Thursday, September 6, 2018

To Fitzroy Crossing -- 3 Sep 2018

Today might be described as "a taste of ..."  I will explain!

Started out after an early breakfast at the hotel, and soon had my first taste of the infamous Gibb River Road.  To my surprise, the first 50km was top quality sealed surface.  The next 30km was on a side track beside the main road which was being restructured and sealed, speed limit 40 kph much of the way.  The remaining 40km to the Leopold Downs turnoff was OK gravel.  I set the cruise control to the recommended 70 kph and found that the car handled the corrugations relatively smoothly in 4WD.  Had to watch for sandy patches though, especially on corners, to avoid swerving.  

The Leopold Downs road is all gravel and not as well maintained as the Gibb River Rd was -- but still able mostly to keep a steady 70 kph.  21 km along I reached the first stop of the day:  Windjana Gorge.  Here I came face to face with the Devonian Reef, a quite spectacular geologic feature that rises out of the flat surrounds of the Kimberley Savannah.  360 million years ago all this area of the Kimberley was submerged below a shallow sea.  Over the centuries a barrier reef was formed that stretched from beyond today's Fitzroy Crossing to near Derby and out to sea.  In time that land surface  lifted and the sea drained away, leaving the reef rising between 100 and 300 metres from the old sea bed as a limestone range.  It has a quite startling aspect to it.  At Winjana Gorge the Lennard River has carved a path through the reef, creating a gorge with sheer cliff walls.  The many layers of coral that formed the reef lie exposed in the cliff face.  Apparently the area is a treasure trove for scientists who continue to uncover fossil remains of prehistoric sea life here.  

I did the first 1km of the gorge walk to get a taste of its bird and animal life, as well as to admire the beauty of the towering limestone walls.  The river at this time of year consists of a series of billabongs.  In the first I counted 10 freshwater crocodiles lazing in the water, and a couple sunning themselves on the beach.  I kept my distance on the high bank.  Signs assure the visitor that the crocs are not aggressive unless you get between them and the water!  I didn't attempt to check that out.

A little further along the road are the ruins of the Lillimooloora police station.  In the 1890s the local Aboriginal people fought against the pastoralists taking over their land.  This isolated police outpost was an effort to offer protection to the settlers.  In 1894 a local Aboriginal working as a tracker changed sides and set prisoners free, murdered the police sergeant and stole all the weapons.  He then led the police and pastoralist a merry dance for a couple of years before he was finally cornered and shot dead at Tunnel Creek.  Hard to imagine a policman's life back then so far from the nearest town and with just a couple of horses and a tracker to help.

40km further down the road is the Tunnel Creek national park.  Here the creek has worn away a 750 metre cave through the Devonian Reef that the adventurous can wade through.  I went all prepared with torch and flip flops, but all I was to get was a taste of the tunnel.  The entrance is reached by scrambling over a series of huge boulders which my legs had nowhere near enough strength to handle.  So reluctantly I had to make a strategic withdrawal.

The remaining 30km of gravel to meet up with National Highway 1 was uneventful.  Back on the 110 kph highway was a short 40km run into Fitzroy Crossing.  The Fitzroy River is the largest in Western Australia, over 500km in length from its origin in the Durack Ranges to its mouth at Derby and King Sound.  Until 1974 the national highway would frequently be blocked for weeks in the wet season by flooding on the low level crossing.  A single lane high level bridge now eases that problem.  The township is quite small, some 1500 people.  Lots of Aboriginal industry apparent.  Several of the nearby cattle stations are run by Aboriginal communities. 

After checking in to the Fitzroy River Lodge (all the motel rooms are on stilts in case it rains too heavily!) I drove 20km out to Geikie Gorge National Park.  The river has permanent flow here and an 80 seat sightseeing boat takes on for an hour's float up and down a very scenic stretch.  The commentary by a local indigenous ranger lady was excellent, and she took the boat very close to the gorge walls to point out interesting features.  A nice relaxing end to the day's travels.  A rather expensive dinner in the Lodge's restaurant has me ready for bed!

Relevant photos can be viewed here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I get tired reading what you have safely.....ox P

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