We had a very nice 3 days at the Bungle Bungles, or Purnululu, as it is now formally known. It is a fair hike from Kununurra (where we left the motorhome) – about 5 hours or so driving, including over an hour for the 53km 4wd access road to get into the park. Our hire vehicle was a Mitsubishi Pajero, and it was nice to get behind the wheel of a fast comfortable car with cruise control again!
Heading down the Great Northern Hwy, we passed beside/through a number of ranges that are rough and gnarly in different ways. There were a couple of hillsides with heaps of boulders, that reminded us of Devils Marbles. Then there were others reminding us of MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs. A couple of turn-off’s to Nickel mines seemed to be headed to areas where the range was tall & deep red in colour.
Finally, after completing the access road, we came across the Bungle Bungle Range. The west side of the range (or Northern Section as they call it), is a rough weather-worn orangey colour that looks something like this. It is not that dissimilar to The Olgas, back down in central Aus! Similar in height too, but a lot more of it…
The southern end, the Piccaninny area, is rather different, looking something like the below. I reckon you need to get up into the air to photograph this area really well though.
There are two campgrounds in the Bungle Bungles; we set up camp at Kurrajong, which is closer to the Northern Walks. The other campground, Walardi, is closer to the Southern Walks. Neither are particularly close though – it is quite a few km’s drive to any walks from either campground. Here are some pics of our campsite, taken one of the mornings. We didn’t bother with the tent fly – no chance of rain here at the moment!
Mid arvo Monday (1/8/14), after selecting the campsite, we headed off to the most northerly walk, Echidna Chasm. This chasm is basically just a long crack going directly into the range! It is better than that makes it sound though…. It starts wide, and gradually, over hundreds of metres, keeps on narrowing. It is not straight, but gently curves and winds its way into the range. Vertically too – there are often gentle curves and overhangs. I’m not sure how tall the range/crack is, but tall enough to make a person look very small! It is lovely and cool inside. Impossible to capture well by photography (due to height/width ratio, and due to lighting), but these images might help improve on my rather dodgy description!
Following Echidna Chasm, it was back to camping area in order to view the overall western side of the range at sunset from a nearby hill/lookout.
Here is a short vid showing the northern end of the range (don’t know why I didn’t keep panning – there is more range to the right…).
We spent most of Tuesday (2/8/14), at the southern end of the park. Surprisingly for us, we were up early (just after dawn – no fly over the tent means no hiding from the sun!), and were the first car there despite the drive of almost an hour of so (dirt roads) from the furthermost campsite! Looking at the map/brochures, we had planned to start with the Whip Snake Gorge walk, the longest walk in the park aside from the overnight Piccaninny Gorge Trek. What we didn’t realise till we got there, is that the other shorter walks all branch off that walk. So to avoid repeating sections of track, we ended up doing all the southern walks at once! That’s about 13-14km’s all up Tues morning (and early arvo), a fair portion of it in sandy/pebbly creek beds! Though cool when we set off, by the end it was stinking hot – walking back along the dried up Piccaninny creek bed in full sun! (The Pajero told us it was around 33-35C on the drive back!) Here is some of what you see driving in.
We visited Cathedral Gorge twice; initially early in the morning, and then again around midday as I thought it might look better later in the day with more sun coming in. I’m glad we did go back the second time, but not because of the sun. When we first visited, we didn’t walk right in around the back of the pond, and though the gorge seemed nice it didn’t seem to be anything stunning. It wasn’t till the second visit (when we did walk right around edges), that I realised the size of the massive undercut/overhang going most of the way around the gorge. It was so much larger than I had realised, and created this huge amphitheater effect. We worked out that this created some cool sound effects too! However, whilst Daniel was replicating the sound of a helicopter, by stamping his feet, he got told off by a bloke who’d just turned up and wasn’t appreciative of his musical skills; preferring to experience the beauty in silence! What, did he think he was in a national park or something…?
Here is a video of Cathedral Gorge. The noises are from the rather interesting wildlife found there…..
Piccaninny Creek Lookout was another detour off the main track, that takes you a little east of the creek, where you can get a nice view of banded domes looking both east and west.
The Window, another detour (but not far off the creek), was nothing particularly exciting – just a hole in a sandstone structure.
It was nice and cool walking into Whipsnake Gorge, after the hot exposed creek. It is another tall gorge with towering red walls, similar style to Cathedral Gorge. So a nice place, but it doesn’t have the huge undercut, and the same amphitheater feel, that Cathedral Gorge has. Still a worthy place to visit though.
The walk along Piccaninny creek is rather hot and exposed, but there are some nice views along the way.
Lastly (for the southern walks), there is the ‘The Domes’ loop, a short walk located very close to the carpark. The carpark itself is actually pretty close into the domes, so you get a good feel for the place just driving there.
Tuesday arvo we sat around and had a bit of a rest for a couple hours, and then drove to Kungkalanayi Lookout to view the sunset on the range. The view is not a lot different from Monday evenings lookout (near camp), but you do get a nice view of the ranges to the west, and the valley in between.
Wedensday morning was another early start, and we set off to complete the remaining walks in the park. Just the two on the northern side: The Escarpment and Homestead Valley (Mini Palms walk was closed). We did these by parking at Echidna and doing it as one long walk from there. Though 11.6km’s in length this was a pretty quick and easy walk – far easier than the sandy/pebbly Piccaninny Creek bed we were walking along yesterday.
So having seen what there is to see at The Bungle Bungles, it was back to camp late Wed morning to pack up the tent, and head back to Kununurra. Daniel was looking forward to doing the 4×4 access road again, with its heavy corrugations, twisty bends and up-down whoop de doos. Oh, and the creek crossings. If you didn’t mind completely hammering a car with heavy corrugations, you could do this track in a 2wd if it weren’t for the creek crossings. About 5 all up (going one way). Some were reasonably deep, and of course had Nicole freaking out. However there were heaps of other vehicles traveling this track each day, including plenty of Pajero’s just like the one we were driving! Here is a vid of one crossing (simple one), that Nicole could walk around easily enough. She took some others from out the window too, but they were too bouncy from her shaking in fear (or was it just the car bouncing…? lol)
The corrugations were very bad on this access road (not so bad within the NP) – glad we were in a hire vehicle! However, that didn’t help when we got a puncture on the way out! Looks like a rock punched a big hole through the sidewall (but close to the tread) – big enough to put a thumb in. We were having trouble finding the jack and equipment, but fortunately another Pajero came along soon so we pulled them up and got them to show us where they are hidden! Then we found that the jack barely worked – took ages to jack it up even with the jack directly under the axle.
It’s ridiculous that hire companies put cheap HT (highway terrain) tyres on 4wd vehicles in this area. They are not made for outback gravel roads, and most roads out here are gravel! I hadn’t opted to pay extra to reduce the insurance excess premium, and was glad I hadn’t as it didn’t cover tyres anyway! To cut a long story short, we got out of it cheaply – I got a second hand tyre fitted for $80 (would have been around $300 for a new one, or $450 if left for the hire company to fix!). Fortunately for us we were in a Darwin office vehicle, as I gathered the Kununurra office proprietors weren’t that concerned as it wasn’t one of their vehicles…. Btw, the tyre bloke reckons he’d never ever hire a car – too dodgy an industry with people getting ripped off all the time!
So back at the motorhome Wed night, we stayed at a caravan park so we could clean up and shower off a few days worth of Bungle dust and grime! We enjoyed our time there, with Echidna Gorge being our favourite place I think. On the way back we noticed a number of other ranges, in the distance, that looked similar to the western/northern side of The Bungle Bungles. I reckon there would be lots of this sort of stuff around the Kimberleys (though perhaps not like the domes), and the best way to explore this place would be in your own aircraft in your own time! I’ve considered taking flying lessons for quite a number of years now, on and off, but haven’t followed it through yet. So the ultimate would be a 4wd motorhome, towing a trailer with a microlight plane enclosed and a boat on the roof! Land, air and sea all covered!