I love this sign that greeted us at the Purnulu National Park Visitor Centre. “How lucky are you to be sleeping under a million stars instead of five.” Lucky indeed! It seems that wherever we go on this trip the Universe has our back.
Here in Purnulu the night skies are clear and the stars dazzling. The days are atmospheric and the views breath taking and unforgettable. And bloody hot!
Let me backtrack a little. After Lake Argyle, travelling via Emma Gorge and a night at Doon Doon Roadhouse, we arrive at the Bungle Bungle Caravan park where we settle in, organise ourselves for our off grid adventure and spend the night.
Before dinner we meet up with Bernie at the Bungle Baravan for a drink. Bernie is someone I connected with on Instagram over a year ago. He’s been working at Purnulu as a tour guide for the past three months and I feel like we’re old friends as we greet each other with a big hug.
I love that social media brings like minded people together and online connections become real. We enjoy a drink together, chatting and sharing stories as though we’ve known each other for years.
Early the next morning we bump into him again as he’s taking his tour group into the park. The caravan park offers 4×4 bus tours for those unable to drive into the park themselves. But we’re going it alone.
We’ve already booked our campsites so, with our swag on top and our van safely in storage at the caravan park, our off grid adventure begins.
A bit of Bungles Background
The Bungle Bungles is in Purnulu National Park, about 304kms from Kununurra.
The extraordinary banded sandstone domes which is millions of years old and which the park is best known for, are unrivalled in their scale, grandeur and diversity and in 2003 Purnulu National Park was World-Heritage-listed, for its geological value.
Erosion by creeks, rivers and weathering in the past 20 million years has carved out these stones, along with spectacular chasms and gorges, creating a surreal landscape.
The Practical Stuff
It’s only 53kms into the park from the highway but it takes more than two hours to get there as the road is rough and strictly four wheel drive territory. That’s why many people opt to take a bus tour in. There’s no fuel within the park and you need to be completely self sufficient.
We were lucky that the first 17 kilometres of the track had recently been graded. Beyond that though the road is pretty rough. There are narrow sections, steep inclines and a number of creek crossings but Muddy the DMax handles the terrain well.
Our first stop is the Visitor Centre where everyone needs to register. We get our maps, camping permits for our two nights and continue on to the northern section of the park.
The Bungle Bungles is all about walking. It’s the best way to explore the park with a few important tips to keep in mind.
Walk early, carry lots of water, wear sturdy walking shoes and wear a hat. Common sense really but you’d be surprised at the number of people I saw wearing thongs. Imagine having a thong blowout on a rock and having to stagger back in bare feet. No fun.
Our first walk was to Mini Palms, a trail that starts from the Bloodwoods Carpark: a 4.4km moderately challenging walk with some steep slopes and large rocks to negotiate. It features dramatic cliffs, livistona palms, stairs that lead to two viewing platforms and a natural amphitheatre that’s truly stunning.
Our next walk to Echidna Chasm is one of the most popular in the park and I can see why. It’s a beautiful walk that’s about 2kms in length, leading to a spectacular chasm. If you get there between 11.00am and 11.30an the sun shines directly through the chasm creating a shaft of light that’s truly striking.
With temperatures soaring to 38C and feeling even hotter in the blazing sun our walks were generally done and dusted by early afternoon. Then it was time to set up camp at Kurrajong and try and stay cool for the rest of the day.
It’s amazing how the little things become the big things: the shade of a tree, a bore water tap and a wash up tray that doubled as a cool foot bath and car cleaning cloths that become cool face washers. I think even our tiny lizard visitors were looking for shade.
That night, just before sunset, we drove out to Kungkalanyi lookout for sunset and 360 degree views over the ranges. It’s always amazing to watch the sky turn those outback hues of orange and pink but then, out of nowhere, came the distinct sounds of a didgeridoo.
On walking further we come across the source: a young guy adding his own blend of magic to the setting. It reminded us of the sacred roots of the area.
It was pitch black by 6pm and I think I was asleep by 8pm, so little wonder I woke again at midnight. As I lay there in our swag I was dazzled by the brilliant display of stars above. Then I saw a shooting star flash across the sky and I thought again of the sign at the Visitors Centre.
In my heart I wished that everyone on this planet could know true freedom, not simply the freedom of travel as we’re experiencing but the sort that resides within.
There’s something grounding about sleeping in a swag. I wake before sunrise feeling connected to the earth and everything around me. We have three walks planned for the day.
Piccaninny Creek Lookout is our first walk, a 2.8km trail that winds south through spinifex hummocks and the dry Ord River. Super keen hikers can tackle the two day trek to Piccaninny Gorge but need to register at the visitor centre and carry a satellite phone or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).
From Piccaninny Creek we backtrack and head to Cathedral Gorge, undoubtedly the most popular and photographed place in the park. When you reach the amphitheatre the full scale unfolds before you. It’s awe inspiring, magnificent, every sound is amplified and every moment in there feels almost sacred.
We finish our Bungle walks with a loop walk around the Domes, these stripey bumble bee look alike domes that tower majestically around you. In the heat the 700metre walk feels intense and we’re happy to reach the shade of a cave to rest in along the way.
That night we enjoy a simple dinner of salad and snags cooked over our gas burner, a cold drink (thank God for hubby’s new car fridge) and another night under the ultimate outdoor cinema.
Our two nights off the grid took us away from our usual comforts and we came back dirty and dusty but exhilarated and grateful for it all.
There are so many lessons in our natural world. Resilience. Acceptance. Strength. Endurance. Faith. And a reminder of the power and the healing balm of nature and our tiny but significant place in it all.
We can all do our part in protecting our energy, focusing on what we want to see rather than what the illusory world would have us believe.
Wherever you are look up, find the beauty, notice the little things that really are the big things. Life is precious and so is our freedom. Are you reclaiming yours?
See you next time as our Australian road trip continues.
Sending love and light