Woke up in the Derby caravan park (we arrived too late yesterday to find anything else..) to a luxurious breakfast of Kununurra mango! Amazing! And watched the resident albino peacock strut around and fuss which was hilarious.
We checked out of the the caravan park and asked about the road conditions out to Windjana Gorge at the Windmill Cafe, which had excellent coffee and the owner also had a Renault so we chatted cars and roads and opinions on whether or not we could tackle the road. She claimed it was the worst she’d seen it in 20 years, but people were still going to and from fairly easily in 2WDs that she’d seen so far – just take care and go slow. We dropped in at the camping store to get more glue (ants ate through the bottom of the tent overnight and made another hole..) and a second opinion, and decided to give the start of the Gibb River Road out to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek a go. Why not try it while we are here, hey?
The start of the Gibb River Road was sealed then unsealed then sealed single lane which was fun – many a beef bus (local term for a road train filled with cattle) roared past and lots of 4WDs were going to and from with tourists or locals. The turn off to Windjana appeared and we had low expectations in regards to the quality of the road given the local knowledge we’d received, but it was just heavily corrugated in parts – the rest was pretty good solid corrugations that felt fine once you picked up a bit more speed (around 70km an hour was good) and floated over them. We turned up at Windjana quite quickly and went for a walk to the gorge – there lots of freshwater crocs everywhere you looked around the water and the water itself was low and stagnant, so no swim for us unfortunately.
We just wandered up and down the track instead but it was pretty heavily affected by weeds so it had suffered a bit from erosion and overgrowth. Still, it was an amazing spot – the whole gorge used to be part of the WA’s ancient Devonian Reef so there were beautiful fossils of creatures and bivalves and all sorts of things in the walls of rock along the walking track.
It was getting hot so we headed back to the car where we decided that if we could make it easily to Windjana, the supposedly ‘very rough’ road to Tunnel Creek by Derby local’s standards would be doable, so we headed down there. Same again – it was very corrugated but doable. It definitely had a few rocks to swerve around, but we took it easy and Smash was watching the road like a hawk and we got there without any issues.
Tunnel Creek is literally a creek in a tunnel, as the name suggests – the sign said bring a head torch and be prepared to wade through water along the track through the caves, so we got geared up with torches and runners and dry sacks for cameras and set out along the track to the start of the tunnel. The temperature dropped pleasantly as we got in to the mouth of the first cave and it was eerily beautiful down there. Very quiet and still!
There were bats everywhere (big ones and little ghost bats), up in the roof of the caves and a few flying around your head every now and then, and if you shone the torch light around the tunnels and looked carefully you could see the red light of freshwater crocodile eyes reflected in the torch light! One was even up on the sand in the cave right next to the track, but he didn’t seem fussed by our presence. He slowly retreated back in to the water and floated around there instead.
The track kept winding and going further in to the darkness and it was a little unsettling to be wading waist deep through pitch black water with the only light being from our head torches, but it was really unique and exciting and the size of the caves on the inside was amazing. We wandered past more crocs both visible in their full shape and some only by their little red eyes, but finally ended up at the other end where the creek opened out into the sunshine.
After a bit of exploring we turned around and came back through the tunnel and out the other side. Trundle almost stepped on a shiny black snake winding its way through the rocks at the start of the track, which was a good opportunity to test her reflexes and jump up onto a rock to avoid its path!
We got back to the car and hit the corrugations (gently), headed for Broome, but the sun was too quick for us and we didn’t want to risk driving in the dark with the amount of stock moving around on the highway through open cattle station land, so we stopped at a rest area just off the highway near a beautiful big boab tree with a lovely sunset.