the half million square mile Lake Eyre Basin, floods as the rivers drain into its bowl.
But sometimes nature taunts the thirsty tongue and parched earth. The rains didn’t come for a few years and the Todd River remained a shortcut walkway into the town of Alice Springs from outlying settlements.
Reality hits as the basket bumps and scrapes along the ground, sending puffs of ochre coloured dirt into the air. We hadn’t even noticed our descent.
Still trapped in the romance of the experience, we tumble awkwardly from the basket and stomp our boots on the dirt. Reality hits when we’re all summoned to help the crew pack up the nylon balloon into its bag.
Nothing less than breakfast of honey glazed chicken drumsticks, quiches, fresh fruit, cheese and chocolate cake washed down with fruit juice or champagne would be good enough to end such a civilised experience.
Cost:30 minute flight: $AUD240
60 minute flight: $AUD360
Chase and breakfast for non-flying partners: $AUD60
Children 6-16 receive 20 per cent discount
Separate mandatory insurance fee: $AUD25 per passenger payable on the morning of the flight.
What to wear:It can be dusty in the bush and balloon riders are welcome to help rig and pack away the balloon so enclosed shoes and warm casual clothing (don’t wear light colours) is suitable.
How to get there:Passengers are collected from their accommodation and dropped back after the flight. Qantas has regular flights to Alice Springs from most Australian cities.
Toll free: 1800 809 790 (within Australia), +61 8 8952 8723
Deep Hill Fine Art Media received a complimentary Outback Ballooning ride thanks to Tourism Northern Territory.