Burton's Perth to Cape York – Windjana, Tunnel Creek and Derby 5-8 July 2012 Day 97-100

Saturday, Sep 01, 2012 at 14:48

Mike & Amanda

Packing up has become a routine, efficient operation, where everyone has set jobs and performs them effortlessly. The incredible Australian Offroad Odyssey is ready to go in about half an hour depending on how long we’ve been in that spot. A camping derivative of Parkinson’s Law says that the longer you are at one spot the more spread out you become and therefore the longer it will take to pack up! The two water crossings caused some joy, distracting from the dust and the 19km gravel to the GRR. This left us with only about 110km of the GRR’s finest dust and bumps until we hit Windjana. This part of the GRR turned out to be better than many NSW highways, smooth and no issues. We did encounter extensive roadworks –eek! With very substandard traffic management as well! Water trucks, graders and other plant all over the show with no traffic management at all, it was quite challenging working out which way to head. We upset one water truck that obligingly turned on its sprays to give us a much needed wash LOL! The King Leopold Range is remarkably beautiful and we spotted the famous Queen Victoria’s Head as we drove through the Yammera Gap.

At the Windjana turnoff we detoured into the rubbish dump to dispose of a couple of days worth of garbage bags. The MSA 4x4 Rear Wheel Bag has proven to be useless and is just about shredded now. I’ve relined it with shadecloth using fishing line as thread, however the zips won’t close and the thing needs to be replaced, even though it was brand new this trip. I’ll probably get a canvas maker to knock one up at home in Freo, instead of the cheap chinese pretend cloth the MSA bag is constructed out of.

As always the road into Windjana is heavily corrugated, requiring a little care and patience before we hit the national park. This early the campsite was quite empty and we scored a fire ring, spreading out around it. By evening the place was full, with people moving in on us all around. We’d collected more deadfalls and dumped the huge wood pile next to the concrete ring, again counting on people’s honesty. After a quick set up we all drove out to Tunnel Creek, keen to show Pat and Jeff this natural wonder. The carpark was jammed! Full of weekend warriors, groups of blokes in tag a long like groups doing their ‘big trip’. Tour busses lined the car park. We then realised that it was school holidays and the regular seasoned, well behaved travellers that we had mostly encountered so far had been replaced by weekend tourists, generally behaving badly.

Tunnel Creek was great fun. The water was up to mid-thigh in places. Had a good torch this time so spotted lots of stalactites and a lovely limestone waterfall. Even saw some little bats on the way out. Lots of the stalactites were still dripping and glistening which was lovely. This is the region where with Jandamurra or Pigeon of the Bunuba tribe shooting his friend and colleague Police Constable Richardson. He used the ranges and caves of Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek as hideouts as he led an organised armed rebellion against European settlers.

Sleeping at Windjana was difficult with all the close in rowdys, Earplugs were a must. They went on late into the night, kids running around without supervision….oh for a quiet bushcamp!This resulted in a sleep in (except for the early morning bangs and yells), we then headed into Windjana Gorge for a look. It is a very beautiful place with large numbers of freshies. Back to camp for lunch and a bit of a laze and relax. Just after 4pm we loaded up with drinks and nibbles and walked back into the gorge to watch the sun set. Beautiful colour on the gorge walls and then the colour of the sunset. We're one of only two groups doing it, all the rest missed the best time in the gorge. Back to a very crowded campsite and noisy night.

Next morning, we packed up quickly and grumpily and headed off towards Derby. Windjana is not as attractive as we remembered from the last visit. Too many loud people jammed into too small of a spot. If we come again we’ll have to time it differently. The showers look modern, however are solar and only operate at a dribble, once again demand outstrips supply all of the time.

The wattle was in full bloom along the side of the road, a yellow corridor, rich with scent. Went straight into Derby and got our pre-booked spots at the caravan park. The Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park is highly recommended. Ian is always very friendly and very accommodating should things not be going according to plan. We camped in nearly the same place that we had last time, right up the back with nothing over the road from us. Nice shady spot too.

Headed into town to have lunch at a cafe that we remembered from last time, but it was gone. There was a bakery in its place, but they only had beef and pepper pies left. Went down then road a bit to another cafe, but it looked pretty dodgy. Tried over the block but that was closed. Ended up going into IGA and buying sliced meat, cheese, tomatoes and a loaf of bread and a few drinks and fruit and making up sandwiches which we ate at a park bench.

Drove back over to Woolies and did a $650 food shop, plus drinks. Then it was back to pack it all away. This is a mammoth task and one not to be enjoyed. It takes ages to carefully pack everything in its unique place, Amanda is to be congratulated. Hot showers then a shopping night dinner of steak potatoes and salad. A friendly Victorian couple we had bumped into numerous times, Simmo and Di wandered over with their drinks and chairs for a chat and copious alcohol was drunk!

Slightly dull from the gin and tonics ( at least we won’t get malaria!), we spent the day washing laundry and tidying up with numerous running repairs and maintenance. The amount of dust that smothers everything is unbelievable. The poor DO35 hitch is impossible to keep clean and requires a wash every stop, otherwise it is very difficult to engage next time. Pat and Jeff went for a drive around Derby just to check it out and look at the jetty to compare the tides.

We booked in at the restaurant at the jetty for sunset drinks and dinner. They were very busy and a s a result a bit slow with the service, but the food was lovely. Best entree was Jeff's scallops wrapped in bacon, we all had barra and chips for main and desert was giant French chocolate eclairs. They had cream, custard and icecream in them and were absolutely divine. Had a good view of the jetty and the sunset.

Derby is a great place to stock up, clean, wash everything and relax for a day before heading back into the bush.
Mike & Amanda
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