Monday, 20 August 2012

20-24 August 2012 - Derby & Windjana Gorge

Drove from Fitzroy Crossing to Derby. Only two campgrounds in Derby and one 'is not suitable for children'! Not sure how they get away with that in this day and age.  The main caravan park, The Entrance, is very large but very expensive so we went on an unpowered site ($37 for 2A + 1C, they gave us one child free when I gasped at the initial quote of $42 for an unpowered site!).  It turned out to be quite a good site and most people coming from the Gibb River Road stay in unpowered sites so we saw a huge range of different camper trailer set ups come and go over our 4 days there.  Some set up and pack up really efficiently, some of just a very fancy tent on wheels! One odd thing about the caravan park though was that it had no pool!  This is unbelievable given it's location (and it's prices!).  I'd better not get started about caravan park fees and what you get (or don't get) for your money or I could be here for hours!!
Derby has a good information centre, 3 well stocked supermarkets (including a Woolies), a bakery and a number of good casual restaurants.  I had one of the best cups of coffee on the trip thus far at the coffee shop opposite the caravan park.  There is also a good art gallary - Mark Norval.   The tourist sites include the prison boab tree which is fenced.  We actually thought the prison boab tree near Wyndham was more impressive, maybe because you could get right up to it and peer inside.   For us, the most impressive site was the jetty at high and low tides.  In fact, Derby has Australia's largest tides.  You wouldn't believe how much water comes in until you see it.   Larry tried his luck fishing from the jetty but the tide was so quick it pulled his line around the jetty.  The locals were using raw red meat as bait.
The whole town is surrounded by mud flats so it's quite an odd place geographically.  The mudflats do make for spectacular sunsets as there are no trees or hills, just an endless flat horizon. 
From Derby we did a day trip to Windjana Gorge, about 120km sealed and the last 20km gravel. Windjana Gorge is sometimes described as 'the other great barrier reef' as this was all underwater millions of years ago. During the dry season, the river level drops quite low and a white sandy beach is revealed.  There's no swimming though as hundreds of freshwater crocs share the water.  We followed the walking and saw plenty of crocs, mostly just lazing on the banks.   While we enjoyed the Gorge, we all thought it was a long way to travel to then have to walk in the steaming heat and not be able to swim!!
Travel tips: Combine Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek in one day trip from either Fitzroy Crossing or Derby. If you have an off-road camper/tent, Windjana Gorge has a national park camping ground with toilets etc.  Try to time your visit to Windjana in the late afternoon when there is more shade. While in Derby, watch a sunset with some wine and cheese from the jetty!
Low tide at Derby jetty. The water laps the bottom of the top of the jetty at high tide.

The dry riverbed at Windjana Gorge

You can see a couple of cros at the end of the water. There were also pleny lazying in the sun on the opposite bank.

Walking on the dry riverbed.  The gorge walls you can see were once permanently under water years ago and formed an oceanic reef. 

The walls of the reef are compacted shells.

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