With much trepidation, we bravely made the turn left onto the Gibb River Road. About twenty kilometres in, the sealed road ended and the dirt started. We stopped to drop tyre and van pressures (to about 75-80% of road pressures is the rule) and proceeded forth. The pleasant surprise was that the road was actually not too rough, certainly nothing like the Cape Leveque road last week.
This is our favourite road sign. We have spotted this version since the Nullarbor. Australians are so funny! Julian’s personal faves are the ‘Straya’ signs with added bullet holes for the animal’s eyes.
Thanks to Wikicamps, our first stop was a free camp 128 km from Derby at Lennard River. This proved to be a pleasant enough camp overlooking the few remaining water holes in the river. Just enough water to supply the hordes of Correllas (a large white bird resembling a cockatoo but without the yellow crest) and other birds that screeched incessantly from 5am until dusk every day!
Next morning, Monday 15th June, we locked up the van as best we could and headed off to Windijana Gorge along a rough corrugated road. This wide gorge has sufficient permanent water to make it home for about 150 resident ‘freshies’. Julian is always curious to watch young European tourists to see if they will actually grab a croc by the tail – just to get a good selfie! They were certainly getting closer to the basking crocs than we were.
We walked about 4 km along the gorge floor in the 33 degree heat before deciding to turn around at a giant boab tree. A lovely walk, with the crocs, some finches, a crane and plenty of fish. One ominous sign was plenty of bubbles rising to the surface from the water holes. These are crocs lying in wait on the bottom trying to catch an unlucky fish swimming close to their mouths. With a slowed down heart rate, they can apparently do this for hours.
Next stop along the same road towards Fitzroy Crossing was Tunnel Creek. A 700m underground river running through a cave system complete with the remains of stalactites and even a shawl. This years not very wet, Wet Season meant the walk was only knee deep, not waist deep as per previous years. (Julian: I asked one bloke on the way in how deep it was – he said it was waist deep – I quickly realised he’d gone the wrong way!)
With just the four of us remaining relatively quiet, we managed to spot fish, cherubin (basically a yabby), three fresh water crocs, a 3m+ long python and an enormous huntsman spider. All very exciting.
At the end of the tunnel the creek opens out to a stunningly picturesque view of gums and rocks lining the creek. I found a quite spot to reflect on the view whilst the boys busied themselves trying to dam the creek – as you do!
We followed a small tour group to see some aboriginal art on the wall about 5m from the opening. We must have been there at peak time as during our walk we encountered no less than 4 tour groups walking through. Poor Julian had to work hard to take photos without the hordes visible. Needless to say none of the groups realised they were sharing the water with the snappy wildlife!
It was then an hours drive back to camp along the same rough roads, though now Julian had to contend with both the setting sun and lots of cattle on the road as well. Luckily we made it back unscathed.