Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Cape Leveque - more beachy goodness


Date:
10 - 12 /06/2017
Location:
Cape Leveque (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
208 km
Temperature:
Min:
9.6

Max:
27.0
days ‘cihillaxing’ on the beach:
3

Today we would be heading away from our comfy little trailer, and heading off with our tent, for one last time. Whenever we transfer our lives from the van and ‘go bush’ for a few days, it always amazes me how much we can fit into the boot of our car. In these moments, I am very thankful for the 20 minutes we spent before leaving Melbourne; during which I took out the third row of seats from the back of the car and stowed them away in our spare room. I’m sure these extra seats will come in handy in years to come, particularly when we’re providing a taxi service to our kids and all their mates; but now they would have just been extra weight to lug around this vast continent. What’s more, with the seats gone, a whole chunk of extra boot space appeared (including a compartment in which to store those items that only reared their heads once in a blue moon). Under the floor of the boot we had stowed all the camping beds, along with a pump to blow them up; a handy spade for digging us out of tight spots (or building sandcastles on the beach, when not otherwise engaged in saving our lives); an air compressor to pump up our tyres (see Darwin Post for more on this); my tool box and fishing gear; as well as an assortment of other bits and pieces that just didn’t quite fit anywhere else.

With our car crammed full to the brim, we made our way a few kilometres down the road to a trailer storage facility. Pulling up, we noticed another family was also waiting to drop off their own trailer. Having a quick chat to these folks, we learned that they had been waiting for a while and there was no sign of the facility owner turning up. So, after a few phone calls, we were able to drag the manager out of bed and had him open up so we could lock away our trailer. As soon as we were done, we snuck off before the trailer knew what was happening...

Heading out of town, we followed the same route out of Broome by which we’d arrived a few days earlier. However, this time we were heading towards the turn off to Cape Leveque, only a few kilometres up the road. The road started smoothly enough and there was even bitumen for the first 14km or so… But from there, it quickly turned a little, errm, troubling. Hitting the end of the paved road, we pulled over and let down our tyres. As usual, this was pretty much guess work, but whatever PSI we ended up at, we were glad we did. Moving up the road, we found it to be littered with remnants of many tyre carcasses and bits of old rubber. That’s never a good sign…


Cape Leveque - Road Information

But onwards we pushed. The track that lay before us began reasonably enough. A few bumps here, a bit of sand there. But very soon these small bumps turned into ever bigger and more incessant contusions. At times, the furrows subsided for a while, but in their place the sand grew ever deeper and clawed at our tyres. The road also started to bank up on either side – in places, we found ourselves driving on slopes of at least 30 – 40 degrees. But, despite the precariousness of these steeply banked roads, they were still preferable from driving on the heavily corrugated soft sand down in the valley floor of the track. On the odd occasion that we did pass a car travelling in the other direction, we weren’t always certain if either vehicle would be able to maintain their trajectory on the sandy walls, or if one would come careening down towards the other…

Bumpy banked roads

…but, two and a half hours later, we arrived at the end of Cape Leveque and turned into the driveway of the remote Kooljaman wilderness camp. This little gem was owned and run by the indigenous Bardi Jawi communities. It was a perfect spot, tucked up against the shores of ocean, for a few days of swimming, fishing and exploring an untouched marine wilderness. And there we stayed for three long, blissful days!

Kooljaman campsite

Having arrived late in the afternoon, we only had time to wander down the beach to explore a few kilometres of seascape. This stretch of beach was magnificent. Slowly curling waves crashed languidly against the white sandy shore.



Knowing that it would soon be sunset, we also took a few drinks and nibbles (as well as our camp chairs) down to the beach to sit and watch the sun head towards the horizon. The brilliant red sunset glared down on the equally dazzling red rocks of the cliffs behind us. Soon, the whole landscape was enflamed by a ruddy glow. And so, with beer in hand (fruit drink for the kids) we marvelled at the solar light show that was put on just for us.



Sunset at the Kooljaman Campsite

After a hearty meal and retiring to our tent for a good night’s sleep, we woke the next morning ready to head off on an adventure of a lifetime. One of the big draw cards that had brought us to Cape Leveque was the chance to go on a tag-along-tour with a local aboriginal guide. In this part of the world, the name Brian Lee is synonymous with an awesome day out! For a small fee, Brian takes out a group of people deep into the traditional lands of the Bardi Jawi people. He is known for the stories he tells, his knowledge of the land, as well as for relating the traditional stories of his people and giving a glimpse into their way of life. Being a tag-along-tour, you take your own car and follow him through some rather inhospitable terrain. For me, I was keen to use this as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of driving our little Pajero through some areas that I wouldn’t have been confident to attempt on my own.

Along the way, there would also be opportunities to fish at secret fishing holes and Brian would take his tag-alongers to his favourite mud crab hunting grounds. The day was set to be topped off with a big feast of all the sea food we’d managed to collect over the day; before heading home as the sun went down.

But, alas, turning up to reception at the crack of dawn, we were sadly told that the renowned Brian Lee had injured himself whilst walking over a bed of oysters during a recent tour. His feet, we were informed, had been cut to shreds and he couldn’t walk or drive his car. As much as I felt sorry for Mr Lee, we were all deeply disappointed that we weren’t able to go ahead with what would have been an awesome experience. As for me, I was particularly sad that I wouldn’t be able to get the tips and tricks I’d hoped to learn about driving through some very inhospitable conditions.

Standing forlornly at the reception building, we realised that we had to come up with a plan for the day we didn’t expect to have free. Together, we studied the hand-drawn map we of the Kooljaman area. Being on a peninsula, there were beaches all around us; but on closer inspection there were a series of arcane signs drawn on the map; some had symbols of fish, other indicated swimming, but many also had warnings about sharks and other deadly wildlife.

Chatting to the helpful ladies behind the reception desk, we decided that the best course of action would be to follow a chunk of the trail that we would have covered during the Brian Lee tour. However, this would take us down a narrow sandy path, as well as over a few sand dunes, onto the beach to the south of the campsite. Fortunately, the crew at Kooljaman were well prepared for this and an air compressor had been set up for travellers to reinflate their tyres after they had taken a spin down the track and along the beach. So, determining that this would be our destination for the day, we made our way down the coastal track and dropped our tyre pressure to 18 PSI. This was the lowest I’d dared go throughout the trip to date; but one of the friendly folks at reception had cheerfully told us that her husband was down on the beach today – so if we got stuck, we could flag him down to help get us out… Now that’s an insurance policy, WA style!

Sandy road to beach

With our tyres deflated as much as I dared, we faced off against the sand dunes and gritted our teeth. It was a case of either do or die (well, do or walk back with our tail between our legs and get some help… but, sitting behind the wheel, it felt a little more epic than that!). Revving the engine, I made sure the car was in a low gear and faced off against the sandy nemesis. Getting a good amount of speed up, we started floating over the sand. Onwards we travelled. Bumping our way along on top of the white powder, until, FINALLY, we reached the other end.



Having made it to our destination, we unpacked our chairs and the beach umbrella that we’d hired from a little café / shop / book exchange run by a woman from a local community, as well as our snorkels and fishing gear.




The day was passed either casting a line into, or frolicking amongst, the waves. Sadly, there was no great catch pulled out of the sea that day (although the bloke next to us pulled in a few… just bad luck, I guess). Having grown tired of trying to catch a fish, we decided to go and look at them instead. So, having donned masks and snorkels, we plodded into the waves. Despite a few little nippers near popping up the shore, we didn’t see a whole lot in the crystal-clear waters of the bay. The water was warm and the surf was fun to play in, so we didn’t feel too hard done by for our lack of any bites in the morning. Nat stayed out of the water, and for most of the day was found on the beach reading a book under her umbrella; however, she also took time out of her busy schedule to wander down the beach and collect a few shells to arrange in a pretty design.






Over the course of the day, the tide rolled in (causing us to move the car a fair bit higher up the beach on several occasions) and the out again. It was amazing how far the ocean moved between high and low tides. At one point, we were pinned against the sand dunes at the top of the beach, the next we were wandering many meters down to the low tide mark. As we explored the newly exposed sand left behind as the tide receded, we also picked up many meters of lost fishing line, sinkers and hooks that had been discarded by other people fishing. It soon also became clear as to why so much fishing tackle littered the beach. Hidden amongst the waves were columns of razor sharp oysters, clinging to rocks like some crudely made defence against intruders storming the beach.

Unfortunately, I too fell victim to this defensive outpost, and I managed to slice open one of my toes whilst swimming around the rocks. I suddenly developed great empathy for our would-be-guide, Brian Lee, and the multiple cuts he had all over his feet. I mean, these little suckers are so sharp that I didn’t even feel the cut (but was only alerted to the damage when I noticed the water turning bright red). “Bugger”, I thought, “That’ll hurt in the morning…”

Our final day on Cape Leveque was spent back at the same beach we had navigated to the day before. This time, however, we came prepared with our reef shoes (to fend off the razor-sharp oysters), a bag full of plasters (aka band-aides), and a spade (for some serious sandcastle action).

Having tried our luck again (unsuccessfully) at fishing and had and taken our fill of the ocean from under the waves, we turned our attention to the hitherto unadulterated sand that lay all around us.

When I was a kid, I remember building a gigantic car out of sand with my dad and my brother… I think this might have been on a trip to on a summer holiday in New Zealand (possibly on the Coromandel peninsula). But what does stick out for me was the car. All day long I remember having spent crafting that lovely sandy automobile; until in the end, we had a sculpture to be proud of!

And so, when my kids said, “let’s build a sandcastle, Dad”, that’s what came flooding back.

For many hours we toiled away at that beast. In the end, we stood back and admired our creation; and felt proud that we had even added a trailer on the back as well!. Looking a little like Herbie´ from the 1968 film ‘The Love Bug’, in the end our little car was big enough for Ben and Daniel to take the front seats and I was dragged along behind!


Our fabulous ‘sand car-stle’

We got a few smiles as people passed us on the beach and were even asked if we could take some folks for a spin up and down the beach (the boys swelling with pride as the compliments came). But, as with all sand sculptures, in the end, the tide began its indifferent procession back up the beach – and it was time for our awesome creation to meet its soggy end. However, rather than allowing it to be slowly consumed by the ocean, Nat and the boys took great glee in crumbling the short-lived car into a pile of flattened sand once again.


Before the sun fully set, we made our way back to our real car and headed to the campsite once again. A block of cheese was pulled from the esky (aka Chilly Bin) and we made our way to the top of the cliffs to watch the sun go down.


Cape Leveque - final sun set

Dragging ourselves out of bed the next morning, we were sorry to leave this amazing slice of paradise. If time had been permitting, we could easily have stayed much, much longer.

And so, with great sadness, we packed up our tent and shoved our belongings back into the car. With everything stowed away, we began the return journey down the formidable track that brought us to Cape Leveque. There was, however, an altogether too brief moment of excitement when we passed a huge snake sunning itself in the middle of the road. Two ‘Steve Urwin’ imitators had already pulled up and were using their jackets and spare shoes to try and shoo it off the road. For a while the serpent headed towards our car, which gave ample opportunities for a few awesome snaps, but it eventually made its way across to the sunny side of the road opposite us.

video


Snake-based excitement over, we continued to battle our way down the tilted sandy track, back to the end of the Cape Leveque road. With a little good fortune, we managed to make our way the end of the road without incident once more. Pumping up our tyres and refuelling at a nearby service station, we were ready to roll! All we needed was our ever-faithful trailer, which we subsequently picked up, then we were away.

Our destination for the next few days was to be Karijini National park. However, there were a few miles to cover first …

As much as I truly loved Cape Leveque, I must admit that I was glad to see the back of our tent for a while. It was therefore a pleasure to be able to store the green and red beast under the front seats of the van once more, as we continued our grand tour of Australia back down to Victoria. Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful for the warmth and protection that this little dome of wonder has provided us from the elements. I am also exceptionally grateful to Nat’s folks for lending this mini-marquee to us!! But, squeezing Nat, I, and two growing lads into a two-man tent has been a bit of a push at times. Then again, without this cloth carapace, we simply wouldn’t have been able to behold some of the most spectacular sights we have seen on this journey.

So, with a bit of perspective, I shall wrap up our fabric igloo, our silken cottage, our clothed dome, with the reverence and respect it deserves (I might even find it in my heart to scrap off some of the bird poo it has accumulated along the way) and store it as one would a fallen solider awaiting a return to its home soil…

Bye ‘d bye

Gregg 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Broome - beachy time!



Date:
04 - 09/06/2017
Location:
Broome [Cable Beach] (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
220km
Temperature:
Min:
10.9

Max:
31.6
Dinosaur tracks spotted
8!

Waking up in Derby, we had a pretty slow start to the day. We were all still a little tuckered out from our week on the Gibb. But, after a lazy breakfast and a quick restock of a few essentials, we were soon back on the road. There’s not really much else to add about Derby – it was a place that served a purpose. And that’s about that. ‘nuff said…

We did, however, make one last stop as we were heading out of the township; at a spot known as the Boab Prison Tree. Boab trees are very cool plants (Adansonia gregorii - an awesome name, for a truly awesome plant). They have thick trunks and spindly limbs, which look like they really should have been roots; giving the impression that the tree is growing upside down (this is particularly true if they have lost their leaves). As they grow, their bodies swell to create a water reservoir that assists the tree to survive during the dry months of the year.


The Boab Prison Tree - Derby


This place was both fascinating and eerie at the same time. Standing no more than 200 meters from the highway was a magnificent Boab tree that would take at least a dozen of me standing hand-in-hand to encircle it. It turns out that the tree is over 1500 years old, and compared to the smaller specimens we have encountered along the way, this 'old fella' is a true giant amongst its brethren.

Entering into a spacious unattended clearing, we found ourselves shaded from the heat of the beating sun by the most magnificent canopy. Towering overhead, the limbs (green with leaves and new shoots) nearly covered the full expanse of the clearing. Casting one’s eye up the trunk, it was clear that this tree had endured the presence of human beings for quite some time. Names were carved into its soft bark – with many of these letters having expanded over the centuries into strange and convoluted shapes only reminiscent of what they had once been.


Tracking one’s eyes further down the scared trunk of this fantastically ancient tree, a hole could be spied towards its base. Although we were prevented from traipsing closer to the base of the tree (and trampling its roots in the process) by a wooden barrier, it was clear that there was a hidey hole of some size in the bowels of this magnificent plant. It was here, in this very nook (many decades ago), that aborigines had been held captive en route to Derby. After they were cast inside, an armed guard stood sentry to keep the men within the walls of this arboreal prison.

Although I’m not overly claustrophobic, I wouldn’t fancy spending a night in this dank and rotten place. Especially when we noticed a stream of bees buzzing to and fro from a smaller hole in the trunk to the right…
Feeling a little dejected after learning about woeful history associated with this magnificent Boab tree, we turned our wheels westwards along National Highway One; and made our way further into the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Our destination was the small (but ever growing) town of Broome (Cable Beach); nested on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

I’d wanted to visit Broome for years, as I had heard from so many people how much they love it. Warm sun, white sand, tropical beaches and relaxed atmosphere. Since we’d put in a few hard yards recently, we’d planned to stop here and chill out for the best part of a week. If nothing else, we were all in need of a good clean up, and the car was due for a service.

Driving into town, we were greeted by the usual sights of most coastal mini-metropolises. Resorts on the foreshore, shopping centres, restaurants, coastal drives and beaches. But most of all, there were people. Oh, so many people. Having been out of the rat race for a little while, it was surprising how quickly our bubble of personal space had grown. In fact, we felt like it had expanded to encompass as much space as possible; along with a growing dislike for being too close to neighbouring tents or caravans. Even while we had been at Manning Gorge, I remember feeling we were encroaching on our nearest neighbours when we set up our tent 50 meters away from them. As such, pulling into the Cable Beach Caravan Park, we were all a little taken aback when we were plonked smack-bang in the middle of a veritable caravan city, with other trailers only spitting distance away. To be fair, it wasn’t as bad as all that. The sites were fairly spacious and we had enough room to spread out. But the mere fact that our view on all sides was filled by people was enough to make our toes curl (oh, where are the grand vistas of trees, grasses and nature…. Oh my).

Cable Beach Caravan Park

Our time in Broome was both a purposeful stop (in that it allowed us to get ready for the next leg of our trip), as well as providing us with a few days of fun and frolics. I’ll save you the details of the more functional aspects and get straight into the frolicking portion.

Of the six days we stayed in Broome, at least three of those were spent at the beach. After all, beach time is really what draws people to this neck of the woods. And, as they say, when in Rome…

Actually, the folks of Broome have got ‘going to the beach’ down to a fine art. Not only is the silky white silica sand a delight to behold (set off spectacularly against the brilliant blue of the surf and the sky), but there was also a booming trade being done in the hiring of beach paraphernalia.

Having rented a beach umbrella for ourselves (which was in turn drilled into the sand by a stall attendant), we were able to merrily hang out at the beach until the sun went down the late afternoon.




Hanging out at Cable Beach

The beach at Cable Beach was fairly flat, with the sand sloping down at a slow gradient to the frothing water. In the north of Australia, tides are well known for rising and falling anywhere up to 10 or 11 meters. As such, during low tide on Cable Beach, the water recedes well over 100 meters. So, throughout the day, the water crept further and further away from our little umbrella, as the kids ran back and forth along the newly exposed sand.



Still Hanging out at Cable Beach...

When we weren’t lazing, playing, swimming or fishing at the beach, we did manage to drag ourselves off to explore the surrounding areas of Broome. One afternoon was spent wandering the cliffs of Gantheaume Point and driving down a sandy 4x4 track along the coast. Huge cliffs of red rock plunged down into churning ocean below; all very dramatic, picturesque and exciting. Gantheaume Point overlooked the bay back towards Broome. The rocks here had the appearance of rock candy that had been dumped on a plate; striped and smooth, but all jumbled together.




Rocks at Gantheaume Point

Below the low tide mark at Gantheaume Point, there were dinosaur footprints embedded in the sea floor beneath these rocky cliffs. Unfortunately, we were in Broome at the wrong time to see these fossilised claw marks. However, as luck would have it, in recent years other dino prints had been found just down from our camp site at Cable Beach. As such, we spent an evening wandering over the rockpools in order to spot these ancient impressions. Nat happened to start chatting to a local women who had discovered several of these last year. As such, she was a mine of information about their location and the types of prehistoric beasts represented in this clutch of footprints.




Dinosaur Footprints Around Cable Beach

Amongst the rocks were other hidden gems, including all manner of colourful crabs scuttling about, and a lone flatworm dancing its way around a shallow pool in the evening light.

video
Flatworm Dancing In The Rock Pools


As well as being a great place for a swim, digging in the sand and spotting the tracks of long dead animals, the beach at Broom was also a lot of fun to drive along. Just off to the right, as you head down an access road to the beach, there was well worn path through a patch of rocks. Following the other cars in a snaking trail through these tyre shredding rocks, we found ourselves on a flat, solid stretch of sand where we could cruise along the water’s edge. Heading up the beach, we set up our camp chairs and thought this was a perfect spot for a quick skype to my folks back in New Zealand (who were battling through the heart of winter). It’s not that we wanted to rub in how awesomely warm it was where we were (ok, perhaps just a little bit), but with today’s technology and ubiquitous internet access, what better way to share an experience with your nearest and dearest than being able to actually show them.


Skyping My Folks From Cable Beach As A Train Of Camels Strolled By.

Other events on our Broome agenda included a round of mini-golf at the nearby café/corner shop/mini-golf range, and also heading to a local tavern to watch the local favourite of ‘crab racing’. We didn’t know what to expect from the crab racing – but in our minds, we all had great fantasies of giant crabs battling it out in a winner takes all competition for supreme crabby glory. Needless to say, the actual race didn’t fully live up to the images that we had conjured up in our wild imaginations. At one end of the bar was a wide circular table with a bucket in the middle. The master of ceremonies, sporting a crab shaped hat (of course), drummed up the crowd and urged as much money out of their pockets as possible before the race began. Then, lifting the bucket, he dumped a dozen or so small hermit crabs in the middle of the ring. Startled by the light of bar, the crabs made a swift scramble towards the edges of the arena; with the winner being the first crab to reach the outer rim. It was kinda fun, but the boys soon got bored of the long wait between races (I think we only saw three in the couple of hours we were there). So we wandered home again, talking about how giant crabs would have been much cooler! I didn’t even get a photo of the races, as the crabs just looked like colourful dots against a white background…

A Round of Mini-Golf: Cable Beach

Amongst all of the chillaxing, we also had time to pick up and install a spare part that had been sent from Jayco to fix our door lock. We spruced up the car and trailer, did loads and loads of washing. In the end, we were all packed up ready for our next tenting adventure in Cape Leveque. I think we might have many more bumpy roads in our near future!

Home Cooked Barramundi

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Gibb River Road: 4 - Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge





Date:
03/06/2017
Location:
Derby: Via Tunnel Creek and Windjana [Gibb River] (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
340km
Temperature:
Min:
17.0

Max:
29.0
Crocs spotted
21 (plus another lurking in waters of Tunnel Creek)

Waking up the next morning, we were greeted by a slightly frosty new day. Unfortunately, we’d all had a fitful night’s sleep, due mainly to the persistent hacking cough emanating from a toddler in one of the gargantuan trailers to our right… (at least it helped up get an early start when she started mewling and squawking at 5am). Daniel was a little out of sorts this morning, telling us after a fashion that he still felt like he had sand in his eye. Nat and I both checked him out and washed his eye with water. But, since we couldn’t see anything in there, we concluded that he had probably scratched his eye the night before and it was now feeling irritated. He seemed to settle down after a bit of TLC, so we pressed on with the adventure we had planned for the day.

Packing up and heading down the road, our first stop was to be Tunnel Creek – a mere 70 kilometres westwards along the Gibb from Silent Grove. Having finally got the measure of travelling on this bumpy byway, we powered down the track in a shorter time than we had on our inwards journey. So, after a couple of hours, we pulled up at the turn off to the road heading down to Windjana and Tunnel Creek.

We still weren't sure if this road had been opened ye. But to our delight and gleeful surprise, we found that indeed the road were clear! Gone were the make shift barricades of tree branches and 'CAUTION' tape. Gone were the mounds of dirt covering the entrance, with a small, beaten up metal sign saying 'closed' sticking out if it. So, off the main road we turned and we begun barrelling down the track as fast as our little tyres could take us.

As Tunnel Creek was the furthest away, we decided to head there first.

Tunnel Creek - Here we come!

Arriving at the car park, we realised that we’d forgotten to pack our reef shoes amongst the possessions we brought with us on the Gibb. It was a bit of an oversight, but we decided to tough it out anyway. Picking our way down to the Tunnel Creek entrance, we removed our shoes and plunged into the deep darkness under the mountain. Well, I say plunged, I really I mean ‘had to wait for 5 minutes as a group of oldies (knees creaking and legs shaking) crept their way like tortoises out of the narrow cave entrance”. But, ‘plunged’ certainly sounded more dramatic.

Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek itself was a pretty cool place. Over millennia, a small creek has carved its way through the tough mountain stone, until it eventually broke through to the other side. The river continues to flow through the tunnel today, chipping fragments of rock slowly from the side of the cave, widening it one grain at a time. The ground underfoot was a mixture of coarse sand, gravel and shells. Occasionally a maze of sharp rock appeared, with foot worn paths snaking their way through. The going was a little tough on the feet – particularly as the boys and I had had chosen to go barefoot (we quickly realised that thongs/flip flops/jandals, weren’t going to be up to the job of wading through deep water). However, Nat had the presence of mind to don her walking sandals, so she fared better than us.

Tunnel Creek - Barefooted!

Still, the experience of walking through this wide cave, with its stalactites and underground waterfalls was engrossing. We soon forgot about our aching feet (which were now pretty numb from the cold water anyway). Peering into the depths of the water at the edge of the underground river, little reddish-yellow eyes peered back at us from the darkness; illuminated by the dim lights of our fading head torches. Small bats chirped and swooped overhead as they dive bombed through teams of flying insects near the cave mouth.

Tunnel Creek - Under ground waterfall

Halfway through the tunnel, the roof opened out and the sky could be spied peeking down from above. This wasn’t a recent collapse – rather, it seemed to have happed many years ago; with plants now merrily living in this oasis of sunlight, with their roots stretching out into the darkness of the cave river’s water.

Tunnel Creek - Oasis of light

Pressing on, we waded through thigh deep water (well, my thighs, but Daniel’s belly button), until we burst out of the other side of the tunnel. The river didn’t stop here though, rather it continued its journey onwards through the gorge and out into the warm sunlight. We spent a little time here in this quiet place. Most of the other tunnel walkers stopped and turned back at the oasis section, so we had it largely to ourselves. Sounds of birds chittering and calling rose above the background noise of babbling water. The boys spent their time picking their way around the river rocks, until we eventually turned and made our way back through the cave.



Tunnel Creek - the other end...


Warming up in the sunlight, it was good to get our shoes back on and be able to walk comfortably over the rocky path to the car. A quick bite to eat later and we were off up the road to Windjana Gorge.


Windjana gorge - abandon hope all ye who enter here!

Windjana gorge is a 3.5km long canyon, where the Lennard River has carved itself way through the limestone of the Napier Range. To add to it’s beauty, the range itself is part of an extensive fossilised barrier reef, which was laid down way back in Devonian (circa 360 million years ago).



Windjana Gorge – Devonian reef frozen in time

Not only was Windjana renowned for its beautiful scenery, high cliffs and wide sandy river bed; it was most well-known for the abundance of wildlife inhabiting this sheltered place. Sure, there were dragonflies and birds aplenty – but, what most people came here for were the Crocs! Dozens of freshwater crocodiles filled the gorge – some floating like logs in the water, others sunning themselves on the banks. But, all of them were watching us watching them…


Windjana Gorge – There be crocs in them thar' waters!

Unfortunately, as we were pressed for time (and Daniel’s eye was still giving him grief), we couldn’t walk the full track of the gorge today. Rather, we wandered along the sandy trail for an hour or so, until the gorge widened out and the path headed up into the hills. This meant that we didn’t get to see as many crocs as have been documented in other people’s blogs (like our friends from Morrows Westward Adventure, who counted over one hundred!); but, with a tally of 21, we were pretty satisfied.


Back in the car, we were all feeling pretty tired from the effort we’d put into seeing four gorges in two days. So, the rest of the journey back down the Gibb was passed in quiet contemplation. Daniel was still a little restless due to his eye and Nat and I were starting to get a little concerned about his level of discomfort. As such, we were keen to get back to civilisation and have it checked out. So, we all hunkered down to cross off the last 100kms back to Derby.

Hitting the bitumen, we picked up speed and made it back to town by late afternoon. Before turning into the caravan park, we made a pitstop at Derby Hospital, where Daniel spent half an hour with his new best friend, Dr Issacs, who eventually removed a hunk of rock (well, a hefty piece of grit at least) from under his upper eyelid. It turns out that this shard of irritation had scratched his eye, so he was prescribed cream and drops to help heal up. Daniel waved goodbye to Dr Issacs and left the hospital. Getting back in the car, he was still clutching a specimen jar with his very own piece of the Gibb River Road as a souvenir.

Our camper trailer was waiting for us safe and sound in the Derby caravan park. It seems that the police surveillance cameras and their increased patrols around the park had put an end to the night time shenanigans of the week before. As the sun went down, we set up our trailer and realised we were all desperately in need of a shower. it was great to be able to wash away the dust, sweat and grim of our Gibb tenting adventure, before hopping into bed for a good night’s sleep.

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg.