Barrier Reef

3 August 2012

The last couple of days have been really memorable, we have had a relaxing time at the far end of the Gibb River Road taking it easy for a couple of days after the barrage of bumps that you can’t get away from.  We are spending our second night camping at Windjana Gorge.  As you arrive here you are confronted with a large escarpment rising straight up out of a flat plain, a wall of orange, red and black stained rock rises up 100m out of seeminly nothingness.  The rock is actually the remains of a barrier reef formed in a shallow sea 360 million years ago, and as you walk towards it you can easily imagine you are on the sea floor looking up at reefs high above with corals stretching for the light.  During its history the whole reef was covered and surrounded by shales, these have been eroded away leaving the harder marble and limestone again high above the surrounding land.   Cutting through the reef is the Lennard River, it has slotted its way straight through the ancient reef forming a wide gorge with 100m shear sides.  It’s an amazing spot, sitting by the still water the late afternoon light radiating off the rock faces, watching the local wildlife watching you.  Most wildlife in Australia scampers away as soon as you sneeze, not here, where we were captivated by the crocs!  As we walked along the bank of the river I saw a tiny speck floating and realised it was the eyes and nostrils of a croc motionless in the water.  As our eyes adjusted we realised that most of the dusty logs on the far bank were all crocs too.  The further we walked the more we saw, pretty amazing to be next to these stealthy prehistoric looking creatures.  Thankfully they were all fresh water crocs (freshies) and not their bigger  more aggresive cousins.

This morning we drove about 40kms to the south down the reef line to a place not very imaginatively, but aptly named Tunnel Creek.  As you might imagine this is a spot where a creek has made a natural tunnel about 900m long through the old limestones.  It’s pretty remarkable, there is just a sign saying take a torch, and then off you go, wading through the freezing waters into the black abyss.  It was pretty erie wading into the first pool wondering what lay ahead and how deep it was.  Thankfully (I think) there is a cave-in half way along the tunnel that lets light in so there are only short sections of pitch black.  The walls and roof were smooth in sections, and covered in wax-like staligtites in others.  On the way back Lisa spotted a red eye reflecting the beam of her head torch in the darkness, as we drew level we could see two red eyes and just make out the outline of a freshy.  A shiver went down our spines when we realised we were wading through a pitch black tunnel being watched by a croc! Lisa said that this will probably be the only time we do that in our lives!

We potted around this afternoon and had a cooking marathon, a cooked lunch, then I attempted to make oat biscuits, not exactly a failure but bloody close!  Lisa was more complimentary than me, then a rare treat of a coconut milk curry.  Considering we are at about day 11 from the last shop we are doing fairly well for food.  Onto Broome tomorrow.


The escarpment near Windjana Gorge


Boab sitting on the ancient reef at Windjana

Our first croc at Windjana and our first freshy ever. Little did we know how many we would see!

Alice and Tom will know what this sign means!

The end of Windjana Gorge

Freshies hanging out


Barramundi in the gorge


Windjana gorge is fairly wide

The setting sun on the escarpment

The cave in half way along Tunnel Creek

Entrance into Tunnel Creek

Human fireflies leaving the tunnel







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