Monday, 25 August 2014

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek

Yet another corrugated dusty road led us off the Gibb River Road to Windjana Gorge. Everyone raves about this and Tunnel Creek as being unforgettable experiences. Whatever, I thought as we rattled and bumped, all I could see at this stage was the microcosm of our car, a petrie dish of dirt, dust and foul human mess everywhere.

Tunnel Creek photo opportunity. Love a well placed Boab tree.

But of course, the Windjana Range popped up all beautiful and stunning, unlike anything we'd seen in the Kimberley so far; its moody, sinister walls admonishing me from above. This rock formation is prehistoric ocean reef, left high and dry millions of years ago by continental shifts, namely that of Australia's movement up out of primeval swamp water. In the full midday sun the tall walls were black, completely out of character in the usual colour palate of the Kimberley.

The entrance into Tunnel Creek.

We picked our site in the camping moshpit of Windjana, led into a false sense of space and peace by the time, 12 pm, and drove down to Tunnel Creek, home of Jandamarra's last stand. Jandamarra was an Aboriginal figure of the 'take no white man shit' ilk in the late 1800s who made this geographical phenomena his hide out for years. It is, as the name suggests,  a tunnel with a creek running through it. The tunnel is only a kilometre or so long; you must walk along and through the creek to get to the other side, and you must have a good torch or headlamp as it's pretty dark in there. It is at this point we realised none of our headlamps emit more than the slightest illumination - a firefly attached to a piece of string would have been more effective. Luckily we were far from alone in a big dark cave and other intrepid and prepared walkers were always at hand, if a little hard to keep up with. People walk so much faster when an Uyshuis is breathing down their neck.

Halfway through the tunnel opens up to the cliff walls above before closing a around you again.

Looking out to the back door of Tunnel Creek.
Peaceful scenes. Aboriginal rock art adorned these gorge walls.

Again, it's not all beer and skittles. Caesar yet again proving impeccable in the poo timing stakes.

Meanwhile,  back at Windjana, our idea that we were exceedingly clever by avoiding the usual crowds and setting up camp early in the normally not so crowded generator area was blown apart. Not only were we hemmed in on all sides by campers, but a d*!k with a generator was right next door and clearly having a princess style meltdown that his microwave wasn't working, running his generator from 8am to 8pm. Seriously,  applause erupted over the campground when he finally turned it off that night. Yeah I know that technically generators are allowed, but still, nothing is more annoying than another person's petrol motor going all night.

Packed in at the Windjana campground.

After a cosy fireside chat with some fellow travellers  (from Mullumbimby no less!), we ate steak cooked over the fire, opened the last bottle of wine -a shiraz lucky us - and toasted to our last night on the Gibb. Guzzle guzzle.

The black outer walls of Windjana Gorge.

Heading into Windjana.

We walked into Windjana Gorge the next morning after packing up. The outside walls were impressive enough, but as you walk through a natural stone archway,  the prehistoric vibe is increased tenfold by the scores of crocodiles basking on the shores of the gorge. Amazingly, we were shooshed as we approached; some serious looking walkers took offence to our procreative products and their voice boxes. When Marguerite asked why we needed to be quiet (surely crocodiles weren't super bothered by people standing a couple of hundred metres away?) I replied, quite loudly and fairly pointedly, that I had no idea.

No swimming. There were scores of crocodiles, all freshwater, but the photos of crocodile bites on human legs at the information board back at the start would surely put even the greatest animal enthusiast off a swim.

Fossils were imbedded in the walls.

The crocodiles did all slide into the water, disturbed by a pair if crazy kayakers, and we had a good laugh at the shooshers,  impotently enraged over on the bank. (These two made a repeat hissy fit performance later in the walk, but one shoosh anecdote is probably enough).


Harassed crocodile.

Anyway, the gorge is pretty amazing and quite eery- I suppose that if there was a scene requiring a semi arid landscape involving crocodiles in "The Lord of the Rings", this is where it would have been shot.

Inside Windjana Gorge.

Spectacular Windjana.

I was glad we had made the detour here, but I  admit there was a definite spring in my step when we walked back to the car. An hour later we hit the bitumen. Aaaaah. It was like an apres ski hot spa, a cold beer on a hot day, taking uncomfortable shoes off at the end of the night, sitting down on the couch after working all day, your mum's best stew on a cold winter's night..... All. At. The. Same. Time. I've said again and again that the Gibb River Road is an amazing experience, and that the Kimberley is a magical and deeply iconic place. It's a bucket list kind of trip and I feel deeply privileged to have experienced such beautiful country. We'll come back again, but not for quite a few years, long enough for the dirt, dust, broken car and camper parts and continuous rattling of bones and machinery  to have crossed over into that wonderful realm of amusing travel stories ending with "... but it was wonderful."

The end of the Gibb River Road- dirty car pic #1

Dirty Car Pic #2

We sighed all the way into Derby thinking we would hook up with a tour of the Horizontal Falls, and whilst we were prepared to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to do so, apparently  Caesar was too young for the trip in any case. So onward we marched; Broome Ho!

Dirty Car Pic #3

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