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Halls Creek across to Derby

Halls CreekThe two days we spent fossicking in the area were mild, around 20 degrees, and were great for galloping around the countryside weighed down with a metal detector, battery pack and a pick...but the nights were particularly brisk...so much so that we slept with our windcheaters on !

We didn't find our fortune at Old Halls Creek Gold Diggings and we headed westwards towards the warmth of Broome, on the west coast.

Giekie Gorge National Park

Situated about 18km north east of Fitzroy Crossing, Giekie Gorge National Park is centred around a striking, 14km long gorge formed by the Fitzroy River which has progressively carved its way through an ancient (Devonian Period) limestone barrier reef.

The resulting Gorge has cliffs that rise up to 30 metres, and the lower sections are bleached white by the actions of recurrent floods.

Its fresh water is a haven for wildlife and supports many aquatic species including sawfish, stingrays, barramundi, sooty grunter and an abundant population of freshwater crocodiles.

Giekie Gorge

 

The contrasting colours of Giekie Gorge

 

Giekie Gorge cliffs

The cliffs of Giekie Gorge: flood heights graphically indicated by lower sections of bleached limestone. Floods as high as 16 metres have been recorded in the Gorge.

crocodile at Giekie gorge

 

Fresh water crocodiles abound along the Gorge, soaking in the sun on rock ledges and outcrops.

crockodiles

 

...not an island to be marooned on !!

 

Tunnel Creek National Park

Leaving Giekie Gorge, we passed back through Fitzroy Grossing stopping briefly to refuel before heading north west on the Great Northern Highway.

About 43km out we found the turn off to Winjana Gorge National Park and left the black top for yet another stretch of unsealed road and the potholes and corrugations and dips it concealed.

After driving 70km or so, much of it spent winding through country accentuated by the striking limestone ridges and formations of the Devonian Reef National Park, we reached Tunnel Creek National Park.

Scrambling over large polished limestone boulders, we excitedly reached the the mouth of the tunnel...only to be held up from our exploration whilst we patiently waited for a tour group to exit...slowly emerging from the tunnel like munchkins from a box.

Armed with two torches, one supposedly for a backup, we sloshed along the soggy sandy floor and through the shallow cool waters of Tunnel creek, marveling at the way it had cut a cavern some 750 metres or so long, right through the Napier Range to form this phenomenon.

The main torch had a beam that could reach to the moon and sear the hairs off a mosquito's back from the distance of a kilometre...but unfortunately it also had a limited capacity to light the way...like about five minutes.

Or put another way...about half the way into the tunnel !!

Nevermind...we thought...we'll use Plan B.

...the backup torch turned out to be about as useful as the luminous dial on my watch in lighting the way.

However,with its feeble beam taking some of the guesswork out of 'beating a retreat' we were able to grope and fumble our way back to the tunnel entrance...armed with photographic evidence of our escapades.

 

Tunnel Creek

 

A collapsed section of the roof provides a view of the cavern Tunnel Creek has cut through the limestone reef of the Napier Range

Tunnel Creek by torchlight

 

Tunnel Creek by torchlight...our backup torch !!

Winjana Gorge National Park

Located about 25km from Tunnel Creek, Winjana Gorge National Park provides a great spot to camp...but you pay for the privilege..$9.00 per person per night.

The camping area is nestled at the foot of the imposing limestone cliffs of the Napier Range and near the the head of the 3.5km long Winjana Gorge.

The Gorge was created by the Lennard River forging a path through the fossil rich limestone reefs that gave birth to the Napier Range about 380 million years ago in the Devonian Period.

The reefs evolved from the deposition and build up of the calcareous skeletons of millions of lime secreting organisms and corals; a number of which are present today as fossils.

We set off a little after dawn to tackle the walk through the Gorge and to explore its diversity of flora and fauna.

It wasn't long before we encountered a sandbar, completely surrounded by water, and populated by dozens of dozing freshwater crocodiles. Further along the track we saw several individual specimens, all brazenly basking in the sun along the waters edge...totally unperturbed by our presence.

...a spectacle that reminded me of Parliament...carcasses harmlessly dozing about...but waiting to strike at the first opportunity.

Deviating from the established pathway, and the right bank of the Gorge that was now bathed in full sunlight, we decided to cross a sandbar to the other side in order to capture some photographs of the illuminated cliffs.

Mission accomplished, and being the pioneer types that we are...idiots might be a more accurate description...we proceeded to trek back to the mouth of the Gorge on the left bank...pushing our way through virgin scrub and wading through long grass....ever vigilant for snakes and other opportunistic crawlies with a craving for our soft white flesh.

Then...just as the South Pole was in sight...we were robbed of our ultimate victory...stopped by mother nature...who had conspired against us by depositing a cluster of huge, unassailable ghoolies between the cliff face and the water's edge.

Idiots though we may be...we were not going to brave the crocodile soup to get to our ultimate destination...so defeated, we retraced our route to the established pathway on the other side of the Gorge...doubling our journey's distance.

Boab trees Winjana Gorge National Park

 

Boab trees frame the roadside on the way to Winjana Gorge National Park

Winjana Gorge

 

Steep limestone cliffs bordering Winjana Gorge

freshwater crocodiles

 

One of many freshwater crocodiles encountered along the banks of Winjana Gorge.

fresh water crocodiles

 

A community of dozing freshwater crocodiles on a sandbank in Winjana Gorge

 

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