Thursday, 18 September 2014

Think Many-Made-Up-On-The-Spot Back Up Plans

Purnululu National Park, Western Australia

Over in the west is a place any rock junkie (by which I mean geologist) could lose themselves in. Wanting to take a brake from the coast, I’ve moved inland to Purnululu National Park, the traditional lands of the Jaru and Gidja people that remained relatively unknown to western descendants until the 1980s. In the native dialect, Purnululu translates to ‘sandstone’.                                    

Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (taken 2011)

Home to the many upon many Bungle Bungles, I came here with Australian Adventure Travels, a camping tour that started out a little hit and miss (think ‘many made-up-on-the-spot back up plans’ and that one passenger who couldn’t stop sharing a racist opinion). I chose to do the Bungle Bungle add-on simply because there was no available accommodation in Kununurra at the time, but I must admit that this overnight experience was a great way to finish off my time in the Kimberley (we ditched the racist which was another reason why it was so great).

Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (taken 2011)

With enough know-how, a few permits and a 4WD (can’t be more serious about that last one); wilderness explorers can find themselves having an experience to write home about. Open from April to December during the dry season and a good 250km south of Kununurra, the drive along sealed and unsealed roads to Purnululu will have you looking out the window at everything the bush has to offer. The native fauna and flora are ever present; one might just see their first wild dingo from a distance.        

 Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (taken 2011)
Be sure to load up on everything you’ll need (food and water are popular picks) in Kununurra because the few stops along the way are limited and may cost you an arm and a leg. There is a visitor’s centre in the park (which you must check in with) but they didn’t sell much except for cans of soft drink, so being prepared makes the difference. Building fires from wood found in the park is a big no but the rangers will come by with pieces of red gum which will last (be thankful because the nights will get cold, and for some reason I chose to wear shorts), and camping sites have their own fire pits and toilets.                                            
Now for all things natural; Purnululu’s Bungle Bungle range is a feast for your eyes. This is a given since the visual artist on the tour was breaking out her sketch book every five minutes. These towering domes of rock, at almost 300 metres tall, have taken millions of years to take form. Scattered across the park, they are not without their share of ‘over the top’ descriptions. The best I can come up with would be ‘massive beehive-like dealies with tiger stripes the colours of every earth shade you can think of’. Does that make sense? I’ll let you know when I’ve figured something better out.                                                                      

Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (taken 2011)
When it comes to seeing the Bungle Bungle range, travellers have just two options. Scenic flights are on offer departing from Kununurra. This will obviously give you the best views, but option two is to stay on the ground and take on the many trails; for me, this has always been more rewarding (and I’m not just saying this because of my fear of heights). I remember walking around those domes and finding things becoming more different with every taken step. Experiences like that I take a little more personally. The air is refreshing and the sounds tranquil.                                                                                                 
One spot to look out for is Cathedral Gorge, an enclosed area with its very own water feature; an amphitheatre of nature if that’s more helpful. A peaceful element was always present, along with a few echoes also. Cathedral Gorge is definitely worthy of a few shots, but you’ll need to step back a bit to get everything in (a recurring dilemma when in Purnululu and other places in the outback). Having gone through my own stash of pics I was disgusted to learn I didn’t have any that were very good, but fortunately I’ve got an aunt and uncle who took on Highway One in their fossil wagon.  

           Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (taken by Dale and Max Brooking, 2006)                    
Not far from the Cathedral is the walk to Piccaninny Gorge (which I did get pictures of). Overnight treks can happen (thirty kilometres are covered), but we took the shorter option of one point four kilometres which we still found rewarding. It can be both flat and bumpy so keep in mind that walking shoes are your friends. We reached the lookout on an afternoon, meeting a monitor lizard along the way, which gave us a great view of the Piccaninny Creek; as the sun sets the colours of the Bungle Bungles begin to change, leaving a more artistic effect upon memory. The sights can be enjoyable at any time of the day. We enjoyed it so much we went back the following morning. You can get a full camera shot of the view also.                                       

Purnululu National Park, Western Australia (taken 2011)
Tour wise, everything was beginning to pick up in this add-on which I and a few others welcomed. Everyone there was sharing in a harmony, chatting around the fire and so on and that’s one of the things I look forward to before hopping on a tour bus. Some random moments I remember well was the French couple translating the writing on my shirt to my surprise and how we were discussing the films Bran Nue Dae and Samson and Delilah.                                                                                                                                      
So let this be a small but important lesson for would-be travellers. If you’re finding it impossible to secure some accommodation, take an extra tour somewhere. You might just prosper.


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