I can hear Kimberley calling
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I can hear Kimberley calling

Horsing around can’t hide an almost spiritual side to Western Australia’s magnificent Kimberley region.

“I’M BACK in the saddle again. Out where a friend is a friend . . . ”

I can’t get Gene Autry’s signature tune out of my head as we jokingly mimic John Wayne’s swagger and amble towards the stables at Home Valley Station in the remote, beautiful East Kimberley. You’ll find Home Valley Station homestead about 1.5km off the Gibb River Road, 120km from Kununurra and 643km from Derby.

J.R. is waiting for us at the stables. That’s John Rodney, Home Valley’s pastoral manager. He’s everything you would expect him to be a no-fuss, no-nonsense bear of a man peering out from under a wide-brimmed cowboy hat.

He’s already summed up our group of four before we have even entered the yards. He nails me. “You can ride Midnight. He knows what to do. All you have to do is sit.” I’m pretty sure he said sit.

I wonder if someone had already told him that my last encounter with a horse was more than 30 years ago. And it didn’t go well.

I’d been on strike for more than four weeks. I had $40 left to my name and the temptation of a date with a pretty young filly (horse talk for a girl) swayed me to going riding. I fell off, lost my wallet and, as you guessed, didn’t get the girl. Anyway here I am again.

I’m back in the saddle wearing my pretend cowboy boots and city-slicker western shirt about to trot off on an overnight ride to a bush camp. The plan is to ride for four hours and perhaps do a little mustering on the way.

My plan and only thought is to hold tight and pray Midnight doesn’t buckle under the weight. J.R. talks me through the afternoon ride. He tells me the tricks that will keep me upright and ease the potential pain in my butt and thighs. His voice is soft, yet strong, and very reassuring.

He rides with us for about 30 minutes before tipping his hat and heading back to the station leaving us with Jason, a former trackwork rider from Tamworth, and Cyril, a yarn-spinning local. J.R. had to go back because one of his horses was crook.

It wasn’t an option to leave it alone. Horses are like family to these men. It is impossible not to lose yourself in the East Kimberley. There is nothing else like it in Australia. It is stunningly beautiful.

I’ve cruised the famed Amazon, I’ve explored Peru and I’ve touched the canyons of Utah in the US. All beautiful, and different in their own way, but none better than this remote part of Australia. Call it spiritual if you want, but the Kimberley changes you.
Every Australian should come here at least once.

The sun creates an ever-changing canvas of colour as it swirls over the iconic Cockburn Range. We sit in awe, no one saying a word at the campsite, and watch the sun go down.

We wake early just so we can watch it rise again the next morning. All our cares disintegrate as we sit round the fire singing songs, telling tall stories and feasting on piping-hot bush tucker. The guitar gets passed around and the set list is varied, but it’s mainly country music out this way.

There are a few bush ballads, a little bit of Creedence and a rousing rendition of Sweet Home Kununurra (apologies to Lynyrd Skynyrd).

Cyril looks to be in his early 30s. He cooks our breakfast eggs, bacon, sausages, toast and beans. He laughs hard at his own jokes, some of which could only be told by an indigenous man.

Midnight welcomes me for the ride home and takes good care of me all the way back to the homestead where I quickly take advantage of the hot showers in my Grass Castle that’s the up-market room category.

Home Valley Station, which is half the size of Belgium and owned by hthe Indigenous Land Corporation, is so much more than a luxury retreat. ...

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