Windjana Gorge is very close to the end of the Gibb River Road. Which by now I was kind of looking forward to. Every time we arrived somewhere without breaking something, I breathed a sigh of relief.
The campground was about 30k’s off the Gibb, and just before the turn off, the road disappeared through the middle of an escarpment. A natural passage, I’m assuming, allowed the road to wind its way through the range and unbelievably, overlooking the entry to the pass was Queen Victoria!
When we arrived you could tell this was going to be a wee bit special. The cliffs in the background were sharp, vicious looking, as if enormous carnivores had been sharpening their teeth on them for millions of years.
It looked like a Jurassic Park landscape for sure. What it was, in fact, was a Devonian landscape, the remains of an ancient coral reef. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The campsite was pretty quiet, as most places had been throughout the Gibb at this time of year. Only another couple of weeks and it will be too hot, and not long after that, the wet season arrives and the road becomes impassable. It was nice to have this place almost to yourself.
We decided to set up, and drive another 30k’s down the road to Tunnel Creek National Park however, leaving Windjana Gorge for the following morning. We got there about 3pm, but it was only a short walk this one, so heat wasn’t going to be an issue.
We parked in front of another wall of coral reef, where over the years a little creek had slowly, and persistently, carved its way beneath the escarpment. This had created a 500 metre tunnel that used to hide the infamous Aboriginie fugitive, Jandamarra, and that we were about to wade through with the kids.
Jandamarra was one of the first Aboriginies to coordinate an organised rebellion against the British.
Having worked on cattle stations, and been trained by the settlers he was a crack shot, and having grown up in the Kimberley he knew the area intimately, so he could “fly like a bird and disappear like a ghost” according to local legend.
His first declaration of war was at the battle of Windjana Gorge, where 30 armed police were taken on by Jandamarra and his Bunubu tribe. He was injured, but recovered and took the fight to the invaders for the next three years, eventually being hunted down and killed by another Aboriginie tracker, at Tunnel Creek.
I could see why it would be a great place to hide. There wasn’t much of an indication from the outside that anything was going on, but once you clambered over a few rocks to get in, the tunnel opened up a little. It was quite wide, but low. Not enough for you to bang your head on however, and as we progressed, it opened up higher.
The darkness would have been complete if it wasn’t for our head torches, which even Erin had donned for the occasion. You had to wade through water up to your knees for a while, but most of it was walking along the sand.
We’d been told, by people leaving as we were entering, that there were a few freshwater crocodiles in there too, but they wouldn’t bother you if you just stayed away from them…
I know it sounds like a crazy thing to do with a three-year-old, but it really wasn’t that bad. About half way through there had been a cave in, creating a welcome opening of sunlight. We turned a corner, plunged into ‘cave’ darkness again and a hundred metres or so further down, we literally, saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
On the way back I saw the golden eyes of a couple of crocodiles shining in my torch light, so I quietly guided the family around, and we emerged unscathed. It was a brilliant wee adventure, and Skye, daredevil that she is, wanted to go back the next morning for another go.
Sorry Skye, we’re off to Windjana Gorge this morning, then we’re leaving the Gibb.
Windjana Gorge, thankfully, was very different from any of the other gorges we had seen so far. I must admit we were almost gorged out by now, so this place was a welcome change.
Along with being one of the places where Jandamarra used to hide out, it’s also the best place in Australia to view freshwater crocodiles, although we hadn’t had any shortage of those really.
It was a short, and pretty dramatic walk along the side of a crocodile strewn river, ending in a large expanse of beach. It was an amazing place to be for a wee while, and if there hasn’t been a movie shot there yet, then it can’t be too long before it happens.
We turned around, walked back, and hit the road…