17.06.2012 - 17.06.2012
Today was the day of our Tunnel creek walk. I'd been looking forward to this since I first read the itinerary. The notion of a creek flowing all the way through a limestone mountain, carving a tunnel large enough to walk through, was really interesting.
It was better than my imaginings. We began by climbing over pink marble boulders before entering the cave along the bottom of which runs Tunnel Creek. At times the footing is sandy, elsewhere it's discrete river smoothed rocks or shelves of pitted limestone. Sometimes the bottom is dry but you're often in the creek, rarely more than knee deep, but sometimes to the bottom of hitched up board shorts...unless you've got ducks disease...
We saw a frog (it jumped passed Karen as she entered the cave eliciting a squeal), a ghost bat, and a small fresh water croc. We took a slight detour around 1/3 of the way in and went up into a smaller cave to look at some stalagmites / tites and columns including one crystallised section. A little further on the roof of the tunnel had eroded away allowing sunlight in but soon it was back to the darkness broken only by our (for some of us pretty feeble) torches.
It's about 720m long end to end. We got there at about 8:40am. At the far end we checked out some more rock art and then heard the tale of Jandamarra and the battle of Windjana gorge.
After we returned through the tunnel we set out for Derby on the western coastline. As we travelled we saw various birds including some buzzards which have learnt to work in pairs to eat emu eggs. One flies down, attacking and annoying the emu until the emu finally leaves its nest to chase the buzzard away. Then the other buzzard swoops in behind and rolls the emu egg away until it can find a way to crack it on or with a rock. The other buzzard finds it and together they eat the contents of the egg.
About 90km away from Derby the countryside just flattens out. About 75km out, we saw another massive boab and some termite mounds that looked like they used to be taller but had melted in the heat and sagged downward to form bulbous protrusions on their side. Adam likened them to dinosaur droppings.
We were in Derby for lunch and saw Derby's leaning boab, the semicircular pier, the signs that describe Derby's 11m tides (apparently the 2nd biggest in world), a boab that had been used as a prison tree for captive aboriginals during a sad period in our history when black-birding was rife, and what was once the longest horse trough in the southern hemisphere.
After Derby we drove on and crossed the mighty Fitzroy river which is over 620 km long and, when in flood, gets over 11km wide and moves the 2nd highest volume of flood water in the world after the Nile. It's also one of the last habitats for a species of saw tooth fish.
Just after 3 we stopped at a BP roadhouse where Adam gave those of us in the back seat one last big bump to remember him by. We continued on to Broome where we had a look at the sea from one of the headlands and then, shortly after 5, we were sitting at the other end of town on the northern end of Cable Beach (along with many others in 4wd vehicles - all pretty puny when compared to our 13 tonne 4wd truck) waiting for the sunset.
With the wide white sandy beach, beautiful water, gentle waves and camel trains silhouetted against the sunset it was a beautiful end to an incredible road trip across the top end.
Then we went and checked in to our various hostels / hotels, showered and met up for a final dinner - all looking markedly different to the scraggly dust covered crew that had come out of the Kimberleys an hour or two before.
Final stop for the oldies? Bed! The youngin's went off to the beach, 6 packs in hand to party on.