We were excited to be heading into the vast Kimberley all along the Gibb River Road which traverses across the Kimberley. This area has a lot of early Australian farming history and still has a number of large cattle stations however the the whole area was also the homeland country of many indigenous communities for thousands of years prior to European settlement. The Gibb River Road was once a real 4×4 track and remote country however the road has been improved for the communities in the Kimberley and this has allowed many more tourists into the area. You still need a four wheel drive and an off road camper to access the area fully but the main Gibb RR is a virtual highway.
Our first stop on the Gibb River Road and into the Kimberley was Windjana Gorge National Park and all the stories of busy camp sites were definatly true – it was hard to find a site but we squeezd in and met the nearby campers who were all very friendly.
Windjana Gorge is a big wide open gorge said to be ancient coral reefs from an inland sea that once covered most of the area. We spotted some evidence of ancient sea animals on the cliff walls along the gorge but the highlight for the kids was spotting the freshwater crocodiles. There is a large permanent population of freshwater crocodiles which living in the water holes along the gorge. We counted close to 65 on our walk. The freshwater crocodiles are supposedly ‘harmless’ to humans if you keep a safe distance and generally they will move away from you if you come closer but we didn’t bother checking this theory.
The gorge has spectacular red rock walls towering over the river bed which has been carved from a millennia of wet seasons and water rushing through the area carving a path out to sea. Further in the gorge you walk on a sandy creek bed and can get fairly close to the crocs.
From Windjana Gorge we visited Tunnel Creek Cave which is a 750m limestone cave that runs under the Leopold Range. Walking through the cave involves wading through water in the cave in the dark. Equipped with our head torches (essential camping equipment) we headed into the cave. Aaron and Andrew loved this adventure the girls not quite as much. The water was 45cm at its deepest.
The sign at the tunnel entry said that the creek is inhabited by a few freshwater crocs. We used the head torches to navigate the dark tunnel and spot the crocs. We spotted four freshwater crocs whilst walking thru the tunnel…a bit freaky but when we shined our torches on them they slid under the water…shy apparently!
At the end of the Tunnel we spotted some ancient aboriginal rock art.
Tunnel Creek was also the hideout for Jandamarra a historic and sad story of an aboriginal man from the local Bunuba Tribe who used the tunnel to hide out from the police for three years. The story is sad because it describes the obvious lack of understanding between the new settlers and the indigenous communities in the 1890s.
We loved our first stop on the Gibb River Road we were also pleasantly surprised to find flushing toilets and solar showers. After two nights at Windjana we were ready to move on, whilst a lovely spot it was hot and there was nowhere to swim, so we planned to head along the Gibb River Road to the next spot where we might stop.