Monday, 21 July 2014

Purnululu National Park

Kununurra feels a bit like Katherine, though perhaps the acres and acres of crops and orchards courtesy of the Ord River catchment and Lake Argyle surrounding it dispel the air of dejection and listlessness. There certainly is a booming seasonal worker industry going on,  something we witnessed on our first morning as we feasted on homemade cake and coffee at the Ivanhoe Cafe, as troopies of weary looking backpackers were ferried from one pumpkin patch to another.

Caravans everywhere at Leycester's Rest.

We stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables at the steel bar decorated Coles and headed down the Great Northern Highway to Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) National Park, our next big stop. I wasn't really sold on the whole beehive rock formation thing but Fiela was insistent that it would all be worth it.  Just the drive down was worth it as we passed the Argyle Diamond Mine ("Of course I'd love to buy you the biggest diamond I could find..." He didn't even try to sound sincere about following through on that one) and hours of beautifully stark scenery of escarpments and distant hills.

A bower bird nest at Purnululu- these were everywhere. We found this right next to a walking track.

We realised we wouldn't have time that day to drive down to the National Park (being 53kms off the highway and supposedly taking around two and a half hours due to the rough road) so decided to freecamp just at the highway at Leycester's Rest. Did I say the camp at Big Horse Creek was busy?? Ha! The Uys Huis clearly didn't know what busy meant. This free camp was packed full; we managed to squeeze into a spot much to the chagrin of the Grey Nomads next door who tried unsuccessfully to direct us to our 'friends' (sorry, no they're not our friends?) about 100 metres away, then explained that they wouldn't be able to back out if we parked there (no problem we'd be gone early), then suggested the smoke from their fire might hassle us... Turns out they were 'hosting' the drinks for the cool Nomads later and we were kind of cramping their style. That's free camping I suppose; sometimes it's idyllic and sometimes you've got annoying young'ns next door with filthy kids who really should be working 9 to 5 somewhere. Needless to say little love was lost, especially after a few further comments on our parenting style. It just goes to show that dickheads also have caravans.

Another day, another lookout.

Anyway, after we made sure the kids made tonnes of noise early the next morning, we drove down to Purnululu. The road was rough, we crossed six or so creeks and wound our way around tight corners down into the National Park, rock beehives noticeably absent. We camped at the northernmost camp site of Kurrajong, a lovely spot with big grassy spots,  shade and non-stinky drop toilets.

Our first walk in Purnulu, Echidna Chasm.
Echidna Chasm.
We set up and in non Uys Huis fashion had enough time to do one of the major walks in the afternoon. We drove up to Echidna Chasm,  both silently trying to work out how beehive could be applied to the stunning rock escarpments running up and down the length of the park. We arrived at the same time as a tour bus- further reinforcement that the days of deserted attractions were over for us. Anyway, the gorge is stunning, becoming gradually slimmer until single file is the only possible way to walk through it. Alas, they were fixing the stairs at the final ampitheatre, so we trudged back feeling a little jipped.

Entering the Chasm, stop laughing.

Looking out.
Further trudging up to a lookout, and I almost had a quiet Kimberley moment where red and green colours almost enveloped me, and all I almost heard was the sounds of wind and birds in eucalypts... But I have children so really that moment was just that- momentary.

Beautiful rock formations at Echidna Chasm.

Successful group shot.

Unsuccessful group shot.
The view from Echidna Chasm Lookout.

Lookout at camp over the Purnululu Ranges.
Knowing full well our time in Purnululu was metered, we came back to camp, grabbed some drinks and headed to the lookout a handy few hundred metres away for sundowners over the ranges. Aaah, great plans. Shame about those plan destroyers #1 and #2. Anyway, the view was amazing and as the sun dipped the colours changed continually, reducing us all to oohs and aahs. And the occasional "What are you doing?", "Get away from there!" and the completely impotent "You'll go in the naughty that rock." Solid parenting in general it was not, which was fantastic timing for the rest of the campers, who could pat themselves on the back with a 'job well done' as they witnessed first hand our kids being little buggers, their own angelic offspring watching on. Enter Lizzie, Mike and their three children behaving like cherubs. Marguerite had fun encouraging their daughter to be just as belligerent as she was, and there were tears as we parted ways. There were even more tears as Marguerite held a hillside standoff, not willing to return to camp with us, preferring to visit her newly acquired friend. We made it 300metres to the bottom of the hill in fading light, just in time to hear something dingo-like squawk, and watched as our darling screamed and started scrambling down the track. Oh but she wasn't finished, only deigning to actually walk with us when she realised she was hungry and we were the only meal ticket around. It was a very early night for us all.

Beautiful colours as the sun sets.

So after freezing our way through the night (5° celsius) we packed a lunch and headed to the other end of the park and Picaninny Gorge, where the other big ticket walks were. The ranges continued the whole way down and became more beehive like: maybe we were close to seeing what all the fuss was about.

Beehives- finally!

Elephant Rock on the drive in to Picanniny Gorge.

The fuss is pretty cool. Impressive rock, striped domes of ancientness stood up randomly around us as we drove through to Picaninny Gorge. It was stunning.

Picanniny Gorge.

We did the shorter walks, and luckily it was quite cool as there was little shade and you could feel the heat bouncing off the enormous rock walls and the sandy floor. What an amazing place. Had anyone said the highlight of my trip would be a walk through sand and rock I would have scoffed at them, but this really was a big moment for us all. We had lunch looking out over those beehives and had to pinch ourselves.

More beehives.
There were lots of termite mounds built high up on the rock face,
with thin 'walkways' going down to the gorge floor.

Picanniny Gorge.

Back at Camp Uys, I took Marguerite around to Lizzie and Mike's for a play, and learned they were doing a similar trip to us, just in a shorter time frame. It was lovely to finally meet people doing what we were (though with a bit more panache I must say), who understood the rigour travelling with children can have on your mental state. Over drinks and travel plans we made friends with these beautiful people, ones whose path we would cross gratefully many times in the coming months.

Purnululu, tick.

Walking through the domes.

At Cathedral Gorge, a spectacular gorge cutting its way through the rock, with a mirror like pool. It even smelt like a church.

Cathedral Gorge.

Looking out of Cathedral Gorge- my camera (skills!) don't do this amazing view any kind of justice.

Yay for non-tear-inducing group shots.

And just so you know it's not all beer and skittles, but more like shits and giggles, Fiela dealing with an ill-timed poo of Caesar's.


  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Australia? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Australia in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez

  2. I'd love to, will send you a postcard in the next few days. Enjoy!