Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fitzroy Crossing

Fitzroy Crossing

After all the pain of getting the camper back onto the truck, we chose to have a night of comparative luxury by staying in The Old Crossing Inn.  On arrival, the scene was like a Mutu bar in the slums of Nairobi.  No reception open, but grilled bars to the entrance of the liquor area.  Fortunately at 6.00pm, the bar closes for the day, and most people vanished.  We retired to our room, to find it clean and presentable.  

In the morning, we woke to discover that our verandah overlooked the Fitzroy River.  The sun was just rising and creating beautiful mirrored images of the overhanging trees in the water.

From Fitzroy Crossing, it was a quick and easy trip to Geikie Gorge.  Here we went on a boat up the Fitzroy River, through the gorge.  The cliffs are Old Devonian Reef beds that have been eroded away by thousands of years of water erosion to create the gorge.  This is where you are able to see loads of freshwater crocodiles either soaking in the river or sunning themselves on the sand banks and ledges.  The cliffs are tinted bright orange up high, but have white and pink tinges indicating the high water levels during the wet.

That night we camped at the RAAF Boab Quarry site.  We had the best spot overlooking the quarry, which is very deep and is filled with the cleanest and clearest water imaginable.  A swim, soon freshened us up!

Peter raided all the past camp fires for spent coals and together with the small amount of firewood we had collected, we soon had a great campfire. We shared our fire with another camper, who is a lecturer at UWA, in anatomy.

We left early in the morning after another refreshing swim, so that we could reach Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge in the one day.

Tunnel Creek is very interesting.  An above ground creek has eroded the Devonian Reef below ground, so that the creek now runs in the passageways that it has created.  The tunnel runs for about 750 metres.  This means that you need to take a very strong torch with you as you walk through waist high water through a series of underground chambers.  Fortunately the chambers are all cavernous, so it is not as claustrophobic as you would imagine.  The tunnel does, however become pitch black, hence the need for strong torches.  

We were lucky enough to see a Cherubum (fresh water lobster) swimming close to our feet, as well as small fish and tiny fruit bats.  We felt very brave after we had finished the walk and emerged back at the entrance again.  Both Peter and I are claustrophobic!

From Tunnel Creek to Windjana Gorge is just another 50 klms, through a series of water-filled creek crossings.  It was at Windjana, that we planned to spend the night.  

Close to the showers was a perfect bower built by the  male Great Bower Bird.  He was in residence and trying to attract a mate!  To our delight he danced and sang and rearranged his collection of white objects.  On his head he has coarse flat feathers that he opens up, to display a vivid purple cap. Eventually after much dancing and singing and coaxing, a female finally alights on the ground outside of the bower.  He became very excited and danced even more frenetically. Then when the female poked her head into the bower, he moved to the other end of the bower so that all she see was his purple display feathers.  He was in luck this day, because eventually the female went right inside the bower, so he flew off to show her his nest!  

Our information incorrectly advised us that the rangers provided firewood, here.  So we were very disappointed to find that this was not the case!  However a set of fellow campers allowed us to share their fire and we had a really lovely evening with two other couples!  We cooked a delicious roast in the camp oven and with the others, shared our fresh vegetables, that we has purchased in Broome at the market.

At 5.30am we got up to do an early walk of the Windjana Gorge. It was very special because for the first 5 klms we were the only walkers on the track.  As a result we saw the fresh water crocs still sleeping at the bottom of the river. We also surprised a pair of Ospreys, some magnificent kingfishers and a very large heron-looking bird that had  dark blue wings.  On the walk back as the sun was starting to shine into the gorge, the crocs started to drift towards the sandy banks to sun themselves. The cliffs lit up with the sun's rays showing themselves as bright orange.

A leisurely breakfast and then the drive to Bell Gorge and Silent Grove. The road into the Conservation Park was very corrugated with small sharp stones. The further we drove in, the worse became the road.  We traversed through two seriously deep water-filled creek crossings as well as deep dry stone crossings, before getting to Silent Grove. A further 10klms took us to Bell Gorge. 

After a short, rocky walk and wades through creeks, we reached Bell Gorge.  It is spectacular, with a series of majestic waterfalls and deep water holes that have been carved by the water through granite. On the way down, we came across a Martens Water Monitor, sunning himself on a large rock beside one of the water crossings. He was totally unafraid of us and allowed me to take a close up photograph of him.  We swam in the top pool for some time.

Our camp that night was at Silent Grove, a former out station for the main property.  It has permanent water supplied by a spring that runs beside the camp. There are some exotic trees planted here, including a prolific mango and some quinine trees. Very few other people came to the camp, so it was really peaceful and lovely.  We had the pick of all the sites, under some really shady trees and next to a concrete fire pit.  So we could use the camp oven and boil the billy.

Our neighbour was a lone bike rider, traveling on a BMW 1200. He told us he had only fallen off 10 times! He's either very brave or very foolhardy!

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