A Taste of the Kimberley

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 15, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Friday, September 16, 2011

Knowing we were headed inland and wouldn't see a beach again for a while, we took one last walk along Cable Beach delighting in digging our toes into the sand as we strode along soaking up the freshness of the early morning.

We were heading to Derby for two reasons… the first to witness the massive tide variations as Derby is known to have the largest tides in Australia and secondly to take a drive along the Gibb River Road and camp at Windjana Gorge, the road not being suitable for our van, we were leaving that stored in Derby overnight.

Prior to setting out on this fabulous adventure we had never heard of Windjana Gorge or Tunnel Creek, however as has happened so many times on this trip fellow travelers had recommended them. Our interest sparked by their recounting of their experience, our knowledge broadening the more people we interact with and so too our desire to visit these places and experience them for ourselves.

We once again joined forces with our friends Syd and Cheryl for this leg of the journey and after having spent a night in Derby and taken in the local attractions we left our caravans behind and headed east along the Gibb River Road.

The Gibb River Road affectionately shortened to simply ' the Gibb’ for those in the know, is somewhat of a pioneer route having originally been built to move cattle the 700+kms between Derby and Wyndam.  The road condition varies and having heard some horror stories, we were pleased that we had company, knowing that if anything happened to one vehicle we had back up with the other.

Windjana Gorge National Park is located approximately 140km east of Derby and the drive traversed a variety of landscapes.  There were miles filled with masses of gum trees, sparse spinifex plains and through stretches where stunning Boab trees lined the road. Some areas had been burnt out and yet standing strong were the ever present termite mounds.

We found the road to be in good condition and whilst we did opt to let some air out of our tyres this ensured a smoother ride.  We set up camp at Windjana Gorge (getting to be pros at pitching a tent), opting for a little shade and a great view of the massive rock face just across the grassy plain.  We then continued on another 40kms south to Tunnel Creek.  The road deteriorated slightly but was still easily negotiated; it was more loose rock than corrugation on this section.

Dressed to get wet, we put on our rock shoes and grabbed a torch each.  We made our way through the large boulders which litter the entrance to Tunnel Creek and as we entered the cave we were in awe of the amazing rocks and the colours that run so naturally through them giving off a marbled affect.  If we used our imagination we could make out images, perhaps it was ancient indigenous art!

We made our way through the cave like tunnel, it was dark and we had to wade through cold water, unsure of a path Rod went out in the lead and guided us through. The stalactites were fascinating adorning the roof with all sorts of shapes and sizes.

 A section of the tunnel roof had fallen in at some stage which offered some well appreciated light about half way through the 750 metre tunnel. In this open air section the reflections on the water were exquisite.  The tunnel walls reflected as clearly off this body of water as they would in a mirror.  As we continued further into the tunnel the water became deeper and whilst we managed to get to the end with the water at our waists, on the return we must have taken a slightly different path for the water reached our chests.  Deciding this would be a good place to stop and take photos, we became numb from the cold water and were glad when we finally reached dry land!

At times the roof was low and the tunnel narrowed, in other sections it was like being in a stunning cathedral.  We left the tunnel and scampered back over the rocks having had so much fun.  This really was a great walk to do and offered such a unique experience.

Back at the camp Rod found the fire pit near us was nursing some hot coals from the previous evening, so we were able to get that fired up again (so to speak) and cook up a feast on the open fire which always makes for a more delicious steak.  Once again we ate like kings and enjoyed a night of banter (and a few drinks) under the starlit sky with Syd and Cheryl.

The joy of camping… at first light (a short time after 4am) the birds were going nuts, flying and squawking loudly over the camp… their idea of fun I guess!  We had no choice but to have an early start to the day and with the days getting so much hotter it was also the most practical time to take a walk.

By 7am we were heading off on our 7km gorge walk with Syd and Cheryl.  Windjana Gorge is said to be the ‘premier place in Australia for sighting freshwater crocodiles’ and we were not disappointed.  We were indeed thrilled to see so many.  At first we just saw a few in the water and then as we continued on we noticed more and more on the sandy river banks happily catching the morning rays of sunlight as they bounced off the gorge walls.  We loved the way they just floated on the surface of the water, occasionally flicking their tail to propel themselves along.  We also came across large colonies of bats gleefully hanging around in the trees that line the Leonard River.

Here too the reflections that bounced back off the river were brilliant, the red gorge walls vibrant in the early morning sun made for stunning viewing, it was hard to see where the line of water actually sat, so clear were the reflections.

Back at the camp we were all pleased we had gone early as the day was already starting to heat up. We were also pleased we had gotten some exercise as Syd cooked up the most amazing pancakes for breakfast, topped with a lavish layer of strawberries and cream, they were delicious. I just don’t remember camping ever being like this!  With breakfast done we packed away our tent and camping gear feeling that we were now organised and seasoned campers.

Back in Derby with the heat fading out of the day we sat outside, huddled around the television to watch the Sydney Swans play in their final, whilst the result was not the outcome we wanted we enjoyed the game and the company.

As a bonus, whilst we were in Derby we caught up with our friend Shaun’s mum; Ros and her partner Bob who have been traveling around Australia in the opposite directions to us.  It was so nice to see Ros again after so many years, to meet her lovely partner Bob and of course their canine companion Lotus who gave us a much needed ‘dog fix’.

Early the next morning we bid farewell to Derby and as we drove out of town there was a herd of Brahman casually meandering across the road, we thought this was a fitting end to our stay.

We love the Kimberley!

Highlights of Derby:

-          Tunnel Creek walk

-          Camping at Windjana Gorge – great pancakes Syd!

-          Seeing our first ‘freshies’s’ up close

-          Catching up with Ros and Bob
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Kaz on

I'm guessing that is the only Derby you're doing this year?? Think how much money you'll save!

Kerry B on

Glad to see you're still wearing black Lyndyl!! You look fabulous!!!

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