After setting up camp and having lunch, we jumped back into the 4WD and headed the 30 kilometers back to the King Leopold Range, and to Tunnel Creek. Wow! Tunnel Creek is a river that flows under a mountain, and, with a bit of wading (from mid-calf to about chest deep) and scrambling over rocks, it is possible to traverse the half-mile distance of the tunnel, to the far side of the mountain range.
I had forgotten to bring my flashlight, so Athena and I stuck close together, which benefited both of us–she was nervous in the water, and I needed her light. We scrambled down a tumble of quartz and pink-and-white marble to the mouth of the tunnel. The roof was high, and, in places, decorated with stalactites. We waded into the chilly water, flashlights barely piercing the intense darkness, and we picked our way in and out of the water and along boulders and sand spits, stopping to admire caves and look for “freshies” (freshwater crocodiles—the crocodiles that don’t kill humans).
About half way up the tunnel, a light became visible and grew brighter till it was daylight, where a wall had caved in. There was an immense, braided, fig-tree root reaching from the cliffs above, through the break and into the water in the tunnel. Remarkable. We climbed over the rocks of the collapsed wall and continued up the tunnel, back into the darkness.
The end of the tunnel was a wonderful, bell-shaped opening that let out into a narrow gorge, where trees crowded around the clear stream emanating from the mountainside.
We splashed and chatted for a while, then headed back through the astonishing tunnel. We stopped at one point and all turned off our lights, to see how truly dark it was–and it was, totally.
Continuing on, we saw a yabby (a freshwater crustacean–like a crawdaddy, only much bigger) perched on one of the sand spits. The sound of falling water drew our flashlights to a far wall, where a small cascade sparkled as it descended. Eerie, lovely, and strange.
Definitely an odd little adventure, walking under a mountain, chest-deep in water and quite dependent on our flashlights working. But some fascinating things to see.
I had decided to not take my camera through the tunnel, which was absolutely the right decision. So after reemerging, I grabbed my camera bag out of the truck and went back to at least photograph the entrance of Tunnel Creek.