Hi there,

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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Bungle Bungles - The journey to the heart of Purnululu National Park

23 - 25 /05/2017
Bungle Bungles [Purnululu] (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
307 km

Water crossings:

Having cleaned, stocked and packed our car, we were nearly ready to head out into the wilderness once more (i.e., camping without the safety and comfort of our camper trailer). We woke early on Tuesday morning and spent another hour making final preparations. It always amazes me that, no matter how much we get ready the day before, it still takes us one to two hours to actually get on the road the following morning…

… But, eventually we were all set.

When we were last in Kununurra (a week or so ago), we had made a series of rushed phone calls to our Jayco dealer in Melbourne. Early in our trip, we noticed that the latch on our door lock was weak and likely to break. Unfortunately, the flimsy plastic finally gave way as we arrived in Kununurra the first time. Still being under warranty, they agreed to 'express post' a replacement part to our Kununurra campsite, which we hoped would arrive while we were in El Questro. Sadly, a week and a half later, there was still been no sign of the new door lock arriving from Jayco. So, with some last-minute instructions given to the caravan park reception to forward the part on to our next port of call with an actual postal address (Cable Beach, Broome), we trundled out of the caravan park and onto the Great Northern highway (a pretty good road, but a much better beer!).

While I was tootling around on my own last night after the kids went to bed, I uploaded all of our photos from the camera to computer (making sure to also create a spare backup USB , like a true nerd, ready to be send home the next time we hit a major town with a half decent post office… Sure I could upload to the ‘cloud’, but, MAN, that takes a hell of a long time when I'm in the middle of nowhere and have to chase the 3G signal around the caravan park!!). The other thing I did whilst sitting under the stars, was to download a couple of audiobooks from our public library back in Melbourne. I had hoped to get the ‘Magician’s Nephew’ (the first of the Narnia Series), but unfortunately all the copies had been checked out to other lucky people. So, I settled on a couple of books that I hoped the kids might like. These included: ‘N.E.R.D.S.’ and the first book of the ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’ series by Lemony Snicket. As it turns out, N.E.R.D.S (a story about a group of high-school aged spies), did the trick. And so, the journey down the Great Northern was passed in blissful silence – save for the twang of an American accent chittering at us from the stereo. At least the voice actor had a smooth cadence to his voice – which was far better than sudden shrieks from the backseat that typically happen when one of our boys cops a foot, elbow or some other body part in the face from the other… or worse (believe me, it can get much, much worse…)

So, before we knew it, the main protagonist of our N.E.R.D.S. tale had been fitted with a mouthful of nanotechnology braces (which could shoot out of his mouth at will and perform all sorts of magical mischief) and we had hit the turn-off from the smooth gliding road of the Great Northern. Yup, we were about to set our wheels onto the harsh unforgiving off-road track that led to the Bungle Bungles.

Road into the Bungles – actually, this stretch wasn’t too bad…

At this point, we still had our caravan doodling along behind us. But, like a pet that we were surreptitiously taking to the vet (where it would likely endure some rather unpleasant operation), we had also kept it quiet from our trailer that it wouldn’t be coming with us for the next part of our trip. Unfortunately, having purchased an on-road trailer, this little fella wasn’t going to be up to the challenge of the heavily corrugated adventure we had planned for the next few days. So, about a kilometre up the road, we pulled into a largely desolate caravan park at the entrance to the Purnululu national park. Checking in, we found a nice grassy spot on which the trailer could sit and mull over life for a while. Then, no sooner had we arrived, we were waving farewell to our dear (albeit ill-fitted and shoddily constructed) friend. We wouldn’t be seeing it again for a few days – along with its comfy beds, ample battery-power, 80-litre water tank and clean spacious cupboards. No, it was tenting all the way for us. Ahhh, tenting, "Oh, joy!"

So, off we went. Nothing but 52 kilometers of bumpy road, water-crossings, steep inclines and blind corners to navigate… and that was just to get us to the ranger’s station so we could register that we had arrived. From there it was another twenty-odd kilometres to our final destination in the southern end of the park. As the afternoon progressed, we hoped we’d be able to make it in time to pitch our tent before the sun went down (and in WA, that’s about 5:00 at this time of year).

Purnululu National Park – Road to the Bungle Bungles

Having taken an acting class or two in high school, let me see if I can recreate the journey for you:

"Behold! Dim the lights and let me take you on a marvellous journey through brilliant green grasslands, vibrant orange weather-worn rocky hills, dusty-sand and loose rock roads. Onwards, dear adventurers, onwards; up hills and down dales… but mostly over horribly corrugated lanes of gravel and sand that went: Bumpity bumpity bumpity bump, bumpity bumpity bump. Bumpity bumpity bumpity bump, bumpity bumpity bump. Bumpity bumpity bumpity bump, bumpity bumpity bump. Bumpity bumpity bumpity bump, bumpity bumpity bump. Bumpity bumpity bumpity bump, bumpity bumpity bump. Bumpity bumpity bumpity bump, bumpity bumpity bump. Bumpity bumpity bumpity bump, bumpity bumpity bump…"

…you get the picture.

Oh, my... was it ever bumpy!

For the most part, we were lucky enough to have the bumpy trail to ourselves. As such, we were free to travel at whatever sedate pace we desired. However, occasionally a car with sturdier off-road wheels would come up behind (not caring one jot about the sharp stones that could rip out flimsy factory fitted tyres to shreds), and would hound us with lights and dust until it eventually barrelled by us. Completely unphased by this, I would always simply pull to the side and happily let these cars with their behemoth wheels careen passed us. However, I couldn’t helping think (as they churned their way passed) that these sods were also responsible for chewing up the road and causing the corrugations for the rest of us who were content to plod along.

Despite the knowledge that we would probably arrive late in the afternoon, we were happy to soak in the opulence of the journey. The best part about travelling at a pace slightly slower than a rocket, is that you really get to enjoy the view along the way. And enjoy it we did! I mean, this place is magnificent. The road took us through sights that were a cross between many of the locations we’d been before (a touch of Uluru here, a smattering of Kata Tjuta there, a bit of Kings Canyon around that corner, and the dark grey-green slopes of Kakadu around the next…). Then, whenever a water crossing appeared before us, even the most horrific corrugations were forgotten for a while as we braved the unknown depths. In all, we counted 27 water crossings on our way into the Purnululu National Park. But, by the end of our two nights around the Bungles we had forged our way across over a total of 80 of the blighters… so much for, "let’s take it easy!"

As we approached out campsite, we were treated to what can only be described as a magical view. Our dilly dallying had meant that we arrived about an hour before the sun set. So, as we set up our tent, we were treated to a colourful display; while the sun marched onwards towards the horizon. The already magnificent red-orange-grey monoliths, which thrust out of the ground like

Tolkienesque towers, were supercharged with the brilliant vibrancy of the dying sun. In this light, they slid from being simply stunning, and entered into a whole new spectrum of awesome. While the rocks themselves were a sight to behold, mother nature had kept a rare treat for this little patch of the earth (almost like she knew people would be coming in droves to gawp at her creative majesty). Instead of leaving her work on a bare oily canvas, she had chosen to frame it with brilliant blue skies amidst a foreground of lime green plants dotted in tight clumps throughout the rocky middle distance. My goodness, no wonder there were such vivid dreamtime stories created by the original inhabitants of this country. As a confirmed atheist, I admit that even I can be drawn to such fancies when faced with such awe-inspiring sights – so, it is not surprising that those with less of a bee in their bonnet about the idea of there being a great creator out there, would seek to imbue this patch of geology with creation tales befitting of such splendour.

Red rocks, blue sky, green grass: Purnululu National Park

Driving the last few kilometres to the Walardi campsite (at the southern part of the park), we turned our attention towards finding to best campsite for our brief stay. We eventually settled on Lot 24. A single campsite surrounded by trees. This place was a stone’s throw from the nearest toilet, and presented us with a small patch of solitude, far away from the hubbub of other campers. As it turns out, there was actually very little hubbub from any of our very distant neighbours; and at this time of year we were quite far away from any neighbours at all. The night brought a little chill to the air, especially without the blazing fires we had been so lucky to have in El Questro (sadly, no fires have been permitted in Purnululu National Park since 01/04/2015). But, I quite like the cold. If nothing else, a bit of a chill means I actually look forward to my coffin shaped sleeping bag at the end of the day (well, perhaps, not look forward to it… but if I’m cold enough, it drags me inside before it gets too late).

What a wonderful spot – and at this time of year, we had our very own private toilet as well!

Having set up camp, we jumped back in the car and took a tiki-tour back down the road to the Kungkalanayi lookout point.

The Kungkalanayi lookout point provided a great view of the southern end of the national park, and was a superb place for a few snaps as the sun went down.

View of Purnululu National Park from Kungkalanayi lookout point

Returning to our camp, the rest of the evening was passed eating dinner (BBQ’d pork sausages in hot dog buns, with coleslaw, hot sauce and cheese – yummy!) and chatting away under the stars. Heading to bed, I found to my misfortune, that my air mattress was a little lower than I remembered it had been a few hour earlier. “Bugger,” I thought “I hope there’s not a leak…”

As it turns out, my sense of foreboding was correct…

I’m not sure if the mattress popped on purpose (y’know, just to get mentioned in my blog), but I must say, it was not the most comfortable experience waking up an hour later; lying on the cold hard floor. Since I didn’t fancy trying to find the leak in the middle of the night, I grabbed my sleeping bag and pillow and plodded out to the car. I spent the rest of the night trying to squeeze my large frame into the back seat; in the hopes of finding a position that didn’t threaten to cripple me if I stayed still for more than a few minutes. I eventually did fall asleep; only to be woken all-too-soon by the need to use mother nature’s little boy’s room. With such biological imperatives out of the way, I shuffled back into my silky coffin - fussed and fumbled in my confined metal igloo for the best part of an hour - until I finally falling asleep again.

And sound asleep I lay…

…that is, until a knock, knock knocking came from my window pane (Nevermore, cried the Raven, Nevermore!!)

But, alas, the knocking kept on knocking, and the rapping kept on rapping, and pretty soon I knew my fitful slumber had come to an end…

Looks like it’s time to start the day…


Let’s see what today has install for us.

Bye ‘d bye


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