Every once in a while on these camping trips I take a morning off photography. Not very often but occasionally, either by choice or circumstance. Instead it becomes a morning to wake slowly and savour the silence and stillness of a perfect Kimberley morning. No photo chase. No swapping filters. No wading through cold water. Just a slow start with a freshly brewed coffee. And, of course, the Kimberley’s chorus of birdlife as my background music. Perfect.
This morning next to the Gibb River I wake to perfectly still conditions. I stopped using my tent a couple of years back so from the moment I open my eyes I am immersed in the colours and sounds of the Kimberley. At first light the paperbarks are silhouetted and motionless. Only the very first bird calls can be heard.
The Kimberley this time of the year isn’t really cold enough – or wet enough – to warrant a tent. A good sleeping bag is usually sufficient. And generally mosquitos just aren’t a problem, at least in my experience. So these days when I settle for the night I sleep under the stars. A ground cloth, lightweight inflatable mat and compact sleeping bag does the trick. A little comfort without the fuss. It takes a bit of getting used to the first couple of times you sleep out in the open. When you grow up in a world of brick walls and locked doors sleeping under the stars leaves you feeling a little exposed and vulnerable. And an overactive imagination can lead to a restless night’s sleep, with rustling in the dark and strange noises conjuring images of hungry dingos and venomous snakes. However, given a little time it quickly feels natural and liberating, and being trapped in a tent feels unnecessary and forced. Falling asleep with shooting stars overhead and waking to a perfectly still morning becomes the new norm. It is a beautiful thing.
Here on the Gibb River at the southern end of the Kalumburu Road the pied butcherbird calls softly at first light. Four blue-winged kookaburras cackle in a nearby tree and an azure kingfisher skims the surface of the river looking for breakfast. A peaceful dove coos nearby and yellow-tinted honeyeaters drink by the river’s edge. All around me the paperbark woodland teems with life and a fine mist clings to the river as the sun rises.
The day starts slowly, peacefully, and everything seems perfectly in balance and as it should be. If you could package that feeling, that true unfiltered experience of starting your day in harmony with nature you could make a fortune. It’s mornings like these that made me fall in love with the Kimberley in the first place and it’s mornings like these that keep me coming back.