Cape Leveque is at the northwest tip of the Dampier Peninsula, about 195 kms due north of Broome.  To reach the Cape, one must endure a very long stretch of red dirt road before hitting pavement.  You would expect the macadam to start in Broome and deteriorate further along.  In fact, the opposite happens.  By the end of the dry season, the hard dirt has been beaten into a rigid washboard dictated by the size of tires.

Our host for the day with Chomley Tours is the knowledgeable driver/guide Clive Johnson.  An avid historian, Clive gives us a non-stop commentary on the region, its aboriginal inhabitants, the European explorers and the missionaries.  Cape Leveque was named for a hydrographer attached to a French expedition led by Nicholas Baudin in 1801. The peninsula itself was named for William Dampier, a British buccaneer, sea captain, accomplished author and naturalist, the first man to circumnavigate the globe three times.

Our first stop is the Aboriginal community of Beagle Bay. Since its founding as a mission in 1892 by Trappist Fathers, the church has been led by a number of different religious orders. German missionaries have had the longest-lasting influence, and were largely responsible for the stunning church we see today.

“With the destruction of the old church by a cyclone, the practical German missionaries wanted to build a solid church made of brick. To achieve this goal, the missionaries experimented with different clay mixtures before achieving the correct proportion of white clay and black mud that had the right consistency for baking. A kiln was constructed to bake the bricks and burn shells for the lime mortar. … To develop the mortar, lime was extracted from seashells.

“To gather large quantities of shells, the people in the community went out along the beaches gathering shells in bullock carts. All these shells were brought back and fired up in the kiln. Oyster shells were knocked off the rocks with mattocks, loaded onto carts drawn by teams of bullocks. The shells were placed in the kiln along with layers of wood in alternative layers. It was this method that was used to produce lime from burnt lime. The missionaries were unable to obtain cement, so lime was used both for mortar and for plastering the walls. ”  [Frank Birrell’s History of Sacred Heart Church]

Our second stop is something I’m not sure I’m prepared for– mud crabbing.  We pull off the main road and head into the bush at one of the tracks that seems to lead nowhere.  Clive engages the four-wheel drive and we bump down the tracks toward a mangrove swamp on Cygnet Bay.  Two local men and a boy are there to greet us and guide us toward our targets. Fortunately, they have already been out crabbing earlier, so we will have some for lunch.  Even armed with rubber boots and the appropriate metal hooks, we are hopeless at it.

After a leisurely lunch (mostly chicken), we head for another church located between the towns of Djarindjin and Lombadina.

Our destination for the day is the beach at Cape Leveque (Kooljaman).  Here is a successful Aboriginal enterprise, a resort with various levels of accommodation and its own airstrip.  The red rocks fringing the beaches are beautiful.  On one side is the Indian Ocean, on the other King Sound.  We change into our swim suits and join the other adventurers who have come here to enjoy this special spot at the end of the long track.  The water is wonderful, softening us up for the long journey back to Broome.