Continuing on from Fitzroy Crossing toward the coast we travelled with the smell and smoke of bushfires to the northwest, but safely arrived at Derby where we made our base for a few days to explore the region. We left early the next morning and headed along the red dirt corrugated Gibb River Road again, this time from the opposite end and turned off towards Tunnel Creek National Park.
The 350 million year old Devonian Reefs in this area were startling. Entry to Tunnel Creek was between beautiful pink granite walls and we were able to explore the caves by ourselves. Wading through knee deep cool water to the end of the caves we came across fairly large cave bats hanging from the cave roof and even walked close beside a small freshwater croc resting on the sandbank that we saw his glowing red amber eyes first in our torch beams.
A quick lunch was had beside the old police station that had held the legendary Jindamarra, the aboriginal prisoner who eluded the police by hiding in Tunnel Creek. Then it was into the Windjana Gorge. It was a stifling hot day and we even thought to give it a miss (as we were kind of ‘Gorged out’) but luckily decided to explore further. As we turned a corner of the riverbank we were fascinated to see ancient marine fossils in the gorge walls and then to our surprise came across scores of freshwater crocs of all sizes basking in the river or up on the muddy banks. Knowing that this species isn’t aggressive unless approached too closely we were able to get some great photos and study the creatures at very close range – provided we didn’t get between the crocs and the water!
We slept soundly after an exciting and tiring day and the next morning headed for Broome. We had already booked our Horizontal Falls trip and wanted to get there in plenty of time, so we made the Roebuck Plains roadhouse our home for a while. We spent a couple of days on Cable Beach and had a relaxing day swimming in the clear, turquoise, sparkling water and improving our tans on the white sands of Cable Beach – splashing out on sun lounges and a beach umbrella to make the day perfect. That salty skin feeling on suntouched bodies reminded us of home.
Broome has some of the largest tidal changes in the world and certainly in Australia. Our timing was perfect at Broome as we were able to see the 130 million year old dinosaur footprints during the very low tide at Gantheaume Point. We also spent two nights experiencing the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ phenomenon (a rare moonrise over the low water on the tidal flats). The first night was by ourselves at a secluded spot we discovered and the second night at the Town Beach while enjoying the late night markets.
On the day of our trip to the Horizontal Falls we were met at the Broome visitors centre and taken to meet the sea floatplane that would take us to the Falls. The trip over Cable Beach, across Cape Leveque and the Archipeligo was just stunning with the turquoise blue sea and remote islands. Landing on the waters of Talbot Bay we transferred to the jet boat next for the thrilling ride through two narrow gorges with the tide rushing inwards at an incredible speed creating whirlpools of water and the large horizontal waterfall effect. After a great Barramundi lunch, Carolyne fed the basking sharks from the shark cage on the tour’s pontoon, then we were taken for another trip back and forth through the falls – this time with the tide rushing out to sea again! As we headed back to Broome we flew over the Kooljaman Resort at the end of Cape Leveque where we would be staying in a few days time.
Leaving the van safely stored at the roadhouse campground, we loaded the car with supplies and fuel and headed up Cape Leveque Road. Our first two nights were spent in wonderful solitude on the beach near James Price Point with our tent a few metres from the high water mark. The stars against the blackest of skies was a beautiful sight – the best night sky we had seen so far, and we have seen some beauties! We walked the beach to Quondong Point and just enjoyed the peace, it was magical. Next, we drove up to Kooljaman where we camped with a view of the lighthouse at the end of the Cape and watched the sunsets from the western beach. Two great days were spent on the eastern beach, swimming, reading and sipping cool drinks from the Esky.
On our last day at the Cape, we visited the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm which gave Carolyne the information she needed to buy a pearl which she did the next day at their showrooms at Broome. Here we listened to a pearl expert who told us more about their South Sea pearl farming business, pearling history and pearl quality grading system. He finally opened a live oyster to finish his talk; the oyster incredibly contained a 12mm specimen he said was worth around $2200 which even surprised and delighted him.