WINDJANA GORGE

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At the southern end of the Gibb River Road is the Napier Range. It is a big chunk of eroded limestone  left over from a, once submerged, coral Reef.

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Napier Range at Windjana Gorge

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The limestone walls in the gorge have eroded into unusual shaped caves and caverns. There are fossils of ancient marine creatures embedded in many of the limestone walls.

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A permanent water course cuts through the Napier Range to form Windjana Gorge. Large drifts of sand, thick vegetation and sheer sided walls make an early morning walk through the gorge pretty spectacular.

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Late afternoon is a good time to spot crocodiles. The waterholes are full of reasonably timid fresh water crocs. Occasionally a salty will find it way there after the wet, so swimming is not a good idea.

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This old croc lost part of his top jaw in a fight. A common disability with fresh water crocs. We saw the croc below in Kununurra. He has a large piece of his lower jaw missing.

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Helpful, informative sign – Windjana National Park.

MT. ELIZABETH

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Mt Elizabeth Cattle station was first established by pioneer cattleman, Frank Lacy and his wife Theresa, in 1946. It is still run by Franks son Peter and his wife Pat. In recent years, as well as running around 6000 head of cattle, they have opened an area of the station to camping.

Mt. Elizabeth contains some great examples of both Wandjina and Bradshaw Rock Art. We made arrangments with the Lacy’s to visit some of these sites along the track to Walcott Inlet.

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Mt Elizabeth is typical of the west Kimberley landscape – lightly wooded, pandanus lined creeks and sandstone outcrops.

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The Walcott Inlet track has many creek crossings but, at the end of the dry, most are fairly shallow.

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The Rock Art sites are scattered through the landscape, usually on protected sandstone overhangs.

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As in many rock art galleries, the underside of horizontal overhangs are a common painting surface, offering best protection from the elements.

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The subject and style of the paintings on Mt. Elizabeth vary considerably. There are seemingly light hearted images of figures and animals, such as the dancers above, as well as abstracted, symbolic figures like those below.

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Others, even after thousands of years, are just plain scary.

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The oldest examples on Mt. Elizabeth are the enigmatic Bradshaw Paintings. Their meaning and origin still a complete mystery.

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Linework on the Bradshaws is really fine and delicate compared to the Wandjina style paintings.

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Here, old Bradshaw paintings have been overpainted with Wandjina images

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Some of the more abstract Wandjina paintings are incredibly beautiful and simple.

Distribution of the paintings is interesting. There are large galleries containing many paintings varying in style and subject. At some sites you would expect to find numerous paintings but just one small image will be found, tucked into an obscure corner.



GIBB RIVER ROAD

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The drive from Kununurra to Derby can be done via a thousand kilometre stretch of sealed road through Turkey Creek, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. The other option is the Gibb River Road –  seven hundred kilometres of dust and corrugations that link the bulk of the Kimberley cattle stations. This road also gives access to some incredibly beautiful gorges and waterholes and cuts through some of the most spectacular mountain ranges imaginable.

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The spectacular Cockburn Range skirts the northern end of the Gibb River Road.

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Catching the late afternoon sun in this area is something  special.

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The Pentecost River is the major river crossing along the Gibb River Road and the last to open after the wet. What appears to be a large white rock on the downstream side of the crossing is the roof of one of Home Valley’s Landcruisers.

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View towards the coast across the floodplains of the Pentecost River.

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Gibb River grader – no wonder the road is so rough!

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The Durack River is another of the many river crossings. At the end of the dry season it is reduced to a string of picturesque waterholes.

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Another victim of the corrugations. Heavy impact fractured the sidewall plies. Fortunately we spotted it before the tyre blew.

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Half way along the Gibb River Road is Mt. Barnett Roadhouse. From here a track leads in to Manning Gorge. A great spot to camp, swim and walk.

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Accessing the main Gorge requires swimming across the Manning Creek. White foam boxes are provided to transport clothes, cameras etc.

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Manning Gorge is a large clear pool fed by a waterfall and surrounded by tall sandstone cliffs.

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Galvans Gorge is another beautiful, clear waterhole surrounded by sandstone walls. Clean water and no crocodiles make it great place to dive in and cool off.

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Wandjina paintings can be seen on the walls of the gorge.

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Further down the Gibb River Road is the turn off to Adcock Gorge. We camped there 27 years ago and the area was strewn with rubbish. No surprise, the station owners have stopped people camping there now.

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Deep, clear water – Adcock Gorge

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We found this old blue tongue trying to disguise himself as a rock on the road.

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Towards the Southern end of the Gibb River Road is the King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park. There is good camping at Silent Grove and, further up the track, Bell Gorge.

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The main pool and falls at Bell Gorge are reached by climbing over the escarpment and following markers down into the gorge.

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Bell Gorge was one of the few gorges to still have a fair flow of water over the falls this late (September) in the dry.

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The southern end of the Gibb River Road crosses the King Leopold Ranges before cutting through the Napier Range. Beyond the Napier Range is sealed road through to Derby, or turning left leads to Windjana Gorge

STRANGE FORMATIONS

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I woke early one morning at El Questro and went for a walk up towards the escarpment of the Cockburn Ranges. I followed a narrow winding gully and came across this weird rock shelf.

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It was formed in sedimentary layers, the underlying layer having the appearance of tidal ripples. Covering this was, what appears to be, a series of layers of flat mud turned to solid rock.

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The really strange thing was the numerous fist sized oval depressions in this top layer.

The depressions are formed in rows and are evenly spaced.

They appear to have been formed when the mud layers were soft, but have hardened to dense, solid rock

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This shot seems to indicate that the depressions were pressed into several layers of soft mud.

What caused the depressions?

The following day Jan, from our workshop group, came up with me to have a look. Jan has a background in science and a keen interest in geology – her son and his partner are both geologists. We scratched our heads and came up with various theories, but will wait til Jan gets some photos and samples back to her son for a more knowledgable analysis.

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 4

PURNULULU – BUNGLE BUNGLES

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Our group flew to the Bungle Bungles from Kununurra in three small planes

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From the air the beehive domes form an amazing labyrinth.

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On the ground we met our guides and were taken by 4WD truck to a couple of interesting walks

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At ground level, the domes are massive

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Cathedral walk took us into an enormous cavern with a small opening at the top. Wet season run off pours in and fills the pool and creek. The acoustics in this cavern were incredible, and well demonstrated by our flute playing guide.

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Picanini Creek

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Horizontal stripes in the sandstone are formed by bacteria growing in the alternate, more porous, layers. As the bacteria dies the stone turnes black. The orange stripes are oxidised layers of white sandstone.

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As we waited to fly back, a taxiing plane smothered us in dust – the disadvantage of an outdoor air terminal.

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The country between Kununurra and the Bungle Bungles is magnificent. Flying back as the sun was setting was just amazing.

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Argyle diamond mine

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Lake Argyle and the Carr Boyd Ranges

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Sunset landing