Windjana Gorge

The day’s track
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The Gibb River road starts out of Derby paved, then isn’t sure whether it wants to be paved or not for the first 30 miles.

A couple of flowering plants on our way out. This yellow beauty was common

This little thing had a few Hibiscus and Calochortus characteristics but isn’t either although I’d love to be corrected

The road changes to an inconsistent mostly rock-free surface, sometimes red, sometimes grey, sometimes solid, sometimes loose. But the big story with this road is whether its been graded or not recently. All the material clearly states that the road conditions can go from heaven to hell depending on when it was last graded. The issue is washboard. Or as they call it here, corrugation.

Anyway, the washboard isn’t the very difficult stuff that it can apparently be because it comes and goes and because the road is so wide there is usually a line somewhere. But it isn’t comfy. You might get a mile or it then nothing for the next mile. And the amount of sand on top can go from a few inches to nothing in a similar way. Rarely on the side roads the sand can pile up, but never more than 4 inches or so.

We are still experimenting and getting a feel for how fast and on what lines we should be going through it when we turn off to the Windjana Gorge. The road has a few inches of red sand (not white, later on this) over annoying washboard. This is the worst we see today because of the deeper sand covering, not so bad but requires concentration and a heavy throttle on a bike, easier in a truck. But even so we get overtaken once, which is embarrassing for Lucinda. For which I’m sorry, I tell her

Then we arrive at this stunning Devonian limestone wall, miles long

We park and start the short walk towards it. Really beautiful, out here in the middle of nothing

Up close

Then we get to the gorge. The water level is apparently at the seasonal low.

Here’s the really special thing about this place (one of the many I suppose): this gorge has the largest number of fresh water crocodiles in Australia.

This is the first one we see as we walk the river bank. Not easy to spot sometimes

Then a little further and we’re at the main pool. wow

It takes a few moments to see, but about 30 crocodiles are just below the surface. Here’s a crop of part of the gathering

Here’s one, on this side of the pool. Fantastic animal

This could be a very long post because we took tons of photos but we’ll get to the main event instead. We walk about 300 yards upstream to this location, looking across the stream to this wall, where as the sun lowers is shrieking with the sound of bats.

We wait

Sunset is at 5:30 and the chirping shrieking noise intensifies. Then all of a sudden, at about 6:00 they take fast chaotic flight overhead, out of the gorge to the plains behind us. The numbers are so huge we imagine there must have been a huge cave in the wall behind the trees.

A screen grab photo from video. This fast running river of fruit bats continues for 20 minutes. Maybe millions, probably not, but it felt like it
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I let the little Sony grab some bat randomness, which works well
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And then the third part of this incredible story: many of the bats skim the surface of the pool for water as they fly over. The crocodiles have been waiting. Although the odds of a bat skimming in the location of a croc snout are tiny, the numbers are enough that at any given moment there’s a few surface snaps happening, as the occasional bat is snagged by bad luck.

The surface rings on the far side of the pool here are where bats and crocodile meet. There’s not much light so shutter speed is too long to catch anything in flight or similar detail. There are 2 people here with professional camera equipment and big flashes on tripods catching this amazing moment

Here’s a Google Earth of the mouth of the gorge when the river is running seasonally perhaps a few months from now
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Not much to say after that. Australia continues to discourage description

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