Kimberly Region, Australia
As I write and share with you my final article, I see it fitting to give you the most recent account of my current expedition within the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. I have traversed just under 2,500km to capture and cover the national parks within this vast landscape, which also uncovers one of the hidden gems from the past.
The most prominent of which is the Devonian “Great Barrier Reef”- a Limestone belt that extends up to 350km over land and can reach up to 300m high. An ancient reef that is said to be around 360 million years old and was much larger than today’s Great Barrier Reef, a reef that I have just driven through in awe. Looking around at this mega geological wonder, you can’t help but imagine what it must have been like. The most amazing thing though, is that I am technically standing almost 350m deep in a dried up seabed – It’s hard to get your head around that. The Devonian reef is said to have hovered between 10 – 30 metres deep, and was home to a huge majority of the ancient world’s marine species. Fossils are everywhere and even though a lot of the reef today has been hammered by changing weather patterns and carved by flood waters, it has created an ecosystem that is unlike anything found in the rest of Australia.
The limestone ranges have helped create an array of creeks, caves, gorges, freshwater springs and waterfalls. Since the solid rock can withstand the tests of time and the weaker sediments gave way to the carvings of it, the unique ecosystem of the Kimberley Region was created. Nowadays you have two major routes to explore this limestone belt; primarily the Gibb river track, but you can also explore parts through the Savannah Highway. The Savannah way is a tarmaced track with quite a few options to jump off on a 4wd track, whilst the Gibb River way is all unsealed track with a lot of heavy duty 4wd tracks to explore.
I explored most of the Northern parts of the Gibb and Savannah back in December and January, but it was wet season and a lot of areas were closed off. So I’ve returned to conquer it all. Bear in mind that the whole Kimberley Region covers around 424,000 km ² and it’s the end of the dry season, which means that temperatures can reach 45 degrees Celsius and the humidity is slowly kicking in again in preparation for the wet season. It was no easy feat having to deal with long drives, maintaining my 4wd home in the heat and heavily corrugated tracks, long treks with full camera gear and dealing with a variety of uncomfortable insect situations. I’m laughing at the thought of you reading this last part, but I can guarantee you that there is much more to enjoy and take in than the challenges you can face. Remember that at least three of those challenges are solely of my choice for the circumstances I have put to task.
As I conquered tracks such as the Duncan, Purnululu, Silent Grove, Lennard Gorge, Leopold Downs, Fairfield and others, I was always mesmerised by the vastness of the landscape, the stark contrasts of colours and the sheer manner in which the Devonian Reef is exposed amongst this terrain. The best of all though, without a doubt, is the night sky.
The stars are enough to keep you up all night and the dream time stories that you hear from the Aborigines who walked these lands for thousands of years just spark the imagination.The Aborigines have a close connection to the land that they live in, understanding how to move around and live off of the harsh environment. I’ve only had the opportunity to listen to a fraction of the stories that are out there and what that does is give you a profound respect for the environment. Every gorge you explore, every cave you shine your light in, every viewpoint you cast your eyes from will leave you in awe of the natural beauty of the planet.
The whole Gibb route is jam-packed with tracks to explore that will show you something great. Most notable, in my opinion, are Bells Gorge, Tunnel Creek, Gieke Gorge, Manning Gorge, Winjana Gorge and the Mitchel Plateau. Only 800km to the Southeast at Purnululu can you encounter yet another set of awe-inspiring geological features. There are two ranges called the Bungle Bungle and Osmand Ranges, and it is the Bungle Bungles that captures the attention of most that come this way. Don’t let the tedious and heavy-duty track to get there put you off, because once you arrive within the ranges you will realise that it was worth every bend and bump.
Made up of sandstone and conglomerates, these distinctive bee-hived shaped cones, gorges and deep chasms will take three days alone to cover but I would recommend taking five. The combined effects of wind from the Tanami Desert and rainfall over millions of years shaped the domes. Weathering also helped create this marvel. Water seeps into the rock, and at night it expands as it gets colder. This creates small cracks, which eventually wear out the rock. Another prominent component that creates the distinctive layers in the cones is the iron deposits.
If you want to feel like you’ve experienced a real life, “land before time”, then this is the place. Take some good time off, hire a 4wd camper and hit the tracks. It will hopefully change your life and give you more value and appreciation of the planet. Let this world be your playground.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Marc Casolani