Where do you go in Australia to see spectacular gorges (they beat the Rhine and Danube Gorges hands down), red cliffs contrasting with aqua blue waters, beehive sandstone formations, some of the highest tidal ranges in the world, crocodiles, wallaroos, eagles, waterfalls, unexpected gorges in seemingly flat country, red sand dunes, wildflowers and more wildflowers?
You go to the north west of Australia in July. You can do this with many tour companies but what about a Christian Fellowship Tour? And on top of that what about a CF Tour that visits ministry centres in the far flung isolated reaches of Australia?
You get to travel with great like-minded people and you see great places when you join a Christian Fellowship Tour. But you get more value when you join a CFT Bush Church Aid Society tour – you get to meet BCA field staff and learn about how they serve Jesus and His church in rural and remote parts of Australia.
For example, when over 30 passengers joined Allan the driver and Kimberley the coach in Darwin in mid July 2016, little did we know what lay ahead.
On our first full day, we were met by Bruce who serves in the Northern Territory as Youth Minister NT/Nightcliff. Bruce acted as tour guide around Darwin, taking us to Nungalinya College, and to Casuarina Shopping Mall so we could buy our lunch for a picnic at Sunset Beach. That evening he and his family joined us for the dinner cruise on the harbour, the first of 7 cruises.
Church on Sunday was at the Anglican Cathedral and we did more sightseeing in the afternoon, exploring more of Darwin’s history and beauty.
After Darwin we went to Kakadu, visiting rock paintings at Nourlangie and enjoying a sunset cruise on Yellow Water, then on to Katherine. Our evening guests were Kristan and Kathryn Slack and family, newly arrived in Katherine and settling into parish ministry.
While at Katherine we visited the Katherine School of the Air and cruised on the waters of Katherine Gorge. One lady who could not walk between the 2 gorges availed herself of a helicopter flight over the whole gorge system. All of us had a great day.
Then on day 8 we had a long drive through Victoria River and Timber Creek to Kununurra. The cliffs around Victoria River were red and beautiful.
In Kununurra we met Kees Bootsma and wife Cindy, and the Watson family, Jim and Natalie and children, and we attended church. What a welcome, and the congregation put on a bountiful lunch for all at church that morning.
Our activities in Kununurra included a cruise from the Argyle dam down to Kununurra, and for some of us flights over the Bungle Bungles. We can only shake our heads at the formations.
Our 2nd Monday saw us driving to Fitzroy Crossing, and Geikie Gorge. Tuesday we arrived in Broome. Wednesday: a tour of the town, explore the shopping centre, see the story of pearling in Broome. For some a highlight was the camel rides on Cable Beach, others went to the museum, with its interesting history of the WWII bombing of Broome and surrounds, and the nearby markets. And some took advantage of the flights to the Buccaneer Archipelago to see the Horizontal Waterfalls, and have breakfast at Cape Leveque. We marvelled at the beauty of the brilliant red cliffs and the contrasting aqua blue of the Indian Ocean.
Sadly we farewelled 2 of our group in Broome, but we welcomed 3 more into our fellowship. And that is one of the differences between CFT and other tour companies – the Christian fellowship, the morning devotions and prayer time. On BCA tours we pray daily for the people we are about to meet but also the people in the regular BCA prayer diary.
The long haul to Port Hedland was broken by our regular breaks and our lunch at Sandfire Roadhouse – delicious, as were all the lunches supplied by the roadhouses we stopped at and sometimes supplied by our hotel. Then a short stop at 80 Mile Beach before arriving at Port Hedland.
Philip and Elke Knight and their daughters joined us for dinner and Philip spoke about his parish work and also the work at Mission to Seafarers, which an important ministry in all the ports of Western Australia.
And this is where we started seeing wildflowers – more and more as we headed south. You can see them in photos but they are intriguing and beautiful, and we couldn’t help but be amazed.
At Newman we were met by Derek and Amanda McCartney who call Newman the jewel of the Pilbara. They joined us on our tour of Whaleback mine. We were made so welcome at the Newman church, being given show bags, each decorated by the children of the Sunday School and filled with BCA information and other useful goodies and snacks. Thanks Derek and Amanda for showing us around.
Then we hit the red dust road via Karajini National Park and Dales Gorge to Tom Price, one of the centres where David Morgan and Priya have their ministry. It was interesting to learn the differences in ministry in 2 fairly close mining areas, one that is still thriving (Newman) and the other (Tom Price/Paraburdoo) where the iron ore is of a lesser quality, not as economically viable and so there is a reduction in the number of people in these towns which makes for different ministry strategies. Via more dirt road to Millstream National Park and Python Pool, to Roeburne and Karratha. At Karratha we took one of our passengers who had fallen and broken his hand to the hospital where he was quickly patched up. That night we enjoyed the company of Les and Jenny Gaulton (Karratha Dampier) and Richard Goscombe (Wickham). Richard had prepared a visual presentation of the work that is done in the area, including Mission to Seafarers.
From Karratha down the coast, with stops at various roadhouses, to Exmouth for the night. Frank and Jo Nicol and children joined us for dinner and Frank talked about his parish ministry.
Then we enjoyed a cruise on the Ningaloo Reef at Coral Bay the next morning. The coral here is hard coral compared with the corals in Queensland waters, not as spectacular but beautiful with blues and mauves. A delight nevertheless. Some took the opportunity to snorkel in the clear waters and see fish and rays close up.
Our next stop was Carnarvon, then Shark Bay, Hamelin Pool with its stromatolites, great views from Eagle Bluff, Shell Beach – masses and masses of tiny white shells. We should not forget Monkey Mia and the dolphins – we spent the next morning there before our stop in Kalbarri. Kalbarri Anglican Church is not supported by BCA, however we had a warm welcome from the minister David Day and thoroughly enjoyed the service there.
Geraldton was our next, 2 night stop, where we met the Bishop of North West Australia Gary Nelson, David Mitchell (Dongara/Mingenew) and Roger and Amanda Kyngdon and children (Bluff Point). David thanked us all for supporting BCA financially by travelling on this tour.
On the Monday morning Gary and his wife Christine met us at the cathedral, where Gary gave us an overview of the Diocese, with its various ministries and in each centre the ministry caters for different needs – the permanent population, the transient mine workers, the tourists and the seafarers. The church in WA is very much mission minded for there are so many people who come to the area who have not yet formed a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The memorial to HMAS Sydney is not to be missed, and if there is a rainbow thrown in it is magical.
Our last long distance day took us to Perth but not before we stopped at Nambung National Park to wander through and wonder at The Pinnacles, small towers of rock in a sandy expanse.
In Perth we explored Kings Park where many wildflowers were in bloom and spent the afternoon in Fremantle and had our last cruise up the Swan River to Perth. And we met Rob and Kaye Healy, BCA WA Regional Officer, responsible for visiting Anglican churches in WA, encouraging support for the work of BCA in WA and the rest of Australia. Rob gave a great summary of all we had seen, reminding us of the vast distances and the remoteness of parts of WA.
We went our ways after 28 days together, over 7000km in Kimberley the coach, more in other coaches and 7 cruises (I mentioned that), lots of gorges Lots of wildflowers and lots of heartbreakingly beautiful scenery. Photos are not a substitute for being there. Allan did an amazing job driving us while the Greg and Daylle were excellent as tour leaders.
Next year CFT is organising a tour of Outback Queensland. It will not have the amazing scenery of Western Australia, but it will have the beautiful country of western NSW and Queensland and the mountains of north Queensland. It won’t have quite the vast distances we travelled in Kimberley, but it will have a great coach driver, it will have a great tour leader and it will be meeting 6 of the wonderful BCA field staff serving Christ in NSW and Queensland. Hope to see you there.