After departing The Bungle Bungle Ranges we decided we would do a long haul and head to Broome via a visit to Derby and a day trip to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. If we had embarked upon the Gibb River Road at El Questro, these remarkable landmarks would be our final stop before reaching civilisation once more. They form part of the 375 million year old, ancient, Devonian limestone reef that cuts through the Napier Range in the central Kimberley.
It is also the scene for the uprising of Jandamarra, a proud and strong indigenous, Bunuba man. Jandamarra was an Aboriginal warrior who became targeted by pastoralists as he endeavored to preserve his culture and his country. Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek became the backdrop of what was Jandamarra’s last stand and his eventual demise. These remarkable places are still of cultural significance to the Bunuba people today. Follow this link to read more of his story. (Jandamarra)
Tom and I visited both these places when we came to Broome last year and as one of the highlights of our trip, we were keen to show the kids. We had heard that due to the lack of monsoonal rain during the last wet season, Windjana Gorge was not as spectacular as in previous years. While this was probably true, the lack of water meant that the local population of freshwater crocodiles were confined to a very small surface area and were therefore very abundant.
Windjana Gorge, although dry, was still a beautiful place to visit. Carved by the Lennard River, Windjana Gorge is over three kilometres long with 30 to 100 metre-high walls that rise majestically into the landscape. It is hard to believe that millions of years ago these landforms were under water and that remnants of that age are fossilised today in the rocks. It is a unique place that is worth a visit.
We ventured further on up the road to Tunnel Creek. Now this was the part that Tom and I were particularly looking forward to. When Tom and I were here last we were ably lead by Elsa our tour guide through the meandering tunnel that has been worn out by water, but today it was just us and at this point there were no other people around. So we donned our head torches and headed into the darkness to embark upon the 750 metre underground trek, literally through the Napier Range. It really is a cool place and exploring Tunnel Creek would have to be some of the most fun that we’ve had together.
We clambour through the hole formed by the rocks at the entrance of the tunnel and are greeted with two beady little eyes. Lying on the banks lay a small, freshwater crocodile. Tom and I exchanged knowing glances that communicated ‘they weren’t here last time!’ While freshwater crocodiles are not known to be overly aggressive towards humans and are considered relatively harmless if left alone, I was a little apprehensive at the idea of wading through murky water in a dark tunnel filled with freshwater crocodiles. We allayed our fears and continued walking.
We continued walking into the tunnel. We passed another family heading out whose little boy informed us that they had counted 13 crocodiles. This was not making me feel overly confident!!
On we went!! That was until we came to our first of two water crossings. We all stopped, not sure how to proceed. We scanned the water and could identify at least two crocodiles. The water in front of us was really dark and murky!! I mean really, really dark and murky, with potential crocodiles and possible snakes and we had to wade about 20 meters in order to reach the other side. It seemed much easier and less daunting when Elsa was directing us!! Tom wasn’t any better suggesting that we turn around, trying to sell it to the kids that we had walked most of the tunnel anyway. The kids weren’t having a bar of it. ‘No! We want to go through!’ they all chimed in together. The kids were really not going to let us get away with turning back and each of them were determined to carry on. If there was ever a lesson to be had in building resilience and not giving up, this was it! “I’ve done this before, I can do it again,” I told myself. I walked into the water trying to find the shallowest path, making sure Tobias would be able to cross without getting drenched. The rest of the crew followed. We were all so elated at making it across. We gave each other a pat on the back and kept walking.
The roof has collapsed through to the top of the range near the centre of the tunnel. Not much further on from this we discover some more wildlife that inhabit the tunnel. Looking up we come across a large colony of bats just ‘hanging out’. At least five species of bats live in the cave, including ghost bats and fruit bats. We sat and watch them for a while until we continued on through another water crossing (we were experts by now), past some more crocodiles and exited into the heat of the day. We stayed a while until we turned around and made our return trip.
Our walk through Tunnel Creek was a true adventure, a test of perseverance and a lot of fun.