The Handsome Green Hitch-hiker


Last weekend we took a quick trip from Broome down to Fitzroy Crossing (about 800km return) to have a look at the river.  Fitzroy Crossing is a small town 114m above sea level on the edge of the massive Fitzroy flood plain with a population of approximately 1500.  The Fitzoy river is the longest system in the Kimberley at 733km, rising in the King Leopold range, and eventually flowing in to the King Sound near Derby.  The river in full flood can rise up to 13m above the old crossing at Fitzroy, flowing at 30,000 cubic meters per second.

With the constant rain that we’ve had over this wet season, the trip was surprisingly mild, a bonus as we have no air conditioning in the car.  There was still a fair bit of groundwater on the road as evidence of recent rain, and the river had risen just enough at the first crossing to prevent us getting out to Geikie Gorge.

February is a magical time of year in a good wet when there’s been plenty of rain to cool the ground; everything is a luminous green, the boabs are covered in lush, dark canopies and there’s birdlife in abundance, feeding on insects like the handsome green chap who managed to hitch-hike on the windscreen right across town.

Several boabs scattered amongst spinifex termite mounds on the road to Fitzroy Crosing in the Kimberley wet season.  The spinifex termites build mounds that can reach several meters in height. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2010)

There was very little traffic on the road and Fitzroy was fairly quiet, but the natural world was buzzing.  Spinifex termites (Nasutitermes triodiae) are turbo charged during the wet, building large dome shaped mounds on the edge of floodplains.  The termites add new extensions as the population increases, harvesting short lengths of grass to bring back to the mound in a series of underground tunnels.

A good wet season also turns the road verges turn into mini wetlands, attracting bird life such as brolgas, jabirus and migratory magpie geese.

A spinifex termite mound by the roadside on the main highway to Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley wet season.  Spinifex termites build large dome shaped mounds, up to several metres high. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2010)