Although the Gibb River Road had formally ended when I dashed to Kununurra to get a battery replacement for the car, leaving El Questro we turned north towards Wyndham, home of the Big Croc, with the intention of seeing the five rivers lookout. It was nice to be driving on bitumen again.
The Grotto is a deep pool in a small gorge just off the road to Wyndham. Over a hundred steps take you to a little swimming oasis. Steep cliffs line the sides of the Grotto, and the tree-lined dry creek bed leading from the pool was full of birds, including the Gouldian finch. We spotted red and black-headed varieties. Mosses and ferns covered one wall, tree roots clinging to the rock descended down to seek water below. The scene was somewhat reminiscent of the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The Big Croc greets all visitors entering Wyndham, and we took a quick photo opportunity, trying our best to dodge the locals selling their carved boab nuts (which, incidentally are quite finely done, just not within our budget).
The local caravan park purported to have the biggest boab, a big claim that couldn’t be bypassed.
Five rivers lookout lies behind the town at the top of a steep winding road, 355m up. With a view covering more than 180 degrees and with a bit of looking you can see the Pentecost, Ord, Forrest, Durack, and King rivers. The salt pan near the docks was decorated with patterns we referred to as contemporary local art. Clearly visible from the lookout someone clearly had taken the trouble to literally leave an impression in the sand.
The King river is muddy, and low tide reveals extensive mud-flats. Whilst the port, not so long ago, was a busy point for loading iron ore onto ships, today very little activity could been seen below. We drove back down to the fishing jetty, and witnessed a large saltwater crocodile cruise underneath.
Turning off the main road towards Kununurra, Parrys Lagoon Nature reserve was the next destination. Marglu billabong hosts a bird hide and a number of sizeable saltwater crocodiles too. We watched eagles, pelicans, a jabiru, egrets, grebe, and much more there.
Along this road a chance turning led us to Buttons Crossing, the rocky bank along the Lower Ord river providing a peaceful camping opportunity, where we could watch both types of crocodiles from a close but safe distance. Oscar tried out his frog lure and kept catching Sooty Grunter. Hannah made a humpy from all the wood she found, and Xavier fossicked for stones and animals. Amanda had time to create another of her artistic creations from stone on the riverbank.
The next day brought us to Ivanhoe Crossing an impressive curved ford, some hundred metres long, that has been rendered impassable by the council who have placed boulders in the middle of the road to prevent mishap. Clearly the “fun police” were misguided in their calculations as there were fresh tyre tracks when I waded across for a photo. It was tempting but I didn’t want to risk any unnecessary damage so close to Kununurra.