The road to Fitzroy Crossing and beyond is long and parts of it are gravel and the soil very red. This makes for quite stunning colours everywhere even though the car gets covered in a fine silt.
We had heard about China Wall near Hall’s Creek and decided to make a little detour to see what it was all about. Located on a private property, we had to enter through the station gate and drive on a rough track for about six kilometres and suddenly, there it was!
This was so surprising and is a natural vein of sub-vertical white quartz rising up to 6 metres above the surrounding country in some places. It rises high out of the ground and then disappears again only to reappear further on. Apparently it transects the country for many kilometres but we only saw this section.
Aborigines have a theory about how this came about but for us, it was just a fabulous little detour to witness a wall similar to the Great Wall only right here in the Outback!
We came across many more termite mounds but these were a different shape and I have to admit a fascination for them. A local told us that the Aborigines used them as a burial place for their dead by placing the remains of the deceased inside the mound which would then be sealed naturally by termite activity. Thus these formations are sacred to many tribes and explains why, in some places especially in the Northern Territory, we saw mounds with clothes placed over them – a t shirt, cap or a dress.
Fitzroy Crossing was our next stop and this place I remember from my road trip way back in 1969. There wasn’t much there then but now it is quite a thriving community which serves the stations in the area – many of which are now owned by Indigenous groups. It is very, very dry at the moment, so the mighty Fitzroy River looked a bit sad.
We did see some water birds making most of the calm conditions.
I also remember doing a little boat trip down Geikie Gorge when I stayed on Fossil Downs Station all those years ago. The gorge runs through part of the station and I remember being awestruck by the cliffs and the colours of the rock. Sadly there were no boat tours available yesterday but we walked down to the water’s edge and looked at Linyjiya Rock – or Old Man’s Rock – the story here from the Dreamtime is that an old, blind elder left his tribe to go wandering and drowned. He sneezed and sighed before he sank to the bottom and it is said that if you sit quietly and listen, you will hear the sighs of the old man.
We left the gorge and continued on the gravel road towards Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge before joining the Gibb River Road. Along a very lonely stretch we came across a young man on a bicycle. We stopped to see if he was OK only to learn that he was actually cycling to Kununurra some 550km away along the notoriously rough stretch of road. No smooth riding for him! We gave him cold water, learned he was from the UK and decided he must be mad – but a very happy mad man!
This is Boab country and as we neared Tunnel Creek National Park we drove into a landscape peppered with black rocks, cliffs and hilly mounds. This is an ancient 350 million year old Devonian Reef and is now part of the WA National Parks.
Tunnel Creek itself is a 750m long underground water worn natural tunnel and it is possible to wade all the way through. We opted to walk to the entrance and learn the stories that lie beneath the walls.
Jandamarra was a young man of the Banuba tribe at the time of white colonisation of the Kimberley. He became entangled in a war between two worlds. He learnt English and worked with stock, horsemanship and shooting. However he became greatly attracted to the secret life of the Banuba male world of ritual, secret sites, mythology and the law of the Banuba country. He left the station and took up life with the tribe but then returned to station life, turning his back on his Aboriginality. Finally he went back to the tribe and led a resistance against the settlers. In 1894 he tragically shot his friend, the white policeman he had worked with for years, released prisoners and distributed weapons. An armed resistance followed and Jandmarra was killed here at Tunnel Creek. The area is obviously very sacred to the indigenous people but is also one of interest and history to everyone.
The entrance to the tunnel where Jandamarra hid
We went on to Windjana Gorge which is part of the Jandamarra story and is an open air gorge through the Lennard River. There are beautiful rock formations and freshwater crocodiles, birds, bats and other wildlife as well as amazing fossils which I managed to find. The entrance to the gorge is narrow and would have been a perfect hideout for Jandamarra and his gang.
The gorge itself is quite dry but the little water there is had a few little crocodiles as well as a number of water birds searching for food.
The rock formations are impressive and the shady areas along the water are a respite from the intense heat of the day.
With our minds full of history of the past and totally absorbed by the beauty of the area and tired from walking the trails, we went back to the car and headed on to our next stop – the little town of Derby.