The Bungles/Purnululu National Park

 

We had been warned about the road into the Purnululu National Park – 65 k’s on a 4 WD only road with lots of corrugations, steep hills and tight turns plus 3 river crossings.  This place, generally known as the Bungle Bungles, was World Heritage listed in 2003 and only discovered by a film crew in 1983.  It is famous for an extraordinary array of banded sandstone domes, another one of Australia’s most unusual landforms.  We checked into a nice, private campsite only to discover a very “red” dusty bathroom as the vent on the bathroom fan had been left open on one of our roughest 4 WD roads.  The bathroom got a good clean and we learned another lesson!

After a night of rain that lasted til 8am, we had a leisurely start to the day, hoping for sun.  The sun didn’t appear but we visited a key area and did three walks: The Domes, Cathedral Arch and Picaninny Creek Lookout (6k’s).  The rock formations still looked impressive even on a cloudy day.  That evening we had the Swiss neighbors in for tea and biscuits which they really seemed to appreciate as they are tenting and it was a cold night.

 A cloudy start to the day but by 11 am when we started walking back at Picaninny Creek, the sun came out and the Bungles were radiant.  We walked 9 k’s in total and went to the Window and Whip Snake Gorge.  A lovely day’s walking and the photos were much brighter and more colorful.  The vastness of the place really hit me today – everywhere we looked there was another array of domes and as the sandstone domes cover 45,000 hectares (174 square miles) of the NP, maybe its not surprising.  Without the excellant track signage one could easily be lost, as in a maze.  The massive creek bed is now dry but becomes a raging torrent in the wet  season and the gorge was a magnificent amphitheatre.  Our Swiss neighbor, Heidi, is a singer and she sang in the amphitheatre today giving us a treat and a demonstration of the acoustics.

Day 50 of our travels so we’ve finished the first third of our trip.  As it turned out we celebrated with a helicopter trip over the Bungle Bungle Ranges.  Sunniest day since we’ve been here so we picked the right day for our flight.  Dick and I and the pilot in a small helicopter with no doors!  I took the back seat and apart from the fact that I was so cold it took me half an hour after the flight to stop the pain in my hands and feet, the views were amazing.  I thought the area was vast when we were walking but seeing it from the air added another dimension to their vastness. Dick describes the flight as ‘full on’, spectacular, a grand overview of a grand place and access to exotic places we would never see otherwise.  After that excitement we had a productive afternoon at camp doing chores (repair jobs, washing and cleaning – just like at home).

 We both feel so fortunate to be able to visit all these amazing sights.  Each day brings new, wonderful places to explore.  We are making a conscious effort to start each new place with ‘fresh eyes’ and just focus on what we’re seeing.  Today we moved to the northern section of The Bungles and visited Echidna Chasm at 11 am when a special light show occurs in the chasm.  The colors were amazing and they changed as the sun moved across the top of the chasm.  We also visited Osmand Lookout for views of the 1.6 billion year old Osmand Range.  Interesting to see rock formations on the ground that we saw from the air yesterday.  In the afternoon we hiked to Homestead Valley (4.4 k return) – an easy walk to yet another special valley with more fabulous, steep, red canyon walls and cliffs.  AND we had it all to ourselves!  We stopped at Australia’s Stonehenge and I took photos for comparison with the UK version.  Our new camp has great views of the sun setting on the red cliffs – its almost a sensory overload here.  This new lifestyle must be healthy as we’ve both lost a little weight in spite of our full ‘treats’ cupboard.

For our last walking day in the Bungles we did the Mini Palms, a 4.4 k return walk which included lots of scrambling over large boulders, and squeezing between them, as well as more walking along a very rocky creekbed.  We had lunch on the viewing platform in the natural amphitheatre at the end.  The palms are Livistona palms and it was like being in a tropical paradise beneath towering red cliffs.  We finished the day at the lookout in our campground watching the changing colors of the setting sun on the red mountain range that surrounds the campground.  Each day in this national park has been a wonderful mix of shapes and colors, hard to describe and hard to capture in photos, but special to witness and experience.

 

NP Sign

 

 

Our campsite when we go out for the day

 

Inside Cathedral Gorge

Pat inside Cathedral Gorge for perspective on the size

 

Dick on the other side of the gorge

 

The Picaninny Creek walk

 

Picaninny Creek Lookout

 

The Domes in the sunshine

The Creekbed which becomes a raging torrent in the wet

 

The Window

Dick standing there to show the size of these Domes

Heading into Whip Snake Gorge

 

  Dick sitting at our lunch spot in Whip Snake Gorge

 

Looking at more domes

 

Close up of a Dome

 

The desert rose (emblem of NT)

 

One of the many gorges viewed from the helicopter

More views from the helicopter

Domes from the air

Amazing shapes and colors

 

Palms on the way into Echidna Chasm

Getting into the chasm

 

Inside Echidna Chasm

Homestead Valley

The other side of Homestead Valley

 

Climbing over boulders to get to Mini Palms

 

Our lunch spot at the end of the Mini Palms valley
Mini Palms
Dick leaving Mini Palms

 

Travelling the Tanami Track – 821 kms of corrugations!

 Just did three days on the Tanami Track going from Alice Springs to Halls Creek, so three driving days, 1233 kms including 821 on rough, corrugated roads (used to call these washboard roads in Canada).  Not much traffic but a few road trains.  Lots of red dust everywhere but overall the van was pretty airtight except for one small leak under the stove.  On the first day we stayed in a deserted bush camp south of Rabbit Flat and we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn – Dick is very happy as he likes being in the tropics.  Saw six wild camels crossing the road in front of us and saw lots of dead cows and kangaroos beside the road.  Have been on a big campaign to eat all our fruit and veg since we are crossing into WA and they have strict quarantine laws.  Had a ‘border lunch’ of Thai beef salad and freshly squeezed lemonade to use up the last of our fruit and veg. No one at the border but we are following the rules on this.  

Thanks to a suggestion from Paul and Margaret (one of their many tips we are following), we camped at Stretch Lagoon on the Canning Stock Route near Billiluna.  Peaceful beautiful lagoon, lots of birds and no one else there.  Only casualty from a full day of corrugations was one bottle of beer that leaked over everything in the fridge, and meant the fridge got an unplanned wash.

Needed to get fuel in Billiluna, an aboriginal town, on Monday morning and there was an interesting hive of activity around the store and pump – lots of kids, dogs, cars and people just hanging around and shopping.  A sign on the pump said “Beware of the camel – he will get you cornered and kick and bite you!”  Fortunately we didn’t see the camel.  Diesel was $2.60 per litre (the highest we have paid) which compares to the price in Alice Springs of $1.28 per litre.  

Back on the Tanami to drive to Wolfe Creek to see the meteorite crater.  Took lots of pictures for my sister Eileen who didn’t want us to go there and made us promise not to camp there (because of the movie).  Dreadful road to get there and we lost the aerial for our CB – it just broke off.  Only had a look at the crater as we didn’t have time to do the rim walk.  Not a particularly inspiring place, even without having seen the movie.

Did a quick supply stop in Halls Creek –  fuel, fruit & veg, low alcohol beer (thats all they sell as its a restricted community), and water (which cost 20 cents/litre); and drove to the van park near the road to the Bungle Bungle.  Drove in the last hour of daylight along a highway where the Brahman cattle roam freely, and we saw lots along the side and on the road.  Difficult driving but we got to the van park just on dark.

 

Airing down the tires to go on the gravel road

 

Meeting a road train on the Tanami, just before the dust obliterates our view!

 

Bush camp beside the Tanami

Border lunch using up the fruit and veg

 

Crossing the border into WA- looks like the road goes on forever…….

Lovely camp at Stretch Lagoon

Camels at the side of the road

Cattle crossing in front of us

On the way into Wolfe Creek

Sign for Eileen

On the rim looking into the crater

View of the crater

 

Felt like a ‘gate girl’ as I opened 8 gates in one day