Tunnel Creek ("the spooky tunnel") is fascinating and fun
. We begin to discover what totally hopeless campers we are as all 4 torches are flat and the batteries are left charging in the van in Derby.( I stand firm in apportioning all blame to Leah and Pete as I have packed in a hungover,sleep deprived haze.) Tunnel Creek was the hideout for Jandamarra- a fighter for Aboriginal rights who evaded police for several years by using the tunnel as a retreat. We do the 1.5 km walk wading through the water (there's small freshies in here!) with bats flying overhead in faltering torchlight. My $2 thongs (obviously a poor footwear choice) get stuck in the mudhave a blowout and Jake is over in the water in no time. It's all very freaky and great fun. There are crystals and fairylands and Jandamarra hideyholes everywhere. The rock is some of the most beautiful stuff I've ever seen-huge white marblelike boulders streaked with red,pink and grey,cold and smooth,smooth,silky,baby backside smooth.
Onto Windjana Gorge.This gorge is carved by the Lennard River through the Napier Range exposing the ancient Devonian reef. Basically over 350 million years ago this area was all a shallow sea and this was the barrier reef on the edge.We see a fossilized nautiloid-a prehistoric crustacean-in the limestone
. What an education for the kids. Archer fish are clearly visible in the green water. The kids and the big kid have run ahead and I hear their exclamations as they start to see the crocs. Theres about 70 freshwater crocs floating like fat toddlers with floaties on their chubby limbs,lying around ,open mouthed (temp regulation). We stand about 2 metres from them,most are only small but some are big enough to make my heart pound and I maintain a firm grip on Jake.They seem completely unfazed by us tourists. The gorge is picturesque with black walls,green water and white rocks and of course I snap about 27 million photos before we leave to set up camp.
We have carted around 2 small pop up 3 man tents for the last 3 months for occasions like this.Unfortunately it appears I have only packed 1 of them and the other mystery item is the insert of the Oztrail shade shelter (with no frame to hold it up). Never fear, Bear Grylls Crouty is here. He strings it up from some spindly trees and we sleep exposed to one and all ( sleep being an optimistic desciption-there's a steady stream of retirees with weak bladders walking by with super bright torches all night long
. It is full on snake country out here)
Sunday morning we head off to Silent Grove campsite over corrugated red roads (after doing a trade with nearby camper,her matches for my Nurofen) When I camped here years ago we drove down the dry riverbed to camp in swags at the top of the waterfall but it now an established campsite 10km out of the gorge with loos and solar showers and shady trees, We perfect the net tent and take the compliments of passerbys ("what a good idea,so cool"-cool alright,we froze that night!)
The walk into Bells gorge is pretty and fairly challenging,once again the kids are fantastic,no complaining ,just pure excitement as the scenery ramps up around every corner. It's stunning both above the falls and down at the huge cool waterhole at the base. The photos will do it more justice than my words can.
Gibb River Road-the iconic stretch of road that boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the Kimberley. Originally we had planned to spend about 2 weeks travelling this area but due to cicumstances this is whittled down to 2 nights.Again I have shelved memories of Bell's Gorge up there in the mystical,magical,unlikely to ever be repeated in this lifetime shelf so I am slightly anxious that it will disappoint. It doesn't.Like so many places seeing them again through the eyes of the kids rather than through beer goggles and youth is just as fantastic and adds a whole extra dimension.