Tag Archives: Windjana Gorge

Trip 3:Sunday, September 3, Part 1

Last night I slept beneath the stars and a quarter moon so bright that I hardly needed a flashlight. The breeze was as gentle and warm as a caress. It was wonderful.

I awoke to the sounds of hundreds of corellas (small, white cockatoos), and to a clear, cool, and steadily brightening sky. I slept relatively well last night—better than in the tent—and felt refreshed, though not eager to rise.
We had a leisurely breakfast, and then, at 7:30 a.m., a chance to hike back to the gorge again, to see it by morning light. I set off on my own, with hat, water bottle, and camera. Windjana is a gentle, sandy gorge, so I could wear sandals instead of hiking boots.

The gorge was even lovelier in the morning light. The water was still and glassy. Dozens upon dozens of corellas were standing at the water’s edge and in the shallows, getting their morning drinks. Other corellas flew over in flocks of varying size, and still others sat in the trees, making an unbelievable amount of noise.

Early morning, Winjana Gorge

Corellas


There was one non-corella among the feathered features. A cormorant that must have been doing some early morning fishing sat on a branch, drying its wings.

A cormorant drying its wings


On the far shore, opposite where I stood, the beach was covered with freshwater crocodiles. A few others floated in the water nearby. Last night, when Belinda and I had gone swimming, we had seen just a couple of freshies a fair bit up the gorge, but now that I saw how many there were, I’m not sure I’d so happily jump in the water with them all. Just a bit daunting to see so many.

Freshwater crocodiles lined the opposite shore


Butterflies and dragonflies fluttered and perched everywhere. Some dragonflies were bright red, others were vivid blue. The butterflies were white with black or brown with white and purple. Actually, we’ve seen numerous butterflies everywhere up here. They have been a great delight to me. The brown butterflies I was seeing today were now familiar companions, having appeared many places—there were dozens at Tunnel Creek in particular. But I have also seen black and electric blue, yellow, orange with black, and white beauties as we’ve crossed the region. Wonderful.

I photographed a lot of things I shot yesterday, but the light is different now. Plus this is a place of such astonishing and strange beauty, I wanted to take as much of it with me as possible, even if just on film. Perhaps it is because it is the last day of the tour that I am being so prolific with my photos—sort of a way of holding on to the place.
By 9:15, I was back in camp. We packed up all our gear, and by 10am, we were on the road. Sigh.

Another blazing hot, crystal-clear morning. As we sped along the road to Derby, the boabs became more numerous. Most of these delightfully strange trees stand alone, but occasionally they occur in little “groves” of four or five trees—probably youngsters sprung up from seeds dropped by the parent tree. Over time, the central or largest boab has pushed the others over simply by getting so huge in girth that it “wins.” Or sometimes, if the boabs are similar in size, it looks like they’re dancing in a ring, and leaning way back.

A lot of short, uninteresting-looking scrub and flat land now surrounded us, as we approached Derby. This is not the most scenic part of the trip. Recent burn-off made some bits look really desolate. Litter and telephone poles were our first indications that we were approaching civilization.

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September 2, Part 3

We headed back the 30 kilometers to where we had set up camp. We had no need to change clothes, as the hot weather had already dried everything after our wade through the tunnel, but we did drop off flashlights before walking the short distance to Windjana Gorge. Tall, mostly black, deeply striated walls, in places touched with red, rose before us, but a short cave in those walls gave us access to the main gorge. Wow.
approachingwindjana
The rock formations were wonderful, black, red, pink, and cream. Weird, knife-pleated stone covered parts of the wall and rose to peaks in some places. It was easy to imagine the formations being at the bottom of their original ocean.
windjana-ancientcoral
The gorge was remarkably beautiful, with clear water down the center, surrounded by pale sand, with paperbark trees and lovely green ivy adding a touch of color.
windjana-boulder-light windjana-reflections

Athena and I hiked for about an hour up the gorge, stopping to photograph freshies and a white egret, vines, trees, the rocks, and glassy water. When we met up with Belinda, we turned back toward the entrance of the gorge. Belinda and I stopped to swim, but Athena was worried about the freshies, so she sat on the beach.
windjana-longview-egret
The most astonishing thing was the cockatoos. There were hundreds upon hundreds of little white cockatoos (corellas). It must be the mating season, because we saw them exchanging “gifts,” rubbing heads, and flapping wings in little dances. They covered the beach, filled the trees, and stood on the cliffs. It was astonishing.

When we got back to camp, I headed for the shower–an outdoor affair, with walls but no roof and only cold water—but it was bliss getting cleaned up. (We got wet in the underground tunnel, but not clean.) Then it was have a cup of tea and circle the chairs around the cooking fire, for another friendly evening.
Butcher birds were very brave, and approached us to see if we might have food to offer. The willy wagtails were on hand, but they were skittish and never got close. Blue-winged kookaburras were nearby, noisy but out of sight. Wonderful.

Among the birds, only the crows are annoying. Two nights running, the crows have destroyed our garbage bags, tearing them apart to look for goodies. It’s not hard to imagine how the expression “Stone the crows” arose. I’m told the crows here will even kill newborn lambs. So not all the birds have endeared themselves.

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Trip 3:Saturday, September 2 Part 1 (of 3)

It is almost inconceivable that the trip is so nearly over. It seems odd, too, that I can spend so much time with people I really like all the while realizing that I’ll probably never see them again. I am battered and bruised and weary, yet I am sorry to have this part of my current Australian odyssey end. It is so fresh and beautiful out here, and though it is hard, it is uncomplicated.

We arose this morning to a noisy flurry of cockatoos. There were a few clouds in the sky, and they were tinged pink by the rising sun. Soon the magpies added their caroling to the other morning sounds.

We were breakfasted, packed, and on the road by 8 a.m., crossing the miles, climbing into the next mountain range, stopping to look back over the plain we’d just crossed.

The mountains rose before and around us, red and stained, in slanted slabs and layers jutting out of the ground, like the bones of the earth with the skin peeled away. I was reminded again that much of what one sees in the Australian landscape is owed to erosion. So, in a way, it is the bones of the earth we were seeing. Up and through Inglis Gap, a pass in the King Leopold Range, and down the other side, to continue our drive to the Napier Range.

From Inglis Gap

From Inglis Gap


King Leopold Range

King Leopold Range

Birds were wonderfully abundant. In trees, on the ground, or on the wing, they were delightful, and we occasionally stopped just to enjoy them. There were galahs, pink and gray and handsome; wompoo pigeons, with their “woop, woop, woop” call: butcher birds, black and white and noisy; a wedge-tailed eagle, always impressive.

We rolled into Windjana Gorge National Park, and this evening’s campsite, around lunchtime.

Camp near Windjana Gorge

Camp near Windjana Gorge

Windjana is cut through the Napier Range, which was once a barrier reef that got thrust up long ago from the ocean floor. The range is Devonian-era limestone, with the outlines of coral polyps and even older pre-coral skeletons still visible in places. The rock is strangely worn, with sharply defined, black pinnacles in some places. Fascinating. I look forward to exploring—later.

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