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.