The Kimberley WA - Jandamara's hideaway, a bit of Rio & Windjana Gorge

Thursday, Jun 22, 2006 at 00:00

Mick O

Thursday 22nd June
Windjana Gorge National Park
The Kimberley W.A.

A very cold night with the dulcet tones of high powered compressors from the neighbouring supermarket thumping away all night. Didn’t affect the sleep too much as we were all pretty tired. Our strange caravan park manager came over this morning with some more out there comments before wandering off to another dimension all together. I think our “circle the wagons” policy paid off though.

I had to pay a few bills over the phone and then get a few batteries from the local supermarket. What an eye opener. We were on the road by 8.50 a.m. so a pretty good result in all. It was 43 kilometres back to the Tunnel Creek turnoff and farewell to the bitumen once again for a couple of thousand kays. The road wasn’t in too bad a nick actually. Plenty of corrugations and “Heart-Breakers” in the road that you had to keep an eye out for but OK if one sat on 50-60 kph. The road wound its way through low ranges of Devonian Reef outcrops and groves of Boabs. There were quite a few Brahman cattle wandering through the tall grass. Jules had a quick Boab nut picking escapade and I must admit that there was more than a slight resemblance between John and Peter Allan as he sauntered back clutching two Boab nuts on their branches. Very “I go to Rio-ish”!

We had several good creek crossings to punctuate the route and at times crossed vast open plains of savannah before entering the Devonian Ranges once again. The hills were often populated by large stands of Boabs of all shapes standing like fat bodied sentries for all to see. Their fibrous pulp allows them to swell enormously during the wet seasons and thus survive prolonged periods of drought.

At Tunnel Creek we ventured, torches in hand, into Jandamara’s hideaway. Jandamarra was probably the first and most successful aboriginal at offering resistance to the encroaching white settlers around the turn of the century. For three years he terrorised farmers and police alike often retreating to tunnel creek and disappearing into the surrounding hills. He was actually killed there in 1897. The narrow winding track is overshadowed by the towering cliffs of the range and as it leads through narrow clefts in the marble like rocks, it belies the large cave that lies beyond. Once through the narrow entrance you are awed by an immense cavern stretching up to great heights and of an impressive width. Large stalactite formations hang like dusty chandeliers and pools of water reflect the light further into the cave. Once you walk into the cave you thread your way along sandy banks and wade through pools of water not much over your knees to reach a central area where the roof has subsided allowing a light of light into the cavern once again. You clamber over the rock fall and then head into the darkness again for another 600 metres. Large eels and small fish inhabit the waters and we spotted one particularly large one in the lights of our torches. On rounding a bend in the cavern, the other entrance becomes obvious, the dark outlines of the entrance framing the trees of a picturesque shaded creek. A nice place to sit and enjoy the tranquillity. There is no other way back but to retrace you steps.

We took lunch in the car park before heading off again at 12.30 or thereabouts. It was only a short, picturesque drive of 30 odd kays to the Windjana Gorge National Park and campground. Our intended camp spot for the night. We quickly located the non-generator camping area and set ourselves up at the far side of the area under the shade of a couple of large trees. Once camp was established and the wine was placed in the freezer to chill, we walked the kilometre or so to the Gorge mouth. The gorge walk through the initial kilometre of the gorge was impressive. The wide expanse of shallow water bordered on both sides by the rocky cliffs was a haven for all manner of birds including a Jabiru. There were also quite a few large Johnstone Crocodiles (“freshies”) lying about on the warms sands. It was possible to get very close to a couple of individuals so once again, lots of photos were taken.

The track along the gorge then became a bit of a death march really. It would along through often thick bush which was itself covered with Vines. After ¾ of an hour we decided to turn back having been told by several people along the way that we had already seen the best on offer. Roosting bats provided a bit of a diversion for us, especially the crocodile making like a log in the water directly below them, quietly waiting for a meal of opportunity.

A sit down and a diet coke never felt so good as it did on our return to camp. A cold shower to wash away the dust and I’m about to have a refreshingly chilled vino.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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