Friday, May 31, 2013

Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles) WA

We left Lake Argyle and went to Kununarra againto do a bit of shopping. From there we headed off for the Bungle Bungles. Well we reached the Caravan Park just at the entrance to the Purnululu National Park and were told that they had no powered sites available, so we backtracked 50 Kms to Warmun Caravan Park were we even have mobile reception and a powered site. So tomorrow we will head out early and take the 4WD road into the Bungle Bungles and see what we can see there.

Today was mainly driving, but we did stop at the Zebra Rock Gallery, just outside Kununurra, and had a really nice mango smoothie whilst we looked at the jewellery, paper weights and various other things made from Zebra rock which is only found in one area in the world and that, of course, happens to be close to the gallery. Ruth bought herself a heart shaped pendant and a small bag of rocks that can be made into homemade jewellery.

Apart from that it was fairly uneventful, but the scenery was quite dramatic in places - huge rock formations that were twisted and shooting up at all angles, some even perpendicular, obviously indicating great forces at work at some time in the past. Then there were hills that were just piles of rocks in all sorts of shapes and sizes, as if a giant had placed them there for all to see. Had to pay $1.97 per ltr for diesel today, but that's better than $2.05 that I paid at Timber Creek.
Pinnacle Rock Formation near Warmun WA.
Pyramid Formation near Warmun WA
28th May 2013

We did the Bungle Bungles today and it has worn us both out. It was 5 am the mobile phone alarm went off and we were out of bed and getting ready for our trip to the Bungle Bungles - we were excited as this was going to be one of the highlights of our trip. Ruth packed our lunch with two cans of drink and two water bottles. I had previously taken the generator and some other heavy things out of the car as well as taking off the extended side mirrors. We knew we had to go 4 wheel driving for this trip and we knew it was a fair way into the Bungles (or Purnululu National Park).

We left the caravan at the Warmun Caravan Park and it took us half and hour before we got to the turn off into the National Park - actually the road in is through private property, a huge cattle station called Mabel Downs. The owner of the station sits at the entrance of the road with his station wagon all set up with an espresso coffee machine in the back, he opens the gate for you and greets you and then closes the gate and goes back and sits by his car until the next car comes along to either enter of leave. He is elderly and apparently enjoys doing it - else he gets paid for every car that goes through his property and he is counting to make sure he gets the right amount. (We had to pay $5 for the day at the Park entrance - much better than $50 at Kakadu).

Once inside the gate we had 53 Kms of corrugated, windy (twistie), rocky, water crossings - you name it it had everything an unsealed road could have except mud. The corrugations were the worse, we just got up to the "sweet spot" speed where the car glides over the corrugations, and there would be a bend in the road or a deep gulley or a steep hill where you couldn't see where the road was until you crested the hill, so it was get up speed, slow down, brake for a rock in the road and with my bad right knee the continual throttle and braking started to make it quite sore. (I'm now used to using the cruise control, just set it and let it do the work, and rest my leg for hundreds of Kms at times).

Oh yes, we mustn't forget the dust, when another car or bus passed going the opposite way you had to slow down until the dust cleared so as to see where you were going - then someone in rented 4WD decided to overtake us and we had to eat his dust for several Kms (we later saw him off on the side of the road, this was coming back, with either a flat tyre or a broken axle, we didn't stop as he already had a few other cars helping). We finally made it to the National Park, paid our fee, got a map and found out that we had another 27 kms of dirt road before we got to our first destination the Cathedral Gorge and Pikinini Creek walk.

Our first view of the Bungle Bungles
That's not a road, it's a creek bed!
As we got closer to our destination we just had to stop and take photos and more photos, it was really magnificent to see the rock formations and the colours (even I could see the different shades and hues). 

A lot of people camp inside the park (although they don't allow 2WD vehicles, they do allow single axle campers and caravans - although I wouldn't like to take one in, many do). So there were already quite a lot of vehicles at the parking area and people of all ages, shapes and sizes heading out for the various walks from this spot, with cameras in hand. We did too! 

Everywhere you looked were these beehive shape formations as well as many other formations, but all with the layered cake style formation typical of the Bungle Bungles - I won't bore you with the official explanation of how they were formed because it involves millions of years.
We took the risk.
 We took off and followed the track which then split, so we took the one that headed into a gorge, but was a dead end with a small pool of water, but still was a nice walk, but we had to back track and find the right path to the Cathedral Gorge which also ended in a dead end, but this dead end was a huge cavern with a large pool of water in it - looking up you could see where the water falls came down in the wet season - it was awe inspiring. 

Ruth walked to the back of the cavern behind the pool and I got a nice photo of her and her reflection in the pool, but the cavern was so huge that I couldn't get the whole thing in one photo. An elderly lady came along and said that the Qantas choir came here and sang the National Anthem and it sounded great because of the echo effect - so I tried it out by singing the end of "How Great Thou Art" - it echoed nicely.
Ruth and her reflection in the Cathedral Cavern

We then back tracked that walk and went onto the Piccanniny Creek walk to the lookout - you can see some of the dry bed photos - one part was a smooth as a sealed road, then another part was lots of gullys and holes and all around were these beautiful rock formations.
We made it to the lookout!
Pikinini Creek Bed - middle section.
We saw termites nests way up on these "beehives" so as they are safe from the floods that come each wet season, and they have a tentacle of nest material coming all the way down the side of the "beehive" to the ground so as they can harvest the grasses that grow there.

Lots of "wow" scenes all around.
This is the scene you see in their brochures.
By the time we had finished these walks we were pretty tired, but we did want to go and see another part of the park called the "Echidna Chasm", which was the 27 kms back to the park headquarters and then another 16 kms all on dirt tracks.

 So, when we reached Echidna Chasm parking area it was going on for something past one and we had missed the 'sweet spot' viewing time which was around midday when the sun shone down into the chasm and showed off all of the beautiful colours. However we decided to go and have a look now we were here - we should have then had our lunch, but we thought we might get some of the sun's effect - so off we went onto the creek bed that ran out of Echidna Chasm which I'm assuming was called Echidna Creek - it was rocks and more rocks, some small, some fist size others soccer ball size and all sizes in between - a trap for the unwary to easily turn an ankle. Ruth did it in sandals, I don't know how as I was having big problems with proper walking sneakers - I wanted to look up at the cliff face whilst walking, but had to stop to do that in case I sprained an ankle or worse aggravated my knee problem.

The cliff face was made of conglomerate rock (see photo) and it was really high and just amazing how "over millions of years this just happened" - except it was so obvious that it would have been made by swift running water that was full of rock, sand and pebbles. I wonder how that could have happened - duh! how about a worldwide flood?
Conglomerate boulder fallen from Echidna Chasm.
Pathway to Echidna Chasm - rocks.
Entering Echidna Chasm
Inside Echidna Chasm
Leaving Echidna Chasm
  After stumbling our (my) way up the creek bed we finally came to the chasm - we had missed the 'sweet spot' altogether, but it was different and we were there all by ourselves because everyone else had left after the sun left the chasm. We walked into the chasm for a fair way until we came to a bend where it got smaller and there was a lot of boulder hopping to do - we had pretty much had it by this time, so we decided to turn around and go back to the car park and have our lunch and a cool refreshing can of pop - only I guzzled mine so fast that I got cramps all the way down my esophagus.

 It was time to leave if we were going to do it in daylight, my leg and knee was paining quite a bit by now so I asked Ruth to drive us out, which she did.

At the Ranger station we stopped and bought a framed photo of the Bungle Bungles from the air - it would have cost us $700 for a 30 minute helicopter flight over the Bungles, I just couldn't justify that, so we bought the $35 photo instead - I was going to take a photo of the photo and pretend that we had done the flight, but that would have been cheating!

Ruth then drove the 53 Kms back to the main road and it was just as bad going as coming, so we have decided that we are now 4WD'd out and don't want to do that anymore. All told we did almost 200 kms of driving that day on 4WD roads. I took several short movie clips, from the passenger seat, of the road and creek crossings.
Creek Crossing leaving the Bungles Bungles.
When got out onto the main road heading back to Warmun Caravan Park at about 4pm these two small kangas or maybe wallabies jumped from the side of the road right in front of us, Ruth slammed on the brakes, missed one but the other hit the driver side bumper bar and skidded across the road.

 We were both quite upset by this and it sort of put a damper on the whole day.

Wed 29th May

We are at Fitzroy Crossing, stopped at Hall Creek, went to the hospital (dental section), asked about getting my tooth fixed, sure the dentist will be here next month!

This morning when we got up and went out to the car we found that we had a slow leak in the rear left tyre. The owner of the caravan park said he could help out if it was a puncture, so we looked and looked and all we could see was a small stone caught in the tread of the tyre, but when we put some air in the tyre we could hear and feel air escaping from around that stone. The owner said he had a repair kit that could help us out - when we prised out the small stone it looked like a 3 cm dogs fang (see out of focus photo) and the hole was now quite large. He ended up putting two plugs into the hole (whilst the tyre was still on the car), pumped it up and said $20 please, fixed - and we drove the whole 450 Kms without any more tyre problems. Tomorrow we will go to Broome - maybe!

Today, 31st May in Derby, I finally got around to taking the car to a tyre specialist for a permanent puncture fix. He pulled out the temporary plug and announced that he couldn't fix it because the hole was too big and he couldn't guarantee that the his plug would hold. So I told him to put the spare on the car, plug the puncture as best as he could and I would use that tyre as a spare until I could buy a new tyre (he didn't have any that size) - so our trip to the Bungles looks like costing us an extra $200 plus for a new tyre. So endeth the saga of our trip to the Bungle Bungles - one we will never forget (for the wrong reasons).