The Gibb River Road was originally a route to get cattle to drive cattle to market. These days it is 660km’s of dirt track through some of the most spectacular Kimberly country. The road is accessible by four-wheel drive only, and only open during the dry season with road conditions varying greatly and numerous water crossings.
Leaving Derby the first 100km’s of the GRR is sealed road and not far after the bitumen ends is the turn off for Windjana Gorge. This is a national park and has a designated camping area that has flushing toilets and running hot water showers – bliss!
The Windjana Gorge hiking trail follows along the base of a rocky outcrop, mostly in the shade. The river running along side is home to fresh water crocodiles who could be easily seen sunning themselves along the banks. This was an easy and enjoyable walk.
Tunnel Creek is found about thirty kilometers south of the camp ground and we visited during the heat of the afternoon. Preparing ourselves with shoes we could wear wading through the water and a couple of strong torches we entered the tunnel. The air was cool and still. The atmosphere was eerie as the daylight faded behind us. Wading through the dark water, up to thigh deep in some places, came to an opening in the centre of the tunnel system where sunlight comes through. As luck would have it we bumped into a park ranger here who pointed out where we could find some of the aboriginal art works.
Carrying on further up the tunnel we finally emerged into the warm daylight. We paused for a moment to appreciate the peacefulness of the place before returning through the dark tunnels again. Unfortunately we have no photos as we left the camera behind, too worried that we’d drop it in the water.
The first section of the GRR from Windjana to Bell Gorge was pretty easy going and we arrived at Silent Grove campground reasonably early in the day so we headed straight up the road to check out Bell Gorge. An easy hike brought us to the stream crossing. From here the trail got a bit more tricky. We kept going following the path further around and up over the rocky escarpment before descending steeply. Finally we rounded a the bend and were amazed to find Bell Gorge opening out in front of us. A fabulous waterfall and swimming hole. We had prepared and worn our swimmers and were glad to be able to jump in and cool off after hiking in heat of the day.
The water temperature was quite cool, but was not too bad once submerged in the water. After taking a dip we relaxed on the warm rocks before noting that the sun was getting close to disappearing over the lip of the gorge. We headed back, arriving in camp just before sundown.