The Kimberley is an untamably wild and deeply spectacular region the size of Poland in Western Australia’s north – the “last frontier” put a spell on Andrew Westbrook
“What time is it?” I mumble grumpily, as I’m shaken from my slumber deep inside my swag, realising the embers from the campfire are still glowing and the black sky remains covered with a carpet of stars. A mystery voice responds “4am”. I’m not impressed.
But then I remember why we’d agreed to be up before dawn – we’re going to see Zebedee, and I don’t mean the bouncy one from The Magic Roundabout.
After a bemused stumble through the bush in the freezing dawn wearing just our swimmers, we’re suddenly there – the Zebedee hot springs.
It feels like we’re a thousand miles from anywhere as we soak in the warm water, drink champagne as the sun rises and generally murmur in agreement that life simply doesn’t get better than this.
We’re halfway through our nine-day tour of the Kimberley, the huge north-western region of Australia that stretches from http://www.tntdownunder.com/chapter/2441565705.html[Broome] almost all the way across to http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2444072602.html[Darwin].
It’s an area that’s home to some of the most remote, most uninhabited and most spectacular scenery Down Under – the sort of place that many travellers dream of seeing, but only a few actually get the chance to experience.
Our multinational group of hopeful adventurers had set off from http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2441469617.html[Broome] a few days earlier. Restless from roasting on Cable Beach, we’d piled into a truck laden with supplies, including of course a life supply of goon, and headed off along the http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2451018533.html[Gibb River Road], perhaps Australia’s greatest 4WD route.
It was a time to say goodbye to Facebook, turn off our phones and charge our cameras for the Kimberley is truly Australia’s final frontier.
One of our first major stops had been Tunnel Creek, a lengthy, water-soaked cave that had once hidden the Aboriginal renegade Jandamarra.
We waded through the deceptively-deep water, unsure what lurked beneath the surface. Unsure that is until our tireless guide Jess mentioned we might see a croc. If we were lucky.
Now, the word “croc” when I’m thigh deep in murky water isn’t generally top of my “words I’d love to hear right now” list. But the reptile in question it seems was a freshwater crocodile, or “freshie”. These apparently are great fun, even verging on cute in comparison to their brutish cousins – the salties.
And so swimming with freshies became my greatest mission in life. Until the next morning at least. Strolling into Windjana Gorge we gaped in awe at the dozens of freshies sunning themselves on the bank, just metres away, and decided that one may be cute, but 30 or so are probably less friendly, especially if you’re in the water with them.
The following days fly by as we cruise from one place to another, admiring the Cockburn Range after criss-crossing the Napier Range, which once upon a time was submerged underwater as if like the http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2451487149.html[Great Barrier Reef]’s older brother.
We trek over ancient sunbaked lands to reach far-flung gorges and swim in refreshing pools, replenished by dramatic waterfalls that haven’t changed for a million years.
At Galvans Gorge we discover a smaller, secluded waterfall, as well as 3,000-year-old rock art. At Manning Gorge we have to swim across a river while protecting all our stuff in waterproof boxes before continuing our trek to the waterfall, where a giant water monitor waits to greet us.
Each day is something new, something that somehow seems even more incredible than the last.