Ashlee Kehoe takes you back to a part of her dusty journey on the Gibb River Road.
Western Australias oldest cave system and the famous hide-out used by the late last century Aboriginal Leader 'Jandamarra'...
As you travel along the dusty red corrugations of the Gibb River Road you are bound to witness amazing sights and experience rich history that runs deep through this country. Like a giant artery, the Gibb has many twisting turn offs, each taking you deeper into the bloodlines of the Kimberley’s.
One of the first turn offs we came across was an old rusty sign signalling us on to Windjana Gorge.
Our convey of six cars carrying thirteen people, two dogs and more beer than drinking water pulled into a pit stop on the side of the road. We set up camp, nestled in next to a dried up river bed filled with white gums and stagnant pools of water. Despite spotting crocodile tracks on the banks, the heat got the best of us and we split up to quickly dip in the pools with several croc spotters observing from above.
We were all woken early the next morning by the deafening sound of cockatoos welcoming in the new day. Their raucous festivities were cut short by a gun shot cracking through the air, coming from a mysterious man camping near us. Witnessing this strange old bloke with a gun quickly got us up and moving and we headed in towards Tunnel Creek. The towering red and black limestone of the King Leopold Ranges were a sight to behold as we drove past silver, shimmering Boab trees that stood out like a sore thumb against the rich red of the earth.
Tunnel Creek is a place of significant national history, as the hiding place of Bunuba man and guerrilla fighter Jandamarra. This ancient cave that was once part of a barrier reef in the Devonian period holds an incredible story. Jandamarra is a man of almost mythical status as the leader of one of the longest and most effective resistance campaigns against British settler in the 18th Century. After shooting a police officer in order to free his imprisoned country men, Jandamarra led an active guerrilla style resistance for several years that resulted in a shoot out at Windjana gorge. Escaping but sustaining serious injuries, Jandamarra hid out at Tunnel Creek and led the resistance from the labyrinth of caves for several years until he was eventually shot down by Mingo Mick, a tracker who was believed to have similar mystic powers.
Tunnel Creek is a rough diamond, full of culture, unbelievable stories and amazing natural geography.
As we walked through the cool dark cave that runs for around 700m it is hard not to feel that this is a special place.
Fresh water crocs lurk in the shadows, as you walk through patches of total darkness and silence to come out to the hot sun at the other end. Rock art can be found, and you are left knowing that this ancient place holds within its walls more stories than we can ever know.
Tunnel Creek was a humbling first stop on our Gibb River Road journey and was a beautiful reminder of not only the majestic nature of the Kimberley’s but also the strong, continuing culture and history that runs through these places.
Written By - Ashlee Kehoe