Friday, 16 October 2009

On the Gibb River Road

On our arrival at Derby, we attempted to sign up for a trip to the popular Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. They are both accessible only via unmade, dirt roads and therefore unsuitable for our trusty Ford Falcon saloon. Sadly, we were told that owing to a shortage of drivers, the tours were suspended for the coming week at least. After a little lateral thinking we came up with the idea of renting a 4WD vehicle and driving ourselves. Even this proved a little tricky (Derby is a relatively small town) but eventually we did secure the use of a Toyota Landcruiser. Thus did we this we find ourselves driving the legendary Gibb River Road.

This highway is mostly dirt but is heavily used by road trains and adventurous travellers. It links the Kimberly just outside Derby with Kununurra a distance of nearly 700 kilometres.

Our first 50 or so kilometres were somewhat tame bitumen, but then we dropped onto the red dirt and immediately we saw a huge cloud of dust which seemed to occupy the entire width of road - and it was bowling towards us at a rate of knots. I pulled into the side of the road and watched as Liz swung into action and snapped this wonderful shot of a 4-trailer road train in all its glory.

Our Gibb River Road experience was fairly short lived however, as after 100 kilometres we swung onto a dirt link road leading to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek.

Tunnel Creek is the furthest point and we had been advised to visit that first. This meant passing by Windjana, but we would soon return.
A view of Tunnel Creek. The walking track leads underground and requires one to do a little paddling to get to the end of the track. We trod through the water gingerly as we were warned that freshwater crocs do sometimes venture in the creek. They don't normally attack humans (we were also told that) but don't annoy them.
Our first view of the entranceway to Windjana Gorge.

The gorge was formed by the Lennard River having eroded away a 3.5 kilometres section of the Napier Range. The range was formed over 300 million years ago and is composed of Devonian limestone. The gorge is over 100m wide and the walls are between 30 metres and 10 metres in height.
The pathway along the gorge however takes a shady route alongside the Lennard River. It was a very hot day and we were extremely grateful for the cover provided by the trees.
At one point our guide notes indicated some easily visible fossilised remains of what was clearly a sea creature.
In places the cover was absent, but the bonus was that the revealed views were wonderful.
Along much of the way we could hear and see (and smell) bats. Millions of them squabbling and flying across the water to fresh nesting places.
Boab trees were along side the river near to the end of the walking track...
...which eventually opened into a totally unshaded sandy area. At this point, although not quite at the end of the walk we re-traced our steps.
Which soon gave a bonus in the form of two beautiful Broglas feeding in the shallow river.
Also lying motionless was this little freshwater crocodile. We made the assumption that he was waiting for one of the bats to suffer an error of judgement and fall into the water.
A view of our transport on a typical stretch of the road near Windjana.
Back in Derby. The sun sets behind a silhouette of a Boab tree.

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